Is God a woman? She could well be, according to historian Bettany Hughes, who explores the "central role" females played in the early Christian church in a new BBC2 series.
Writing in the Radio Times, Hughes, who is a specialist in ancient history, has criticised those opposing the ordination of women in Britain, stating that to deny the “true story” of the connection between women and the church is to “etiolate both history and the possibilities of our own world”.
“Consider this: throughout the history of humanity, 97 per cent of all deities of wisdom have been female,” she wrote.
“Who knows whether God is a girl, but mankind has turned to the female of the species for good ideas. Our own monotheistic institutions might do well to take a leaf out of the book of human experience and build on this consensus when it comes to reaping the benefits of a close relationship between women and the divine.”
Hughes, who fronts the forthcoming show Divine Women, charting the role of women in religion, argues that Christianity was originally “a faith where the female of the species held sway,” adding that for more than 200 years after the religion’s genesis, many of the churches in Rome were built by women.
“At least 65 per cent of all those who go to Anglican churches are women; the handmaids of Christ are no longer just arranging flowers on the altar, they are - as they were at Christianity’s beginning - it’s very lifeblood,” she writes.
Hughes also predicts that other religions will come to recognise the importance of women within faith.
“As more girls in Muslim countries get the education their role models prescribed, they will surely be inspired to follow suit,” she argues.