“The World Mission Society Church of God believes in God the Mother,” their website proudly proclaims.
Before I knew anything about the World Mission Society Church of God, including the true name of their church, I heard from a few friends about being approached by a “cult” talking about “Mother God,” thus the group became know as the “Mother God Cult.”
(For the record, it’s not my intent here to accuse the World Mission Society Church of God of being a “cult” or to debate whether it is a cult or not. I prefer my readers to decide. Please feel free to comment, discuss, & debate below. Earlier articles I wrote may be helpful. See below.)
This article continues my analysis of the beliefs of the World Mission Society Church of God (also known simply as the Church of God). In the first article, I gave an overview of their beliefs and analyzed their teachings that their founder, Ahnsahnghong, was the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Read the article here). In my second article, I analyzed their teachings about Ahnsahnghong being God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (Read the article here).
Now, this article will analyze what the Church of God (COG) is most notorious for: their belief in God the Mother (who currently lives in the flesh in South Korea).
As I did in my first two articles, I’ve purposely avoided exposing myself to any negative websites or information about the COG and have based my analysis strictly on their explanation of their own beliefs a stated on their official website. Since they use the Bible to explain and defend their views (and they appear to believe the Bible is the Word of God), I have used the Bible to analyze, refute, and argue against their beliefs as unbiblical and as a corruption of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
(God From the Machine has published a book titled Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon. Click here to learn more.)
God the Mother – Who is She?
I recommend reading my first article on the COG for more insight, but I’ll reprint here what I wrote specifically about God the Mother. (If you’re familiar with it, jump down to “The ‘Evidence.”)
“The COG also believes in Mother God, also called Jerusalem Mother. She is “the Second Coming Jesus’ [Ahnsahnghong’s] wife.” Jesus didn’t give his people eternal life 2,000 years ago because he was waiting for the appearance of his wife, through whom eternal life will come. God the Mother is currently living in South Korea.
“In a video on their website, Mother God is shown at the New Jerusalem Temple in South Korea, surrounded by many happy, well-dressed admirers. The video shows her holding their hands, walking with them, and hugging them. In a testimony, Nathan from Memphis, USA, says, ‘This is the place where our heavenly mother dwells, the land of prophecy, so I came here to receive the water of life that you can only receive here in Korea from God the Mother.’ A female Korean teen states, ‘If God the Mother does not exist, there would be no happiness in the world.’
“The COG website clearly teaches that eternal life can only come through Mother God.”
So, where does the COG get this idea that “Mother God” exists? Most people who know anything about the Bible would be astonished (to say the least) to learn that the Bible, according to the COG, actually teaches about Mother God.
As you will see, if these verses are the best evidence the COG has for a biblical teaching of Mother God, their faith is based on a brittle foundation. The first verse, Genesis 1:26-27, is perhaps the most quoted and the most troublesome, so we’ll start there:
The “Mother God” Interpretation
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
In Genesis 1:26-27, God creates man and woman in his image. The COG focuses on the plural language God uses to refer to himself: “us” and “our.” Furthermore, they are correct in that in this passage the word “Elohim,” which is translated from the original Hebrew into English as “God,” is also in the plural form.
According to the teachings of the COG, since “the principle of nature” is that both male and female are needed to create life, and since God made both man and woman in his image, there must be both a male (Father) and female (Mother) God. The site claims “us” and “our” is often interpreted as referring to the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit), but this is incorrect; it can’t be the Trinity, says the COG, because then three types of people would exist in the world today, not two: male and female.
Thus, in the creation story at the beginning of the Bible, we have evidence of Mother God.
The COG also cites Isaiah 6:8 to show the plurality of God:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I [Isaiah] said, “Here am I. Send me!”
God or Gods?
As I said above, this is the most troublesome passage used by the COG, but I only say that because it’s a difficult passage for anyone studying the Bible because it does contain some grammatically unusual features and needs more explanation than the other passages they use. Churches with unusual, unorthodox beliefs often snatch challenging passages to justify their more peculiar beliefs.
Interestingly, the first time I came across anyone who pointed out the use of plural words (Elohim, us, our) in Genesis 1:26-27 was when I was in my early twenties in an Introduction to the Bible class in college. The professor was either a former pastor or priest (I can’t remember which) who had evidently lost his faith. Even though I was atheistic/agnostic at the time and I was loving and eating up much of what he was teaching, even then he came across to me as quite hostile towards the Bible and anyone who had a more traditional view of it.
Liberal and skeptical biblical scholars who don’t believe the first five books of the Bible were written by Moses but instead were a Frankenstein-like combination of various writings from the ancient world, grab on to Genesis 1:26-27 to support their views. These liberal scholars seize on the plural words as evidence the Jewish religion – an ardent monotheistic religion – actually originated from polytheistic religions. The most prominent theory from these liberal Bible scholars says that four earlier, different sources contributed to the formation of Genesis as we know it today.
We won’t go into it here, but conservative biblical scholars have thoroughly contested these claims. The biggest stumbling block for the liberal scholars’ views is that there is no hard evidence, such as manuscript proof, to support their theory. Further, I think a simple question pokes rather large holes in their theory: If Genesis is a mixing of religious texts from polytheistic cultures and the early Jews edited them into the first five books of the Bible to create a vehemently monotheistic religion, why and how did they overlook the very obvious polytheistic plural words? Why didn’t they just change them?
5 (Much More Likely) Alternatives to the Mother God Interpretation
Now, moving on from liberal biblical scholarship to the claims of the COG concerning Genesis 1:26-27 and Mother God: What is the deal with the plural language? Jewish, Christian, and secular scholars have offered several explanations:
(1) God is addressing his “heavenly court,” the angels.
Many Jewish commentators, some dating back to ancient times like Philo of Alexandria, uphold this view. See the following passages as biblical evidence of the heavenly court: Job 1; Psalm 89:6-8; 1 Kings 22:19-22; Daniel 7:9-13; Luke 2:9-14; and Revelation 4-5. In Isaiah 6:8 (“who will go for Us?”) God speaking to a heavenly court appears to be the clear case when the verse is read in context with the rest of Isaiah 6.
(2) God is addressing the Trinity.
Though from a Christian perspective there is a possibility that the Holy Spirit moved Moses to include this reference to the Trinity in the first book of the Bible, even conservative Christian scholars agree that this interpretation is unlikely. Though possible, the idea is wholly speculative, and it’s highly unlikely the original author, Moses, consciously made reference to the Trinity.
(3) God is addressing other gods.
Is the plural language evidence that Judaism grew out of a polytheistic culture? I addressed some of the issues with this theory above. Commentators point out that the radically monotheistic Jews would’ve never included such polytheistic language.
(4) God is using the “plural of majesty.”
Like how English royalty will say “we” when speaking since royalty speaks for the whole kingdom, God as creator of all things is using plural pronouns (us, our) in relation to his supremely eminent position. Though we see one example of this in the Bible in Ezra 4:18, this view is widely rejected because we simply do not see plural pronouns used in Hebrew this way anywhere else, whether inside or outside the Bible. (But we’ll return to this idea later when speaking about the plural “Elohim.”)
(5) God is self-deliberating and/or self-addressing.
Basically, God is talking to himself – as if thinking aloud. This simple explanation is the most widely accepted, and as one commentator writes, the idea is “an attested and sufficient explanation,” as it is well supported by other examples in the Hebrew language where the language shifts between plural and singular.
An example of a human doing this is in 2 Samuel 24:14:
Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.”
Another example where God does this is in Genesis 11:6-8 during the Tower of Babel episode:
And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.
Notice “the LORD” says, “let us go down,” but then we’re immediately told “the LORD dispersed them.” Here, in the original Hebrew, “the LORD” is not the plural Elohim (a general title for God) but “Yahwah,” God’s name as given to Moses. (More about this below.) Yahwah, being God’s unique name, can only be taken as referring to a singular being, yet we also see the plural pronoun “us” used. Clearly, there are not two or more gods involved here, but only the one true God, Yahweh.
So, to say here we see a plurality of gods because of the use of “us” is nonsensical; we have to understand “us” as a language device of the ancient Hebrews. To say otherwise would be the equivalent of saying the following statement means that Frank is more than one person: “’Let us eat some dinner,’ said Frank. So, Frank ate some dinner.”
Likewise, though the “us” in Isaiah 6:8 may be addressing the heavenly court, it may be another example of God’s self-deliberation as in Genesis 11:6-8. Notice how the language shifts between singular and plural in Isaiah 6:8:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord [singular], saying, “Whom shall I [singular] send, and who will go for us [plural]?”
If we don’t want to accept either explanation that God is self-deliberating or speaking to the angels, then we have to conclude God or the writers of the Old Testament were really bad at Hebrew grammar, not knowing the difference between singular and plural pronouns! But the one thing that certainly can’t be logically concluded by this is that God is speaking to another god, let alone God the Mother.
In Hebrew, Even Verbs Are Plural
To hammer home this point even more, the original Hebrew of Genesis 1:26-27 uses singular forms of verbs in these passages even though plural pronouns are used. Obviously, this doesn’t translate into English since English doesn’t have singular and plural forms of verbs. If Genesis 1:26-27 shows Father God and Mother God speaking, why would the verbs be singular?
Thus, the explanation of God’s self-deliberation is the most likely explanation for Genesis 1:26-27 because had God been speaking to others in these plural instances – such as to a heavenly court or another deity like Mother God – the verbs surrounding the statements would be plural.
The “Names” of God
For clarity’s sake (and simply because this is good to know), there are three words in the Bible regularly used to refer to God:
Hebrew translated to English
Elohim = God (title)
Yahweh = the LORD (God’s name)
Adonai = the Lord (title)
- Yahweh – When you see the “LORD” in all caps in your English-language Bible, the original Hebrew reads “Yahweh,” the name of the one true God as given to Moses in Exodus 3:14 (“Yahweh” = “I AM”).
- Elohim – Elohim (or El, Elah, or Elo’ah – These are the singular forms) is a general title translated “God” when referring to the one true God, Yahweh, but it can refer to false gods and other powerful beings (such as angels) or even powerful people. (For example, see Psalm 82:1-6 and Jesus’ reference to it in John 10:34–36). Though this word doesn’t exclusively mean the one true God, it is obvious by the context when it is referring to Yahweh.
- Adonai – Similarly, adonai is a general title and can refer to a human master or lord. Again, we must look at the context the word is used in to know it is referring to God. (Also, keep in mind, there is no capitalization in Hebrew.)
- “Lord GOD” – Sometimes we see adonai and Yahweh together, so it’s translated “Lord GOD.” (Note the use of caps in the English translation.)
Elohim = God’s “Otherness”
So, we explained the plural pronouns, but what’s the deal with “Elohim” – the actual word translated “God” – being plural?
The use of the plural Elohim in Hebrew suggests God’s unique nature as the one and only immaterial, timeless, self-sufficiently existent and powerful creator of all things. This can be best understood in human terms as the “plurality of royalty,” such as the Queen of England would use, we discussed above.
God’s “otherness” – meaning his uniqueness in absolute supremacy, majesty, and holiness – from all other things is a regular theme in the Bible, as the Jews understood God was wholly “other.” Thus, the plural Elohim illustrates this.
The Baker Encyclopedia explains Elohim “is plural in form, but when applied to the true God it is used in a singular sense… The most common explanation for the plural form of Elohim as applied to God is that it is ‘plural of majesty,’ that is, all the majesty of deity is encompassed by him.”
Likewise, God’s self-proclaimed name as given to Moses in Exodus 3:13-14 is all about his exclusive, one-of-a-kind nature:
Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
What an awesome statement by God! Basically, God isn’t giving a name but an explanation of his being. Since there’s no worldly thing to compare himself to – and he is so beyond any comparison – God simply states, “I AM WHO I AM.” In other words, I am self-existent and self-sufficient; I am the Uncaused First Cause; I am the only Necessary Being; and there is nothing else like me. In Hebrew, “I AM” is “Yahweh.” (Hebrew doesn’t have vowels, so it’s literally “YHWH.”) Both “I AM” and “Elohim” emphasize what the Jews knew very well: God was utterly “other.”
The New American Commentary speaks of the use of Elohim instead of Yahweh in the creation story:
“The general name Elohim is appropriate for the creation account’s universal framework and in effect repudiates the cosmogonies of the pagan world, where the origins and biography of their ‘gods’ are paramount. From the inception of [the first 5 books of the Bible] polytheism and idolatry have no ideological or practical place among Israel.” (See Exodus 20:1-6; Deut. 4:12-24.)
One blogger explains it particularly well:
“When used of the true God, ‘Elohim’ denotes what is called by linguists a plural of majesty, honor, or fullness. That is, he is GOD in the fullest sense of the word. He is ‘GOD of gods’ or literally, ‘ELOHIM of elohim.’” (See Deut. 10:17; Psalm 136:2.)
Not Convinced? How About Masculine, Singular Pronouns?
Even if you don’t find the explanations I’ve offered here plausible, and even if you reject all of the interpretations listed above, all of the above is still much more plausible and logical than the conclusions of the COG. Yes, Genesis 1:26-27 uses the plural form Elohim; yes, God sometimes uses plural personal pronouns; yes, God made man and woman in his image. But it’s a huge jump in logic to say these verses serve as evidence of Mother God. Clearly, this conclusion can only be reached if presupposed ideas are read into the verses, not by letting the Bible speak for itself.
Let’s also note that Genesis 1:27 plainly states:
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Yes, in the original Hebrew those are masculine, singular pronouns. It does not say:
God created man in Their own image, in the image of God They created him; male and female They created them.
And though we all know the immaterial God is not male in a physical sense, the masculine pronoun is clearly used. If the COG’s theory is correct that since there are two types of people, male and female, there must be male and female Gods, then Genesis 1:27 would read something like this:
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male He created him. And God created woman in Her own image, in the image of God She created her; female she created her.
In fact, if we’re going to go in this direction, why doesn’t Genesis 1 just plainly state that Father God and Mother God created humankind together? Clearly, Genesis doesn’t say this because I AM doesn’t need a female partner to create. Yes, God created the world so that much of his physical creation does need both male and female to procreate, but the self-existent, all-powerful I AM is not a physical being. He made humankind (and everything) from nothing. The great I AM is not restricted by the physical world; he created the physical world. He is wholly “other.”
One has to question why literally thousands of years of Jewish, Christian, and (much of it hostile) secular tradition and scholarship has never discovered Mother God in the Bible before.
But let’s keep an open mind: Yes, I believe this article refutes the most widely quoted passage by the COG to justify their belief in Mother God, and as I said above, it is probably the most difficult to explain due to the perceived oddity of the grammar since none of us are ancient Hebrews. But still I’ll keep an open mind and do what I always do when someone offers an interpretation of the Bible that doesn’t seem quite right to me:
I ask for more evidence.
Certainly, there has to be more evidence of Mother God in God’s Word than one (easily refuted) passage at the very beginning of the Bible, right?
In the next article, we’ll look at the other verses the COG claims speak about Mother God.
**God From the Machine has published a book for evangelizing, educating, and refuting the World Mission Society Church of God titled Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon. Click here to learn more.
My two earlier articles about the COG:
“World Mission Society Church of God, Mother God & Christ Ahnsahnghong – The One True Church or Cult?”
The Trinity Mashup & the Schizophrenic God! “Mother God,” “Christ” Ahnsahnghong, & World Mission Society Church of God – The One True Church or Cult?
Also, I do not intend to debate here if the World Mission Society Church of God is a “cult” or not, and I prefer my readers to decide. (Please feel free to comment, discuss, & debate below!) Earlier articles I wrote will hopefully be helpful:
How Do We Identify “Christian” Cults? What’s the Difference Between a Cult & a Denomination?
Interacting with “Christian” Cult Members: Tips & Strategies
About (Poor) Biblical Interpretation: Responding to “Christian” Cults… or Anyone Who Misuses Scripture.