Women & Misogyny Throughout Church History

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This resource page is in association with my series on Women in God’s Household. Below are quotes from theologians past and present to show how women have been under subjugation for centuries in the Church.

Early Church

Clement of Alexandria (150 – 215 AD) Clement alexandrin

“Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman…the consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame” ~ Paedagogus (The Instructor) Book 2, 33.2

 

 

 

 


Tertullian  (155 – 240 AD)Tertullian.jpg

“this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that forbidden tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert— that is, death— even the Son of God had to die. And do you think about adorning yourself over and above your tunics of skins?”

“Let her be entirely covered, unless she happen to be at home. For that style of dress is grave, and protects from being gazed at. And she will never fall, who puts before her eyes modesty, and her shawl; nor will she invite another to fall into sin by uncovering her face. For this is the wish of the Word, since it is becoming for her to pray veiled.”

~ On the Apparel of Women, chapter 1


Origen (184 – 254 AD)Origen3.jpg

“Men should not sit and listen to a woman … even if she says admirable things, or even saintly things, that is of little consequence, since they came from the mouth of a woman.” ~ Fragments on 1 Corinthians

 

 

 

 

 


Jerome (347 – 420 AD)

Bernardino Pinturicchio - Saint Jerome in the Wilderness - Walters 371089

Jerome was very inconsistent in his views about women but his views influenced his Latin Vulgate bible translation.

“Your desire will be for your husband.” was changed in the Vulgate to “you will be under the power of your husband.” (Jane Barr, “The Influence of St. Jerome on Medieval Attitudes to Women,” in After Eve: Women in the Theology of the Christian Tradition, ed. Janet Martin Soskice (London: Marshall Pickering, 1990), esp. 94-95.)

“Woman is the root of all evil.”

 

 

 


Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD)John Chrysostom, Miscellany

“God maintained the order of each sex by dividing the business of life into two parts, and assigned the more necessary and beneficial aspects to the man and the less important, inferior matter to the woman” ~ The Kind of Women who ought to be taken as Wives 

 

 

 

 

 


Medieval Times

St Augustine (354–430 AD) Gerard Seghers (attr) - The Four Doctors of the Western Church, Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430)

“I don’t see what sort of help woman was created to provide man with, if one excludes procreation. If woman is not given to man for help in bearing children, for what help could she be? To till the earth together? If help were needed for that, man would have been a better help for man. The same goes for comfort in solitude. How much more pleasure is it for life and conversation when two friends live together than when a man and a woman cohabitate?” ~ Genesi Ad Litteram, 9, 5-9

‘Woman, together with her own husband, is in the image of God, so that the whole substance is one image, but when she is referred to separately in her quality as helpmeet, which regards the woman alone, then she is not in the image of God, but as regards the man alone, he is the image of God as fully and completely as when the woman too is joined with him in one.’ ~ De Trinitate Book 12 7.10 

“It is the natural order among people that women serve their husbands and children their parents, because the justice of this lies in (the principle that) the lesser serves the greater…. This is the natural justice that the weaker brain serve the stronger. This therefore is the evident justice in the relationships between slaves and their masters, that they who excel in reason, excel in power.” ~ Questions on the Heptatuech, Book 1, Section 153:


St Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) St-thomas-aquinas

“Woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from defect in the active force or from some material indisposition…”

“Good order would have been wanting in the human family if some were not governed by others wiser than themselves. So by such a kind of subjection woman is naturally subject to man, because in man the discretion of reason predominates.”

~ Source: Summa Theologica, q.92 a.1

 


The Reformation 

John Luther ( 1483–1546)Lucas Cranach d.Ä. (Werkst.) - Porträt des Martin Luther (Lutherhaus Wittenberg)

If they [women] become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that’s why they are there. ~ H. Ellerbe, “The Dark Side of Christian History,” Chapter 8

Eve has been placed under the power of her husband, she who previously was very free and, as the sharer of all the gifts of God, was in no respect inferior to her husband… Rule is now entirely the concern of males … The woman … is like a nail driven into the wall. She sits at home, and for this reason Paul, in Titus 2:5, calls her an oikourgos … This punishment too springs from original sin…the wife should stay at home and look after the affairs of the household as one who has been deprived of the ability of administering those affairs that are outside and concern the state….In this way Eve is punished.” Further info: Luther on women pdf

“A wife is a necessary evil …we are compelled to make use of
this sex in order to avoid sin … although one is ashamed to say so.”
Further info: Women before and after the Fall – comparing Calvin’s views with Luther’s.

The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes. ~ Works 12.94

Men have broad and large chests, and small narrow hips, and more understanding than women, who have but small and narrow breasts, and broad hips, to the end they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children. ~ Table Talk

“For a woman seems to be a creature somewhat different from man, in that she has dissimilar members, a varied form and a mind weaker than man. Although Eve was a most excellent and beautiful creature, like unto Adam in reference to the image of God, that is with respect to righteousness, wisdom and salvation, yet she was a woman. For as the sun is more glorious than the moon, though the moon is a most glorious body, so woman, though she was a most beautiful work of God, yet she did not equal the glory of the male creature.” ~ Commentary on Genesis, Chapter 2, Part V, 27b


John Calvin (1509 – 1564)John Calvin by Holbein

Thus the woman, who had perversely exceeded her proper bounds, is forced back to her own position. She had, indeed, previously been subject to her husband, but that was a liberal and gentle subjection; now, however, she is cast into servitude. ~ Commentary on Genesis, p. 172

“I consider this was done by way of reproach, because they [the men] had been so tardy and sluggish to believe. And indeed, they deserve not only to have women for their teachers, but even oxen and asses. . . Yet it pleased the Lord, by means of those weak and contemptible vessels, to give display of his power.” ~ Commentary on the Gospel of John (John 20) 

“On this account, all women are born that they may acknowledge themselves as inferior in consequence to the superiority of the male sex.” ~ Commentary on 1 Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11)


John Knox (1514 – 1572) Portrait of John Knox (4671577)

“To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion, or empire above any realm, nation, or city, is repugnant to nature; contumely to God, a thing most contrary to his revealed will and approved ordinance; and finally, it is the subversion of good order, of all equity and justice.”

“Women are weake, fraile, impatient, feeble and foolish.”…”unconstant, variable, cruel and lacking the spirit of counsel and regiment” …”woman in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man.” ~ The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women

 


21st Century Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

John Piper

Johnpiper3

Women are not allowed to read scripture or pray in the pulpit at his church.
He says that women cannot be muscular because it leads to volatile sex.
He says that the abuse of a wife is OK so long as it only lasts a night. (btw He doesn’t believe that a married couple can divorce – EVER!) 


Oh and don’t let him give your daughters career advice as women cannot be police officers, or have any other type of career if it involves giving directives to men.

If a woman’s job involves a good deal of directives toward men, they will need to be non-personal in general, or men and women won’t flourish in the long run in that relationship without compromising profound biblical and psychological issues. And conversely, if a woman’s relationship to a man is very personal, then the way she offers guidance and influence will need to be more non-directive. And my own view is that there are some roles in society that will strain godly manhood and womanhood to the breaking point. ~ when asked if a woman should think of being a police officer as her career choice.

Here is a truth. A woman saw it. She shared it in a book, and I now quote it, because I am not having a direct, authoritative confrontation. She is not looking at me and confronting me and authoritatively directing me as a woman.” ~  when asked should you use bible commentaries written by women?

See more here John Piper: the Pharisaical Expert on the submission of women. Piper may even believe that women will be in a subordinate/submissive position to men in heaven.


Douglas Wilson

author-douglas-wilson

“Women inescapably need godly masculine protection against ungodly masculine harassment; women who refuse protection from their fathers and husbands must seek it from the police. But women who genuinely insist on ‘no masculine protection’ are really women who tacitly agree on the propriety of rape.” ~ Her Hand in Marriage, p. 13

 

 


Mark Driscoll

mark-driscoll-g261nl0c

“Women will be saved by going back to that role that God has chosen for them. Ladies, if the hair on the back of your neck stands up it is because you are fighting your role in the scripture.”

“Every single book in your Bible is written by a man.”

“If women become pastors and heads of homes then hell looks like a good place because at least a man is in charge.”

 


Where are we now?

Jesus rose from the dead to abolish the hierarchy that man created due to the curse. But unfortunately Complementarianism today in the church maintains that hierarchy.

Never before in history has the average person had such easy access to the original languages and historical writings now available online. With a little effort anyone with an internet connection can now study these resources and start to put things into their proper perspective. We can use correct exegetical processes using historical and cultural contexts to get a feeling of what was going on in the churches at the time the texts were being written. We can study the patriarchy of the day of both the Jewish and Gentile cultures and the role of women in them. We can read about the cult practices common in the Greco-Roman world and the problems the local churches were having with their new converts bringing these cult practices into the church. Many of Paul’s epistles were specifically addressing these issues. As a result we can begin to understand the New Testament with fresh new eyes and see how revolutionary the New Covenant actually was!


Missing Body Parts

At the moment it is my understanding that the church is not using all of the body. Paul speaks about how important it is for all the body parts to function. However, some of these body parts i.e females have not been allowed to freely express and use their spirit given gifts for the benefit of the body as a whole. When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about the gifts of the spirit and all the body parts working together he was not being gender specific.

 

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