Misogynist Quotations from Church Fathers and Reformers

Misogynist Quotations from Church Fathers and Reformers

Appalling Misogynist Quotes from Church Fathers and Reformers

Here are some misogynist quotations from well-known church leaders and theologians that do not in any way reflect what the Bible says about women.

ORIGEN

Theologian and Greek Father, 2nd-3rd centuries 

“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 it came from the mouth of a woman.”
Fragments on 1 Corinthians

TERTULLIAN

The Father of Latin Christianity, 155-245

”And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on 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?”
De Cultu Feminarium (On the Apparel of Women), Chapter 1 (Read it here.)

CHRYSOSTOM

Archbishop of Constantinople and Doctor of the Church,  4th century 

“. . . the [female] sex is weak and fickle . . .”
Homily 9 on First Timothy (1 Timothy 2:11-12) (Read it here.)

“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 (Read a longer quotation from this treatise here.)

AUGUSTINE

Bishop of Hippo, Doctor of the Church and Latin Father, 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?”
De genesi ad literatum (The Literal Meaning of Genesis) 9. 5-9

“. . . the woman together with her own husband is the image of God, so that that whole substance may be one image; but when she is referred separately to her quality of help-meet, which regards the woman herself alone, then she is not 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.”
On the Trinity, Book 12 7.10 (Read it here.)

THOMAS AQUINAS

Doctor of the church, 13th century

“But woman is naturally of less strength and dignity than man . . .”
Summa Theologica, Volume 1, Question 92, Article 1, Objection 2. (Read it here.)

“As regards the individual nature, 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 a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence.”
Summa Theologica, Vol. I, Q. 92, Art. 1, Reply to objection 1. (Read it here.)

MARTIN LUTHER 

German priest, theologian and Protestant Reformer, 16th century

“For 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. (Read it here.)

JOHN CALVIN

French theologian, pastor and Protestant Reformer, 1509-1564

On the first post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to women rather than to men: “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) (Read it here.)

“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) (Read it here.)

JOHN KNOX 

Scottish clergyman and Protestant Reformer, 16th century

“Woman in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man . . .”

“Nature I say, paints [women] further to be weak, frail, impatient, feeble and foolish: and experience has declared them to be inconstant, variable, cruel and lacking the spirit of counsel and regiment [or, leadership].”
The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. (Read it here.)


Not everything these men have said about women is derogatory. Some of them even had close female friends and colleagues whom they admired. For example, Jerome had Paula, Chrysostom had Olympias.

Tertullian (who ended up as a Montanist, a Christian group where women could be leaders and prophets) used strong words to make whatever point he wanted to make at the time. So, even though in one treatise he called women “the devil’s gateway,” in another he said that husbands and wives were equal.

These men did have some low views on women, but overall they held to ambivalent, contradictory views. In churches today we still see that too many Christians hold to ambivalent views about the nature, capabilities and potential of women.

Image Credit

Church Fathers, an 11th-century miniature from Svyatoslav’s Miscellany (Wikimedia Commons)


Related Articles

The Portrayal of Women in the Bible and Biblical Inspiration
Is Complementarianism a Traditional Belief of the Church?
Women, Eve, and Deception
Tertullian on Equality and Mutuality in Marriage

Further Reading

Woman seen as a ‘Problem’ and as ‘Solution’ in the Theological Anthropoloqy of the Early Fathers: Considering the Consequences, by Dr Marie-Henry Keane O.P., here.

About The Author

Marg

Marg Mowczko lives north of Sydney, Australia, in a house filled with three generations of family. She strongly believes that if we are in Christ we are part of the New Creation and a part of a community where old social paradigms of hierarchies and caste systems have no place (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 3:28). Marg has an MA in Early Christian and Jewish Studies from Macquarie University, as well as a BTh.

1 Comment

  1. Grainne

    Sounds like the ideas of Wayne Grudem et al – even though they cloak their misogyny in softer language.

    Reply

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