Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Women in Medieval Thought Not Created in the Image of God

Whether a nun or wife of an aristocrat, townsman, or peasant, a woman in the Middle Ages was considered inferior to a man and by nature subject to a man's authority. Although there are a number of examples of strong women who flew in the face of such an attitude, church teachings also reinforced these notions. These two selections are from Gratian, the twelfth-century jurist who wrote the first systematic work on canon law, and Thomas Aquinas, the well-known scholastic theologian of the thirteenth century.

Gratian writes in Decretum,
The image of God is in man and it is one. Women were drawn from man, who has God's jurisdiction as if he were God's vicar, because he has the image of the one God. Therefore woman is not made in God's image.
In his Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas says,
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....
The image of God, in its principal signification, namely the intellectual nature, is found both in man and in woman. Hence after the words, "To the image of God He created him," it is added, "Male and female He created them." Moreover it is said "them" in the plural ... lest it should be thought that both sexes were united in one individual. But in a secondary sense the image of God is found in man, and not in woman: for man is the beginning and end of woman; as God is the beginning and end of every creature. (italics added)
We can be glad that Christ had a higher view of women. Both men and women are created in God's image.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gen. 1:27, italics added). 

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