Responsive image






Nederlands/Vlaams Deutsch Francais English language Spanish language Portuguese language Catalan Chinese Czech Malayalam Finnish Igbo
Japanese Korean Romanian Malay language Norwegian Swedish Polish Swahili Chichewa Tagalog Urdu
What Became of God the Mother? Conflicting Images of God in Early Christianity Elaine H.Pagels.

What Became of God the Mother?

Conflicting Images of God in Early Christianity

Elaine H.Pagels.

Taken from Womanspirit Rising pp107-119. Ed. Carol P.Christ and Judith Plaskow. Harper & Row, 1979.

Elaine H. Pagels received her Ph. D. from Harvard University and now teaches at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is author of The Johannine Gospel in Gnostic Exegesis and The Gnostic Paul. Her articles have appeared in Harvard Theological Review, Journal for Biblical Literature, and Journal of the American Academy of Religion. This essay originally appeared in Signs (Vol. 2, no. 2), c 1976 by The University of Chicago, and is reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.

Unlike many of his contemporaries among the deities of the ancient Near East, the God of Israel shares his power with no female divinity, nor is he the divine Husband or Lover of any.(l) He scarcely can be characterized in any but masculine epithets: King, Lord, Master, Judge, and Father.(2) Indeed, the absence of feminine symbolism of God marks Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in striking contrast to the world’s other religious traditions, whether in Egypt, Babylonia, Greece, and Rome or Africa, Polynesia, India, and North America. Jewish, Christian, and Islamic theologians, however, are quick to point out that God is not to be considered in sexual terms at all. Yet the actual language they use daily in worship and prayer conveys a different message and gives the distinct impression that God is thought of in exclusively masculine terms. And while it is true that Catholics revere Mary as the mother of Jesus, she cannot be identified as divine in her own right: if she is “mother of God,” she is not “God the Mother” on an equal footing with God the Father.

Christianity, of course, added the trinitarian terms to the Jewish description of God. And yet of the three divine “Persons,” two—the Father and Son—are described in masculine terms, and the third—the Spirit—suggests the sexlessness of the Greek neuter term pneuma. This is not merely a subjective impression. Whoever investigates the early development of Christianity—the field called “patristics,” that is, study of “the fathers of the church”—may not be surprised by the passage that concludes the recently discovered, secret Gospel of Thomas: “Simon Peter said to them [the disciples], ‘Let Mary be excluded from among us, for she is a woman, and not worthy of Life.’ Jesus said, ‘Behold I will take Mary, and make her a male, so that she may become a living spirit, resembling you males. For I tell you truly, that every female who makes herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.’”(3) Strange as it sounds, this only states explicitly what religious rhetoric often assumes: that the men form the legitimate body of the community, while women will be allowed to participate only insofar as their own identity is denied and assimilated to that of the men.

Further exploration of the texts which include this Gospel—written on papyrus, hidden in large clay jars nearly 1,600 years ago—has identified them as Jewish and Christian gnostic works which were attacked and condemned as “heretical” as early as A.D. 100—150. What distinguishes these “heterodox” texts from those that are called “orthodox” is at least partially clear: they abound in feminine symbolism that is applied, in particular, to God. Although one might expect, then, that they would recall the archaic pagan traditions of the Mother Goddess, their language is to the contrary specifically Christian, unmistakably related to a Jewish heritage. Thus we can see that certain gnostic Christians diverged even more radically from the Jewish tradition than the early Christians who described God as the “three Persons” or the Trinity. For, instead of a monistic and masculine God, certain of these texts describe God as a dyadic being, who consists of both masculine and feminine elements. One such group of texts, for example, claims to have received a secret tradition from Jesus through James, and significantly, through Mary Magdalene.(4) Members of this group offer prayer to both the divine Father and Mother: “From Thee, Father, and through Thee, Mother, the two immortal names, Parents of the divine being, and thou, dweller in heaven, mankind of the mighty name.”(5) Other texts indicate that their authors had pondered the nature of the beings to whom a single, masculine God proposed, “Let us make mankind in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Since the Genesis account goes on to say that mankind was created “male and female” (1:27), some concluded, apparently, that the God in whose image we are created likewise must be both masculine and feminine—both Father and Mother.

The characterization of the divine Mother in these sources is not simple since the texts themselves are extraordinarily diverse. Nevertheless, three primary characterizations merge. First, a certain poet and teacher, Valentinus, begins with the premise that God is essentially indescribable. And yet he suggests that the divine can be imagined as a Dyad consisting of two elements: one he calls the Ineffable, the Source, the Primal Father; the other, the Silence, the Mother of all things.(6) Although we might question Valentinus’s reasoning that Silence is the appropriate complement of what is Ineffable, his equation of the former with the feminine and the latter with the masculine may be traced to the grammatical gender of the Greek words. Followers of Valentinus invoke this feminine power, whom they also call “Grace” (in Greek, the feminine term charis), in their own private celebration of the Christian eucharist: they call her “divine, eternal Grace, She who is before all things.”(7) At other times they pray to her for protection as the Mother, “Thou enthroned with God, eternal, mystical Silence.”(8) Marcus, a disciple of Valentinus, contends that “when Moses began his account of creation, he mentioned the Mother of all things at the very beginning, when he said, ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,’ ”(9) for the word beginning (in Greek, the feminine arche) refers to the divine Mother, the source of the cosmic elements. When they describe God in this way, different gnostic writers have different interpretations. Some maintain that the divine is to be considered masculo-feminine—the “great male-female power.” Others insist that the terms are meant only as metaphors—for, in reality, the divine is neither masculine nor feminine. A third group suggests that one can describe the Source of all things in either masculine or feminine terms, depending on which aspect one intends to stress.(10) Proponents of these diverse views agree, however, that the divine is to be understood as consisting of a harmonious, dynamic relationship of opposites—a concept that may be akin to the eastern view of yin and yang but remains antithetical to orthodox Judaism and Christianity.

A second characterization of the divine Mother describes her as Holy Spirit. One source, the Secret Book of John, for example, relates how John, the brother of James, went out after the crucifixion with “great grief,” and had a mystical vision of the Trinity: “As I was grieving . . . the heavens were opened, and the whole creation shone with an unearthly light, and the universe was shaken. I was afraid . . . and behold . . . a unity in three forms appeared to me, and I marvelled: how can a unity have three forms?” To John’s question, the vision answers: “It said to me, ‘John, John, why do you doubt, or why do you fear? . . . I am the One who is with you always: I am the Father; I am the Mother; I am the Son.’(11) John’s interpretation of the Trinity—as Father, Mother, and Son—may not at first seem shocking but is perhaps the more natural and spontaneous interpretation. Where the Greek terminology for the Trinity, which includes the neuter term for the spirit (pneuma), virtually requires that the third "Person" of the Trinity be asexual, the author of the Secret Book looks to the Hebrew term for spirit, ruah—a feminine word. He thus concludes, logically enough, that the feminine “Person” conjoined with Father and Son must be the Mother! Indeed, the text goes on to describe the Spirit as Mother: “the image of the invisible virginal perfect spirit.... She became the mother of the all, for she existed before them all, the mother-father [matropater]."(l2) This same author, therefore, alters Genesis 1:2 ("the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the deep") to say, “the Mother then was moved.”(13) The secret Gospel to the Hebrews likewise has Jesus speak of “my Mother, the Spirit."(l4) And in the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus contrasts his earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, with his divine Father—the Father of Truth—and his divine Mother, the Holy Spirit. The author interprets a puzzling saying of Jesus in the New Testament ("whoever does not hate his father and mother is not worthy of me") by adding: “Whoever does not love his father and his mother in my way cannot be my disciple; for my [earthly] mother gave me death but my true Mother gave me the Life.”(15) Another secret gnostic gospel, the Gospel of Phillip, declares that whoever becomes a Christian “gains both a father and a mother."(l6) The author refers explicitly to the feminine Hebrew term to describe the Spirit as "Mother of many.”(17)

If these sources suggest that the Spirit constitutes the maternal element of the Trinity, the Gospel of Phillip makes an equally radical suggestion concerning the doctrine that later developed as the virgin birth. Here again the Spirit is praised as both Mother and Virgin, the counterpart—and consort—of the Heavenly Father: “If I may utter a mystery, the Father of the all united with the Virgin who came down" (l8)—that is,.with the Holy Spirit. Yet because this process is to be understood symbolically, and not literally, the Spirit remains a virgin! The author explains that "for this reason, Christ was ‘born of a virgin’"—that is, of the Spirit, his divine Mother. But the author ridicules those “literal-minded” Christians who mistakenly refer the virgin birth to Mary, Jesus’ earthly mother, as if she conceived apart from Joseph: “Such persons do not know what they are saying; for when did a female ever impregnate a female?”(19) Instead, he argues, virgin birth refers to the mysterious union of the two divine powers, the Father of the All with the Holy Spirit.

Besides the eternal, mystical Silence, and besides the Holy Spirit, certain gnostics suggest a third characterization of the divine Mother as Wisdom. Here again the Greek feminine term for wisdom, sophia, like the term for spirit, ruah, translates a Hebrew feminine term, hokhmah. Early interpreters had pondered the meaning of certain biblical passages, for example, Proverbs: “God made the world in Wisdom.” And they wondered if Wisdom could be the feminine power in which God’s creation is “conceived”? In such passages, at any rate, Wisdom bears two connotations: first, she bestows the Spirit that makes mankind wise; second, she is a creative power. One gnostic source calls her the “first universal creator”;(20) another says that God the Father was speaking to her when he proposed to “make mankind in our image."(21) The Great Announcement, a mystical writing, explains the Genesis account in the following terms: "One Power that is above and below, self-generating, self-discovering, its own mother; its own father; its own sister; its own son: Father, Mother, unity, Root of all things."(22) The same author explains the mystical meaning of the Garden of Eden as a symbol of the womb: “Scripture teaches us that this is what is meant when Isaiah says, ‘I am he that formed thee in thy mother’s womb’ [Isaiah 44:2]. The Garden of Eden, then, is Moses’ symbolic term for the womb, and Eden the placenta, and the river which comes out of Eden the navel, which nourishes the fetus.”(23) This teacher claims that the Exodus, consequently, symbolizes the exodus from the womb, “and the crossing of the Red Sea, they say, refers to the blood.” Evidence for this view, he adds, comes directly from “the cry of the newborn,” a spontaneous cry of praise for “the glory of the primal being, in which all the powers above are in harmonious embrace.”(24)

The introduction of such symbolism in gnostic texts clearly bears implications for the understanding of human nature. The Great Announcement, for example, having described the Source as a masculo-feminine being, a “bisexual Power,” goes on to say that “what came into being from that Power, that is, humanity, being one, is found to be two: a male-female being that bears the female within it.”(25) This refers to the story of Eve’s “birth” out of Adam’s side (so that Adam, being one, is “discovered to be two,” an androgyne who “bears the female within him”). Yet this reference to the creation story of Genesis 2—an account which inverts the biological birth process, and so effectively denies the creative function of the female—proves to be unusual in gnostic sources. More often, such sources refer instead to the first creation account in Genesis 1:26-27. (“And God said, let us make mankind in Our image, after Our image and likeness . . . in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them”). Rabbis in Talmudic times knew a Greek version of the passage, one that suggested to Rabbi Samuel bar Nahman that “when the Holy One . . . first created mankind, he created him with two faces, two sets of genitals, four arms, and legs, back to back: Then he split Adam in two, and made two backs, one on each side.”(26) Some Jewish teachers (perhaps influenced by the story in Plato’s Symposium) had suggested that Genesis 1:26-27 narrates an androgynous creation—an idea that gnostics adopted and developed. Marcus (whose prayer to the Mother is given above) not only concludes from this account that God is dyadic (“Let us make mankind”) but also that “mankind, which was formed according to the image and likeness of God [Father and Mother] was masculo-feminine.”(27) And his contemporary, Theodotus, explains: “the saying that Adam was created ‘male and female’ means that the male and female elements together constitute the finest production of the Mother, Wisdom.”(28) We can see, then, that the gnostic sources which describe God in both masculine and feminine terms often give a similar description of human nature as a dyadic entity, consisting of two equal male and female components.

All the texts cited above—secret “gospels,” revelations, mystical teachings—are among those rejected from the select list of twenty-six that comprise the “New Testament” collection As these and other writings were sorted and judged by various Christian communities, every one of these texts which gnostic groups revered and shared was rejected from the canonical collection as “heterodox” by those who called themselves “orthodox” (literally, straight-thinking) Christians. By the time this process was concluded, probably as late as the year A.D. 200, virtually all the feminine imagery for God (along with any suggestion of an androgynous human creation) had disappeared from “orthodox” Christian tradition.

What is the reason for this wholesale rejection ? The gnostics themselves asked this question of their “orthodox” attackers and pondered it among themselves. Some concluded that the God of Israel himself initiated the polemics against gnostic teaching which his followers carried out in his name. They argued that he was a derivative, merely instrumental power, whom the divine Mother had created to administer the universe, but who remained ignorant of the power of Wisdom, his own Mother: “They say that the creator believed that he created everything by himself, but that, in reality, he had made them because his Mother, Wisdom, infused him with energy, and had given him her ideas. But he was unaware that the ideas he used came from her: he was even ignorant of his own Mother.”(29) Followers of Valentinus suggested that the Mother herself encouraged the God of Israel to think that he was acting autonomously in creating the world; but, as one teacher adds, “It was because he was foolish and ignorant of his Mother that he said, ‘I am God; there is none beside me.’ ”(30) Others attribute to him the more sinister motive of jealousy, among them the Secret Book of John: “He said, ‘I am a jealous God, and you shall have no other God before me,’ already indicating that another god does exist. For if there were no other god, of whom would he be jealous? Then the Mother began to be distressed.”(31) A third gnostic teacher describes the Lord’s shock, terror, and anxiety “when he discovered that he was not the God of the universe.” Gradually his shock and fear gave way to wonder, and finally he came to welcome the teaching of Wisdom. The gnostic teacher concluded: “This is the meaning of the saying, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ ”(32)

All of these are, of course, mythical explanations. To look for the actual, historical reasons why these gnostic writings were suppressed is an extremely difficult proposition, for it raises the much larger question of how (i.e., by what means and what criteria) certain ideas, including those expressed in the texts cited above, came to be classified as heretical and others as orthodox by the beginning of the third century. Although the research is still in its early stages, and this question is far from being solved, we may find one clue if we ask whether these secret groups derived any practical, social consequences from their conception of God—and of mankind—that included the feminine element? Here again the answer is yes and can be found in the orthodox texts themselves. Irenaeus, an orthodox bishop, for example, notes with dismay that women in particular are attracted to heretical groups—especially to Marcus’s circle, in which prayers are offered to the Mother in her aspects as Silence, Grace, and Wisdom; women priests serve the eucharist together with men; and women also speak as prophets, uttering to the whole community what “the Spirit” reveals to them.(33) Professing himself to be at a loss to understand the attraction that Marcus’s group holds, he offers only one explanation: that Marcus himself is a diabolically successful seducer, a magician who compounds special aphrodisiacs to “deceive, victimize, and defile” these “many foolish women!” Whether his accusation has any factual basis is difficult, probably impossible, to ascertain. Nevertheless, the historian notes that accusations of sexual license are a stock-in-trade of polemical arguments.(34) The bishop refuses to admit the possibility that the group might attract Christians—especially women—for sound and comprehensible reasons. While expressing his own moral outrage, Tertullian, another “father of the church,” reveals his fundamental desire to keep women out of religion: “These heretical women—how audacious they are! They have no modesty: they are bold enough to teach, to engage in argument, to enact exorcisms, to undertake cures, and, it may be, even to baptize!”(35) Tertullian directs yet another attack against “that viper”—a woman teacher who led a congregation in North Africa.(36) Marcion had, in fact, scandalized his “orthodox” contemporaries by appointing women on an equal basis with men as priests and bishops among his congregations.(37) The teacher Marcillina also traveled to Rome to represent the Carpocratian group, an esoteric circle that claimed to have received secret teaching from Mary, Salome, and Martha.(38) And among the Montanists, a radical prophetic circle, the prophet Philumene was reputed to have hired a male secretary to transcribe her inspired oracles.(39)

Other secret texts, such as the Gospel of Mary Magdalene and the Wisdom of Faith, suggest that the activity of such women leaders challenged and therefore was challenged by the orthodox communities who regarded Peter as their spokesman. The Gospel of Mary relates that Mary tried to encourage the disciples after the crucifixion and to tell them what the Lord had told her privately. Peter, furious at the suggestion, asks, “Did he then talk secretly with a woman, instead of to us? Are we to go and learn from her now? Did he love her more than us?” Distressed at his rage, Mary then asks Peter: “What do you think? Do you think I made this up in my heart? Do you think I am lying about the Lord?” Levi breaks in at this point to mediate the dispute: “Peter, you are always irascible. You object to the woman as our enemies do. Surely the Lord knew her very well, and indeed, he loved her more than us.” Then he and the others invite Mary to teach them what she knows.(40) Another argument between Peter and Mary occurs in Wisdom of Faith. Peter complains that Mary is dominating the conversation, even to the point of displacing the rightful priority of Peter himself and his brethren; he urges Jesus to silence her—and is quickly rebuked. Later, however, Mary admits to Jesus that she hardly dares to speak freely with him, because “Peter makes me hesitate: I am afraid of him, because he hates the female race.” Jesus replies that whoever receives inspiration from the Spirit is divinely ordained to speak, whether man or woman.(41)

As these texts suggest, then, women were considered equal to men, they were revered as prophets, and they acted as teachers, traveling evangelists, healers, priests, and even bishops. In some of these groups, they played leading roles and were excluded from them in the orthodox churches, at least by A.D. 150-200. Is it possible, then, that the recognition of the feminine element in God and the recognition of mankind as a male and female entity bore within it the explosive social possibility of women acting on an equal basis with men in positions of authority and leadership? If this were true, it might lead to the conclusion that these gnostic groups, together with their conception of God and human nature, were suppressed only because of their positive attitude toward women. But such a conclusion would be a mistake—a hasty and simplistic reading of the evidence. In the first place, orthodox Christian doctrine is far from wholly negative in its attitude toward women. Second, many other elements of the gnostic sources diverge in fundamental ways from what came to be accepted as orthodox Christian teaching. To examine this process in detail would require a much more extensive discussion than is possible here. Nevertheless, the evidence does indicate that two very different patterns of sexual attitudes emerged in orthodox and gnostic circles. In simplest form, gnostic theologians correlate their description of God in both masculine and feminine terms with a complementary description of human nature. Most often they refer to the creation account of Genesis 1, which suggests an equal (or even androgynous) creation of mankind. This conception carries the principle of equality between men and women into the practical social and political structures of gnostic communities. The orthodox pattern is strikingly different: it describes God in exclusively masculine terms and often uses Genesis 2 to describe how Eve was created from Adam and for his fulfillment. Like the gnostic view, the orthodox also translates into sociological practice: by the late second century, orthodox Christians came to accept the domination of men over women as the proper, God-given order—not only for the human race, but also for the Christian churches. This correlation between theology, anthropology, and sociology is not lost on the apostle Paul. In his letter to the disorderly Corinthian community, he reminds them of a divinely ordained chain of authority: As God has authority over Christ, so the man has authority over the woman, argues Paul, citing Genesis 2: “The man is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man; and besides, the man was not created for the woman’s sake, but the woman for the sake of the man.”(42) Here the three elements of the orthodox pattern are welded into one simple argument: the description of God corresponds to a description of human nature which authorizes the social pattern of male domination.

A striking exception to this orthodox pattern occurs in the writings of one revered “father of the church,” Clement of Alexandria. Clement identifies himself as orthodox, although he knows members of gnostic groups and their writings well; some scholars suggest that he was himself a gnostic initiate. Yet his own works demonstrate how all three elements of what we have called the “gnostic pattern” could be worked into fully “orthodox” teaching. First, Clement characterizes God not only in masculine but also in feminine terms: “The Word is everything to the child, both father and mother, teacher and nurse.... The nutriment is the milk of the father. . . and the Word alone supplies us children with the milk of love, and only those who suck at this breast are truly happy.... For this reason seeking is called sucking; to those infants who seek the Word, the Father’s loving breasts supply milk.(43) Second, in describing human nature, he insists that “men and women share equally in perfection, and are to receive the same instruction and discipline. For the name ‘humanity’ is common to both men and women; and for us ‘in Christ there is neither male nor female.’”(44) Even in considering the active participation of women with men in the Christian community Clement offers a list—unique in orthodox tradition—of women whose achievements he admires. They range from ancient examples, like Judith, the assassin who destroyed Israel’s enemy, to Queen Esther, who rescued her people from genocide, as well as others who took radical political stands. He speaks of Arignole the historian, of Themisto the Epicurean philosopher, and of many other women philosophers, including two who studied with Plato and one trained by Socrates. Indeed, he cannot contain his praise: “What shall I say? Did not Theano the Pythagoran make such progress in philosophy that when a man, staring at her, said, ‘Your arm is beautiful,’ she replied, ‘Yes, but it is not on public display.’”(45) Clement concludes his list with famous women poets and painters.

If the work of Clement, who taught in Egypt before the lines of orthodoxy and heresy were rigidly drawn (ca. A.D. 160-80) demonstrates how gnostic principles could be incorporated even into orthodox Christian teaching, the majority of communities in the western empire headed by Rome did not follow his example. By the year A.D. 200, Roman Christians endorsed as “canonical” the pseudo-Pauline letter to Timothy, which interpreted Paul’s views: “Let a woman learn in silence with full submissiveness. I do not allow any woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; she is to remain silent, for [note Gen. 2!] Adam was formed first, then Eve and furthermore, Adam was not deceived, but the woman was utterly seduced and came into sin.”(45) How are we to account for this irreversible development? The question deserves investigation which this discussion can only initiate. For example, one would need to examine how (and for what reasons) the zealously patriarchal traditions of Israel were adopted by the Roman (and other) Christian communities. Further research might disclose how social and cultural forces converged to suppress feminine symbolism—and women’s participation—from western Christian tradition. Given such research, the history of Christianity never could be told in the same way again.


1. Where the God of Israel is characterized as husband and lover in the Old Testament (OT), his spouse is described as the community of Israel (i.e., Isa. 50:1, 54:1-8; Jer. 2:2-3, 20-25, 3:1-20; Hos. 1-4, 14) or as the land of Israel (cf. Isa. 62:1-5).

2. One may note several exceptions to this rule: Deut. 32:11; Hos. 11:1; Isa. 66:12 ff; Num. 11:12.

3. The Gospel according to Thomas (hereafter cited as ET), ed. A. Guillaumount, H. Ch. Puech, G. Quispel, W. Till, Yassah ‘Abd-al-Masih (London: Collins, 1959), logion 113-114.

4. Hippolytus, Refutationis Omnium Haeresium (hereafter cited as Ref), ed. L. Dunker, F. Schneidewin (Göttingen, 1859), 5.7.

5. Ref, 5.6.

6. Irenaeus, Aduersus Haereses (hereafter cited as AH), ed. W. W. Harvey (Cambridge, 1857), 1.11.1.

7. Ibid., 1.13.2.

8. Ibid., 1.13.6.

9. Ibid., 1.18.2.

10. Ibid., 1.11.5-21.1, 3; Ref, 6.29.

11. Apocryphon Johannis (hereafter cited as AJ), ed. S. Giversen (Copenhagen: Prostant Apud Munksgaard, 1963), 47.20-48.14.

12. AJ, 52.34-53.6.

13. Ibid., 61.13-14.

14. Origen, Commentary on John, 2.12; Hom. On Jeremiah, 15.4.

15. ET, 101. The text of this passage is badly damaged; I follow here the reconstruction of G. MacRae of the Harvard Divinity School.

16. L’Evangile selon Phillipe (hereafter cited as EP), ed. J. E. Ménard (Leiden: Brill, 1967), logion 6.

17. EP, logion 36.

18. Ibid., logion 82.

19. Ibid., logion 17.

20. Extraits de Théodote (hereafter cited as Exc), ed. F. Sagnard, Sources chrétiennes 23 (Paris: Sources chrétiennes, 1948).

21. AH, 1.30.6.

22. Ref, 6.17.

23. Ibid., 6.14.

24. AH, 1.14.7-8.

25. Ref, 6.18.

26. Genesis Rabba 8.1, also 17.6; cf. Levitius Rabba 14. For an excellent discussion of androgyny, see W. Meeks, “The Image of the Androgyne: Some Uses of a Symbol in Earliest Christianity,” History of Religions 13 (1974): 165-208.

27. AH, 1.18.2.

28. Exc, 21.1.

29. Ref, 6.33.

30. AH, 1.5.4; Ref, 6.33.

31. AJ, 61.8-14.

32. Ref, 7.26.

33. AH, 1.13.7.

34. Ibid., 1.13.2-5.

35. Tertullian, De Praescriptione Haereticorum (hereafter cited as DP), ed. E. Oethler (Lipsius, 1853-54), p. 41.

36. De Baptismo 1. I am grateful to Cyril Richardson for calling my attention to this passage and to the three subsequent ones.

37. Epiphanes, De Baptismo, 42.5.

38. AH, 1.25.6.

39. DP, 6.30.

40. The Gospel according to Mary, Codex Berolinensis, BG, 8502,1.7.1-1.19.5, ea., intro., and trans. G. MacRae, unpublished manuscript.

41. Pistis Sophia, ed. Carl Schmidt (Berlin: Academie-Verlag, 1925), 36 (57), 71 (161).

42. 1 Cor. 11 :7-9. For discussion, see R. Scroggs, “Paul and the Eschatological Woman,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 40 (1972): 283-303; R. Scroggs, “Paul and the Eschatological Woman: Revisited,” Journal of the Amencan Academy of Religion 42 (1974): 532-37; and E. Pagels, “Paul and Women: A Response to Recent Discussion,” Journal of the Amencan Academy of Religion 42 (1972): 538-49.

43. Clement Alexandrinus, Paidegogos, ed. O. Stählin (Leipzig, 1905), 1.6.

44. Ibid., 1.4.

45. Ibid., 1.19.

46. 2 Tim. 2:11-14.

Body, Sex & Gender Section Survey
  The Myth of the Fall
Eve in Christian tradition  
  Women in Church law
Male & Female bodies    
  Sexist language  
Violence against women    
Want to support our campaign for women priests?

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

Visit also our websites:Women Deacons, The Body is Sacred and Mystery and Beyond.

You are welcome to use our material. However: maintaining this site costs money. We are a Charity and work mainly with volunteers, but we find it difficult to pay our overheads.

Visitors to our website since January 2014.
Pop-up names are online now.

The number is indicative, but incomplete. For full details click on cross icon at bottom right.

Please, support our campaign
for women priests
Join our Women Priests' Mailing List
for occasional newsletters:
An email will be immediately sent to you
requesting your confirmation.