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
Women are not human beings
Interaction Academic Shelves Medieval Theologians Home mss on Women Deacons SITEMAP feedback

A new disputation against women,
in which it is demonstrated
that they are not human beings

An important introductory note

When was this treatise written? It was published in Leipzig in 1595 without mention of author or printer. It immediately called a furore, giving rise to many anti-feminist treatises that agreed with the author and many attempts to refute his arguments. It was reprinted dozens of times in Latin and in various languages: German, Dutch, French, English, Italian, etc. A typical example of this discussion can be found here.

Who wrote the treatise? With some probability it may be ascribed to Valens Acidalius (1567-1595), a scholar and latinist who was born in Germany, but who lived much of his life in Italy.

What did the author intend? Probably he meant it to be a satirical essay against the Anabaptist who deny the divinity of Christ. The author seems to say: “If you apply the same arguments the Anabaptists use to deny the divinity of Christ, you can prove, with the same kind of arguments, that women are not human”. Unfortunately, it was used as a serious text to pour ridicule on women. See: J. Jungmayr, ‘Einführung zu Henricus Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, zu Valens Acidalius und der Gegenschrift von Gediccus’, in Ob die Weiber Menschen sein Oder Nicht?, ed. Elisabeth Gössmann, Iudicium 1996, pp. 46-62.

Read the Latin original here.

Theses: Of women, that they are not human beings

1. Since in Sarmatia, which is a land where anything goes, people are allowed to believe and teach that, together with the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, saviour and redeemer of our souls, is not God, I believe I may also freely believe and teach something much less serious - namely, that women are not fully human and what follows as a consequence: that Christ did not suffer for them and that they will not be saved. If indeed in that realm those who blaspheme the Creator are not only tolerated, but are even granted rewards by the great, why should I fear exile or punishment when I am simply disparaging a created being, especially since by scripture, using the same methods as those by which they prove that Christ is not God, I can prove that woman is not human?

2. Doubtless all readers will be appalled at this point and will believe that, before the evil spreads further, I should be burned without delay, together with these my theses. But if these readers will only choose to consider and to weigh up the matter dispassionately - not in the light of common opinion, as do the multitude, but, in the same way as philosophers do, in the light of truth - they will find no reason at all why they should be angry with me.

3. If it happens that they are catholics, they will pardon my simplicity rather than be angry with me and believe that I am a heritic because of the following principle: nothing is to be believed unless it is expressly stated in scripture. Nor can I believe that woman is human since that statement also is nowhere to be found in Scripture. If they are protestants, then they are most impudent people to condemn me, for it is thery who expressed this principle and it is from them that I learned it. This much I shall certainly achieve: that they will have either to renounce their own doctrine or agree with me. In this my heresy I shall in fact follow the same method of interpreting scripture as they do in theirs.

4. They will ask, But by what means will you demonstrate this? Listen. Scripture pronounces him accursed who adds anything to God’s word; accursed therefore will be all who add to Scripture belief that woman is human. For neither in the New nor in the Old Testament is it found that woman is said to be human or is so named. Certainly, if woman were human, the Holy Spirit would have named her so, at some point, but it never did call her that. Therefore she is not human, and anyone who asserts that she is human knows more than God himself knows.

5. Although in scripture Christ is quite often called God, and indeed the true God, the Anabaptists constantly deny that he is that one true God. They nevertheless hold and believe that woman, who is not once said to be human, indeed, is never so called, is realy human. O deceit, O insanity, O wickedness! Even if it is the case, they say, that woman is nowhere expressly said to be human, there are nevertheless many places from which it can be shown that woman is human. What fanatical men these are: in a number of published books they earlier proclaimed that nothing is to be believed unless it is to be found expressly stated in scripture. And yet now they state that we should embrace not what is expressly stated, but what can be elicited from express statements. What a terrible perversion.

6. But if it can be so elicited from express statements, what then follows? Will it for this reason be permitted to them to call woman human? By no means! For the prophets, Christ, and the apostles knew that this could be elicited from express statements and yet they did not wish openly to call her so. And thus we alsoshould refrain from doing that unless we in our stupidity believe that it is permitted to us today to do what was not permitted to the prophets, toChrist and to the apostles. In order, however, that all may understand that it is not possible to elicit from the literal sense that woman is human, let us, I entreat you, consider and examine those places which women’s advocates commonly offerto show that they are human, .

7. I begin with those who, using this passage from the words of God, “let us make a help meet for him”, argue thus: Eve was made similar to Adam, the man; she is therefore a man as Adam is. A plausible argument indeed, but Obviously false. God did not in fact say, “let us make him a man like himself”, from which they might conclude that Eve was made man as Adam was, but he said “a help”; nor did he say “similar to him”, as those foolish scholars understand “to him”, but he said “for him”, in a reciprocal sense.

8. So that this point may be better understood, let us consider the words of God more accurately. “It is not good”, he said, “that the man should be alone; let us make a help mate for him.” Here nothing else is said than that it is not good that there should be only one man in the world; let us make for him a help by means of which he may be able to procreate other men. Thus if by this help other men were to be created so that he might not be alone, Eve was not man since she was not made in order that Adam might not be alone, but so that, by means of her, Adam might procreate men who would deliver him from solitude. Eve herself said as much. As soon as she bore Cain, she exclaimed: “I have gotten a man from the Lord” [Gen. 4.1]. What, I ask you, was the will of God in this? Nothing else for sure, than that she should generate a man so that Adam should not be alone. Therefore, and in common agreement, it is the opinion of the doctors that for that reason Eve bore the twins Cain and Abel. And notice how thoroughly consistent scripture is, and how Eve, that mother of all living things, most fittingly bears witness that this will of the Lord was first fulfilled, not when she was as one flesh with Adam, that is, as one man - for a man continues to be alone for so long as he continues to be unique - but when she had seen that offspring by which the human race in the future would be increased.

9. Perhaps these things are obscure; let us make things more clear. Common experience shows us, and it is the agreed opinion of all people who think in a philosophical , that in all natural matters nothing can be done where these two causes, efficient and instrumental, are not found together. A smith cannot forge a sword without the help of a hammer; in the same way a scribe cannot write without the help of a pen; a tailor cannot sew without the help of a needle; a man cannot beget offspring without the help of a woman. Now, just as the hammer is not the smith, the needle is not the tailor, the pen is not the scribe, so the woman is not the man. If anyone denies that the woman is the instrumental cause, let him suggest to us another; if he points to the privy members, saying that it is they, he will be laughed at by all. For an instrument is never a natural born part of the efficient agent, but is separate from it, just as, in the case of the smith, the instrument is not his hand, but something separate, the hammer. So also in this case, it is not the male members, but the woman.

10. I foresee that my adversaries will be troubled by this point “suitable to him”, but the solution is easy. And so, as an explanation of the matter, let me make use of the previous example: for the forging of a sword the smith does not pick up a straw, but a help suitable to him, that instrument suitable for the forging of a sword, is obviously a hammer. That which is apropriate is suitable, and that which is suitable is that which is appropriate for the job. For the mending of a garment the tailor does not take an axe, but a needle: the appropriate help. And thus for the procreation of man God did not wish to make for Adam a quadruped, or anything else unsuitable from which man could not conveniently be born, but a help “meet for him”, that is, fitting: namely, a woman. Hence the apostle said “Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” [1 Cor. 11.9]. And the most sagacious Jewish rabbis testify that this is the genuine sense of that passage: the words sibi simile are interpreted to refer not to equality with the person of Adam, but to suitability for the future work. Let any whom I do not satisfy in this read the most learned theologians of our age and he will see them all teach unanimously that the words simile sibi have been quite badly rendered from the Hebrew, since nothing less is meant there than that it was intended that a help should be placed there beside him as the Blessed Doctor Martin Luther expounded this passage; or, “Let us make for him a suitable yoke animal," as Sebastian Castalio put it in his version. What objections could they utter against him?

11. But if woman is indeed suitable for him or made in the image of man, what follows? If for the Anabaptists, Christ, who is both the substantial and the incorporeal image of God the Father, is not God, we shall not grant them that woman is human, even if she is said to have been created in the image of man.

12. Anyone who is not convinced by those points will certainly be convinced by these that are to follow. God knew that he was to create Adam and make woman. For he is omniscient. Now if he had wished that she should behuman, like Adam, he would not have said “Let us make man” [Gen. 1.26] in the singular, but “Let us make men.” Since, however, it is stated as it is, one can draw from the word of God a quite clear statement that God did not wish that woman should be human, but that he made only one man, not two.

13. What? Is it not only that which is created in the image of God that is man? Yes, indeed! What impropriety it is then to teach that woman is man, since she was not created in the image of God! Let anyone look through the whole Bible: will he find anywhere written “Let us make her in our image”, or find that she was in any way made in the image of God? The divine Paul says expressly “he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man” [1 Cor. 11.7]. You see the apostle refusing to accord to woman the image of God, denying that she is so endowed. Let us therefore take care not to blaspheme against God and state that he who did not himself wish to dignify her with his own image made her human, especially since even the Papists confess in their canons that woman was not made in the image of God.

14. If it had been the case that the woman was similar to Adam, that is, to the man, it would follow that two men had sinned in Paradise. For Eve sinned equally with Adam. The apostle, however, said that through one man sin had entered [Rom. 5.12], not through two. It is therefore evident that only one of these two was a man, that is to say, Adam and not Eve. Besides, if two men had sinned, two Christs would have been needed, of whom a man would have suffered for men, a womanly Christ for women. For when two people perform the same act that does not in fact amount to one and the same act. There came, however, only one Christ, and that one indeed a man, and he was abundantly sufficient for us. And therefore no one can deny that only the male, not the woman, is human.

15. Some answer that by one man the apostle meant Eve, since it was she who sinned first. But truly, if sin entered by Eve, it therefore did not do so by Adam, or, if through both, the apostle Paul is a liar when he says “by one man.” Others say that the apostle ascribed the sin to Adam because he was the superior. But if Adam was superior to Eve, she was therefore not similar to Adam nor is she more man than a beast by comparison with which Adam is the superior. Thou shalt “have dominion”, said God to Adam, “over every living thing” [Gen. 1.28]; and hence perhaps that superiority. But since the man also has dominion over the woman, who but a madman can believe that she is human rather than beast?

16. At this point there are two matters that need to be resolved. One is the place where it is said that God made man: “male and female created he them” [Gen. 1.27]; the other the passage “they shall be one flesh” [Gen. 2.24]. Those who depart from the express word of God need to argue by means of such conjectures. As to the first, I concede that God made them, that is a male and female man, but not that he made them men such that either of them is man. Thus the singular number is to be carefully observed. This is confirmed by the second passage, “they shall be one flesh”, that is, male and female will be one man. And the Anabaptists themselves give no other interpretation of this passage, although they contradict themselves, believing that in marriage two people are one man while they deny it to be possible that in the Trinity three persons may be one God.

17. These same people write: “If it were anywhere clearly stated that Christ was the eternal God, we should readily agree that the plural should be used: ‘Elohim,’ ‘let us make,’ ‘let us descend’ [Gen. 1.26, 11.7], and similar phrases of scripture, whence the trinitarians attempt to prove the divinity of the son of God, is to be applied to the divine persons. But since this principle is nowhere to be found expressly stated, nothing certain is to be deduced from these ambiguities.” But why do these argumentative doctors not themselves observe this precept, wanting to elicit from the plural number those two or more men when it is never expressly found stated that woman is human?

18. So that we may counter all types of arguments from our adversaries, we may prove what we are seeking to show even by appeal to grammar. For the word Man: what is the genderof the word? It is of course masculine. And therefore it will be only males who are human and not females. I know, of course, that ignorant grammarians have taught that homo is of common gender; but they were seriously in error, since they can cite the authority of no writer of worth who ever wrote haec homo. They adduce this passage from Cicero: “Tullia was born man”, as if the [feminine participle] “born” qualified “man” rather than “Tullia.” If I were to say “Tullia was born an animal”, would “animal” for this reason be of the feminine gender? Certainly not. Those learned men who expanded Calepinus’s dictionary noted this and therefore rejected that authority drawn from Cicero. In his compendium, that most erudite grammarian Cornelius Valerius, who is much used in almost all the schools of today, denied that homo is of common gender. And so also do many others.

19. All dialecticians teach that sound argument is derived from etymology. Since therefore homo is derived from humo because man was made from earth, how could woman be human, since she was not created from earth? But lest anyone should complain that I am mixing sacred things with profane, or should say that I have gone beyond the mark in writing what I have set down above, let me revert to the scriptures so that I may make use only of the testimony of sacred words.

20. In 1 Timothy 2 Christ says that many false prophets are to arise who, if it were possible, shall deceive the very elect. Since the passage says “if it were possible”, it can clearly be seen that it is not possible to deceive the elect. Now no one can doubt that he whom God had created man was the elected vessel for eternal life, nor that Eve on the contrary was not such a vessel and hence in consequence, since she was deceived, is not man made in the image of God. This argument is powerful and cannot be overturned. Nor can anyone, using these principles, carpingly assert that Adam also was no man because he also sinned. Let the apostle be heard saying that not Adam but Eve was deceived [1 Tim. 2.14].

21. Those points were fetched from afar; let me speak of things nearer at hand. The woman of Canaan approaching Christ begged him to free her daughter from a devil [Matt. 15.22]. Christ answered her not a word. What, I ask, does that signify? Was Christ too proud? Was he not merciful and mild, bidding all the afflicted come to him and promising them refreshment? [Rom. 15.32, etc.] Certainly. By this silence he therefore wanted to signify no more than that he had nothing to do with women, nor women with him. I shall demonstrate it more clearly: the disciples interceded on her behalf, but what did they receive in answer? “I am not sent” for her “but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” [Matt. 15.24]. Women, do you not hear that Christ was not sent for your sake? Do you men not understand that your wives have nothing to do with the kingdom of heaven? Some answer that Christ attacked the woman of Canaan with harsh words because she was a gentile - a ludicrous answer indeed. For did not God delight in the whole world and send his only begotten son as much for the gentiles as for the Israelites? Let them be ashamed of such crass absurdity. Let them then explain why Christ never spoke to a gentile man as he did to this silly little woman, given that innumerable gentile men came to him, asked for help, and received what they sought, not being severely chided but being treated most lovingly.

22. We have not yet finished with this passage. Listen further and be amazed. When the disciples first said “Send her away” [Matt. 15.23], Christ answered: “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” 0 Jesus Christ, son of God, how great is your care in explaining things! Miserable women, do you not hear how our saviour addresses you: not as humans, but as dogs, not as children, but as whelps? Do you not hear that it is not meet for us to take from children the bread - that is to say, Christ, that bread of life who descends from heaven - and to give it to you, who are nothing more than those same filthy beasts? Why then do you work so hard for your salvation? Why do you put yourselves above the will of almighty God? Stay, I beg you, in the station in which nature placed you, if in this world you desire to experience both happiness and the merciful God.

23. If woman were human, Christ would have spoken very ill indeed when he said that it was not proper to help her; worse when he spoke of taking the children’s bread, seeing that what is owned in common may not be taken; worst of all when he spoke of giving it to dogs. But all that the Lord said was good. O ye women, be humble, therefore, along with the woman of Canaan and cry out with her: “Truth, Lord: we are dogs: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table” [Matt. 15.27]. Seek the crumb that sometimes falls beneath the table, but not the bread that, as ordained by God, is placed on the table for us males, the lords. As, however, a crumb of bread does not satisfy the flesh, so it will not save you. Imitate the example of Mary Magdalene, who, possessed by demons and plainly understanding herself to be a dog, crept like a dog to the feet of the Lord and begged for help and received it, which Martha with her sister Mary also did, humbly falling down at the feet of Christ.

24. My adversaries rage and gnash their teeth saying that at all events in this passage they find an invincible argument in favour of women. They exclaim that Christ added “Your faith has saved you” [Luke 7.50]. But think, O reader, how men have to fall to lying when they abandon truth. For Christ never said to the woman of Canaan “Thy faith hath saved thee”, but “Be it unto thee even as thou wilt” [Matt. 15.28], or, as the other evangelist says, “For this saying go thy way” [Mark 7.29]. But what, I ask, was this saying? Nothing other, indeed, than this confession: “It may be that I am a Canaanite dog, O Lord, but dogs eat of the crumbs.” If, therefore, our women also wish to be freed from devils, that is, from the miseries and calamities of these times, let them be not proud, as they commonly are today; let them confess themselves to be dogs and they will again hear: “Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” For we indeed desire to hear “Not as thou, O God, wilt.” Even Christ himself prayed thus as he was about to die: “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” [Matt. 26.39].

25. But these arguments are perhaps of no weight. Let it be that it was said to the woman of Canaan as to the woman who was diseased with an issue of blood [Matt. 9.20], “thy faith hath made thee whole” [Matt. 9.22]. What then? Would it follow that women are human? Would the salvation of their souls also follow? Not at all. For to be saved signifies here nothing other than to be healed in body, which is seen from the fact that all of the women to whom Christ said these words sought not the salvation of their souls but only that of their bodies: Mary Magdalene that she might be freed from the demons, the other that she might be freed from the issue of blood. Nor was Christ so undiscriminating as to give them what they did not seek, especially since these little women would never have come to Christ about the salvation of the soul unless they had been forced to do so by the overwhelming need of their physical illness. And Luke did not write “has spiritually saved”, but “thy faith hath saved thee” [Luke 7.50]. Indeed, Matthew adds: “And the woman was made whole from that hour” [Matt. 9.22]. Certainly from that hour she did not have the salvation of her soul, since God has predestined that for us from all eternity, though he will not accord it to us until the next life; but she was saved immediately from illness and granted good health.

26. But these opponents object that faith is a matter for man alone. And thus these obtuse people rave, as if preferring to toss in stupid ambiguities than to acknowledge the truth. The devils also believe, and tremble [James 2.19]. Is then faith for man alone? These asses do not know how to distinguish between that true faith which vindicates the soul, of which the apostle says faith is one [Ephesians 4.5], and the other, historical faith which is not for man alone but also for women and devils. What sane man has ever taught that living faith is to be found in woman? Indeed, the apostle maintained the contrary, removing all question of faith from them, saying: Woman is to be saved not by faith but by childbearing [1 Tim. 2.15]. Indeed, many evil men have faith, but a dead faith: they are rather corpses than men. Think about this for a moment, you Anabaptists: if faith belongs to man alone, infants, since they have not faith, are therefore not human; or, if they have it, your doctrine has disappeared in smoke.

Adam’s posterity is expressly enumerated in the Holy Bible, both in the Old and in the New Testament. For it is noted whom Adam begat, whom his children, and then whom his grandsons, and after that whom Abraham, that is, Isaac; Isaac Jacob; Jacob Juda; Juda Pharez; Pharez Esrom, and in like fashion others begat others until these our own times. But who begat women is never stated; whence they draw their origin is uncertain; whence they came is doubtful. Thus the posterity of Adam is restricted to males alone whose origin is not unclear, since no daughter is said to have been the first born, although she may have been born before the sons, while in fact there are found many sons who are said to have been the first born even when some sisters preceded their birth.

29. The second argument that they think supports them works entirely in their disfavour and supports me. I confess that I have said, along with the apostle, that the woman is saved by childbearing. But that they can work out from this that she is human and that the salvation of her soul follows is quite false. Indeed, all sectarians, as many as have existed since the time of the Blessed Luther, teach that man is to be redeemed only through faith. Now if that is true, how can woman be human, if she is saved not by faith but by childbearing? For my part I interpret this word “saved”, as I said before, to have force in this world, and I do that not by means of dubious conjectures, but by the use of the most solid arguments. Thus, just as an unfecund and barren woman is damned by non-childbearing, that is, found despicable and, as it were, sordid - as we find from the old law where a barren woman is thought to be detested of God and where it so written: Accursed is the barren woman who has no seed in Israel - so, by contrast, the pregnant and fecund is saved. For there it is also added soon afterwards: Blessed, however, is she whose seed is Zion, for she completes the task of the helper. This is not so in the case of the former woman. And David explains this salvation very clearly when he describes the sons sitting round about the table as being like olive plants [Ps. 128.3].

30. It is altogether stupid to assert that in this passage the word “to be saved” is to be understood to mean the salvation of the soul. If indeed women are saved by childbearing, Christ died in vain for them and it is in vain that they believe. All virgins and widows and spinsters, who have never given birth, will be damned, and whores who have given birth will be saved. Christ himself speaks to these last: “Woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!” [Matt. 24.19]. If, therefore, woe is to be unto them, how is it that by this childbearing, which is accomplished with pain, they should be saved? Women would certainly carry off a remarkable reward for evil if they were saved because they had sinned.

31. Thus it might be, they say, had the apostle not added: if the woman continue in faith [1 Tim. 2.15]. In truth, since in all manuscripts of scripture, especially in those translated by Anabaptists, there is found, either in the text or in the margin, “If their sons continue in the faith”, to which reading may we the more justifiably give credit? They will have to admit this, that the meaning of only one of these two can be true and genuine, the other false and supposititious. If therefore the matter stands thus, why do they not prefer to embrace that meaning which agrees with the whole of scripture, rather than that which is opposed to it? It is an axiom of all the gospels that he will be saved who continues in the faith without regard to works. If this is true either we must read “If the sons remain in the faith”, or we must say that all women and virgins may seek salvation by remaining in the faith though they may never have borne children and that Paul was thus in error in both saying that childbearing was necessary and elsewhere speaking against himself, denying salvation through works yet here requiring childbearing, which is a work. Since it is a sin to make the apostle say something like that, those miserable disputants might understand in what scripture twisted against itself they are entangled. Just as sons not continuing in the faith do not damn their mother, so they do not ensure the kingdom of heaven for her by continuing in it. In this world, however, good comes to the mother through that activity of generation, of which we have the example of Mary who, full of grace and blessed among women, was saved by bearing Christ.

32. There remains to be resolved that argument which in their opinion is irrefutable: that women’s sins are forgiven them and that they are therefore human. That sins are forgiven them, they prove by the example of Mary Magdalene, the sinner obsessed by seven devils [Luke 8.2] to whom Christ said “Thy sins are forgiven” [Luke 7.48]. I could, however, easily reject this argument, for one example cannot be used to draw consequences. I could perhaps say that not only were the sins of men forgiven but also those of women who are not man. And in saying so I should readily have extricated myself. But I shall apply myself to the matter in a more profound way. I think I may say that it is well known that this precept of God - “of the tree . . . thou shall not eat” [Gen. 2.17J—was given not to the woman but only to the man. For the woman had not yet been created when God voiced the prohibition, nor was that precept repeated after her creation; nor again, after the sin, did God therefore call her, but called to Adam only, saying “Adam, where art thou?” [Gen. 3.9]. And to him alone he said “Why didst thou eat of the tree, where of I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat?” [Gen. 3.11]. He did not instruct the woman in the same way. We have all indeed sinned in Adam, and not in Eve, and we contract that original sin not from the mother but from the father. For which reason also the old law commanded that all males be circumcised, but that the females remain uncircumcised, prescribing, that is to say, that only in that sex which sinned should original sin be punished [Gen. 17.10]. If, therefore, she did not sin in the beginning, woman does not sin today, since we too would not sin unless we had contracted sin from Adam.

33. From these premises anyone may understand that women’s sins, if there are any such, differ in nothing from the sinning of beasts when they are said to have done an injury or committed some other transgression. Nor could anyone complain that Mary Magdalene did not have similar sins on the grounds that she was obsessed by devils since devils obsessed swine [Matt. 8.32] that were free of all vice. The apostle drew attention to this matter, saying “By one man sin entered into the world” [Rom. 5.12], meaning Adam. Eve was not said to have sinned, and thus she needed no mediator but rather there was to be born from a descendant of hers, uninfected by any sin, a man who would be a mediator and who thus would be without sin as she was; nor do we read anywhere in scripture that any woman was damned, which is a manifest sign that there is in them no cause of damnation, that is to say, sin.

34. Eve said, indeed: “God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it” [Gen. 3.3], but in this she spoke falsely. For God did not prohibit the woman, but the man; nor did he prohibit touching, but eating, and hence she ignorantly added “lest [perhaps] we die” [Gen. 3.3]. What need was there of the word of doubt “perhaps” if Eve knew for certain that her eating of the fruit was forbidden by God? And hence the serpent answered “Ye shall not surely die” [Gen. 3.4], as if he should say “How is it that thou shouldst die, to whom this instruction was in no way given?” And the event itself shows that Eve did not die after she had eaten, since her eyes were not opened until Adam had eaten. Why did God nevertheless punish her, ask the adversaries? Be not astonished: for he punished the serpent also, who nevertheless neither was subject to the law nor was man. And in any case I deny that he did punish her. For how could “in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children” [Gen. 3.16] have been a punishment since God had ordered Eve to bring forth children before she had seen the tree of Paradise? Nor is to bring forth in sorrow a punishment, since all irrational creatures which have never sinned at all give birth in pain.

35. Because if indeed we scrutinize the scriptures we find that women have almost always been blessed for evildoing, and that they have been praised that they did evil. Rachel was praised who deceived her father with a pretty device when he was looking for the images [Gen. 31.19]. Rebekah was praised because she fraudulently obtained for Jacob his father’s blessing [Gen. 27.1-33]. The harlot Rahab deceived those who were looking for Joshua’s spies and it was counted to her for righteousness [Joshua 2.1-24, 6.17-23]. Jael “went out to meet Sisera and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me” and when he asked her for water “she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him to drink” as he lay. As Sisera slept, she smote a nail into his head and killed him, who had trusted in her good faith, thinking to save himself [Judges 4,18-22]. And for this remarkable betrayal it is written in the scriptures “blessed above women shall Jael ... be, blessed above women in the tent” [Judges 5.24]. And what of Judith? Is it not written that with her blandishments she twice struck Holofernes in the neck “and severed his head from his body” [Judges 13.8]? And the scriptures nevertheless bless, praise, and extol this woman [Judges 13.18]. And the iniquity of a woman is said to be far better than the worthy deeds of a man.

36. The daughters of Lot are forgiven for their incest with their father [Gen. 19.30-38] and the drunken father is not forgiven and his succession is ejected from the church of God. The incestuous Tamar is forgiven and said to be more just than the patriarch Judah and for her fraudulent incest she was rewarded by continuing the line of the Saviour [Gen. 38.13-30). And similarly Christ forgave the woman taken in adultery and did not permit her to be punished [John 8,3-11]. And in the laws of the emperors we are warned that a woman taken in adultery should not suffer capital punishment, nor furthermore should she be imprisoned for her sins, unless the judge himself wished to be punished by death. What, I ask, does all this amount to but clear evidence that the sins of women are not in truth sins? Which is why, as Luke says, even the guests sitting beside Christ when he forgave the woman’s sins began to be astonished, since she had none [Luke 7.36-50]. For Mary Magdalene did not strive for the forgiveness of her sins but for the expulsion of devils. And thus, since her sins were not forgiven for the reason that she might find eternal life but in order that the devils might be expelled, who does not understand that the purpose of the forgiveness of women’s sins differs from that of the forgiveness of men’s sins? Add to this that Christ taught only male apostles to pray with the Our Father and that therefore they only, and not women, are charged to say “forgive us our debts” [Matt. 6.12].

37. But we can confirm what we have put forward by means of other arguments. We read in Luke that infants were brought to Christ [Luke 18.15]. Now since the word infant is of common gender it encompasses the masculine as well as the feminine and it would seem likely that not only boys but also girls were brought there. Christ, however, did not say “Suffer little children [infantes, of both sexes] to come unto me”, as if he meant girls as well as boys, but he said specifically “Suffer little children [pueros] to come unto me ... for of such is the kingdom of God” [Luke 18.16]; that is to say, it consists of boys and not of girls. And for this reason also the apostles forbade mothers to bring children to Christ [Luke 18.15J because among them were girls who had nothing to do with Christ.

38. Matthew 22. The Sadducees asked Christ whose wife she should be in the resurrection who had married seven men [Matt. 22.23-28]. In response Christ said “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures . . .” [Matt. 22.29]. Why, I ask, did they err? Doubtless because they stupidly believed that women were to be resurrected, being ignorant of the scriptures since in them nothing is contained concerning their salvation. Christ continued: “For in the resurrection they neither marry ...” [Matt. 22.30]. Why not, I ask you? For there will be not a single woman in heaven, but they will be as the angels of God [Matt. 22.30]. And now what are the angels like? Assuredly all masculine, not feminine. Men are thus the only ones who have to do with heaven; women not in the least.

39. Christ said to his own mother: “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” [John 2.4], And if he therefore has nothing to do with his mother, who bore him, much less has he in common with other women. But I see what they will object to this: that Christ is called the son of man and is nevertheless the son of Mary, and that Mary was therefore man. Let us, however, concede this argument to them and let us say that Mary was man - and yet not by nature but by grace, just as the Anabaptists Christ is said to be God not by nature, but by grace. Thus, too, the angel said “Hail to thee Mary, full of grace . . . blessed among women” [Luke 1.28]. Why blessed? Because this woman was man, and the others not. Thence Mary can truthfully be called man, since she bore a child without a male and she herself carried out, as it were, the work of the male. Let the women of today bear children without males and we shall gladly calf them man. But this is no sounder a reason than the previous one. If it is only by grace that the son is God, why is it not also only by grace that the mother is man? Especially since it is nowhere said that Mary is called man other than in relation to her bearing of Christ, when he is called the son of man. The Anabaptists themselves also say that by this expression, “the son of man”, nothing else is meant than “man”, and assert that it is a hebraism. What therefore will these men prove if the expression has no bearing on the idea of “son”? Nor do I see how it could have anything to do with “mother” since Christ said that his mother was not this woman who bore him, but rather all those who hear him and do his will [Matt. 12.48-50].

40. When the woman exclaimed about Christ: “Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked”, Christ reproved her, saying: “Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it” [Luke 11.27, 28]. Thus you see that Christ did not wish to ascribe beatitude to women. And if his mother who bore him was not blessed, how are other women to be saved? That which is foul is covered. As women are required by divine precept always to cover their heads, it must be the case that in God’s eyes they are foul and not to be saved, for nothing soiled and foul will enter into the kingdom of heaven, especially since women who have indulged in voluptuousness in the slightest degree are called the living dead.

41. And now they fall back on these words written to the Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Jesus Christ” [Gal. 3.28]. And from this they want to demonstrate that woman is human - but all too foolishly. For if by this it is demonstrated that woman is human, it is also demonstrated that Jews and Greeks are man, for the statement was made about them all. What more foolish or ridiculous thing could the apostle have done than aspire to teach in this passage that Jews and Greeks are man, since that is in itself quite plain and needs no demonstration? And thus if that is not taught, neither is it shown that woman, listed here, is man. They say: But these are one and the same in Christ and therefore there is no distinction. That is clearly so: Christ said “I and my Father are one” [John 10.30]. And yet the Anabaptists deny that Christ was God as the Father is. I therefore for my part shall also deny that woman is human as males are, even though they are said to be one. Children along with their elders are said to be one and the same in Christ. Now with God there is no respect of persons [1 Peter 1.17] and yet the Anabaptists do not wish to admit children to baptism, nor permit that women should teach in church, although in this respect they think them to be one in Christ. Thence it seems that the pronoun “the same” or “one” is not always taken in the same sense. The Jew, like the Greek, is the same in Christ, but only when he has cast off his Jewishness and has become one of the faithful. And thus women wishing to be one in Christ must first have cast off their womanhood so as to become man, whence, since they cannot do so, it manifestly appears how little they have to do with Christ. We, however, can cast off the old man, which is Adam, while it has never been heard - and is indeed ridiculous - that women should cast off Eve. Moreover, notice that the apostle did not say: In Christ there is neither male nor female, as if saying neither Jew nor Greek, neither free, nor bond, but said “neither male and female”, designating by the expression ac that the man and this woman would not be one in Christ in the same way as are those of whom he employs the word “nor.”

42. And, to be sure, I do not see how women can be one in Christ, since Christ himself together with the apostles taught that he who wants to be perfect and to enter into eternal life should leave his wife [e.g., Luke 18.29-30], And for that reason they praise eunuchs who castrated themselves for the kingdom of heaven, having nothing to do with women [Matt. 19.12, Acts 9.27-39], Nor did Christ marry, and the apostles rejected their spouses and advised others that they should remain as they themselves, adding that only he who did not bind himself in marriage would truly please Christ [1 Cor. 7.1-40]. In addition, to ensure that they might set aside all matters of the kind, they bore witness that it is good not to touch a woman [1 Cor. 7.1].

43. Others insist on this point also: When a woman brings forth she does so in sorrow, and when she has given birth she rejoices that a man has been born into the world, and since in truth daughters are also born they attempt to convince us by this argument that women are human. But what woman has ever rejoiced when a daughter was born? None, for sure; and the great Ochino, the coryphaeus of the Anabaptists, has set down in his dialogues: Women do not take delight when daughters are born. Mothers themselves affirm that this is true, and no wonder. Since, as Aristotle says, a woman is a defect of nature, or, as Plato says, more irrational than a rational animal, what mother can rejoice in that birth, especially since scripture informs them that woman is to be saved by giving birth to sons, not to daughters. And so the passage is to be understood thus: When a woman has given birth to a son, she rejoices because a man has been born - born of masculine gender. The passage cannot be twisted so as to include females. And indeed look at all passages in the whole of the sacred scriptures where the word homo is to be found - they are almost innumerable - and you will find that males are always exclusively meant. And the same is true of this passage. If there is found a single example stating the contrary, let women be free to curse me.

44. Nor at this point should I pass over the following argument which they commonly put forward. They say that in Luke, chapter 8f Christ called a girl back from the dead and that therefore women will be resurrected [Luke 8.49-56]. But these subtle ones have not taken note of what Christ said in that passage, which is: “she is not dead, but sleepeth.” What else do these words suggest but that if she had been dead, she was not going to be resurrected? According to Christ’s words the girl therefore was only sleeping, nor had she yet died, as the common people supposed; and hence it is not surprising that she arose. And that is why Christ then charged them all that they should tell no man what was done, in case women, hearing of this example, should gather from it that resurrection applied to them also. In contrast, when he resuscitated a young man he voiced no prohibition, but as the evangelist writes “And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about” [Luke 7.17]. And when a servant came to Jairus indicating that his daughter was dead, he added “trouble not the Master” [Luke 8.49], which he said for this reason that he knew that once girls or women were dead it was vain to call upon Christ for help since they were not to be resurrected even at the latter day. We read of the Blessed Bishop Germanus Britannus that by a remarkable miracle he called an ass forth from the dead, and yet no one can reason from this that it is possible that asses are to be resurrected - unless he himself is an ass. And similarly there is no validity in the argument based on this girl’s arising from the ashes.

45. And now let us continue. The scriptures clearly state that the head of Christ is God just as the head of the woman is the man [1 Cor. 11.3]. Now the Anabaptists do not wish to grant that Christ is God because God is his head and by this reasoning woman will therefore not be man because man is her head, or, if she is man, let them grant also that Christ is God and we shall be in agreement.

46. Those same Anabaptists do not wish to baptize infants because they have neither precept nor example to show that Christ or the apostles baptized them. Why therefore do they offer the sacrament of the eucharist to women since here also they have neither example nor precept that Christ or the apostles offered it to them or commanded that it be offered? There is clearly no frankness or sincerity in them. And there is surely no other reason why the lifegiving body of the Lord was never given to women other than that that body neither suffered for them nor concerns them. But baptism concerns them, they say; why not therefore the other sacrament also? Now we have examples of baptized women, such as Lydia [Acts 16.14-15]. I hear them. But I shall grant them this argument when they in their turn will have granted me the right to argue from one sacrament to the other, thus: baptism concerns infants since circumcision concerned them. But if the latter is granted, so also will be the former.

47. I indeed know that in the scriptures examples of baptized women are to be found, but since the Papists baptize bells and temples, are those also therefore to be deemed man? I rather respond that it is wholly contrary to the precept of Christ that women should be baptized. For Christ says “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” [Mark 16.16]; he did not say “She that believeth . . .” Nor is the pronoun “he” of common gender, so that it could encompass the feminine. From these things it is clear that baptism follows in succession to circumcision. How then can they be baptized since women were not circumcised? It is the case that Christ commanded that baptism should be carried out “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” [Matt. 28.19], by which formula no woman is reported to have been baptized; her baptism will therefore be illegitimate. For which reason I add this also: just as Paul indulgently granted Christians circumcision, which Christ nevertheless did not teach, so also in the earliest days baptism was granted to women, but mistakenly. Therefore the apostle gave thanks to God that he had not baptized many people, and added that he had not come to baptize, but to preach the gospel [1 Cor. 1.13-17]. And since judgement is to be based not on examples but on the law, examples of baptized women are of no significance whatever.

48. What do others say? When Christ first arose from the dead, he first revealed himself to women. How then can he not be concerned with them? But I answer: When Christ was first born, he revealed himself in the manger to an ox and an ass, and thus cattle have to do with Christ. O stupidity! These miserable men do not understand that Christ first appeared to women for no other reason than that his resurrection would thus be published to the world immediately and as rapidly as possible. Since women are garrulous, the whole city straightaway learns what they know. It is the case that a woman may testify according neither to divine nor to human law. And therefore Christ could not have them as witnesses to his resurrection, since their testimony is invalid. Thus the apostle Thomas also did not wish to believe the other disciples when they said that Christ had risen from the dead, since none but women had told them so, and indeed the other apostles thought the women deluded. And, finally, when he rose Christ showed himself to the women as if he did not wish them to recognize him although they were standing close to him. And his own mother did not recognize her son, but believed that he was the gardener, and when she later came to recognize him, Christ refused to let her touch him. And thus one can see how Christ honoured women with his resurrection.

49. The women exclaim: We speak, we have reason and a rational soul: therefore we are human. But I deny them all of this. For there are many birds that speak, such as the parrot and the pie, and Balaam’s ass spoke [Numbers 22.28] and yet was not human. And to speak without reason is nothing other than not to speak at all. And that these women speak without reason is shown by the apostle’s commanding them to keep silence in the churches [1 Cor. 14.34]. If they were able to speak rationally, why should they keep silence? By law all public offices are denied them. Even to sue in court is, most prudently, not permitted them. They are barred from jurisdiction, from judgement, from adoption, from intercession, from procuration, from guardianship, from administration, from testamentary and criminal pleadings: and for no other reason than that they have no reason. Their sex itself would not be an impediment, if reason were to be found in them. Nor do we ever once read of God’s breathing a soul into a woman, and the Anabaptists themselves grant and demonstrate in their writings that women have no soul. And even if women had reason, this would still not make them human, since both the angels and the devil have a rational soul and can speak and yet are not human. In Christ there “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” |Col. 2.9], says the apostle, and yet the Ebionites deny that this suffices to make Christ God; nor, therefore would a rational soul suffice to make woman human - however much of a one she had. This is discussed by the most learned doctor Hosius, who denied that a rational soul constitutes a man. For even beasts have such a soul since God turns our attention to them so that we may learn reason from them, saying: “Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” [Matt. 10.16]. Also: “Go to the ant thou sluggard” [Ps. 6.6]. But all that makes man is the knowledge of God, in which other living creatures are lacking. And if anyone should wish to contend that women know God, it must be confessed that they have this knowledge communicated to them by the menfolk. Now, it is written that if a woman wishes to learn anything, she should learn from her husband [1 Cor. 14.35]. Just as the divinity of Christ communicated to him by the Father does not make him God, so the communicated knowledge does not make the woman human.

50. Nor do I credit this last evasion of all women: the argument that since all things give birth to beings like themselves it is necessary that woman be human because she gives birth to man. Now if this is true, the Anabaptists are lying when they say that Christ is not the true God. If the Father begets a son, he begets a God like himself. In procreation, when a son is born, the father begets a being like himself, nor in this case is it appropriate to invoke the mother, who is not the efficient cause of the offspring who are to be born, but only the instrument. As the natural philosophers say, she adds no form of life to the children that are to be born. Indeed, if a daughter is born, that is not “like”, since she is a defect, while nature always tends towards the best things and prefers to procreate a male rather than a female, as the philosophers attest. This is not surprising, since an ass may also be born from a horse and a mule [sic], beetles from horse dung, lice from fat; the generation of like from like often fails.

51. I have proved, I believe, by means of fifty irrefutable witnesses from sacred scripture that woman is not human, nor is to be saved. Which if I have not achieved, I have nevertheless shown to all the world how the heretics of these times, especially the Anabaptists and the Papists, usually explain sacred scripture and what method they use for the establishment of their execrable dogmas. Enough to the wise. I nevertheless plead with the unwise little women that with the benevolence and love which they possessed in former times they may embrace me; which if they do not so wish, may the beasts perish for all eternity. I have sufficient glory from this tract to ensure that in the thought of future generations I may be deemed a heretic, if not of good reputation, at least of great.

Search our web site Support our campaign Sitemap Contemporary theologians Overview Latin Archive Go back to home page

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.


Please, credit this document
as published by www.womenpriests.org!