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Published Date: January 30, 2008

Published Date: January 30, 2008

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Morphing Mary

What happened to Mary?

In the time of Herod, king of Judea, a young Jewish girl gave birth to a child who would change the course of history. What is men­tioned of her in Scripture is significant, yet, throughout the cen­turies, the identity and person of Mary has been elaborated upon by Catholics and often overlooked by Protestants. The biblical Mary was a woman who is to be revered not only for her faith in God, but also for what God accomplished through her. However, the metamorphosis of Mary’s identity from humble Jewish girl to semi-divine Mother of God was born out of the tradition of the medieval church, not the Scriptures.

Mary has come a long way in the history of the church. Her depiction in the Scriptures as a humble young woman with enor­mous faith and courage who, as a virgin, gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God, and raised him (as well as more than seven or eight other children) has been overshadowed by church tradition that depicts Mary as a devoutly religious celibate (conceived immaculately) who never consummated her marriage and gave birth to Jesus without disrupting her hymen so as to insure her perpetual vir­ginity.1 The Mary of the gospels who proclaimed, “I am the Lord’s servant. . . . May it be to me as you have said,” (Luke 1:38)2 is a far cry from the Mary enshrined in gold leaf who, as Theo-tokos, or Mother of God, and intercessor, “occupies the principal mediat­ing position, as a creature belonging to both earth and heaven.3 The biblical Mary, who, in her humanity, misunderstood Jesus’ mission at one point and came to “take charge of him” because Jesus’ family thought that he was “out of his mind” (Mark 3:21), stands in opposition to the Mary of the medieval tradition, who, “from the first instance of her conception, [is] totally preserved from the stain of original sin throughout her life.”4

What happened to the faithful young virgin who bore Jesus Christ and, with Joseph, became a mother of several sons, one of whom (James) became the leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17; 15; 21:18; Gal. 2:9, 12) and writer of an epistle (James 1:1), and another by the name of Judas who wrote the epistle of Jude (Jude 1:1)? What happened to the identity of this brave, godly woman who experienced supernatural events surrounding her pregnancy, yet who was neither perfect nor omniscient and did not always understand her son’s mission (Mark 3:34)? What hap­pened to Scripture’s depiction of a faithful, ordinary woman who endured the horrific death of her son and the seeming death of all the promises God had given to her, yet became a faithful disciple and pillar in the Christian church (Acts 1:14)?

Why is the Mary of the Scriptures so different from the Mary depicted in the traditions of the church that came to full flower in the medieval era? For those who do not believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, the portrayals of Mary in the Bible and in the Roman Catholic Church can be written off as myths or as dramatized elaborations at best.5 However, for those who adhere to Scrip­ture and to the Apostle’s Creed, which states that Jesus Christ was “conceived by the Holy Ghost [and] born of the Virgin Mary,”6 an accurate picture of Mary should be of concern.

The church argued strenuously in the fourth century regard­ing the accurate understanding and portrayal of Jesus as the Son of God in relationship to God the Father in the Trinitarian con­troversies.7 In fact, it was the equality of the Son and the Father established at the Nicene (a.d. 325) and Chalcedonian (a.d. 451) Councils that inadvertently encouraged the elevation of Mary’s status as Theo-tokos, or “Mother of God.”8 However, while the di­vine status of Jesus was revealed from his own lips in Scripture,9 the elevated status of Mary is only to be found in the traditional documents of the church. As today’s Roman Catholic Church has overemphasized Mary to the point of calling her Mediatrix,10 a concept found nowhere in Scripture, Protestant churches, con­versely, have tended to deemphasize Mary in order to elevate Jesus. Protestants do not believe that Mary is intrinsic to one’s salvation. Jesus’ emphatic words, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” (John 14:6) are used by Protestants to argue against Mary’s role as “Co-Re­demptrix”11 and are considered authoritative because they are scriptural and have passed the test of canonical authority. How­ever, the medieval church’s reliance on such documents as the Protoevangelium of James (a.d. 120) and its tendency to interpret Scripture allegorically allowed for “exegesis [to] sometimes play handmaiden to personal and cultural assumptions.”12

The tendency of the church, Catholic and Protestant, to distort or ignore the person of Mary has less to do with theology than it does with physiology. The one indisputable yet controversial fact is that Mary, who was the chosen instrument of God for the great­est display of his power and mercy on earth, was a woman. The church has had a hard time dealing with the feminine, so much so that women used by God, such as Mary, simply have been ignored or morphed into supernatural creatures devoid of female sexual­ity. These anti-feminine views are rooted in the medieval church, which was notorious for defaming the feminine to the point that women were taught that they had to become men to serve Christ.13 Consequently, celibacy and virginity were embraced as qualities of piety so that monasteries flourished and even married couples were encouraged to refrain from the sin of sexual rela­ tions unless they intended to procreate.14 Sexuality and feminin­ity became deterrents to salvation, so virginity became a means to holiness and even salvation. Still, in the twenty-first century, the Roman Catholic Church’s Catechism states, “Christ’s birth did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it” (emphasis mine).15 The fact that the church has to qualify childbirth (even the birth of Christ!) shows how disparagingly a woman’s body and reproduction were viewed in the medieval church, even in marriage, when contrasted with virginity and chastity.

This negative view of women was not exclusive to the me­dieval church. In fact, the view of women as inferior and more susceptible to evil was directly transplanted from several Church Fathers who were influenced by rabbinic teachings as well as the pagan Greco-Roman culture, which venerated goddesses such as Athena while demeaning female nature.16 It would seem at first glance that elevating Mary to semi-divine status would el­evate the status of women; however, women remained in a state of subjectivity and inferiority. In fact, the elevation of Mary as otherworldly was predicated on the misogynist assumption that ordinary women were inferior to men, prone to deception, and untrustworthy. Therefore, Mary, the mother of Jesus—the mother of the Son of God—could not have been a mere woman, for how could a woman, who is by her own female nature prone to evil, have been chosen and entrusted by God to execute his most holy and anticipated mission?

In the medieval, patristic, and Greco-Roman mind, the bib­lical view of women and, thus, God’s choosing of Mary went against humanity’s entire patriarchal culture. The fact is that the medieval church had to deify Mary in order to continue to rel­egate women to positions of inferiority and exclude them from participation and leadership within the church. Only one woman could have a position of authority in the church, and that was the Blessed Virgin, who was no mere woman, but was the sinless and “ever-virgin” Queen of Heaven. Therefore, the transformation of Mary from faithful yet fallible servant of God to the immaculate Mother of God is paradoxically a product of humanity’s consis­tently negative view of women.

How the negative view of women led to the veneration of Mary

In the medieval church, the status of women met an all-time low while the status of Mary reached an all-time high. The twelfth century “marked the high point of Marian devotion as well as the flowering of cathedral-building: it was the age of ‘Notre Dame.’”17 However, ordinary women were increasingly excluded from leadership roles in the church.18 This was due in large part to the Church Fathers, whose disparaging views of women were engrafted into such documents as the Decretum (a.d. 1140), an important reference book of the Middle Ages written by Mas­ter Gratian of Bologna.19 Gratian quotes Augustine, Jerome, and Ambrose and concludes, based on their writings, the following: women are legally under the authority of men; women are to obey their husbands as sons obey their fathers; women, unlike men, are not made in the image of God; wives are to be servants and “a man may give testimony against his wife by which she may be executed by stoning if his testimony may be shown true”; a woman who does not submit to her husband, her head, is “guilty of the same crime as a man who does not submit to his head (Christ)”; “a woman has no power but in all things may be sub­ject to the power of man”; and “because of original sin [woman] ought to be seen to be subordinate . . . in church she may not have her head uncovered and she is not allowed to speak.”20

Thomas Aquinas (d. a.d. 1247), appointed by Pope Leo XIII, became one of the most influential and authoritative Christian theologians for Catholics and Protestants alike. Thomas was not only influenced by the Church Fathers’ negative view of women, but also was highly influenced by Greek philosophy, which depre­cated women. He “interpreted the writings of Saint Paul through the mind of Aristotle, and the Greek deprecation of women be­came solidly infused within Christian theology.”21 Thomas wrote:

The active power in the seed of the male tends to produce something like itself, perfect in masculinity; but the procre­ation of a female is the result either of the debility of the active power, of some unsuitability of material, or of some change effected by external influences, like the south wind, for ex­ample, which is damp, as we are told by Aristotle. . . . Aristotle says, “with man male and female are not only joined together for purposes of procreation . . . but to establish a home life . . . in which man is head of the woman.”22

Thomas also infused into his theology the Greek notion that rea­son dominates emotion and that man represents reason, which is superior, while woman represents emotion, which is inferior. Therefore, it is not surprising that Thomas taught and wrote, “Such is the subjection in which woman is by nature subordinate to man, because the power of rational discernment is by nature stronger in man.”23 In addition to perpetuating these Greco-Roman male/female distinctions, Thomas also taught the “in­trinsic evil of sexual desire.”24 Only for purposes of procreation should a married man and woman act on their sexual desires.25 The connection between Aristotelian and medieval church views of women and sexuality was a “mind/senses distinction . . . ac­cording to which woman, the ‘body’ of man, is necessarily subor­dinate to him as the passions are subject to the intellect.”26 Con­sequently, the belief that man was to rule woman was seen as akin to reason controlling the appetite.

Church leaders agreed with the Greco-Roman philosophy that the body or soul was seen to be opposed to the spirit. Origen stated that “the spirit is said to be male; the soul can be called female.”27 He also taught in his Genesis Homily I that, in order for the spirit and body to work together, it required them to “turn the inclination of the flesh, which has been subjected . . . and have dominion over it, while the flesh, of course, becomes insolent in nothing against the will of the spirit.” Therefore, because the body, which was considered to be prone to chaos and evil, was in need of suppression, it would follow that women, who rep­resented the body or soul, be controlled and restrained as well. R. Howard Bloch states that “the distrust of woman in the writ­ings of the early church fathers is at least partially attributable to a refusal of, a barrier against, the contumacious presence of the body.”28 Bloch rightly concludes that the “disenfranchising alliance of woman with the senses as opposed to mind, with the body as opposed to the soul, has far-reaching implications within the hierarchized ontological op­positions that dominate medieval thought, culture, and society.”29

Therefore, it is no wonder that asceticism and the silencing of women in the medieval church went hand in hand, and it is no wonder that Mary had to be el­evated as more than a mere woman. This ascetic trend “gained momentum with St. Jerome, the influential ascetic who gave the church its Latin Vulgate and popularized belief in Mary’s per­petual virginity.”30 Jerome believed that marriage “ranked third after virginity and widowhood in its spiritual yield.”31 He ranted against a monk named Jovinian and eventually had him excom­municated for daring to suggest that “baptized Christians can at­tain equal spiritual merit whether married, single, or widowed.”32 Jerome refuted Jovinian’s interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7 with his own thoughts on this passage and then cited extensively from Theophrastus, a pagan philosopher who followed Aristotle’s teaching. Jerome’s view “was endlessly quarried by subsequent writers.”33 He states:

What am I to do when the women of our time press me with apostolic authority, and before the first husband is buried re­peat over and over again from memory the precepts which allow a second marriage? May those who despise the faith­fulness of Christian purity at least learn chastity from the heathen. The Book of Theophrastus on marriage is said to be worth its weight in gold. In it the author asks whether the wise man marries. And after laying down these conditions—that a wife must be fair, of good character, and honest parentage, the husband in good health and of ample means—and after saying that under these circumstances a wise man sometimes enters the state of matrimony, he immediately proceeds thus: “But all these conditions are seldom satisfied in marriage. A wise man therefore must not take a wife. For in the first place his study of philosophy will be hindered, and it is impossible for anyone to attend his books and his wife at the same time” . . . if we have a wife we can neither leave her behind, nor take the burden with us [emphasis mine].34

Jerome also stresses the “unremitting vigilance against desire”35 in a letter of advice to his friend Paula’s daughter:

When I was living in the desert . . . tears and groans were my daily routine; and whenever drowsiness overcame my struggles against it, I bruised my bones . . . although in my fear of hell I had consigned myself to this prison, where I had no companions but scorpions and wild beasts, I often found myself surrounded by dancing girls! My face was pale from fasting, my body was ice-cold: yet my mind was burning with desire, and the fires of lust kept boiling up within me. . . .36

Jerome took these negative notions of marriage and sexual desire and, unfortunately, came to the conclusion that virginity was a means to spiritual attainment, particularly a woman’s spiritual at­tainment, and interpreted the vir­gin birth as a model for this spiri­tual endeavor. Jerome states:

The virtue of continence used to be found only in men, and Eve went on sustaining the labour-pains of childbirth. But now that a virgin has conceived in the womb and borne for us a child of which the prophet says that “Government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called the mighty God, and everlasting Father,” the chain of the curse is broken. Death came through Eve, but life has come through Mary. And thus the gift of virgin­ity has been bestowed most richly upon women, seeing that it has had its beginning from a woman. As soon as the Son of God set foot upon earth, he formed a new household for Him­self here, so that, just as He was adorned by angels in heaven, angels might also serve Him on earth [emphasis mine].37

The Church Fathers so spiritualized virginity that both Jerome and Augustine speculated as to whether married persons would be allowed into heaven because they believed the mere “wanton incentive” to intercourse was sinful—even in marriage.38 Clem­ent of Alexandria states, “To indulge in intercourse without in­tending children is to outrage nature. . . . [I]f we weave the ideals of chastity by day and then unravel them in the marriage bed at night, we do no better than Penelope at her loom.”39 It is not surprising that Clement of Alexandria had a low view of women. He believed that man had a stronger nature than woman and that even a man’s body hair was proof of his primacy.40

Such great theologians as Tertullian and Augustine taught that woman was to blame for the fall of humanity. Tertullian taught that being female was a “condition” that required the truly devout woman to dress as if in mourning in order to “expiate more fully by all sorts of penitential garb that which woman derives from Eve—the ignominy . . . of original sin and the odium of being the cause of the fall of the human race.”41 Tertullian then goes on to quote the curse of Eve as dictating the rightful place of Christian women: “‘In sorrow and anxiety, you will bring forth, O woman, and you are subject to your husband, and he is your master.’ Do you not believe that you are [each] an Eve?”42 Ambrose, the tutor of Augustine, was of one mind with Tertullian. Ambrose stated, “She [Eve] was the first to be deceived and was responsible for deceiving the man.”43 Therefore, Augustine also rationalized that woman was not made in the image of God: “Woman together with her husband is the image of God so that the whole human substance is one image. But when she is assigned as a help-mate, a function that pertains to her alone, then she is not the image of God; but as far as the man is concerned, he is by himself alone the image of God”44 John Chrysostom agreed and added that “the ‘image’ [of God] has rather to do with authority, and this only the man has; the woman has it no longer. For he is subject to no one, while she is subject to him.”45

It is not surprising that women attempted through virginal monasticism to rid themselves of the contamination of their fe­male sex. They were following the teachings of the Church Fa­thers, such as Ambrose, who said, “She who does not have faith is a woman and should be called by the name of her sex, but she who believes progresses to perfect manhood . . . she then does away with the name of her sex.”46 Liberation for medieval women meant no longer being a woman. In Jerome’s opinion, a woman who wanted to serve Christ “will cease to be a woman and will be called a man.”47 Interestingly, once women assumed this shed­ding of their female sexuality, Jerome himself was surprised at their achievements. Two women whom he admired in particular were co-editors with him of the Latin Vulgate.48 However, lat­er Church Fathers erased these women’s names and referred to them as “venerable brothers.”49

This defeminization in the medieval church had pagan roots. Christian theologians agreed with pagan beliefs that courage was equated with manhood and that “a woman who had triumphed over female weakness was praised—as Olympias was and many others—not for being a brave woman, but for being a man.”50 The Greek goddess Athena was not born of a woman, but out of the head of a male god—Zeus—and was delivered brandishing an array of weaponry. Athena, the patron goddess of the capital of Greece, is the “archetype of the masculine woman”51 who denied her femininity to find a divine place in a man’s world.

In addition to defeminization, virginity is also prevalent among Greek goddesses. Artemis was a virgin, as was Athena; nevertheless, she was associated with childbirth and the female cycle and “probably evolved from the concept of a primitive mother goddess.”52 Not only was femininity deprecated by the female goddesses themselves, but they devalued marriage as well. “Hera defied her husband and Aphrodite ignored hers . . . other major goddesses chose not to marry at all.”53 For mortal Greek women, their lives were “circumscribed by domesticity . . . [g]oddesses, on the other hand, even if married, were not con­strained by familial obligations.”54

The parallels between Greek myth and medieval church practice and monasticism are striking. However, it was “extraor­dinary . . . in Greco-Roman terms, for a woman to opt not to marry.”55 Greco-Roman goddesses had this option, but not ordi­nary women. However, for the medieval woman, renouncing the female sex along with marriage became more than an option, but a holy endeavor. A woman could enter the spiritual realm, cast off her femininity, free herself from the constraints of marriage, and create a legitimate place for herself as a saint. Moreover, “the re­nunciation and denial of sexuality could in themselves be a path to God.”56 Like martyrdom, which was a way to sainthood, celi­bacy became the new “way to perfection” for men and women.57 However, for women in particular, celibacy provided a way to reverse the curse of original sin and the subsequent subjection to their husbands.58 Even Irenaeus, who did not deprecate women like other Church Fathers did, still believed that women were the cause of the fall.59 Therefore, women were told by later Church Fathers that consecrating themselves as virgins would “enable them to overcome the curse of Eve.”60 For the medieval woman who was already married and for the “fallen” woman, the only way to salvation was penitence.61

The role of women in this medieval world of asceticism was not shaped by the real Mary as much as the image of Mary was shaped by the patriarchal culture. The superiority of virginity led to the elevation of Mary as the prototypical Blessed Virgin, whom women were to emulate, if not in complete celibate devotion, at least as submissive, humble, and penitent mothers and wives. If married women took vows of celibacy, it was all the better for their spiritual advancement.62 The practice of taking vows of celi­bacy was written into the biography of Mary in one of the most influential apocryphal gospels, the Protoevangelium of James, written in the late second century by an author claiming to be one of the twelve apostles, James the Less, the Son of Alphaeus. However, the author has been found by scholars to be ignorant of Jewish customs and the geography of Palestine.63

The Protoevangelium of James and other documents, such as Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, History of Joseph the Carpenter, and Gospel of the Birth of Mary (third to fourth century a.d.), assert that Mary’s mother, Anna, conceived Mary by divine interven­tion and vowed to take Mary to the temple at the age of three, where she would live and remain a virgin, receiving food from the hand of an angel and weaving purple and scarlet veils for the temple.64 The Protoevangelium of James asserts that Mary was given in marriage to Joseph (a priest) at the request of his fellow priests who claimed that Mary would defile the temple because she had just turned twelve years old.65

And the priest said to Joseph, “You have been chosen by lot to receive the virgin of the Lord as your Ward.” But Joseph an­swered him, “I have sons and am old; she is but a girl. I object lest I should become the laughing-stock to the sons of Israel.”66

Joseph is then described as having been previously married. He is described as a widower with four sons and two daughters.

There was a man whose name was Joseph, descended from a family of Bethlehem, a town of Judah, and the city of King Da­vid. This same man, being well instructed with wisdom and learning, was made priest in the temple of the Lord. He was, also, skilful in his trade which was that of a carpenter and like all men he married a wife. Moreover he begot for himself sons and daughters, in fact four sons and two daughters—Judas, Justus, James, and Simeon—Assia and Lydia . . . at length the wife of righteous Joseph, a woman intent on the divine glory in all her works, died.67

The fact that the Protoevangelium of James became a part of church tradition and was seen as an authoritative supplement to the Scriptures is due in large part to Jerome, the formidable translator of the Vulgate. In addition to “promot[ing] the practice —and the ideal—of celibacy,”68 Jerome endorsed the Proto­evangelium of James and copied the earliest surviving version of the Gospel of the Birth of Mary.69 The Protoevangelium of James claimed that Mary’s virginity remained intact after the birth of Jesus, and, because Jerome insisted on this fact in Anti Helvidius, it remained undisputed in the church.70

The negative view of women as the “Devil’s gateway”71 led to the belief that women are inferior to men and are subject to men. This then led to the notion that a woman could transcend this state of blame and subjection by eschewing her sexuality and liv­ing a celibate life. This desired attainment led devout girls and women to aspire to a state of perpetual virginity to the point that a woman could “fall from the highest rank of immaculate virgin­ity to a lower one by marrying.”72 Thus, the negative view of femi­ninity and the subsequent idolatry of celibacy created the cult of Mary and propagated the distorted notion that women and men alike must attain their salvation by their own spiritual perfection rather than Christ’s perfection.

Why does Mary matter?

Does it matter whether the contemporary church believes in Mary as the Blessed Virgin and ascended Co-Redemptrix or in Mary as revealed in Scripture? Can both descriptions of Mary be true? Can apostolic Scripture and church tradition be equally valid? The answer to these questions lies in the realm of faith, yet faith needs to be based on reality—on something that is true—or why bother having faith at all?

The picture of the biblical Mary that we receive from the apos­tolic authors is of a woman who was human, fallible, and faithful. What happened to Mary in her pregnancy and motherhood was extraordinary. God took the “cursed” sex and took up residence in the “contumacious presence of the body”73—in particular, a woman’s body. Not only this, but the Lord went directly to the woman. God did not go to her husband until later, and then only to confirm what he had already told her and what she had accept­ed by faith. God put himself, literally, into the hands of a faithful teenage girl, trusting her to participate in the fulfillment of his greatest mission on earth. Mary was not the first woman God used to participate in the fulfillment of his purpose and plan, nor was she the last.

According to Scripture, Mary and Joseph became the parents of four biological sons and an unspecified number of daughters (Matt. 13:55–56). There was no reason that Mary should have had to remain a virgin in order to prove her spiritual status unless she had been living under the teachings of the medieval church. It would have been implausible for a Jewish girl to aspire to remain a virgin in a Jewish culture when the “injunction to marry was central” and Jewish men and women were commanded to procreate.74

Theologically, the correct historical rendition of Mary has profound implications for humanity. If Mary was, as the Bible describes her, a normal woman who put her faith in God’s word, to whom God came, and through whom God accomplished his great purpose, then God can come to any fallible person and ac­complish his purposes through him or her. Contrary to the teach­ings of the medieval church, one does not have to be of a particu­lar gender or be an asexual celibate to enter into God’s presence and favor. The greatness of Mary was her faith in God’s greatness, nothing more. It is the “nothing more” that was antithetical to the medieval church and it remains antithetical to human nature. We want more—more credit. For the medieval church to have given Mary credit that belongs to God alone was idolatrous.

In turn, not giving enough credit to individuals willing to be used by God to accomplish his purposes is also shortsighted. While the medieval church gave too much credit to the male cler­gy, it neglected women and the laity. When the male clergy failed to accept Mary as revealed in Scripture, did not appreciate what God did through a woman who faithfully put her life and reputa­tion in God’s hands, and did not take the time to ponder the enor­mity of God’s entrusting to her his only Son, they neglected—and still neglect—women whom God chooses to use.

The teaching of the medieval church and the cult of Mary in­advertently taught people that they must become perfect in or­der to be used by God, that they must suppress their God-given sexual desires in marriage, and that they can never be certain of their relationship with God and a future in heaven. This distorted the image of God and either brought people to the church out of fear or drove them away because they refused to worship the God that had been made in the church’s image.

The medieval church failed to teach that Mary’s conception of Jesus was less profound than the conception of the Holy Spirit in Mary’s heart.75 It failed to unveil the Mary from the Scriptures and, instead, adorned her in its medieval prejudices and misper­ceptions. The scriptural view of Mary, to which only male clergy had access, should have been taught faithfully and truthfully to the laity whom they were entrusted to shepherd. If they had done so, the church would have provided great hope to its congrega­tions. The truth of the biblical Mary is that God comes directly to individuals regardless of gender, moral perfection, and hierar­chical position in the church and offers salvation with no strings attached so that God can work his wonders through ordinary people whom God loves. Just as Mary accepted the Lord’s pro­posal, so can any human being. The faith that was conceived in Mary can be conceived in every human heart.


  1. Catechism of the Catholic Church (New York, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1994), 143 (510); Marina Warner, Alone of Her Sex: The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary (New York, N.Y.: Vintage Books, 1983), xxii; Georges Duby and Michelle Perrot, A History of Women: Silences of the Middle Ages (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992), 26.
  2. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.
  3. Warner, Alone of Her Sex, xxii; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 139 (495), 275 (969–71).
  4. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 142 (508).
  5. Michael Jordan, The Historical Mary: Revealing the Pagan Identity of the Virgin Mother (Berkeley, Calif.: Ulysses Press, 2003). Jordan’s conclu­sions about the identity of Mary are as speculative as those he criticizes.
  6. The Book of Confessions: The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (Louisville, Ky.: The Office of the General Assembly, 2002), 7 (2.1–3). Henry Bettenson and Chris Maunder, Documents of the Christian Church (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 32–42.
  7. Duby and Perrot, A History of Women, 25; Dwight Longenecker and David Gustafson, Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate (Grand Rap­ids, Mich.: Brazos Press, 2003), 111–12; Warner, Alone of Her Sex, 65.
  8. “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), and “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18).
  9. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 275 (969).
  10. Longenecker and Gustafson, Mary, 192–98.
  11. Elizabeth A. Clark, Women in the Early Church: Message of the Fathers of the Church, vol. 13 (Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 1983), 16.
  12. St. Jerome, Commentarius in Epistolam and Ephesios 3, in Alvin John Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civili­zation (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan , 2001), 201.
  13. B. A. Windeatt, trans., The Book of Margery Kempe (London: Penguin Books, 1985), 56.
  14. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 141 (499).
  15. Schmidt, Under the Influence, 109.
  16. Duby and Perrot, A History of Women, 24.
  17. Max Weber, Sociology of Religion (Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, 1957), 104, in Schmidt, Under the Influence, 109.
  18. Alcuin Blamires, Women Defamed and Women Defended: An An­thology of Medieval Texts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 64.
  19. C. W. Marx, trans., The Decretum, in Blamires, Women Defamed and Women Defended, 83–87.
  20. John Temple Bristow, What Paul Really Said About Women (San Francisco, Calif.: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991), 29.
  21. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica 1a. 92, article I, in Blamires, Women Defamed and Women Defended, 92.
  22. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica 2a–2ae, 177, 2, in Blamires, Women Defamed and Women Defended, 93.
  23. Margaret A. Farley, “Sexual Ethics,” in James B. Nelson and San­dra P. Longfellow, Sexuality and the Sacred: Sources for Theological Re­flection (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994), 61.
  24. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I–II, 34 1 ad 1, in Nelson and Longfellow, Sexuality and the Sacred, 61.
  25. R. Howard Bloch, Medieval Misogyny and the Invention of West­ern Romantic Love (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 30.
  26. Origen, Genesis Homily I (15), in The Fathers of the Church: Ori­gen Homilies on Genesis and Exodus, vol. 71, trans. Ronald E. Heine (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University Press, 1982), 68.
  27. Bloch, Medieval Misogyny, 30.
  28. Bloch, Medieval Misogyny, 30.
  29. Alvin John Schmidt, Veiled and Silenced: How Culture Shaped Sexist Theology (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1989), 152.
  30. Blamires, Women Defamed and Women Defended, 64.
  31. Blamires, Women Defamed and Women Defended, 64.
  32. Blamires, Women Defamed and Women Defended, 64.
  33. Jerome, Against Jovinian (Adversus Jovinianum, c. 393) 12 (1.47), in Blamires, Women Defamed and Women Defended, 70.
  34. Blamires, Women Defamed and Women Defended, 74.
  35. Jerome, Letter 22, to Eustochium (384), in Blamires, Women De­famed and Women Defended, 74.
  36. Blamires, Women Defamed and Women Defended, 76.
  37. Augustine, The City of God, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2.281–2, in Bristow, What Paul Really Said About Women, 114.
  38. Clement of Alexandria, Christ the Educator (94), in The Fathers of the Church, vol. 23, trans. Simon P. Wood, C.P (New York, N.Y., The Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1954), 172.
  39. Clement of Alexandria, Christ the Educator (94) in The Fathers of the Church, 214.
  40. St. Ambrose, Hexamenon, Paradise, Cain and Abel, in The Fa­thers of the Church, vol. 42, trans. John J. Savage, (New York, N.Y.: The Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1961), 301.
  41. St. Ambrose, Hexamenon, Paradise, Cain and Abel, in The Fa­thers of the Church, 301.
  42. St. Ambrose, Paradise, chs. 4 and 6, in Schmidt, Veiled and Si­lenced, 43.
  43. St. Augustine, The Trinity, in The Fathers of the Church, trans. Stephen McKenna (Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1963), 352.
  44. Chrysostom, qtd. in Susan H. Hyatt, In the Spirit We’re Equal (Dallas, Tex.: Hyatt International Ministries, 1998), 54.
  45. St. Ambrose, Evangelius Secundum Lucum 10.161, in Schmidt, Veiled and Silenced, 201.
  46. St. Jerome, Commentarius in Epistolam and Ephesios 3, in Schmidt, Veiled and Silenced, 201.
  47. Schmidt, Veiled and Silenced, 153.
  48. Schmidt, Veiled and Silenced, 153.
  49. Gillian Clark, Women in Late Antiquity: Pagan and Christian Lifestyles (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 129.
  50. Sarah M. Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves (New York, N.Y.: Dorset Press, 1975), 4.
  51. Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves, 6.
  52. Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves, 9.
  53. Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves, 9.
  54. Gillian Clark, Women in Late Antiquity, 51.
  55. Gillian Clark, Women in Late Antiquity, 131.
  56. Elizabeth A. Clark, Women in the Early Church, 115.
  57. Elizabeth A. Clark, Women in the Early Church, 115.
  58. Irenaeus, Against Heresies (a.d. 185) 22, 4, qtd. in Elizabeth A. Clark, Women in the Early Church, 38.
  59. Duby and Perrot, A History of Women, 30.
  60. Duby and Perrot, A History of Women, 30.
  61. Windeatt, The Book of Margery Kempe, 56.
  62. Jordan, The Historical Mary, 89.
  63. Protoevangelium of James 4.1, 7.2, 8.1, 10.1, qtd. in Jordan, The Historical Mary, 89–90.
  64. Protoevangelium of James 8.2, 9.2, qtd. in Jordan, The Historical Mary, 93, 95.
  65. Protoevangelium of James 9.1ff, qtd. in Jordan, The Historical Mary, 93.
  66. Protoevangelium of James 114, qtd. in Jordan, The Historical Mary, 94.
  67. Ruth A. Tucker, “The Changing Roles of Women in Ministry: The Early Church Through the 18th Century,” in Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy, ed. Ronald W. Pierce, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, and Gordon D. Fee (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 27.
  68. Jordan, The Historical Mary, 91, 94.
  69. Duby and Perrot, A History of Women, 26.
  70. Tertullian, On the Dress of Women I, 1.1, qtd. in Elizabeth A. Clark, Women in the Early Church, 39.
  71. Tertullian, Exhortion to Chastity IX, qtd. in Elizabeth A. Clark, Women in the Early Church, 147.
  72. Bloch, Medieval Misogyny, 30.
  73. Farley, “Sexual Ethics,” 55.
  74. Luke 1:38: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Acts 1:14: “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the other of Jesus, and with his brothers.” Mary and her family were present at Pentecost and were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in other tongues.
Three women smiling at the camera, each is holding a present.

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