Which Christians have asserted that women are not made in the image of God?

Another question asks about the biblical basis for the claim that women are made in the image of God. I'm wondering which Christian authors throughout history have disagreed with this interpretation.

Related claims I have heard include:

  • We know God is male because men are made in the image of God.
  • "a man... is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man." (1 Corinthians 11:7)

I'm especially interested in notable historic theologians, and am not interested in contemporary writers unless they have a substantial following.

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    @NigelJ: I have heard people interpret 1 Cor 11.7 to mean that women are not made in the image of God, but I've also heard people argue against that interpretation. I wasn't intending to make a claim myself, but merely mention discussions in which this issue arose. Jun 2, 2022 at 20:07

1 Answer 1


I recently asked a question pertaining to why both men and women believers were baptised in water although only males were circumcised. One of the answers by SupportiveDante said that Hugh of St. Victor was quoted by St. Thomas as saying:

"... the circumcision of the flesh was given to men alone, for the Sacred Scriptures customarily represented the soul by the masculine sex, but the flesh by the feminine, so that it would be manifest that circumcision conferred sanctification on souls, but did not remove the corruption of the flesh." (Aquinas, Sentences IV, D. 1 Q. 2 A. 2.2.SC)

That strikes me as a view that could only be held by someone who did not believe that God created woman in His own image, given that God is not made of matter, but is Spirit. I could be wrong about that, of course: but it seems to imply that man is supremely a spiritual being, while woman is merely fleshly.

Consulting a Catholic book on the matter of virginity in the early church period, there seemed to be a point made about the immense virtue of never engaging in carnal (fleshly) sex. Virginity was written of as a kind of martyrdom. While it is true that both men and women could choose to remain virgins for their entire lives, women who did this seemed to be viewed in greater awe, perhaps because of Catholic views about perpetual virginity, as they thought of regarding Mary.

Further, given the following views of women as merely designed by God to bear children, it is clear that many in church institutions had a very low estimation of women as carnal, physical creatures who could even detract men from their higher, spiritual purposes as made in the image of God. First, Boniface Ramsey mentioned the married Tertullian as speaking highly of marriage prior to falling "prey to the harshness of Montanism, which could hardly distinguish between marriage and fornication." (Cf. Exhort. cast. 9) Beginning to Read the Fathers, p.137, Boniface Ramsey, Paulist Press, 1985

He also refers to Methodius of Olympus writing (in the third century) that, "Only when [Adam] consorts and keeps company with corruption does he become corrupt." (Symposium 3.7 Ibid. p.61) This is another harkening back to the garden of Eden and the woman tempting the man.

Now here is Ramsey's point about Augustine's view of woman being created for no other purpose than to help the man beget children - a purely physical role, unlike man's higher, spiritual role:

"Underlying this view of the incompatibility of married life and the pursuit of anything serious on a husband's part, it goes without saying, is the demeaning attitude toward women in classical antiquity. A woman's overarching reason for existence was to bear children; for companionship it was usually assumed that a man would seek out the company of another man. Augustine expresses the position well in commenting on the creation of Eve from Adam's side..." [The quote ends with Augustine saying that God could just as easily have created a man from Adam's side. "Consequently, I do not see what help a woman is to a man if not for childbearing." To read the full words of Augustine, commencing, "If the woman was not made for the man in order to help him in begetting children, for what purpose was she made...?" consult De Gen. ad litt. 9.5.9.] Ibid. Ramsey p.140

I have come across similar views in Protestant literature. It is a centuries-old demeaning view of women as being lower creatures than man and certainly spiritually and intellectually lower; that woman was simply a physical creation, while man was spiritual by virtue of being created in the image of God.

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    The 'express image of God's person' (Hebrews 1:3) is He who came into the world of the virgin, not come of natural generation. Adam was a figure of him that was to come. The misunderstanding is about the image of God and which 'man' is that image. // And the mystery is Christ and the Church, the Head and the body. The Man and his glory.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 2, 2022 at 20:26
  • See that Gen 1:27 makes no distinction between man and woman when it comes to their creation in the image of God: " So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. " One needs to look at 1 Cor 11:7 as the personal view of St Paul . Jun 6, 2022 at 8:03

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