Pagan Greek Ideas About Women Taught In The Church In The 300’s To 400’s

By the 300’s and 400’s A.D., some Christian leaders were mixing Biblical teachings about women with pagan Greek ideas about the alleged total inferiority and greater wickedness of women compared to men. For example, John Chrysostom, the Bishop of Constantinople wrote that women that men are superior to women and enjoy greater honour in God’s eyes. He also taught that women are weak and fickle and that men should have pre-eminence and precedence over women in all ways. In his comments on 1 Timothy 2:11-15, he wrote: “If it be asked, what has this to do with women of the present day? It shows that the male sex enjoyed the higher honour. Man was first formed; and elsewhere he shows their superiority. ‘Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man.’ (1 Corinthians 11:9)

Why then does he say this? He wishes the man to have preeminence in every way; both for the reason given above, he means, let him have precedence, and on account of what occurred afterwards. For the woman taught the man once, and made him guilty of disobedience, and wrought our ruin. Therefore because she made a bad use of her power over the man, or rather her equality with him, God made her subject to her husband. ‘Thy desire shall be to thy husband?’ (Genesis 3:16) This had not been said to her before…for the sex is weak and fickle, and he is speaking of the sex collectively. For he says not Eve, but ‘the woman’, which is the common name of the whole sex, not her proper name. Was then the whole sex included in the transgression for her fault?” [1]

In his Homily 37 in his “Homilies on 1 Corinthians”, Bishop Chrysostom wrote: “Because the woman is in some sort a weaker being and easily carried away and light minded.” [2]

In the fourth century, the church writer Ambrosiaster wrote: “Women must cover their heads because they are not the image of God. They must do this as a sign of their subjection to authority and because sin came into the world through them…How can anyone maintain that woman is the likeness of God when she is demonstrably subject to the dominion of man and has no kind of authority? For she can neither teach nor be a witness in a court nor exercise citizenship nor be a judge – then certainly not exercise dominion.” [3]

Ambrosiaster here teaches:


a)      the unbiblical idea, based on a false understanding of 1 Corinthians 11:7 which says “For a man…is the image of God; but the woman is the glory of man,” that women are not made in the image and likeness of God. This is contrary to Genesis 1:27, 5:1-2 and 9:5-6 taken together. Genesis 1:27 and 5:1-2 reveal that God created both male and female humans in His image and likeness. In Genesis 1:27, the word “man” is “Adam” in Hebrew and refers not to Adam, the first man but to mankind or the human race in general: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

In Genesis 5:1-2, the words “man” and “Mankind” are also “Adam” in Hebrew and refer not to Adam, the first man but to the human race: “This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created.” In the above, “man” and “Mankind” include both males and females. [4]

In Genesis 9:5-6, the command about punishing man who murders man refers to humans – male and female – murdering humans – male and female – and not just males murdering males.

b)      the ancient pagan Greek notion that only men but never women can be citizens of any city or nation.

c)      the ancient pagan Greek and Roman belief that women can never become judges.




[1] John Chrysostom, “Homilies on 1 Timothy”, Homily 9, 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

[2] John Chrysostom, “Homilies on 1 Corinthians”, Homily 37, 1 Corinthians 14:34.

[3] Ambrosiaster, “On 1 Corinthians 14:34”.

[4] The first usage of “Adam” in Genesis 5:1 and “Adam” in Genesis 5:3,4 and 5 refer to Adam, the first male.



Copyright © 2002 -
Individuals may take copies of these works for the purpose of studying the Bible provided that this copyright notice is attached to all copies.