The Role, Purpose, And Nature Of Women According To Martin Luther -- By: Joe Early Jr.

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 16:1 (Spring 2019)
Article: The Role, Purpose, And Nature Of Women According To Martin Luther
Author: Joe Early Jr.

The Role, Purpose, And Nature Of Women According To Martin Luther

Joe Early Jr.

Joe Early Jr. is professor of theology at Campbellsville University in Campbellsville, Kentucky. [email protected]

Martin Luther (1483–1546) is known for key reformation concepts such as the priesthood of all believers and justification by faith. He is not widely known for his beliefs concerning the nature, role, and purpose of women. Other than marrying Katie Von Bora (1499–1552) and promoting clerical marriage, most Luther scholars mention little if anything of his views on women. Luther, however, did write about the fairer sex, especially Eve. Luther’s writings show his evolution from celibate friar1 to happily-married husband. During these years, Luther developed a theology of women that was crucial in countering the negative connotations attached to medieval Catholic women while slowly elevating the status of women in the Protestant tradition. This paper examines Luther’s theology concerning the nature, role, and purpose, of women, how it changed throughout his life, and how it impacted the future of Protestant women.

Martin Luther may have been the man whose ideas changed Christianity forever, but before that, he was an Augustinian friar with a doctor’s degree in theology. As evidenced throughout his voluminous writings, Luther was well-schooled in canon law, teachings of the church fathers, scholastic principles, and a myriad of systems and traditions relating to women. To better understand Luther’s beliefs concerning women and how they changed throughout his life, a very brief overview of Catholic teachings about women in the patristic and medieval eras is necessary.

In the patristic era, the church fathers had little good to say about women. For instance, Tertullian (160–220) can be described as nothing less than a misogynist who when discussing Eve, proclaimed, “You are the devil’s gateway. . . . You are the first deserter of the divine law; you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert—that is, death—even the Son of God had to die.”2 For Tertullian, all women inherit Eve’s guilt and

are dangerous temptresses that could easily lead men astray. Most church fathers believed that since Eve tempted Adam, women could be temptresses who, if not controlled by men, could lead men astray.

For this reason, church fathers such as Tertullian, Augustine (354–430), Jerome (335– 420), and myriad others encouraged...

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