What Does it Mean to Be Made a Women? Historical Thoughts on Woman as the Imago Dei

The fact that men and women are created in the “image” (Hb. tselem) and “likeness” (Hb. demut) of God affirms that both men and women are like God and represent God in a way unlike any other part of His creation. Only humanity is created in the imago Dei. Man, in the specific sense of male, is not ontologically superior to woman; the dividing line in Genesis 1 is drawn between man, in the generic sense of humanity, and the rest of creation. In Genesis 2, there is a distinction made between men and women, though. The words to describe the creation of man and woman are slightly different; the authority and responsibility given to Adam prior to the creation of Eve and Eve’s description as a helper for Adam show that there are some differences in what it means to be created male or created female. However, it may be fair to say that ever since the author of the Pentateuch penned verse 27 of Genesis 1, disagreement has occurred regarding what significance should be placed on what it means to be created female as opposed to male. What are the implications of being created female? The proposed paper will examine that question historically by looking at what key theologians, both past and present, have said about what it means to be made a “woman.”

Though an anthropology of woman first should be grounded in Scripture (a historical theology is insufficient without a biblical theology), the scope of this paper will be confined strictly to a historical investigation focusing on the thoughts of Augustine, Aquinas, Martin Luther, Karl Barth, and the utilization today of those theologians by selected feminist theologians. As these writings are examined, it will be instructive to see how they do or do not utilize Scripture in constructing their concepts regarding woman as the imago Dei.

By researching how historical and contemporary figures have answered this question, what this paper seeks to prove is that many people have fumbled answering the “woman” question. More often than not, culture or errant understandings of woman contributed to false beliefs regarding woman’s nature or intellect or greater propensity to sin. However, in recent days the pendulum has shifted and now the church may guilty of a false understanding of man if they listen to feminist theologians. One must go back to Scripture to formulate an anthropology of woman, not experience, tradition, culture, or misbegotten ideas about biology. The value in a historical and contemporary survey is that it drives you back to Scripture to seek the answer to the question, “What does it mean to be woman?”

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