Are women less intelligent than men?

Many of the so-called Fathers of the Early Church thought that while men were created ‘in God’s image’, women were not. That is why women, in their opinion, do not reflect God’s intelligence as men do.

  • “It is the natural order among people that women serve  their husbands and children their parents, because the justice of this lies in  (the principle that) the lesser serves the greater . . . This is the natural
    justice that the weaker brain serve the stronger. This therefore is the evident  justice in the relationships between slaves and their masters, that they who  excel in reason, excel in power.” (Augustine,  Questions on the Heptateuch, Book I, §  153.
  • “Who are there that teach such things apart from women?  In very truth, women are a feeble race, untrustworthy and of mediocre  intelligence. Once again we see that the Devil knows how to make women spew  forth ridiculous teachings, as he has just succeeded in doing in the case of
    Quintilla, Maxima and Priscilla” Epiphanius,  Panarion 79, §1.
  • “How, then, would God have failed to make any such  concession to men more (than to women), whether on the ground of  nearer intimacy, as the male being in “His own image,” or on the ground of
    harder toil? But if nothing (has been thus conceded) to the male, much less to  the female.” Tertullian, On the Veiling of  Virgins, chap. 10.
  • “ Women must cover their heads because they are not the  image of God . . . 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”,  Ambrosiaster, On 1 Corinthians 14,  34.

Many Theologians in the Middle Ages continued to express the same kind of opinion.

  • “On account of three reasons the man is said to be an  image of God and not the woman. First of all: just as there is one God and from him everything arose, so one man was created from the beginning from whom all he others arose. Therefore to this extent he has a similarity with God namely  that as everything proceeded from this one God so all other human beings  proceed from this one man. Secondly just as from the side of Christ when he was  sleeping in death on the cross the origin of the Church flowed namely water and  blood through which are signified the sacraments of the Church through whom the
    Church subsists and has its origin and becomes the spouse of Christ, so from  the side of Adam when he was sleeping in paradise was formed his spouse because  from there was taken a rib, from which Eve was formed. Thirdly: just as Christ  is head of the Church and governs the Church so the husband is head of his wife  and rules and governs her. And through these three causes the man is stated  to be the image of God and not the woman, and therefore the man must not be  like the woman a sign of subjection, but a sign of freedom and preeminence.  However, in a fourth way both the man and the woman are said to be an image of  God, wherefore we have the expression ‘Let us make man’ that is  ‘let us make him in our image and our likeness’ that is capable of  the divine essence through reason, through the intellect, through memory,  through genius and this is said both about the woman and the man.”  Hugguccio, Summa, C. 33, qu. 5, ch. 13.
  • “Women are unfit to receive ordination, for ordination  is reserved for perfect members of the church, since it is given for the  distribution of grace to other men. But women are not perfect members of the
    church, only men are.”
    “Add to this that woman is not an image of  God, only man is”. Guido de Baysio, Rosarium, c. 27, qu. 1, ch. 23.
  • “It is fitting that woman does not possess the power of  the keys because she is not made in the image of God, but only man who is the  glory and image of God. That is why a woman must be subject to man and be as  his slave, and not the other way about” Anthony de Butrio,  Commentaria, II, fol. 89r.
  • “In relation to that with which the meaning of an image  principally has to do—that is, in relation to spiritual nature—the  image of God is in man and also in woman…. In relation to something
    secondary, it is true that the image of God is in man in a way not found in  woman. For man is origin and goal of woman, just as God is origin and goal of  the whole creation. Therefore the Apostle adds to the words, ‘Man is  the image and reflection of God but woman is the glory of man,’ the reason  for this (1 Cor. 11:8f. ): ‘For the man does not come from the woman but  the woman from man. Neither was man created for woman but woman for man ”. Thomas AquinasSumma Theologiae I, qu. 93 art. 4  ad 1.

The worst thing is that the official Law of the Catholic Church enshrined the  inferiority of women for seven long centuries.

The presumed inferiority of women entered Church  Law especially through the Decretum  Gratiani (1140 AD), which became official Church law in 1234 AD, a  vital part of the Corpus Iuris Canonici that was in force until 1916.

That women lacked intelligence was also generally assumed in society. It was a stupid social prejudice, as is demonstrated in the following sarcastic video.

Were women not created in God’s image?

The first creation account, Genesis 1,1 – 2,4, narrates the origin of the universe. And the climax of God’s building work was the creation of human beings. They were special because the world was built to be their home. They were also special because, like God, they could think logically and act with responsibility. They carried God’s own image.

(a) God said: ‘Let us make human beings (‘Adam’) in our own image,
(b) in the likeness of ourselves,
(c) and let them [plural!] rule over the fish of the sea, 
(d) the birds of heaven, the cattle, all wild beasts
(e) and the reptiles that crawl upon the earth’.
(f) And God created the human (‘Adam’) in the image of himself.
(g) In the image of God he created him.
(h) Male and female he created them.

Genesis 1,27; literal translation from the Hebrew.

Inclined as they were to look down on the female, some Christians began to misinterpret the text. They lifted the phrase “(f) He created Adam in the image of himself” out of its context. They said it proved that only Adam (and not Eve) had been created in God’s image. But this clearly goes against the intention of the passage. Adam and Eve have not been mentioned yet. For then the text expressly specifies that God created ‘the human’ as male and female: “h)Male and female he created them” — which implies that both the male and female human are created in God’s image. Moreover, both are put in charge of all living things, as is also clear from the following verses (Gen 1,28-29).

That this is the correct interpretation in the earliest documented translation, namely the Septuagint that was a Greek translation of the Hebrew prepared by Alexandrian Jewish rabbis in the 3rd cent. BC. The Greek clearly distinguishes between “aner” (which means ‘a man’, ‘a male’) and “anthropos” (which means ‘a human being’). The Greek text reads:

(f) And God created the human (‘anthropos’) in the image of himself.
(g) In the image of God he created him.
(h) Male and female he created them.

From this account it is clear that all human beings are created in God’s image. Both man and woman are mentioned explicitly in this context. As far as the Word of God is concerned, all human beings are created with equal dignity, and with equal rights and duties.

What is the situation today?


wijngaards Some men still believe that women are less intelligent, especially in communities where people have enjoyed less education.

No educated Catholic would either contend that women are not created in the image of God, or that they are less intelligent.

The pity is that those with authority in the Catholic Church do not seem to realise that this prejudice was one of the main reasons why women have been excluded from leadership functions in the Church.Then why continue excluding women today?

John Wijngaards