Saturday, October 09, 2004

Did A Church Council Debate Whether Women Have Souls?

There is a story that I keep hearing that a church council once debated whether women have immortal souls. According to this story, they decided they have, but by only one vote. I first heard this story at least 20 years ago of the Westminster Assembly, but this week I have heard it said of Trent, Nicea and a synod in Macon, France.

It was not hard to discover that it is a myth. Here are 3 webpages debunking it. The best one is The Alleged "Soulless Women" Doctrine, but there is also helpful background in Opinion: The Myth of Soulless Women and in this soc.religion.christian newsgroup page.

Here is an extract from the first article cited above:

The actual historical event which became the basis for this rumor did not happen at the Council of Nicea or any other ecumenical council in Church history, but in a local Synod in France in 585 AD. The account can be found in the book The History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours ...

During a break between sessions at the Synod, one of the bishops there expressed to his fellow bishops his personal belief that the Latin word homo does not include women. Immediately every other bishop present objected to his statement, pointing out that
the Vulgate (the Latin translation of the Scriptures used at that time) uses the word homo to refer to both Adam and Eve in Genesis 5:2.

That verse reads: "(God) created them male and female; and blessed them: and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created." Adam, besides being the proper name applied to the father of our race, is the Hebrew word for "mankind" or humanity" (as opposed to ish, which refers to a male human being). When Saint Jerome translated the Bible into Latin he rendered Adam here with the Latin equivalent homo. And the bishops at the French Synod used his Vulgate translation to prove their fellow bishop wrong in stating that women are not included in the word homo.

Having sufficiently refuted that notion, the discussion ended ... Nowhere in this entire episode does anyone mention the question of whether or not women have souls! This was a later misrepresentation of the proceedings which, unfortunately, has been widely disseminated and believed by many who have not tracked the rumour back to its source.

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