"Defender of the Most Holy Matriarchs": Martin Luther’s Interpretation of the Women of Genesis in the Enarrationes in Genesin, 1535-1545


This work examines Martin Luther’s interpretation of the female characters in the stories of Genesis, drawing attention to his appropriation of premodern catholic interpretations of the biblical “saints.” In Luther’s hands, many of these women became heroic examples of the godly life newly adapted to the worldly asceticism of emerging Protestantism. Their everyday sanctity, exercised for the most part within the limits Luther believed God had imposed on their sex, displayed the kind of piety he thought should animate Christian women in their own households. Two chapters evaluate Luther’s interpretation of Eve, noting his understanding of the ideal relations between men and women. Five further chapters examine Sarah, Hagar, Rachel, the daughters and wife of Lot, and Potiphar’s wife.

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Mickey Leland Mattox, Ph.D. (1997) in Religion, Duke University, is Research Professor in the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France.
'Mattox's research is throrough and his arguments persuasive.'
Susan C. Karant-Nunn, Renaissance Quarterly, 2004.


1. Muliercula: Eve in the Young Luther’s Exegesis
2. Socia Gubernationis: Eve in the Enarrationes in Genesin
3. Sancta Domina: Luther’s Catholic Exegesis of Sarah
4. Empta Ancilla: A Hagiography of Hagar
5. Sanctae Puellae: Justifying the Daughters of Lot
6. Mulier Heroica: The Faith of Rachel
7. Turpissimum Scortum: Demonizing Potiphar’s Wife


Appendix 1. Genesis in Wittenberg: 1518–1545
Appendix 2. Sixteenth-Century Genesis Commentaries

Index of Subjects
Index of Scriptural References
Index of Names
All those interested in Martin Luther, women in the history of Christianity, Reformation history and/or theology, church history, and the history of biblical interpretation in the Latin west.
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