In what sense Mary is called “Woman” by Tertullian

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“Let us now see whether the apostle also restricts the term to the same meaning it has in Genesis, which applies it to the female sex (cf. Gen 2:23), when he calls the Virgin Mary “woman” (Gal 4:4), just as Genesis called Eve “woman”. Writing to the Galatians, he says, “God sent his Son, born of a woman”, which established that she is a virgin, even if Ebion opposes this interpretation. 

I also acknowledge that the angel Gabriel is sent to the Virgin, and when he declares her blessed, he locates her among women and not among virgins: “Blessed are you among women” (Lk 1:42). The angel also knew that a virgin can also be called a woman. 

Someone thinks that he has given a clever explanation of these two passages in saying that, because Mary was married, it is for this reason that both the angel and the apostle call her “woman”. For someone who is married is also, in a certain way, nupta [that is, wedded, no longer a virgin]. However, between being ” in a certain way” nupta and being truly nupta, there is a difference that applies in this case. In other cases, married and nupta go together. 

Instead, they [St. Paul and Gabriel] called Mary “woman”, not as if she were already nupta, but simply because she is a female, even though still a virgin, and this is the original sense in which the word “woman” was used (cf. Gen 2:23).”

TertullianDe Viginibus velandis 6,1; PL 2, 945-46

If you are interested in more quotes on Virgin Mary, you can find them in Mary and the Fathers of the Church on Amazon in both in Kindle and paperback formats.


Gambero, L., 1999. Mary and the Fathers of the Church 1st ed. Translated by Buffer, T., San Francisco: Ignatius Press. p.68

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