Was Constantine a Sexist?

In his fictitious novel, The Da Vinci Code, author Dan Brown suggests that one of the motives for Constantine’s alleged banning of the Gnostic writings was a desire to suppress women in the church. So was Constantine a sexist?  Would the inclusion of the Gnostic writings in the Bible have elevated women?

Ironically, it is the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas that demeans women. It concludes (supposedly quoting Peter) with this eye-popping statement: “Let Mary go away from us, because women are not worthy of life”.¹ Then Jesus allegedly tells Peter that he will make Mary into a male so that she may enter the kingdom of heaven. Read: women are inferior. With sentiments like that on display, it’s difficult to conceive of the Gnostic writings as being a battle cry for women’s liberation.

In stark contrast, the Jesus of the biblical Gospels always treated women with dignity and respect. Revolutionary verses like this one found within the New Testament have been foundational to attempts at raising women’s status:

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians-you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NLT).

Read more about the Gnostic writings and why they were not included in scripture in the article Was there a Da Vinci Conspiracy?

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¹ Quoted in James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library: The Definitive Translation of the Gnostic Scriptures (HarperCollins, 1990), 138.