Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Divinity (MDiv)



First Advisor/Committee Member

Brian Bantum, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theology


Mary Blessed Virgin Saint—Virginity, Virgin birth, Femininity—Religious aspects—Christianity, Masculinity—Religious aspects—Christianity, Liberation theology, Patriarchy—Religious aspects—Christianity


The Virgin Mary is often upheld as a paragon of virtue and a model of womanhood, the one whom all women should emulate. Though the doctrine of the virgin birth is essential to many Christian faith traditions, liberation theologians have critiqued this narrative as a harmful construction of patriarchy and a project of colonialism. Mujerista Marcella Althaus-Reid and womanist Delores S. Williams in particular question the role of Mary within Christianity, for her symbol has been used in service of oppressive agendas. Questions that arise when considering the virgin birth doctrine include: Given the ways in which Mary has been used as a tool of oppression, can women find liberation in her symbol? Can Mary be considered a real woman if she does not represent the interests of the most oppressed women? Does the affirmation of a male Christ figure inscribe patriarchy onto a theological claim that is purposed for human liberation/salvation? Utilizing the works of theologians Sarah Coakley and Eboni Marshall Turman, as well as critical theorist Judith Butler, this thesis seeks to develop a theological framework for envisioning the doctrine of the virgin birth as a liberative expression of God’s resistance to various forms of oppression, and patriarchy in particular. Locating Mary within her social, political, and religious context allows for a theological reinterpretation of the virgin birth that emphasizes God’s desire to foreground the marginalized and divest privilege for the sake of the oppressed, a task that requires a reconceptualization of the meaning of Christ’s maleness in relation to Mary’s femaleness. Through understanding the ways in which the incarnation subverts the male-female binary as prescribed by Mary’s historical situation, the doctrine of the virgin birth can be reimagined as God’s resistance to categorization based upon phenotypical and biological signifiers, and an affirmation of a multiplicity of roles and experiences that determine the meaning of “woman.”


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