The Christian anthropology of Julian of Norwich

Susan M. Thrift Mahan, Marquette University


Julian of Norwich presents a theology of the human person within a description of sixteen revelations or "showings" which she received in 1373. She articulates this theology as part of her interpretation of the meaning of the showings. Julian grounds her understanding of the human person in her theology of the Trinity. Her theology of the Trinity is key to her anthropology. Julian's anthropology, in turn, is an important part of many other theological notions. Without it such teachings as "Jesus as Mother" or that "all will be well," would not exist. Julian's method is largely derived from the monastic tradition. She relies on imagery and description to explain the meaning of the showings. Her presentation appears deceptively simple. It is, in fact, a complex lectio divina on the showings drawing from her extensive knowledge of the scriptures and the theological traditions of the Church. This dissertation studies Julian's theological context in which she articulates her anthropology, the components of this theology, implications, methods she employs and possible sources. The focus of the dissertation is Julian's Book of Showings. It presents a literary and historical analysis of this text which seeks to identify and understand Julian's questions concerning the human condition. It also seeks to uncover the presuppositions undergirding Julian's anthropology. Julian's perspective is broad and anagogical. She views human events and experience as tiny parts of an immense tapestry which in the end reveals the mysterious working of God and the fulfillment of the human person. This perspective is central to her anthropology and makes possible Julian's affirmation of the goodness of life and the necessity and value of sin and suffering. Julian does not see human suffering as a good in itself but only as a fact of life and a potential means to union with God. The dissertation traces this perspective throughout Julian's anthropology and analyses its foundations in Julian's trinitarian theology. Julian's Christian anthropology is not totally original. Her uniqueness lies in her ability to develop areas of the Christian tradition which had been neglected and to clearly demonstrate the relationship between a Christian anthropology and basic notions about God. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)

Recommended Citation

Mahan, Susan M. Thrift, "The Christian anthropology of Julian of Norwich" (1988). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI8904273.