Wednesday, April 18, 2012

We Can't Be Sure Jesus Was Male

Say what?!

A feminist theologian is claiming that Jesus may have been a hermaphrodite.

Dr. Susannah Cornwall, a professor at Manchester University's Lincoln Theological Institute, wrote in a recent paper that the idea that Jesus was male is "simply a best guess."

She made the comments in response to an ongoing debate in the U.K. over having women bishops in the Church of England.

In her paper, titled "Intersex & Ontology, A Response to The Church, Women Bishops and Provision," she states that it is impossible to know "with any certainty" that Jesus did not have both male and female organs.

On her blog, Cornwall notes that, "About 1 in every 2,500 people is born with an intersex condition which means that their body varies from the typical male or female pattern. It's therefore possible that Jesus – in common with many other people whose sex is never called in question – had a hidden or 'invisible' intersex condition."

She goes on to note in her paper that because of this, "It is not possible to assert with any degree of certainty that Jesus was male as we now define maleness. There is no way of knowing for sure that Jesus did not have one of the intersex conditions."

Cornwall also argues that because Jesus is not known to have had children, this also makes his gender status "even more uncertain."

I think that Professor Cornwall's "argument" can safely be put in the same category as Jesus Seminar silliness.


Anonymous said...

He seemed to walk around in circles a lot, is there any chance he had one leg shorter than the other?

Peter Carrell said...

Oh, Bryan, I do not think there is any safe archiving there ... it is bound to escape and reappear somewhere else! :)

BC said...

And certain people in the 1930s claimed that He was Aryan ...

C. Wingate said...

Actually, we CAN assume that he had proper plumbing, at least to the point of being circumcised.

It's hilarious, too, that my otherwise very liberal teenage daughter has lost all patience with the whole "I'm gender-queer" shtick: "everyone's sexuality is not a special snowflake."

C. Wingate said...

My daughter's actual reaction, according to my wife: 'She first paced back and forth saying "no, no no no no no no!" Then she said "aaarrgghgh!" and "mmmmyaaaaa!" and "It seems like women in the Church are not SANE!"'

Bill Dilworth said...

How do we know he wasn't a robot, hmmm?

More seriously, I don't think that this person has thought out the logical ramifications of the statement. Here's a slightly larger quote from her blog: "Whilst some people have intersex conditions which manifest in genitals which look unusual, other intersex people have no external visible ambiguity. It’s therefore possible that Jesus – in common with many other people whose sex is never called in question – had a hidden or “invisible” intersex condition."

If I understand correctly, there are some people who appear to be of one gender, but genetic analysis or examination of internal anatomy shows that some non-typical things are going on with them. If those anomalies really do mean that the person is not "really" the gender they appear to be - and that's a big if, it seems to me - it provides just as many problems for ordinary people as it does for Jesus. In the absence of confirmatory genetic tests, CAT scans, and the like, how do we know that ANYONE is the gender they present as? How do we know WE are?

What should society's response to such knowledge be, if it is in fact borne out that these internal anomalies nullify external gender? Do we challenge statements of gender for everyone who doesn't have the medical tests to prove it? Do we make everybody an honorary hermaphrodite?

It seems to me that the logical thing to do - with Jesus and the rest of us - is to go with probabilities. The vast majority of human beings do not have intersex conditions. Those with hidden intersex conditions account for only part of the number of people who are intersex. So when dealing with a person who presents unambiguously as being of one gender or the other and absent medical tests to prove otherwise, then, the logical assumption (not "best guess") is that they really are that gender.

Bryan Owen said...

Interesting comments all around.

And you're probably right, Peter. I've changed the wording of my last sentence accordingly.

I also note that there are still those who claim that Jesus was most likely gay.

Fr. Jonathan said...

You know, I've been trying to think of a funny, outrageous example to juxtapose this with, like, "How do we know He didn't kick puppies?" or "How do we know He wasn't secretly Oprah?" But, honestly, at this point, nothing seems quite as silly as what people who call themselves scholars are actually saying. You have to laugh, or else you'll cry.

Bryan Owen said...

Too true, Fr. Jonathan!