Jesus Christ’s gender is something we all know. Isn’t it? Dr Susanna Cornwall, of Manchester University’s Lincoln Theological Institute, has written a paper in which she claims that it is impossible to know whether Jesus was male or female, reported The Daily Telegraph. Called “Intersex & Ontology, A Response to The Church, Women Bishops and Provision,” she says that we can’t say with any certainty which one he was – and in fact might well have been a hermaphrodite. The fact that he didn’t have children, for example, she claims, makes this all the more persuasive.
The claims come against a continuing argument about the possibility of women bishops in the Church of England. Cornwall’s paper is designed to make the Church pay more attention to people with intersex conditions, and was written in response to a paper arguing against women bishops. Commentators are split: is Cornwall blasphemous, or saying something important?
“We cannot know for sure that Jesus was male – since we do not have a body to examine and analyse – it can only be that Jesus’ masculine gender role, rather than his male sex, is having to bear the weight of all this authority,” said Dr Cornwall.
Flat out wrong
Cornwall is mad, said The Christianity website, and her claims are “outrageous.” The site quoted a parishioner from Cheshire, Shane Colder, who said that it was “ridiculous” for Cornwall to say “Jesus wasn’t a man just because nobody has ever seen his penis.”
Far from God
The End Time blog said that this, and historian Bettany Hughes’ contention that God might be a woman, proves that the United Kingdom is moving “far from where Jesus wants them to be. How did it get this way?”
But there is a problem
Queering the Church argued that actually there was a problem, and used the example of the Reverend Sally / Selwyn Gross, who was raised as a man and joined the priesthood; but was forced out once it was proved that he/she was “primarily female.” Intersex people can be ordained – but so far, they can’t become bishops. “We know from science that the intersex phenomenon is entirely natural and complex, including a small but significant proportion of the human population. The absolute division of us into a neat two-part binary, is simplistic and a dangerous ground on which to base rules for ordination (or for marriage, for that matter).”
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