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 bishop 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."
Peter Mullen, a priest with the Church of England, wrote a response to Cornwall in The Telegrah. In it he refutes her claims saying that "the gospels were written in Greek and they always use the male pronoun [to] refer to Jesus. Not once do they use the equally available feminine or neuter pronouns."
He also notes that the gospel writers seem to have assumed that Jesus was a man, "and if masculinity is recognized by particular characteristics, there is a pretty huge pile of circumstantial evidence. In the infancy stories, Jesus is referred to as a male child. On his ritual pilgrimage to the temple when he was twelve, he is described as a boy."
Chris Rosebrough, apologist and host of Fighting for the Faith, tackled Cornwall's claims as well on a recent radio broadcast. He said she rejects sound doctrine in her paper.
Rosebrough also turned to Scripture for the matter, citing the third gospel where Luke begins the story of Jesus by noting that the account he is writing comes from eyewitnesses.
He says Luke got some of his information directly from Mary, and when the angel of the Lord appeared to her, he told her she was going to conceive and bear a child who would be called "the Son of the Most High."
Rosebrough went on to show that in the first chapter of Luke any references to Jesus are made using male-gender pronouns.
The radio host's final point on the matter of Jesus' maleness was the fact that on the eighth day of his life he was taken to the temple and circumcised. Rosebrough said he was circumcised according to the law of Moses, which never allowed for any sort of female circumcision, a practice not taught in scripture.
"If Jesus wasn't a male the obvious question is then what did they have circumcised?" Rosebrough said.
He emphasized that Cornwall has no evidence for her claims, and that we can know with 100 percent certainty Jesus was male. Rosebrough denounced Cornwall's speculation is "idolatry of highest and worst degree."