Monday 19 March 2012

And you thought Jesus Mythicists were bonkers...

Say hello to Dr. Susannah Cornwall.

This dear lady has managed to do what few others have in the world of biblical studies: discovered a new 'take' on the historical Jesus.

Cornwall isn't the first, nor will she be the last, to mould Jesus into a reflection of either her own political agenda or her imagination.  But, give the doc. credit, this attempt is more original, in a pointless sort of way, than most.

In that darkened zone beyond the razor wire where biblical fantasy meets feminism, behold!
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."
Simply a best guess?  Oh, okay.  I understand Cornwall is wielding this bit of nonsense in a righteous cause, but even in the quest for tolerance, progress and women bishops in ye olde C of E, this is a travesty.  The full story, if you have the cojones for it, is here.  In fact, why not knock yourself out completely by downloading the actual paper - Intersex and Ontology - from the nice people at Manchester University.

Meantime I'm off to bang my head repeatedly against a hard surface...


  1. Oh dear - so you argue strongly against mindless evangelical claims and yet swallow them wholesale without challenge?

    Dr Cornwall's paper that you happily link to, but I suspect didn't read, says nothing like "Jesus was a hermaphrodite". It is an argument about whether it is necessary to be biologically male to be a priest. Her point about Jesus is simply this: before we had modern medical technology, we had no way to figure out whether folks presenting as male (with a dick, say) were in fact biologically purely male. We couldn't say if Jesus, or Paul, or Peter, anyone were unambiguously male by modern standards. And therefore the idea that priesthood is about biological sex is risible. The idea that sex is binary is not scientific, and any theology based on that idea is naive.

    The hatchet job done on this paper by Christians is typical: misrepresent it, and then laugh at it as clearly absurd. I'm sure there are many Christians who'd happily do the same for you. That you join in with it for someone else is sad.

  2. Well, actually...

    Her argument was that he may have been a hermaphrodite, and how would we know otherwise.

    Which I think is what I wrote, not 'was'.

    It's a dopey argument. Why not the Apostle Paul, Rowan Williams, Mother Theresa, Einstein, Margaret Thatcher, Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all?

    And, not to go all defensive about it, I did write: "I understand Cornwall is wielding this bit of nonsense in a righteous cause... the quest for tolerance, progress and women bishops in ye olde C of E".

    I did skim read the paper in advance, but didn't notice the interesting anatomical nomenclature that you provide. No wonder little boys are no longer named Richard.

    Simple solution - can't understand why the Anglicans haven't thought of it themselves - is to dump the worst of this sacerdotal priestcraft crap and trade down to a nice Lutheran model. You'd get women bishops and keep the liturgical colours, lose the dopey mitres, but get an empowerment upgrade for your priests - henceforth known as pastors. Good lord, have you seen what Katharine Jefferts Schori looks like in that awful middle-aged male fancy-dress hat and togs?!

    Well, whatever... regardless of the merits of the case, or the motivations of Ms Cornwall, it was, IMHO, a stunningly stupid strategy to engage in, and if she didn't anticipate the reaction, she really was astonishingly naive.

  3. Why is it a dopey argument, the only reason you seem to give is that it is unwise not to expect a backlash?

    You say its a "bit of nonsense" - that seems to suggest you think the argument is inherently nonsensical, rather than just politically naive - if so why?

    Why not the Apostle Paul, Rowan Williams, Mother Theresa, Einstein, Margaret Thatcher, Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all?

    Certainly the Apostle Paul, and even more crucially Peter. Both would be good examples of what she's saying. Add the church fathers, doctors of the church, popes and bishops through the ages, and you'll start to get towards a statistical likelihood that at least one was intersex.

    I infer from your other suggestions, that you either didn't understand that the paper was about priesthood, or that you have some objection to the idea of intersex conditions. Why would it matter if Einstein were intersex? Nobody is out there claiming that his male-ness was s prerequisite for him being a physicist. Clearly he was male gendered. That Einstein has a one in five hundred chance of having some intersex condition shouldn't matter a fig to anyone (though clearly he has a lower chance than Jesus, because the fact and exes of his offspring reduce the number of intersex conditions he could have had).

    So far you're not making much sense about why you actually object to the paper, why it is dopey or nonsense or a travesty? Or how does it 'mold Jesus into a reflection of her political viewpoints', since we both seem to agree that the point of that one page of her substantial paper was that we can't have any clue whether Jesus was intersex or not. And that lack of certainty is the whole problem.

    Still sounds like to me you got your chain yanked well and truly here! Which, as I said, is a shame given the bang-up content normally floating around these parts.