Dr Susannah Cornwall claimed that it is “simply a best guess” that Jesus was male.
Her comments, which are bound to provoke fury in some quarters, were published in response to the ongoing debate about women bishops in the Church of England.
Dr Cornwall, of Manchester University’s Lincoln Theological Institute, describes herself on her blog as specialising in: “Research and writing in feminist theology, sexuality, gender, embodiment, ethics and other fun things like that.”
In her paper “Intersex & Ontology, A Response to The Church, Women Bishops and Provision”, she argues that it is not possible to know “with any certainty” that Jesus did not suffer from an intersex condition, with both male and female organs.
In an extraordinary paper she says: “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 which would give him a body which appeared externally to be unremarkably male, but which might nonetheless have had some “hidden” female physical features.”
Dr Cornwall argues that the fact that Jesus is not recorded to have had children made his gender status “even more uncertain”.
She continues: “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.”