Jesus may have been a hermaphrodite, Dr Susannah Cornwall has suggested, in a paper arguing that the Church needs to do more to acknowledge intersex conditions, where people have both male and female organs.
"We cannot know for sure that Jesus was male," writes Cornwall, responding to the continuing debate surrounding women bishops in the Church of England.
"It can only be that Jesus’ masculine gender role, rather than his male sex, is having to bear the weight of all this authority."
Identifying Jesus as a man is "simply a best guess", she says, as "we do not have a body to examine and analyse."
Suggesting that Jesus may have had "some 'hidden' female physical features”, she points to the fact that Jesus didn't have children as further evidence.
Recognising the ambiguity surrounding Jesus' own sex, she calls for greater acknowledgement of intersex conditions within the church, and specifically within the women-bishop debate.
"The polarized model, of both men and women, doesn't take into account that intersex bodies exist, and that they too can be made in God's image," she writes.
The paper is called "Intersex and Ontology: A Response to The Church, Women Bishops and Provision." On Thursday, it was announced that parliamentary time had been set aside to debate the issue of ordaining women bishops, which many Anglicans are opposed to on traditionalist grounds.
However the Telegraph reported that by 2014, the Church of England could see its first female bishops