Confused Savior? Lutheran pastor claims Jesus may have been externally male, internally female

by Gregory Tomlin, |
A man dressed as Jesus rides on the Lutheran Hour float during the 124th Annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, in January 2013. A Lutheran pastor in Fayetteville, Ark., is arguing for a decidedly more feminine Savior. Rev. Clint Schnekloth claims Jesus may have been internally female. | REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Christian Examiner) – A Lutheran pastor and author is claiming that Jesus may have been "intersex," or externally male and internally female.

Clint Schnekloth, pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville, Ark., wrote on his blog April 27 that the church should begin considering "the relationship between Jesus Christ as the Incarnation of the Word, and intersexuality."

Since Jesus was clearly presented as male and only male in Scripture – he was circumcised on the eighth day, preached in a synagogue, was referred to as the "son" of Mary, as the "Son of God," and exclusively by the pronoun "him" – Schnekloth claims Christians have to read between the lines when it comes to lessons about Jesus's gender identity.

"What we know about Jesus' gender is rather complicated. Clearly, Jesus represented as male (his phenotype)," Schnekloth wrote. "But in terms of his genotype, frankly, we have no information."

I have been surprised by the confidence, and the vehemence, with which people say 'No!' I think sometimes they say 'No' because they know very little about intersexuality. Other times, I think it is simply very important to them that Jesus was a male both phenotypically and genotypically.

Phenotype is a biological term used to refer to an organism's external characteristics. Genotype is a term used to refer to the genetic makeup of an organism.

Schnekloth isn't arguing against the classic statement of the Christian faith that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully "man," in the sense that he was fully human as well as divine. But for Schnekloth, Jesus could have been internally female because "we do not know the structure of that genome."

While the Lutheran pastor admits he believes in the virgin birth because the church teaches it, he has raised questions about the end product of the child conceived in Mary's womb.

"We know a few more things about conception than they did back in the day. One thing we know: a woman provides the X chromosome, and the man provides a Y chromosome. In the case of parthenogenesis [reproduction without fertilization], an exceedingly rare occurrence among higher life forms, the chromosomal structure would typically be a duplicate of the X, or just a single X. The one thing that would not be present would be a Y," Schnekloth wrote.

"Now, of course, if we are allowing that the conception by the Holy Spirit is a miracle, which it is, then of course God could provide a Y chromosome. But if it is a miracle, which it is, then just as easily God could have had Jesus be phenotypically male but genotypically female."

Schnekloth claims "we don't know" if that is the case, but he posits it to examine the implications within the larger societal debate about transgenderism. He claims he supports those of "varying gender identities" and is against discrimination who are seeking theirs of those.

Schnekloth also argues that Jesus was "transgressive," or one who did not adhere to traditional boundaries in society – he never married and had no children. To him, that is proof that something may have been different about Jesus internally. In other words, the Savior could have been what he calls "Intersex."

"I have been surprised by the confidence, and the vehemence, with which people say 'No!' I think sometimes they say 'No' because they know very little about intersexuality. Other times, I think it is simply very important to them that Jesus was a male both phenotypically and genotypically," he wrote.

"Honestly, I don't understand why they are so vehement. I can't think of any way it matters doctrinally. The church is committed to the saying unequivocally that Jesus was fully human. I don't know anywhere in the tradition where the protein strands of his cell structure are the basis for a confessional position of some kind."

Because Schnekloth has no modern scientific study available to him about the person of Jesus who walked the dusty trails in Galilee 2,000 years ago, there is reason, he claims, to see Jesus in something other than as the traditional, male, masculine Savior – as an "intersex" person who can intercede for those of varying gender identities.

He also claims Jesus was "aware of a greater level of gender fluidity" because he taught that some were "eunuchs" from birth (Matthew 19:12). However, Old Testament and New Testament scholars alike generally agree that Jesus's reference to "eunuchs from birth" is a reference to physical deformity rather than internal psychological or genetic confusion – such as the modern psychological phenomenon known as Gender Dysphoria.

Schnekloth serves as an adjunct faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary and is on the editorial board for the Evangelical Luther Church of America's Youth Ministry Network Connect Journal. He is also a guest columnist for the Northwest Arkansas Times and was a key proponent for Fayetteville's "civil rights" ordinance which prohibits the firing or eviction of a person based on their perceived sexual identity.

Churches and religious organizations are exempted from the ordinance, for now.