Heavenly hermaphrodites: sexual difference at the beginning and end of time

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Abstract

This article examines how ancient and medieval Christians invoked ideas about ‘hermaphrodites’ to work out fundamental questions about who we are as humans. What was the original or ideal state of humanity? Was the division of sex into male and female an inherent part of human nature? Certain Christian theologians, beginning in antiquity, claimed that Adam – the first human, according to the biblical book of Genesis – was an ‘androgyne’ or ‘hermaphrodite,’ that is, a combination of male and female sex. Similarly, some medieval theologians speculated that all post-resurrection bodies were androgynous. In conversations about both the creation and the resurrection, questions about sexual difference thus surfaced repeatedly, revealing key assumptions about the sexed body and its place in the narrative of Christian history. This article suggests that such debates were key to ancient and medieval efforts to determine which sexes were legitimate sexes, and therefore which lives were redeemably human.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)132-146
Number of pages15
JournalPostmedieval
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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