'Hermaphrodite' is, unfortunately, an ambiguous term. There are actually three different biological phenomena for which it is used. 1) An animal who is fully male and female at the same time. This occurs in some varieties of worms, etc. Any hermaphroditic worm may mate with any other, and in rare cases they may mate with themselves. 2) An animal that may change gender depending on the requirements of its environment. This is rare, but does occur in the animal kingdom, and, of course, underlay the plot behind Jurasic Park. Such animals are not, however, hermaphroditic in the first sense -- that is they are either one gender or the other at any given time. 3) A moderately rare abnormality occurring in some primates, including humans, in which the animal is either genetically male or female, but has (usually in addition to his/her proper pudenda) external organs resembling those of the opposite sex. In come cases, neither set of organs is fully functional, but I know of no instances where they are both so (by 'fully functional' I mean, for females, the ability to have children and for males, the ability to impregnate). I am, of course, open to correction by example on this last point.

   It would be handy if the parallel term, 'androgyne', could be brought into use to distinguish at least one of these biological phenomena from the others, and handier still if a third term could make the distinction complete. Unfortunately, even in the technical dictionaries, the two terms are used interchangably, covering all three categories.

   As used in speculation about Adam's sexuality prior to the creation/extraction of Eve, the first definition is the only appropriate one. This speculation has further theological implications, since it suggests two things. First, the image of God in which Adam was created was intended to include both male and female physical/mental properties, further reinforcing parallel speculation that YHWH was viewed as hermaphrodite, and undercutting speculation that masculinity is 'better' because it reflects God's image. Second, traditional patriarchal claims to male superiority by right of first creation cannot be supported, since physically at least, Eve existed in Adam from the beginning. The creation of Eve would, in this sense, be properly a division of Adam into two natures, rather than a creation of a new and different nature (which could then be argued to be inferior).

   -- Alan Humm


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