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Androgynos

ANDROGYNOS

ANDROGYNOS (Gr. ἁνδρός man, γυνή woman), animal or individual having both male and female characteristics and organs, a hermaphrodite. Both the actual and the legendary androgynos are known in talmudic literature. The legal position and disabilities of the androgynos and a description of his abnormalities are collated in a number of beraitot in Tosefta Bikkurim 2. In many editions of the Mishnah that chapter is reproduced as chapter 4 of tractate Bikkurim, although there are noticeable differences between the two texts. In talmudic literature, the androgynos is nearly always mentioned together with the tumtum, a creature whose sex cannot be determined. According to the majority opinion, the laws relating to the androgynos are determined by the fact that it is doubtful whether it is male or female. As a result, in certain matters "it has the status of a male, in others that of a female, or of both, or of neither" (Bik. 4:1). R. Yose, however, is of the opinion that an androgynos is a "creature of its own," i.e., belonging to a third sex (cf. also Yev. 83a). Most of the laws affecting the androgynos are based upon the oft-repeated comment on the word "zakhar" ("male") occurring in Scripture, which is interpreted "(specifically) as 'male,' but not a tumtum or an androgynos" (cf. Naz. 2:7). The Midrash (Gen. R. 8:1) takes the verse "male and female" (Gen. 1:27) as referring to the creation of a single individual. Whereas R. Jeremiah b. Eleazar says that it refers to the creation of an androgynos, R. Samuel b. Naḥman says "It means that he created them with a double face (du-parẓufin) which was then severed in two." In the Talmud, however, only the latter view is found (Er. 18a, Ber. 61a). This view is similar to that mentioned in Plato's Symposium (190b), with the difference that Plato speaks of three types of "double-faced" creatures, masculine-masculine, feminine-feminine, and masculine-feminine, whereas only the third type is mentioned in rabbinic literature. Nevertheless the view of R. Jeremiah is quoted by the Christian Fathers, who were at pains to refute this "Jewish fable." Augustine, in his commentary De Genesi ad Litteram 3:22, refers to it, and Strabo declared it to be "one of the damnable fables of the Jews."

bibliography:

Guttmann, Mafte'aḥ, 3 pt. 1 (1924), 217–23; et, 2 (1949), 55–60; S. Lieberman, Tosefta ki-Feshutah, 2 (1955), 834–46; Ginzberg, Legends, 5 (1955), 88–89.

[Bialik Myron Lerner /

Stephen G. Wald (2nd ed.)]

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