Was Jesus Born to a Virgin? William Lane Craig Answers This and More.

Was Jesus Born to a Virgin? William Lane Craig Answers This and More. December 3, 2019

It’s the Christmas season! World-famous philosopher William Lane Craig (WLC) was asked by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, “Professor, Was Jesus Really Born to a Virgin?” The conversation ranges over this and additional topics that all need a response.

Was Jesus born to a virgin?

“I must confess that for all my admiration for Jesus, I’m skeptical about some of the narrative we’ve inherited. Are you actually confident that Jesus was born to a virgin?” (I’ll use italics for the interviewer’s questions.)

WLC responded:

For a God who could create the entire universe, making a woman pregnant wasn’t that big a deal! Given the existence of a Creator and Designer of the universe (for which we have good evidence), an occasional miracle is child’s play.

Apparently, WLC’s strategy is to dig his hole deeper. No, you have terrible evidence for God as the supernatural creator of the universe. Look around and see that people are Christians because they were raised that way, not because they are compelled by the evidence to accept Christianity’s claims. I agree that God making the entire universe is a bigger unanswered question than his making a virgin birth, but how has this advanced your argument?

Historically speaking, the story of Jesus’ virginal conception is independently attested by Matthew and Luke and is utterly unlike anything in pagan mythology or Judaism. So what’s the problem?

“What’s the problem”?? I gotta give him swagger points for that. Yes, the virgin birth is written in two accounts, but these are contradictory*. As for Jesus’s conception vs. those of other important figures, mythology and legend are full of supernatural births (some virgin births and some just god/human couplings). Palestine was at the crossroads of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian civilizations and more, and these societies had many supernatural births. For example, Dionysus (Greek culture), Caesar Augustus (Roman), and Amenhotep III (Egyptian) were all said to have had supernatural births. (More on Christianity as a copycat religion here.)

The typical Christian response is that those stories are quite different from that of Mary and Jesus. Perhaps they are, but so what? Jesus was said to have been divinely conceived, just like many other gods before him—that’s the commonality. Was it likelier (1) that Jesus’s supernatural birth was the only one that was the real deal or (2) that it, like all those that came before, was just mythology, legend, or other human invention?

An essential part of the Jesus birth story that WLC doesn’t mention is that the virgin birth is claimed to have fulfilled a prophecy from Isaiah 7 (which writes about a Judean king from the eight century BCE). It didn’t.

Early Christians picking up the supernatural birth and adding it to their story, like a bower bird adding a pretty rock to its nest, isn’t hard to imagine. We can see the recent evolution of Christianity in Mary’s position within the Catholic church. Catholic theologians concluded, without scriptural evidence, that she must have been born free of original sin (the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, 1854) and then that she must have been assumed into heaven without dying (the doctrine of the Assumption, 1950). If Christianity can still pick up new doctrines now, it could do so in its earliest days.

How about that, kids? A poor peasant girl from the outskirts of nowhere grows up to be the mother of God. Work hard and eat your vegetables, and maybe you, too, can be the source of a Christian doctrine!

Was Jesus a miracle worker? Or just a great moral teacher?

“Why can’t we accept that Jesus was an extraordinary moral teacher, without buying into miracles?”

WLC replies:

You can, but you do so at the expense of going against the evidence. That Jesus carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms is so widely attested in every stratum of the sources that the consensus among historical Jesus scholars is that Jesus was, indeed, a faith-healer and exorcist.

Let’s just say that Jesus as an “extraordinary moral teacher” is debatable and move on to that consensus. I always respect the scientific consensus, unlike WLC, who doesn’t care much for Biology’s consensus about evolution. However, the “consensus of historical Jesus scholars” doesn’t mean the collected opinion of free agents because most Jesus scholars are constrained by doctrinal statements. This means that they aren’t free to follow the evidence but must come to a predetermined conclusion. This makes their consensus meaningless.

As for Jesus as a “faith-healer and exorcist,” we know today that evil spirits don’t cause disease, and yet the gospels have Jesus performing many exorcisms as cures. Consider which of these two options seem likelier: (1) evil spirits caused disease 2000 years ago in the time of Jesus but they’ve stopped, or (2) evil spirits never were a cause, and the gospels simply reflect the pre-scientific thinking of their time.

And why does Paul, the earliest source of Jesus information, say nothing about Jesus performing healings? In fact, Paul mentions no Jesus miracles of any sort. More.

One unsurprising possibility is that the Jesus in Paul’s mind was quite different from the Jesus documented in the gospels decades later. A religious message that changes over time is easy to imagine from a naturalistic standpoint, though that is hard to imagine coming from a supposedly historically accurate document.

More questions will be answered (and critiqued) in part 2.

There was an old bugger called God,
who got a young virgin in pod.
This disgraceful behavior
begot Christ our Saviour,
who was nailed to a cross, poor old sod.
— Dylan Thomas

.

*Here are two contradictions in the Luke and Matthew birth narratives.

Luke makes clear that Mary and Joseph live in Nazareth, but Matthew suggests that they lived in Bethlehem. There is no mention in Matthew of them traveling to Bethlehem, suggesting they already live there; the wise men find them in a house rather than a stable or inn, suggesting a permanent home; and Joseph had initially planned on returning from Egypt to Judea (where Bethlehem is) but was convinced to go to Galilee instead (where Nazareth is), suggesting that Nazareth hadn’t originally been their home.

Also, each gospel gives a historical reference that allows the birth to be dated (the death of Herod and the governorship of Quirinius), but these are different dates.

 

Image from Camylla Battani, CC license
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  • Michael Neville

    [Mary] must have been born of a virgin herself (the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, 1854)

    No, Bob. that’s not what the Immaculate Conception is about. The Catholic Encyclopedia says:

    Her body was formed in the womb of the mother, and the father had the usual share in its formation … The formal active essence of original sin was not removed from her soul, as it is removed from others by baptism; it was excluded, it never was in her soul. Simultaneously with the exclusion of sin. The state of original sanctity, innocence, and justice, as opposed to original sin, was conferred upon her, by which gift every stain and fault, all depraved emotions, passions, and debilities, essentially pertaining to original sin, were excluded. But she was not made exempt from the temporal penalties of Adam — from sorrow, bodily infirmities, and death.

    In short, the Immaculate Conception meant that Mary was free of original sin, not that her mother was also a virgin.

    and then that she must have been assumed into heaven without dying (the doctrine of the Assumption, 1950).

    I’ve written several times before about how the Assumption of Mary to heaven came about because in 452 the Byzantine Emperor wanted the Patriarch of Jerusalem to send relics of Mary, preferably her entire skeleton, to Constantinople. The Patriarch couldn’t find any Marian relics and made up an excuse that Mary’s body was “assumed” to heaven. It took almost exactly 1500 years for Pope Pius XII to declare the Assumption to be Catholic dogma.

    Incidentally, some of the medieval theologians took Mary’s virginity so far as to claim that when the Holy Spirit knocked her up impregnated her that the Holy Sperm entered through her ear.

    • digital bookworm

      “…when the Holy Spirit knocked her up impregnated her that the Holy Sperm entered through her ear.”
      I tried that once.

    • Milo C

      Thanks for clarifying. Now we know, Mary could be without sin in her normal mother, but Catholics can’t accept that Jesus might have done the same. Makes so much sense.

    • eric

      The state of original sanctity, innocence, and justice, as opposed to original sin, was conferred upon her

      Nice use of passive voice there to hide a serious flaw in the whole theology. God conferred this state upon her. Which means he is both willing and able to get rid of the whole ‘original sin’ problem, and thus allow everyone to go to heaven without needing to become Christian. But he doesn’t.

      some of the medieval theologians took Mary’s virginity so far as to claim that when the Holy Spirit knocked her up impregnated her that the Holy Sperm entered through her ear.

      Demonstrating (if we needed another example of it) how weird porn isn’t a modern invention.

      • Steven Watson

        My lot can be seriously daft.

    • Thanks for that correction. I’ve amended the post.

      I hadn’t heard about the excuse for not finding Mary’s bones. Fascinating. Yet another clue that today’s emphasis on this or that doctrine wasn’t shared by the early church. Why no monument at Mary’s grave? Or at Jesus’s grave?

      • Jim Jones

        Yet we once had 18 (or 27) of Jesus’ foreskins.

        • Greg G.

          Jesus healed his circumcision every time he took a leak.

        • Jim Jones

          “I told you not to play with it!” — Mary

        • LastManOnEarth

          Gotta collect them all!

        • I think I read that in the definition of “too much information.”

        • Michael Murray

          Both divisible by 9 ? Ah 9 + the square root of 9 is 12 the number of Apostles. That will be it.

        • NSAlito

          There were three other True Shrouds of Christ around when the Shroud of Turin first showed up in the 14th Century. The contemporary Church acknowledged that it wasn’t authentic but allowed it to be an “object of veneration”. Later Church officials still acted as if it were authentic.

        • Jim Jones

          And enough pieces of the true cross to build Noah a new ark.

        • Greg G.

          Then there is the skull of John the Baptist. A tourist said this skull was much smaller than the skull of John the Baptist he saw in the last town he visited.

          The museum guide replied, “Ah, but this is his skull when he was a boy.”

    • Jim Jones

      Humans until about 1850 believed that the baby was a tiny but complete seed-human (a homunculus) in the father’s sperm.

      The mother was a field where the seed was planted. Obviously a previously unused (virgin) field was best.

      The RCC still hasn’t fully abandoned this idea.

      • Steven Watson

        The Koran uses the same obnoxious metaphor. Women are your fields; go plough!

    • Brian Davis

      when the Holy Spirit impregnated her that the Holy Sperm entered through her ear.

      I’m imagining a scene similar to the bug crawling into Chekov’s ear in Wrath of Khan.

      • LastManOnEarth

        It made him…do things.

      • Steven Watson

        Sacrilege! Do not associate Holy Canon with Wholey Wibble. Though shalt not go whoring after false gods! 🙂

    • John Logan

      Liber Requiei Mariae predates this by about a century, so I am not sure what made you think the doctrine of the assumption started in 452.

      • Steven Watson

        Terrible thing, a web browser: you can blow anything up with it.

    • The Jack of Sandwich

      I wonder why God couldn’t have just let Adam and Eve’s children be immaculately conceived. Original Sin would have been gone in a single generation.

      • Michael Neville

        That would have made generations of priests having to find honest work.

      • Greg G.

        Why not put Jesus in the Garden of Eden instead of Adam?

        • Pofarmer

          Speaking of the Garden of Eden. What do you think of the idea that the “Forbidden Fruit” was a Euphemism for sex?

        • Greg G.

          I don’t know. One of the punishments was to make childbirth painful. Seems pointless if they didn’t have sex and therefore childbirth. Then they are commanded to “Go fu‌ck yourselves forth and multiply.”

        • Pofarmer

          Well. Adam and Eve were alone in the Garden and the Garden was perfect and they would live forever, right? So, it kind of makes sense that they didn’t need to procreate. Now sex is pleasurable, so if enjoying sex were the “original sin” it makes sense that childbirth would be painful as a punishment. I’ll have to look at the Genesis story tonsee where the “go forth and multiply” command comes in.

        • Pofarmer

          So yeah, Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are pretty obviously 2 different creation stories. Genesis 1 doesn’t talk about the fall at all, and has the “Go forth and be fruitful and multiply” command. In Genesis 2 Adam and Eve are in the Garden alone. Cain and Able aren’t conceived and born until after “the fall”. I dunno. It’s not a hill I suppose I’m willing to die on. Just thought it was interesting snd maybe kind of explains Paul’s and the Church’s preoccupation with sex.

        • Greg G.

          Paul was fine with screwing when you were horny for married people, after prayers, of course. He expected Jesus was going to show up before any babies came along.

      • Steven Watson

        What, deprive us of fcuking? Get lost. 🙂

      • Michael Murray

        To understand the Garden of Eden properly you need quite advanced theology. Here is an advanced theologian explaining it. Apologies you would have studied him before.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGASvVqzOa0&t=7s

    • Steven Watson

      The whole bloody religion is an Assumption! 🙂

    • Yes, they’re often confused for each other. Incidentally this means we all could have been born without this original sin too. The all-loving God chose otherwise however.

      I’d be interested to read more about the origin of the Assumption. Do you have a source for that?

      • Michael Neville

        The Catholic Encyclopedia article on the Assumption says:

        St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (451), made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.

        I see I was off by a year, Juvenal did his song and dance in 451, not 452 as I said previously.

        • Thanks. I wonder where they got the story about her empty tomb (or knew it was Mary’s etc.). That’s just more problems of course (like many other more plausible explanations for it being empty, or they opened the wrong tomb).

        • Michael Neville

          Or, as so often happened, someone just made it up. According to another tradition, instead of hanging around waiting for Mary to kick off, Thomas went misshing (or whatever the verb for being a missionary is) east of Palestine, ending up in India. For that matter Mark supposedly went to Egypt, where he founded the Coptic Church. Andrew went to Scythia, which was a huge area stretching from what’s now Hungary across Central Europe to the Western Chinese border. Tradition had Simon martyred in Britain. James the Less reportedly went to Spain or maybe Britain or even Ireland (James the More was killed by Herod Antipas because Herod was that kind of guy). Other apostles went elsewhere.

        • Yes, that’s definitely possible as well. Mary is hardly even a character in the Bible once Jesus is born. I think she’s mentioned only twice after that-once Jesus rudely tells her to get lost, then she shows up again at his crucifixion and the resurrection (details differ of course in the Gospels). You’re right, though it contradicts the (themselves contradictory) stories of where the Apostles went after that. I don’t think any said they hung around, so they wouldn’t when or how Mary died. Joseph gets even less mentions as well. I guess that is a bit expected when you’re sort of cuckolded by God.

        • Greg G.

          gJohn mentions four women by name and three of them are named Mary. He mentions Jesus’ mother at the Water into Wine Wedding and at the crucifixion but not by name, though her sister’s name is given as Mary.

        • Right. Lots of Marys to get confused with each other.

        • The Jack of Sandwich

          Jesus’s grandmother was like George Foreman, and insisted on naming all her daughters after herself.

        • Greg G.

          Oops. I posted in the wrong place.

      • Michael Murray

        Mary’s body disappeared and everyone assumed she had gone to heaven. Hence the Feast of the Assumption. Right ? Mind you someone on Stranger Notion once said I hadn’t been Catechised properly.

        • Maybe. That seems like a go-to excuse, though I doubt they’d admit that any lost sheep was ever properly indoctrinated-er, I meant catechised.

        • Michael Murray

          Yes no true Catholic ! Sort of like “you go to hell because you don’t want to be with God so what are you complaining about”.

        • Indeed.

  • RichardSRussell

    This month’s edition of the Atheist Lounge (a project of the Madison Skeptics Meetup) will be entitled “2 Crazy Kids” and will speculate on how history might’ve turned out differently if Joseph and Mary had just fessed up right away to what they’d been up to. If you’re anywhere near Madison on Thu. Dec. 19, consider dropping in:

    https://www.meetup.com/madisonskeptics/events/265644712/

  • Lord Backwater

    is independently attested by Matthew and Luke

    Yes, it appears in both of those synoptic gospels, but “independent”? I don’t think so.

  • eric

    Oh I’d say he was extraordinary – in the ‘radical’ sense of the word, if not the ‘amazingly good’ sense of the word. This is a guy who advocated complete pacifisim, abstaining from all sex, and giving away all your stuff, forsaking your family etc. to preach barefoot on the road. Radical asceticism, basically. That’s pretty extraordinary. Also pretty unworkable as the foundation of a religious organization desiring temporal power, which is why we have loads of theologians explaining how “turn the other cheek” means go out and fight just wars, etc.

    • I agree to a limited extent. Yes, you can cherry pick to make Jesus a pacifist hippie, but then there’s “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword,” “if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one,” and so on. Those theologians can put Jesus’s own words in his mouth to make a pro-war sock puppet.

      • al kimeea

        That sword bit was about the Civil Rights Movement in the US. A Lutheran said it, so it must be so…

      • eric

        I take that first quote to be a reference to the end of the world and a coming judgement. The guy believed it was going to happen in his lifetime, after all. The second quote is exasperation. He’s sitting down to eat with this group, he’s been preaching for years now about kindness and pacifism, and they still don’t get it. ‘Go out and buy a sword’ is IMO given in the same context as “put your fingers in my wounds” or “if you must have sex, do it within marriage” – it’s Jesus giving a concession to his supporters’ inability to meet his ideals.

  • Lex Lata

    “You can, but you do so at the expense of going against the evidence.”

    Against poor evidence, sure.

    Copies of copies [etc.] of anonymous accounts describing even mundane, naturalistic events are viewed with probabilistic and provisional caution by practicing historians. But such documents are somehow good enough to justly accepting one favored batch of the countless miracle narratives passed around during humanity’s particularly creative and credulous adolescence?

    That’s theology, not intellectually consistent historiography or epistemology.

    • Greg G.

      But remember, WLC backs up his religious beliefs with the warm, fuzzy feeling it gives him.

      • Michael Neville

        Plus the voice in his head tells him his beliefs are correct.

        • John Logan

          Yes and the voices in your head tell you to look the other way when people support child molestation.

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          Not to mention the paychecks he gets is proof-positive that his believes are valid.

  • Jim Jones

    > (the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, 1854) (the doctrine of the Assumption, 1950).

    2,000 years of everyone making it up as they go.

    • Steven Watson

      The ideas had been knocking around at the emergence of Orthodoxy if not before. The Poop just blessed an irregular marriage.

  • who could create the entire universe as it was thought to be in the Bronze Age era

    FTFY.

  • The Jack of Sandwich

    Historically speaking, the story of Jesus’ virginal conception is independently attested by Matthew and Luke

    2 anonymous authors who probably never even met Jesus, Mary or Joseph.

    • Steven Watson

      Two vastly different stories that only look the same if you squint very hard. The thing is called Euaggelion

      Guess what that would mean to someone in the Greek speaking parts of the Roman Empire? They would think you were announcing Caesar Augustus. The thing is a transvaluation of Imperial mythology.

      • Greg G.

        I think Luke rejected Matthew’s genealogy (errors) and nativity (baby killing) stories. I think Luke got the census idea from the beginning of Antiquities 18. I think Luke borrowed some ideas from the Seduction of Pauline (Antiquities 18.3.4) where the priest becomes the angel.

  • LastManOnEarth

    The only good thing about reading WLC’s apologetics is not having to see or hear his smarmy delivery.

  • Steven Watson

    G.Mk cribs Paul, the Septuagint, and Josephos. G.Mt cribs G.Mk, Paul and the Septuagint (also possibly Didache), G.Lk cribs both Gospels, the Septuagint, Paul, and Josephos. G.Jn cribs them all. Not to metion assorted bits of Apochrypha and Judean legend, Homer, Menander, and the Orphics. The material only found in 1 Gospel? Authorial licence: where they couldn’t crib, they made it up. William Lane Craig is a very silly man. Don’t give him oxygen.

    • Greg G.

      I put gJohn before gMatthew. I think Mark read the Jewish Wars description of the Sicarii and two paragraphs later read the description of Judas the Galilean as “a cunning sophister”. Then he invented Judas Iscariot by combining them with the first two letters of Sicarii transposed. Then he gave “the Galilean” part to Jesus.

      That creates some tension between gMark and the OT as expressed in a conundrum in John 7:40-42 over whether the Messiah could come from Galilee when the OT says he was supposed to come from Bethlehem. I think that was the motive for Matthew creating a genealogy and a nativity story to explain it. Luke thought Matthew was wrong, since the genealogy missed names and the last set only had 13 names instead of 14 that Matthew made a big deal of. The baby killing was probably a complete turnoff. But there would be no need for it in John if it had already been explained.

      Mark never mentions Jesus’ dad. John says Jesus’ dad was Joseph but never mentions the name of Jesus’ mother, though he does give the name of one of her sisters as Mary. John gives the names of four women and three are named Mary, the fourth is Martha who had a sister named Mary. John didn’t know the name of Jesus’ mother but he seems to be sure it was not Mary.

      The Rich Man and Lazarus seems to be a refutation of the Lazarus resurrection of John. The rich man wanted Lazarus to go back to his father’s house to warn his five brothers. It ends with Abraham saying that if they didn’t listen to Moses, they wouldn’t listen to Lazarus so there was no use in sending him back. John 18:13 says that Ananias was the father-in-law of Caiaphas while Antiquities 20 says that Ananias had five sons who were also chief priests and Luke knew Antiquities. So Luke evidently had Caiaphas in mind when he wrote the rich man character.

      gJohn seems to have two endings with the last chapter added later. I suspect that Luke was using the second edition, borrowing the fishing expedition and using it earlier in gLuke.

      I think the John 7:40-42 conundrum is a directional marker for Matthew using gJohn while the Rich Man and Lazarus parable is a directional marker for Luke using gJohn.

      • Steven Watson

        G. Jn is well on the way to being anti-Jew and 8:44 is straight up gnosticising. Then there is G. Jn’s Christology. If this gospel hadn’t been “tamed” by being canonized I think the Johannine community would have left the Xtian orbit altogether. I suspect a fair chunk, perhaps even the majority, did. But at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how you stack the turds: it is bullshit all the way down. That it is possible to make several seemingly sensible arrangements of the material is a killer. Are we talking about several different cults that wound up converging? As I understand Burton Mack, he has Jesus People and Christ Cult diverging from a real Jesus but these factions, if they are not artefacts of his argument, look too much in ignorance of one another to have started in the same place. I don’t think I am even half way to presenting enough material to form a hypothesis. All I know is the current paradigm is a dead man walking.

      • I Came To Bring The Paine

        Makes sense. Also, Mark and John are the two gospels that portray no knowledge of the miraculous conception of Jesus nor his birth but began their stories with Jesus appearing on the scene as a grown man. So it would make sense that Mark and John were written before Matthew and Luke.

        • Greg G.

          In Mark, it is like Jesus is just some schmuck getting a baptism and wins the prize for being the one millionth customer.

  • Steven Watson
  • Brian Shanahan

    Of course the biggest problem with calling matthew and luke independent is that they are not. They are clearly both cribbed from the oldest gospel, mark, only making alterations to suit the beliefs and prejudices of their audiences.

    Independent would be something along the lines of scribes of both Gaius Octavius and the Gengshi Emperor both giving accounts that were largely consistent with biblical accounts. We can be fairly certain that didn’t happen with Roman writers, because the church went to great lengths between 500 & 1000 CE to destroy histories of the period when Jesus was allegedly active.

  • Len

    Looks like he’s immediately starting with a Gish-gallop strategy.

  • mordred

    Historically speaking, the story of Jesus’ virginal conception is independently attested by Matthew and Luke[…]

    And the other two main sources of Jesus’ life seemingly found virgin birth (and angels, magi, prophecies,…) so unremarkable they didn’t even mention it!

  • Freodin

    WLC’s whole argument can be boiled down to “The story I have here says so… thus is it so.”

    • Brian Curtis

  • Michael Newsham

    Plus Luke has Mary and Joseph present Jesus in the Temple at Jerusalem 40 days after he was born
    “When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord “-Luke 2:22. He is hailed as the Messiah by a famous prophet, and an 84 year old prophetess (you think Herod might have heard of that if he was so suspicious.) Then he is taken back to Nazareth, but Mary and Joseph bring him back to Jerusalem to the Temple every year.
    In Matthew Joseph and Mary live in Bethlehem till Jesus is about two The wise men show up, Herod is alerted, and the Holy Family has to flee to Egypt for a number of years; then moves to Nazareth (first mention of Nazareth) because they’re afraid of Herod’s successors, even though Palestine had become a Roman province by then.
    Since Mark doesn’t mention anything about Jesus’ infancy, whoever wrote Luke and Matthew were trying to make up a miraculous birth. They also had to explain why Jesus, a Galilean, could have been born in Bethlehem. Both made up different stories.

    • Greg G.

      Since Mark doesn’t mention anything about Jesus’ infancy, whoever wrote Luke and Matthew were trying to make up a miraculous birth. They also had to explain why Jesus, a Galilean, could have been born in Bethlehem. Both made up different stories.

      I just posted an explanation below that I think the genealogy and nativity stories were meant to solve the conundrum from John:

      John 7:40-42 (NRSV)40 When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, “This is really the prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But some asked, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? 42 Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?”

  • Lark62

    A certain obnoxious patheos catholic blogger (“Biblical Evidence”) wrote a post on Nov 16 about how Mary’s hymen remained intact before, during and after the birth of Jesus. Yes, really. (Since the only possible definition of virginity = hymen not broken.) If Mary remained a virgin after the Jeez was born, then that magic, precious bit of tissue must have still been intact after the Jeez was born. Blech. In this article, he is scolding a lady who tried to tell him that the male fixation on intact hymens as meaning anything whatsoever is beyond creepy.

    Jesus’ conception was magic! Jesus’ actual birth was magic!

    (Will they figure out it is all magic, fairy tales and make believe? Don’t hold your breath.)

    I strongly recommend against posting anything at that site – Armstrong is thoroughly unethical in his treatment of comments. After blocking people who disagree with him, he will create an one or more blog posts misquoting and attacking the person. And being blocked, they person has no way of responding. Don’t give him fuel.

    I am only putting this here because the post is good for a laugh. And a case study in over the top religious misogyny.

    • Not simply creepy-it’s caused all sorts of grief (even assault or murder) for girls or women whose hymen wasn’t when inspected (not that many “tests” worked anyway), since many cultures have a (female) virginity obsession to the point they would kill them for supposed fornication when it’s allegedly broken before they married. Obviously, this can happen a lot of ways besides sex, but try explaining that to outraged kin folk.

      • Lark62

        And add to that the ridiculous claim that the “Virgin Mary” can only still be a virgin if her hymen remained unbroken by child birth. It’s just crazy.

        • Judgeforyourself37

          LMAO, maybe Mary had a Caesarian Section when she had Jesus? As for how she became pregnant, come now, Evangelicals and those who are members of the Roman Catholic Church, if your daughter came home, announced that she was pregnant, but never, ever, ever had sex with a boy, or a man, what would you say to her? Would you believe her? Nope, not a snowball’s chance in H311 that you’d believe her. You would know how she became pregnant as everyone, including the “Virgin” Mary, only becomes pregnant if she had vaginal intercourse with a man. Some translations of the Bible state that “Virgin” means a young woman of marriageable age. BTW, who checked Virgin Mary’s hymen?

        • The Jack of Sandwich

          With Conservative Christians opposing every scientific advance as it came along, especially those involving sex, was there ever push back from Christians over C sections? Were they ever the boogieman that birth control or abortion has been?

        • Greg G.

          Isn’t “Caesarian Section” named for Julius Caesar because that is how he was born? It would have been over a century older than Catholicism.

        • eric

          I’m watching “animal fight night” on Nat Geo Wild at the moment. Some baboon-like high ranking male monkey just tried to murder an infant because the females won’t mate while they have kids.

          The obsession with female genitalia and who might have done what to it isn’t crazy. More like…bestial.

        • Pofarmer

          To quote Christopher Hitchens, “We are evolved primates, not fallen angels.

      • Michael Murray

        Presumably the problem goes back to the point in evolution when homo sapien (earlier?) female ovulation no longer became obvious and women became able to have sex all the time. From then on the males didn’t know where their genes had gone and as human childhood extended the investment in effort raising those genes became extreme. God should have let us have free will and bums that change colour. Life might have been simpler. Or course you can’t be sure that bums that change colour is compatible with free will.

        • Yes, that seems likely. I’ve heard that some human cultures however weren’t clear on how paternity worked, or that men were even involved with reproduction, so it lasted longer for them.

    • The Jack of Sandwich

      If Mary remained a virgin after the Jeez was born,

      Which there’s no reason to think, even if you believe the Bible is 100% true…

      • Lark62

        Unless of course one is a misogynist 69asshole who thinks a woman’s value is dependent on her virginity. They think Mary remained a virgin. They don’t realize she’s make believe.

      • MR

        Unless of course there was an Immaculate Cesarean.

    • Pofarmer

      That’s a seriously deranged dude right there. He’d have been all up in the inquisitions back in the day.

  • Brian Curtis

    Jesus was, indeed, a faith-healer and exorcist

    Since both of those terms are synonymous with “fraud,” I don’t think Craig realizes what he’s admitting here.

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      No man, this is like CS Lewis’ “true myth”. This is the one time something fraudulent is actually real. All the frauds are there just to heighten the amazement for the legitimate one. Or something.

  • Contractions of Fate

    William Lame Crackhead can kiss my butt.

  • ralphmeyer

    Both tales in Matthew and Luke are obviously fictions created to manufacture a miraculous birth for Jesus…Their contradictions mean we have 3 choices: Historically Mt. is right and Lk. wrong, Lk is right and Mt. wrong, or both are fiction. Historical and information from the way the universe always operates indicate that both tales are just that: made up fictional tales…like most of what is found in the rest of the Gospels. Like Mormonism, Christianity is just a humanly manufactured outlook. As someone once commented, If somebody prays to an entity whose existence can’t be proved, we say they’re merntally ill; suffering from delusion; If hundreds or thousands of people do the same to some supposed unprovable entity–and the existence of a god or gods has never been able to be proved–it’s called a religion! Historical Mythicists claim on the basis of historical evidence that there wasn’t even a human being named Yeshua or Jesus who ever existed, and that even the person in the Gospels was made up 70 years after such a being was supposed to have lived. Kinda blows Christianity into the same questionably fallacious cauldron as that fictitious nonsense created by the charlatan and convicted con-man, Joe Smith: Mormonism.

    • Michael Neville

      “In a cult there is a person at the top who knows it’s a scam. In a religion that person is dead.” –Anon

    • Greg G.

      There a quote from Sam Harris about President George W. Bush saying he talks to God everyday. Harris said that if the president said he talked to God through his hair dryer everyday, people would think he is crazy. Harris pointed out that the hair dryer is not what makes it crazy.

    • Lord Backwater

      Teh Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints missionaries came by my door a couple weeks ago. One of them was begging me to just read the Book of Mormon, with the implied accusation that I hadn’t given it a fair shot. But seriously; if I reject the supernatural claims of the Old Testament and I reject the supernatural claims of the New Testament and I know the Book of Mormon to be archaeologically extremely unlikely to be true (which I had already discussed with him), he thinks that a reading of Joseph Smith’s fraud is going to change my mind?

      • eric

        It’s always best to go to the nice people at the door with your Book of Mormon, Bible, and copy of a Watchtower. Then invite them in with a “why yes, I believe in Jesus. Now come in and discuss my message from Satan.”

        • Shari

          I always reply that I am an elder in the Presbyterian church. Which I am because once an elder always an elder even if I haven’t gone/believed in 25 years. I then ask if that would be possible in their church. I know women are not allowed to hold those kinds of positions. They say no and I tell them I’m not interested. I do the same with Seventh Day Adventists which seem to be many around here.

      • Michael Neville

        Don’t bother to read the Book of Mormon. Mark Twain described it quite concisely as “chloroform in print”.

      • I’ve read the Book of Mormon. It actually makes LDS less believable than before; those fellows are sabotaging their case by trying to get people to read it.

        To be specific (and to show I’m not just throwing out a one-liner): the book is full of pseudohistory. Much of it (seemed like a majority) was a detailed history of the ancestors of today’s First Nations peoples, describing huge cities and enormous battles fought here with Old World weapons (“cimiters” etc.) that completely fail to turn up in the archeological record. It also details plants and animals these people had, all of which are Old World (wheat, cows, etc.) and never mentions most New World plants and animals (squash, llamas, etc.).

  • gemini bowie

    The xian god can create the universe from nothing and create a fully formed first man from dirt, but later had to knock up a teenage virgin to get a Jewish zombie as a son.

    Go figure.

    • Michael Murray

      But you can’t prove that for some reason not understood by us mere mortals that a universe with free will doesn’t work exactly like this.

      • gemini bowie

        Explain.

        • Greg G.

          I am pretty sure MM is facetiously giving the old “God limits his omnipotence/omniscience for free will” routine that an apologist would give for any problematic question.

        • gemini bowie

          Thanks. I was thinking that, but wasn’t sure if I was misinterpreting sarcasm.

        • Greg G.

          His fault for not adding the “/s”.

        • Michael Murray

          Sorry I’m having a dig at the kind of argument that people sometimes like to mount. You say “If God created the world why is their suffering?” They say “Well maybe it’s impossible for even God to create a world in which there is free will and no suffering”. It’s rubbish of course because God could have created a world in which there is free will and less suffering (because we have done that).

        • gemini bowie

          Agreed. Thanks for explaining.

  • gemini bowie

    Christianity – the story of a young girl who covered-up an unwed pregnancy with a lie that got way out of control.

  • Chris Jones

    ” However, the “consensus of historical Jesus scholars” doesn’t mean the collected opinion of free agents because most Jesus scholars are constrained by doctrinal statements. This means that they aren’t free to follow the evidence but must come to a predetermined conclusion. This makes their consensus meaningless.”

    And this is a key point, one not to be breezed past. I think it’s pretty damn critical. That we do have a lot of otherwise well trained NT scholars is tainted badly by the fact that a large number of them have ideological commitments to a position that inhibits their ability to do objective and methodologically sound work. Some small number of scholars who maintain some kind of “faith” identity manage to break free, do great work, and either reconcile that great work to their beliefs somehow, or adapt the beliefs around it. The likes of E.P. Sanders, John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, etc. fit into this “great work” category. Some mostly do — the late Raymond Brown for example. But the majority? Nope. They seem incapable of putting good scholarship ahead of that faith commitment. And when that is true, any work they produce is suspect and most of it is worthless.

  • Pat LafordGreen

    He did an entire episode about me and my kid once. That is all I have to say about him. Grrr.

    • Lark62

      That’s beneath contempt.

      • Gord O’Mitey

        Ya got that right, eh. I’m gonna send him ter Hell fer that ther’ feckin’ bit of blasphemy, ter be tortured fer eternity. Y’all knows how I enjoys that, seein’ as I’m gittin’ bored with all them ther’ feckin’ angels dancin’ on the head of a feckin’ pin, an’ singin’ My praises 24/7, fer the last six thousand years, eh. So watchin’ all that ther’ torturin’, which I arranged fer, is the best entertainment I kin git. I know, y’all would think, seein’ as I’m omnipotent an’ omniscient, an’ all that, that I’d be able ter make better entertainment, eh. But I’m a feckin’ sadist, so it ain’t My feckin’ fault.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Don’t let anyone tell you you’re all bad, Gord.

        • Gord O’Mitey

          That’s okay, Just. If anyone were to, it’d be off ter Hell fer them, eh. (Heh, heh, heh, that’d be another one ter torture fer eternity.)

  • The virgin birth, actually virgin conception if your not Catholic, is curiously missing from Paul, who wrote before Matthew and Luke and is absent from the earliest Gospel, Mark’s. I seriously doubt that either were aware of the story, which Matthew and Luke pulled from a common source at a later time. The virgin narrative is actually not necessary for Paul’s soteriology or his story of Christ’s ascension and deification at the side of the Father. Nor is the narrative necessary to “keep Jesus free from the curse of sin,” as the story of “original sin” was a misconception brought about by Augustine’s poor scholarship in the 5th century, relying on Latin texts rather than Greek.
    More than likely, the virgin narratives arose as Gentiles began to flood into the church and brought stories with them, and influences from their pagan backgrounds.
    The virgin birth has brought with it all sorts of wild ideas about the “Mother of God,” her perpetual virginity, and a slanted male perspective on a woman’s worth. I prefer to think that if God was to show His love in the most profound way, he would do it through a child born out of wedlock, to a poor carpenter and his teenage wife. The virgin conception really sets Jesus apart as “not one of us.”

    • Pofarmer

      All the evidence shows that Christianity was indeed, initially a Gentile religion. It found very few converts among the Jews of the day. Jewish scholars don’t even take note of it till around 600 A.D. So it’s no surprise that most of the tropes that made it into Christianity have a very Greek flavor.

      • At least, Christianity as a discrete religion. That might be a good dividing line from the initial period when Christians were a sect withing Judaism.

        • Greg G.

          There are ~49,000 denominations who feel they are discrete from the denomination down the street, too.

      • Partially true. We have the Apostle Paul to thank, in large part, as he saw the universality of Jesus’ message, which was in stark contrast to the tribalism of Second Temple Judaism. But the core elements of Jesus’ message: two aeons (ages), apocalyptic hyperbole, Son of Man, coming destruction, etc., somewhat typical of Jewish messianic messages of the day. What started as a call for reform of a badly compromised Second Temple Judaism ended up distancing itself from Judaism as more and more Gentiles converted. What you need to realize is that by 600 A.D., Christianity had radically changed from Jesus’ original, largely Jewish message, its Jewish flavor largely ignored and redacted out. Coupled with the rise of Western, Latin branch of Christendom and the eclipse of Eastern Greek branch, the die was cast. The break from Judaism became complete.

        • Greg G.

          The break from Judaism became complete.

          Early Christians used the Septuagint until Jerome figured the original Hebrew would be the inspired version and began to push that. Even today scholars tend go back to the Hebrew rather than the Greek OT even though the NT authors preferred the Septuagint.

        • And of course, the Septuagint brought the misunderstanding of “virgin” into the messianic narrative. We even get further afield when many of the early Church Fathers began to rely more on Latin translations.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, sorta. I mean we don’t exactly know what Cephas and James were preaching over in Jerusalem, although we do know that there were disagreements with Paul. It appears that it’s possible they weren’t teaching a crucified messiah, but a messiah to come. That history is lost to us. Paul seems to have made up plenty of stuff on his own. What may or may not have been a “Jesus” message is also pretty much completely lost to us. It’s true, Paul taught that pretty much anybody could be “saved” through Jesus, which was kind of a strange idea at the time, and certainly encouraged many Gentiles to join. It doesn’t appear that the Jews really bought it though, because they don’t really even mention it.

        • I think the Jesus message is actually pretty clear. One has to pick through the texts a bit though. Jesus, unlike later teaching in the church, was pretty laser focused on the temporal, that is, life here and now. The Kingdom of Heaven began now, the coming apocalypse of the destruction of Jerusalem was in the very near future. The ethics of the Kingdom were to be lived now. The Kingdom was unlike that of Rome: the poor were rich, the weak, strong, etc. Yes, I think Paul took things in a different direction, emphasizing hope even in the midst of persecution, giving it a more eschatological spin. As persecution picked up, the authors of the NT began to look more heavenward until, today, when we have evangelicals replacing any concept of social justice with “pie in the sky, bye and bye.”

  • Damien Priestly

    So why didn’t God just make Jesus materialize into existence as an adult, instead of forcing some virgin to be a pregnant savior incubator? That would have convinced more people at the time that Christ was really the son of God….and saved our virgin Mary a risky pregnancy considering the practically non-existent pre-natal medical care available to women in animal herding societies at the time.

    It is almost like this virgin birth thing is a concocted story — to cover up for a girl who perhaps found some sexy-time fun with a Shepherd boy (sorry Joseph) — to make up for the miserable existence of tribal women at the time?

  • Jim X

    Did Jesus become god at conception–when he wasn’t conceived–or at birth when he was circumcised as a Jew? Or was it at his bar mitvah?

    • Greg G.

      Why don’t you ask Luke? Oh, wait, Nevermind.

      Became the Christ
      At Birth or Before – Luke 2:11
      During Lifetime – Acts 10:37-38; Acts 4:27
      After Resurrection – Acts 2:38; Acts 3:20

      Received the Title Lord
      At Birth or Before – Luke 2:11
      During Lifetime – Luke 10:1
      After Resurrection – Acts 2:38

      Received the Title Saviour
      At Birth or Before – Luke 2:11
      During Lifetime – Acts 13:23-24
      After Resurrection – Acts 5:31

      Became the Son of God
      At Birth or Before – Luke 1:32-35; Luke 3:23-38
      During Lifetime – Luke 8:28; Luke 9:35
      After Resurrection – Acts 13:33

    • TS (unami)

      Before? As in Always was God, even prior to conception?

      • Greg G.

        That is John 1:1-18.

        • TS (unami)

          Exactly.

    • Otto
  • Laurance

    Virgin birth exclusive to christians? No such thing among “pagans”? “and is utterly unlike anything in pagan mythology or Judaism.”

    Ummmm….Buddha’s mother had a dream encounter, now am I right about this? with a white elephant who pierced her side with his tusk. And nine months later, while on her way to visit her family, she stopped at Lumbini. Standing under a tree and raising her arm, she gave birth not in the normal way, but from her side. The baby walked around, and I can’t remember the details, but he raised one hand pointing up and the other hand pointing down and declared, “Heavens above, Earth below, I alone am the Only Honored One.”

    Do I believe this for even one minute? Hell, no. But I get that there are some Buddhists who do.

    Was mother Mahamaya a virgin? I don’t think virginity was a big deal in that legend. But still it was a Miracle Birth Story.

    And didn’t Hercules have a Miraculous Birth? And a bunch o’ other folks?

    I forget how Krishna was born, but his story, which is earlier, is just so very similar to the Jeezuz story.