The Excessive Miracle of the Virgin Birth (and Should We Believe it?)

The Excessive Miracle of the Virgin Birth (and Should We Believe it?) December 11, 2014

This post is part of a special Patheos conversation: “Modern Magi on the Meaning of Christmas,” featuring myself, Scot McKnight, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and Billy Kangas.

Without fail, every Christmas morning Dad read us the “Christmas story” from the gospel of Luke. This doubled as an exercise in patience (and sanctification), since the cinnamon rolls and presents had to wait till after the good book was read. In that story of Jesus’ birth, Luke tells us that the birth of Jesus through Mary was special: “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Matthew’s version is even more explicit. There the angel explains to Joseph that “what is conceived in [Mary] is from the Holy Spirit.”

In all those years hearing the Christmas story, I never really thought to question the miracle of the virginal conception. It seemed such an integral and “natural” (though, quite super-natural) element of the story. The savior of the world comes into the world in a unique way–a way that transcends or even upends normal processes. This is not just the Messiah, this is the Son of God. Indeed, this is God, though now in human flesh, as the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

1490aboutGeertgen_tot_Sint_Jans_002Jesesassourceoflight
Geertgen tot Sint Jans, 1490

The Apostle’s Creed, one of the earliest and most ecumenical (universal) of Christian confessions states that Jesus Christ “was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.” Christians all over the world confess this creed regularly and with great feeling during the Christmas season.

But what does the confession of this article of faith entail? What does the idea of the virgin birth really mean? And, most controversially, should we really believe that the virgin birth actually happened?

Karl Barth, a significant modern theologian, put the latter question this way: “When two theologians with apparently the same conviction confess the mystery of Christmas, do they mean the same thing by that mystery, if one acknowledges and confesses the Virgin birth to be the sign of the mystery while the other denies it as a mere externality or is ready to leave it an open question?” (Church Dogmatics, I.2., 179)

We could unpack the shades of meaning in that question–and consider whether there are other options than what he presents–but to whittle it down, he is asking whether confessing the “mystery of Christmas,” the incarnation of the Son of God, involves also confessing in a historical, though supernatural, virginal conception. That is, should we read the infancy narratives as in fact claiming that there was no human male (Joseph) involved in the conception of Jesus? This assumption was seemingly taken for granted by most early Christians and became inscribed into the creeds (from the Apostles’ through the Chalcedonian definition and forward). While originally it was emphasized to highlight the humanity of Jesus, it became a way of underscoring both his humanity and his divinity. Eventually it also became a way of protecting Jesus from “original sin” (we can thank Augustine for that), but that’s a story for another day.

Early Christians took the idea of the virginal conception of Jesus with utmost seriousness and they understood it to be a divine miracle, which actually took place).

In a Christmas sermon, Augustine noted that the virginal conception means that Jesus’ unique birth mirrored his unique identity: his dual natures as both divine and human complicated his parental origin (O’Collins, 294) He preached,

angelico1Christ was born both from a father and a mother, but without a father and without a mother. From the Father he was born God, from the mother he was born a man; without a mother he was born God, without a father he was born a man.

Conviction in the virgin birth developed in some very intriguingly speculative ways. Early theologians were reluctant to even imagine that the womb of Mary was altered in any way, by the sexual act and even by the birth itself. The apocryphal Ascension of Isaiah claimed that after the birth of Jesus, “her womb was found as it was before she became pregnant”; similarly, the Odes of Solomon said there was no “physical travail” involved in the birth of Jesus (see Kelly, 491-492). Emphasis on virginal purity also led to speculative, textually groundless doctrines regarding the “perpetual virginity” of Mary.

Nonetheless, I affirm that simply because early Christians believed something to be true or interpreted a text in a certain way, doesn’t require us to follow suit if there is good reason to take a different interpretation.

Plenty of contemporary theologians have rejected the “plain,” traditional reading of the virgin birth story, in favor of reading it as a legend with deep theological significance. Others have argued that to focus on the historical, or even biological details of the story, as if that’s what we should really take away from it, is to miss the point. Some have also argued that to accept the virgin birth at face value could be theologically detrimental.  Jürgen Moltmann, for example, argued that taking the virgin conception at face value could lead one to underestimate the complete humanity of Jesus. He suggested that a normal human birth, with two biological parents, might give us a better sense of Jesus’ full humanity.

Moltmann says of the biblical writers: “The narrator’s aim is not to report a gynaecoloigcal miracle. Their aim is to confess Jesus as the messianic Son of God and to point at the very beginning of his life to the divine origin of his person” (Moltmann, 82).

He rightly emphasizes the theological significance of the virgin birth account. This story tells us that Jesus is the unique Son of God who, as the resurrected Messiah, is able to overcome death and to bring about the salvation of the world. For Moltmann, the infancy narrative is really a story about the relation of Jesus Christ to the Holy Spirit, much more than it is about the biological nature of the birth itself. The Spirit, who is the real mother of Jesus, “creates,” bestowing life upon Jesus Christ, in a sense just as the Spirit bestows life upon the church today, and just as the Spirit continues to recreate and bring salvation into the world. The birth of Jesus was the entrance into the world of the unique Son of God who brings life and resurrection. Whether that happened biologically through virginal conception or through a “normal” conceptional process is, for Moltmann, quite beside the point.

But is it (beside the point)? Is a theology of Jesus Christ, a vision of the meaning of Christmas, unaffected by the question of whether the virgin birth really happened in space and time–in ‘real’ history? Karl Barth said, “No” (or, Nein, rather). For Barth, to relinquish conviction in the actual time and space occurrence of the virgin birth is to diminish the meaning of the Christmas mystery. The virgin birth story was, he thought, the “guard” at the “door of the mystery of Christmas.” (Church Dogmatics, I.2, 181). The virgin birth protected the revelation of the uniqueness of Christ, the divinity of Jesus, and of the divine initative of God in salvation.

Barth was convinced that the virgin birth and the resurrection account are like bookends of the miraculous life of Jesus; both accounts require faith in the revelation of God and both witness to the intervention and initiative of God to bring salvation to the world. As he put it,

The Virgin birth at the opening and the empty tomb at the close of Jesus’ life bear witness that this life is a fact marked off from all the rest of human life, and marked off in the first instance, not by our understanding or our interpretation, but by itself (Church Dogmatics, I.2., 183).

Barth did note, however, that the virgin birth is not an element of belief required for having faith. For Barth, God’s gift of grace in salvation is not contingent on ‘orthodox’ theological beliefs.

To sum up, for Moltmann, the infancy narrative is a legend with great theological meaning, whereas the virgin birth itself is a dispensable miracle account whose significance has nothing to do with biological mechanisms of reproduction. It offers, in itself, no key to the theology of Jesus, but is an interposition from later, post-resurrection, understandings of Jesus’ divine person. As he puts it, “The confession of faith in Jesus, the Son of God, the Lord, is independent of the virgin birth, and is not based on it.” For Moltmann, the infancy narrative tells us about the Spirit and Jesus in fellowship with the Father bringing salvation to the world. For Barth, on the other hand, the virgin birth is an indispensable miracle of God’s free grace, a miracle which ensures that the beginning of Christ’s story matches its ending–supernatural intervention, divine initiative, salvation.

So what about you? So what about me? I have gravitated over to the “progressive Christian channel” and away from the “evangelical” channel of Patheos, but not because of the virgin birth question. (I’ll explain more about my ‘migration’ another time).

When I consider Moltmann and Barth side by side on the question, in light of the larger backdrop of Christian tradition and biblical testimony, I side with Barth in affirming the actuality of the virginal conception of Jesus  in large part because I have no good reason not to believe it. Moltmann’s reasoning is compelling, but not quite convincing. And if you believe in the possibility of miracles, there is no de facto reason to deny that this miracle occurred, particularly since the unfolding of events in which it stands is so earth-shatteringly unique. The Catholic theologian Gerald O’Collins put it well: “When a pre-existent, divine person acquires a human nature, why could this not happen through a virginal conception” (O’Collins, 287)? If you believe in the supernatural, bodily resurrection why not also believe in the virginal conception? God comes out of death through a superlative divine intervention, and comes into earthly life through a superlative divine intervention. The beginning matches the end–though the end (the resurrection) exceeds it still.

Of course, one can believe that the “natural” process of normal biological conception, of a man and a woman, can also be a work of God’s infinite, providential grace. But the question here, it seems to me, is whether there are compelling enough reasons to move beyond “traditional” readings of the infancy narrative? 

The enchantment of hearing the Christmas story as a child, replete with the miraculous intervention of God in time and space, is something I do not want to leave behind easily–though I would hope that I am willing to do so if some combination of theological, scientific, etc. reasons compelled me. For me, rather than a dispensable legend (even one replete with theological significance), the virginal conception stands at the front of the gospels as an excessive miracle–a lavish witness to the superlative nature of Christ as Messiah and Emmanuel, the one who is God and who lived among us, and we “saw his glory” (Jn 1:14).

 

 

 

 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • DC Rambler

    A third of America really, really believes that Obama is a Kenyan born secret Muslim that his plotting to destroy the nation…
    We tend to call information ” true ” if it confirms what we already believe and are suspicious or hostile to ideas that dare to challenge our lifelong collection of thoughts, theories and beliefs..
    As I read the above piece, I wondered how such an smart, deep person could wrap themselves such a linguistic pretzel over something so simple..Blow It Up !
    Time to re-boot..Take your old Bible brain, flip it over like an Etch-A-Sketch, and shake, shake, shake !
    So many of us carry so many traces of old drawings in our heads that we need a clean, fresh approach to our spirituality and how we read the Bible..Well…It worked for me…

  • Kathy K-m

    As I understand it, the virgin birth, as well as a few other details that are sometimes inconsistent in the texts, were nods to the Messianic prophesies of early Jewish prophets. Jesus was, after all, intended to be the Jewish Messiah.
    Also, at the time, many of the mythological gods were born of virgins, so it just seemed to be an add-on, confirmation.

  • Frank6548

    As if “working for me” is the point.

  • bill wald

    Myths are stories of beginnings, not history or science texts. One doesn’t need to “believe in” science. “Science” should be reserved for ideas which can be falsified. If these is no a test to demonstrate that a idea is false then we can’t claim it is true.

    It doesn’t matter if miracles have happened, only that they could have happened.

  • Al Cruise

    A third of America really, really believes that Obama is a Kenyan born secret Muslim that his plotting to destroy the nation… . Yes and out of that third of Americans, I would guess 99% of them are white conservative fundamentalist evangelicals.

  • Dan Addington

    In your essay, Barth and O’Collins both connect the VBirth and the Rez together as miracu-bookends that seem to be cross-referential and metaphysically tied to each other. And both theologians affirm both miracles. What of Moltmann? By disavowing the time/space reality of the VB, if he were then to affirm the Rez, he’d be throwing that “life of Jesus symmetry” out of whack, and the life of Christ would lose a little bit of aesthetic balance. So, does Moltmann follow suit with the resurrection?

  • d marino

    The entire narrative is nothing more than a story. How about it was invitro fertilization if you want it to be believable.

  • Even crazies like Mr Obama’s literary agents Acton & Dystel touted the then-Democratic junior senator from Illinois as ‘born in Kenya,’ as late as 2007.

  • Saviors have to be haploid.

  • lorasinger

    In Jewish terms, there is no THE messiah. There were many messiahs, the name meaning only “anointed” king/leader. David and Solomon were both messiahs, as was Cyrus and a murdered priest. A messiah had tasks to fulfil during his lifetime that showed he was a true messiah. Jesus, if he was a messianic candidate, failed to fulfil them and so was cast aside as a true messiah.
    .
    There is not even one prophecy for Jesus or any supernatural messiah in Judaism. Their messiah was fully human with a lineage going back to David and of the clan of Beth-Lechem (bread).

  • lorasinger

    Then, they should also be able to make miracu-bookends of Mithra, Dionysus, Horus and Attis (and others) all born of gods and virgin mothers on December 25th, all sacrificial men gods who died for mankind and were resurrected. All of them were popular in Rome during that time (Rome was a hodge podge of religions) and Rome is where Christianity organized and grew as an offspring of Paul’s man god doctrine as opposed to the Jewish purely human state of Jesus doctrine of the Jerusalem “Christians”.

  • lorasinger

    How about it never happened at all?

  • Phlegon

    That sounds suspiciously like that spurious youtube documentary made up by a random tinfoil hatter who brought absolutely no qualifications to the table and obviously didn’t do any research at all.

    Simply looking up the gods you list on Wikipedia should disabuse you of these nonsensical theories.

  • lorasinger

    Simply looking BEYOND Wikipedia into historical mythology or a comparative religions text will tell you otherwise.

  • Nope, that’s all bunk, and I’m a Pagan. There are some similarities, but nothing like what you are suggesting. The Horus stuff is especially wrong. (Click the link at the bottom of this message for more).

    As for Jesus being born of a virgin . . . well it doesn’t even seem to be an early tradition within Christianity. Its absent from Mark, the oldest gospel, and Paul doesn’t explicitly mention it in his letters (the earliest writings in the New Testament). If Jesus had been born of a literal virgin you think he would have mentioned it.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/panmankey/2014/12/4-things-people-say-at-christmas-that-are-most-likely-wrong/

  • lorasinger

    1. sacred-texts.com/bib/cv/pch/index.htm
    2. PCOM.com/info
    .
    You are right, it wasn’t a tradition of the first Jewish Christians because it isn’t a Jewish concept and the first Christians were actually a sub sect of Judaism – practicing Jews. The man god concept doesn’t exist in Judaism.
    .
    Paul’s gentile Christians had their pagan man-god and cherry pick (wrongly) from Isaiah 7:14 to support the idea of a virgin birth. Paul’s Christianity is largely pagan based.

  • lorasinger

    QUOTE FROM PCOM: Jesus was new—in the same way the first Honda Accord was a new car and the first Mountain Dew was a new soda pop. But you know and I know, without, God help us, some associate professor of Cars and Sodas to tell us, that Honda didn’t invent the car when they built the Accord and Mountain didn’t invent soda when they made Dew.

    The Accord and Dew were new arrangements of old ideas. Some new stuff, but mostly old.So was Jesus. Jesus was the Son of God who suffered, died, and came back to life. But He wasn’t the first Son of God who suffered, died, and came back to life. He brought salvation; but He wasn’t the God first to do that either. His dad was a God and his mom was a mortal woman; He wasn’t the first God there either. It’s the same with miracles, disciples, ascending to heaven

  • lorasinger

    Quote from POCM:

    The first people who believed Jesus was a God already knew what properties Gods had. And when they came to tell about Jesus’ life, they naturally told it the way they saw it, with Jesus as a God, with the standard God properties. Jesus came from Heaven. Check. To Earth Check. Via a magical God-mortal birth. Check. In fulfillment of prophesy. Check. Heralded by magic God-sent dreams. Check. He did miracles. Check. He brought salvation. Check.

    Jesus is a new version of an old idea. Jesus was a new Pagan God.

  • not true, of course.

  • Diploid saviors aren’t magical enough.

  • exactly

  • Hey Dan, yes, Moltmann affirms the miracle of resurrection. He’s careful not to call it a “historical” event as such, but an “eschatological” event. However, to say it’s not “historical” is not to say that it didn’t happen in time and space, for Moltmann. The materiality of the resurrection is deeply important to his theology. He says, “Like the raising of the dead Christ by God through his life-giving Spirit, the resurrection of the dead is also expected as a physical happening touching the whole person, namely as a ‘giving life to mortal bodies’ (Rom. 8:11).” So, the reason he denies virginal conception is not because it is a miracle or claims supernatural intervention, but on other grounds.

  • and of course, we should discuss this further over beers, soon.

  • Phlegon

    Let’s just go through the list one by one (I’ll leave out Horus, as he’s already been addressed by JasonMankey):

    Mithra sprung ready-made from a rock, no virgin involved. He never died, sacrificially or otherwise. It’s true that one of his major celebrations was on Dec. 25th, but the Christian calculation of this day as the birthday of Christ is actually attested somewhat earlier (beginning of 3rd century) and is based on independent Jewish traditions.

    None of the alleged mothers of Dionysos was a virgin (the father is alway Zeus, and he didn’t leave any virgins). Those dionysiac myths that involve death and resurrection are clearly vegetational – there is never any suggestion of a sacrificial death for mankind. Accordingly, the major celebration in Rome was in spring.

    As was the celebration of Attis, himself a vegetation hero, in the context of the Cybele cult. His mother conceived him after having an almond drop into her vagina whilst resting under the penis tree. I don’t know if she still counted as a virgin after that experience, but according to the myth, her father clearly didn’t think so.
    The death of Attis was not sacrificial, but simply the result of a lover’s spat with Cybele. His resurrection was purely for her enjoyment, not for the salvation of mankind.

  • Many Christians confess that Jesus Christ was completely biologically human, overstepping ‘normal’ biological / procreational procedures to do so. That’s what miracles do.

  • lorasinger

    The man-god concept does not come from the Jews or from the Tanakh. You differ with me on Jesus being of the pagan man-god group. So, tell me what YOUR theory is in regard to the origins of the Jesus man-god, virgin born, father the great god himself story? What is the Jesus story most closely resemble?
    .

    POCM writes this: “Jesus was new—in the same way the first Honda Accord was a new car and the first Mountain Dew was a new soda pop. But you know and I know, without, God help us, some associate professor of Cars and Sodas to tell us, that Honda didn’t invent the car when they built the Accord and Mountain didn’t invent soda when they made Dew.
    .
    The Accord and Dew were new arrangements of old ideas. Some new stuff, but mostly old.So was Jesus. Jesus was the Son of God who suffered, died, and came back to life. But He wasn’t the first Son of God who suffered, died, and came back to life. He brought salvation; but He wasn’t the God first to do that either. His dad was a God and his mom was a mortal woman; He wasn’t the first God there either. It’s the same with miracles, disciples, ascending to heaven

  • Phlegon

    What I actually disagreed with was your statement that the gods you mentioned had the specifcs you ascribed to them (virgin mother, Dec. 25th, sacrificial death and resurrection).

    Salvation was indeed a major topic of hellenistic and early imperial religiosity. Suffering, on the other hand, is extremely rare amongst gods. Dying and coming back to life happens occasionally. Mortals and immortals have children frequently, though not all of them are divine themselves – and they always have sex, which is an element conspicuously absent in Mary’s conception.
    Miracles, I’d say, are trivial. Disciples of gods, however, are unheard of in pagan contexts, they only make sense in a tradition of theological teaching, like the Jewish one. The frequency of someone ascending to heaven probably depends on what you define as heaven (would Olympus count, or the night sky, or the Happy Isles?)

    I’m not altogether sure what you’re getting at with all these things.
    And I’d say the story of Jesus resembles most closely to itself.

    By the way, who is POCM?

  • lorasinger

    I’m “getting at” the fact that the man god Jesus concept is entirely absent in Judaism, what Christians consider to be their “roots and of what remains, it is most closely aligned to the pagan/heathen religions.

    .

    I gave you past information based on what I’d read so I’m sorry if in areas, am wrong.

    .

    The basics of paganism (not likely yours, since most present pagan beliefs, I think are nature worship and/or Wicca, most of which is relatively new in origin. There are and have always been many kinds of paganism all through the world. I’m looking at it from a historical sense when Jews considered all other religions to be pagan.

    .

    The pagan “Christs” had standard God properties. Jesus came from Heaven. Check.
    To Earth Check.
    Via a magical God-mortal birth. Check.
    In fulfillment of prophesy. Check.
    Heralded by magic God-sent dreams. Check.
    He did miracles. Check.
    He brought salvation. Check.
    .
    Jesus is a new version of an old idea. Jesus was a new Pagan God
    .
    POCM stands for Pagan origins of the Christ Myth.
    POCM.info.
    .
    I do have a host of other sites and articles as well. POCM is one of them. Pagan Christs by Tom Harpur is another good one in hardcover book form

  • lorasinger

    Read The Golden Bough (Frasier). Depending on the part of the country, the stories of a god differed from each other, Phlegon. One god might have different names or engage in different activities. Now in my version, Dionysus was born on December 25th and his mother wasa virgin Semele. Hera killed her and Zeus cut the child out, nurturing him in a cut in his thigh. And Attis was born on December 25th.
    ,
    If nothing else, you’ll find good detailed reading in that book.

  • Phlegon

    The Golden Bough is a bit late for my taste (20th century). Semele was seduced and impregnated by Zeus, no question of virginity there. And if you want to convince me that Attis was born on Dec. 25., you’ll have to cite a rather earlier source.

  • Phlegon

    I would agree that there are some aspects of Jesus that are not present in Judaism, but that’s the reason we’re a different religion now.
    But the origins are still mostly Jewish. A lot of the later theology is platonic, of course.

    My information is based on what I’ve read, too. We can hardly do better, can we? I apologize if some of my responses were to sharp in tone.

    I still don’t see where you get the pagan Christs from. Of course there are both gods and religious teachers outside of the judeo-christian tradition, but why would they be Christs?

  • lorasinger

    I don’t see why. I’ve already given you two links and recommended the Golden Bough. All those writers were drawing on earlier sources.

  • lorasinger

    Attis was born on December 25th of the Virgin Nana.
    /
    He was a shepherd, as Christ was called the “Good Shepherd.”
    /
    He was considered the “only begotten son,” the Logos/Word and the savior slain for the salvation of mankind.
    /
    His cult had a sacrificial meal, at which, it is contended, his body as bread was eaten by his worshippers.
    /
    His priests were “eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19:12).
    /
    Attis served as both the Divine Son and the Father.
    /
    On “Black Friday,” he was “crucified” on a tree, from which his holy blood ran down to redeem the earth.
    /
    He descended into the underworld.
    /
    After three days, Attis was resurrected on March 25th (as tradition held of Jesus) as the “Most High God.”
    /
    Providing a summary of the mythos and ritual of Attis, along with comparisons to Christian tradition, professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Manchester Dr. Andrew T. Fear states:
    /
    The youthful Attis after his murder was miraculously brought to life again three days after his demise. The celebration of this cycle of death and renewal was one of the major festivals of the metroac cult. Attis therefore represented a promise of reborn life and as such it is not surprising that we find representations of the so-called mourning Attis as a common tomb motif in the ancient world.
    /
    The parallel, albeit at a superficial level, between this myth and the account of the resurrection of Christ is clear. Moreover Attis as a shepherd occupies a favourite Christian image of Christ as the good shepherd. Further parallels also seem to have existed: the pine tree of Attis, for example, was seen as a parallel to the cross of Christ.
    /
    Beyond Attis himself, Cybele too offered a challenge to Christian divine nomenclature. Cybele was regarded as a virgin goddess and as such could be seen as a rival to the Virgin Mary… Cybele as the mother of the Gods, mater Deum, here again presented a starkly pagan parallel to the Christian Mother of God.
    /
    There was rivalry too in ritual. The climax of the celebration of Attis’ resurrection, the Hilaria, fell on the 25th of March, the date that the early church had settled on as the day of Christ’s death…. (Lane, 39-40)
    /
    As we can see, according to this scholar, Attis is killed, fixed to a tree, and resurrects after three days, while his mother is “regarded as a virgin goddess” comparable to the Virgin Mary.
    /
    These conclusions come from the writings of ancient Pagans, as well as the early Church fathers, including Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, Tatian, Tertullian, Augustine, Arnobius and Firmicus Maternus.

  • lorasinger

    Jews believe:

    One person cannot die for the sins of another.

    A blood sacrifice is not required for forgiveness of sins. All sacrifices are done on an alter and only for inadvertent sin.

    Gd hates human sacrifices.

    Jews are forbidden to consume blood.

    People are born pure and without original sin.

    Gd is one and indivisible.

    There is Satan, but not The Devil.

    Gd does not become human and humans do not become Gd.

    /

    Pauline Christianity added:

    1.Original sin

    2.Making Jews the villains

    3.Making Jesus divine and addition of the trinity.

    4.Creation of the communion ceremony of blood and flesh.

    5.Jesus’ death being seen as atonement for human sin

    6.Making Jesus the Messiah

    7.Shifting the emphasis from an earthly to a heavenly kingdom

    8.Enlarging the chosen people to include anyone who accepted Jesus as Saviour

    9.Making salvation a matter of belief in Jesus almost regardless of the demands
    of the Torah

    10.Establishing a hierarchy (literally a holy order) to create and control a Church and more and more importantly to create and control the beliefs of its membership.[

  • Andrew Dowling

    If you want to talk about “really” early Christians a la the Jewish Apostles and Paul, they did “not” take the virgin birth seriously because they were not even aware of the legend. It likely arose in the 60s-70s at the earliest.

    Any purely academic investigation into the narratives will conclude that from a historical standpoint, we know practically nothing about the birth of Jesus. But the narratives were conveying what the arrival of Jesus MEANT for the evangelists and their faith communities, not a historical retelling. For Matthew, Jesus was a new Moses bringing forth a new (or revised) Law. For Luke, Jesus was the true Savior of the world contra Caesar, and had arrived to save both Jews and Gentiles.

    And personally, I think the stories become a lot cooler and meaningful when you unpack the symbolisms and metaphors, and ditch attempts at trying to reconcile two very different narratives as some sort of historical biography.

  • Randolph Bragg

    Christianity is just another one of these:

    […] they perform their ritual, and persuade not only individuals, but whole cities, that expiations and atonements for sin may be made by sacrifices and amusements which fill a vacant hour, and are equally at the service of the living and the dead; the latter sort they call mysteries, and they redeem us from the pains of hell, but if we neglect them no one knows what awaits us.

    Plato (4th century BCE) The Republic. Book II.
    classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.html

    Sound familiar? 😉

  • Randolph Bragg

    So what? Syncretism isn’t making an exact copy.

  • JP

    John 21.25:

    “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written
    down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the
    books that would be written.”

    And there was much discussion amongst Christians about Christ’s nature right from the beginning. The heresy of Docetism sprang up just decades after Christ’s death and resurrection. The fact that this never became a focus in Paul’s Epistles doesn’t mean that Christ’s virgin birth was discussed, taught, or mentioned.

  • I believe in the virgin birth and the physical resurrection of our Lord. The thing that amazes me is people who believe that God has enough power to create a universe or set a process in motion that lasts for ages but balk at something so simple as forming a child in a mother’s womb or raising a dead man.

  • Gary Roth

    The problem with Barth is that one cannot have it both ways, as “indispensable” an also “dispensable.” It is either one or the other. It is alright to say that “God can do as God likes,” that what we consider a miracle in the birth of Jesus is no greater than the miracle of the resurrection – or any other event God does. It is alright, also, to say that what God does is not subject to human reason – that reason is not our God, nor is God subject to what we think is “reasonable.” But to say that, on the one hand, that the birth by a virgin is indispensable, but that it is not necessary to faith, makes no sense. Sorry – I go more with Moltmann on this one. God can do as God likes. On the other hand, the meaning of the virgin birth, though multi-layered, has little to do with whether Mary was, in fact, a virgin.

  • Pofarmer

    There are lot’s of things Paul should have mentioned for a literal Jesus, but doesn’t.

  • Pofarmer

    “Semele was seduced and impregnated by Zeus, no question of virginity there.”

    Isn’t that rather splitting hairs?

  • Pofarmer

    On the sexless conception of Mary. I think you have to understand the backdrop of the times a little bit. Apocalyptic cults were apparently pretty common, and they believed in no sex and not having children to the point where the males castrated themselves and the women took a vow of Celibacy. Is it Origen who is said to possibly have castrated himself? Anyway, it’s not entirely surprising that a concept of sexless conception would have come out of this milliue, when combining Jewish and Hellenistic thought.

  • Pofarmer

    Isn’t it at least a little interesting, that out of the entire NT, the only mention of the Virgin birth is in two later writings, and the only mentions of an Earthly Jesus at all are in 4 later writings? The Earliest writings in the NT, the Authentic writings attributed to Paul, and the Pastorals, never put Jesus in time or Place, and, in fact, Paul never mentions the name Jesus, but always uses “Christ” or “Lord”. It’s interesting because we know that there were several traditions early on, if because nothing else the early Church writes against them. but the overarching work included in the NT doesn’t support a Virgin Birth, or, possibly, even a savior named Jesus. Take away the 4 Gospels, and it’s just another Cosmic God story.

  • I always think of the virgin birth as an added element used to make Jesus appear more divine. It’s a narrative tool. I feel like by adding in this scenario the gospels are trying to stake a claim or give proof that Jesus was special and that what he said and what he did was both true and from authority. Perhaps that element was needed for the people of that time. They may not have chosen Christianity if Jesus came into this world like the rest of us. They might question what was it that made him special or why God chose him. I think by setting up the story so that Jesus was born from God they sealed up any holes that non-believers of that time might use to take apart their message. These people could have even been the very people Jesus spoke out against who wanted to retain their power and wealth. It also could have been those of weak faith who needed something more to bring them to God.

  • Phlegon

    Yes, there was such a rumour about Origen, but it may well be nothing more than slander.

    Could you name a sexless cult of the time? The ones I know are post-christian, like the gnostics. The only cult with self-castration in antiquity I know of is the Cybele-Attis thing, which was anything but sexless.

  • Phlegon

    When a tradition is as old as the Jewish one, we tend to look at it as monolithic and unchanging, but there were more dynamic times in Judaism too, and its history has seen phenomena we would not now assiociate with it. (e.g., point #8 forcible conversion was a thing under the Hasmoneans)

    And the oneness and indivisibility of the godhead is Christian doctrine, too. One mustn’t misunderstand the concept of the Trinity to mean anything else.

  • Phlegon

    I don’t see how. For Maria, the experience was basically an announcement of her impregnation by angels. For Semele it was hot, sweaty sex with a muscular, well-toned deity.

  • Phlegon

    Hera wouldn’t have killed Semele (actually, one might rather say she engineered her death, but that would be hair-splitting) if Semele hadn’t had a sexual relationship with Zeus (i. e. no virgin). Hera was simply jealous.

    As for The Golden Bough, for an original source it’s 2000 years too young, and to be quoted as modern research it’s 100 years too old (besides, I seem to remember it was more of a neo-pagan protreptic, and never intended as unbiased research). That`s why I’d like to know where Frasier got the dates of birth for Dionysos and Attis. Even transposing the dates to our (Roman) calendar would probably be a major hassle.

  • Pofarmer

    The essenes?

  • lorasinger

    There IS NO oneness and indivisibility to the idea of one god made of three parts, Phlegon. The trinity might be viewed as one but there are three parts to it, hence it is not indivisible. In the OT, God describes himself as “the first, the last and besides (him) there is no other” in other words, no parents, no children, and no others like him. The pope has already admitted that the trinity originated in the Catholic church in Rome in the 3rd or 4th century.
    .
    Jews do not proselytize. In fact, they will go out of their way to discourage you. It is only if you show a great deal of determination that you will be allowed to begin. Prevous to the time of Moses, honestly don’t know but since that time, the Jews have simply kept themselves separated from gentiles.

  • Phlegon

    Ah, so that’s why they disappeared so quickly.

    I agree, of course, with your basic claim in the earlier post. I’d go so far as to say that something like ‘virginity’ is part of a religious semantic system, and claiming virginity only makes sense if you can expect the audience to understand that system.

  • lorasinger

    The story of the virgin birth with the father being a god is pagan in origin, invented by Paul. It wasn’t a Jewish concept and didn’t exist in Jesus’ time.

  • Phlegon

    Today, Jews do not proselytize. Under the Hasmoneans it was a different matter.

    And for Christ’s sake, let’s not get too deep into the concept of the Trinity here. But oneness and indivisibilty are an essential part of it.

  • lorasinger

    It really doesn’t matter what other goodies are given in order to tell a good story, the bottom line is ” Mortal woman impregnated by a god produces sacrificial man-god who dies for mankind’s sins and is resurrected.” PERIOD. THAT is the running theme.

  • Phlegon

    It would matter to me, lorasinger. It would matter loads 🙂

  • lorasinger

    That was in 140 BC, Phlegon. I honestly doubt very much, unless you can provide a source, that forceful conversions were ever carried out.
    .
    Whatever you believe is OK for you since it appears you somehow understand the concept of 1+1+1=1. Totally illogical but whatever turns your crank, kid.
    .
    Understand, however, this concept came about from Rome and was absent in the time of Jesus or among the Jews since their messiah was to be a totally human male, not a pagan god or man-god.

  • Pofarmer

    I dunno, there’s multiple things going on here. For one, you have the sexual pecadillo’s of Paul and whatever apocalyptic, ascetic cult that he was “learning” from/with/representing. Then you have the new Greek theology of “Logos” or “The Word”. The combination gives you, now, a way to do a virgin birth without having sex with a God. Which, BTW, my understanding is that say, Alexander the Greats legend had him born of a Virgin, as well as some of the Caesars. Maybe Caesar Augustus. I don’t think it was a terribly uncommon claim.

  • Phlegon

    I must say I never heard any such claims about Alexander, Caesar and Augustus. The Alexander legend, of course, was spun on in the Middle Ages, and I don’t have a very complete picture about the ramifications of that. I would need some original sources.

    Neither Romans nor Greeks were terribly obsessed with virginity. Especially for Nobles as the three guys named above, legitimacy was usually far more important. Alexander at one point seems to have claimed Zeus Ammon as his father, but for the Julians, losing one side of the family would have meant losing half their prestige, of which they didn’t have much to begin with.

  • lorasinger

    A pagan based story is a pagan based story, Phleg. and the Jesus story isn’t Jewish.

  • lorasinger

    Hmmmm. ? for Christ’s sake??? I thought you said you were a pagan. You’re not, are you?

  • lorasinger

    Dunno, Phlegon, maybe you should read it.
    .
    “The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion (retitled The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion in its second edition) is a wide-ranging, comparative study of mythology and religion, written by the Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer comprised twelve volumes. The work was aimed at a wide literate audience raised on tales as told in such publications as Thomas Bulfinch’s The Age of Fable, or Stories of Gods and Heroes (1855).

    Frazer offered a modernist approach to discussing religion, treating it dispassionately[1] as a cultural phenomenon rather than from a theological perspective. The influence of The Golden Bough on contemporary European literature and thought was substantial.

    .The Golden Bough attempts to define the shared elements of religious belief and scientific thought, discussing fertility rites, human sacrifice, the dying god, the scapegoat and many other symbols and practices whose influence has extended into twentieth-century culture.[3] Its thesis is that old religions were fertility cults that revolved around the worship and periodic sacrifice of a sacred king.
    .
    Is THIS the part that bothers you?
    .
    The book scandalized the British public when first published, as it included the Christian story of Jesus and the Resurrection in its comparative study. Critics thought this treatment invited an agnostic reading of the Lamb of God as a relic of a pagan religion”

  • lorasinger

    Phlegon – You are aware that all these December 25th birthdays are clustered on or around the winter solstice and for this reason that date is popular among pagans.

  • Phlegon

    I can provide a source, none other in fact than dear old Flavius Josephus himself.

    As for the Trinity, there’s a lovely anecdote about the great theologian Alanus ab Insulis:
    Alanus had once agreed to give a lecture on the nature of the Trinity. Trying to work it out, he ambled along the banks of the Seine, where he saw a boy carrying a spoon of water from the river to a hole he’d dug in the sand.
    Alanus asked him what he was doing, and the boy replied that he was emptying out the river. Alanus then asked when he thought he’d be done with that, the boy said: “Sooner than you’ll be done with your project.”
    When Alanus was due to deliver his lecture, he told his audience: ” You will today have to be content with seeing me, for I will say nothing.”

    I’ll follow his example and say no more on the subject 😀

  • lorasinger

    I suspect that the Golden Bough is more out of your league than late for your taste.
    .
    Re: Attis – try these:

    The full text of The Myth and Ritual of Attis and Attis as a God of Vegetation in The Golden Bough at Wikisource

    Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). “Attis”. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
    .
    This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1870). “Atys 1.”. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
    .
    M. J. Vermaseren, Cybele and Attis, Thames & Hudson, London, 1977.
    .
    P. Lambrechts, Attis: Van Herdersknaap tot God (Brussels:Vlaamse Akademie) 1962. (French summary)
    .
    Reviewed by J.A. North in The Journal of Roman Studies 55.1/2 (1965), p. 278-279.
    .
    H. Hepding, Attis seine Mythen und sein Kult (Religionsgeschichtliche Versuche und Vorarbeiten I), Giessen, 1903.
    .
    E. N. Lane (ed.), Cybele, Attis and Related Cults. Essays in Memory of M.J. Vermaseren. (Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, 131), Leiden-Köln, 1996.
    .
    Media related to Attis at Wikimedia Commons
    .
    Britannica Online Encyclopædia
    .
    Attis: Phrygian Eunuch God of Vegetation, Theoi Project
    .
    “The Poem of Catullus about Attis,” Translation by Eli Siegel

  • Phlegon

    It really doesn’t matter.

  • Phlegon

    Well, Dionysos didn’t die for anyone’s sins.

  • Pofarmer

    I’m pretty sure that information comes from Mathew Ferguson at adverseapolagetica. He has a wealth of info. My understanding is that many myths about Alexander and the Ceasars sprang up during their lifetimes.

  • lorasinger

    Mithras came from heaven to be born as a man, to redeem men from their sin. He was know as “Savior,” “Son of God,” “Redeemer,” and “Lamb of God.”
    .
    His followers kept the Sabbath holy, eating sacramental meals in remembrance of Him. The sacred meal of bread and water, or bread and wine, was symbolic of the body and blood of the sacred bull.
    .
    Baptism in the blood of the bull (taurobolium)—early Baptism “washed in the blood of the Lamb”—late Baptism by water [recorded by the Christian author Tertullian]
    .
    As with Attis, Christian apologist Justin Martyr (1 Apologia, 66, 4) denounces the devil for having sent a God so similar to Jesus—yet preceding him

    Mithraic rituals brought about the transformation and Salvation of His adherents—an ascent of the soul of the adherent into the realm of the divine. From the wall of a Mithraic temple in Rome: “And thou hast saved us by shedding the eternal blood.”

    The great Mithraic festivals celebrated His birth (at the winter solstice) and His death and resurrection (at the spring solstice)

  • lorasinger

    Depending on where the story is told, of course, it varies but generally this is it:

    Dionysus was a God man, born of a virgin mother, in a stable. He traveled about with his followers, preaching and performing miracles, including turning water into wine. Eventually, he incurred the wrath of the religious authorities, who were appalled that he referred to himself as the son of god. He allowed himself to be arrested and tried for blasphemy- a willing self-sacrifice. He was found guilty and executed, only to rise from the grave three days later.

  • lorasinger

    You are entirely correct Pofarmer. I’ve read the same from several sources over time.

  • lorasinger

    The provide Josephus statement, Phleg. Book and chapter. I have the entire works to look it up.
    ,
    Just as well. Your Trinity is a Catholic invention of the third century anyway.

  • Phlegon

    Sorry, but that story is attested exactly nowhere in antiquity. In fact, it contains many concepts that were unknown back then. It cannot be authentic.

  • Phlegon

    You should be aware of the fact that we know of the contents of the Mithraic cult almost exclusively through the pictures and statues found in the mithraeae. Interpreting those is not a matter for laymen or partisans. It’s difficult enough for us classical archaeologists.

  • Phlegon

    “adversapologetica” doesn’t exactly sound trustworthy, does it? I’m thinking rather of more or less contemporary sources, such as Pseudo-Kallisthenes for Alexander. For the Julii, I’d be hard pressed even to think of a source that would be wild enough to make such claims.

  • Phlegon

    Having Josephus is not enough. Read it, for the sake of the Heavenly Saints.

  • Pofarmer

    Dudes getting his doctorate in Ancient History. Give it a try.

  • lorasinger

    I saved it some time ago and don’t have a source but certainly there must have been one. It might even have come from The Golden Bough. It’s starting to look a lot like you’re a guy with pre-set beliefs to whom no evidence is enough evidence and therefore you reject it. Fundamentalists often do that.

  • lorasinger

    And that audience, listening to Paul, certainly could understand that system because it was yet another pagan man-god story they had already heard before. The Jews on the other hand, had no concept of men gods and didn’t buy it.

  • lorasinger

    And I assume you classify yourself as a classical archeologist of Christian origin, right? Maybe even a pastor in training?

  • Phlegon

    The Golden Bough is 20th century. Give me an antique source if you ant to convince me.

  • Phlegon

    Considering that in Genesis humans are said to have been created in the image of god, I’m not entirely sure that Jews had no such concept.

  • lorasinger

    And you don’t think a reputable anthropologist might have drawn on those earlier sources himself, studies to provide the material in his book. The book is well received and widely accepted by everyone but the venerable Mr. Phlegon. Don’t be obtuse.
    .
    “The widespread popularity and appeal of Mithraism as the final and most refined form of pre-Christian paganism was discussed by the Greek historian Herodotus, the Greek biographer Plutarch, the neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry, the Gnostic heretic Origen, and St. Jerome the church Father. Mithraism was quite often noted by many historians for its many astonishing similarities to Christianity.”
    .
    Go for it, tiger! Or are they too late in time for you?

  • Phlegon

    I’m a classical archaeologist, yes, and not by my own classification. I am a Master of the Arts, I have no fear of man or beast…

  • Phlegon

    Thanks, I’ll look it up. Not today though.

  • lorasinger

    Riiight! The mighty Alexander reincarnated, slouching around in his mother’s basement, a mug of hot chocolate in hand, on a blog about virgin birth. News flash! Archeology doesn’t deal with magic events – just artifacts.

  • Phlegon

    If the book was all that respectable, it would tell you just where these informations come frome. Footnotes, and all that.

  • lorasinger

    Oh so now the footnotes are the problem! Shall I sniff the glue on the back and see if it’s OK?

  • Phlegon

    Yes, please.

  • Phlegon

    How would you know what archaeology deals with?

  • lorasinger

    Provide Josephus remark – there’s a good boy!

  • lorasinger

    Well gee, just a wild guess, dya think?

  • lorasinger

    Syncretism is defined as:

    Syncretism is the attempt to reconcile disparate, even opposing, beliefs and to meld practices of various schools of thought. It is especially associated with the attempt to merge and analogize several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, and thus assert an underlying unity.

    And that is exactly how a belief system diametrically opposite became the “roots” of Christianity when its actual roots are in paganism.

  • Phlegon

    Yes, I rather do think it’s a wild guess on your part. Well, anyway, if someone doesn’t see any difference between sniffing the binding of a book and reading the footnotes in it, it’s probably time to call it a night.
    Goodbye, and Dionysos bless.

  • lorasinger

    Ask them.

  • lorasinger

    Archaeology relies on cross-disciplinary research. It draws upon anthropology, history, art history, classics, ethnology, geography, geology, linguistics, semiology, physics, information sciences, chemistry, statistics, paleoecology, paleontology, paleozoology, paleoethnobotany, and paleobotany.

    Mythology is missing, Phleg. There is always the possibility that you have in your possession a fossilized hymen though.

  • charlesburchfield

    wow!

  • charlesburchfield

    something happened.

  • lorasinger

    It’s a longer story than you know, Charles. An epileptic seizure started it all.

  • charlesburchfield

    w/ respect; your epileptic seizure?

  • SpeakTruth

    Bart Erhman has a similar opinion. I found his argument compelling.

  • lorasinger

    Paul was sent by Rome to persecute Jesus group, the Jewish Christians. Don’t know why if they were as portrayed in the bible. So he went to Damascus, an area that Rome had no jurisdiction over, but then again, it makes a good story. By tradition and by his own writings, he has been believed to suffer from the classic symptoms of epilepsy (lights, visions, temporary blindness, falling) and on the way to Damascus, in three contradicting versions of the event, he saw a vision or didn’t, went temporarily blind or didn’t, others heard a voice or didn’t, others saw the light or didn’t, fell down or didn’t and it resulted in Paul’s being converted to his own religion, our present day Christianty with its man-god, Jesus. Now this happened almost two generations after Jesus was dead so Paul never actually met Jesus so he doesn’t write much about his life except that Jesus was born “under the law” (quite like everyone else) but he writes at length about the god man he saw in his vision. And that’s the story of how Christianity came about because of epilepsy.

  • larrymotuz

    The Golden Bough was published in 1890, and much that Frasier argued then has been shown to be inaccurate.

    I think Joseph Campbell is much more accurate. And, so are many others.

    I suggest you look at http://www.preventingtruthdecay.org/copycats.shtml

    As for the virgin birth, I fully agree that Isaiah 14:7 has been distorted by Christian apologists. Nor does that prophecy point to Christ.

    But the idea that Christ recapitulates stories of previous pagan gods is also a wild and serious distortion of what evidence does exist, mythological and archeological.

  • larrymotuz

    Actually, it’s late 19th century (1890), albeit it went through revisions. Otherwise, I agree.

  • larrymotuz

    Paul did not add ‘original sin’. That was Augustine. Though many Christians ‘believe’ in original sin, it is unnecessary.

    Paul did add, as you say, sacrificial dying for the sins of mankind.

    Sacrificial offerings at the Temple to be rid of uncleanliness –not ‘sin’ as such–were nevertheless part and parcel of Judaic traditions.

  • bobmead1960

    Sorry but not right. Jesus did not come to life by the virgin birth to make him appear Godly or supplement those with “weak faith.” The need for God coming in the flesh was a sin nature problem. The lineage of Adam passed on this sin nature through man and if he was not born in a sinless body it would we with a propensity to sin.

  • bobmead1960

    The Bible is not just centered around the virgin birth. The theme of the Bible is the restoration of man’s relationship to God by reconciliation. Without the atoning (at one met) work to pay for man’s sins there would be no reconciliation and man would suffer death (eternal separation from God).

  • Pofarmer

    Yeah, except atonement doctrine is a later theological innovation as well. Read the genuine epistles of Paul, and the Pastorals, and show me where this shows up.

  • bobmead1960

    Atonement was all throughout the old testament. It even began in the Garden of Eden when God sacrificed an animal. This was the first example. Other famous accounts are the Temple sacrifices, Abraham and Isaac, the 10th Plague in Egypt. These all speak of the atonement theme. You would be right that the word atonement itself came about later, but the principal lied throughout the ages. Tks good idea. Paul stated this in Romans which is the cornerstone of redemption and salvation. Ephesians 2:8,9. Romans 6 -” should we crucify Christ again”

  • bobmead1960

    The virgin birth is a fact and many truths support it. Herod killing the children of Bethlehem, Magi traveling to see the King of Israel, documentation of the angels appearing, shepherds, Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna. Quite a bit

  • bobmead1960

    A story comes from the word history.

  • bobmead1960

    My upcoming book proves it happened. good day.

  • lorasinger

    It’s Isaiah 7:14.

    .

    OK, larry – we’ve been through this before. This story does not come from Judaism nor does the Jewish “bible” predict Jesus or any man god. That concept is entirely absent in Judaism.
    .
    SO the question is – where did it Paul get it since he is essentially the father of Christianity?
    .
    Something to think about: Mithraism was popular in Tarsus, Paul’s home town. “The widespread popularity and appeal of Mithraism as the final and most refined form of pre-Christian paganism was discussed by the Greek historian Herodotus, the Greek biographer Plutarch, the neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry, the Gnostic heretic Origen, and St. Jerome the church Father. Mithraism was quite often noted by many historians for its many astonishing similarities to Christianity.
    ………………

  • Pofarmer

    Ephesians is not generally attributed to Paul. Romans 6 is about we ourselves dying to sin through baptism and rising up again as a sinless Christian. I don’t see anything in Romans 6 to be equated to Jesus dying as atonement for mans sin.

  • Pofarmer

    You realize that this is all theology, right?

  • lorasinger

    Virgin birth is fact only in the pagan beliefs. No such thing exists in Judaism. Josephus wrote about Herod in detail. No documentation for such a killing exists. If you believe the Herod story, then Lukes Bethlehem birth is a lie because it took place in 6AD, 10 years after Herod had already died.

  • lorasinger

    Quite right – “The concept of Original Sin was explained in depth by St Augustine and formalised as part of Roman Catholic doctrine by the Councils of Trent in the 16th Century.” But then, St. Augustine was a Pauline Christian, was he not?
    .
    No, animal sacrifices at the temple were for only inadvertent sins. Deliberate sin was handled with repentance, compensation and prayer. Cleanliness was achieved with the Mikvah, a ceremonial bath that one needed to undergo even before entering the temple, after childbirth, on touching unclean things and such. It’s the forerunner of what Christians now have added the magic touch of saving their soul although in Judaism, in the beginning it was only a cleaning of the body to reflect a pure mind and heart.

  • lorasinger

    No anmals were sacrificed in the garden of eden, bob. Abraham was being tested for his faithfulness to God and was never meant to sacrifice his son. Notice how a perfect sacrificial animal just happened to be caught in the brambles nearby? Human sacrifice was forbidden to Jews, bob.
    .
    Romans was Paul’s creation of your present day Christianity and has nothing to do with the OT.

  • lorasinger

    In the Torah that Jesus stated he upheld, in Deuteronomy is written that every person must atone for his own sins and no one else can do it for them.

  • lorasinger

    Hardly. Virgin birth is biologically impossible. Even if Mary was cloned, she would have a girl. You can’t even prove that Jesus lived, let alone that he was virgin born.

  • Dys

    As there’s no evidence for the event, so how you’re going to prove it will be an interesting magic trick. While you’re at it, you can try to prove the historicity of Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents and uncover the non-existent census to get the family to Bethlehem as well.

  • Dys

    And yet not all stories are history, such as the case with the virgin birth myth.

  • charlesburchfield

    you could be right. does that settle it then?

  • larrymotuz

    Anyone familiar with the Aztec beliefs and religious communion-al ceremonies as described by Catholic priests of the 16th century as ‘mocking’ Christianity could attribute Christianities origins therein, except for the reality that there was no possible interchange between the two.

    Herodotus is not a good source for the practices, ceremonies and beliefs of Persian Mithraism. Nor does the Roman mithraism appear to have much to do with the Persian. Neither form has any mythology in common with early Christianity.

    As for Paul, there is little question that his thought reflects the kinds of conflation of different gods and different myths that were as common as the air they breathed. Greek commentators {like Herodotus, for example} present a melange of different gods as the same gods under different names. Frankly, I think that Paul distorted both Christ and Christianity when presenting it to the Gentiles.

    Few historians today put much credence in ‘astonishing similarities’ to Christianity by Jerome or other Christian apologists.

    I fully agree with you that Judaism contains no man-god. Were I Jewish, the tradition I would follow would be that of Hillel who, in his day, reached out to Gentiles also.

  • lorasinger

    Check it out and then check out the three versions of the “conversion”.

    Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 1987;50:659-664
    St Paul and temporal lobe epilepsy
    D LANDSBOROUGH

  • bobmead1960

    Yes, Jesus life is proven also. The book is for guys base on logic an reason.

  • bobmead1960

    I prove the event happened beyond any reasonable doubt based on documents, archeology, medicine, science and much more evidence. Good day

  • charlesburchfield

    w/ respect what does your heart say? i’d like to hear your ‘faith’ story or your ‘lack of faith story’.

  • bobmead1960

    Amazing how people question some things about God like the virgin birth in this case, but they don’t question that he fed the five thousand men, healed lepers, turned water into wine or raise people from the dead. Why just question one of the many miracles of Jesus?

  • lorasinger

    Mithraism was a later form of Zoroastrianism brought back by soldiers coming home from various wars.
    ………..
    There was no Christianity previous to Paul. Jewish Christians was a name WE gave them. They called themselves “The Way”, “The poor ones” or “Ebionites”. The earliest “Christianity” = that of the apostles, was actually a sub-sect of Judaism. They were all practicing Jews who believed that Jesus was the fully human messiah of Jewish prophecy.
    …..
    Yes, Hillel as described and the present Pope Francis seem similar in personality. Kindly and tolerant.

  • bobmead1960

    You might read how Adam and Eve got clothed. They didn’t go to JC Penney’s.

  • lorasinger

    I believe that Christianity is the last in a long series of pagan stories.

  • lorasinger

    Not one historian contemporary to the time of Jesus wrote anything about him. Anything that still exists is too far away in time to be anything but hearsay. Told and retold, stories change and like in the telephone game, after the sixth retelling, very little remains of the original story.

  • lorasinger

    Document – Too far away in time – hearsay.
    .
    Archeology – There are no archeological artifacts connected with Jesus.
    .
    Medicine – Modern medicine has taken the place of superstition. The “demon possession” of those days is now easily controlled by modern medicine.
    .
    Science – Science dictates that virgin birth is impossible and there is no evidence for the existence of gods.

  • lorasinger

    They are ALL superstitious stories, the end result of a telephone game.

  • larrymotuz

    I agree. There are times when I say to myself that I would have felt ‘at home’ among the Ebionite Christians. They practiced as such until the latter 4th century.

    Not that I would accept everything they practiced. By what I believe has more in common with them than with mainstream Christianity and its offshoots.

    G*d bless.

  • lorasinger

    7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves girdles.

  • bobmead1960

    Romans 6:6 … “seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” KJV In its translation and meaning is “should we crucify Christ again, and put Him to shame.” Meaning that Christ work on the Cross did not accomplish the work of the Perfect Lamb’s atoning work – and He did!

  • bobmead1960

    Need to look deeper and more accurately when seeking out truth. But good try. Genesis 3:21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. KJV You don’t just pick up animal skins from a place full of vegetarians and animals at peace with one another.

  • lorasinger

    You’d be surprised if you knew how far their teachings carried and vestiges of those teachings still remain. I know of a group who share all labour, who except for a few things,don’t own anything separately, who teach only the words of Jesus from Matthew, who don’t use the bible, who believe that Jesus was only man – a great teacher, who called themselves the way and whose known origins date back from deep in Europe in the 1500’s, having been converted by a Jew called Simon. One faction of their group has gone back to Israel to go back to full Judaism.

  • lorasinger

    Paul made up the pagan story to begin with.

  • lorasinger

    They didn’t do it in the garden, bob. Is anything said about a sacrifice made by them? I think you’d be hard pressed to find that until their sons make a sacrifice, right?

  • bobmead1960

    Well do you have an open enough mind to be able to question and validate TRUTH? If you are let me know. But you seem too convicted of your current position to be able to recognize truth when you “see it.”

  • bobmead1960

    You just told a falsehood statement. If you want to discern truth on your own let me know.

  • Pofarmer

    Yeah, don’t trust the King James Version.

    English standard version.

    “6We know that  w our old self [1]  x was crucified with him in order that  y the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”

  • bobmead1960

    It was about 500 and some years before it happened. Isaiah 7:14 So please don’t make false statements appear as knowledgeable truths.

  • bobmead1960

    How did they get animal skins? Why did their sons practice sacrificing? Wasn’t even talked about in scripture? So they just made up what God wanted them to do? You make more questions by your weak answers.

  • lorasinger

    READ Isaiah 7:14 in context, bob. King Ahaz is involved in a war with two other kings and is worried about the outcome. Isaiah advises him to ask God but Ahaz does’t want to so Isaiah takes the prophecy for him. God says that a YOUNG WOMAN (almah) is with child and will call him Immanuel. TWO VERSES down it reads: BEFORE THE CHILD learns bad from good, the you kings you abhor will be no more. The prophecy is for King Ahaz. It isn’t about Jesus .

    By the way, it happened just like that and King Ahaz won the war And it was 700 hundred years, bob.

  • lorasinger

    Afraid not, bob. There is absolutely no support for Jesus life and even if it did, Jesus was a man who died and remains dead. Your man=god is Paul’s pagan invention.

  • lorasinger

    Like anyone gets animal skins, bob. Don’t you know? Cite me a verse where Adam and Eve make a sacrifice.

  • lorasinger

    Why would God sacrifice an animal to himself, Bob? Of course, he sacrificed himself to himself to change a law he made himself, so I guess anything is possible.

  • bobmead1960

    3:21 God gave them animal skins. You didn’t listen well. So their sons do sacrifices but the parents don’t.

  • lorasinger

    You don’t know much about pregnancies and child raising, do you? How long do you think it took before Eve had a couple of kids who grew to be old enough to make their own sacrifices? Or was there some magic sprouting going on I didn’t know about?
    .
    How about those verses that say explicitly that Adam and Eve sacrificed anything?

  • bobmead1960

    Prophecy is throughout the bible with a double inference sometimes. Juess you never heard of that. What is the theme to the Star Wars movies? It is in all of their movies.

  • bobmead1960

    Answered in the book. Want to read or not? I am about done for the night. Good talk

  • lorasinger

    There isn’t even ONE prophecy for Jesus in the Jewish bible.

  • lorasinger

    Hmmmm….nope.

  • bobmead1960

    Bunk. Go to the original greek and Hebrew, but KJV proven over 99% accurate by the “Dead Sea Scrolls” Good day

  • charlesburchfield

    is there anything in the story or stories that is relevant to your life?

  • bobmead1960

    Good evening and best wishes

  • lorasinger

    Too bad bob. Better go back and read some more.

  • lorasinger

    I think it’s between you and your god in whatever form you imagine him to be – and no one else.

  • lorasinger

    Gee….ummmm – YUP 🙂

  • Pofarmer

    The New american bible doesn’t agree either.

    “We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin.f”

    The reason I like the American Standard is because ot is one of the latest translations and they tried to be most faithful to the original translations. The other problem is, Paul wasn’t preaching a theology of Atonement. Read the account of his trial before Herod Agrippa in Acts. He was preaching an apocalyptic/redemptive theology where Jesus was going to come down from heaven and raise the Dead and kick some ass. The idea of an atonement theology doesn’t fit with Paul.

  • Pofarmer

    Here is the king James version i have

    ROM6.1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? ROM6.2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? ROM6.3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? ROM6.4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. ROM6.5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: ROM6.6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. ROM6.7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. ROM6.8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: ROM6.9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him”

    Once again, this sure seems like redemptive theology, not atonement theolo.

  • Dys

    Actually, plenty of people question the rest of those as well, because there’s no evidence for any of them either. But Christians do love the virgin birth myth, so it receives a bit of attention over the others.

  • Dys

    Uh huh. And what are your credentials? The best anyone’s ever been able to say historically as concerns the Massacre of the Innocents is that it would be in line with something Herod would have done. But there’s no actual evidence it ever occurred.

    I suspect you’re merely going with the unreasonable “the bible is a reliable historical account, so if it says it happened, it happened” method, because there’s nothing else for you to rely on when it comes to the virgin birth.

  • SpeakTruth

    Lora, I wouldn’t waste time arguing/debating with Bob. I got sucked in about a year ago, even agreed to read his “book” to offer criticism. BIG mistake. He has difficulty following the conversation and his “evidence” of god’s existance is the bible, personal anecdotes, and his own made up facts and statistics. Most of his arguments are easily debunked, and many are absurd, yet he ignores the opposing argument and responds with condescension. Frustration does not begin to describe my experience with Mr. Mead.

    I enjoy reading your posts and find them instructive, witty, and educational.

    See ya tomorrow.

  • lorasinger

    Thanks for the advice. He’s so typical of the overly enthusiastic, minimal outside-of-box knowledge kind of apologetic common these days. Like a train on a track, they learn their verses and push forward, never knowing why some of the events in the bible are completely impossible. I think I’ll follow your advice and than you for it.
    ,
    I’m glad you like my posts. If I get too wind-baggy, let me know. 🙂

  • Kath

    The Virgin birth is spiritual.
    Every single individual, who genuinely longs and prays for justice and mercy for all, fullness of life in joy and abundance, and toils to see and make it happen, gives birth to its real presence on earth.

  • Vynette Holliday

    It will no doubt come as a shock to many to discover that there are no supernatural events recorded in the New Testament.

    The doctrines of Christianity were formulated by the early church Hellenist “fathers” who were ignorant of Hebrew concepts and Hebrew terminology. This fact allowed them to fashion this virgin born, God-man according to the predilections of their own religious backgrounds.

    The New Testament does not mention any virgin birth, nor does it claim that Jesus is “divine” and it certainly does not teach pagan concepts such as the Trinity.

    What it does say is that Jesus was born out of wedlock, a low-status individual with no authority except his own character, who nevertheless challenged those with the greatest status and the highest authority.

    The only real mystery in the New Testament is the stories of the Resurrection but, even there, social scientists of the period recognise that in ancient societies there was a phenomenon known as “altered states of consciousness.”

    But, no “supernatural” stories. No Virgin Birth, no Divinity, no Trinity.

  • Frank6548

    Your ignorance is embarrassing.

  • Frank6548

    Why wouldn’t anyone believe it?

  • Vynette Holliday

    Instead of making a blanket statement like that, why not challenge me to demonstrate from the New Testament everything I’ve said?

    I can assure you that, utilising the most stringent of research protocols, it can be conclusively and exhaustively demonstrated that the Christian doctrines of the Virgin Birth/Conception/ Divinity of Jesus, and the Trinity, which are supposedly based on either the Hebrew Scriptures or the New Testament, are actually a later product of the Hellenist/Latin inclinations and teachings of the Church Fathers.

    These theologians and philosophers introduced the first ‘supernatural’ story about Jesus of Nazareth through ignorance of Jewish thought and modes of expression and this ignorance, together with a predilection for their own religions, facilitated the creation of ‘Jesus Christ’, a new god-man, born of a virgin, fashioned according to their image and their values.

  • Frank6548

    It’s hard to take you as serious as you take yourself. I have seen the “scholarship.” It asserts but proves nothing.

  • Vynette Holliday

    Frank6548
    What “scholarship” have you seen? You refuse to engage on any meaningful level that may be of benefit to all.

  • Frank6548

    There is no benefit to engage in nonsense.

  • LightningJoe

    “[Bob] responds with condescension”

    Yeah, I caught that. Including an insult or take-down in every post is a dead giveaway.

  • LightningJoe

    But, but, but…

    Darth Vader was also the product of a Virgin Birth, and we know how many seasons he’s been around, so… 🙂 … as for sins “delivered from” by him, that’s not so much…

    And instead of being crucified, he was only hacked to pieces several times… and burned up in lava… but it was all for the sake of his own ego, after all… because the “love” he thought he was answering the call of, canNOT be saved by rampant violence.

  • lorasinger

    Well…there you go! Another one bites the dust for the sins of mankind or in this case HIS kind.

  • Nonsense is all you have to offer, Frank. Bible tells me so.

    1CO 1.18-26 For the message about the cross is nonsense…the nonsense of our preaching…Not many of you were wise by human standards…

  • There was no Adam; a study of genetics proves that there was no single breeding pair such as Adam and Eve, ever, in the history of the human race. Thus, there was never any “original sin.”

    Jerry Coyne (2013) Scientists Try to Reconcile Adam and Eve Story, Whiff. Again. New Republic.
    newrepublic.com/article/115759/adam-eve-theologians-try-reconcile-science-and-fail

  • bobmead1960

    I didn’t know they found Adam’s body? How did they identify him? Driver’s license. Science is based on observation and they don’t have his body. But Good try.

  • Frank6548

    See above.

  • Are you so ignorant as to not understand what “genetics” means? Jeeesh, the stupid is so strong with you, it burns.

  • Frank6548

    As a dog returns to its vomit….

  • bobmead1960

    Not correct. Let us try the book of Genesis, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Psalms, Exodus, Malachi, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Pretty sure they have all of these book, which would only total 44 prophecies.

  • Yeah, the Bible is morally vomitous. Why do you keep returning to it like a dog?

  • lorasinger

    Nope. Not even one. It’s not a Jewish concept.

  • Frank6548

    Yeah that’s what I thought. You got nothing.

  • If I’ve got nothing, I’m just obeying Jesus. What’s your problem?

    “Take nothing” Mark 6:8

  • bobmead1960

    Thanks for polite demeanor. Genetics is the study of genes, but when you didn’t answer my question as to the whereabouts of Adams genes or how would they identify them to know the difference than today. The Bible tells us why our genetics are different than Adams. Just look to the genetics of Amish people. Good day in spite of your snobbish remarks

  • bobmead1960

    Pretty sure these books are the same as the Torah. You see the Old Testament and Torah are very similar in content. So your statement is false.

  • lorasinger

    Kalvesmaki, a biblical scholar, says this:

    LXX Jeremiah is shorter than MT Jeremiah by roughly one-eighth, and the order of its chapters is quite different.

    LXX Job is about one-sixth smaller than MT Job, and includes an ending not extant in the Hebrew.

    Almost half of the verses in LXX Esther are not found in MT Esther.

    LXX Exodus and MT Exodus differ in many places according to order of verses, and inclusion / exclusion of words and material.

    The Septuagint in your hands was reworked by Christian scholars and includes Isaiah and prophets.

    The original Septuagint only had the first five books of the bible.

  • Keep proving Paul correct.

    1CO 1.18-26 For the message about the cross is nonsense…the nonsense of our preaching…Not many of you were wise by human standards…

    Boy oh boy, that’s true.

  • bobmead1960

    Maybe you should have read better. I didn’t site Job, Esther and you site that Jeremiah and Exodus have slight differences. You proved my point that the Torah is full of Biblical prophecy. But Good try.

  • lorasinger

    You didn’t cite any of the books. Kalvesmaki is the one who wrote this. It doesn’t follow that the Torah, the first five books of the OT, is full of biblical prophecy. Just the fact that your Septuagint includes Isaiah and the prophets is a clear sign that it is not a Jewish work. You, like other Christians like to think YOU know best how to interpret the original Jewish bible and you don’t.

  • bobmead1960

    I cited 12 books. Many of the Jewish Torah books are the same as The Old Testament Bible. Interpretation is interpretation. But glad you can disagree for nothing.

  • lorasinger

    That’s not what the Jews say, and who should know better 🙂

    Quote: ”

    There are 304,805 letters (approximately 79,000 words) in the Torah. In the over 3,000 years since Moses received the original Scripture from
    Mt. Sinai and wrote the 13 copies (twelve of which were distributed among the Tribes), spelling variants have emerged on a total of nine words — with absolutely no effect on their meaning.
    .
    The Christian Bible, in comparison, has over 200,000 variants and in 400 instances, the variants change the meaning of the text; 50 of these are of great significance. (Messiah Truth)
    .
    And that’s just the first five books.

  • Whiskyjack

    While I agree that many of the doctrines you mention were later accretions, claiming that there were no supernatural stories in the NT seems to be going too far. The raising of Lazarus, the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27:52-53… don’t those count as supernatural?

  • bobmead1960

    wee

  • bobmead1960

    I looked up three Messianic verses and they were in the Torah; Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14; 53:12. 1) The enemy (Messiah) would come from a woman to defeat Satan; 2) Messiah would be born of a virgin; 3) He would be crucified. Do you want it spelled out any clearer?

  • Vynette Holliday

    Yes, you are quite correct. I should have been more specific. I was referring to the Virgin Birth, Divinity, Trinity etc. The ‘miracle’ stories in the New Testament recalled for those who witnessed them the similar ‘miracles’ performed by Old Testament figures such as Elijah and Moses.

    The point is that those Old Testament figures were not divine, not virgin born, and not part of any trinity, yet the Bible records that they performed similar feats to Jesus.

  • lorasinger

    The Reply is that of course, the Messiah will be the seed of a woman, but so is every human since Adam and Eve the seed of a woman. Let’s take a closer look at the verses in question.

    Genisis 3:13-15 says “And the L-rd G-d said to the women, “What is this you have done!” And the woman replied, “The serpant duped me, and I ate.” Then the L-rd said to the serpant, “Because you did this, more cursed shall you be than all cattle and all the wild beasts: on your belly shall you crawl and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. I will put emnity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; they shall strike at your head, and you shall strike at their heel.” (JPS)

    I see nothing in these passages that refer to a redeemer. I see that Eve’s decendents (seed, if you will), will have a dislike for snakes and hit them in the head. Notice, it says offspring and they, indicating multiple people. Thus, this is not referring to one person exclusively. It is not, in the Jewish view, even a Messianic prophecy
    ……………………

  • lorasinger

    Continued:

    Isaiah 7:14. Ahaz is in a war against two kings and is worried about the outcome. Isaiah takes the prophecy for Ahaz. “”Therefore the L-RD Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a young woman will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel.” Now look at Isaiah 7:16. “Yea, before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land whose two kings thou hast a horror of shall be forsaken.” And so it actually happened. By the time little Mannie could toddle, Ahaz won his war.
    …………….
    Though the “servant” in Isaiah 53 is not openly identified – these verses merely refer to “My servant” (52:13, 53:11) – the “servant” in each of the previous Servant Songs is plainly and repeatedly identified as the Jewish nation. Beginning with chapter 41, the equating of God’s Servant with the nation of Israel is made nine times by the prophet Isaiah, and no one other than Israel is identified as the “servant”:
    •“You are My servant, O Israel” (41:8)
    •“You are My servant, Israel” (49:3)
    •see also Isaiah 44:1, 44:2, 44:21, 45:4, 48:20

  • lorasinger

    Isaiah isn’t part of the Torah in Judaism. It was added by Christians as part of their Septuagint, along with the interpolations.

  • Whiskyjack

    Agreed.

  • don schaar

    Jesus was a servant. He said he came to serve. So it could equally apply to him as a person. Your intellectualism is doing you a disservice.

  • don schaar

    Are some of those impossible events the miracles Jesus performed. You wouldn’t know a miracle if it came up and slapped you in the face. You would try to come up with a natural explanation so you could continue to refuse to grasp the obvious. Poor humanist evolutionist atheist.

  • don schaar

    wrong lora. Cains sacrifice was rejected by god and ables was accepted. One was an animal sacrifice. Nice try tho.

  • don schaar

    wrong again gary. She had to be a virgin for Jesus to born free of sin.

  • lorasinger

    It could, it would, it might BUT it doesn’t.
    .
    Where do you read, anywhere in Isaiah “And the LORD said, Jesus, you are my son”? Anywhere? Nope.
    .
    Does it speak of “my first born son” Yes.
    .
    Does it say “Israel, you are my son” ? Yep. “My first born son” Yep.
    .
    No man gods in Judaism, Don

  • don schaar

    Academic investigation is nothing but pure speculation and imagination, not proof in any sense of the word. These acamedians who think the are wise and the ones Jesus was talking about when he said he came to confound the wise. Academia is what you do when you cant do anything productive.

  • don schaar

    Lora there was more than one Herod.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Sounds like you were a real wiz in school . . .

  • don schaar

    I will compare my c v with yours anyday.

  • lorasinger

    Gee. D’ya think?

  • lorasinger

    Yeah, it was more than a nice try. Cain and Abel weren’t IN the garden.

  • lorasinger

    Is your first sentence a question, don? Doesn’t home schooling teach that? The “obvious” being a miracle, of course. Handy having miracles, isn’t it?

  • don schaar

    Sure is handy. Teaches us that jesus spoke with authority. Didn’t he say if you don’t believe me then believe the miracles (that prove who he was). Oh if only the veil could be removed from your face so that you could see the truth.

  • lorasinger

    Well, don, it depends on what Jesus as a Jewish man would say. If it isn’t Jewish, it’s what the anonymous gentile writers put in the mouth of a man god. You’ve gotta kind of pull the two apart and see where the words come from. Since Jewish messiahs don’t do miracles, I guess it’s something the writers made up for him. Interesting!

  • bobmead1960

    Sadly, you don’t understand prophecy and how it works. Yes, the statements were said to King Ahaz, but the underlying inference is another message about the Messiah. And the same with other prophetic passages. Maybe you should seek out other scholars that teach prophecy.

  • lorasinger

    There is no underlying inference by Jewish writers for a concept that doesn’t exist in Judaism. Sorry Bob, there are no man gods in Judaism and there are no prophecies for such anywhere in the OT.
    .
    Maybe YOU should consult Jewish scholars who know their own book?

  • Gary Roth

    Why would that be? Unless you accept the faulty notion that sin is a sexually transmitted disease. Augustine introduced that idea into Christian thought – the connection between sin and sex is not biblical, not Jewish. The idea of the virgin birth comes from non-Christian thought – Emperors and other really important people had special births, forecasting their importance. Luke introduces this idea, as he does imperial titles, to contrast Jesus’ reign with that of Caesar. Writing to a primarily Greek/non-Jewish audience, he uses a story line that is familiar to them – the heroic birth. The other thought behind this, and connected to it, is the idea of Jesus as divine/human. The virgin birth serves to make this connection clear to his audience. There is not need for Mary to be a virgin for Jesus to be sinless.

  • You can easily relate mythical motifs (“motives”) in the Bible to other myths that existed in Middle Eastern culture before Jesus. This includes virgin births, special events like a guiding star attending a birth, resurrection, healing, prophesy. Virtually every supernatural event in the Bible has such a precedent, borrowed from existing mythology. This was the 1st and 2nd century equivalent of using “memes” that were in the air.

    Similarly, you could invent a super-hero and easily supply your new character with a familiar panoply of traits (a power, a strange event marking the emergence or genesis of the power, rejection by society, etc). You would draw easily from all the existing comic and movie super-heros. Anybody could and would do this, if writing about a new super-hero. The question becomes: how much of the Bible was like this, a borrowing of familiar mythical memes? Some of the controversies in Biblical scholarship become interesting in exactly this light, for example, the supposed discovery of a Dead Sea Scrolls fragment from before the time of Jesus referring to a suffering Messiah being resurrected after three days. Not everybody is convinced the translated word fragment is “resurrected” I gather…

    The “mythicists” (scholars who argue that Jesus did not exist) point to the these motifs in the Bible as proof that the whole Jesus story is fictional. Progressive Christians take a different tack, drawing a distinction between clearly mythical elements and likely or possible historical elements. Ehrman points out the basic ingredients of the critical-historical approach (basically: using real evidence) in almost every book. Those who agree with Ehrman, including Crossan and Spong, try to recover the original message and teaching of Jesus, without the supernatural elements borrowed from existing myths. It isn’t hard. After all, Hercules supposed to be the result of a god impregnating a woman also.

  • charlesburchfield

    no i mean you. i am all about being inna relationship that helps me connect realistically to god and other ppl.

  • charlesburchfield

    that’s very interesting. what does that mean to you?

  • charlesburchfield

    naw. that dog don’t hunt. what is it all about

  • lorasinger

    It’s pretty hard to be in a personal relationship with an invisible friend after about the age of five.

  • lorasinger

    Just very interesting, like all the other pagan man god, virgin birth stories I’ve encountered in Greco-Roman mythology.

  • lorasinger

    Just as I described above.

  • charlesburchfield

    never the less?

  • charlesburchfield

    what exactly? i don’t understand.

  • charlesburchfield

    but not real?