Laozi, Jesus and the Virgin Birth

One of the most common arguments of the Jesus myth hypothesis is that the virgin birth of Jesus in the Gospels is just another version of the many virgin births in other religions.  When one looks at these stories, it quickly becomes apparent that there are not as many virgin births as some claim (Horus and Mithras were not born of a virgin).  But there are some virgin births in other religions.

One of the competing virgin births is that of Laozi or Lao Tzu, a major (and possibly mythical) figure in the foundation of Taoism.  Although this is a virgin birth, it should be carefully compared with that of the accounts in the Gospels.  Loazi was born to a virgin mother that conceived him through the power of a polar star, whose rays were holy. The virgin mother carried him for eighty-one years and then gave birth to him out of her left armpit while leaning against a plum tree. Laozi’s mother died after giving birth, but it is believed that her soul merged with the soul of her son and became one.  Notice the details of an eighty-one year pregnancy and the birth from the armpit.

Compare that with the virgin birth of Jesus.  While the Gospel account is obviously miraculous, it is much more restrained than that which we find concerning Laozi.  We have no reason not to believe that Mary had a normal nine month pregnancy and then gave birth in the normal way that women give birth.  In other religions, the virgin birth is one aspect of a fantastic series of events surrounding the birth.  The Gospels, on the other hand, separate themselves by recounting believable and realistic events following the miraculous conception.  The Gospel writers give no indication of a borrowing of a universal virgin birth myth.

 

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50 thoughts on “Laozi, Jesus and the Virgin Birth”

  1. The doctrine of Virgin Birth being one of the key biblical doctrines has always been attacked.

    I am a Christian apologist from India, and have been trying to see parallel views of other writers in defence of the Christian faith.

    Dr. Johnson C. Philip
    India

  2. I agree. The challenge, however, is for us to deal with accounts that predate the Gospels. I do believe that there is no evidence that the Gospel virgin birth was based on pagan myths.

    One thing I did not mention is that there is also a tradition that Laozi was born with white hair and a long white beard. Again, very far from a normal looking baby Jesus.

  3. One of the most common arguments of the Jesus myth hypothesis is that the virgin birth of Jesus in the Gospels is just another version of the many virgin births in other religions.

    #1. Most common is exaggeration.

    #2 You fail to address the mythicists’ real reasoning. Ancient religion did not have a widespread virgin birth myth. What ancient religion did have was a widespread belief that great men—particularly gods who came to Earth—had divine fathers and mortal mothers. That’s what Mt and Lk copied.

    The VIRGIN part is also copied directly from paganism – it comes from the universal pagan idea of divine prophecy. Mt. and Lk applied that pagan idea to Jesus, and found what their ancient minds thought were prophecies about a maiden messiahs’ mom in Isaiah.

    I’m glad I could clear this up for you.

    believable and realistic events following the miraculous conception.

    Mary got ready and hurried to a town…and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth …exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women … as soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

    KB OH

  4. You are correct that most often it is a supernatural birth and not a virgin birth. But that is not how Jesus myth proponents state it. They describe pagan myths using New Testament language, even if it is not accurate in describing the myth, and then state: “Look how close this is to the Gospels!” Looking at them side by side reveals how great the differences really are.

    That virgin births are based on the universal idea of divine prophesy is unfounded. Read the Isaiah passage. It in no way required a virgin birth for the messiah. A prophecy that was fulfilled in the days of Isaiah was re-used as a way of describing and explaining the actual virgin birth of Jesus.

    I am not saying that nothing supernatural happened. But compare the Gospels to the pagan myths. For example, Laozi is described as being born from his mother’s armpit already sporting white hair and a long beard. It is not impossible that John would move in his mother’s womb, the miracle is that it happened in the presence of the pre-born Jesus.

  5. “You are correct that most often it is a supernatural birth and not a virgin birth. But that is not how Jesus myth proponents state it. They describe pagan myths using New Testament language, even if it is not accurate in describing the myth,”

    This is irrelevant. Yes, there are different words in different languages. But often meanings are similar if not the same. Words even etymologically evolve between languages as do other cultural elements such as religious motifs. For instance, Egyptian meri and Christian Mary may be etymologically linked.

    Many goddesses were called virgins even after they gave birth. This is because their virginity was an inherent characteristic. When speaking about these issues, we are talking about mythology and not biology.

    Another issue is that scripture says that Jesus has brothers and scripture doesn’t say that they weren’t Mary’s children. If they weren’t Mary’s children, scripture would’ve mentioned it. Anyways, Mary gave birth and still was considered a virgin. Obviously, her hymen was broken at least when Jesus came out. Also, considering that Paganism had examples of goddesses and women remaining or regaining virginity after sex, there is no reason to assume Joseph and marry never had sex.

  6. Show me the text where Isis is called Meri. This is another example of the cut and paste methods of the Jesus myth people.

    What is the difference in language? If you open things wide open, you can make anything a parallel to anything else. Jesus myth people say that Horus was born of a virgin. Horus was the result of post-death sexual intercourse between Osiris and Isis. Is necrophilia and virginal conception really the same thing? Jesus myth people say that Horus was crucified. Horus was actually stung by a scorpion. Is that the same as a crucifixion? What kind of death would we need to not be a crucifixion?

    Regarding Mary, her perpetual virginity is a Roman Catholic doctrine not a biblical teaching. There is no claim in the Bible that she remained a virgin. It only says that Joseph and Mary refrained from sex until after Jesus was born. Jesus’ brothers and sisters were conceived the good old fashioned way.

  7. This subject of meri and Mary is something I just read about. It was a major section of the book. I could try to give you the gist of the argument, but a blog isn’t the place to attempt to describe all of the evidence. It was a long and detailed argument provided by the author. I don’t know how well I can present it in a small space.

    I’m about to go somewhere at the moment, but I’ll look at the material again. I’ll see if I can find a way to concisely convey it to you. She does mention some other scholars in Egyptology that write about this. I’ll gather together her main sources so that you can check them out for yourself.

  8. I just got back. I’ll get to the meri issue later, but I was thinking about another aspect.

    I was pointing out how the issue of virginity in ancient religions had more to do with mythological meanings (with their attendant spiritual implications) than with biology. Of course, ancient people were aware of basic facts of biology, but that wasn’t their main concern when conveying religious truths.

    In light of modern understanding, this distinction between mythology and science is even more significant.

    Scientifically speaking, virgin births are impossible in humans or rather no known cases have been observed. Billions of people have been born under the supervision of medical doctors and I’ve never heard of a documented case of virgin birth in humans.

    Mythologically speaking, virginity is a very profound symbol of spiritual truths. Comparative mythologists and Depth Psychologists have written probably thousands of books on the significance of this common mythological/archetypal motif.

    Considering the lack of scientific evidence, the rational conclusion is that virgin birth motif in various religions isn’t meant to imply a literal interpretation.

  9. I had another thought about the distinction between virgin birth as mythological truth vs as biological fact. Parthenogenesis is the term that is used by both scholars and scientists.

    Non-sexual reproduction is common in some species, but it has a perfectly natural explanation. The process is scientifically understood and no divine intervention is necessary. So, even if Mary could be proven as an example of human parthenogenesis, it wouldn’t prove Jesus’ divinity.

    Murdock mentioned how it took her a long time to realize the common motif of virgin births. The reason was because scholars used the term parthenogenesis, probably so as not to offend orthodox Christians.

    The term parthenogenesis comes from the word parthenos. The Greek concept meant virginity, but obviously it didn’t mean what we now understand as biological virginity. Zeus was called parthenos despite having impregnated many women. Virginity was a mythological status. It’s no different than the mythological belief that Catholics hold that Mary was a virgin even after giving birth because the whole process was considered miraculous (meaning it had nothing to do with biology).

  10. The whole meri thing is a good example of what is wrong with the Jesus myth hypothesis. The fact that word meri exists and that there is a story of a woman miraculously conceives a child leads them to combine them even the name meri does not appear in the birth narratives of Horus. I encourage you to read the actual myth (they can be found online) and see how different they are. I was quite shocked about how few virgin births actually take place in pagan myths. They say that Mithras was an example of virgin birth but the myth says he emerged from a rock. Was the rock a virgin? Probably, but that is hardly what most people mean by virgin births. This is a big problem. Jesus myth writers confidently affirm that there are many virgin births in pagan myths and their readers assume that there must be virgin births in the stories. What the authors mean but do not say is that there are many miraculous births that they are describing as virgin births to make it look closer to the Gospel stories. Artistic license or deception? That is not my place to judge. All I can do is to present the evidence as it really is and give people the information to make better decisions.

  11. As I pointed out in one of your other blogs, there are a number of respectable scholarly sources including the Catholic Encyclopedia that etymologically connect meri with Mary and Miriam. Also, meri was an epithet that increased with popularity in it’s use with deities including with Isis, and Isis popularity increased massively preceding and for centuries into the Christian era. Meri was used as an epithet and as a proper name.

    Meri is a known epithet of Isis and they’re found together in hieroglyphics. Isis was one of the goddesses referred to as meri directly prior to Christianity. It doesn’t really matter if it’s specifically found in a nativity if it was common knowledge and the connections are strong even without such a reference. Unfortunate for you, it is referenced in the Luxor birth narrative. The term mert was used referring to divine love. Mert is just another form of Meri. Specifically, this term describes Horus feeling divine love towards Isis.

    Meri means something like beloved or loving. This fits the characteristics typically applied to the Virgin Mary as well. Plus, there were numerous pre-Christian goddesses named Mari. At Philae, Mery is found in in a relief regarding the evemerized princess Arsinoe. This is important to note as the mythicist theory is that Mary is a evemerized deity. This explains the differences between deities as straight mythology that have weird elements such as emerging from a rock and an evemerized mythology that had been made more mundane. There are numerous such examples. Murdock wrote about evemerism in Suns of God:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=rey19p_ycHUC&pg=PA53&lpg=PA53&dq=evemerism&source=bl&ots=83EbImdjlX&sig=lCQfP0aJPb-TUNzzd7iwQJZPc84&hl=en&ei=VvvRSbKQI4bsnQf2q_jHBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result

    Isis and her sister Nephthys were known as the plural Merti which begins with the same Egyptian symbols as Meri. This is the Latin Mertae, the Hebrew and German Martha, and the Italian Marta. Like Isis and Nephthys, Mary and Martha were sisters of a resurrection figure.

    Another detail is that meri was an epithet but it was also a direct reference to the deity. It could come before or after the deity’s name. There are offering formulas where meri ends each line. There is evidence that Isis later on was sometimes referred to simply as Meri.

    According to Budge, one of the common titles of Horus in the Book of the Dead is “the Beloved Son” which is what Jesus is called. In fact, Merit was the coptic term for meri and was used in reference to Jesus. Horus’ father Osiris was also known as Osiris Merti.

    Horus’ sometimes mother was Hathor and she was referenced as Meri. Hathor was the Egyptian goddess of love and the Virgin Mary was worshipped by the Kypriotes by the name Aphroditissa. At Maturea, the sycamore-fig of Hathor, with the characters and name of Meri, is considered the tree of Mary and her child. Mary is often referred to as “the beloved” in Gnostic texts.

    Isis and Hathor became increasingly linked in the Greco-Roman period, and was also identified with Aphrodite, as was the Virgin Mary purportedly identified on Cyprus which is close to Egypt. The very popular Greek goddess Selene was linked with Isis and even called Isis-Selene, and was invoked as “O beloved mistress”. Plutarch referred to Isis as “wise and wisdom-loving”. By the second century CE, Isis was known as the “All-loving Mother”.

    Furthermore, Isis was called a virgin in Egyptian texts and she became connected with Greek virgin goddesses. There is also the Paschale Chronicle which refers to a pre-Christian Egyptian ritual with a virgin birth and nativity with a babe in a crib. This is just one of several Christian accounts admitting to these motifs from Paganism being pre-Christian. And the Book of the Dead refers to the “cradle of Osiris” where he renews his bith.

    This is all from Murdock’s Christ In Egypt. Besides what I provided, she has another 70 pages of references like this just about Isis and she goes into more detail about Luxor. Here is an adapted excerpt from the book:

    http://www.stellarhousepublishing.com/luxor.html

    Murdock criticized Carrier’s interpretation claiming he was mixing up inscriptions. Here is Earl Doherty talking about this disagreement about Luxor (scroll down):

    http://www.jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/supp13D.htm

  12. I should add that there are multiple versions of Isis conceiving Horus. Only one of these versions involves a Phallus. Murdock writes about how the tale became sanitized over time. So, there are versions of the story where no sex occurs.

    Also important to note there are multiple versions of Jesus’ conception. In some Gnostic versions, Jesus is conceived normally which means Mary lost her virginity just like any other woman.

  13. I would want to see the references to the primary sources. All of the Egyptian versions I have seen included intercourse. The Greek Plutarch speaks of the necrophilia but then gives a second version. In this version, the Nile represents Osiris’ semen and the land Isis’ body. So even when physical intercourse is not described, sexual imagery is used. I have never seen any version that even remotely approaches a virgin birth. If you have another version, I would love to see it.

  14. The one thing I’ve learned about translations is that versions by scholars can diverge greatly. I’ll have to look into it further, but I think the translated word for semen has other possible translations. This translation issue was part of the conflict between Carrier and Murdock. Carrier thought that something portrayed overt sex, but Murdock referenced various scholars that disagreed.

    Offhand, there are a couple of non-sexual conception scenes I’ve seen.

    One picture portrays Isis as a bird hovering over the dead body of Osiris, but they’re not even touching. I have the image before me and I suppose it can be found on the web. Murdock has this image referenced to p. 80 of Budge’s On the Future Life. I think she talks about it in the text somewhere, but I don’t remember where at the moment.

    The other picture is panel 4 from the Luxor hieroglyphics. I also have it before me. Here is what Murdock says:

    p.186-7 “The hieroglyphs themselves in the Amenhotep inscription do contain two phallic symbols; however, one of these clearly is part of a term meaning “husband,” and the phallus signs (Gardiner’s D52 and d53) are often used to indicate maleness, rather than sexual intercourse. In consideration of the fact that there are Egyptian representations of men and gods with erect phalluses (“ithyphallic”), indicating that the Egyptians felt no compunction to avoid “pornographic” imagery, the question remains, why the delicacy of the birth narrative images, which do not indicate any sort of sexuality at all? The figure of Mun holding an ankh to the nostril, imparting life, appears elsewhere outside fo the Luxor nativity cycle. Hence, it may be that, viewing the delicate scene alone, the average Egyptian and Alexandrian Jew who was involved in the creation of Christianity—not being able to read the hieroglyphs, was not aware of any sexual innuendo in the narrative.”

    p. 190 “Furthermore, if all this eroticism were so obvious, one would think that it would be noticed by Rev. Sayce—a devout Christian minister—whose oversight in pointing out this difference between the Egyptian and Christian nativity narratives would seem baffling, since he undoubtedly believed the Luxor depiction to be a virgin birth, which he specifically deemed it.”

    p. 189 “It seems to be agreed by all parties that the queen in this image is a virgin before her impregnation, which occurs after her “converse” with the god Amun in the form of her husband.”

    p. 191 “If the creators of the Luxor scenes felt no difficulty in leaving out a number of phrases that might be considered erotic, it should not surprise us if the creators of Christianity did likewise.”

    Murdock refers to and quotes numerous scholars in this section, but I’m sure you can find various differing opinions. Carrier for some reason sees a sex scened and so you could read his work as well. Carrier has a blog and has many papers available online.

  15. I went to this web-site and I am far from convinced. The virgin birth is perhaps not the central doctrine of the Gospel but it is clearly taught in Matthew and Luke and is assumed in John. There is too much for me to respond to here but if you have specific concerns, I would be happy to address them.

  16. As you know from going to the http://www.wallsofjericho.info website, it challenges your claim that Matthew and Luke taught the virgin birth.

    It is true that there is a lot on the website, and I guess readers can make their own judgements on its merits.

    Just one example — the churches usually interpret Mary’s question, “How shall this be since I know not a man?” as Mary saying, “How can I have a child since I am a virgin?”

    Since the angel spoke of a future, this interpretation of Mary’s question is rather ridiculous. Although unintended, it makes Mary out as being either very naïve or a simpleton, someone who did not know about the birds and the bees.

  17. I read the articles and are totally unconvinced. Few biblical scholars, Christian or otherwise, would deny that Matthew and Luke describe a virgin birth. It is true that the Hebrew from Isaiah is almah which is a young woman. Matthew is quoting the Septuagint which has parthenos or virgin. You misunderstand Matthew’s use of the Old Testament. It is not as linear as modern people of the west prefer. Rather Matthew looks to the Old Testament and sees the words that describe the events that they have experienced. A completely acceptable way of understanding the fulfillment of prophecy in first century Judaism.

    Regarding the Luke passage, Mary questions how this can be since she is not sexually active (being an unmarried Torah observant girl, she would be a virgin). The angel responds by not just saying that Joseph will impregnate her some time in the future but that the Holy Spirit will cause this to happen by his power – a miracle!

    Look at the Matthew passage. The entire controversy is about Joseph knowing that he is not the father. Mary was not sleeping around as God chose her for her holiness and devotion to God, not for her child bearing hips.

  18. The examination of the birth narratives in the NT is often approached with a mindset that prevents objective examination. Here I will restrict myself to just making these few points.

    1. Isaiah spoke his prophecy in Hebrew and the book of Isaiah was written in Hebrew. His prophecy speaks of a “young woman,” which I think you asknowledge.

    Isaiah’s prophecy and fulfilent were to do with contemporary events. If he predicted a “virgin birth,” then we are looking at a virgin birth circa 735BC. But, of course, he did not speak about a virgin conceiving.

    The Greek translation of the book of Isaiah into Greek known as the Septuagint was made some 500 years after Isaiah died, and attributes to Isaiah something he did not say. Put bluntly, Isaiah could not change his prophecy when he was dead.

    2. The angel’s announcemt that prompted Mary’s question spoke of a future conception. Why would Mary’s lack of sexual activity to that point in time have any bearing on her question about a pregnancy that would occur some time after?

    All women who bear children are virgins for part of their lives. Didn’t Mary know about the birds and the bees?

  19. A comment about the almah-parenthos issue. The translators of the LXX thought that was a reasonable translation. It is not like they put camel instead of bird. In that culture, a young woman would likely be a virgin. But you are right that Isaiah did not insist on a literal virgin. However, this means that the writers of the New Testament were not forced to fit in virgin birth as there was no expectation of a messianic virgin birth. They used biblical language to describe what they experienced. Regarding Mary in Luke, the point is found in the context. When Mary points out that she is a virgin, the angel immediately explains the supernatural circumstances. There does not seem to be any indication that Mary and Joseph would naturally conceive this child. Note that Luke does tell us that Zechariah and Elizabeth did have sexual intercourse so he would have said that for Mary if that is what he meant.

  20. 1. Isaiah

    “The translators of the LXX thought that was a reasonable translation” is the sort of inexact language that has been used to edge around the facts.

    The Hebrew word almah has to do with a time in life, not a state of life.

    At different times Isaiah spoke the word almah (young woman, time of life) and the word bethulah (virgin, state of life).

    When Isaiah made his Immanuel prediction, he told Ahaz to “Behold (or Look) the almah (young woman).” Had he meant to say “virgin,” he would have. He didn’t.

    I doubt you would attribute to Isaiah the words you call a “reasonable translation,” for to do so would have Isaiah prophesying a virgin birth in his time.

    2. Luke

    Luke should certainly be read in context, including Mary’s question:

    Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

    Again I mention the interpretation given to Mary’s question is quite ridiculous, given that the angel spoke of conception in the future.

    As to this interpretation that Mary posed her question on the basis that she was a virgin, the relevant Greek word in Luke’s gospel is ginosko – to know. Luke uses it on 22 other occasions, for example in Zacharias’ question:

    And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”

    On these 22 occasions, ginosko (to know) never refers to sexual intercourse. Each time it is used in the sense of “learning” or “knowing” about something.

    In the case of Zacharias, for example, he did not know how this could happen as Elizabeth was past the age of childbearing.

    Mary’s similar question also used this word in this sense. For reasons explained in my article Luke’s Account of the Birth of Jesus, her question could quite reasonably be put like this:

    How can this be, since I do not know a man who has the credentials to be father of the son you have just told me about?

    1. A good friend has recently directed me to this site, and I hope I havne’t been too forward in this my first submission.

      Just a few short observations:

      Any one who states that Matthew and Luke in their introductory chapters are saying that Jesus of Nazareth was born of “virgin birth” is guilty of a profound ignorance of some very basic Jewish idiom and religious concepts, especially the universal fatherhood of Jehovah God.

      It was precisely because they were making an appeal to God’s universal fatherhood in their narratives that the disciples used very Jewish idiom to record their knowledge of Jesus’ birth.

      The OT abounds with words, phrases and indeed whole sentences referring to the birth of other people, which were they to be substituted in the NT and applied to Jesus, would equally impart a conviction of “virgin birth” to many devout Christians. In short, many words similar to those used in Matthew and Luke referring to Jesus’ birth can be found in the OT referring to other people’s birth.

      As a quick example take a look at some of the introductory words to the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, also look at the announcement of Samuel’s birth.

      People read “virgin birth” into Matthew and Luke because they do not understand the Jewish idiom used and because their mind has been thoroughly programmed by their priests with constant repetition that this is what Matthew and Luke are saying.

      People find “virgin birth” in the NT precisely because that is what they EXPECT to find there with their preconceptions.

      Les Kelly,
      Launceston, Tasmania,
      Australia.
      = = = = = = = = = =

  21. Thank you for your comments and no you are not too forward. You are always free to express your opinions. I do have some problems with your theory however. You say that the virgin birth is a misunderstanding of the Jewish idiom of universal fatherhood. Where do you get this from? What primary texts. I have studied early Judaism and have not come across this as a major theme. In fact one of the unique things about Jesus is that he addresses God as Father. That was not a part of the Jewish tradition. It is difficult to find that type of address in the OT or in other early Jewish texts.

    There are traditions of supernatural births surrounding certain men of God in the OT and I think Jesus’ birth should be seen in that context. But even in comparison to the birth of John the Baptist, the Gospel writers seem to be portraying Jesus as the ultimate of the OT prophets who did not even need a human father.

    As for finding the virgin birth in the NT because that is what we expect to see, read Matthew 1:18-20. That passage only makes sense with a virgin birth. You may not believe in the virgin birth but it is difficult to argue that Matthew and Luke did not believe in the virgin birth.

    1. I am sorry Stephen, but I don’t see the relevance of your point when you say:
      “There are traditions of supernatural births surrounding certain men of God in the OT and I think Jesus’ birth should be seen in that context. But even in comparison to the birth of John the Baptist, the Gospel writers seem to be portraying Jesus as the ultimate of the OT prophets who did not even need a human father.”

      With absolutely no offense intended, I see your reply as typical of the humbug of many other theologians I have encountered.

      Why must people make recourse to blatantly unbiblical terms (eg supernatural) in order to make their point???
      Personally, I have no problem with the horrendous natural power of Jehovah God, from the microcosm to up to the macrocosm. I find no need to indulge in unbiblical terms such as “supernatural.” I am perfectly comfortable with Gabriel’s statement to Mary “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”

      The central question should simply be “What does the Bible say.” So your recourse to “traditions” – well I seem to remember that man made traditions were often at the heart of Jesus’ difference of opinion with the Sanhedrin.

      The Bible tells us that God created mankind in his own image, (Gen 1:27). It also tells us that God is spirit and must be worshiped in spirit and truth (Joshua 24:14 & John 4:24). These are very fundamental points from which the Bible never deviates.

      The term “son of God” commonly appears in Jewish Scripture as both an individual, personal reference, and also in a national sense of the nation Israel. It denotes a special close, relationship of ethical obedience to Jehovah. Jewish theology has no problem with the term, and unequivocally denies that it implies any special personal BIOLOGICAL relationship. Referring to the Nation of Israel we read:

      Dt 1:31. …. and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.
      Dt 14:1. You are the children of the LORD your God. Do not cut yourselves or shave the front of your heads for the dead, 14:2. for you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be his treasured possession.
      Dt. 32:6. Is this the way you repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?
      Dt 32:18. You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. 32:19. the LORD saw this and rejected them because he was angered by his sons and daughters

      Many OT prophets continued writing in this theme.

      2Sa 7:14. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men.

      1Ch 17:12. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 17:13. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor.

      1Ch 22:9/10. …. he will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign.
      He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.

      Isaiah in 42:5 did not explicitly call Jehovah God “Father” nevertheless he paid him all the essential attributes of being so.

      Isa 42:5. This is what God the LORD says — he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: 42:6. “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 42:7. to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. 42:8. “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.

      Isa 63:16: But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.

      Isa. 64:8. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter.

      Jeremiah continues with the allegory of Jehovah being the “potter” of mankind:

      Jer 18:6. “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”

      Mal 1:6. “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty

      Ps 104:29. When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. 104:30. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.

      Devout Jewish thinking regards the conception / birth of ALL people, both Jew and Gentile, to be a new miracle directly wrought by the power of Almighty God who is revered as the creator of the universe and everything within it including mankind, which was created in God’s own spiritual image. If the creator of the world directly creates every living person, then to the Jewish mind the need for a “special” virgin birth becomes a total nonsense; in fact it is an abomination reminiscent of pagan mythology. At all times the Bible presents the relationship between God and mankind as being spiritual. It is clearly laid out in the OT how God creates all men, (Gen 1:27; Pr 20:12) and all men in turn have a responsibility to reciprocate by obediently living by God’s commands and ethical laws (De 10:12). Those who live by God’s ethical standards of conduct are spiritually “born of God” and called children or sons of God (Rom 8:14; Jn 1:12). Not all men accept their responsibility to act as God’s sons but some men most certainly do.

      Stephen, I do not fool myself by thinking that I have quoted any Bible verse which you aren’t aware of.

      Our difference is the interpretation which we place upon them.

      Absolutely nowhere in the NT did any disciple preach anything remotely like “virgin birth” or “Holy Trinity”.

      The dichotomy which the disciples addressed was whether the crucified resurrected Jesus was a son of God.

      Les Kelly, Launceston. Australia.

      PS Sorry it is so long.

  22. You say — “there are traditions of supernatural births surrounding certain men of God in the OT and I think Jesus’ birth should be seen in that context.”

    What OT texts are you referring to?

    How is the conception and birth of those referred to in these OT texts any different from the normal?

  23. Some examples that come to mind include the birth of Isaac, Samson and Samuel. They are different from normal births in that the mothers were barren and incapable of having children. In the case of Isaac, you have the added challenge of Sarah’s age. John the Baptist’s birth is much like these and Jesus’ is to a certain degree but is the ultimate example.

  24. I do not think you have answered the question from my previous post:

    “How is the conception and birth of those referred to in these OT texts any different from the normal?”

    So how did their respective mothers conceive Isaac, Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist?

    In each instance was it done with, or without, the cooperation of a man?

  25. I never claimed that those OT births were proof of or other examples of the virgin birth. They were conceived through sexual intercourse but with supernatural assistance to overcome the barrenness. The virgin birth of Jesus is meant to be seen in the context of what happened before but as the ultimate example in that it did not require a human father.

    1. Stephen,

      To an orthodox Jew the doctrine of their Messiah being born of “virgin birth” is totally obnoxious – they see it as paganism revamped.

      Never the less I have sat in Jewish theology classes where the Rabbi attributed “virgin birth” to both Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospel.

      This I attribute to intellectual dishonesty on the part of Jews who feel trapped and will take any escape they can find.

      I simply quote Paul:

      1Cor 1:18. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto
      us which are saved it is the power of God.”

      1Cor 1:23. “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto
      the Greeks foolishness.”

      Acts 26:22, 23. “ To this day I stand witnessing to both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say would come – That the Christ would suffer, that he would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.“

      Les Kelly.
      Australia.

  26. July 9: Les Kelly said —

    “People read ‘virgin birth’ into Matthew and Luke because they do not understand the Jewish idiom used and because their mind has been thoroughly programmed by their priests with constant repetition that this is what Matthew and Luke are saying.

    “People find ‘virgin birth’ in the NT precisely because that is what they EXPECT to find there with their preconceptions.”

    July 9: Stephen said —

    “There are traditions of supernatural births surrounding certain men of God in the OT and I think Jesus’ birth should be seen in that context. But even in comparison to the birth of John the Baptist, the Gospel writers seem to be portraying Jesus as the ultimate of the OT prophets who did not even need a human father.”

    July 14: T Crosthwaite asked —

    “What OT texts are you referring to?

    “How is the conception and birth of those referred to in these OT texts any different from the normal?”

    July 14: Stephen said —

    “Some examples that come to mind include the birth of Isaac, Samson and Samuel. They are different from normal births in that the mothers were barren and incapable of having children. In the case of Isaac, you have the added challenge of Sarah’s age. John the Baptist’s birth is much like these and Jesus’ is to a certain degree but is the ultimate example.”

    July 14: T Crosthwaite asked —

    “I do not think you have answered the question from my previous post:

    “How is the conception and birth of those referred to in these OT texts any different from the normal?”

    July 15: Stephen said —

    “I never claimed that those OT births were proof of or other examples of the virgin birth. They were conceived through sexual intercourse but with supernatural assistance to overcome the barrenness. The virgin birth of Jesus is meant to be seen in the context of what happened before but as the ultimate example in that it did not require a human father.”

    ________

    I do not think your terms “ultimate,” “certain degree,” and “ultimate example” mean anything in this discussion. Things either are, or they are not.

    On one hand, you say, “There are traditions of supernatural births surrounding certain men of God in the OT and I think Jesus’ birth should be seen in that context.”

    On the other hand, you wish to read into the accounts that all these men had human fathers except for Jesus.

    I refer you to the quote from Les Kelly which began this post, because I think this dichotomy in the way the biblical texts are read is just what he is talking about:

    “People read ‘virgin birth’ into Matthew and Luke because they do not understand the Jewish idiom used and because their mind has been thoroughly programmed by their priests with constant repetition that this is what Matthew and Luke are saying.

    “People find ‘virgin birth’ in the NT precisely because that is what they EXPECT to find there with their preconceptions.”

    ________

    P.S. For some reason the first of Les Kelly’s two posts on July 19 is out of chronological order.

  27. I agree that the term son of God in the OT has various meanings. It can mean Israel, it can mean an angel but in the NT it receives a new meaning. I can see why an orthodox Jew would have problem with the virgin birth. However, even early rabbinic traditions acknowledged that Christians believed the virgin birth. They claimed that Jesus’ real father was a soldier named Pantera, a word play on the Greek word for virgin, parthenos. Whether you believe in the virgin birth or not, it is difficult to deny that Matthew believed in it. Matthew portrays Joseph as ready to divorce Mary because he is not the father of her child. The angel replies by stating that the child’s conception was a miracle that required no human father. That is the plain sense meaning of the text.

  28. The Old Testament — son of God

    Rather than saying “the term son of God in the OT has various meanings,.” perhaps it should be said the concept is applied variously to people (e.g., Solomon) and to a nation (Out of Egypt have I called my son).

    The New Testament — son of God

    On several occasions the epithet “son of God” was applied to Jesus during his lifetime.

    In the following gospel texts, do you think those present with Jesus understood the term “son of God” referred to a divine person or a normal man?

    (Where the Greek term ‘christ’ appears in these texts, I have taken the liberty of translating it into English.)
    ______
    Matthew 5:9 (Jesus)

    Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.
    _____
    Matthew 8:29 (Two demon-posessed men)

    And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?”
    _____
    Matthew 14:33 (Disciples)

    Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
    _____
    Luke 4:41 (Demons)

    And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, “You are the anointed, the Son of God!” And He, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the anointed.
    _____
    Luke 8:28 (Man with demons)

    When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!”
    _____
    John 1:49 (Nathanael)

    Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
    _____
    John 6:69 (Peter)

    Also we have come to believe and know that You are the anointed, the Son of the living God.”
    _____
    John 9:35-8 (Blind man)

    Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him.
    _____
    John 11:27 (Martha)

    She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the anointed, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
    ______________________________

    I have a question regarding your interpretation of Mt 1:20, but that is best dealt with later in a separate post.

  29. I am not sure your differentiation is that significant. Son is used for angels, individuals (e.g. Solomon) and Israel. The question is: how did the New Testament authors understand it? Matthew and Luke seemed to think that God was directly involved in the conception of Jesus without assistance from Joseph.

  30. Steven,

    Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples used the term “son of God” in a SPIRITUAL ethical sense. It denotes a person in a close ethical relationship of obedience to Jehovah God’s values.

    While Jesus acknowledged God as the Father of all living (obviously by virtue of God being the creator of heaven and earth and everything therein), he does not presume that all men by their conduct discharge their responsibilities to act as God’s sons.

    It is a fallacy that Jesus was the first to call Almighty God (or Jehovah) his Father. In his sermon on the hillside of Galilee Jesus called God the Father of OTHER people 15 times before he once called God his own Father. The Old Testament shows quite clearly that the Hebrews regarded their God as their Creator and Father. It was also a common Hebrew practice to incorporate the word or name of God into personal names.

    Yes, absolutely YES – both Matthew and Luke are saying that Jehovah God was involved in the conception / birth of Jesus. As Jehovah God was also involved in the conception / birth of JEPTHA that valiant Judge of Israel, AND all other people too.

    Bur neither Matthew nor Luke are talking about “virgin birth.”

    The first person recorded to explicitly attributing virgin birth to Jesus was Ignatius of Antioch about 110AD. And the tenor of all his letters reads like a Greek melodrama.

    Les Kelly,
    Tasmania.

  31. Les, I will admit that how Jesus uses Father in the Gospels is open to interpretation. I think there is a good case that Jesus was including the idea that he had a unique relationship with the Father but I will allow the idea of other interpretations as well.

    However, regarding the virgin birth in Matthew and Luke, you are simply wrong. Matthew 1:18-20 is not talking about a normal conception and any claim that it is, is simply forcing that interpretation upon the text.

  32. Steven,
    Just a short one for now.

    The “unique” relationship Jesus had with Jehovah God was his absolute obedience to God’s commands unto his own death.

    In Jesus, God knew he had an obedient servant, as opposed to Adam, and consequently God anointed Jesus with power without limit as his agent to speak to the world.

    God in speaking with Moses promised to raise up a prophet from his own people, and like Moses, people would hearken unto him too.

    Any uniqueness in Jesus has to do with his OBEDIENCE to God and the unlimited power God anointed Jesus with.

    All this has absolutely NOTHING to do with “virgin birth” or “trinity” both of which are man made doctrines.

    The crucifixion of Jesus the anointed agent of God by men with vested interests, and the resurrection of Jesus by the power of God was at the very heart of ALL the disciples preached.

    Virgin birth and trinity evolved after the scriptures fell under control of non-Hebrew pagans.

  33. How do you figure that Jesus was unique in being obedient to God to the death? Most of the apostles did the same. Read Hebrews 11 and see how OT prophets did the same. Obedience to death is not unique to Jesus. As for the unlimited power, how are Jesus’ miracles different than Elijah or Elisha’s? Power does not describe the difference either. As for virgin birth being late, Luke and even more clearly Matthew, believed in the virgin birth.

  34. Churches (both trinitarian and unitarian) usually hold that through the doctrine of virgin birth, Jesus was so unique that no other biblical identity should be compared to him. Instances often quoted include Jesus raising the dead, curing various illness of leprosy, blindness, lameness, calming and walking on the waters and finally forgiving people their sins.

    I respond that it is quite biblical for any person whom Jehovah God anoints with power to exercise that power to the limit to which it was delegated and that many of the “miracles” performed by Jesus were also previously done by other OT personalities.

    It is God’s absolute prerogative to delegate his power to whom and to what extent he wishes. Only Jesus received God’s power without measure (Jn 3:34).

    When one approaches theologians with the proposition that the Bible portrays Jesus as a naturally born valiant “Man of God” anointed with power to intervene in the affairs of mankind, then they often respond with either a scurrilous denigration of his parentage or an outright denial of Jesus’ ability of attaining anything worthwhile (because he is ONLY a normal person), or more subtly by pointing out that if Jesus was only another in a long line of people anointed by God, then what is the big deal about him???

    It reminds me of Jesus’ retort concerning John’s stoic eating habits compared to his own more liberal diet. (Mt 11:18/19) ie having it both ways.

    Steven you have previously accused me of forcing an interpretation on certain Bible texts. Okay – but I recommend that you research the history of translations of Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23 and reflect whether there is an ulterior motive to theologians who refuse to think through the ramifications of Jerome’s comment that Matthew wrote in Hebrew AND quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures. (On Illustrious Men, circa 500AD)

    Jesus spoke publically throughout Palestine about the advent of the Kingdom of God / Heaven and what was entailed to be a child / son of God. As a corollary he also exposed the endemic corruption within the Temple Establishment. The upshot was that theologians posing as agents of God had him judicially murdered.

    This created a massive black and white dichotomy, which can be addressed in Jesus’ question to the Pharisees:
    Mt 22:42. “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”

    Each and every person who professes an interest in Jesus should feel bound to give an answer to this question. The Temple Establishment obviously considered him as little more that obnoxious human filth to be disposed of and covered over.

    The disciples on the other hand, combed their Scriptures (the OT) and produced a thoroughly documented case showing that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed anointed by Jehovah God, and how a crucified / resurrected anointed was the crucial pivotal psychology underpinning mankind’s reconciliation with our heavenly Father.

    The whole box and dice is succinctly summed up by Paul, when he wrote:
    1Co 15:21. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 15:22. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

    These two verses by Paul totally encapsulate the dichotomy of choices confronting all mankind.
    Either refuse Jesus and live the values of Adam and reap spiritual death, or confess Jesus is God’s anointed and live his example of values and reap eternal life in the spirit.

    The concept of crucifixion / resurrection is at the very heart of all the disciples preached, and only becomes meaningful when a conscious decision is taken on a personal level to apply the principle to our selves spiritually. Any person who applies the crucifixion / resurrection principle, by crucifying their past misdeeds and arising a new creature, manifests their faith that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the anointed of God and becomes “born of God.”

    Being “born of God” is totally a matter of addressing one self to ethical values of love in our everyday living, and has nothing to do with what creed or doctrines we profess.

    Again Steven, I know that you are familiar with your NT nevertheless I submit some texts relevant to Jehovah anointing Jesus with all power he exercised.

    Mt 28:18. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

    Jn 3:34. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 33:35. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.

    Jn 5:19. Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 5:20. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 5:22. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 5:23. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,

    Jn 17:2. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 17:3. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent

    Ac 10:38. .. how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

    Again, sorry it is so long.

  35. You claim it is difficult to argue other than Matthew and Luke wrote about a virgin birth.

    I can see your point — if the NT is read with a mind like that of the Greek Church Fathers.

    However, these two gospels point to a different conclusion — if you read their accounts closely, and use biblical criteria to interpret terms.

    Just a couple of points.

    1. One point on which we will agree — Matthew makes it clear that Joseph did not father Jesus.

    2. Luke twice refers to Mary as a virgin up at the time of the angel’s visit (1:27). However, Luke makes clear that conception took place some time after the angel’s visit (1:31, 2:21). Luke makes no reference to Mary as a virgin after the angel’s visit.

    3. Speaking of Mary, the angel said ‘that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’ Does ‘of the Holy Spirit’ refer to the manner of conception or the child?

    4. Mary’s question was predicated on what the angel had said to her, not what the angel said after the question.

    5. I have already mentioned that church theology gives a quite ridiculous interpretation of Mary’s question, and that I do not think your response adequately addresses the point. (See our respective posts 3-6 July.)

    6. The Holy Spirit (or the Spirit of God) “coming upon someone” is reasonably common throughout the New and Old Testaments. The theologians tell us that in Lk 1:35 this means God impregnating Mary. However, they give a completely different interpretation to this same terminology when it is used elsewhere in the Bible.

  36. You ask some good questions but seem to get mixed up by the end. I agree that Isaiah said young woman and not virgin. That means that there was no Jewish expectation of a virgin birth. This means that there was no reason for Matthew and Luke to create a virgin birth. The best explanation is that Matthew followed typical Jewish practice and saw in the LXX’s mention of virgin a way to speak in biblical terms of what he knew to be true.

    I also agree that the Holy Spirit coming upon someone does not automatically mean that they are supernaturally pregnant. It has to be interpreted by the context. Here is what Matthew tells us:
    1) Mary is pregnant and the child is not Joseph’s.
    2) Mary is righteous and is not likely to have been sleeping around. (Luke tells us that when Mary heard the message she was still a virgin)
    3) The Holy Spirit is somehow responsible for the child’s conception.

    I see only two options:
    1) The Holy Spirit led Mary to an alternate lover before her marriage to Joseph so that this unknown man could impregnate her or
    2) The Holy Spirit created the fetus within her without the help of a human male.

    You are welcome to believe what you wish but I choose the second option.

  37. Summarising our most recent posts and the logic that flows from statements contained in them. Correct me if I am wrong:

    1. Referring to my post 29 August, you say it “seem to get mixed up by the end,” but do not explain what you mean by this, thereby providing no justification for this opinion.

    2. You acknowledge that Isaiah spoke of a young woman, not a virgin. It follows that the LXX, which says virgin, did not translate what Isaiah said correctly.

    3. You acknowledge there was no Jewish expectation of a virgin birth.

    4. You claim “Matthew followed typical Jewish practice and saw in the LXX’s mention of virgin a way to speak in biblical terms of what he knew to be true” by quoting the LXX. If Matthew did that, then he attributed to Isaiah something Isaiah never said.

    5. You acknowledge “that the Holy Spirit coming upon someone does not automatically mean that they are supernaturally pregnant.” It would have been precise to say that no where else in the Bible is this interpretation given to these words.

    6. You did not comment on whether “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” refers to the manner of conception or the child.

    ___________________

    Of course, the above only alludes to a few of the issues concerning “virgin birth.”

    At every turn the virgin birth doctrine relies on dubious interpretations and often incredulous explanations.

    Take for example the two genealogies given in the NT. Supposedly they are both that of Joseph, although they are different. Supposedly the NT writers give two genealogies of Joseph, but none of Jesus!

    We will believe what we choose to believe. But because we want to believe something is true does not make it so.

  38. I too have compiled a post but in view of T.Crosthwaite’s last post and to obviate “flooding” I will retain it for later.

    However, I will make this comment on Luke:

    Luke who gave us a Gospel, also acted as Paul’s scribe who recorded the Book of Acts of the Apostles.

    If it was a “virgin birth” that Luke recorded in his Gospel, why is he in the Book of Acts totally silent on the subject???”

    Acts – like all other disciple writings talks of only one miraculous birth, the rebirth of Jesus by the power of Jehovah God from death.

    Les Kelly.
    = = = = = = = = = =

  39. I am not ignoring either of you but I decided to start a new post on the virgin birth and hope that we can continue our conversation there.

  40. There are many aspects to the virgin birth issue that are worth exploring in depth, and no doubt your new post will provide a platform to do this.

    Obviously there will be some duplication between this current post and your new post.

    Nevertheless, I hope you retain this ‘Laozi’ post on your website for some time to come as it contains worthwhile information.

    The truth about virgin birth (or any other matter) has nothing to fear from vigorous and open debate.

    I will be an interested observer and contributor to your new post.

  41. Re Stephen Bedard’s New VB Web Page.

    Stephen, I have cut and pasted this comment of yours from another area of your web page and interspersed your introduction with my own comments.

    Steven B Says:

    Something also to keep in mind is that if Isaiah spoke of a young woman, then Matthew would not feel constrained to say that Jesus was born of virgin unless there was some tradition that Jesus was actually conceived that way. There was not a strong Jewish expectation of a virgin born messiah that the writers had to somehow force into the story.

    LesK replies:
    There is absolutely NO – repeat NO Jewish expectancy of Israel’s Messiah being born by “virgin birth.” Some Christian theologians have forced their after the event ulterior opinions upon certain OT texts, eg Gen 3:15 to make it appear to foretell a “virgin birth” but this use is conspicuously absent from the disciples’ writings. The NT disciples very cogently recorded how OT Scripture was fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.

    StephenB continues:
    2:
    The rest of the New Testament knows nothing of the virgin birth. That is an argument from silence. This must be understood in the context of the New Testament’s general silence on the details of the life of Jesus. It is an exageration to claim that Paul speaks nothing of the historical Jesus but it is not his area of emphasis, nor is it for the rest of the writers of the New Testament.

    LesK comments:
    I totally agree that arguments from silence can be acceptable only within reasonable limits. It is very true that virgin birth is taught absolutely nowhere in the NT either during or after Jesus’ life. The crucifixion of Jesus by men and his subsequent resurrection from death by the power of God, and the application of crucifixion / resurrection as a living principle was at the heart of all that the disciples taught in terms of having faith that Jesus was indeed the anointed agent of God. Jesus said the “blind guides” Jewish priests got it all terribly wrong, and so do I make the same accusation of the “Christian” guides.

    StephenB continues:
    3:
    Matthew and Luke do not actually speak of a virgin birth. It is true that miraculous births, especially those of barren women are common in the Bible. But notice how many times Mary is called a virgin in Luke 1 (vv. 27, 34).

    LesK comments:
    Come on now Stephen, Mary is NOT called a “virgin” in Lk 1:34.
    The churches seem to have an overriding desire to eventually have the word “know” in Lk 1:34 eliminated from Scripture – see Clinton Morrison, An Analytical Concordance to the RSV New Testament. The word “know” is eliminated from Lk 1:34 and substituted with the word “HUSBAND.” Very sneaky indeed the way traditional words, which cause the theologians some difficulty are slowly eliminated from Scripture narrative via “interpretative translations.”
    In Luke’s Gospel, references to Mary being a “virgin” apply BEFORE Jesus’ conception. Aren’t MOST girls virgins some time before their first pregnancy???

    StephenB asks:
    But how else do we explain what the Holy Spirit is doing in v. 35

    LesK says:
    Gabriel is promising Mary God’s approval and support in what she is going to do.

    StephenB says:
    There is no suggestion that Mary is barren and in fact the only obstacle presented is that she is a virgin. Why else would she need the Holy Spirit’s help?

    LesK says:
    NO – NO – NO Stephen! – The major barrier is that Joseph is of a line condemned by God through Jeremiah NEVER again to prosper on David’s throne.
    MARY DOES NOT KNOW A MAN (Lk 1:34) who can fulfill the criteria attributed to the child in Lk 1:32/33.

    Gabriel IMMEDIATELY answers that Mary will have God’s support – for with God ALL things are possible. Gabriel obviously has an eye upon Heli (LK 3:23) but who he is, we are not told.

    Stephen, please cast out your connotations and presuppositions and FOLLOW THE STEPS LOGICALLY AND CHRONOLOGICALLY:

    Mary is a virgin – Lk 1:27;
    Gabriel announces to Mary her FUTURE CONCEPTION – Lk 1:31; (note the BEFORE in Lk 2:21).
    Mary is given criteria that her child will fulfill – Lk 1:32/33;
    Mary does not “know a man” – as to be aware of – who can fulfill the criteria – Lk 1:34;
    Gabriel gives Mary reassurance of God’s support and protection – Lk 1:35.
    Mary submits to what has been virtually an INSTRUCTION – Lk 1:38.
    (One can only smile at theologians who suggest that Gabriel came asking for Mary’s permission for God to use her body in order to incarnate himself.)

    From Joseph’s perspective as recorded in Matthew:

    StephenB says:
    Joseph is concerned as his betrothed is pregnant and he is not the father. Joseph is prepared to divorce Mary. The facts we have in Matthew are that the child is not Joseph’s –

    LesK says:
    YES, Okay so far – AND don’t forget that Mary has just returned from a three months visit to Elizabeth. She returns pregnant, so is it any wonder that Joseph’s mind is in turmoil???

    StephenB continues:
    – and yet Mary is righteous and chosen by God. How do we reconcile this?

    The angel reveals in v. 20 (Mt 1:20) that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit. That is a virgin birth (more properly a virgin conception)!

    LesK says:
    NO-NO-NO Stephen read it – don’t interpolate it. Use some English grammar.

    Gabriel said: “… for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit….”
    Read other OT texts referring to pre-birth of some prophets eg Isaiah, Jeremiah.
    The conceived child is of the Holy Spirit. Read how John the Baptist was anointed with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother Elizabeth’s stomach.

    Stephen, Luke has a reason for recounting THE BIRTH OF BOTH JESUS AND JOHN in tandem. They help to explain each other.

    StevenB continues:
    The only other possible explanation is that the Holy Spirit led Mary to an alternate lover while she was engaged to Joseph.

    LesK says:
    YES-YES-YES Stephen, – Now you are finally seeing the light. This obviously happened very soon after Gabriel’s visit and before Mary reached Elizabeth’s residence.

    StephenB continues:
    That hardly fits the context or the general portrayal of Mary (much less the Spirit!).

    LesK replies:
    Now this is where we all have to bite the bullet – to stand up and be counted.
    What is more important in the sight of God??? What is more acceptable – God’s values of Truth, Obedience, Justice, Compassion, Mercy, Humility, or asking ourselves of all the people we meet “Was this person conceived out of wedlock???”

    Where would we have stood if we were a brother of Jeptha??? What would we have done if we were asked to slit our child’s (Isaac’s) throat??? Would we (like Hosea) have obediently married a woman of whoredom???
    After all if Jesus stands representative of Jehovah God’s values manifested in the flesh, then what is sauce for him is sauce for all mankind. An uneven balance is an abomination to Jehovah.

    This is where the doctrine of virgin birth shows its colours, its true spurious nature. It sets one code of values by which we judge Jesus and another set of values to judge the world.

    Cast your mind back to some of the apparently ridiculous or ungodly things that were asked of some people in the OT Steven. How would you (and I) have reacted if we were confronted with these choices???

    More to the point, try to see the arrest and trial of Jesus in terms of actually being there and giving reasonable judgments of opinion from both sides. We have the Sanhedrin who used the street mob, and Jesus giving defence of himself. What about his disciples??? This drama was not some triviality. It was a life and death precipitation of VALUES which judges us all. The crucifixion of God’s anointed is a perfectly consistent paradox which ultimately exposes false values and gives he who sits in the heavens every reason to laugh at the delusions of mankind.

    Les Kelly, Tasmania.
    = = = = = = = = = =

  42. Before I comment further, you are saying that the Holy Spirit led Mary to have sex with someone other than Joseph (because he was of the house of David and God had cut off that line) and that person was Heli. You are also saying “knowing” never refers to sex but always to being acquainted with someone. Is this correct?

  43. Stephen, (sorry for often mispelling your name)

    The NT gives us two genealogies associated with Jesus of Nazareth – Matthew & Luke.

    Matthew’s genealogy includes the name Jechonia – 1:11/12.
    This Coniah / Jechoniah is spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah in terms that his descendants will never again inherit David’s throne – Jer 22:24/30.

    This provides a problem in establishing Matthew’s genealogy any right of inheritance to David’s throne. It is a disinherited line.

    This problem does not arise with the genealogy as given by Luke.

    Now for the conversation between Mary & Gabriel:

    Mary is betrothed to Joseph – of a lineage condemned never again to inherit David’s throne.

    Mary is told she is going to conceive a child who will inherit David’s throne.

    She is baffled and asks a most pertinent question – “How shall this be seeing I do not know (am not aware of) a man.”

    Luke uses the word “know” – to be aware of – in the present tense TWICE. First of Zechariah 1:18, and again of Mary 1:34. (They both asked a similar question.)

    Yes, I am aware that the Bible does use the word KNEW in the PAST tense referring to coitus / conception. No problem with me on that score, but that is not the sense in which Luke used the word “know” in 1:34. He further used the word “know” – to be aware of on over 20 more occasions.

    Stephen, think deeply on the grammar used and consequences of traditional church interpolation of Luke 1:34.
    Do you really think 1:34 refers to Mary saying “I can’t have a baby, I am a virgin.”???

    Let’s get real.
    Mary in her conversation with Gabriel is showing herself as an intelligent and informed young lady. To attribute traditional church interpolation to 1:34 is to make Mary out to be an idiot. Most girls who are virgins progress to normal motherhood.

    Not even Holy Mother Church of Rome has the gall to attribute such a meaning to Mary’s words. The Roman Church sees the quandary and concocts a tradition.

    YES, I am saying that the Heli of Luke 3:23 was Jesus’ real physical flesh and blood father.

    It is totally in order for any person in the line of Luke’s genealogy to inherit David’s throne.

    In Lk 3:23 Joseph is totally PARENTHETICAL. Do a search in a reputable encyclopaedia of when parenthetical brackets were invented – after the printing press in the 16th century. Luke certainly didn’t put brackets in his manuscript.

    Ask a knowledgeable teacher of English grammar why would one place only “as was supposed” in parenthetical brackets.
    Jesus being (as was supposed) WHAT???

    And Jesus being (as was supposed, the son of Joseph) but REALLY the son of Heli etc etc ….

    Stephen, I eagerly await your considered reply,
    Les Kelly, Tasmania.

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