2015-02-23

Mary’s Strange Question (and stranger anatomy!)

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

By John Collier - From Bible-Library.com.

By John Collier – From Bible-Library.com.

Familiarity with the stories of Jesus’ birth can blind us to recognizing just how bizarre are some of their details. Okay, maybe the virgin birth itself is bizarre but I recently read one reasonably well-known scholar opining that even that may not be so bizarre when we stop and recollect the ability of certain animals such as Komodo Dragons to reproduce by parthenogenesis. The scholar stopped short of speculating how it was that Mary came to be born human-like yet presumably with reptilian internal organs or the nature of the children she later bore to Joseph.

The Gospel of Luke opens with the angel Gabriel dropping in on two earthlings without the courtesy of advance notice. The first was the very elderly priest, Zechariah. Gabriel interrupted him during work hours in the Temple causing a religious ceremony to be unceremoniously held up in midstream, told Zechariah that he and his equally elderly wife were going to have a child and then cursed him with the inability to speak for daring to ask how any couple well beyond menopause could possibly bear children.

Six months later the same Gabriel dropped in on Mary. Now Mary, Luke tells us, was a virgin engaged to be married to Joseph. We are not told when they were planning to marry but no doubt Mary spent a lot of time thinking about that day and what married life with Joseph would be like.

There Be DragonsGabriel told Mary that she was going to have a baby boy and that she was to name him Jesus.

Mary immediately forgot she was engaged to be married and so asked Gabriel how that was possible since she was, well, not married. Mary’s question was as dumb as Zechariah’s was smart.

Mary’s question is very puzzling: why should a woman about to marry wonder at the notion that she will soon conceive? (Randel Helms, Gospel Fictions, p. 51)

So what’s going on here? Why does Luke make Mary look so absurdly naive? 

Randel Helms suggests that Luke was working with an existing story in which Joseph was the literal father of Jesus; Luke was trying to subvert that story by rewriting it to serve another church doctrine.

In the third chapter of the gospel is a lengthy genealogy tracing the family tree of Jesus back to King David and then even further as far as Adam and God himself. It begins by saying that Jesus was the son (as was supposed) of Joseph. That “as was supposed” line makes the entire genealogy pointless, of course, in any literal sense. It means Jesus was not the actual “son of David” after all.

Yet in chapter 1 it certainly appears that the original author was leading up to a genealogical register which proved decisively that Jesus was indeed from the line of David.

Luke 1:26-27

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

Luke 1:29-33

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Later again, in 1:69, Zechariah breaks out into spirit inspired prophecy declaring that all of these events are focussed on the House of David.

But Luke appears to have mangled the whole thing so that Jesus is evidently NOT born to the house of David at all. Mary was Elizabeth’s cousin and part of the tribe of Levi that had the responsibility of providing priests like Zechariah for the work of the Temple.

Randel Helms offers a reasonable explanation for why this nativity narrative contains these incoherent details:

Embarrassed by the story’s clear implicit denial of the Virgin Birth notion, Luke or a later Christian inserted Mary’s odd question, but the clumsy interpolation makes hash of Jesus’ royal ancestry. (p. 51)

Noncanonical writings (e.g. Justin Martyr) tell us that Mary herself was a direct descendant of David. Why didn’t Luke come up with this idea or use it if he knew of it? That question brings us back to the strong apologetic theme of the work of Luke-Acts that ties the origins of Christianity to Judaism. The beginning of the story of Jesus in Luke is with the Temple. We know about Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, and this episode is followed up by the circumcision and blessing of Jesus in the Temple, then by Jesus as a twelve year old boy astonishing the priests in the Temple, and then by his driving out the money changers from the Temple. There are many indications that Luke-Acts was written (or finally rewritten) to counter Christian groups who rejected the Jewish scriptures and the teachings attributed to the Twelve disciples. Luke binds Christianity’s birth and its founder (and his own brand of “proto-orthodox” Christianity) with the ancient authority of the Jewish prophecies, scriptures and temple worship.

Cover of "Gospel Fictions"

Cover of Gospel Fictions

 

 

 

 

 

16 Comments

  • David
    2015-02-23 12:25:10 UTC - 12:25 | Permalink

    “There are many indications that Luke-Acts was written (or finally rewritten) to counter Christian groups who rejected the Jewish scriptures and the teachings attributed to the Twelve disciples. Luke binds Christianity’s birth and its founder (and his own brand of “proto-orthodox” Christianity) with the ancient authority of the Jewish prophecies, scriptures and temple worship.”

    Could have straight from Knox or Tyson!

  • Geoffrey Tolle
    2015-02-23 18:10:47 UTC - 18:10 | Permalink

    The latest (02/18/15) issue of “Nature” magazine features an article, “Sex Redefined” (http://www.nature.com/news/sex-redefined-1.16943). In it, they review some of the many DSD’s (Diseases of Sexual Development) that we have found in humans. There is a suite of conditions deriving from mosaicism – cells of different genetic content that have developed together to form one person. The article’s first example is that of a woman, pregnant with her fourth child, whose cells were predominantly male rather than female. It seems just vaguely possible that a woman could develop with sperm-generating cells in just the right place to allow self-fertilization (as opposed to “simple” parthenogenesis). We don’t have any records of this happening but it is possible that we simply haven’t had the tools to detect it until recently.

    So, it is possible (even without Mary being a Reptilian, one of the alien rulers of our world) for Mary to have become spontaneously pregnant. I still consider the possibility that the story is fiction to be several orders of magnitude more likely.

    • grung0r
      2015-02-24 02:30:12 UTC - 02:30 | Permalink

      It seems just vaguely possible that a woman could develop with sperm-generating cells in just the right place to allow self-fertilization

      No. No it does not. There aren’t “sperm generating cells”. Sperm are created in the testes over a period of 70 days, Going through a multi-stepped process that requires their movement throughout the testicle and the intervention of several different kinds of cells and hormones to complete the process. Sperm don’t just pop out of a cell ready to go. Now, if you think you can pull off this trick with a full testicle, you will require that testicle to be external to the body, since spermatogenesis requires much cooler temperatures then the interior of the body can provide. In addition, you will also need: a fully functioning ovary, a fully functional uterus, a fully functional vagina, a fully functional Fallopian tube, a fully functional vas deferens, plus a non-existent sperm delivery system(unless we’re adding a fully functioning penis too!) all hooked up together in some bizarre fashion that doesn’t impede any of the other organs functions. Regardless of the amazing chromosomal anomalies that can happen in human sexual development, this setup isn’t one of them.

      “Predestination” was still a cool movie though.

      • Geoffrey Tolle
        2015-02-24 09:24:11 UTC - 09:24 | Permalink

        Spoil sport!!! But I’ll concede your points. When I said “very vaguely”, that was exactly what I meant and you just dropped that probability 5 or 6 orders of magnitude. I guess that we have to go back to the Mary as Reptilian hypothesis.

        Thanks for the correction. Always good to catch up on some points that I missed (or forgot) in biology class.

        • grung0r
          2015-02-24 12:28:50 UTC - 12:28 | Permalink

          I guess that we have to go back to the Mary as Reptilian hypothesis

          You may not realize it, but this hypothesis is quite correct. It was redacted of course, but I just happen to have the original papyri laying around. Here is my best translation:

          “[7]Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men and asked them the exact time the star appeared. [8] He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the egg. When you find it, report back to me so that I too can go and scramble it.”
          [9] After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was—the star they had seen in the east! It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the egg was. [10] When they saw the star, they were overjoyed beyond measure. [11] Entering the house, they saw the egg with Mary it’s mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped it. Then they opened their treasures and presented it with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh, though, Jesus being a reptile fetus, these things obviously did nothing to coaxeth him out of his shell [12]And being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their own country by another route. [13] after they were gone, the baby Jesus did emerge from his shell, though only after he peckthed and peckethed, the human nose being a particularity poorly suited instrument for the task. [14] They then did flee to Egypt during the night to escape Harod, but this went badly due to Jesus’ and Mary’s lack of ability to independently regulateth body temperature absent the rays of the sun. ”

          It pretty much is as you have it after that, absent a few sunbathing episodes.

  • Bob de Jong
    2015-02-23 21:41:08 UTC - 21:41 | Permalink

    I think that Luke 1:29-33 can be read as amalgamation of Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 9:6-7. it was quite customary in those days to combine verses from the old testament into new meanings. In this way, Luke succeeds in linking a virgin birth with Davidic kingship. And he roots the whole episode in the Jewish scriptures.

    If -as you propose- Luke did this to counter “Christian groups who rejected the Jewish scriptures”, then I think you are speaking of Marcionites. Marcionism only gained popularity in the second half of the second century. Are you saying Luke wrote this late?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-02-23 22:07:15 UTC - 22:07 | Permalink

      Yes. I do think our canonical Luke-Acts was a mid second century product. Justin Martyr, apparently writing in the 140s did not know of Acts and if he knew of a gospel we call Luke it significantly differed from our Luke in either content or authority. I have not yet read any reason to go against the main substance of the arguments of Knox — revived by Tyson and set out in my posts now archived at http://vridar.org/category/book-reviews-notes/tyson-marcion-luke-acts/ .

      For many reasons I think that Luke in its final canonical form as we know it was a catholicizing treatise aimed at countering Marcionism and related “heresies” and “unifying” various strands of views that could be marshalled under the banner of “proto-orthodoxy”.

      • Sili
        2015-02-24 15:24:47 UTC - 15:24 | Permalink

        I think you mentioned somewhere that Justin and some of the other church fathers dated the crucifixion in significantly different periods than our current gospels. Do you have some handy references for that? I’m curious to see the context.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2015-02-24 23:25:24 UTC - 23:25 | Permalink

          See paragraph 74 in The Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching: http://web.archive.org/web/20110504002038/http://www.ccel.org:80/ccel/irenaeus/demonstr.preaching_the_demonstration_of_the_apostolic_preaching.html? — see the hyperlinked note 248 there.

          The implication that Jesus’s crucifixion was followed almost immediately by the destruction of Jerusalem seems to be implied by Justin: you can see what you think re Trypho paras 51, 52 and First Apology 47, Trypho 16, 25, 92, 135

          I don’t know what to make of Clement of Alexandria’s reference to Nero in Stromata(?): sometimes it seemed as if he is saying that Jesus ruled for half of the same week Nero reigned, but I can’t locate this reference now. And elsewhere CLement does say Jesus was crucified in the reign of Tiberius. So what to make of the manuscript I don’t know — but have not had opportunity to study it in any depth.

  • David Ashton
    2015-02-24 14:06:20 UTC - 14:06 | Permalink

    Whereas many miracles pose no intrinsic difficulties for theologians because a Creator can suspend the normal workings of creation for specific interventions, the Virginal Conception of Jesus itself presents a decisive problem: if he had no human father, he would lack the Y chromosome carrying the decisive SRY gene which alone makes the baby a male. However, if this was provided artificially by God, Jesus would not have been “truly” human. (I trust there will be no UK police visit on the grounds that this statement amounts to a transphobic hate crime.)

    Now a tentative suggestion not from David Icke about reptiles from outer space, via Lost Lemuria, but from David Ashton, about a human father other than Joseph? What about old Julius Tiberius ABDES Pantera, after all? Not soldier’s rape of an attractive Galilean girl, but a conception, timed for the astrological signs, to bring about a savior in line with magi expectation – Daniel’s 70 weeks, and all that?

  • 2015-03-03 18:16:52 UTC - 18:16 | Permalink

    “Okay, maybe the virgin birth itself is bizarre but I recently read one reasonably well-known scholar opining that even that may not be so bizarre when we stop and recollect the ability of certain animals such as Komodo Dragons to reproduce by parthenogenesis. The scholar stopped short of speculating how it was that Mary came to be born human-like yet presumably with reptilian internal organs or the nature of the children she later bore to Joseph.”

    Sacred Heart of Reptilian Jesus [Link defunct — 18th August, 2015 — Neil. Suspect it was link to a raptor Jesus image such as at http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Raptor_Jesus ]

    • David Ashton
      2015-03-04 11:24:49 UTC - 11:24 | Permalink

      I have read four books by David Icke, and met him in Norwich some years ago. He is at best mistaken, mashing together all the alternative reality “facts” he can gather into his “vibrating” universe and giving bad conspiracy theories an even worse name, or at worst “nuts”. Your disgusting picture reminds me of the “V” sci-fi series, which probably accounts for some of Icke’s sad fantasies, reflected in photos and film of his own tortured facial expressions.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-03-07 07:42:13 UTC - 07:42 | Permalink

      Love it. Wish I had it for the original post.

      • David Ashton
        2015-03-08 18:40:49 UTC - 18:40 | Permalink

        Chacun a son gout.

  • 2015-03-03 18:24:30 UTC - 18:24 | Permalink

    “There are many indications that Luke-Acts was written (or finally rewritten) to counter Christian groups who rejected the Jewish scriptures and the teachings attributed to the Twelve disciples.”

    And also to counter Jewish groups (like the one represented by Trypho) who claimed that Christianity did not drive from Judaism, but rather not properly understanding the Jewish sacred writings “invented a Christ for” themselves, “and for his sake are inconsiderately perishing.” (Justin Martyr, Trypho 8:33)

  • James D. Williams
    2015-03-09 21:10:10 UTC - 21:10 | Permalink

    The Pre-existent Christ is thus seen to bestow salvation upon the Sauro-sapiens whose only remnant of existence is the mis-dated “natural” reactor in Gabon. [citation needed]

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