Monday, December 17, 2007

The Virgin Birth ...

I had a thought as I drove to work this morning.

… that happens every once in awhile, but it’s usually only one thought because it’s a real short distance from my driveway to the office – just over two blocks.

As biblical scholars continue to study and pore over manuscripts and bits and pieces of ancient documents, comparing them to those already known and in existence, they continue to develop new theories, thought and pictures of Jesus and the Bible.

One such developing theory surrounds the question of whether or not Jesus was truly born of a virgin. Some scholars are saying that the original Greek word used to describe Mary in Isaiah as well as the gospels simply means a “good, virtuous woman” or something along those lines. Therefore the conclusion they draw, although they have no real evidence to back this up, is that Jesus therefore was not born of a virgin and that this “miracle” occurred within natural law. However, it is still outside the confines of Mary’s marriage to Joseph.

Fine … say what you want to say. Will it destroy my faith if Jesus was not born of a virgin? Not really. I don’t think Jesus' identitity and what He did and accomplished is based on whether or not His mother was a virgin.

However, the thought that hit me driving to work this morning is this: If Jesus were not born of a virgin wouldn’t that in essence mean that God condoned an act of sinful nature and used it as His vehicle by which He delivered the message and means to save all mankind?

The 10 commandments came about long before the birth of Jesus and commandment seven clearly states “you shall not commit adultery.” I may be wrong, but isn’t sex outside of marriage considered adultery? Don’t both the Old and New Testaments teach that sex is meant for the confines of marriage? If this is so, why would God, who is intent on His followers trying to live a life free from sin, use an act of sin as His vehicle for the salvation of mankind? Would this not give credence to those who say that having sex whenever and wherever they want is OK because God condoned the act of Mary?

Please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts. And I would especially like to hear Little David’s thought on the matter since he holds a master of divinity (or should I say divination) degree and a Ph.D. from theological seminary. And Little David, if your answer is too long for the comment box, please feel free to email me and I will post it as post in and of itself.


little david said...

Wow, nothing like being called out! OK, let's start with observable facts. The two Gospels which include a narrative about the birth of Jesus give every appearance of being written thirty or forty years after the crucifixion of Jesus. Those Gospels (Matthew and Luke) borrow the basic biographical information about Jesus from the Gospel of Mark, which seems to have been written as a primer for new Gentile Christians. It does not mention a virgin birth.

Matthew cited a verse from Isaiah predicting a virgin birth for the Messiah. He used the Septuagint (Greek) version of Isaiah which translates a Hebrew word meaning "young woman" as "virgin." Further, he ignored the historical context of the verse which is part of a prediction that came true in the time of Isaiah (eighth century BCE; compare Isaiah 7:13-17 with 8:1-4). But because Luke, a Gentile, accepted and even elaborated on this tradition in his Gospel, there is reason to believe that it was commonly understood as fact by the first-century church.

Would it make a difference whether Jesus were born of a virgin or not? The stance of traditional Christianity has been that it does make a difference since Jesus could not have been perfect (and thus the perfect sacrifice for human sin) if he were entirely human. Being born in the ordinary way has been seen as limiting one to non-divine identity. The argument is not entirely solid as even the OT prophet Jeremiah understood God's ability to determine a person's identity and function before birth (Jer. 1:4-5); furthermore, God can indwell whom he will.

As to the moral argument ("How could a bastard be the son of God?"), the genealogy of Jesus given by Matthew includes prostitutes and adulterers. Furthermore, one of the key teachings of Jesus was that God does not judge according to preexisting conditions, but according to faithfulness. John the Baptist, primary announcer of Jesus' ministry, declared that God could "raise up children for Abraham" out of the stones (Luke 3:8).

When you get right down to it, proving that Jesus must have been born of a virgin is rationally impossible. But then, faith is not about rational proof. The question is not whether I or anyone else can prove unequivocably that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. The question is, do you believe it as an article of faith? Well, I do. ("I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matt. 18:3)

jonboy said...

That kind of answers my question, but is there any way to give a difinative "yes" or "no" answer to the question: Would a sinless God select the result of an act of sin through which to save mankind from sinfulness?

Personally, I just can't see that happening.

jonboy said...

My other comment apparently didn't make the mix. I also said I appreciate your explanation and especially the reminder about having faith like a child.