Can you question the Virgin Birth and still be a Christian?

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(RNS) Why is the Virgin Birth the lynchpin of Christianity? Was it miracle or metaphor? And can you call yourself a Christian if you can't accept the idea of the Virgin Birth?

  • Ben In Oakland

    ““To remove the miraculous from Christmas is to remove this central story of Christianity,” said Gary Burge, a professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. “It would dismantle the very center of Christian thought and take away the keystone of the arch of Christian theology.”

    And here I thought the death and resurrection of Jesus was the central story of Christianity. Silly me.

    “But Ben Witherington, a professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, finds proof of the Virgin Birth in its supernatural aspects. Why, he said, would anyone wanting to create a new religion craft such a far-fetched story?”

    This comment is so ripe for satire as to represent a temptation that I find it hard ot resist. But resist it I will.

    Such a far fetched story? As opposed to all of the other saviors of mankind who were born of a virgin, died and were resurrected, to save mamkind from its sins? Buddha, horus, Adonis, even Quetzalcoatl.

    Such a far-fetched story? It wouldn’t be the first time a foolish young woman fell for a story told to her by a smooth talking man. It wouldn’t be the last time a bunch of gullible people bought it.

    Or one could read “Jesus and the riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls” for an explanation from contemporaneous documents that explains it all.

    ““If God is not capable of a miracle like the Virgin Birth, then what kind of God is that?” he said. One that is incapable of contradicting himself, except that he does. One that is incapable of creating mankind to be sinless. One is that incapable of preventing satan from corrupting his world of perfection. One that is incapable of forgiving mankind to be as he created them without going through some cosmic melodrama that requires him to create himself, commit suicide to atone to himself for being incapable. One that doesn’t rely on badly translated portions of ancient languages to clearly communicate his thoughts and desires 2000 years later.

  • Ben In Oakland

    Not to mention “when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit…Joseph, being a just man, was minded to put her away privily.” And thinking the worst of his dear wife, even though she was found to be with child of the holy spirit, was quite willing to believe that she was an unfaithful whore. He needed a dream after the fact to explain it all.

    And of course, every one forgot all about it for the rest of Jesus’s life: born of a virgin, child of the holy spirit, choirs of angel,s, the whole thing.

    I have no problem believing the impossible. But the highly improbable?

  • Jim

    although I do believe in the virgin birth, I just wonder, do we limit God to the miracles we can understand? Is not God capable of performing miracles that we cannot understand ?

  • ben in oakland

    How do we then know they are miracles, or from God?

  • jim


  • Fourth Valley

    First, yes, that reasoning being used is stupid. The notion of proof in surrealism is not a good one, and the story not that far-fetched.

    BUT, as a religion nerd I cannot let this statement lay:

    “Such a far fetched story? As opposed to all of the other saviors of mankind who were born of a virgin, died and were resurrected, to save mamkind from its sins? Buddha, horus, Adonis, even Quetzalcoatl.”

    Claim: Born of a virgin
    Buddha (assuming Gautama): True according to some traditions.
    Horus: False, in most stories he was sired by Osiris, even if Osiris was dead at the time. It’s a WEIRD birth, but not virginal. Other stories claim him the son of Nut and Geb, again, not virginal. This weird birth does lend credence to your thesis though, this is a strange story, and yet it its strangeness is not proof of its validity.
    Adonis: False, fathered incestuously by Cinyras in almost all stories. He is fathered by Phoenix in other stories. His mother’s punishment for incest is a very central part of most of the myths surrounding his birth, his mother often being turned into a tree. Birth by tree: yes. Birth by virgin: no.
    Quetzalcoatl: True. He even has a father in some myths, but is never conceived via intercourse, and thus is a virgin birth.

    Claim: died and were resurrected
    Buddha: No… Buddha broke the cycle of Samsara, or reincarnation. He literally did the OPPOSITE of resurrection, and that is why he is significant, being a Buddha means you stay dead, which is not the norm.
    Horus: No. I mean, he’s kind of the symbolic rebirth of his dead father Osiris, but he’s not really considered the literal rebirth. Horus doesn’t die in myth.
    Adonis: Yes. That is central to Adonis’ story.
    Quetzalcoatl: No. Xipe Totec died and was reborn, not Quetzalcoatl. Quetzalcoatl WAS associated with death and rebirth, but he never died or was reborn himself. He is associated with the two because he descended into Mictlan, the underworld, to bring humanity back to life with some of his own blood (autosacrifice) after it had been destroyed after a Sun Cycle.

    Claim: to save mankind from its sins
    Buddha: False. Well he didn’t die to save mankind from their sins. He, in a sense, TAUGHT to save mankind from SUFFERING. But he did not ever do what you say.
    Horus: False. Horus never died, so he didn’t die for anyone’s sins of course. Horus saves mankind from Set through fighting the evil God. But Set is not sin, but represents the external threat of the deserts to the Egyptian people. Saving them from an external threat, rather than from their own sin.
    Adonis: False. The myths disagree over WHY Adonis was killed, but it was always because of “the jealousy of [insert Greek deity here]”. He was murdered out of jealousy, not to save mankind.
    Quetzalcoatl: False, almost True. Some myths have Quetzalcoatl dying. Ones that aren’t really prevalent. The story goes that Quetzalcoatl was tricked into having sex with his sister. To pay for his sin, he either exiles himself (in most of the stories) or burns himself to death. This is to pay for HIS sins, though, never to pay for mankind’s sins.

    And yes, the logic used as “proof” of the story of the virgin birth is… terrible, stupid, and illogical. But please don’t bastardize and spread falsehood about well established myths and religious stories to suit your own agenda. You can show why the stupid “proof” is stupid without stooping to lying about mythology.

  • Pingback: Can you question the Virgin Birth and still be a Christian? Answer: yes, but you cannot deny it and be one | Laodicean Report()

  • People often focus on the virgin birth in Matthew and Luke, but the concept seems to have been widely accepted among other early sources as well. Early and widespread belief in the virgin birth is the best explanation for why the premarital timing of Mary’s pregnancy wasn’t more controversial in early Christianity. 1 Timothy 5:18 indirectly affirms the virgin birth by referring to Luke’s gospel as scripture. For a discussion of the evidence, see George Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2000), 233-235 and Michael Kruger, Canon Revisited (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2012), 205-207. The virgin birth was affirmed by Polycarp and other contemporaries of the apostles. Christian sources in the second century refer to the virgin birth as a core belief of Christianity that’s accepted across the Christian world. Most likely, the virgin birth was accepted by far more sources than just Matthew and Luke in the early decades of Christianity.

  • Beth

    jim, faith and knowledge are not equivalent. Better give your statement more careful thought.

  • Cal Wiebe

    How does a virgin birth affect how a Christian lives and relates to others and to the Great Mystery who many people refer to as God?

  • Larry

    Thank you Fourth Valley for bringing up a very common and annoying trait of people raised in Christian traditions: the tendency to see other religions in the same fashion as they do or assume similarities between them. Your post was a necessary reaction to knocking out assumptions borne of complacency.

  • Larry

    That is the most honest answer one can give for accepting something which cannot be accepted by objective means. Faith is not knowledge, it is belief. But it is all you have to support miracles.

    The trouble people get into is when they mistake faith for knowledge. When they attack the basis of their belief by creating false claims that their religion can be supported factually without faith.

    The primary problem with the question at the heart of this article is when people mistake faith for knowledge. They posit the phony idea that virgin birth has to be physically and factually possible (and occurred) in order to support their Christian belief. This is far from true. One really only has faith of such things and forgoes any attempt at knowing.

    So of course you can question the virgin birth and still be Christian. To fail to do so is to be complacent, ignorant and unappreciative of the religious belief. To accept it on faith or as metaphor is how it is done anyway.

  • Larry

    In other words, virgin birth is confirmed by sources which are taken on faith rather than ones which could ever be deemed objective, reliable or inherently factual.

    Virgin birth may be accepted by many sources, but none will say such things are inherently credible. It is an article of faith, not a fact to be confirmed.

  • Isabel

    I haven’t seen any mention of Muslim belief in the Virgin Birth but it is in fact, as far as I understand, and much to my surprise, a belief of Islam that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus under a date palm. I asked a Muslim friend once about how he or his community sees that and he replied that it in his tradition it distinguished Jesus as a chosen prophet of God but did not make him the Son of God.

  • Karla

    Isabel-No true prophet can be revered if they are a liar so if Jesus wasn’t the Messiah He was a liar and can’t be revered or a true prophet so either He
    was a liar or the Messiah/the only way to heaven. Read Luke 13 the whole
    chapter because works don’t save…only Repenting/trusting Jesus saves us!
    Read Bible verses Psalm 22:16-18…Romans 1:18-32 and also Isaiah 53:3-7.
    Jesus was not created but Emmanuel which means God with us which proves
    that the Trinity is real. While on earth Jesus/God was subjected to the will of
    the Trinity yet had the fullness of God upon Him to do miracles/fulfill prophecy
    which is why the Roman soldiers lied after He rose from the dead cause they
    didn’t want the Bible to be true. Jesus is the Messiah/the only way to heaven!

  • Larry wrote:

    “In other words, virgin birth is confirmed by sources which are taken on faith rather than ones which could ever be deemed objective, reliable or inherently factual.”

    Faith is trust, and the object of trust should be trustworthy. Would you have faith in an unrepentant child molester to babysit your children, since faith supposedly doesn’t concern itself with evidence?

    The Biblical concept of faith doesn’t exclude concern for evidence, objectivity, and such. That’s why the Bible itself repeatedly appeals to evidential concepts to support its claims, like eyewitness testimony and fulfilled prophecy. Read the opening verses of Luke’s gospel, one of the early sources that affirms the virgin birth. Luke was writing a Greco-Roman biography, which is a work of a historical genre, and he researched his material as other historians did. See, for example, the relevant sections of the introduction to Craig Keener’s commentary on Acts (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2012).

    The earliest enemies of Christianity responded to Christian claims about a virgin birth as though Christians were making historical claims about historical events, which are to be judged by normal historical standards. This is evident in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue With Trypho, Origen’s Against Celsus, and many other sources. Both the early Christians and their early enemies believed that Christianity depended on verifiable historical claims. For documentation, see Robert Wilken, The Christians As The Romans Saw Them (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984) and John Cook, The Interpretation Of The New Testament In Greco-Roman Paganism (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002).

  • Larry wrote:

    “Faith is not knowledge, it is belief. But it is all you have to support miracles.”

    You’re mistaken. Faith is trust, and there’s no inconsistency between trust and a desire for reason, evidence, and such. Would you have faith in a man to perform heart surgery on you if you had no evidence that he was qualified to do the surgery? Why not have faith in your two-year-old grandson to perform the surgery, since faith doesn’t concern itself with evidence?

    We have a lot of verifiable evidence for miracles. See the many cases documented in Craig Keener’s Miracles (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011). He discusses many cases involving before-and-after X-rays, testimony from multiple eyewitnesses, and other forms of evidence. See, also, the evidence for paranormal phenomena discussed in Stephen Braude’s The Gold Leaf Lady (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2007) and Immortal Remains (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003).

  • Larry

    Completely false.

    Yet another person who has no faith in faith and feels the need to lie in order to deny the basis of their religious belief in public.

    Reason and evidence and such are forms of belief which can be objectively supported. Faith is the very opposite of that. It is belief in the ABSENCE of evidence and reason. One has faith in believing in something because there is nothing else.

    No you don’t have verifiable evidence of miracles.

    You feel the need to lie or stretch the truth to make up for having weak faith. You have a group of people looking at confirmation bias and engaging in shoddy research to bolster phony notions of faith-free religious belief. There is no evidence of the supernatural, miracles or of anything which occurs and is observed in life which can be deemed a miracle in the absence of a more mundane reason.

  • samuel Johnston

    “For Burge, an evangelical and author of “Theology Questions Everyone Asks,” the Virgin Birth is essential. His thinking goes like this: If Jesus was not virgin-born, then he was not the son of God; if he was not the son of God, then he was just another crucified man and not the sacrifice that would redeem the sins of the world.”
    I do applaud logical consistency, and Burge gives it a try. Logic demands that reality be either fixed (in method not place/time), or it is at the mercy of capricious
    forces/beings. He chooses the latter. That is fine with me, but it does make science a waste of time.

  • “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.” ~ Thomas Jefferson wrote, in a letter to John Adams (April 11, 1823)

  • Karla

    Larry-You have faith that this is all there is and that the world just
    came about by chance so isn’t that faith to have faith that this is
    all there is/nothing became something then turned into everything?
    It takes more faith to believe that the world came about just by some
    random chance than to believe in God. If the sun was any closer we
    would burn…any further we would freeze. Just chance? Read all the
    Bible prophecy that came true and also Romans 1:18-32. God bless.

  • Larry

    “Faith is trust, and the object of trust should be trustworthy.”

    But what one trusts and what one considers facts/knowledge are different things. Faith is trust in things which cannot be considered trustworthy.

    “Would you have faith in an unrepentant child molester to babysit your children, since faith supposedly doesn’t concern itself with evidence?”

    If he claimed to devote his life to Christ and eternal repentance in public, there are probably dozens of good Christian folk who would be glad to do so. It is part of your religious belief to do so. You have faith in such things even though all evidence points to such behavior as dangerously silly. Its not like such things have not happened before.

    You are absolutely wrong about reliance on evidence for Christian belief. At no point is any of the Gospels considered objectively reliable. Faith allows people to trust such sources implicitly without question. You are relying on commentary on writings without bothering to go into details about how they were published in the first place. Shoddy, lazy assumptions which are accepted because they reinforce belief. Pretending faith is unnecessary but implicitly requiring it.

    No Christian believes because the religious doctrine is objectively true. If it were the case, they would be dropping their belief like crazy upon presentation of proof to the contrary. We both know that is never the case. Your need to fabricate alleged proof of your belief is proof of faith. An objective rational fact based believer would not have persisted in.

    Early Christians would not have ruled out the supernatural because the idea of making such distinctions of proof did not exist back then. Miracles were accepted as a matter of course.

  • Larry

    Karla, come back to me when you understand about what rational and objective evidence means. Quoting mythology is hardly that.

    It takes faith to believe the world came about by chance, but that is not what evidence and science actually has said on the subject. You might want to educate yourself a bit more before trying to stump for your religious faith as an alternative to facts and evidence.

    Faith is not evidence. Faith is not rational. Faith is belief for its own sake. Your belief seems to demand that you lie about evidence and deny the power of faith in public.

  • Larry,

    You keep suggesting that you’re interested in evidence, yet you keep making disputed claims without offering any support for those claims. You make unsupported assertions and ignore the documentation I’ve offered against your position. Stop wasting everybody’s time.

  • Larry

    Because you are not presenting evidence. You are citing people of questionable veracity and attacking definitions of proof in order to shoehorn “faith” into the same level of credibility as “facts”. You are lying in order to bolster faith in private and deny it in public.

  • Karla

    Creation is the proof/evidence that there is a creator. If you see
    a building there is a builder cause the building didn’t build itself.
    Read Romans 1:18-32 and do some research cause Jesus/God
    are very,very real! The Bible/Jesus/God are the Truth. God bless.

  • Thecla

    Virgin birth: what a trivial don’t-care. If you believe in an omnipotent supernatural being, then worrying about virgin birth or other miracles is straining at a gnat.
    As a Christian, I believe in such a supernatural being. I do not believe that Jesus was born of a virgin—not because I think virgin birth or other miraculous interventions are impossible, but because everyone worth his salt in the Hellenistic world, starting with Alexander, was supposed to have been born of a virgin.

    Christ’s divinity is not supposed to be understood as a matter of his being some sort of divine-human hybrid—half human, from his mother’s side, and half-divine from his Father’s. According to orthodox accounts, he is wholly human and wholly divine. That is compatible with his being conceived in an ordinary, non-miraculous way. It is not an empirical claim.

    Christians believe in the divinity of Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity who became incarnate. That is not the same thing as the virgin birth.

  • Doc Anthony

    I’ve read Craig Keener’s book.

    Larry hasn’t.

  • According to the genealogies in Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38, Jesus was a descendant of David through his father, Joseph. This was required of one claiming messiahship. (Jeremiah 23:5; II Samuel 7:12-13; Psalms 89:3-4, 132:11) But Joseph couldn’t be the father of Jesus and Jesus couldn’t be of David’s seed (Acts 13:22-23; II Timothy 2:8; Revelations 22:16) “according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3, 9:5) if he was miraculously conceived and born of a virgin.

    The genealogies are themselves contradictory! According to Matthew 1:16, Joseph was the son of Jacob. According to Luke 3:23, Joseph was the son of Heli. There are 28 generations between David and Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, but 42 generations in Luke.

    According to Matthew, Joseph was a permanent resident of Bethlehem, and Jesus was born and remained in a house there, where the wise men came to see him. According to Luke, Joseph was a resident of Nazareth (a city which did not exist during Jesus’ lifetime). In response to a decree by Augustus that “all the world should be taxed”– a decree unknown in Roman history — Joseph went to Bethlehem to register. Jesus was born in a stable, where shepherds came to pay him homage.

    Matthew further states that Jesus was born before the death of Herod, which occurred in 4 BC. Luke contradicts him by stating he was born during the registration under Cyrenius in 7 AD. Moreover, the gospels depict both John the Baptist and Jesus as contemporaries of Herod during their adult lives.

    Matthew 2:14-15 says Joseph fled to Egypt with Mary and Jesus to escape Herod’s persecution. Upon Herod’s death, Joseph returned to the Galilean region, settling in Nazareth, so that an Old Testament prophecy which no one can find (Matthew 2:23) might be fulfilled.

    According to the 2nd chapter of Luke, Joseph and Mary had no knowledge of the destiny of Jesus. When the shepherds tell them of their vision, “they wondered… But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:18-19) Similarly, when Simeon calls Jesus “a light for revelation to the gentiles and a glory to Your people, Israel,” Jesus’ mother and father “were wondering about the things spoken…” (Luke 2:32-33)

    And at the age of 12, when Jesus is admonished for causing his parents worry, he responds, “Did you not know that I ought to be in my Father’s house?” His parents don’t understand, but “his mother treasured all these matters in her heart.” (Luke 2:49,51)

    Had Mary truly received angelic tidings and a miraculous conception, as described in the 1st chapter of Luke, neither she nor Joseph would have had cause to wonder.

    If Joseph was the natural father of Jesus, then Jesus was born illegitimately, as a bastard. Joseph and Mary were engaged, but not married. (Luke 2:5) From the apocryphal Acts of Pilate 2:4-5 we learn that in early Christianity, the theological debate was not whether Jesus was fathered by Joseph or the Holy Spirit, but whether he was born in wedlock or of fornication.

    However, even if Joseph were Jesus’ natural father, and Jesus were of the seed of David, he still would have had no claim to the throne of David. According to Jeremiah 22:28-30, there could be no king in Israel who was a descendant of King Jeconiah. Matthew 1:12 states that Joseph was from the line of Jeconiah. If Jesus had been fathered by Joseph, he could not inherit the throne of David.

    Matthew 1:22-23 attempts to show Jesus’ miraculous conception and birth as the fulfillment of prophecy given in Isaiah 7:14: “…Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Translators continue to debate the use of the word “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14, which came from the Hebrew word “almah.”

    Hebraic scholars say “almah” means a “young woman” and not a virgin. As proof of this, they cite Genesis 24:43 and Exodus 2:8, where “almah” refers to a young woman, not a virgin. The Hebrew word for “virgin” is “besulah,” especially in classical biblical usage. A completely different word.

    Moreover, the prophecy given in Isaiah 7:14 has nothing to do with Jesus. It is directed at King Ahaz, and speaks of the birth of King Hezekiah, rather than the Messiah. Isaiah 8:4 says when the child is yet an infant, the riches of Damascus and Samaria will be carried away by the king of Assyria.

    These events actually happened in 742 and 721 BC. The child was to be called Immanuel, and Jesus is never referred to as “Immanuel” throughout the New Testament. On the other hand, the gospels specifically state he would be called “Jesus.” (Matthew 1:25; Luke 1:31)

    The doctrine of a virgin birth — God mating with a human woman to produce a god-child — is also foreign to Judaism. These beliefs were widespread, however, in the pagan world in which Christianity developed.

    The epic Hindu poem Mahabharata describes the gods mating with earthly women and producing noble and heroic children. Bacchus, the son of Jupiter in Greek mythology, was begotten by intercourse with Semele. Having been torn in pieces and having died, Bacchus rose again, and ascended to heaven. Aesculapius was a healer and the raiser of the dead. Perseus was born of a virgin.

    In Persia, both Zoroaster and his mother Dukdaub were said to have been born supernaturally, and the three expected Messiahs of Zoroastrianism were expected to come into the world through virgin births.

    Plato was the reputed son of Apollo, the sun god. The gospel tales of Jesus bear a strange resemblance to those of Dionysus, Hercules, Theseus, and countless other pagan demigods.

    Miraculous births themselves are not alien to Judaism or Christianity.

    Adam was never born to begin with; he came into the world as a full-grown adult. (Genesis 1:27)

    Isaac was born to an aged woman, Sarah, who no longer menstruated. (Genesis 18:10-11)

    Samuel was born to a woman, Hannah, whose womb had been closed by the Lord. (I Samuel 1:5, 2:21)

    John the Baptist was born of Zechariah and Elizabeth, who was barren, at a time when Elizabeth could no longer bear children. (Luke 1:5-17)

    The virgin birth of Jesus, however, creates numerous theological and scriptural difficulties.

    On the issue of whether Jesus was born out of wedlock – in fornication, Christian theologian Dr. Upton Clary Ewing writes in his 1961 book, The Essene Christ:

    “…if Jesus was born out of wedlock, of an unknown flesh and blood parent, as may have been the case of the Baptist, the child would be subject only to a stigma… In this case, the transcending of such an obstacle merely emphasizes the greatness of Jesus.

    “Certainly the extreme act of kindness, justice, mercy and forgiveness demonstrated in that memorable admonition, ‘Let he among you who is without sin among you cast the first stone’ indicates an understanding far superior to the mere tolerance of a self-righteous society.

    “Could it not have been that God purposely introduced in the birth of Jesus a lesson to mankind such as this: that the son is of the sins of the flesh, but the life thereof, which is the Spirit thereof, is of God?…

    “This might be said to have been ‘God’s way’ of denouncing not only the lack of kindness (towards illegitimate children) but also the extreme lack of understanding present in our social system.”

  • samuel Johnston

    Hi Jason,
    What is a miracle? A handy dictionary says “…an event not explicable by natural or Scientific laws, therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.”
    “We have a lot of verifiable evidence for miracles.” Does verifiable mean explained by natural laws, or no?
    “Early and widespread belief in the virgin birth is the best explanation for why the premarital timing of Mary’s pregnancy wasn’t more controversial in early Christianity. ”
    Because Christians were credulous? What kind of evidence is that?
    ” Luke’s gospel, one of the early sources that affirms the virgin birth. ” Affirms, meaning what- it said so, long after all the possible witness were dead, and worse, who could be a witness to that uh..uh.. fact?
    “The earliest enemies of Christianity responded to Christian claims about a virgin birth as though Christians were making historical claims about historical events, which are to be judged by normal historical standards.” Better to say judged by the normal beliefs of the time. History, or as we say now, the historical critical method, was not in existence at the time. Stories were simply written down, not researched and compared to other sources.
    Jason, your claims are simply that you believe Christian doctrine, which is your absolute right. But do not claim to be interested in History or knowledgeable about the field. What you are is a dedicated propagandist.

  • Zeus Worshipper

    “Why, he said, would anyone wanting to create a new religion craft such a far-fetched story?”

    This is why I believe it is a historical fact that Cronus ate all of his children except Zeus, who was smuggled away by Rhea and grew up to overthrow Cronus. Who would make up such a story and expect to be believed? It simply has to be true. Can I have a Ph.D now?

  • samuel Johnston,

    Unlike you, I’ve offered documentation for my claims. Keener’s work on miracles, which I’ve cited above, addresses the definition of miracles, how they relate to science, and other such matters. You’re bringing up objections that have been answered many times by many Christians and others, and you aren’t making any effort to interact with that material. You claim, without evidence, that I’m not “interested in History or knowledgeable about the field”. How would you supposedly know that? Is it your regular practice to make such ignorant and inaccurate claims without backing them up? I’ve read many thousands of pages of material, on subjects like the ones discussed in this thread, from different sides of the argument. The sources I’ve cited above come from a variety of perspectives. Stephen Braude isn’t a Christian, for example. I’ve read and interacted with many non-conservative and non-Christian sources over the years. On issues related to Jesus’ birth, I’ve read and interacted with Raymond Brown, Geza Vermes, Richard Carrier, etc.

    You object that what I wrote about early belief in the virgin birth doesn’t provide evidence that the virgin birth happened. You need to pay closer attention to what topic is being discussed. I wasn’t addressing the historicity of the virgin birth in the comments you quoted. Rather, I was addressing how widely the concept was believed early on. The historicity of the virgin birth is important, and I’ve written about it elsewhere (anybody interested can search the archives of my blog, Triablogue, for relevant material), but that’s not the topic I was addressing.

    Your appeal to “the normal beliefs of the time” is unproven and irrelevant. I had mentioned that both ancient Christian and non-Christian sources agreed on the historical genre of the claims the early Christians were making. Ancient people, both Christian and non-Christian, knew how to distinguish one genre from another. And it wasn’t “normal belief” to assign claims like those of the early Christians to a historical genre when a non-historical genre had been intended. If you want us to believe that the ancient Christians and non-Christians were collectively wrong about the genre of the claims the Christians were making, you need to back up your position rather than just asserting it.

    You write:

    “Stories were simply written down, not researched and compared to other sources.”

    You seem to be grossly ignorant of ancient history. Read the opening verses of Luke’s gospel, for example. Such prologues were common in ancient historical works, and they reflected an interest in research and comparison among sources. I can cite many passages from both Biblical and non-Biblical sources that show the sort of interest in research and comparison of sources that you claim ancient people weren’t concerned with. I’ve read many thousands of pages of the relevant original sources and scholarship. Have you? For extensive documentation against your claim, see Richard Bauckham, Jesus And The Eyewitnesses (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006).

  • S. Keegan

    The question really shouldn’t be CAN Christians question the Virgin Birth, but SHOULD we question it? The Virgin Birth is a central tenet of our Faith, supported by both Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition. It is recorded in the Gospels, attested by the ancient Fathers, and has been accepted by the faithful throughout history. It is both utterly fitting for the All-Holy God to choose a virgin for His mother, and the event is entirely in keeping with what He has revealed of His nature and of His love toward us. This is the Faith, once delivered to the Saints and handed down throughout the ages. It strikes me as prideful for one who calls himself by Christ’s name to deny the clear teachings of His Church.

  • Mack Hall

    The answer to the question posed in the headline is no.

  • Larry

    I bet you also have the Time Life series, Mysteries of the Unexplained as well and keep Ancient Aliens on your DVR queue. There is always a market for “woo”

  • samuel Johnston

    O.K. You are correct. I do not bother to read about the impossible, or works by those who reject the natural world in favor of mythological and magical beings.
    I do read about beliefs that affect societies, and how natural events are explained by various groups and peoples. You do need to research where the word propaganda originated and also Apologists are not historians.
    “Jesus came proclaiming the Kingdom, and what arrived was the Church”
    Alfred Loisy
    Jesus teachings (whatever they were) were quickly replaced by the mythology already familiar to the people.
    It has ever been thus.

  • Larry

    So you cited Keener, someone whose credibility is zero with anyone outside of a Christian fundamentalist circle (a group willing to accept anything as evidence which bolsters their religious belief) You also cited a person who actively promotes psuedoscience and nonsense, Stephen Braude. You might as well be referring to old episodes of “In Search of” or the film “Ghostbusters”.

    You are unwilling to look at your scripture in any kind of objective and critical light and you are lying about the basis of your belief. It is telling you chimed in originally in order to pretend faith has the same level of veracity to the public as evidence and reason.

    You want to believe in Christian doctrine and dogma, but you are afraid of doing so on faith. So you have to rely on nonsense sources to pretend faith is unnecessary. Its this kind of dishonesty which undermines the credibility of Christian literalists. They have so little confidence in faith that they have to lie in public in order to claim their religious belief has to be taken seriously.

  • Jim

    Timothy could not have been referring to Luke, because Luke wrote his gospel at least 35 years after the Timothy letter was written. Also, the New Testament wasn’t compiled as scripture until the year 397 CE.

  • Karla

    Romans 1:18-32 says who created the world. Creation is the proof that
    there is a creator because if there is a building there is a builder so the
    creation of the universe is the proof/evidence. We have Bible prophecy
    that came true and also our conscience which means with knowledge so
    we have creation,Bible prophecy and our conscience that tells us when
    we have done wrong plus after Jesus rose from the dead Saul became
    Paul and the Romans soldiers/people who didn’t believe in Jesus lied
    after the Messiah/the Lord Jesus Christ was raised up from the dead
    and said His body was stolen because they didn’t want the Bible to be
    true. All the people who say that this world came into existence just by
    random chance are blind and it takes more faith to believe that this
    world formed out of nothing then became everything. If the sun was
    any closer we would burn…any further we would freeze. Just chance?
    Many don’t want God to be real because they don’t like being told how
    to live/they don’t want to have to change their life and follow God/Jesus.
    Bible is clear in Romans 1:18-32 that God created the world. The Bible
    is also very clear that Jesus Christ is the Messiah/only way to heaven!

  • Oculis

    A virgin birth producing a healthy male is scientifically impossible. A Y (male) chromosome from a man’s sperm had to be delivered to produce a male child.
    Even a clone of Mary would produce a female child–an exact copy of Mary.
    Back then the Enlightenment and the Scientific Method had not happened yet so the Church(s) could make up anything they wanted and boy did they ever.
    In fact those who are certain that Joseph did not inseminate Mary then they must concede that another male did! Science.
    Just gos to show you how incredibly fake these stories all are.

  • Jim

    Matthew and Luke, who say that Jesus was born of a virgin, appear to be engaging in a little one-upsmanship. According to Roman legend, Caesar Augustus, emperor at the time of Jesus’s birth, was also the product of a virgin birth. His birth was considered glad tidings for the world. If Caesar Augustus could do it, why not Jesus? Augustus also described himself as Divini Filius, the Son of God, and was declared divine by the Roman senate in 14 CE.
    We should bear in mind that the four Evangelists, who wrote their gospels between thirty and eighty years after Jesus died, never laid eyes on him and were transcribing word-of-mouth stories embellished and handed down for decades. How else could they quote Jesus directly and describe the scenes and characters? For example, Luke (22:41-46) quotes Jesus’s two prayers at Gethsemane, even though the two disciples who were with him at the time were some distance away and had fallen asleep and could not have heard him. Mark, Matthew and Luke all record a conversation between Satan and Jesus in the desert, even though no one else was present.
    They had no idea that what they wrote would become part of Holy Scripture when the Bible was compiled in the fourth century. We should also recognize that the inerrancy of the New Testament is a manmade claim not made by the Evangelists themselves.

  • nelson moore

    Thank you for the Craig Keener recommendation. I will put that on my reading list.

  • Ben in Oakland

    I would suggest you download a book called “Bible Myths and their Parallels in Other religions” by T.W. Doane. It was published about 130 years ago. It was very heavily researched and footnoted.

    You’d be surprised what’s in it.

  • Ben in Oakland

    Actually, I would argue faith is the least trustworthy approach. Let me relate a story.

    About 20 years ago, a pattern of lights suddenly began to appear on the walls of a small Catholic church in the sierras, every day at approximately the same itme. People could “see” in it a resemblance to the virgin Mary, much like both she and Jesus have both appeared on tacos and toast. The news began to spread. People came from miles around to witness the miracle of her appearance.

    I remember one lady in particular. “It IS the Virgin Mary, and her message is world peace.” An absolutely faith based response. The local bishop weighed in with THIS classic: “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. for those who don’t believe, no explanation is possible.” Well, he certainly covered his butt with that one. And yet, ironically, it was far truer than he knew.

    A scientist was called in. He could not determine the source of the pattern of lights, but was fairly certain it was caused by refraction, possibly reflection, of sunlight somewhere in the church. He just couldn’t find it. but he did predict that the lights would not appear on any completely cloudy day.

    And he was right.

    As a professional photographer, who dealt everyday with the qualities and directions of light, it would have taken me roughly five minutes and a long stick to determine where the light was coming from. But they didn’t ask me. The miracle, of course, ceased to exist.

    you could also go with the miracle at Fatima, if you like. Thousands allegedly saw the sun dance. Thousands did not. People a few miles away did not. No one else in the world say the sun dance. There were no disruptions of weather or anything else.

  • Ben in Oakland

    The myths about Adonis are not the same things as the mystery cult founded in his name. The same thing is true of all of these other myths.

  • Ben in Oakland

    the evidence for the falseness of the gospel accounts is contained within the gospels themselves.

    I would suggest you read another old book, published some years ago. “The English Life of Jesus” by Thomas Scott. He details the contradictions in both facts and theology present in the New Testament, especially the gospels. His basic conclusion: none of the gospels can be considered as reliable historical or theological documents in any sense.

  • Shawnie5

    The New Testament as we know it today, minus a few minir epistles, was compiled and considered scriptural by the middle of the 2nd century AD

  • Ben in Oakland

    Much of this was detailed in “The English Life of Jesus”, cited above. thank you for going into it. I don’t have the patience.

  • Ben in Oakland

    And that is why Christians spent 200 years murdering each other over whether god wanted hymn #666 sung in Latin or sung in French.

  • samuel Johnston

    Zeus Worshipper,
    I hereby award you a Ph.D. from the authorities of Rhetoric and Ridicule.
    Please send me $20 for your framed copy.

  • Karla

    Oculis-It was a mircale. Emmanuel means God with us so the virgin birth
    was a miracle not a creation because God/Jesus were not created! The
    birth was a miracle which is why Mary was a virgin/proving a/the miracle.

  • Shawnie5

    “He needed a dream after the fact to explain it all.”

    Wouldn’t you?

  • Shawnie5

    “We should bear in mind that the four Evangelists, who wrote their gospels between thirty and eighty years after Jesus died, never laid eyes on him.”

    What is your proof of that?

  • Shawnie5

    So many objections, so little time. For now I’ll address some of the simpler ones.’

    “The genealogies are themselves contradictory! According to Matthew 1:16, Joseph was the son of Jacob. According to Luke 3:23, Joseph was the son of Heli.”

    This objection was answered, unwittingly, hundreds of years ago by the Jerusalem Talmud, which refers to “Mary the daughter of Heli.” Luke’s genealogy is that of Mary. The word “son” used by Luke can be used just as easily as “son-in-law,” particularly in the male-focused ancient Jewish culture.

    Therefore, Jesus possessed the legal lineage to the throne through his legal father Joseph, and also a natural lineage to David’s throne through Mary that was free of the taint of Jeconiah. Neat, huh?

    “In response to a decree by Augustus that “all the world should be taxed”– a decree unknown in Roman history”

    Actually the word translated “taxed” by the KJV means “registered.” And there are many registrations recorded in Roman history. Including one described by Augustus himself in his writings which required the entire Roman empire to register an oath of loyalty to him — right about the time Jesus was born. And even so, tax-related registrations went on all the time. Review your ancient history.

    “Matthew further states that Jesus was born before the death of Herod, which occurred in 4 BC. Luke contradicts him by stating he was born during the registration under Cyrenius in 7 AD.”

    Luke does not contradict Matthew at all. He also states Jesus was born before the death of Herod. He also does not state that Jesus was born during the 7 AD registration but under the “first registration” (implying that there were more than one). The text here is a bit ambiguous; it can be read as saying it was the first of at least two registrations during the governorship of Quirinius, or that it was the first registration, taken BEFORE Quirinius was governer (distinguishing it from the notorious census in AD 6 which sparked a rebellion).

    “Moreover, the gospels depict both John the Baptist and Jesus as contemporaries of Herod during their adult lives.”

    Oh dear, the confusion! There was an entire line of Herods, the one who offed John the Baptist being Herod Antipas.

    “Had Mary truly received angelic tidings and a miraculous conception, as described in the 1st chapter of Luke, neither she nor Joseph would have had cause to wonder.”

    Not in hindsight. But the situation would have looked very different from their perspective. Everyone was expecting an actual Messiah King, probably Mary and Joseph as well. No one was expecting the kind of suffering Messiah that Jesus became. Only in hindsight could everyone see they were one and the same.

    “Joseph and Mary were engaged, but not married. (Luke 2:5)”

    Joseph and Mary were legally married, but not yet cohabiting pending completion of the marital home. Which is why Joseph is always referred to as her husband, and it would have required a formal divorce to dissolve the union.

  • ben in oakland

    ““In response to a decree by Augustus that “all the world should be taxed”– a decree unknown in Roman history” Actually the word translated “taxed” by the KJV means “registered.” And there are many registrations recorded in Roman history. Including one described by Augustus himself in his writings which required the entire Roman empire to register an oath of loyalty to him — right about the time Jesus was born. And even so, tax-related registrations went on all the time. Review your ancient history.”

    thank you for admitting that the translations cannot be trusted to be accurate or historical.

  • ben in oakland

    “This objection was answered, unwittingly, hundreds of years ago by the Jerusalem Talmud, which refers to “Mary the daughter of Heli.” Luke’s genealogy is that of Mary. The word “son” used by Luke can be used just as easily as “son-in-law,” particularly in the male-focused ancient Jewish culture.”

    Another admission that the bible cannot be trusted as an historical document.

  • S. Keegan

    The God who created the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that is in them can surely create a Y chromosome in the womb of the Blessed Virgin to effect His Incarnation.

  • Larry

    “The word “son” used by Luke can be used just as easily as “son-in-law,””

    “Actually the word translated “taxed” by the KJV means “registered.”

    “The text here is a bit ambiguous; it can be read as saying….”

    “Oh dear, the confusion! ”

    “But the situation would have looked very different from their perspective.”

    Yep, translations are not reliable and easily prone to wildly differing interpretations. One has to piece together, interpolate, and make wild spurious leaps of logic with the scripture to support a given belief. That is, when one doesn’t just admit to relying entirely on faith.

  • Shawnie5

    Well, look up “apographesthai” yourself in a Greek lexicon, with parallel uses of it. If your Thomas Scott couldn’t do that, then he had little business writing about the subject.

  • Shawnie5

    That doesn’t follow at all. You simply have to have some background historical and cultural knowledge in order to see the full picture…which is true of any written work, although we take such background knowledge of our own culture for granted.

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  • Larry

    Yep, interpretive leaps and selective translations are only OK if supporting your view of the Bible, and no others. Exegesis is only criticized as something negative if you are supporting a different take on the Bible but your own.

    By your own admission, a plain reading of the text is not going to be enough. It is confusing and requires tweaking, interpretation, constructive context and guesswork to make it fit a specific religious view.

  • Larry

    Because obviously the text itself doesn’t provide much in of itself. It required selective interpretation, word parsing, and conjecture.

  • Larry

    Precisely. Because faith does not require a belief be rational or supportable by evidence. Once you have faith in the existence of God and the doctrines of Christianity, you can have faith in miracles as well. One doesn’t need to pretend it follows any kind of rational form of proof.

  • Ben in oakland

    I’m not the one arguing simultaneously that the word o’ god is simultaneously clear as glass and clear as mud. You are.

    If taxed versus registered can be subject to such a dispute, when we know the meanings of both, then how much unclearer can “aresenokoites” and ‘malakoi” be?

  • ben in oakland

    BTW, I frankly don’t remember whether he dealt with or not. He was pretty thorough, though.

    “Well, look up “apographesthai” yourself in a Greek lexicon, with parallel uses of it. If your Thomas Scott couldn’t do that, then he had little business writing about the subject.”

    Oh, good! That means we can toss the whole of the KJV, and a few others as well. If they can’t get something as simple as that right, they have no business writing on the subject.

  • Shawnie5

    Larry, what exactly is wild or spurious here? Do you have an argument for apographesthai not meaning “registered?”. Or for the Jerusalem Talmud’s reference to Mary as Heli’s daughter being fraudulent? Or anything else? Then let’s have it. Because all you’re really doing right now is whining that it requires a bit of homework to grasp the complete picture presented by an ancient biography.

  • Shawnie5

    Go to the same greek lexicon and look up arsenokoite for yourself.

  • Shawnie5

    What do you mean it doesn’t provide much in itself? It provides two lineages for Jesus, which common sense might easily indicate are paternal and maternal lineage (my kids have two genealogical fancharts themselves, for example, one for my family and one for their dad’s). Luke’s would be most likely the maternal lineage since the writer of Luke obviously interviewed either Mary the mother of Jesus herself or a close relative. Plus there is the fact that Luke’s phrasing doesn’t use the actual word “son” at all; it simply says “Joseph of Heli,” which is why it works just as well for son as son-in-law, particularly if Mary had no brothers to carry on the family line and there is no indication that she did. And if that isn’t obvious to someone, another unrelated ancient text supplies the necessary clarification. What is difficult about this? This is the nature of understanding ancient texts.

  • Ron Goodman

    People keep making the tired old claim that Jesus was either a liar, a mad man, or telling the truth, when the more likely explanation is that he was none of the three, and those things didn’t happen at all they way legend has it.

  • Bob in Maryland

    “Some scholars see the absence of the Virgin Birth in the other two Gospels — John and Mark”

    Non-explicit references to the Virgin Birth are present in both of those Gospels. For example, in Mark, Chapter 6, Jesus’s townspeople ask, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” Why not “son of Joseph” as ought to be expected in First Century Galilee? Likewise, in John, Chapter 9, the temple authorities dismiss Christ with the comment, “as for this man, we do not know where he comes from” indicating that even in His lifetime, strange, unsettling stories were being told about His birth.

  • Karla

    Ron Goodman-Explain how the world got here? Read Romans 1:18-32.

  • ben in oakland

    Or, they just didn’t know where he came from. And that seems very odd, because when he was born, choirs of angels serenaded the shepherds, wise men from the east showed up, following “his star”, quite a propitious event for the astrologically minded, which was everyone at the time. Not to mention, joseph didn’t put Mary away, but knew that Jesus had been sent by god.

    The degree of improbability in the stories far exceeds the degree of impossibility.

  • Larry

    You hardly relied on a plain reading of the text as given.

    “could mean ….”, “has been translated in other texts as …”, “the text is a bit ambiguous…” These are all adjustments you made to the the text to fit a given view.

    You tweaked and adjusted interpretations and translations as well as brought in outside contextual conjecture. An interpretation subject to personal opinion. Much like interpretations you would gladly declare “scripturally unsupported” if it didn’t agree with your religious beliefs.

    You can make any interpretation you want here. I am not judging your conclusions. If you want to say that the Bible supports a reference to a virgin birth, so be it. I am not arguing that.

    I am criticizing your prior habit of attacking those who use the same methods of interpreting scripture as you just did.

  • Shawnie5

    “…as well as brought in outside contextual conjecture”

    And the problem with that is what? It is perfectly in order to bring in another text when it sheds light upon a passage that we, 2000 years removed from the text and events, find unclear. Do you have a problem with the outside text? Do you have an outside text that suggests something different?

  • Shawnie5

    Don’t forget the sarcastic comment by some of the Jerusalem Pharisees: “We were not born of fornication.” Implying, of course, “as you were.”

    A charge that was repeated in the Jerusalem Talmud that dismissed Him as the “bastard son of an adulteress.”

    Which reminds me… if Jesus didn’t exist, I wonder why the Jews didn’t simply point this out….? 🙂


    Easy answer. It is a reaction against Christian proselytizing by attacking their underlying stories.

    At no point can the Talmud be considered an actual source as to Jesus’s historicity.

    Homer portrays Paris of Troy as a big weenie, but it is hardly evidence of his existence as a historical figure.


    Absolutely no problem with that, unless you start complaining when other people do the same.

    You are tweaking the text and making presumptions and conjectures to make an interpretation which works for you. There is nothing wrong with that. Just don’t start getting all indignant about being “scripturally correct”, when others do the same but in a different direction. 🙂

  • Shawnie5

    “Absolutely no problem with that, unless you start complaining when other people do the same”

    But they DON’T do the same, which is exactly the problem. I cited outside sources (ancient documents, and Greek lexicons) which shed light upon a few biblical ambiguities. When are you going to do the same?

    I assume your objection refers, as Ben’s does, to previous disputes over the biblical passages about same-sex behavior. I personally don’t find them to be ambiguous, but if anyone else does then I am more than happy to hear their evidence, be it intrabiblical or extrabiblical, for the position they take on it. I know I have repeatedly asked YOU to produce some ancient textual evidence that would suggest that those passages were ever understood in a manner different from what supplemental sources such as Josephus, Philo, the Midrash Rabbah Genesis and the Babylonian Talmud indicate. But you have never produced anything of the sort, nor has anyone else. All you have offered are personal conjecture and assertions without anything to back them up, and personal attacks on those who disagree.

    Even now you are attacking my conclusions about the story surrounding the birth of Christ (both here and in the Jesus-myther thread) for no reason that I can see other than that it supports the traditional Christian view. But you really needn’t bother; even if every “jot and tittle” of Luke’s history is correct, that doesn’t mean you have to accept Jesus’ claims to divinity or His message. You don’t have to care (although you can’t seem to tear yourself away) remember?

  • Shawnie5

    Hee hee. A far more effective way of attacking Christians’ underlying stories would be to point out the nonexistence of its central figure — if such were the actual case, or even false but plausible enough to get away with.

    Homer wrote his works as fiction. The rabbis did not. Bad analogy.

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  • Larry

    No, you don’t cite ancient texts, you cite people who may be citing ancient texts. You take their interpretations and present them as your own. You rely on translations of people who share your religious belief. Nobody who has any authority on the subject that demands to be taken seriously, unless it is congruent with their religious beliefs.

    I don’t care about your conclusions. I care about how you went about getting to it. The methods employed. You attack the very methods you just employed.

    “I know I have repeatedly asked YOU to produce some ancient textual evidence ….”

    You never showed they ever were. You only quote people who claims they do. Therefore, no need to disprove it. Its only your ego that leads to the delusion that somehow your conclusions about the scripture is the only one available. But as you showed, even you can’t stick to a plain reading of the text as given.

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  • Shawnie5

    Larry, dear, baloney with a side of sauerkraut–extra sour. I’ve cited Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews and Against Apion many times, from the Loeb Classical series first published by the Harvard University Press, not commentary upon them. Got an argument that they are fraudulent or mistranslated (perhaps David Barton invented Josephus and his works 2000 years before he was born)? Well, then, present it and defend it. Got a problem with Augustus’ Res Gestae 5 or its translation? A problem with Dr. Deissman’s translation of the edict of E. Vibius Maximus? A problem with the standard Greek lexicons used by scholars? The Talmud itself? Then out with it. And present your own “interpretations” and translations and defend them. We’re all waiting…still. Until you can do that, then your accusations of my attacking you or anyone else for using my same methods are, in your favorite and highly professional and academic terminology, bullcrap.

    Your obvious problem here, Larry, is that you have no familiarity with any of these resources but you don’t like what is quoted from them, which leaves you only blind, speculative attacks upon the sources themselves (it MUST be fraudulent or mistranslated…it MUST be…) which you can not support with any resources of your own. Really, all this flailing about hurts your case far more than it helps because it’s so easy to see through.

  • Cathodic Protection

    I have said to my wife “Please try not to ask questions in your Bible Study Group, you would ruin the relationship with them”. My point has been that it would be super stupid to argue with / even question true religious people. That I don’ have an answer for something doesn’t make your answer the correct one. If so, all religions would be true FACTS.
    If you taught a class with 100 top level of scientists and you ask them the results of (969761975698179857197) X (1709717507)=?, you would find no answers rightaway; if you taught a class with 100 mentally challenged people, you would probable get some answers.

  • Cathodic Protection

    “Are you a Christian? I know you are, but could you deny that I am a Christian? I go to church, but not often, I give $ to churchs, but not 10%” –I asked my Christen friend and he could not answer my questions. He is a licensed professional engineer (PE). We cannot deny his PE because he has to maintain his status, just like the doctors. Is there a committee to set examination/review to see if people can still call them a “Chrischian?”

  • Garson Abuita

    If you’re talking about John 8: I don’t read it as a sarcastic comment — wasn’t it a defense to Jesus’s accusation that they were doing the “deeds of their father” Satan? i.e., they were not following Jesus, but would if God was truly their father. The “Pharisees” retort was that they have only one father, God himself.

  • David Whitney

    1 I am stunned at the poor quality of quotes you chose to use in support of virgin birth.
    2. We don’t know what Isaiah “said” or even what Luke “said”. We have translations of dubious quality for both.
    3. Is it absolutely necessary that every one of Jesus’s acts and every element associated with his story must be miraculous? Did he have miraculous bowel movements?
    4. The Bible is full of embellishments added later. Shame they have that “God-breathed” verse to hide behind.
    5. Of course we can question. Perhaps the more appropriate question is “Can you believe something other than orthodox teaching and still be a Christian?”

  • BV

    and hold to the Orthodox faith? No.

  • Shawnie5

    Isaiah was written in Hebrew, Luke in Greek. If you are qualified to pronounce the existing translations of them “dubious” then you must understand both languages, right? The Hebrew and Greek are readily available; how about if you get to work and produce a translation that isn’t “dubious?”

  • Ben in Oakland

    Like the KJV perhaps? A well known authority on the subject of accuracy in translations recently said that if someone didn’t know the difference between a “registration” and a “tax” they had no business being anywhere near a biblical translation.

    Then they fell quite silent.

  • Ben in Oakland

    “A charge that was repeated in the Jerusalem Talmud that dismissed Him as the “bastard son of an adulteress.”

    Frist you cite the Jerusalem Talmud as “proof” of the genealogy of Mary. The same source calls him the bastard son of an adulteress, and yet you don’t use that to show that none of the virgin birth stuff is true.


  • Ben in Oakland

    Yet most likely, Jesus spoke aramaic, as most likely did the bulk of his disciples. And the “greeks” are recording “conversations” which were most likely not in greek– see the transfiguration– which they also could not have been privy to.

    Sort of like claiming that Moses was the author of the first five books of the OT, when one of those books talks about Moses dying and where he was buried. Or as the author of “The Hidden Book of the bible” points out, there are piles of accretions onto original texts– additions, subtractions, editings, and agendas.

    now you can tell me how none of it is what it appears to be.

  • Larry

    No “Got a problem with Augustus’ Res Gestae 5 or its translation? A problem with Dr. Deissman’s translation of the edict of E. Vibius Maximus? A problem with the standard Greek lexicons used by scholars? ”

    Yes, because you are not quoting any of them directly. You are far too dishonest and thickheaded to consider how obvious you are in that respect.

    You attempts to pretend scholarly knowledge are like reading a paper from a high school junior who hasn’t learned what plagarism means. Someone who can’t distinguish between publishing an idea and having recognized authority in a field. You are familiar with scripture as pre-digested for you by people whose views you want to accept.

    The obvious problem is you are so obviously phony in whatever authority you claim on a given subject. The other problem is I am far too stubborn in expecting rational honest dialogue. I don’t ignore your posts as often as I should. 🙂

  • Larry

    Only if you are making ahistorical conclusions about ancient texts expecting them to convey ideas to modern readers in an effective manner.

    Ancient Greeks did not consider Homer’s work fiction nor stories of their pantheon as myths. Modern readers do.

    The credibility of the story of the Iliad and Odyssey are why a Roman toady like Virgil was given the task to come up with a suitable sequel in the Aneid. A sequel showing Romans are from the same traditions as the characters of Homer’s works.

    Like the Talmud, Homer (who may not have been one person at all) compiled oral traditions on a given subject to memorialize them in writing. The reference to ancient insults is similar. I stand by it.

  • Larry

    “3. Is it absolutely necessary that every one of Jesus’s acts and every element associated with his story must be miraculous? Did he have miraculous bowel movements?”

    What? you are unfamiliar with the Holy Coprolites of Amiens!!

    Here is a scholarly discussion on the subject

  • Shawnie5

    They were all quoted directly, Larry. Go back and re-read. Now, what is your problem with the texts? Do you have an alternate translation? Produce it and explain why you trust it more (blogs don’t count, and neither does wikipedia).

    Do you actually care about any of this? Quite honestly, I don’t think you do. All I’m seeing is frustration that you don’t have the wherewithal to rebut anything. In which case you’d do well to ignore my posts and not put your helplessness on display.

    You’re stubborn all right, I’ll give you that. The way you follow me around puts me in mind of how my neighbor’s dog follows the treat dropped into her crate every might at bedtime, never figuring out that the door is going to be slammed shut as soon as she does.

  • Shawnie5

    None of it is “proof” of either assertion. The first statement simply sheds light on a gospel ambiguity, and is particularly noteworthy because it comes from an openly hostile source. The second statement simply shows up the irony of the Jesus-mythers wild claims– in that even those who had a greater motive than anyone else to attack the claims of Christianity never questioned the existence of its central figure, but instead chose to smear Him in a manner that actually reinforced the gospels’ claims that Jesus existed and was born under unusual circumstances. Of course, they were dealing with things as they actually were; they weren’t writing with a view toward a bunch of bozos who would come along two millenia later and claim they were all lying.

  • Shawnie5

    I said if they couldn’t examine a greek lexicon to find out the exact terminology used in the passage they were attacking, as well as its parallel usages, they had no business writing about it. Learn to reaf.

    And while we’re on the subject, what is YOUR problem with the text in question? Do you have an alternate translation that you would like to present and defend?

  • Shawnie5

    Of course most of the disciples spoke Aramaic. Matthew, however, would have needed to know Greek in order to do his job — no doubt one of the reasons why he was called. And educated men like Mark and Luke who also knew both languages could.just as easily commit eyewitness recollections to writing. But that is not what David was claiming. He is claiming that we don’t know what LUKE said. Of course we do — there are several thousand ancient Greek manuscripts of Luke in existence.

  • Shawnie5

    Make that “learn to read.” I hate touchscreens.

  • Shawnie5

    Larry, you tickle me. The Romans copied all things Greek because they considered the Greeks to be culturally superior, not becsuse they considered their gods and myths more credible. But even more ridiculously than that, you are actually positing, with a straight face, that the Jews of the early Christian era dreamed up every smear the could think of against Jesus, including illegitimacy, blasphemy, sorcery, apostasy, treason — and yet the only charge that neither they nor anyone else in antiquity ever breathed a word about, nonexistence, was the correct one all along. 😀

    You must think the most educated Jews of the early Christian era were even dumber than the Jesus-mythers. After all the latter have the excuse of two thousand years for the fables they’ve created; the former were only dealing with a few generations– why didn’t someone, anyone, Roman, Jew, or Martian, simply say “The guy never existed?”

  • David Whitney

    Dear Shawnie — Please do a little more reading before spouting off as an authority. Luke’s excellent Greek is primarily adapted from Mark’s poor and difficult Greek. That makes your “authoritative” source dubious translation #1. Mark is itself a compilation of Aramaic and Hebrew sources rendered into poor and difficult Greek. Dubious translation #2.

    I have no doubt you are sincere in your assertion, but your claim of authority is based on flawed material. We will never get to the bottom and must accept ambiguity.

    It is precisely the perceived need to eliminate that ambiguity that contributed to the destruction by church authorities of the documents that could have answered the question. A shame but it is what it is.

  • David Whitney

    Quod erat demonstrandum.

  • Linda

    From my information, 50 copies of “The New Testimonies” (The New Testament) were compiled and hand written under the direction of the Roman ruler Constantine in the early 4th century ACE (in the 330’s, I think). As Constantine did not like the Jews, nothing from the Jewish Torah (now the Old Testament to us) was included. Constantine changed the day of worship (Sabbath) from Saturday (day of worship for the Jews as laid out by God in Torah/Old Testament) to Sunday, the first day of the week. He declared the religious day of celebration at the time (December 25th-birthday of a previous Savior/Mithra as well as the Winter Solstice) to be the day of celebration of Jesus’s birthday. And, in order to ensure that all of the Roman Empire adhered to this new religion, all citizens who did not convert were to be executed. What better way to “lead souls to Jesus.”

  • Shawnie5

    Constantine had nothing to do with any compilation of the NT. We know from the Muratonian Fragment (ca. AD 170) that the NT as we know it today (minus I and II Peter, James, and Hebrews) was already collected and considered on par with OT scripture by the mid 2nd century at the latest. What Constantine was trying to do was not to compile a NT (which had already happened) but to resolve the question of Arianism so that Christianity might be unified. To settle this question, the bishops who convened at Nicea used the writings that were universally accepted as scriptural by Christians of the time. Canon of scripture was not even discussed at Nicea.

    As for Constantine executing non-converts, the truth is exactly the opposite: “Let those who delight in error alike with those who believe partake of the advantages of peace and quiet…Let no one disturb another, let each man hold fast to that which his soul wishes, let him make full use of this…What each man has adopted as his persuasion, let him do no harm with this to another…For it is one thing to undertake the contest for immortality voluntarily, another to compel it with punishment.” –Constantine’s “Edict to the Palestinians.

    Far from executing all the pagans, Constantine has many of them at his court. He even appointed one as consul.

    For the record, The Da Vinci Code was fiction.

  • Shawnie5

    “Luke’s excellent Greek is primarily adapted from Mark’s poor and difficult Greek. ”

    Or, both could have drawn upon an earlier writing NOT in Greek, for which there is some evidence in the writings of the early church fathers. But is there some particular doctrinal or interpretive difficulty that you attribute to an error in translation, or are you, like others here, simply making generalized attacks upon the gospels because they are gospels?

    “It is precisely the perceived need to eliminate that ambiguity that contributed to the destruction by church authorities of the documents that could have answered the question.”

    As I stated earlier, church authorities did not act in anticipation of unborn people who would make claims two millenia in the future that they were all lying, forging, covering up, or what-have-you. They wrote and acted against the backdrop of readily available manuscripts, records, and witnesses.

  • Francis

    From the article: “But Ben Witherington, a professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, finds proof of the Virgin Birth in its supernatural aspects. Why, he said, would anyone wanting to create a new religion craft such a far-fetched story?”

    Proof from its supernatural aspects? I hear Ockham spinning in his grave.

    And why would anyone craft such a story? Exactly to create a new religion. Apparently, Mr. Witherington knows little or nothing about the times, those of Augustus and Jesus, that it. In fact, Suetonius records in his History of the Twelve Caesars that Atia, the mother of Octavian/Augustus, was a virgin at the time of his birth. Not only that, she was impregnated by a Roman God. Not only that, now that he was dead, Octavian/Augustus himself had become a god. Such portents and omens are manifold. Suetonius associates them with imperial births, deaths (that of Julius Caesar, for instance) and major events.

    But think of it. You are writing a story to prove that your god is the real god, and in any case is a better god than Augustus, who is actively worshiped by the people who make up your audience. What better mechanism than to give your new god at least as many birth omens as Augustus. You gotta equal if not better his arrival in the world.

    Nor are such omens limited to the ancient Mediterranean cultures. The birth of Conchobar, the great Irish hero, was foretold by seven prophets seven years before the date of his birth. The occurrence of the number seven, or any magical number, is a frequent birth omen. Others are (1) celestial or seasonal, such as being born at the Winter Solstice; (2) shamanistic – the appearance of an animal or bird; (3) mortality – the birth coincides with a famous death; (4) supernatural – the appearance of a bright star, as has been said of the birth of Kim Jung Il of Korea.

  • Francis

    Responding to Shawnie5:

    The Moratorian Fragment both excludes texts now in the canon and includes texts (one or more apocalypses) that are now not in the canon. And it has been dated anywhere from 170 CE to late 4th century.

    Athanasius in 367 CE first listed the current canon, and then went on a rampage to destroy any other competing books.

  • shawnie5

    I have already stated that James, Hebrews and the Petrine epistles are not included (even today no one is sure about the authorship of Hebrews) but this hardly constitutes a doctrinal difficulty as these are minor works which do not provide anything uniquely essential to the faith. The Apocalypse of John to which you refer is the same work we know as Revelation which of course is part of our NT. The Apocalypse of Peter is mentioned but with the caveat that it was not uniformly accepted.

    Only a small minority of scholars consider the 4th century date plausible; the majority date it to the mid 2nd century because it makes reference to recent events that can be verifiably dated and there is no reason to think they might have been falsified.

  • shawnie5

    Christianity was a thing for a hundred years before Suetonius ever wrote his tales. And even he never claimed that Atia was a virgin.

  • Daniel Berry, NYC

    In all the words and discourses of Jesus depicted in the gospels and all of the Pauline writings arguing for what he regarded as the “true gospel” I don’t see a breath of a word about virgin birth. Those are the sources I believe Christians can rely on as to what makes them Christians. The rest is gravy.

  • Daniel Berry, NYC

    A jew is known and determined by who his mother is – not his father. As to the “where he comes from,” that’s a simple reference to pedigree, and, therefore, integrity and, presumably, credibility.

  • Jack

    It’s funny how some people have trouble believing the claim of a virgin birth but not the claim of God the Creator becoming a human being and then being raised from the dead after being crucified.

    That’s called straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel (to quote Jesus himself), but such is humanity.

  • Jack

    Good point, Jim, but I don’t think the virgin birth is hard to understand, once you accept the premises that God exists and is the creator of all things. The same God who created reproduction and sex is perfectly capable of cutting out a step or two in the process at one extraordinary moment for one special purpose.

    So if you buy into those premises, there is nothing absurd about believing in a virgin birth.

    An example of a genuine absurdity would be a claim that God did something inherently contradictory, such as making a building fall and not fall at the same moment. That would require belief in something we truly cannot understand.

  • Jack

    I will check out the book you recommended, Jason.

  • Shawnie5

    My thoughts precisely, Jack. The virgin birth is small potatoes compared with the central claims of Christianity.

  • Jack

    Linda, you’re correct about Constantine’s attitude toward the Jews but mistaken about the other points.

    Constantine unfortunately ratified the steady drift of church away from synagogue, fueling what evangelical author David Rausch called “the legacy of hatred.” That is, Constantine took replacement theology, the doctrine which wrongly asserted that the church replaced the Jews as God’s people, and helped institutionalize it. Replacement theology flatly contradicted not just the Old Testament, but the plain words of warning by Paul in the New Testament Book of Romans, chapter 11. In that chapter, Paul took the strongest arguments for replacement theology and demolished them.

    But as to your other points, William Albright, the foremost biblical archeologist of the 20th century, summed things up well by saying that every book of the New Testament was written in the first century. Since Albright’s time, that conclusion has only been strengthened.

  • Jack

    Cal, the short answer is that, by itself, it doesn’t. It is simply an assertion that is either true or not true. What’s mystifying is why, for some people, the virgin birth is a problem but God creating the universe ex nihilo isn’t. It seems to me that a God who can do the latter should have no problem doing the former.

  • Jack

    Ron Goodman, the liar/lunatic/truth-teller set of choices is logically unavoidable, unless you deny that Jesus said the things attributed to him, and that the Gospel writers put words in his mouth that he never spoke.

    But in that case, the same three-fold test can and should be applied to those Gospel writers: in their assertions about what Jesus said, either they were liars, deceived or deluded, or telling the truth.

    There’s no way around the three choices, Ron. You can spend 100 lifetimes trying to avoid them, but it will be futile. There is no fourth option.

  • Jack

    Actually, Samuel Johnston, if belief in the Gospel makes science “a waste of time,” how and why was it that modern science began among Christian or Christian-influenced scientists?

    Hint: The assumptions about the universe being orderly and of humanity standing sufficiently outside of nature to analyze it objectively are inextricably biblical ones. The first depends on the universe being created by an orderly deity; the second depends on the existence of a soul or some other property of humanity that lets us transcend nature even as our bodies remain immersed in it.

    Were it not so, then the fact that modern science began among people who were believers in the Bible would be one of the strangest coincidences in history.

  • Jack

    Well, Corey, here we are, nearly two centuries since Jefferson penned those words, and nearly 2 billion people, the largest in history (in absolute numbers and percentage-wise), believe it is no fable at all.

    Thomas Jefferson was talented at many things — foretelling the future was apparently not among them.

  • Jack

    Thecla, the problem is that Jesus was not born in the “Hellenistic world,” but in the Jewish world of Bethlehem, and grew up in the Jewish world of Nazareth in the first-century Jewish province of Galilee. Nearly all of his disciples also were from Galilee.

    CS Lewis called Jesus the myth that became real. What he meant was that if the Gospel assertions about Jesus’ birth and life, death and resurrection, are true, then all the preceding myths spread about pagan cultures were to the Gentile world what Old Testament prophecy was to the Hebraic world — an uncanny foretelling of the future.

  • Jack

    Shawnie, you’re correct — there is no proof that none of the four writers of the Gospel ever met Jesus.

    And there is very intriguing internal evidence in the Gospel of John to suggest that the author was the apostle John.

    Scholars have hotly debated this for centuries, but those who have denied it have universally ignored writer’s rich and detailed knowledge of every nook and cranny of pre-70 AD Israel, especially Galilee and Judea.

    They have also missed something else that is quite telling: The writer of John’s Gospel is fixated on the friendly and at times not-so-friendly rivalry between the apostle Peter and the apostle John, and gives us peeks of that rivalry through the apostle John’s eyes. Again, what’s striking is the amount of detail provided by the writer, down to the mundane and granular level. For example, the writer tells his readers that it was John who got Peter into the area run by the high priest so he could be close to the trial of Jesus. And how did John get Peter in? According to the writer, John was “known to the high priest.” In other words, John had a connection with Caiaphas and family.

    There are a number of other examples where the writer of John’s Gospel provides the level of granular detail consistent with that of an eyewitness.

    The healing of a man blind from birth is an example. The healing as described by the writer is graphic and odd. Jesus puts mud on the blind man’s eyes, and he sees. But there’s a twist — the blind man initially receives only partial sight. Jesus repeats the process and then he sees fully. There is no hint in the text for why he saw only partially and why the process had to be repeated.

    But there’s more…..the text goes on and on about how the priests reacted, how the formerly blind man responded to them, even how the man’s parents replied when they were questioned.

    In other words, the text spends more time summarizing the aftermath of the healing than the healing itself…..It paints a portrait of people scrambling about, trying to figure out what the heck happened to the man and all the rest.

    None of this is normal if the goal of the writer is to make up a story about a healing. All of this is normal if the goal of the writer is to relay as an eyewitness what actually happened, including all the surrounding details and the aftermath.

  • Jack

    Larry and Ben, what Shawnie just did is what historians and other scholars routinely do when looking at ambiguities or possible contradictions or inconsistencies in any text of any kind from the past. They seek to clear up the ambiguity or resolve the seeming contradiction or inconsistency. They make a good-faith (no pun) effort to find a solution before declaring it unresolvable.

    Why? Quite simply, because the writer or writers of the text aren’t around to be asked what they meant when they wrote the portion of the text in question.

    If they were alive, they could have been queried.

    But since they are not, scholars have an ethical duty to do their best to discern what the writers meant to say, and to do their best to resolve apparent inconsistencies before declaring the inconsistencies real and thus incapable of resolution.

    What scholars don’t do if they’re honest is play “gotcha” games with the text.

    They don’t shout “a-ha!” each time they find something that isn’t immediately clear or consistent. They go back…..they check and re-check translations. They bring in depictions from the outside — from other texts when relevant, from already-established outside knowledge about time and place.

    It is only when all likely explanations are exhausted that objective scholars will deem a text portion to be hopelessly ambiguous or inconsistent.

    Shawnie in her posts has simply done what scholars regularly do. And in so doing, she has come up with explanations, drawn from legitimate sources, that enhance our understanding of the text.

  • Jack

    Shawnie, this is ultimately a “burden-of-proof” question, and both Larry and Ben are again making an erroneous assumption about how scholars and especially historians go about their job.

    This time, they’re assuming that whenever what seems to be a textual inconsistency or contradiction is manifest, the presumption is that it’s a matter of reality rather than appearance.

    But scholars work the opposite way — their assumption is that there probably is an explanation for the inconsistency….and they search far and wide for the explanation.

    Again, the reason is clear: The writers are usually not alive to be queried directly. And so the only fair approach is to try one’s best to find a plausible explanation.

    And so scholars will recheck translations of words in question…..maybe the particular translation of the words doesn’t fit. They will check other documents that fit with the time and/or place of the text they’re analyzing. Maybe such documents will provide illumination. They will go through what they know about the culture. Perhaps the writer is using some rhetorical device known immediately to that culture but not our own.

    It is only when reasonable efforts of this sort are exhausted that scholars will say, “what we have here is a real contradiction or inconsistency.”

    Again, the reason is clear: The writers are dead and can’t clear up the problem themselves. Objective scholarship seeks to do it for them, leaving no stone unturned.

  • Jack

    The Jerusalem Talmud quote, “Mary, the daughter of Heli” is interesting indeed.

  • Jack

    Jason, your statement that Samuel isn’t “making any effort to interact with” your material sums things up pretty well.

    He does not because he cannot. It speaks for itself and it presents enormous problems for his position. Even if he were well-versed in history, he would be unable to counter your position. The only difference would be that he would understand his problem even better than he does now.

  • Jack

    Larry writes, “at no point is any of the Gospels considered objectively reliable.”

    What a preposterous statement.

    There are countless examples of names, dates and places cited in the Gospels that are precisely that — “objectively reliable.”

    In fact, what lends credibility to the Gospels and other New Testament writings is precisely the level of accuracy and reliability on those matters.

    Thus, there really was a Pontius Pilate and a Caiaphas. There really was such a thing as crucifixion. Herod Antipas was a real person. He did rule Galilee as a Roman puppet. The various physical structures, from pools to porticos, have all been excavated archeologically and/or mentioned by other sources. The towns, villages, and cities of Judea and Galilee were all real, as was the accuracy of the distances between them. The attitudes of Judeans to Galileans and vice versa were accurately depicted. The customs and procedures in the Temple were correctly portrayed. The odd “tail-wagging-the-dog” interplay between Pilate and Caiaphas fits perfectly with the political intrigue swirling around Rome preceding Jesus’ trial.

  • Jack

    Ben, I just alluded to examples of historical accuracy……that’s the tip of the iceberg. The accuracy as to names and places is there for all to see.

    So either you are claiming too much on behalf of the writer of the book you cite, or the writer doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  • Jack

    The matrilineal test to which you refer became dominant long after the first century, Daniel.

  • David Whitney

    Dear Shawnie —

    Please try not to take any of this personally. I am not attacking your faith or your doctrine.

    You must stop being obtuse and start accepting reality — we don’t know if any gospel writer actually meant “woman who has an intact hymen” when we read the word “virgin” in scripture today. Nor do we have any clue whether Isaiah was referring to the Messiah’s (specifically Jesus’s) birth in his oft-cited “prophecy”.

    Faith is a good thing, and if it carries you through the day that’s great. All you have to do is acknowledge you are accepting these beliefs on faith and not on a reasoned process that may be used for proselytization or other attempts to convince somebody who has not accepted the same articles of faith as you have.

  • Jack

    @”David Whitney”

    1. A throwaway line that means nothing
    2. Nice try at bluffing, but your statement about translations is pretty funny ….in order to call all existent translations “dubious,” you logically must have in mind some translation that isn’t. In that case, your statement contradicts itself. Or….might it be the….ahem……. “David Whitney” translation….available on the Home Shopping Network for the special price of one dollar each? It also goes by all the other names you’re using on this message board.
    3. Another throwaway statement, this time in the form of a question that presumes as true what is demonstrably false — that most of the Gospel narratives are about miracles as opposed to teachings and ordinary happenings.
    4. You can say anything is “full of embellishments,” but first you have to prove it.
    5. You might as well say, “can you believe something that contradicts a given proposition and still follow that proposition?” Can you be a vegan and have a hamburger once a day? Every belief about anything has content that you either accept or not. The problem with what you’re proposing goes far beyond the religious sphere. It comes down to the definition of words.

  • Jack

    Way to dodge Shawnie’s question, “David Whitney.”

  • Daniel Berry NYC

    interesting but then–how did they know who was really a Jew prior to that?

  • Ben in oakland

    But Shawnee, the whole point of this article was people claiming that the virgin birth IS one of the central point so of christianity. Look at my very first posting.

  • David Whitney

    Dear Jack —

    You are an angry person who goes straight for the jugular. You think your statements are conversation-ending smackdowns when they are, in fact, the beginning of a dialog. I can’t teach you how to debate with reasonable people. You’ll have to keep practicing.

    Regarding your statement above that I dodged Shawnie’s question: My statement should have made it clear, but here it is. Yes, there is some particular doctrinal or interpretive difficulty that I attribute to an error in translation and no, I am not,like others here, simply making generalized attacks upon the gospels because they are gospels.

    I ignored the question in my follow-up post because it is the religious equivalent of playing the race card. “You hate me because I believe”. Whatever.

  • Shawnie5

    Yet why would it be harder to accept than the resurrection?

  • Shawnie5

    Well, what is this particular difficulty that you have in mind?

    If you have been around here for a while you ought to know that I was asking in good faith whether you are an all-purpose, knee-jerk gospel detractor or if you wish to discuss something specific. There are a number of posters here who are not believers and really aren’t familiar with most of these issues but will eagerly “me-too’ any objection to the gospels that floats by, purely to be taking the anti-christian position, whatever that may be. I am delighted to hear that you are not one of these.

  • Jack

    Shawnie, I hope he is not “one of these,” but unfortunately, I am not optimistic on that count.

  • Ben in oakland

    Of course their are more options, Jack. Here are a few:

    Jesus never existed.

    Jesus as described was actually someone else. There is bar abbas (Son of the father) and Judas the Galilean, for starters.

    Jesus as a single person never existed, but was an amalgam of several people.

    The things that are attributed to him are contained in separate books by different authors, all of which contain substantial factual disagreements, and cannot be considered historical when taken as a group. One of them might be, but all four? No. Too many contradictions, both historical and theological. And too many things that just strain probability. I have on problem with the choirs of angels things, though I don’t believe it. What I have a problem with is the fact that every single person in the world, including Paul, seemed to forget about it five minutes later.

    you said this is another place. ““Ergo, they didn’t make up the claims. They believed their own words.” All assuming that what we are reading are their own words. Paul himself said that there were letters, alleged to be from him, that were forgeries. If that is true, then either said letter was a forgery, or there are others that we don’t know about that were forgeries, including those in the NT.

    There’s an interesting book, quite scholarly, called “Jesus and the riddle of the dead Sea Scrolls.’ It makes a persuasive case that the words of the New testament don’t mean what we think they mean. It also makes a persuasive case that the whole early church was nothing more than a business model.

    Jesus is yet another solar myth. there are lots of very similar ones from all over the world: the savior, always a man, born of a virgin, who died and was resurrected, and came for the forgiveness of sins. Just because they believed this to be true, doesn’t mean that it was true. It only means that they believed it to the point of death.

    We have a wealth of religions that are now deemed to be mythologies by the religions that still survive. All of these religions recorded in their sacred books things which were considered to be irrefutable facts about the nature of the world, and their god’s or gods’ relationship with and message to that world. The only way for Christianity to be a “true” religion is to escape that very historical process.

    we have this process in our own modern world. There is the Book of Mormon, asserting things that contradict scripture and every known bit of historical, cultural linguistic, and anthropological evidence we have.

    Is it true? Was joseph smith who he syas he was, or a liar, or a madman?

  • Ben in oakland

    It happened because the Church controlled everything in the medieval world, including access to literacy and the written word.

    “Hint: The assumptions about the universe being orderly and of humanity standing sufficiently outside of nature to analyze it objectively are inextricably biblical ones.” no, they are not. The ancient Chinese never heqrd of the bible, but they were able to predict eclipses, knew that the world was round, created machinery, and devised navigational methods for the determinati9on of longitude when Europeans were still worried aobut falling off the edge of the world. They created medical models that still work.

  • Ben in oakland

    Yet the same Jerusalem Talmud also claims that Mary was an adulterous whore, according to Shawnie. doesn’t that also throw light on an ambiguity?

  • Jack

    Actually, it does, Ben.

    Looking at the two comments, an objective scholar, in comparing the Gospels to the two accounts you mentioned, could say the following:

    (1) “Mary, daughter of Heli” suggests that the Luke geneology might be through Mary, not Joseph
    (2) Since the Gospels say Jesus was born through a virgin birth and the Jerusalem Talmud says he was born through an adulterous affair, both accounts agree that Joseph was not the father.

    Interesting indeed, Ben….very interesting.

  • Jack

    Ben, the options you suggest are a subset of the fourth category I suggested — ie that Jesus never said the words attributed to him.

    So really, we have only four options. They are the three I’ve highlighted (liar vs. lunatic vs. Lord) or he never really said the words attributed to him, which of course would be the case if he were a fictitious person.

    But my answer to the fourth option is that we can apply the same three-fold test to the people who wrote about him and his life:

    Either they were lying, they were deluded or deceived, or they were telling the truth.

  • Jack

    Ben, based on your broad definition, the ancient Greeks could be seen in the same light.

    But if we’re looking solely at the origins of what we call modern science and its methodologies, we’re talking about a western phenomenon that began with assumptions that were biblical. If the physical world were not orderly or even independently real, why bother studying it? If we’re simply immersed in nature, how is objectivity possible? It would seem that belief in a universe of order and in a humanity with an ability to transcend nature and thus reach objective conclusions about it are minimal assumptions required for modern science as we know it to have proceeded.

  • Jack

    Exactly. Why indeed….

  • Shawnie5

    Ben, honestly, I thought better of you than this. No one in Christian medieval Europe, with the possible exception of the most unlearned of peasants, was worried about falling off the edge of the world. It was the church, after all, that had preserved the works of Aristotle and Ptolemy and all their round earth theories.

    The 7th century monk, Bede, one of the middle ages’ most prolific writers, published a work called “The Reckoning of Time” which became standard reading for every medieval astronomy student. Does it sound to you like he was worried about anyone falling off the earth?

    “The reason why some days are of unequal length in the roundness of the world…it is not merely circular like a shield, or spread out like a wheel but resembles more a ball, being equally round in all directions”.

  • Shriram

    Ok just a small clarification, Buddha was not resurrected and neither was Krishna. I dont know but I have never heard of any Buddhist text talking of Buddha having a virgin birth.

  • 1) So why is a miraculous and spirit caused birth only possible outside an “immaculate conception?” Seems the story suggests that God couldn’t be sullied by sex, and wouldn’t use it for his purposes. That says more about human guilt about sex than it does God.

    2) The argument: “it’s so incredible, who would make that up?” is sadly countered by lots of stuff that is both incredible and made up in every religion.

    3) I am a Christian, and as I age (and hopefully mature), I am inclined to see more clearly the written versions of the Christ look more and more like human distortions of what otherwise was a very human and also a very divine person named Jesus. Seems the truth just wasn’t good enough, and so strange stuff had to be added. One thing is required: Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the Life,” and, as C.S. Lewis argues, he either was a lunatic, or He is who He said he was. There is no middle ground on that. I’ve made my choice. The pregnant virgin story…

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