Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bluffers Guide to The Virgin Birth.

A bluffers guide to the God debate; Part Two:

The Virgin Birth.

Given how ubiquitous the story Virgin birth, it is instructive to remember that the earliest Christian writers had never heard the story. The Virgin birth is only ever mentioned in two of the four gospels, and that the Apostle Paul, whose writings make up the earliest Christian text we have, had never heard the story, which we know because he describes Jesus as "born of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3) meaning that he thought Joseph was Jesus’ biological father.

However, when the author of Mathew was looking for Old Testament prophecy to which he could fit the life of Christ, he came across the a prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, which he read as predicting that the Messiah would be born of a Virgin, and would be called Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us, and since he was Greek, and writing in and for a Greco-Roman context, in which everyone of any note, from Hercules, to Perseus to Mercury to Romulus to Dionysius was born of the virgin, simply decided to kill two birds with one stone, at once fulfilling a prophecy and making Jesus more impressive to his Hellenic country men -  by have Jesus born of a Virgin. We know this because the author wrote, after describing Jesus' divine conception that:


Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Mathew 1:22 -23)


All this would be bad, and cynical and crooked enough, but what makes it, not just a lie, but an incompetent and obvious lie is that he gets the prophecy wrong. The important word here is the word virgin, which in the Hebrew version of Isaiah is rendered as Alma, a word which, according to the catholic encyclopedia, and the Oxford Hebrew lexicon, and the Oxford Companion to the bible, simply signifies a "young woman", unmarried as well as married, and is thus distinct from bethulah, "a virgin" And thus carries no implication of virginity.


However, the Author of Matthew apparently couldn’t read Hebrew, and was going by a Greek translation, which rendered the Alma, as Parthenos or virgin, and from this we get the Virgin birth, the belief that Jesus was biologically the son of God, the idea that jesus was of the same substance as the father, and to a large degree the trinity.


And so we are faced with two possibilities, either, and this is my position, the whole story of the virgin birth, and all that followed is simply a cynical cock up, of the type that one might expect from a wholly man made work of fiction, or the Holy Spirit’s Hebrew isn’t quite as good as one might expect.  

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