Here we are in the Christmas season so the virgin birth will be mentioned many times in the coming weeks in both our Bible readings and our hymns and songs. Let’s take a 21st century look at this phenomenon and also ask some first century questions about it. Let’s start with the first century questions.
There are some things in the bible that require us to look at them with first century eyes. I am currently reading a book about the nativity story and how that looks quite different when you view it with first century eyes. The book is very insightful and reminded me of the difference that twenty-first century views can mean in reading various stories. I will be relating that story soon but only choose to mention it here as an example of different meanings to different people. We will get into more of this in a couple of paragraphs here.
Getting to the point at hand, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke start their documents with a genealogy leading from Abraham to Joseph. Matthew calls Joseph “the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called the Christ”. Luke gives a different genealogy than Matthew. Scholars differ on which of the two if any is the legal genealogy via Joseph and which the possible physical descent via Mary. This brings up my first century question. If as it is proclaimed that Joseph had absolutely no biological link to Jesus then why would they trace Joseph’s line in order to determine Jesus’ ancestry? Was this train of thought different to the first century Christians? Can someone be linked to someone who has no biological connection? I know DNA wise there is no link between them. I also know from my limited study of those early times that in the Jewish tradition the man was the patriarch and the woman played a very subservient or even non-existent role in public affairs. It is very confusing to me why Joseph’s line was even linked to Jesus?
We are told that Jesus was a virgin conception in Mary (virgin birth to me is really a misnomer). That is as I understand it no human sperm was involved in Jesus becoming human being. The Holy Spirit accomplished that fact by some other means. Now on to the twenty-first century question. Was Mary’s DNA associated with Jesus or was Jesus not biologically linked to her either? To say it another was did God use one of Mary’s eggs in creating Jesus or not? Of course this question would not have come up in the first century as God had not revealed this scientific knowledge to that generation. As with many other scientific laws of nature He chose to wait until we were ready to receive that knowledge before revealing it to us. If anyone cares to try and answer this question I would certainly be interested. Of course without having a sample of Jesus’ DNA this question is not answerable. Wouldn’t it be interesting for us to be able to study Jesus’ DNA. Wow!
In closing I recently read where St. Paul never mentioned that Jesus’ mother was a virgin. If fact some say he, by some of his words, discounted that fact. Christianity is if nothing else full of seemingly unanswered questions. At least when you look at it with twenty-first century eyes.