Faith of the Apostles 3


The Calling

Our next interest might well be the family relationship between John and Jesus. It was said that they were cousins, familiar with each other, and well acquainted with one another’s ministry. As far as we know from John’s Gospel, their missions were one and the same. Once again, the Q, Matthew, Mark, and the Dead Sea Scroll; The Gospel According To Thomas, do not comment on this subject. Only Luke involves itself with a tale of human relationship between the men, and that comes through their mothers. This is of the utmost importance to our study.

At this point, an unexpected source comes to the rescue of the lone Gospel story, The Holy Qur’an. In it, the entire episode is recaptured in an expanded version that agrees with the evangelist, and is extremely, Lukan.

“And behold thy cousin Elisabeth…”

“…Your kinswoman Elizabeth.”

This would appear to be more correct since the Greek text is, “suggenis”. The definition indicates, ‘one who is born with, of the same stock or descent as; kindred’.

It does not necessarily mean a cousin. Whatever the case, Luke definitely indicates that there is a blood relationship between Mary and Elizabeth. The age of the two women is divergent. According to tradition, Mary is a fresh, young woman who is under the guardianship of Zachariah. Elizabeth is obviously far beyond the age of child bearing.

“… she hath also conceived a son in her old age.”

“And they had no child because that Elizabeth was barren; and they both were well stricken in years.”

Zachariah speaks of this also.

“Lord, how shall I have a youth as my son when I am already of advanced age and moreover my wife is barren.”

This difference in age makes a cousin’s relationship highly unlikely. If we are to conclude that Luke is correct in his report that they are part of one, blood-related family, it is far more acceptable as Aunt and Niece. This is the most practical arrangement, and it fits perfectly with the report from The Holy Qur’an. But this is nothing more than scholarly assumption. Here, there is a far more important relationship to be ascertained, and it is urgently necessary to the true history of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.

Why is this older woman so important, other than the fact that she is to bear, John? Mary is never recognized as anything other than Joseph’s betrothed, and then, his wife. But for Elizabeth there is an entirely separate genealogy, and it is revealed by Luke’s narrative.

“There was in the days of Herod, the King of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia; and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.”

Abia, or Abijah, was a priest during the reign of David, who was used in God’s service in the Temple.

“Priests among the Jews had long been divided into twenty-four ‘divisions’, each responsible for the conduct of Temple worship for one week at semi-annual intervals.”

“Zachariah belonged to the division of Abijah. According to I Chronicles 24:10, this was the eighth.”

“The division of Abijah is the eighth of the divisions of priests (1 Chr. 24:10) responsible in turn for performing the regular daily duty of the Temple.”

“And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, according to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the Temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.”

In order to enter into the Holy of Holies and offer incense to god, Zachariah would have been of an order of the high priesthood. Jewish law seems to bear this out. When Uzziah was king, he attempted to break this law in the days when Azariah was High Priest. He is stricken with leprosy after breaking into the Holy of Holies.

“…and went into the temple to offer incense to God upon the golden altar, which he was prohibited to do by Azariah the high priest, who had four score priests with him, and who told him that it was not lawful for him to offer sacrifice, and that “none besides the posterity of Aaron were permitted to do so…”

Zachariah’s lineage being established, we turn to Elisabeth.

“… and was of the daughters of Aaron.”

‘Thugateron’, daughter, is not to be taken as someone’s female offspring, but a female descendent of the house of Aaron.

The Interpreter’s Bible, suggests rather quickly that, “… Elizabeth is also said to have been of priestly descent.”

It is not just said, it is insisted upon!

“Aaron; he was the first High Priest of Israel… he had Miriam for an elder sister, and Moses for a younger brother… He was an excellent speaker, and was appointed to be the prophet or spokesman of Moses… The priestly duties of Aaron and his sons are prescribed in Leviticus 1-9.”

The quality of Elizabeth’s heritage would appear to be of the highest, despite the fact that she was a woman. Her standing in the community, along with her husband’s, would have been that of highly respected citizens. As a descendant of the Priesthood, and married to a priest, she would have been part of the aristocracy of the Jews. The people of Luke’s day would have been well aware of Aaron’s appointment by the Lord God, and would have understood the importance of Elizabeth’s heritage.

“And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”

And though praise is given to Mary as indicated by Luke’s narration, the same is given to Elizabeth by other ancient texts of Luke 1:46.

“The hymn of praise is assigned to Mary in most MSS, but to Elizabeth by some of the old Latin MSS, texts known to Origen, and Irenaeus…”

More important, did the writer of the Gospel reduce the importance of this relationship, or has it been pushed aside to hide a far more important point, one that the later church did not want published?

The crux of the matter. Mary, being a blood relative of Elizabeth, would also have been descended from the high priesthood, a daughter of the priesthood of Aaron. As such she would never have been permitted to marry anyone other than a priest! And as such, offers the perfect reason for her virginity to be so important to the Gospel stories and that of The holy Qur’an. No high priest was permitted to marry anyone other than a woman descended of the priesthood, and she had to be a virgin!

The Letter To The Hebrews, speaks to this same subject. It is almost as though the writer knew of some ancient tradition concerning Jesus and his family, but now lacked the substance to prove his theory. Unable to pursue that avenue, he refers to Jesus’ priesthood as coming, not from men, but from God.

“…where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”

“For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with this tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not according to a legal requirement concerning bodily descent but by the power of an indestructible life.”

In the Holy Qur’an, not only is Mary held out to be a virgin, but so was her mother. This would incline one to believe that in its original form, the Gospel may well have espoused the idea that Jesus’ ancestral line was through the priesthood, and that he was a child of the priesthood! There would appear to be no other reason for this doctrine.

“Nay, he did not think it proper for the high priest to marry even the widow of one that was dead, though he allowed that to the priests; but he permitted him only to marry a virgin, and to retain her.”

I would only offer one query, from what source does the cult legend come to us that Joseph was a carpenter? This would appear to mean something far more than a simple carpenter.

Carpenter: tekton.

“A worker in stone and wood.”

Not a mere carpenter but a master builder. A rough meaning would be akin to a, mason.

“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us…”

“Some Caesarean, Alexandrian and Western authorities read in Mark 6:3, “Is not this the son of the carpenter and of Mary?”

Today, however, due to editorial freedom on the part of early copyists, we have a text that is objectionable for two reasons.

“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary…”

Contention amongst the Gospel stories again. But this time it is contradicted by two sources.

“This reading is probably due to later revision, under the influence of the of the doctrine of the virgin birth: the reading presupposed by both Matt. 13:55 and Luke 4:22 is the one actually found, in conflated form, in some Greek MSS (33, Ferrar group, the O.L., Armenian, and Ethiopic versions, and Origen: “Is this not the son of the Carpenter?”

“Jesus is not called ‘carpenter’, but ‘the carpenter’s son’…”

“Origen, the greatest biblical scholar of his time, says that he never saw a Gospel that described Jesus as a carpenter (Against Celsus VI. 36).”

“Is not this Joseph’s son?”

“‘…the son of Mary,’ which might be considered a slur on his legitimacy.”

Once again we are reminded that the use of a woman in a man’s genealogy was improper and ill used. We are also warned that the repeated misuse of God’s word by man, and his manipulation of it, has created a complex of contradictions and misleading scriptural statements.

Another major point is repeated. Where do we get the cult legend that Joseph was a carpenter? Mary’s lineage is of the priesthood, and she would have been betrothed to one of the priesthood, the aristocracy! And why is Joseph suddenly wiped away from the Gospels? Tradition again says that he died while Jesus was very young. There is no proof of this, and certainly not even a suggestion of the event from his son. Rather, it would seem that he had to be gotten out of the way in order to propagate the illusion that the church was trying to manufacture.

The simple fact is that if Joseph becomes a principal character in the Gospels from the nativity and on into Jesus’ life, he becomes an embarrassment to the ‘church’. In deference to the mythological play that has developed over the centuries, Joseph has ‘conveniently’ disappeared.

Repeat the question of Mary’s marriage to one of such a profession. Being descended by blood from the priestly cast, she would not have been permitted to marry anyone other than a member of the priesthood, especially if she was intimately involved with Zachariah and Elizabeth. It would be interesting to find out what word in the Aramaic tradition was translated into the Greek, which the 17th century cleric translated into, ‘carpenter’.

Another complaint is leveled against the scriptures and man’s tradition by the highest of authorities in this area, what about Jesus’ brothers and sisters?

“Many theological theories and arguments have been advanced to explain the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus: e.g., that they were really his cousins, or half brothers and half sisters-children of the aged Joseph by a former marriage-and so on. But the motive of such speculation is clear, viz., to safeguard the doctrine of the virgin birth and its later elaboration in that of the perpetual virginity of the mother of Jesus. It is better to take the words in their natural sense. Jesus was evidently a member of a fairly large family, that of the carpenter (possibly ‘builder’) Joseph.”

In this line of thought, Mary’s virginity speaks not so much for herself, but for her husband, Joseph. Again and again, why has Joseph disappeared from the Gospels?

“He died!” Well, that is neither doctrine, nor tradition.

But let us continue to examine the legends concerning the parents of John and Jesus. If Elizabeth was Mary’s aunt, then John would have been Mary’s cousin, not Jesus’. If Mary and Elizabeth were cousin’s, as the Gospels might suggest, then there is only a paper thin blood relationship between John and Jesus. This is hardly possible with the biblical proof of the difference in age between the two women.

“And behold, thy kinswoman Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.”

Either way, there was a deep enough association between the women for Mary to go to Elizabeth when she discovered that she was pregnant. Both the Bible and the Holy Qur’an tell us that Mary was placed in the keeping of Zachariah and Elizabeth for a goodly period of time.

“And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judea; and entered into the house of Zachariah, and saluted Elisabeth.”

We must note another contradiction in the biblical accounts. Luke records this story of sanctuary with her relatives, in Matthew, there is no separation between Joseph and Mary. The Holy Qur’an is a third source, and it validates the record according to Luke.

“And her Lord accepted her with full acceptance, and vouchsafed to her a goodly growth, and entrusted her to the care of Zachariah…”

“And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house. Now Elizabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. And her neighbors and her cousins heard how the Lord had showed great mercy upon her… ”

Mary’s departure is puzzling. First, she leaves her own home with, “…great haste…”, and then, when she is obviously showing her condition openly, and Elizabeth is in the throes of childbirth, she leaves! Luke gives us no explanation for this mysterious activity.

How well John and Jesus might have known each other is pure conjecture. There is no story, no myth, no remark concerning any childhood friendship. It is possible that if Luke is the valid commentary, they might have met once a year when Jesus’ family made the trip to Jerusalem for the Passover. We know from the Gospel stories that John recognizes Jesus when he sees him, but it is shaped as a spiritual event rather than a physical one. For us, however, they meet once more in the year 29 A.D., during John’s ministry.

After speaking extensively of Mary, Jesus’ mother, it is time to turn to his immediate family. Mark exposes us to another view as well as a picture of Jesus’ family.

“Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?”

Other Gospel accounts state, “Is this not Jesus, the son of the carpenter… ”

“Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary, and his brethren, James and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us?”

“And all bore witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?'”

” …Being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of…”

Jesus’ parentage is stated plainly, father and mother being human beings recognized by their neighbor’s and the Gospels. One must understand that there is no contradiction here concerning the ‘virgin birth’, or the ‘Christmas story’, for at the time this text was established, neither doctrine existed!

Unfortunately for us, Luke creates new problems, for he claims as much, if not more, significance to the birth of John than he does to the birth of Jesus. John is called one who is ‘holy to God’, a salvation to the people whom, he will save from their sins. He is filled with the Holy Spirit, given a full measure of the Spirit of God.

But what of Jesus? In comparison to John, Luke would have us believe that his appearance on the earth is secondary. In John, we have another child, born in the late and aged years of his parents. Another story that follows the guidelines of the birth of Samson, and Isaac. Luke would have the angel say to his father, a priest and therefore a man of nobility, the royal house of Israel…..

“Many shall rejoice at his birth, for he shall be great in the sight of the Lord and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the lord their God. And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

This entire speech is echoed by Jesus later in the scriptures, but whether he is made to mimic a great myth in the form of Luke’s poetry, or whether his statement is original, we cannot know. One thing is clear, the writer tends to see John as a prophet in order to force the fulfillment of ancient prophecy, when in fact, he contradicts this belief by stating that he will drink no strong drink, wine, which was forbidden to the priesthood, not to the prophets. Jesus himself states that John came neither drinking nor eating, while he himself sat and ate and drank with sinners, tax collectors, and the impure.

“While he was at table in his house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?”

“Thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name, Jesus, He shall be great, and shall be called the son of the highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father, David. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

There is nothing here that could not have been said of any male child born of the Jews. The Law of Moses advocates that any male child born is holy unto the Lord, and even Joseph, Jesus’ father, is noted in the scriptures as the son of David.

Of Jesus, Luke first attests that, “…therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee…”

“…therefore the child to be born will be called holy.”

But Luke later weakens this reference, refuting any messianic attribute to his birth by stating, as is true of the Law and the Holy Scriptures;

“…as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.'”

With great dramatic flourish, Luke takes us through this first physical moment of the child, Jesus, on this earthly vale. Like John, Jesus was also of orthodox Jewish parents, and not Hellenists. Jesus is the Greek translation of the Jewish, Joshua. Joshua bar Joseph would have been his proper name, one fitting the standing of his parents in the Jewish community. And in fact, in the classic Hebrew his name was, Esau.

“And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”

Further evidence that this angel of Luke’s is of Greek conception. But for John, the writer offers great explanation.

” And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias after the name of his father. And his mother answered and said, ‘Not so; he shall be called John.’ And they said unto her, ‘There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.’ And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, ‘His name is John’. And they marveled all.”

The epilogue to John’s birth reads more like Jesus’, than Jesus’.

In contrast, let us examine Matthew, with a continuing eye toward Luke and an existing manuscript of Mark’s Gospel. It is possible that the writer of Luke may have had a copy, along with the Q. Having admitted improving on other works which were closer to the time of Jesus, and possibly more valid, there is good reason to assume that Luke may well have felt himself worthy to improve on the work of that author also.

“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

Interesting to note at once that the name, Jesus Christ was not in use in the first century until Paul coined the name on his own. It would not have been found in any genuine text until after Paul’s time. Thus we can date Matthew at a much later period than Mark, Luke, or Acts. The name calls on a theology for the man which was never intended in Apostolic times. However, like Luke, Matthew immediately sets out to show that Jesus was heir to all of David’s inheritance through a genealogy which is, by general admission, quite flawed.

The Greek is substituted for the original, Messiah i.e, the anointed one. It is a title for the man as was genuine at the time of the first century, even to the understanding of the Apostles. He is, as he was in the simplest of theologies, Jesus who was called the Christ. The name coined by Paul is of later tradition and totally invalid to the understanding of the first century disciples.

This writer goes beyond Luke in an attempt to show that Jesus was the son of Abraham through the bloodline of the Hebrew patriarch. In the same instance, witnessed by the same text, the writer of Matthew includes Joseph as the ‘son of David.’ It is also interesting to note that in assigning to Jesus all that David inherited from God, he also endows him with that same sonship that David held, a sonship by adoption!

“I will be to him for a father, and he shall be to Me for a son…”

“Matthew’s genealogy shows signs of being artificially constructed.” Thus speaks the Interpreter’s Bible. “…appearing in the list are errors which a careful compiler would not have made, or which, if present in his source, he could easily have corrected from the Bible.”

In this case, that would have been the extant text of the, Old Testament, either the Masoretic text or the Septuagint.

But in his efforts to make something extraordinary out of his story, the writer of Matthew makes a terrible mistake. He uses several women in his genealogy, which was the worst of insults that could leveled against any man in a Jewish society. If the writer had been a Jew, or had a knowledge of Jewish practice, he would not have been guilty of such an outrage.

“And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

“Women were not usually mentioned in Jewish genealogies, but Rahab, Ruth, and Bath-sheba are included here, as well as, Tamar…Yet Ruth was a foreigner, and scandal was attached to the other names.”

“The phrase ‘the son of Mary’ might indicate only that Joseph was now dead (Turner), but it is contrary to Jewish custom to call a man by the name of his mother. For ‘the carpenter’ Mt. reads ‘the son of the carpenter’ (13:35), and many important MSS (including the Chester Beatty Papyrus P45) support a similar reading here; the other reading may be due to revision under the influence of the doctrine of the Virgin Birth.”

Moreover, more than one source, including the Interpreter’s Bible, insists that the Greek text is direct in its statement that Mary and Joseph were the natural parents of Jesus.

“This reading could be used to substantiate the view that the genealogy of Jesus in its original form did not presuppose the virgin birth.”

But Peake’s goes on to say that this is highly unlikely, especially in Matthew’s view of the birth narrative.

“However, the problem with verse sixteen goes much further than any name. The words, ‘of whom’, were written for a purpose. In the original text it read, “…and Jacob begat Joseph, the husband,” (Andra: married husband) “of Mary, by whom she bore Jesus.”

“Among the variants especially the reading of Syr. Sin. deserves attention: ‘…Jacob begat Joseph; Joseph, to whom was betrothed Mary the virgin, begat Jesus who is called the Messiah’. This reading could be used to substantiate the view that the genealogy of Jesus in its original form did not presuppose the virgin birth.”

The Interpreter’s Bible is insistent that the Gospel writers never intended for anything more to be understood other than the fact that Mary bore Jesus through a natural father whose name is, Joseph. ‘of whom’, refers here to the father, not to Mary. In addition to this, ‘birth’, in the Greek is, Genesis, meaning, to engender. In contrast to this admonition of an engendering through human parents, the writer of Matthew proclaims, “…she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”

The writer uses the common Greek for Holy Ghost, which contradicts the point he is attempting to make. The Greek used is, ‘pneumatos (haigon)’.

“This expression, unfortunately, by definition which occurs fifty times without articles, is never used of the Giver, the Holy Spirit, but of his gift.”

“…saying, Joseph thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.”

The original Greek text does not translate as tradition dictates, for the term, pneumatos haigon, is used again. It speaks of the more originally read, “…for the thing begotten in her is filled with the Spirit, and is holy.”

These are the exact words that Luke uses for the prophecy of the birth of John. And it repeats the Law’s statement that any male child who breaches the womb is considered holy to God.

And in fact, the analogy continues with;

“She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

This is exactly what the angel tells to John’s parents, word for word.

Later, as we are to learn, Jesus and John traveled separately throughout Palestine preaching the same good news, and in fact, demanded a salvation from sin through regenerative washing, one of repentance and confession. For now, Jesus and John are wrapped in a singular role with exactly the same prophecy and explanation of their purpose in God’s calling.

And what do our Christian fathers, and theologians, have to say about all this? The Interpreter’s Bible offers us an explanation.

“‘Joseph begat (Genesis to engender) Jesus.’ This reading appears to fit best with the original purpose of the genealogy.”

The intent can only be that of the first century church and its understanding of the legends of the birth of their leader. From whatever source it was obtained, it had nothing to do with our present Hellenistic theology. This is pointed out in the same volume just quoted.

“But Matthew’s account presupposes the virgin birth throughout. Pagan mythology had many tales of children born from intercourse between a god and a woman, or a goddess and a man.”

Indeed, most Greek mythological heroes were thought to have been born in this manner. And the New Testament is a Greek text! It is a Hellenistic document with all the inherent mysticism attributed to that literary style.

The theologian goes on to say that no such myth has found its way into Matthew’s account, yet such ideas were prevalent in the world of the Greeks, Palestinians, the Romans, the Jewish Hellenists, and the Idumeans. This fact was noted in our appraisal of Alexandrian community, from which the Rabbinical Hellenists sprang. It was also common knowledge of the evangelist who penned the Gospel story.

Mythranism abounded in the middle east until the third century, and was based on just such a birth, and to go beyond that, a death and a resurrection, which was celebrated at the Spring Solstice, the Vernal Equinox.

December 25th, is used as a date for Jesus’ birth. It is not correct, but is instead, the date of a long standing occasion for a pagan festival associated with the rebirth of various solar deities. It was also the date of the, Winter Solstice, according to the Julian Calendar.

“There was a time in the third century of our era (a.d.) when Mythranism was the strongest rival of Christianity for the allegiance of the Roman world.”

No where in Jewish lore is the Messiah regarded as a divine being. And none of this is relevant to the first century church. And as far as Easter is concerned, one can hardly become more pagan than the setting of this date for it deals not only in a lunar experience, but the rites of spring, the Vernal Equinox. It is set by the following formula:

It is celebrated on the 1st Sunday, after the full moon, on or next after March 21st, the Vernal Equinox, or one week later if the full moon falls on a Sunday.

It has nothing to do with a resurrection, but rather deals with man’s insatiable need to fulfill ancient rituals to satisfy his superstitions.

The writer of the, Exegesis, states that Matthew’s account, “…presupposes the virgin birth.” Luke directly opposes this view, as does the author of that translation in Volume 8 of, The Interpreter’s Bible. According to the preponderance of theologians, the virgin birth was an unknown doctrine in the first century church. At the same time that Christianity was being born, many religious beliefs were being expounded throughout Rome and the Middle East. It was merely one of many theological expositions being pronounced throughout the intellectual and religious world.

The Interpreter’s Bible, is insistent that the text of Matthew and Luke are in total disagreement on many points. Even the story told is contradictory. One says that Joseph was engaged to Mary, ‘espoused’. In the next they are called husband and wife, andros.. The angel says, “Do not fear to take Mary as your wife.” Joseph does, and the interpreter of that section says that if the two traveled together, they were husband and wife! They were married.

Luke, on the other hand, is explained in the following manner.

“Luke’s account (1:26-38; 2:1-7) could have been originally a story of a miraculous birth of the more traditional kind, which was developed into a virgin birth story, perhaps by the addition of Luke 1: 34-37 and the words “his betrothed” in Luke 2:5. (Mary was legally Joseph’s wife if she traveled with him.)”

The Interpreter’s Bible, is consistent in stating that the Gospel writers do not indicate any doctrine of a virgin birth. The references to Mary being a virgin are only in two statements and they are both prior to the conception. The Interpreter’s Bible, does not believe there is any miraculous birth. The foremost minds of Christology and Christian history, pronounce that there was no such thing as a virgin birth in any original, valid text. It only occurs after Paul’s church deviates, and separates from the Palestinian church and the Apostles.

They also indicate that there is a passage of time between the angelic visit and her marriage to Joseph. The Interpreter’s Bible, insists that even the Gospel writers insinuate that Joseph was the natural father of Jesus.

“Luke’s infancy narratives refer to Joseph and Mary as Jesus’ parents without any accommodation to the doctrine of the virgin birth.”

“And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanull, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity…”

This is the only instance where the Greek for ‘virgin’ means, a physical virgin, parthenia.

The final argument is indicated in the grammar of the Greek. The word used for, virgin, in reference to Mary means, a young unmarried woman, parthenos, a young woman of marriageable age. The only place in the entire new testament where the word for a physical, biological virgin is used in Luke 2:36, as we have already pointed out.

We may also note that there is no problem in observing the fact that Mary may well have been a virgin when she married Joseph. In keeping with the position we have begun to suspect for him, it would have been ordained that he marry a virgin. But there is nothing that says she was a virgin at the time of the birth.

Also, we must make another point. The angel says that John will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. To Mary he says,

“That which is within thee is of the Holy Spirit.”

The Greek in both cases uses the wording, pneuma agion. And the translations of this term, as agreed upon by Christian scholars, indicates the gift of the holy spirit, not the Holy Spirit himself. So there is no statement in the entire range of the synoptic Gospels stating that God begot Jesus in Mary through the Holy Spirit, or in any other fashion.

We are shown by statement itself, that both John and Jesus are to be born filled with the Holy Spirit and his gifts. Neither are ‘begotten’, as church doctrine dictates. Pneuma, is the Greek translation of, Ruarch, and is the life principle springing from God, and is said to be possessed by all the lower creatures. Living soul in Hebrew is, Nephash.

Here we must turn to the words of scholars again, the Interpreter’s Bible, regarding the statement in Luke 1:27.

“The doctrine of the virgin birth is not articulated as part of the primitive Christian kerygma in the epistles of Paul or in the early chapters of the book of Acts. There is no hint of it in Mark’s Gospel or in the common tradition of Matthew and Luke. It has no place in the birth and infancy narratives in Luke 2:1-52 which assume throughout that Joseph was one of Jesus’ parents.”

The Holy Qur’an makes the most sensible statement of all. When engaged in discussion with people such as this, do not take odds with them but go about your own business. In that day, the Final Day, we will know who is correct and who is not. Example: One might assert that God has no need of a ‘begotten’ son. The Gospels say, ‘created’, Genesis! Begotten is not used! And then Jesus instructs us in the truth.

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The things of God are spirit. The sign of man is in his fall, and his fall is the flesh. God sent his prophets in the flesh, but why would He send His son to refute sin through the blood of a ‘human sacrifice’ when He Himself has condemned human sacrifice?

Nowhere is the Hellenistic influence more notable than in the writings of that very society which has given the world another religious history known as, Greek Mythology. That polytheistic religion failed centuries ago. The same philosophy has been introduced once again, this time to smother the true character of Jesus, and to still the knowledge and faith of the Apostles.

Arguments are still so open about the two authors’ use of the word, ‘virgin’, that most god-in-the-flesh churches today, carefully inform their congregations to avoid any discussion concerning the use of the word in Gospel text. They will only say that the three Greek derivatives, all mean the same thing. (Parthenia, parthenos, and Parthenon.) I certainly will not take up any discourse with such mentalities, save on one point.

The scripture from which the writer quotes is, Isaiah 7:14.

“Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son…”

Not ‘a’, young woman, but ‘the’, young woman. The Hebrew word used in this text is, ‘alma’, and it means, a young woman of marriageable age’. It is not used for a physical virgin and does not mean a physical virgin. The Hebrew word for a virgin is, ‘bethulah’. In the Masoretic text, a specific female is the point of the statement. It is not general in meaning, nor is it a prophecy of a distant future event.

To intercede for this lay-writer, I must again impose on the works of scholarly, Christian authors whose knowledge far exceeds my own.

“Even if ideas of a miraculous birth originally lay behind Isaiah 7:14, they had been forgotten by the first century.”

Virgin is taken from the Greek word, parthenos, which refers to the Hebrew; bethulah. Matthew 1:23 is taken from the Septuagint, not the Hebrew, and is declared a, “usage without particular regard to their meaning in their original context.”

But steadfast to doctrine, though not scripture, The Interpreter’s Bible, expositioner has the nerve to state, concerning the virgin birth;

“This conviction we may firmly retain, while recognizing that the New Testament’s use of Isaiah 7:14 is based on an inaccurate translation of the Hebrew text…”

How does one compromise the truth for the sake of man’s doctrine, knowing that it is based on an error, or worse, a purposely manipulated translation of God’s word?

The word, almah, means of young woman of marriageable age, and nothing more. The writer goes on to state, “…if Isaiah had wished to make clear that he had in mind a miraculous virgin birth, he would had to have used the specific term, bethulah.” 151

Mary’s substance as a virgin is of the greatest importance to us in learning about her son, but not so much so that she might give birth to Jesus the Messiah, but as to her ancestry and Joseph’s identification. But even more striking in Isaiah’s statement, the child of this, almah, “…will eat curd and honey, after he knows to refuse evil.” Amazingly, this statement does not modify Jesus, but, John. He dresses as Isaiah states, eats what Isaiah says he will eat, and Jesus himself states that John is the chosen one!

In all of this, debates and discussions could go on forever. We are, after all, dealing with text and cult myth that date two thousand years into the past. And that, derived from Holy Scriptures the Gospel writers refer to which is as old as three thousand years or more. Through all that unimaginable extent of time, man’s unscrupulous mind and questionable morality have been at work. They shaped and whittled away at historic truth and literary accuracy, justifying what they did by saying that their work is, ‘inspired’, which only serves to bring greater doubt to their truthfulness. In the history of the church, many have gone through torment in the name of, inspiration.

Ignorance has played a great part in rendering original text into what is left today, for the clerics who translated Koine Greek were far from proficient in their understanding of that language. The lust for power has also rendered the true Prophet of God into a mystical, unreachable figure who now is forced, by the ‘church’, to refute his own humanity.

Or is it man alone who has conceived this plot, for we are subject to greater powers than ourselves. If, in fact, there was no virgin birth as doctrine would have it, and I stress, ‘if’, what would be the importance of any religion demanding that it be understood that Mary was a virgin at all? There is good cause, ‘if’, under certain circumstances it were necessary to show Mary’s stature in life and her relationship, not to the child, but to her husband, Joseph.

At this point, we must look at another writing which a majority of people in this world regard as authentic and Holy. This writer’s intention is not to demonstrate the right or wrong of Matthew or Luke, but to show by example, the extent to which the Gospel had spread before the seventh century.

No one is more protective of their religious writings than, Islam. The Holy Qur’an has never been rewritten, edited, addendumized, or embellished upon, and any translation into a tongue other than Arabic, is considered an imperfect version, even though it may serve to enlighten others not of that faith. This is a practice that I highly commend, for the struggle to keep one’s beliefs pure involves keeping pure the Word of God. At this date, in general use, Christianity does not have a single, untainted text of the Gospels to call upon.

Though it may seem distasteful to Christians, Mohammed makes use of some very Lukan themes in the explanation of Jesus’ birth. It is a major theme in the faith of the Moslem, one that compliments the attitude and intent of earlier Protestant theology. One must understand that the book Christianity calls, The Holy Bible, is not the only revelation of God to man. It is, however, the most intruded upon.

In reading this text, we must be aware that proper names are in Arabic translations, just as Jesus and Peter are Greek translations of the Hebrew Joshua and Cephas. Allah, is merely Arabic for, God. Marium is Mary, Isa is Jesus, Yahya is John the Baptizer. Zachariah and Elizabeth are there, along with Mary’s mother. In the revelation to the Prophet Mohammed, Zachariah is listed as the husband of Mary’s Aunt. This editor’s note is very specific and leaves no room for doubt as to the Moslem tradition.

“Zachariah, peace be upon him, was the husband of Mary’s aunt.”

Before the more familiar strains of Luke, we are invited to read an existing version of another birth, Mary’s.

“(Remember) when the wife of ‘Imran’ said: “My Lord! I dedicate to Your service that which is in my womb. Accept it from me; You alone are the Hearer, The Knower.”

And when she was delivered of the child, she said: “My Lord, I have given birth to a female child.” Allah knows best of what she was delivered: the male is not like the female; “and I have named her Mary. Protect her and her descendants from Satan, the outcast.”

Mary, it is said in the Holy Qur’an, was given into the keeping of Zachariah. “…Whenever Zachariah went into the chamber where she was, he found that she had food. He said, “Oh Mary! Where is this food from?” She answered: “It is from Allah. Allah gives without stint to whom He will.”

In verse 38, Zachariah has an angelic visitation as he stands praying. In verse 39 the angel says: “That Allah gives you good news of Yahya (John the Baptist) verifying a word from Allah, and honorable and chaste and a prophet from among the good ones.”

“He said: My Lord! when shall there be a son (born) to me, and old age has already come upon me, and my wife is barren?” He said: “Even thus does (God) what He pleases.”

The sign that Zachariah asks for is given exactly as it is in Luke, However, in the Holy Qur’an, he is only struck dumb for three days. From this point, Mohammed’s writing moves on to Mary, where all the praise recorded in Luke, is reported again.

“O Marium! surely Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the world.”

Verse 45, brings one a shocking revelation concerning the Moslem faith in our world, by Christianity. Here stands the unwavering belief in the virgin birth of Jesus.

“When the angel said: O Marium, surely Allah gives you good news with a word from Him (of one) whose name is the Messiah, Isa (Jesus), son of Marium, worthy of regard in this world and the hereafter and of those who are made near to Allah.”

Verse 47 echoes the very words of Luke’s Gospel.

“She said: My Lord! when shall there be a son (born) to me, and man has not touched me?” He said: “Even so, God created what He pleases; when He has decreed a matter, He only says to it, Be, and it is.”

Here also, Jesus speaks, and the cult myth extends itself to Jesus’ ability to heal, raise the dead, perform miraculous feedings, and have power over the forces of Satan and nature. All this through the power of God. In fact, the only thing Christianity had found in the Moslem faith is that they do not believe Jesus is the ‘begotten son’ of God, nor has that flesh, created by God as His perfect servant and prophet, become God Himself.

As an aside at this point we must ask once again why Mary must be a virgin to give birth to a prophet of God. Surely the mother’s of the other ancient prophets, who performed the same spiritual acts that Jesus did, were not virgins. That claim is not made for them, then why for Mary? Just be assured that the story of Mary, her mother, and Zachariah all point to the fact that these people were all part of, and descended from, the Aaronic priesthood!

For now, though, we are besieged with sects of Christianity that exclaim, ‘only a prophet’, and declare that it is unacceptable. Only a prophet, with no concept of what it is like to quiet an angry storm, or banish an evil spirit from its place of residence. They have never felt the spirit overpowering their being in the healing of a headache, let alone a paralytic.

Only a prophet, mouthed by those who have looked at death and not been able to see life in it, who were unable to use the gift of the spirit to bring that one back to the living. An indictment from those who have never parted a tea cup, let alone a sea, or a river, or commanded the sun to stop in the sky through the power of the Almighty, and watched it happen.

“There is a grievous reward awaiting those who cannot accept God’s prophet as he is, and another, just as horrible for those who demand that the man and the flesh are God.”

Regardless of their traditions and accepted theology, here is another statement of the Gospel legend recorded from an oral tradition that existed before the sixth century. Amazingly, the Arabia’s was a polytheistic area of the world before the coming of Mohammed. His revelation brought a myriad of tribes into one thought and one God. Within the faith of the Moslem world, is the overwhelming acceptance of Jesus’ spirit-filled earthly existence, and his anointing as a prophet of the Lord God. As we are to find out in this search, Islam was not the only one.

Jesus’ humanity is underscored, a human being anointed by the Holy Spirit, empowered with the total strength of God’s prophets, and sent to proclaim the coming of God Himself. Never did he claim more for himself.

Jesus stands before us fully explained in human standard by the synoptic Gospels as the familiar figure we once knew, through whom we may find the path of truth and righteousness. Now, we are free to inspect the history surrounding the man, his principles as opposed to the world around him, and both his political and religious beliefs in the context of his own time and the governments in power.

FEATURE: Apocrypha

Which early Christian scriptures were left out of the New Testament? Find out in our comprehensive index of New Testament Apocrypha, the largest such collection on the internet.