Reprise of “Isaiah-Gate” – Catholic Tremors and Affirmation

Infallible StampIn response to my recent post on the virgin birth, a fellow blogger, Arkenaten, was good enough to forward a quite interesting article. It recounts how a group of Jewish inquirers sent three questions to then-pope John Paul II for response. These questions pertained to seemingly conflicting assertions in the New Testament regarding Jesus’ (1) post-resurrection appearances, (2) genealogies, and (3) virgin birth. I highly recommend reading this short web article, for it is insightful from top to bottom. However for our purposes, the well-asked third question was put as follows:

The genealogical line linking Jesus and King David seems to pass through Jesus’ father. But since Jesus was the product of a virgin conception, then he does not share in his father’s Davidic ancestry. How is Jesus a descendent of David?

The Vatican declined to give a direct answer but referred the group to the French Dominican Fathers’ Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem. They also declined comment, but stated that the catholic theologian Raymond Brown could provide appropriate answers. Brown was good enough to direct them to his own theological works at the library of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem. What they found was a catholic position undermining the historicity of the virgin birth altogether. This is what they report:

On the other hand, admits Brown, “The virginal conception under its creedal title of ‘virgin birth’ is not primarily a biological statement.”  He stresses that Christian writings about virginal conception intend to reveal spiritual insights rather that physical facts.  Because record of the virginal conception appears only in two Gospels, and there only in the infancy narratives (which Brown suspects are largely fictional), the Catholic theologian tactfully concludes that “biblical evidence leaves the question of the historicity of the virginal conception unresolved.”

Brown mentions the possibility that “early Christians” might have imported a mythology about virginal conception from “pagan or [other] world religions,” but never intended that that mythology be taken literally.  “Virginal conception was a well-known religious symbol for divine origins,” explains Brown, citing such stories in Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Greco-Roman and ancient Egyptian theologies. He proposes that early Christians “used an imagery of virginal conception whose symbolic origins were forgotten as it was disseminated among various Christian communities and recorded by evangelists.”

~ SimpleToRemember, Judaism Online (link)

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Dangled Over a Flame: Jews and Jesus Among Pagan Gods

Justin Martyr

Justin Martyr (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Justin Martyr provides an interesting look at apologetics in the century following Jesus’ life. His First Apology was dated to between 147 and 161 AD. Greek and Roman god worship was alive and well, and Christianity was trying to grow from the same cultural earth as these various competing religions.

To make his case, Martyr compares Christian claims about Jesus to the existent mythology of the culture. It must be noted that the pagan themes and beliefs pre-existed Christianity. They were antecedent, and Christian doctrine blossomed against this backdrop.

Martyr makes it clear that the pagans already had themes that appear in Christianity, for he makes the argument in several ways that “we propound nothing different from what you believe”, and he addresses several key areas:

  1. The Word
  2. Sonship
  3. Divine Conception
  4. Suffering and Death
  5. Resurrection and Ascension

Martyr’s leading argument (all emphasis following mine):

And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth  of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter.

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