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I’m guessing, because chances are good that the literary value of this particular journalistic endeavor suggests to me it would never have seen the light of day in Slate or anywhere else had the author not been the daughter of a Supreme Court justice and an Episcopal priestess to boot.
It did have a provocative title, however: “The Earthly Father: What if Mary wasn’t a virgin?”
To make a long story short, Chloe Breyer suggests because only two of the four gospels mention Jesus’ virgin birth, there is no reason to suggest it is a fact.
Hmmm. Let’s start there.
I strongly suspect it wouldn’t make any difference to the priestess whether all four gospels specifically stated that Jesus was born of a virgin. Doubters will always find reason to doubt. But it is not our place to judge Jesus or His Word. It is His job and the job of His Word to judge us. They do. And they will.
The priestess goes on to tell us the only thing that really matters in the gospels is the Resurrection. I guess that’s because it’s mentioned in all four accounts. But why should we believe two accounts that contain lies? If, indeed, the priestess believes Matthew and Luke lied about the virgin birth, should we not also call into question their credibility as to the Resurrection?
That would leave us with just two “credible” accounts of the Resurrection – just as we have two accounts of Jesus’ virgin birth.
But to be fair to the priestess, she has other reasons for doubting the virgin birth. She goes on to cite the non-biblical “Gospel of Thomas,” written by an unknown author, certainly not the Thomas of the New Testament. It’s a favorite of Gnostics the world over. She also cites the words of other historical heretics.
Now, it wouldn’t matter to me whether only one gospel account claimed that Jesus was born of a virgin. That would be enough to settle the matter for me. But is it true, as the priestess contends, that only two of the four gospels claim a virgin birth for Jesus? Not by my reckoning of the Word.
Here’s how the Gospel of Mark begins: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;”
Notice it doesn’t say, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, a Son of God;” It says “THE Son of God.” How is Jesus THE Son of God if He had an earthly father?
The Gospel of John is even more specific – telling us that Jesus is eternal, that He was from the beginning of time, that He is the Word made flesh, that He made all things, that He is the “only begotten Son” of God.
How is it that He is the only begotten Son of God, yet has an earthly father?
The priestess avoids such matters.
Since the beginning, people have tried to invent gods that reflect their own ideas of convention, their own rules, their own morality, their own value system. They will undoubtedly continue to do so until the end of time.
That’s what the priestess is doing. Just like her own earthly father, who reads the Constitution and sees not what is plainly there – and sees even more plainly what is not there – the priestess reads the Bible and shapes it to her own liking, rewrites it, revises it and, in the process, reviles it.
“Can a loyal Christian believe that Christ was not born of a biological virgin?” the priestess asks rhetorically. “Perhaps it’s worth posing a different question: Why is church authority so intent upon Mary’s virginity as a historical fact? Would Jesus be any less God’s son if he had an earthly father?”
The answer to the first question is simply no. The answer to the second question is: I don’t really care what “church authority” determines to be historical fact. I care – as other believers do – what the Word of God tells us. We don’t need priests and priestesses to decipher God’s Holy Word for us, just as we don’t need nine black-robed priests deciphering the simple words of the Constitution. And the answer to the third question is: Yes, Jesus would not be the “only begotten Son of God” if He had an earthly father.
No doubt the priestess would categorize me as one of those “unsophisticated” believers who feels the urge to accept the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. I confess I am. For if parts of the Bible are to be viewed as suspect, there is little reason to believe any of it.
Further, if we are to disbelieve who Jesus Himself said He is, why should we believe any of His promises?
I prefer to believe in those promises. And the doubters and scoffers should consider them carefully. One in particular comes to mind. It is found in Matthew 7:22-23.
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.”