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Books Section > Jesus in Heaven on Earth [Journey of Jesus to Kashmir, his preaching to the Lost Tribes of Israel and death and burial in Srinagar] by Khwaja Nazir Ahmad > Chapter 6: Virgin Birth (of Jesus Christ)


Chapter 6:
Virgin Birth:

The Apocryphal and the Canonical Gospels give different versions of the conception and birth of Jesus. They describe the various stages from a simple and natural occurrence to a minute and miraculously embellished story in which the events are traced back to the very earliest date. Mark and John content themselves with the mention of Mary as the mother and of Joseph as the father of Jesus (Mark, 6 : 3; John, 1 : 45; 6 : 42). Matthew and Luke, however, give details of the circumstances attending the conception and birth of Jesus as the Messiah, and are at pains to fulfil, as far as possible, all the prophecies of the Old Testament in the person of Jesus. Matthew is out to meet all the objections as may, or could, have been raised against the virgin birth theory, at the time this Gospel was written or revised (Matt., 1 : 18-25). Both of them, however, presuppose Mary to be the espoused wife of Joseph. The Apocryphal Gospel - the Gospel according to the Hebrews, the Gospel of the Ebionites, and some others, with most of which the early Christian Fathers agreed, narrate the origin of Jesus as the result of a lawful marriage between Joseph and Mary.

Apart from the mere physical considerations, the Gospels rely on Divine Omnipotence with which, of course, nothing is impossible. But by virtue of His Unity and Wisdom, the Almighty God never exerts His Divine Omnipotence without adequate motive. Further, nothing less than an object worthy of God and at the same time unattainable except by a deviation from His ordinary laws of nature, which He himself has established, could constitute a sufficient cause for the suspension by God of His laws.

Corinthus, one of the very early Christians, arguing against the virgin birth, urged that:

"It is impossible, because by the concurrence of two sexes is a new human being generated, and that the contrary would be most remarkable departure from all natural laws" (Hom., Lucan, 13).

Forced with the strength of his reasoning the Christian apologists, opposing Corinthus, did not hesitate to reduce Jesus to a worm, for they alleged that the birth of Jesus was in a manner like that of a worm and asserted that the following passages applied to Jesus:

"I am a worm, not a man" (Ps., 22 : 6-8).

"The son of man, which is a worm" (Job. 25 : 6).

The Christian apologists of a period a little later, however, had to take another line of argument. They maintained that Jesus had come for the redemption of mankind and, therefore, had to be severed from all original sin from his birth (Olshausen, Bibl. Comm., 8. 49). But to this is a simple answer: the exclusion of the paternal participation is wholly insufficient because the inheritance of original sin was from Eve and, therefore, the maternal participation should have been avoided as was done in the case of Melchisedec, whom Paul described as having been born without father and without mother (Heb., 7 : 1-3). It is then argued that the participation of the Holy Ghost was meant to purify the maternal participation. But this could have been done without violation of natural laws. In any case, nowhere is such a conception ascribed to Mary. The expression the Holy Ghost is specially characteristic of the New Testament and occurs in it eighty-one times. The Jews did not regard the Spirit as personal and, therefore, Mary must have understood the words: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee as identical with the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. But not so with the evangelists to whom, about a century afterwards, the term "Holy Ghost" had become practically a proper name.

Leaving these special pleadings of Christian apologists and their refutations aside, for they really do not lead us anywhere, I will now take up the evangelic records. The virgin birth, though definitely asserted in Matthew (Matt., 1 : 18-25) and Luke (Luke, 1 :5-80), finds no echo in any other part of the New Testament. Mark is totally silent. If such a remarkable event had in fact happened, and he had believed in it, would he have remained silent? The answer is obvious; but against this, a reference is made to the description of Jesus in Mark as "son of God" (Mark, 1 : 1), and it has been argued that Mark would not have styled Jesus as such if he did not believe in the virgin birth. I admit the force of this argument and one might have conceded the virgin birth theory on this argument alone if there had been any basis for attributing the alleged words to Mark. These very words were also used by Luke (Luke, 1 :35). But both the verses are the result of pious forgeries by early Christians. In Mark, the words were merely added. (See marginal note in the Revised Version, P 1098.) The Sinaitic Syriac, which is of great authority, and the early patristic traditions represented by Irenaeus and Origen, followed by Basil and Jerome, omit the words. In Luke, the phrase, the Son of God, was substituted for the word Holy (See Revised Version, P. 1126). These facts demolish the argument; but, in any case, the words, son of God, are to be interpreted in a metaphorical sense and not in a physical sense. The phrase son of Mary (Mark, 6 : 3) can be explained by the fact that Joseph was dead when these words were written, for he had died during the ministry of Jesus. I would, by way of analogy, mention that the late King Edward VII is known as the son of the late Queen Victoria. No one would dream of suggesting any supernatural birth because of this fact. This kind of argument clearly establishes that Christian apologists are on their hind legs to prove the virgin birth theory. Besides, Jesus is really spoken of as the son of Joseph (John, 1 : 45 ; 6 : 42).

Mark, I repeat, ought to have known of this virgin birth, and since he does not mention it, it stands to reason that either he was ignorant of it or he did not accept it.

There are still some traces which show that in the Urmarcus it was at the time of baptism of Jesus, and not at the moment of his conception, that the Holy Spirit entered his humanity. Mark, therefore, could not have believed in the virgin birth of Jesus.

John is equally silent, and his silence is all the more significant since it was he, as is supposed, to whom Jesus, while on the cross, entrusted the care of Mary (John, 19 : 27). He, therefore, would have been all the more likely person to know all the facts about the occurrence. It is argued that John believed that Jesus was the incarnation of God, of the Logos, and was co-eternal with God. Christian apologists refer to:

"Which were born out of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John, 1 : 13)

and argue that John was not depending on any earthly father. To this I reply: he was equally not depending on any earthly mother. To cite this passage in favour of the virgin birth theory is grossly to misconstrue it. It refers in fact to the sons of God mentioned in the preceding verse. In any case, the incarnation of the Logos in Jesus does not imply that the man Jesus was exempt from the laws of human generation, for it was at his baptism that, according to John also, the Logos descended into him. John merely elevates the idea of Mark and preserves it in its external form. Accordingly, he never misses an opportunity of stating that Jesus is the son of Joseph. He records one of Jesus' disciples saying:

"Philip findeth Nathanael and saith unto him: we have found him of whom Moses in the Law and prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (John, 1 : 45).

And again:

"And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know . . . .? " (John, 6 : 42).

John could never have recorded these incidents if they had, to his mind, conflicted with his theory.

Turning to the Apostles, we do not find the slightest reference to virgin birth in any of their Epistles. Paul speaks of the descent of Jesus according to the flesh (Rom., 1 : 3) and he says:

"But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law" (Gal., 4 : 4).

(I have used the word born instead of made, as it is so given in the Revised Version, P. 1288.)

Now, if this verse is read without forcing its meaning, it will appear to indicate the normal birth of a Jewish child. Paul makes two definite statements. He says that Jesus was born of a woman. He does not say Jesus was born of a virgin; because he knew of Jesus' human generation, and asserted:

"Jesus Christ, our Lord, was born of the seed of David, according to the flesh" (Rom., 1 : 3).

(I have used the word born instead of made. See RN., P. 1241.)

The expression born of a woman is not peculiar to Paul. In the biblical sense, it has a significance of its own; and Paul must be held to have used the phrase in that sense only. In the Old Testament, when anyone's normal human birth had to be described, he was referred to as having been born of a woman. Jesus used this phrase in this very sense regarding John the Baptist, and the rest of the people of his time, when he said:

"Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist" (Matt., 11 : 11; Luke, 7 : 28).

In the Old Testament we read:

"Man, that is born of a woman, is of a few days and full of trouble" (Job., 14 : 1; see also 4 Esdras, 6 : 6; 7 : 46; 8 : 35, etc.).

When Paul, therefore, described Jesus as born of a woman he meant nothing more than that Jesus was born in accordance with human nature with all its conditions.

A passage in Isaiah (Isa., 7 : 14) has been referred to indicate that a virgin was meant by Paul. It is merely a play upon the Greek word Parthenos (virgin), which does not appear in the Hebrew text, and thus a deliberately dishonest translation of an Hebrew word Haalmah (woman) has led to confusion where none existed (Revised Version, P 760). Dummelow admits that: "the Hebrew word is not the distinctive one for virginity" (Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible, 148. The nearest Hebrew equivalent of "Virgin" is Bethulah).

The Rev. Prof. Donaldson, in his discussion of the meaning of the Hebrew word Haalmah, says:

"Every one who is acquainted with the Hebrew word will be obliged to admit that the designation in question cannot mean anything more than a young or newly married woman" (Donaldson, The Christian Orthodoxy, 476).

It may also be mentioned that the same word, Haalmah, was used for Rebeccah and she was not a virgin at that time (Gen., 24 : 43).

But Paul makes the matter absolutely clear, for he asserts that Jesus was born under the law. What was this Law? I will let Jesus give the answer:

"But from the beginning of the creation God made them males and females, for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and the twain shall be one flesh. So then they are no more twain, but one flesh" (Mark, 10 : 6-8; cf. Gen., 1 : 27; 2 : 24; 5 : 2; Eph., 5 : 31).

By this saying of Jesus not only is the law explained whereby the generation of human beings is made clear, but the other phrase which Paul used about Jesus being "born of the seed of David according to the flesh" becomes abundantly clear if we read it with the assertion that the Messiah had to be "the fruit of the loins of David" (Acts, 2 : 30; cf. Ps., 132 : 11).

Finally, in the prologue of the Epistle to the Romans it is clearly stated that:

"Jesus ... which was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom., 1 : 3-4).

The words of Paul, therefore, leave no room for any doubt at all, for no one can identify the antithesis of flesh and spirit with maternal human participation in the conception of Jesus. Jesus, in the words of Paul born according to the flesh in the natural manner, became the Son of God according to the spirit at his resurrection and not at his birth. In other words, according to Paul, though Jesus was a man in flesh, yet he was the son of God in spirit only. The latter statement, of course, is a mere Christological assertion, and is also found in the Acts, in which the Messianic exultation of Jesus still dates from the resurrection.

"Neither Paul nor Mark," say the compilers of the Encyclopaedia Britannica "betray any knowledge of the tradition (of virgin birth). It was unknown to the Apostles, and did not appear to have formed part of the Apostolic preachings" (Ency. Brit., 14th Edn., Vol. 13, 20). (Words in brackets are mine.) Had such an event taken place, Paul would certainly have known of it and would have been the first to broadcast it to the world.

The other Apostles were also ignorant of the virgin birth and are equally silent. James the Just, brother of Jesus, was the head of the Church at Jerusalem. He belonged to the Ebionite sect. He with them believed that:

"Jesus is the Messiah, yet a mere man, born by natural generation to Joseph and Mary" (Hastings, History of the Apostolic Church, 318-32. See also Mosheim Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 1, 214).

In the Gospel according to the Hebrews it is narrated that Mary had been married to Joseph and had given birth to Jesus in a natural manner (Gospel of Heb., 2 : 3). Jerome has preserved a verse from this Gospel which says:

"The mother and father of Jesus were present at his baptism" (Ibid., 3 : 2).

Mrs. Lewis and Mrs. Gibson recovered an old Syriac manuscript of the Gospel in a monastery on Mount Sinai. In this was found an explicit statement:

"Jesus' father was Joseph and his mother Mary" (Lewis, The Old Syriac Gospel, 2).

The History of Joseph (the carpenter) tells us that Jesus, at the death of Joseph, uttered the following lamentations:

"Not a single limb of it shall be broken, nor shall any hair of thy head be changed. Nothing of thy body shall perish, O! my father, Joseph, but it will remain entire and uncorrupted even until the banquet of the Thousand Years" (Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible, 434).

The object of writing this History is revealed in the book in the words of the Apostles' address to Jesus:

"Thou hast ordered us to go into all the world and to preach thy holy Gospel, and thou hast said: "Relate to them the death of my father, Joseph, and celebrate to him with annual solemnity a festival and a sacred Day" (Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible, 434).

Thus we get the origin of the festival of St. Joseph's Day.

In one of the books of the Samaritan Chronicles there occurs the following passage:

"In the time of Jehonathan, there was ... Jesus, the son of Mari, son of Joseph, the Carpenter .... at Jerusalem, in the reign of Tiberius . . . " (Journale Asiatique, 1869 ; 2 : 430).

Jesus was a Jew, and to the Jews amongst whom he lived and preached, he was under the Law. The Jews of his time, and of Galilee in particular, who knew him and his parents, did not believe in his Divine Mission or his virgin birth. They had two alternatives before them. They could either believe him to be a legitimate offspring of Joseph and Mary or treat him, I hate to use the word but for special reasons have no option, as a bastard.

Jesus, we are told, entered the synagogues and preached there (Matt., 4 : 23; 9 : 35; 12: 9; 21 : 12; Mark, 1 : 21, 39; 6 : 2; Luke, 4 : 33, 44; John, 6 : 59, etc.). Had the Jews looked upon Jesus as a bastard, they would not have allowed him to attend, much less preach in, the synagogues for it was ordained that:

"A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord" (Dent., 23 : 2).

In face of this clear injunction, and what we are told of Jesus' behaviour in the Temple at Jerusalem, can anyone seriously urge that the Jews of his time did not look upon him as a legitimate offspring of Israel?

In the writing of an ancient Rabbi, who wrote just when virgin birth was first attributed to Jesus, we read:

"Jesus was as legitimate as any other Jewish child in Galilee. His father was an artisan, a carpenter. The son learned the trade of his father and made goads and yokes. . . " (Ab Zar, 3 b).

A happy chance has preserved the following Talmudic expression which from the Jewish point of view lends support to the Rabbinical writings referred to above:

"Jesus was a carpenter, a son of a carpenter" (J. Yeban, 3 : 2).

After taking into consideration the contemporary writings and other Rabbinical literature the compilers of the Jewish Encyclopaedia express themselves in the following terms:

"The Jews, who are represented as inimical to Jesus in the Canonical Gospels, took him to be legitimate and born in the ordinary natural way' (Jewish Ency., Vol. 7, 170).

Whiston, in his Dissertation I to the works of Josephus, remarks:

"All the believing Jews and all the rest of the Nazarene Jews esteemed Jesus with one consent, as a mere man, the son of Joseph and Mary" (Ibid., Vol. 3 : 276).

Hastings also says that:

"It is quite clear that Jesus was popularly looked upon by his contemporaries as Joseph's son by natural generation" (Hastings, Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, 808).

I have already mentioned that Jesus' parents had named him Joshua which means son of a father. It has been well said that there lay a deep significance in this name also. It was a warning, nay a counterblast, to such as should falsely ascribe virgin birth to Jesus.

I have so far refrained from discussing the versions of Matthew and Luke, and before I do so I must refer to another matter. So long as the early Christians did not assert the virgin birth of Jesus, none of his contemporaries challenged his legitimacy. But the moment Jesus was raised to the pedestal of godhead, the imaginations of the hagiographers had full scope to indulge in the most affecting or foolish fabrications according to their literary skill. In the second century they attributed supernatural birth to Jesus. The Pagans retorted with the charge of illegitimacy. The Christian legendary cult has to thank itself for this calumny against Jesus and Mary. Josephus had provided the Pagans with a parallel (Josephus, Antiq., 18 : 3-4), for he records that Mundus, a Roman knight, won Paulina, the chaste wife of a Roman noble, to his wishes by causing her to be invited by a priest of Isis into the temple of the goddess, under a pretext that the god Anubias desired to embrace her. In the innocence of faith, Paulina resigned herself and would perhaps have afterwards believed that she gave birth to the son of this god had not the intriguer, with bitter scorn, soon after disclosed to her the true state of affairs.

The Pagans substituted Mary for Paulina and Joseph Pandera, a soldier, for the Roman knight mentioned by Josephus.

This calumny was taken up by the Jews of the second century, and found a place in the Talmud. Jesus was then styled as ben Pandera. It is this calumny of which Celsus accuses the Jews and which is referred to by Origen (Orig., C : Celsus, 1 : 32) but of which the Jews of the time of Jesus were ignorant and innocent.

Now let me look into the Gospels generally and find the position of Jesus and his mother. It is very peculiar that there is no retrospective reference to the virgin birth of Jesus in the New testament. Not one of the incidents contained in the New Testament allude even indirectly to this outstanding miracle.

Let us first listen to Jesus himself. According to the Gospels, he never made any reference, nor appealed, to the manner of his birth in support of his claim. On the other hand, however, we find expressions used by him which exclude the idea of a virgin birth. In Matthew he declared that he cast out devils by "the spirit of God:" (Matt., 12: 28). This assertion rested on the basis that the Spirit of God filled his body, but not upon the idea that it was by the Divine Spirit that he had been begotten. This saying of Jesus clearly proves that he was absolutely ignorant about his supernatural birth, and he never realised that God had in any manner connected his mission on earth with the peculiar manner of his birth. Surely such a saying of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels, would have been an improbability if Jesus had possessed the consciousness that his mother had been deemed by God to be worthy of a position so exalted, so singular, as the hagiographers have ascribed to her. I will presently show that he actually thought otherwise. In any case it can hardly be suggested that his parents could have concealed the happy event. It is recorded that when Joseph and Mary took the child Jesus to the Temple for purification, Simon took the child and prayed that, as he had then seen Christ, he might be permitted to die.

"And his father Joseph and his mother marvelled at the things spoken of him" (Luke, 2 : 33).

And we are further told that they took him to the feast of the Passover at Jerusalem when he was twelve years of age. After a day's journey on their return, they found Jesus missing, and had to go back to Jerusalem in search of him. They found him after a search of three days, sitting in the Temple, in the midst of the Scribes, both hearing them and asking them questions. The narrative goes on:

"And when they saw him they were amazed, and his mother said unto him: son, why has thou thus dealt with us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them: How is it that ye sought me? Wist Ye not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them" (Luke, 2 : 48-50).

Naturally, Joseph and Mary, knowing that Jesus was their offspring in the natural physical sense, failed to understand a child of twelve speaking of someone else as his father. This incident of all strikes at the very foot of the virgin birth theory, and establishes beyond the least shade or shadow of doubt that at least his parents had no knowledge of it. Of course, they could not have even dreamt of it, as they knew otherwise. Their lack of understanding Jesus thus becomes intelligible; while, on the other hand, it is rendered absolutely incomprehensible if supernatural birth, to the knowledge of his parents, is ascribed to Jesus. And would they not talk of this miraculous event between themselves and to others? In anticipation of such an objection the redactor gives us an answer, impossible to believe. He says:

"But his mother kept all these sayings in her heart" (Luke, 2 : 51).

Anyhow, we are not told that Joseph also behaved in this foolish manner.

The terms in which Jesus referred to his mother are also incompatible with the virgin birth theory. I will narrate but two incidents. Jesus had gone with his disciples, we are told, to a marriage party and had asked for wine. Mary, who was also present, informed him that there was none in the house. He at once turned on her, and Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? (John, 2 : 4)..

On another occasion, it is recorded that the Jews, alluding to the Holy Ghost having descended on Jesus at his baptism, alleged that Jesus was possessed of an unclean spirit. Jesus was discussing the question thus raised, when:

"There came then his brethren and his mother and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answered them saying, Who is my mother or my brethren? And he looked round about on them, which sat about him, and said: Behold, my mother and brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother" (Mark, 3 :31-35; cf. Matt., 12: 48-50).

These harsh sayings of Jesus conclusively prove that Jesus was dissociating himself from his mother, brothers and sisters because they, according to the Gospels, would not believe in him. This fact is further made clear by John:

"Neither did his brethren believe in him" (John, 7 : 5).

The context makes it quite clear that John was speaking of the blood-brothers of Jesus. It is not surprising, if the virgin birth theory did not exist at the time, that they did not believe in him. We know that James the Just did not accept him till after the crucifixion. The last passage stands connected with a circumstance which Matthew tries to disguise and Luke omits altogether and which is preserved only by Mark. He narrates:

"And when his kinsmen heard of it, they went out to lay hold of him; for they said he is mad" (Mark, 3 : 21).

Before proceeding further I must point out the manner in which, for obvious reasons, an effort has been made to dilute the force of this incident. The word kinsmen has been replaced by the word friends and the words He is beside himself have been substituted for He is mad.

Who these kinsmen, or friends, were we learn from Matthew (Matt., 12: 46) and Mark (Mark, 3 : 31): they were his mother and brethren. They had set out from Nazareth and arrived at a time when he was having a controversy with the Scribes. Even if we regard it as possible that Mary chose to keep her secret, she, knowing of his supernatural origin, would never have thought of him as mad or beside himself. Jesus' saying on another occasion is also germane to the present subject. Jesus was preaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath day and many were astonished and said:

"Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, Jose, and of Juda and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. But Jesus said unto them: A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house" (Mark, 6 : 3-4).

The words among his own kin have been singularly omitted by Matthew (Matt., 13 : 57) and Luke (Luke, 4 : 24). Why? The answer is too obvious to be mentioned. Jesus never boasted of his Divine origin, but rather claimed inspiration from God (John, 7 : 28). The view that Jesus first received the Holy Spirit at the time of his baptism (Matt., 3 : 15-16; Mark, 1 : 10-11) and that up to that time Jesus had not yet been glorified (John, 7 : 39) could never have arisen if the theory of virgin birth had been in existence from the first. He himself claimed to be like unto Moses, and asserted that he was a son of Abraham (Luke, 19 : 9). He was styled as a mere man (Matt., 8 : 27; Mark, 2 : 7, 6 : 2; John, 1 : 30, 7 : 27-28, 46; Acts, 2 : 22), and he spoke of himself as such (Mark, 13 : 34; John, 3 : 13, 8 : 40). He was spoken of by others as the son of Man, and he also described himself as such-thirty times in Matthew, fourteen times in Mark, twenty-four times in Luke and twelve times in John. He is described as such in the Acts and the Revelation. Never did he speak of himself as the son of God except in two passages, which I have already discussed.

As to the meaning or significance of the phrase, the Son of Man, we must turn again to the Old Testament. In the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel we find that the term Son of Man, Ben Adam, is the standing phrase by which the Prophet describes himself (Eze., 2 : 1, 3; 3 : 1, 3, 4, etc.). This was no doubt in Hebrew, but Aramaic was only one of its dialects. Again every descendant of Adam is spoken of as. son of man (Job, 25 : 6; Ps., 144 : 3, 146: 3; Isa., 51 : 12, 56 : 2). It is impossible to imagine that the Jews, who were extremely devoted to the Old Testament, would have forgotten so frequent a use of this phrase. Whatever degradation the phrase may have suffered in common speech, the Biblical use must at any time have been capable of being revived as a mode of address of a man. Rev. William Sanday says that "to the Jews and to Jesus, who was a Jew, this phrase as a whole meant no more than a simple man" (Sandy, The Life of Christ, 213).

I have discussed this phrase to show that Jesus would not have referred to himself as son of Man if he did not mean to convey that he was just a man himself, a man with all the implications of a human being, including male participation in his conception.

I will now go into further details to show how the New Testament teems with references against the virgin birth theory. Mary is described as the espoused wife of Joseph (Matt., 1 : 18; Luke, 1 : 27, 2 : 25); and again by the simple description of wife (Matt., 1 : 20, 24). Joseph is referred to as the husband of Mary (Matt., 1 : 16, 19). Not only does Mary herself describe Joseph as the father of Jesus (Luke, 2 : 48), but Joseph is referred to as the father of Jesus in many places (Luke, 2 : 33, 48, 4 : 22 : John, 1 : 45, 6 : 42) and, further, both Mary and Joseph are mentioned as the parents of Jesus (Luke, 2 : 27, 41, 43), a description which could not have been used in any other sense but to convey the natural conception of Jesus. The naive efforts of the redactors to disguise the paternity of Jesus by forgeries have no limit. To mention a few: In Matthew, the words "the carpenter's son" were substituted for Joseph (see R.V, p. 1074). In Luke, the words His father preceding Joseph were omitted (Luke, 2 : 33, R.V, p. 1128) and in another place the words Joseph and Mary were omitted and the words his parents were substituted (Luke, 2 : 27), while the words his parents appearing before Joseph and Mary were also omitted (Luke, 2 : 43). The oldest six codices have, in Vs. 41 of Ch. 2, the words Joseph et Maria after his parents, and these also were omitted (Luke, 2 : 41).

It is for Christian apologists to explain why these forgeries were made.

The fact that Jesus was acknowledged as the son of Joseph, in the physical sense, cannot be denied. This fact was not infrequently alluded to contemptuously and by way of reproach in his presence. I am, of course, referring to descriptions of Jesus as the son of a carpenter (Matt., 13 : 55; Luke, 4 : 22; Mark, 6 : 3). Not once did Jesus repudiate it or assert his immaculate conception. I have already quoted two passages from John (John, 1 : 45, 6 : 42) in which reference was made to Joseph as the father of Jesus. It is obvious that these statements were made, in the presence of Jesus, manifestly in the real sense of paternity and nowhere is this represented to be erroneous. The entire narratives exhibited the Apostles as having a right belief on the point.

Throughout the New Testament the claim of Jesus to be the Messiah is based on his descent from David (Matt., 12 : 23, 15 : 22, 20 : 30-31, 21 : 7, 15; Mark, 10 : 47-48, 11 : 10; Luke, 1 : 69, 18: 38-39; John, 7 : 42; Acts, 2 : 29-30, 13 : 23; 2 Tim., 2 : 8; Heb., 7 : 14, Rev., 5 : 5, 22 : 16). This descent can only be attributed to Jesus if he was born according to natural law, for he is styled to be of the seed of David and had to be the fruit of the loins of David according to the flesh (Acts, 2 : 30). And we find that Luke, appreciating the importance of this fact, says that Joseph was " of the house and lineage of David." (Luke, 2 : 4). Dummelow also realises this difficulty and says:

"The accuracy or inaccuracy of the genealogies does not affect the main point at issue, our Lord's descent, through his legal father Joseph, from David. Joseph's family certainly claimed descent of David" (Dummelow, Comm. on the Holy Bible, 622. Italics are mine).

In these circumstances, the term seed of David requires some explanation. It has been furnished by Trypho, the Jew of Justin Martyr. He says:

"For we all await the Christ, who will be a man among men .... the Messiah will be descended from the seed of David, he will not be born of a virgin, for it was God's promise to the ancient King that he who is to come, would issue from his seed. Are we to think that God was merely mocking him? " (Paulus, Comm. on Matt., 56).

Trypho, of course, was using the term in the literal sense and was adopting it as an argument against the virgin birth theory.

I will now deal with the versions as given in Matthew and Luke. The circumstances attending the announcement of the birth of Jesus as given in Matthew and Luke do not correspond. They differ in the following aspects:

MATTHEW

1. The Angel who appeared is not named.

2. The Angel appears to Joseph.

3. The apparition is in a dream.

4. The announcement is after conception.

5. The apparition is meant to dispel the doubts of Joseph which he is alleged to have had against the character of Mary.

LUKE

1. Luke gives the Angel's name as Gabriel.

2. The Angel appears to Mary.

3. The apparition is while Mary is awake.

4. The announcement is before conception.

5. The announcement is by way of glorification.

In view of these divergences in the two narratives, two questions arise: first, did they record one and the same occurrence?; and, secondly, if they were two separate occurrences, was the latter an amplification of the other?

The differences are so great and in so essential details-even the times are different-that they cannot relate to one and the same occurrence. Paulus has tried to blend the two.' According to him the angel first appeared to Mary and informed her of her approaching pregnancy (Luke, 1 : 28-32). She then went to Elisabeth (Luke, 1 : 39-41), and on her return her condition was discovered by Joseph. He was then visited by the angel (Matt., 1 : 20). But the two accounts cannot be so easily reconciled, because the narrative of Matthew excludes that of Luke. The angel in Matthew speaks as if his was the first communication. The message previously received by Mary is not repeated to Joseph and he is not reproached for disbelieving it. The giving of the name of the forthcoming child, and the reason for his being so called (Matt., 1 : 21), smacks of an imaginative vision for which there was no justification and which was wholly superfluous because a similar communication had already been made to Mary (Luke, 1 : 31).

The expression used in Matthew (Matt., 1 : 18) lends itself to an inference that Joseph discovered Mary's condition independently of any communication by her. Is it unreasonable or unnatural to expect that the first impulse of Mary, after the apparition, would have been to rush to her husband and to communicate to him the significance of the Divine message and thus avoid the humiliation of being made the subject of suspicion? Realising this difficulty the Church apologists have put forward various theories. Firstly, that owing to her excited state of mind she forgot all about the communication, and subsequently she herself became ignorant of the true cause of her pregnancy; and she recalled it with tears in her eyes when questioned about it. This attempt to explain Mary's silence is incomprehensible, but Olshausen replies with his favourite remark that the measures of ordinary occurrences of the world should not be applied to the supernatural. I will let Hess answer him. He retorts that it is because of the supernatural that human mistakes should not have occurred, and he, therefore, rejects this explanation. The silence of Mary has also been attributed to her modest reluctance to cause a situation so liable to be misunderstood. This is ridiculous, because Mary was fully convinced of the Divine agency in the matter and had actually comprehended her mission (Luke, 1 : 38, 46-56) and could never have been tongue-tied by petty considerations of false shame. Another explanation put forward for Mary's silence is that Joseph was at a distance from his abode where Mary lived and did not return till after the pregnancy. But this story is based on the assumption that Joseph lived at Bethlehem-Judah, a considerable distance from Nazareth where Mary lived. This explanation is false; because Joseph lived at the village of Bethlehem in Galilee at a distance of seven miles from Nazareth. In any case, there is no justification for suggesting any such journey or that they lived apart, except to base a false argument on it. Again, it has been suggested that Mary did not open her heart to Joseph before the pregnancy because she wished first to consult her cousin Elisabeth as to the mode of making the disclosure to Joseph, and consequently she went to her and remained away for three months. But this explanation has equally no justification because, according to Luke, when Mary did meet her cousin, she did not mention Joseph at all to her (Luke, 1 : 46-56).

In view of these considerations one is forced to the conclusion that Matthew introduced the apparition to Joseph merely to meet the objection of the Ebionites as to why Joseph did not object if he was not the real father of Jesus, or act in a manner becoming any other man, if virgin birth was a fact. Matthew supplied the explanation, even if the scepticism and mistrust of Joseph of his wedded wife became incompatible with the character given to him by Matthew of being a just man (Matt., 1 : 19). But such considerations never weighed with Matthew, who was out to insert everything in his Gospel so long as it fulfilled a prophecy or had a parallel in the Old Testament. In this matter he merely borrowed the facts from the father of Moses, who was comforted under similar circumstances when he was anxious concerning the pregnancy of his wife, though for a different reason.

The two versions, therefore, can be neither parallel nor inter-connected. The angel could have appeared either to one or the other, and consequently only one of the two narratives can be considered. Joseph, according to the Gospels never came in contact with any of the disciples of Jesus. He plays no part in the ministry of Jesus. How is it that his apparition is known at all and is recorded in the Gospel? On the other hand, it is natural that Mary, being the person chiefly concerned, ought to have been warned. For this reason also Luke's version must be preferred and that of Matthew rejected.

The version of Luke has peculiarly features of its own; and the conception of Jesus through the Holy Ghost, grounded as it is on a mere assertion, has to be positively tested by other materials detailed in the New Testament, the Apocryphal Gospels and other contemporary literature.

The angel who appeared to Mary only informed her, in the first instance, that she would become pregnant, without specifying after what manner, and that she would bring forth a child and call him Jesus, who would be great and would be the son of the Highest (Luke, 1 : 32). The term the son of the Highest can be taken only in the sense of the Old Testament (2 Sam., 7 : 14; Ps., 2 : 7): an ordinary king of Israel, a man. The term Son of God (Luke, 1 : 35) was also used later by the angel. This is a spurious substitute for shall be called Holy (see Revised Version, P. 1125). . It was not till she recalled the fact of her virginity that the angel defined the nature of the conception by the Holy Ghost. As a confirmatory sign Mary was referred to her cousin Elisabeth, whereupon Mary resigned herself to the will of God.

Mary, we are told, then immediately set out and went to her cousin, a visit which was attended by extraordinary occurrences; for when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb for joy; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost (Luke, 1 : 41), and in her exultation addressed Mary as the future mother of the Messiah (Luke, 1 : 43), to which Mary responded with a hymn of praise (Luke, 1 : 46-55).

It is this hymn of Mary which really shows the falsity of the statement, as it is so interlarded with the songs of praise spoken by the mother of Samuel in analogous circumstances. (Compare Luke, 1 : 47, 49, 51 and 53 with Ps., 2 : 1-5, 8, and Luke, 1 : 48 with I Sam., 1:11; and Luke, 1 : 50 with Dem., 7 : 9 and Luke 1 : 52 with Eccl., 10 : 14 and also Luke 1 : 54 with Ps., 97 : 3.) These passages portray events not as they actually happened but as the redactor wished them to happen. Here, again, old history was repeating itself. The mutual relations of Esau and Jacob had been prefigured by their struggles and positions in their mother's womb (Gen., 25 : 22). And the six months are introduced with the set purpose of taking advantage of circumstances which the redactor desired to contrive. The quickening has to take place, and the visit of the angel is withheld till after the longest possible period required for such an event.

From the narratives of Matthew (Matt., 1 : 18) and Luke (Luke, 1 : 34) it is clear that the conception of Jesus was to be by the Holy Ghost. But it is somewhat surprising to find that the very two Gospels which relate the miracle of the virgin birth, are the ones which claim the descent of Jesus as given in their genealogies. These genealogies, in spite of their defects and discrepancies, would never have been prepared if the relationship between Joseph and Jesus had not existed and been admitted at the time of their compilation. The authors or the copyists or the redactors must have become somewhat disturbed by the very obvious contradictions in the conclusions of these genealogies on the one hand and the theory of the virgin birth on the other, which was definitely to annul the paternity of Joseph. Notwithstanding their own convictions as portrayed in the genealogies, they, therefore, made abortive attempts to establish the Divine origin of Jesus. In Matthew the word begat appeared thirty-eight times and in Luke the word son appeared seventy-six times. It must have been realised that not one of the ancestors mentioned in the two genealogies was born of a virgin, and, therefore, the words begat and son would have to have the same significance and meaning, a natural birth, with regard to Jesus, unless of course some addition or alteration was made to import the virgin birth. In Matthew the phrase originally was:

"And Jacob begat Joseph, and Joseph begat Jesus of Mary. "

If we read this verse in the light of verses 1-6, where children of four women, viz., Thamar, Rachab, Ruth, and the wife of Urias, are mentioned, we find that in each case the description is identical. Thus we are told:

"Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar (Matt., 1 : 3. 2. Matt., 1: 5) … Salmon begat Booz of Rachab, and Booz begat Obed of Ruth (Matt., 1:5) … and David the King begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias (Matt., 1:6), ... and Jacob begat Joseph and Joseph begat Jesus of Mary" (Matt., 1 : 16).

(The interpolation in the verse is omitted.)

Thus, the same phraseology is used and the same meaning must be given. In none of these cases did the author, in the first instance, imply an immaculate conception.

Our certainty on this is confirmed by a text of Epiphanius which informs us that the early Christians, such as Corinthus and Carpocrates, used a Gospel of Matthew in which the genealogy was made the basis of the claim that Jesus was in reality the son of Joseph and Mary (Haer, 30 : 14). Eusebius attributes the same opinion, and the same defence of it, to the Ebionite Symanachus (Eusebius, H.E. 7 : 17). Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, two of the most ancient ecclesiastical writers, agree that the Ebionites, the early Jewish Christians, held this belief at the earliest period known to Christian history (Justin, Dial cum Trypho, 48). Clement condemned them for recognising Jesus only as the son of Joseph, through whom he is traced genealogically to David, and not as the son of God (Clement, Homil, 18 : 13).

But the simple phrase: and Jacob begat Joseph and Joseph begat Jesus of Mary was soon changed into:

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

Discussing this change in this verse Rev. C. J. Scofield in his Reference to the New Testament had to admit:

"The changed expression was introduced to convey that Jesus was not begotten of natural conception" (Scofield, The New Testament and Psalms, 2).

One of the copyists made another alteration. He changed the phrase to:

"And Jacob begat Joseph, and Joseph, to whom was married the virgin Mary, begat Jesus" (Conybear, Dialogue of Timothy and Aquila, 16. See also Peake's Commentary on the Bible, 701.).

This introduction of the word virgin clearly, but rather awkwardly, exhibited the object for which the alteration was made; and the Church was compelled to disown it.

In the case of Luke we are less fortunate as the manuscripts do not permit us to trace the matter which has been altered. But that it has been changed is self-evident and sufficiently proved by the reading of the relevant verse:

"And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph ... " (Luke, 3 : 23).

The words as was supposed are in brackets, and betray an addition, as Loisy justly observes: "to abrogate the idea of natural sonship which the text of this passage originally suggested."

Both Matthew (Matt., 1 : 18) and Luke (Luke, 2 : 5. How could Joseph have taken Mary to be taxed as his wife, if he had not actually married her?) speak of Mary as the espoused wife of Joseph. I do not wish to enter into a controversy but will only mention that modern critics have proved that this translation of the Greek text is incorrect and that it should be wedded wife (Rev. Dr. Leighton, A Faith to Affirm, 312). The Syriac Sinaiticus uses the word his wife (Peake, Commentary on the Bible, 726). "The word espousage, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means the condition of "being married, wedlock," and espousal means "the celebration of marriage nuptials or wedding." The compilers of this Dictionary make a significant observation and say:

"It seems probable that the sense "marriage" was the original one in English, and the sense betrothal arose at a later stage through the influence of the Canonical law. "

The translators of the Authorised Version must have used the word espoused wife to indicate wedded wife, as opposed to a concubine, for there is no such thing as "betrothed wife." Webster, in his Dictionary, makes the interpretation still more clear. He explains betroth as: promise to take (as a future espouse) in marriage; and espouse as uniting in marriage, to wed. The same meanings are given in Skeat's Etymological Dictionary of the English Language. In this connection I would like to quote a passage from Hastings' Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels.

"That the virgin is still spoken of as "espoused" in Luke 2 : 5 is not to be taken necessarily an indication that the marriage had not taken place. Had she not been Joseph's wife, the Jewish custom would have forbidden her making the journey along with him" (Hastings' Dict. of Christ and the Gospels, 141).

And to this, may I add, as mentioned by Matthew, living in the house of Joseph (Matt., 1 : 24). This certainly would have been an impossibility if Mary had been only betrothed to Joseph.

In Matthew, the theory of virgin birth is based on the following passage, wherein we are told that after rising from his sleep Joseph took unto him his wife.

"And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus" (Matt., 1 : 25).

The Syriac Sinaiticus makes the position perfectly clear for in place of this lengthy statement it has a simple one:

"And she bore to him a son and he called his name Jesus" (See Ency. Biblica, Col. 2961).

Thus the birth of the son connects itself directly with the words of the preceding verse. To make the sense absolutely clear, I will quote the two verses together:

"Then Joseph arose from his sleep .... and took unto him his wife, and she bore to him a son and he called his name Jesus" (Matt., 1 : 24-25).

No comments are necessary. The text speaks for itself and exposes the clever forgery of the early Christians.

In the case of Luke, I am able to advance the matter still further. The first two chapters of Luke bear definite testimony against the virgin birth theory. Were virgin birth to be presupposed, it would indeed be a very singular thing. I have already mentioned how the parents of Jesus "marvelled at those things which were spoken of Jesus by Simon (Luke, 2 : 33) and by the Shepherds (Luke, 2 : 18) and also were unable to understand his words as a boy of twelve (Luke, 2 : 50).

We are also told that Jesus was born after Mary's "days were accomplished" (Luke, 2 : 6) just like John the Baptist was born after the "full time" of Elisabeth (Luke, 1 : 57). How is it that in case of a supernatural birth all the laws relating to a natural birth had to be complied with?

But this is not all. We are further told:

"And when the days of their purification according to the Law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Temple" (Luke, 2 : 22).

The redactors have substituted the word her in place of their and it so appears in the Authorised Version (Revised Version, p. 1127), no doubt to remove the original error, because it was only the mother who was supposed to be unclean (Lev., 12: 4). But the error, if an error it be, serves to show that at least the evangelist regarded Joseph as the real father of Jesus; they could not have thought of him as unclean, if Jesus had been born of a virgin. To meet this objection, it has been suggested that the word their related to Mary and Jesus. But Jesus was "the Holy of the Holies," and in any case under the law as laid down in the Third Book of Moses, Leviticus, a newly-born child never became unclean. Further, if the birth had been brought about by supernatural means, no occasion to stress any uncleanness on Mary's part could have arisen. This incident shows that the progress of the child in its mother's womb must have been in accordance with the laws of nature: the very idea of purification suggests it.

The whole of Luke, therefore, not only knows nothing of the virgin birth but rests upon natural birth. As in Matthew, the entire theory is based on two verses in Luke which, as I will now show, are also forgeries. They read:

"Then said Mary unto the Angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the Angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore, also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke, 1 :34-35).

In verse 34, know is in the present tense and Mary does not speak of the future, while the angel is using the future tense all the while. It may also be stated, and Dummelow agrees (Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible, 739),' that Mary takes the words of the angel as fulfilment in the ordinary way of nature. The reply of the Angel (verse 35) is only to express with great clearness what he has already said in verses 30-33, which admit without any difficulty of being understood-as Mary in fact so understood them-as referring to the birth of the Messiah from a human marriage. Peake, while commenting on these verses, says:

"Many scholars regard these verses as an interpolation .... The idea of verse 35 and its terminology are not Hebraic; "Spirit" in Hebrew is feminine. But it is possible to take "overshadow" in its primary Greek sense of hide and conceal. Pregnant women were regarded as peculiarly liable to the assault of evil spirits (cf. Rev., 12 : 1-6). We may thus have here the idea of Satan lying in wait for the future Messiah (cf. Rev., 12 : 1-5); to avoid any molestation the Power of the Highest will conceal the mother till the danger is past. Or it may be that the child, while conceived in the usual way, was to receive a special pre-natal sanctity ... like John" (Peake, Comm. on the Bible, 726). (Italics are mine.)

Again, if we proceed further, the narrative makes the Holy Ghost descend only twice. The first time the object was:

"And it came to pass that when Elisabeth heard salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb, and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost" (Luke, 1 : 41).

Elizabeth, it is noteworthy, is filled with the Holy Ghost and not Mary. For the second visit of the Holy Ghost, we have to skip over to the third chapter:

"Now when all the people were baptised, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptised, and praying, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased" (Luke, 3 : 21-22).

The birth of Jesus took place betwixt these two visits. On these facts alone Luke can be said to give a direct lie to the virgin birth theory.

But as already stated, the virgin birth theory is based on verses 34-35. And Weiss says they are forgeries (Weiss, Die Predigt Jesu Von Reiche Gottes, 342), a conclusion with which many authorities agree. The Revised Version shows the alteration (Revised Version, p. 1125) and Hastings says:

"Removal of verses 34-35, which contain the only reference to virgin birth, as interpolations, is justified" (Hasting's Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, 806).

Realising the position that the relevant verses regarding the virgin birth in both Matthew and Luke are forgeries, the compilers of the Encyclopaedia Biblica were compelled to come to the only possible conclusion that:

"The virgin birth disappears from the source altogether" (Ency. Biblica, Col. 2957).

I need not carry the matter any further.

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Books Section > Jesus in Heaven on Earth [Journey of Jesus to Kashmir, his preaching to the Lost Tribes of Israel and death and burial in Srinagar] by Khwaja Nazir Ahmad > Chapter 6: Virgin Birth (of Jesus Christ)

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