The Doctrine of the Virgin Birth : Part III
The Doctrine of the Virgin Birth Part V

Doctrine of the Virgin Birth Part IV

Continuing the series first posted by me on the Catholica Forum...

The Gospel of Luke : Part I

As we discovered in the previous commentaries on the Doctrine of the Virgin Birth, here, here and here, there is absolutely no justification for asserting that the doctrine is based on either Isaiah 7:14, or on the Gospel of Matthew. Now we will see if there is any justification for asserting that the doctrine is based on the Gospel of Luke.

The Preparation

Luke begins his gospel by assuring Theophilus that he has done his research...that he has “investigated everything carefully from the beginning.”
 
As we shall presently see, one of the most important of his discoveries is that he has verified the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus. This is, for him, a cause of great celebration. He can demonstrate that Jesus has a claim by right of birth to sit on the earthly throne of David.

Luke first sets out to prove to Theophilus his claim to have investigated everything carefully from the beginning by describing the circumstances surrounding the birth of John the Baptist. He establishes his credentials by going into great detail about the priest Zacharias, even going so far as to identify Zacharias as belonging to the priestly “course of Abia.”

One of Luke's major purposes here is to identify Zacharias' wife Elizabeth as “one of the daughters of Aaron.” Thus, husband and wife both belong to the tribe of Levi.

He is laying the groundwork, painting an intimate and detailed picture of a priestly family, so that when he goes on to describe the events in Nazareth, Mary will appear no stranger to Theophilus: as a “suggenes” (tribal kin) of Elizabeth, she will fit neatly into the framework he has already set out.

The crucially important fact that Mary was of the tribe of Levi has been completely overlooked by theologians intent on promulgating the doctrine of Virgin Birth. These theologians, knowing that the New Testament states many times that Jesus is the Israelite Messiah and of the “seed of David,” and knowing that Joseph is not the father of Jesus, erroneously assert that it is through Mary that Jesus can claim Davidic sonship.

Luke's infancy narrative lays particular emphasis on Jesus as the fulfillment of Messianic promises, as we can clearly see in the Canticles of Mary, Zachariah and Simeon, and in the response of Anna the "prophetess." (Note that the emphasis on David and Israel and the frequent mention of "our fathers" rule out the assertion that these hymns of praise in Luke were originally products of a non-Israelite Christian community.)

It is therefore ludicrous to assert that he would attempt to portray Jesus as a descendant of David through the matrilineal line, a totally invalid proposition as tribal affiliation and family genealogy could only be traced through the patrilineal line.

The Annunciation

Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharias, had been regarded as barren but had conceived a child and was six months pregnant when the angel appeared to Mary.

Luke 1:26-27

"Now in (Elizabeth's) sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin (parthenos) betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary."

Luke testifies that, at this time, Mary was a "parthenos." (In ancient Greek usage, a "parthenos" is just an unmarried woman, whether she be a physical virgin or not.)

Whether Mary was a physical virgin or not, however, it is of critical importance to realise that there had, as yet, been no conception. That Jesus was not conceived until some indeterminate time after the angel's departure is confirmed in 2:21.

"When eight days were fulfulled for circumcising him, his name was called Jesus, which was so called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb."

Luke, writing these words to Theophilus, having no personal knowledge but having traced the course of all things accurately from the first, nevertheless was able to specify that the conception took place after the Annunciation. Perhaps because the early church was male-dominated, it seems to have completely escaped attention that every young woman is a virgin before she first has a sexual relationship. It also seems to have escaped attention that Mary was the only person who could possibly know these intimate details, therefore Luke's source derived in whatever chain of transmission from Mary herself.

Luke 1:28

"And he came in to her, and said, Hail: You are highly favoured, the Lord be with you."

Note that it was the same Gabriel who told Daniel that he was also highly favoured (Dan. 9:23, 10:11,12,19). "The Lord be with you" was a standard form of Jewish greeting.

Luke 1:29-31

"But she was greatly troubled at the saying and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this might be.

"And the angel said unto her, 'Fear not Mary for you have found favour with God: And behold, you shall conceive in your womb and bring forth a son and shall call his name Jesus.'"

At first, we are told that Mary could not understand the angel's greeting for, unlike Zacharias, she had made no supplication to God.

Luke 1:32a

"He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High."

The Sons of God

The disciples expected the Messiah to be born from the seed of David the King. The term Son of God designated a human being especially related to God and imbued with God’s spirit. That it would in future come to imply the “divinity” of Jesus would have been profoundly shocking to the disciples, or to any Jew. Can we imagine that Judas knew he was betraying his God? Did the disciples believe that God was washing their feet at the Last Supper? Or when Peter cut off the soldier’s ear, did he think that that God was incapable of defending himself?

The concepts of Israelite Sonship and Fatherhood must be the most misunderstood and misused in all of human history. To regard God as a Father and to naturally then be called a "Son of God" carries no suggestion whatsoever of "divinity." These related concepts were applied to the anointed kings of ancient Israel and to the whole House of Israel long before the time of Jesus:

"His name shall be Solomon . . . he shall build a house for My name and I will be a Father to him and he will be a son to Me." [ I Chron. 22:9-10]

"I will be his father, and he shall be my son." (II Sam. 7:12-17)

"You are my father, my God, the rock of my salvation.” (Psalm 89:26)

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” (Hosea 11:1. See also Exodus 4:22)

And the appellations "son of God" and “son of the Most High" would be applied by Jesus himself to others:

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God," and again: But love your neighbours and do them good, and lend, never despairing, and your reward shall be great, and you shall be sons of the Most High." (Matt. 5:9, Luke 6:35)

Adam is called the "son of God" because he was created in God's image (Luke 3:38; Acts 17:26-29).

Those followers of Jesus who have received the Holy Spirit are made "sons of God" and Jesus is the "firstborn of many brethren” (Rom 8:14-17; 29-30).

The author of Hebrew speaks explicitly of the many "sons of God" who are to come (Hebrews 2:10). For John, those who are united with Jesus become "children of God." (John 1:12-13).

In late 2nd Temple Jewish writings, a devout follower of God is said to be his "son." (Wisdom of Solomon 2:16-18; 5:5; Sirach 4:10). The patriarchs Noah, Lamech, and Shem are addressed as "my son" in 1 Enoch.

The essential difference between Jesus and all these other "sons of God" was that he was also the promised deliverer.

When the term "son of God" is used in reference to Jesus, it is synonomous with the term "Messiah" as we can see in Mark, John and Acts where the two concepts of "son of God" and "Messiah" are merged into the one person of Jesus, thus proving they are interchangeable terms in the New Testament.

"But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?" (Mark 14:61)

 “...so that you may believe that Jesus is the anointed (Messiah), the Son of God.” (John 20:31)

"And we bring you good tidings of the promise made unto the fathers, (the promise of a deliverer) that God hath fulfilled the same unto our children, in that he raised up Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, 'Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee."(Acts 13:33)

Note that one of the creedal pillars is the assertion that Jesus is the “eternally-begotten son” of the Father. This single statement by Paul, that Jesus became the “only-begotten” son of the Father on the day of his resurrection, should be more than enough to consign the creedal formulations of “eternally begotten not made” to the rubbish bin of theology because there was a time before Jesus was “begotten.” To say that he was begotten from all eternity is a self-contradiction and absurd in the extreme. Eternity has no “beginning.” Sonship supposes time, generation and Father - time before the generation.

We read in Luke 2:48-50 about Mary and Joseph's search for Jesus

" 'What made you search?' he said. "Did you not know that I was bound to be in my Father's house?' But they did not understand what he meant."

Thus, Mary, who supposedly had undergone a virgin conception and the travail of child-birth, did not know what Jesus was talking about when he called YHWH his Father. Her amazement would be that a child born in such lowly circumstances would call God his Father. Such sentiments were reserved for the nation as a whole, or Kings.

The above evidence demonstrates that to regard God as a Father, and to thereby be called a "son of God" carries with it no implication whatsoever of "divinity." Any assertion to the contrary is to read texts according to the demands of Christian theology.

to be continued at Luke 1:32b...

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