July 06, 2018

Was the Mother of Jesus a Virgin?

Of course.  But Christian traditions are confused by obsolete knowledge.

Early church fathers, theologians, and clergy struggled with the concept of a virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. Their beliefs were rooted in obsolete first century medical knowledge and a conviction Jesus had to be elevated above all other humans, including and especially Kings and Emperors. In order to assure Jesus as more important than mere humans, Mary had to be pure, divine, “immaculate” and “innocent” of all earthly sin. Ancient theologians clashed for years over the problem of Mary’s virginity.

Parochial theologians wanted to believe Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. God made her pregnant. She was never touched by human blood. She was married to God. Her relationship to Joseph was strictly Platonic (no sex, - not even a little touchy feely).


From God’s point of view, a virgin birth served no useful purpose, and would violate the natural law which he created.

Less strict traditionalists want to believe God made Mary pregnant before she married Joseph. Jesus was fathered by God. Although the medical methodology remains a little murky, when Joseph found out Mary was already pregnant, he was upset (to say the least). The Book of Matthew suggests Joseph only married Mary out of a sense of duty to God. As an alternative, later theologians proposed Joseph was really an old man who believed it was his duty to marry a pregnant Mary. He could not have been the father because he was so old.


Pregnancy out of wedlock was strictly prohibited by Jewish religious law and cultural customs. God would never ask (or cause) Mary to commit a sinful act that would make her a harlot in the eyes of the community and perhaps expose her to death by stoning (a quaint way first century parochial Jews punished fallen women), or force her into prostitution as a social outcast in order to survive.

Thus the idea that Mary was pregnant before she married Joseph is absurd. The idea was fostered by early biblical writers and church fathers to create the mythology of a perfect, sinless, and divine Mary who was above all other women. And it worked for several hundred years. But now. Not so much.

So.  Can we authenticate a more credible story? What is highly probable?

Mary had seven children. Five boys: Jesus, James, Joseph (Joses), Jude and Simon. Mary had two girls whom I have named Deborah and Rachel. All fathered by Joseph; all born according to natural law and Jewish custom.

We can choose to believe God wanted to convey the essence of his theology and philosophy to humanity in a message that would have lasting value. As he frequently does, God would convey his message to us through the voice and actions of a human messenger. In this case, the messenger would be a man God chose to call Jesus. In order to carry out his mission, Jesus would have to be very intelligent, creative, compassionate, and charismatic. God’s message would be conveyed to us with the credibility of a man who could speak from the heart because he had experienced the realities of human life: both the good and the bad.

From God’s viewpoint, a father-son relationship would work just fine. In order to be sure Jesus, his son, would have all of the necessary human characteristics to be an effective messenger, God picked a soon to be wed couple to be the human father and mother. Mary was a 14 year old peasant girl who had an absolute faith in God. She was also intelligent, self-educated, and compassionate. Joseph was a 15 year old carpenter and stone mason. He also was of above intelligence and had already demonstrated a remarkable maturity and personal strength.

So. Having picked the perfect couple, how did God make sure Jesus would have the attributes he wanted in a son? Let us remember: everything we are is established by our DNA. We inherit half of our DNA from our father and half from our mother. To get his perfect son, all God had to do is modify the DNA of the zygote (fetus) in Mary’s womb to ensure it had all of the characteristics he wanted in a son.

Conception occurred (as Paul the Apostle tells us) according to Jewish custom and law. Mary and Joseph became happy parents. God’s divinity is transferred by DNA modifications to the fetus that will become baby Jesus. In 21st century terms, think of it as a form of In vitro fertilization. Jesus was the son of man and the perfection of God.

Unfortunately, however, no one really understood these possible solutions until the 20th century, and traditional Christian beliefs continue to center on obsolete medical knowledge. We can wonder. If Luke (a doctor) were alive today, what would he write in his Gospel?

So yes. Mary was a virgin bride and Jesus was conceived to be the son God wanted.

A discussion of the virgin birth can be found in Summa 21.

Post a Comment