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Re: Birth narratives

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  • Ian Hutchesson
    ... OK, so you don t like the commandment. What was its effect on a staunch believer of torah as law? Is there any evidence in the earliest Jesus traditions
    Message 1 of 42 , Dec 1, 1998
      >> >Ian wrote:
      >> >> If Jesus had been illegitimate, he would not have been "admitted to the
      >> >> assembly of the Lord", Deut 23:2.
      >> It means, Steve, that either you are right and that he was known to have
      >> been illegitimate and therefore excluded from places like the temple and
      >> synagogues or that he was not illegitimate. I opt that the writer has to
      >> deal with the extraordinary position of Jesus who in tradition was not
      >> fathered by a man and therefore couldn't be called son of Joseph or
      >> whatever. It gives no direct support for your illegitimacy theory.
      >Frankly, I find it impossible to believe that this commandment could
      >have been taken seriously. It reads "No one illigitimate
      >nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD,
      >even down to the tenth generation." Assuming two descendants per
      >bastard and two descendants per generation that will give us 1,024
      >in the tenth generation who would not be allowed into the assembly.
      >I'd be curious to know if there's mishnah on this, or even talmud.
      >My great great great great great great great grandfather was a
      >bastard and so I can't come in? Impossible to imagine. But if that
      >part of the commandment is impossible, how is it that the rest would
      >be enforced?

      OK, so you don't like the commandment. What was its effect on a staunch
      believer of torah as law? Is there any evidence in the earliest Jesus
      traditions that he deliberately broke torah? (Note that the sabbath issue
      did not seem worth mentioning in any of the accepted Pauline canon.)

      I should point out that in the descriptions of those with grave racial
      blemish found in the rabbis, the chief blemish was that of being a bastard.
      In fact inappropriate use of the term to insult someone was supposed to
      incur the punishment of 39 lashes (b.Kidd. 28a Bar.). The "down to the tenth
      generation" may be over the top, but the preoccupation with illegitimacy
      throughout the second temple is hard to avoid.

      >Jesus "known to have been illigitimate" probably applied in Nazareth
      >and maybe in the region, but surely not in Jerusalem where,
      >famously, the authorities didn't even know what he looked like.

      If Jesus were from a Bethlehemite family and born in Bethlehem and they
      hightailed it outta town, there is absolutely no reason to believe that the
      supposed illegitimacy was even known in this fabled Nazareth.

      >> You merely assume that due to certain gospel rhetoric that Jesus must have
      >> been illegitimate, but if that knowledge was such open information there
      >> could not have been a Galilean ministry in and out of synagogues.
      >How do we know that synagogues = canonical assemblies of
      >the Lord so that Deuteronomic law applied to them in Galilee?

      I didn't quite say that "synagogues = canonical assemblies of the Lord".
      However I would say that "assemblies of the Lord" were religious
      manifestations such as what took place at certain times in synagogues as
      well as all temple manifestations involving the people.

      >We're not sure there were Galilean religious synagogues and we
      >certainly doubt that they were operated on strict principles of
      >Judean deuteronomic law.
      >> GMatt has the parents married before Jesus was born, therefore illegitimacy
      >> was excluded in the eyes of that writer.
      >If your parents were married before you were born and you were
      >fathered by somebody other than your mother's husband you would
      >be illegitimate. ...

      Joseph's marriage to Mary simply legitimized the birth. We are told that he
      did contemplate sending her away, but that he did accept responsibility. Yet
      ultimately Joseph is irrelevant and I tink your quibbling is as well.

      >But this is getting silly as surely none of us
      >are thinking that Matthew's report of Jesus' parents' activities and
      >legal circumstances are based on actual facts.

      This cuts both ways, Steve. "Surely none of us are thinking that Matthew's
      report of Jesus' parents' activities and legal circumstances are based on
      actual facts." This also goes for any theorised illegitimacy arising from
      those activities and legal circumstances.

      >> >If we do not
      >> >assume the veracity of the divine insemination thesis, we are left
      >> >with the double story that Mary was inseminated by somebody other
      >> >than Joseph.
      >> I am not arguing the "veracity" of the "divine insemination thesis", but the
      >> centrality of it in tradition, ie it was the tradition that was held.
      >Which, sigh, is a tradition that gives us an illegitimate Jesus.

      The tradition actually gives us a Holy Spirit impregnation and if anyone can
      give legitimation it is God, right? You are being unusually and
      uncompromisingly literalist when it comes to Mary having been inseminated
      before her marriage to Joseph as meaning illegitimate.

      >He was fathered by someone other than his mother's husband.
      >That someone may have been GOD or not, doesn't make any difference

      OK, Steve, give me a scenario in which Jesus is inseminated by God such that
      for your way of thinking any such birth arising from the insemination is not
      illegitimate. What is the real value of this literalist illegitimacy?

      >> >> There is not one thing in the logic of early
      >> >> >Christologies that demands a "virgin birth." That's a motif that
      >> >> >comes out of nowhere, christologywise. I think it's solving some
      >> >> >other problem entirely. "Born of a woman" says Paul. And, while
      >> >> >John's gospel can have Jesus showing up fully formed and mature
      >> >> >from the extraterrestrial it doesn't... it gives him a mom.
      >> >
      >> >I think this is strong... the "virgin birth" is not something that
      >> >grows out of Christology per se and so quite probably grew out of some
      >> >other apologetic need.
      >> Apologetic need is your assumption. How about the idea that the Jesus birth
      >> narrative adhered to the larger Mediterranean cultural environment where
      >> women were inseminated by the gods? Just that Mary was inseminated by the
      >> Hebrew God.
      >Apologetic need is obvious. Question is apologetic need for what?
      >My point is that there does not appear to be an apologetic need for
      >"Son of God" to be accounted for by divine insemination.

      Jesus often uses the rhetorical form "my father" to refer to God (esp. GMatt
      & GJohn). If Jesus was perceived as being literal, what sort of results does
      that provide for a birth narrative?

      >Romans 1:3-4 "the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from
      >David according to the flesh and designated Son of God in power
      >according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead,
      >Jesus Christ our Lord...." and so forth show that human generation
      >and divine sonship were easily combined and that divine generation
      >was not an apologetic necessity.

      Would you like to argue continuity between Pauline theology and later
      mainstream Christian theology? Paul is famous for saying the politically
      correct thing for his audience in his letters (someone has even written a
      paper called "Paul the chameleon"). It is thought that Paul was writing to a
      predominantly Jewish audience in Rome: his rhetoric is appropriate. At the
      same time it should be said that Paul shows little direct knowledge of the
      life of Jesus. Is there anything to suggest that he has authoritative
      knowledge here?

      >Jesus in Mark 6:3 is "son of Mary". Morton Smith wrote: "In
      >Semitic usage, to refer to a man as the son of his mother was to
      >indicate that his father's identity was uncertain." J the M 26,
      >marginal note by Smith in my copy "cf. Lieberman, *Greek in
      >Jewish Palestine* 164. Can anybody look this up for me? Also
      >"Matthew's geneology of Jesus refers only to four women besides Mary:
      >they are Tamar, whose children were born of incest; Rahab, the madam
      >of a brothel; Ruth, a non-Israelite, who got her second husband by
      >solicitation, if not fornication.... and Bathsheba the wife of Uriah
      >whose relations with David began in adultery.... That the author of a
      >genealogy for a Messiah should have chosen to mention only these four
      >women requires an explanation. The most likely one is that Matthew
      >wanted to excuse Mary by these implied analogies." J the M 26.

      Can you tell me of any woman who is given any importance at all in the OT/HB
      who has been omitted from the genealogy?

      >Following is said, with some doubt, to be the only reference to Jesus
      >in the Mishnah:
      > B. Yebamoth 49a, M. Yebamoth 4.13
      >Simeon ben Azzai has said: I found in Jerusalem a book of
      >genealogies; therein was written: That so
      >and so is a bastard son of a married woman.

      This follows from the view of bastards already given above that makes the
      statement a simple strong ad hominem attack.

      >Tertullian, De Spetaculis 100.30 shows that he knows Jesus
      >was accused of being a "harlot's son."

      Does this help us get any closer than the conflict that Tertullian probably
      had with Jews who accepted the main Jewish line against Jesus? Is there any
      evidence that Tertullian accepted the accusation?

      >Origen, Contra Celsum 1.28
      >Jesus had come from a village in Judea, and was the son of
      >a poor Jewess who gained her living by
      >the work of her own hands. His mother had been turned out
      >of doors by her husband, who was a
      >carpenter by trade, on being convicted of adultery [with a
      >soldier named Panthera (i.32)]. Being thus
      >driven away by her husband, and wandering about in
      >disgrace, she gave birth to Jesus, a bastard.

      This is basically more of the same. Any idea where Celsus got his info, if
      not from Jewish sources?

      >> You might propose that the donkey had had the foal illegitimately and that
      >> she was burdened with the sin unable to repent, as symbolism of the
      >> relationship between Mary and Jesus.
      >This is not the usual interpretation of the passage so far as I can

      Sorry, I was being naughty.

      >> Would you hazard to supply a more rational explanation for the Matthean
      >> approach to Jesus's entry on those animals, Steve?
      >I distinguish between OT references given in the NT from OT
      >references not given but asserted now to have been in the mind
      >of the author. The latter I find dubious unless very obvious or very
      >well argued.
      >> >This is another topic entirely. I've no information about the Jewish
      >> >people in the area ca. 200 BC. Do you?
      >> We have reports in 2Maccabees regarding Jews in Galilee.
      >ALL of whom left after having been attacked by Galileans
      >it says in 2 Macc.

      Still, all the non-Greek names Josephus gives in his works referring to
      Galileans are Jewish.

      >> >> I don't think you have a strong case for Mary's moral levity, Steve.
      >> >
      >> >Yes I do. If the previously and briefly mentioned cites aren't enough
      >> >I can go into more detail. Let me know if this is required.
      >> You are simply bending the data, Steve. You have a story that says Mary was
      >> pregnant and not from her husband to be; she had had a visit from an angel
      >> to tell her what was happening; and you wanna turn this into a case of
      >> illegitimacy.
      >Ahh. Ummm. Well, it IS a case of illegitimacy. I think you overlook
      >that rather crucial fact. "Mary was pregnant and not from her husband
      >to be" unambiguously specifies this.

      As I asked above, give me a scenario in which a God inseminated Mary born
      child could not be according to your literalism illegitimate?

      >See, here's how it goes.
      >We have the first bio of Jesus bar Joseph never telling us the
      >patronymic of the hero, much less mentioning his father. This
      >is odd. He is "Son of Mary."

      If, according to tradition, Joseph is not the father, how can you refer to
      Jesus as Yeshua ben Yusef? If, according to tradition, Jesus only has one
      human parent, how can you refer to Jesus given the precedent of referring to
      his parent?

      >Then the two revised versions, after the birth narratives
      >and geneologies... they don't mention his father either.
      >Nowhere else in NT is his father mentioned or Jesus' patronymic
      >given except in two passages of John. This is prima facie not
      >to be expected. It is to be expected that he will be known as
      >Jesus bar Joseph throughout for that would have been his name.
      >Calling one's hero by his name is to be expected.
      >We find in John the accusation "We are not born of fornication"
      >directed, it seems, toward Jesus in 8:41.

      This is clutching at straws: it is Jesus who is attacking his opponents for
      not showing that they are, as they claimed, the sons of Abraham.

      >We have Jesus saying,
      >in Thomas, that he who knows father and mother will be called
      >"son of a harlot" which evidently is a self-reference.

      What exactly do you make of this saying, Steve?

      >We have, outside the Christian circle, nonChristian statements
      >that Jesus was the son of a harlot and the like.

      Do they derive from anywhere other than the Jewish ad hominem?

      >We have in the birth narratives the assertion "Jesus' mother
      >was not impregnated by her betrothed/husband" apologetically
      >explained as divine insemination.

      You insinuate the apologetically explained divine insemination here. I have
      asked you to provide an alternative hypothesis for a God inseminated Jesus
      that doesn't adhere to your accusation of illegitimacy. As I don't think you
      can, I'd guess your application of illegitimacy is meaningless in the

      >If we look at all of this one way, that Jesus was illegitmate,
      >it all hangs together. If we look at this the other way, that he
      >was the legitimate son of Joseph, an awful lot of special pleading
      >has to be done to account for the fact that WE know that but
      >THEY didn't.

      So the idea appeals to you. We have two independent accounts of the birth of
      Jesus that has very few agreements, yet one of those agreements is the datum
      that Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, the specific nature here
      suggesting that the Holy Spirit insemination is part of the received
      tradition. That tradition does not talk about illegitimacy. Jewish tradition
      excludes bastards from participation in Jewish religious life through grave
      racial blemish. And it doesn't make much sense to use Jewish insults as in
      any way reflective of the conditions of Jesus's birth. The tradition doesn't
      seem to support your theory.

    • Chris Cutler
      Sorry to have to say so, Chris, but you ve unacceptably confused truth ... Thank s for picking me up on that ... I don t have a problem with that ... Surely
      Message 42 of 42 , Dec 7, 1998
        Sorry to have to say so, Chris, but you've unacceptably confused 'truth'
        > with 'belief'. The notion of something being "true for person x" is nothing
        > more than another way of saying that x believes something to be true.
        Thank's for picking me up on that
        > Everyone has fundamental beliefs, of course, but it's misleading to call
        > these beliefs 'fundamental truths'. When your distinction is reworded as
        > one between "fundamental belief" and "universal belief", it makes much more
        > sense.
        I don't have a problem with that

        > BTW, the bit about the "believer's hat" was my way of trying to capture the
        > same idea that Mahlon and Bob have spoken of as "bracketing-off" one's
        > beliefs about the divinity of a person when one is "doing history" related
        > to that person. I have my doubts as to whether or how far this is possible,
        > but I'm willing to take their word for it that it is possible, since
        > they're the ones who find themselves in that situation.
        Surely the important thing for the believer 'doing history' is to declare their interest - that way the reader knows how many grains of salt to take to make the results more palletable (sp?).
        Best wishes

        See the original message at http://www.egroups.com/list/crosstalk/?start=3936
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