Jesus Christ was not born of a virgin as he declares himself
RACHEL Our signal got interrupted for a few minutes… But once again we are in contact with our audience, which finds itself rather perplexed by some statements made by our special guest, Jesus Christ. Now we continue our interviews with him.
JESUS It seems that you want to continue asking me about my mother…
RACHEL Yes, of course, and please pardon me, but I’ve done some research for this interview. In the Bible I found definitive proof that Mary was a mother without ceasing to be a virgin.
JESUS Is that so? … And where did you find it?
RACHEL In the book of the prophet Isaiah. Listen “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.” Isaiah 7, 14.
JESUS But my name is not Emmanuel, it’s Jesus.
RACHEL The problem is not the boy’s name, but the virgin who brought him forth…
JESUS Well, I don’t know, but… but it seems to me that you’re going in the wrong direction.
RACHEL How do you mean wrong direction?
JESUS Why don’t you ask that friend of yours that you called the other day?
RACHEL No, not that one, but a woman I know. … Here, I have a telephone…. Let me see… I’m going to call Ivone Gebara*, a very serious Brazilian theologian… Hello?
IVONE Yes, hello?
RACHEL This is Rachel Perez of Emisoras Latinas calling. I would like to bother you about a theological matter. The prophet Isaiah spoke of a virgin giving birth. Is that true or false?
IVONE Well, in fact, the word the prophet used was not “virgin”, but “young girl”. Later on some translators changed that from “young girl” and wrote “virgin” instead.
RACHEL The translators of the Bible changed the word?
IVONE Yes. With translations that sometimes happens.
RACHEL But Matthew in his gospel takes that prophecy…
IVONE True, but Mark’s gospel, which is older than Matthew’s, doesn’t even mention it. And Paul, in all the letters he wrote, never mentions anything about virgins giving birth. If such a spectacular thing had really happened, I don’t think they would have neglected to mention it, do you?
RACHEL Well, then, I’m completely lost…
IVONE It’s quite easy to understand, Rachel. In ancient times many famous men, in order to make them even more famous, were said to have been born of women impregnated by gods. They said that of Confucius, Zoroaster, and the Buddha, all of whom were founders of other religions. Their followers claimed that they were born of virgins, and in that way they divinized them.
RACHEL And so you say they did the same thing with Jesus Christ?
IVONE The very same thing.
RACHEL Well,… many thanks for this information, Ivone Gebara.
JESUS Do you see what I was saying, Rachel? It’s a phony coin.
RACHEL But then… that business of the angel announcing to Mary … Is that a legend too? You were born like…, like…
JESUS Just as you were born, just as all of us are born, from a man and a woman. What evil is there in that?
RACHEL There’s nothing evil. But…
JESUS I’m going to tell you something that happened to me once in Capernaum . I was talking to some people, announcing the Kingdom of God, and a woman in the crowd shouted out “Blessed the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you.”
RACHEL A fine tribute to your mother.
JESUS Well, I paid her an even better one. I said “Don’t bless the womb or the breasts. Bless the spirit of that woman who heard God’s word and kept it in her heart.”
RACHEL Therefore …?
JESUS Rachel, the word of God is a seed that is sown in the spirit, not the flesh. God’s word was sown in the spirit of my mother Mary and in the spirit of those who fight for justice. Do you want some miracle greater than that?
RACHEL What I want is… for our audience to express their opinions. If Mary wasn’t a virgin… what becomes of our faith in the Virgin Mary? Tell us what you think. Reporting from Nazareth for Emisoras Latinas, this is Rachel Perez.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
*More information about this polemical topic…*
Virginity: an ancestral lunar symbol
Virginity is an ancestral symbol which humankind first associated with the lunar goddess, who was considered both virgin and mother, just like the moon. She was born of herself, without need the help of any external agent. She was life, and she engendered life by herself and from herself. She was light and produced light. This lunar virgin goddess was a virgin because she had within herself the ability to become fertile and reproduce. This understanding of “being virginal” had nothing to do with sexual “purity” as Christian culture has proclaimed it for centuries through dogmas, rites and traditions.
This ancestral image of symbolic virginity can be seen in the ancient traditions of all the world’s peoples. Since it is a heritage of a universal human spirituality, it is naturally present also in the texts of the Bible.
During the early centuries of our era Christianity had to compete with other ancient religions, and it borrowed many elements from them. These religions often had stories about extraordinary, exceptional, exemplary men who had been born of “virgins”. It was one way of showing the special and spectacular character of their mission and their message. Atis was born of the Virgin Nana. The Buddha was born of the Virgin Maya, Krishna of the Virgin Devaki, Horus of the Virgin Isis. Mithra and Zoroaster were also born of virgin mothers. The Mexican god Huitzilopochtli was similarly born of a virgin.
Virginity in the Bible
In the Hebrew culture fertility was valued quite highly, and virginity – which supposed sterility – was seen as a calamity (see Ecclesiasticus 42,10). Therefore, assuming that the Hebrew word “almah” was later mistranslated as “virgin” instead of “young girl”, we should seek the real meaning of Isaiah’s prophecy (7,14) and of Luke’s narrative (1,26-38) on the spiritual-literary-symbolic plane, and not on the material-gynecological level. Furthermore, we should not presuppose that virginity is a superior state, one that is more perfect and more sacred than maternity.
The virginity of Mary
To the degree that the successive Christological dogmas kept divinizing Jesus, the tendency of theologians was to surround him, right from his origins, with wondrous and extraordinary circumstances. At first, Christian doctrine made reference only to his virginal conception in Mary’s womb. Later on, it was felt necessary to insist on Mary’s virginity during Jesus’ birth, and also on her never having sexual relations even after his birth.
Some Church Father wanted to go even further, proposing that Mary herself had been conceived virginally in her mother’s womb. Thus, unlike all other human beings, Mary would not have been born of sexual relations between her parents, who are known to tradition as Joachim and Anna. Other Church Father wanted to posit even more cases of virgin births, so they investigated the theological possibility of a chain of them going back four generations before Jesus. All of this intellectual enterprise was aimed at “assuring” his divinity, since they were convinced that the body and human sexuality could in no way be divine or sacred.
Ivone Gebara is a religious sister and a well-known Brazilian theologian and philosopher. Since the 1970s she has been an outstanding intellectual, one very committed to the cause of the poor. Starting in the 1980s, however, she changed directions, after a conversation she had with a poor woman who made her see that “she was talking like a man”. Since then she has been an active, brilliant feminist who speaks of human and divine reality from the perspective of women and condemns a great deal of typical Christian discourse for being “eminently anthropocentric, androcentric, white and western”. She believes that there exists “a greater mystery, whether it be called God or not”. She hold that all Christian beliefs need to be rethought and reformulated so that they say something to the men – and especially to the women – of today. In her own words: I opt for the spirit of criticism. Our Church is often a slave to its dogmas, norms, laws and principles; it appears straitjacketed and incapable of responding to the new questions that people are asking. For this reason Ivone takes part in our program, giving her views on what she, along with countless other biblical scholars and theologians, knows and believes about the meaning of Mary’s virginity.