How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

By: Bored in Vernal
January 2, 2011

NT SS Lesson #2

In the year 4 BC (or thereabouts), Mary had a problem. She had been told that by the power of God she would conceive a child, who would be known as the Son of the Highest. She wasn’t told how to notify her family, her friends, or the man to whom she was betrothed. There’s no indication in the scriptural record that she was given instructions on how to raise a God. Yet she bravely and gracefully accepted the commission, praising God in a beautiful song called the Magnificat:

My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever
.

It didn’t seem possible that Mary herself, extolled by all as humble and submissive, would become a problem throughout Christendom. She is barely mentioned in the first writings that would eventually form the New Testament. The Apostle Paul, who wrote between 49-64 CE, referenced her only by saying that Jesus was “born of a woman, born under the law,” and that “according to the flesh” Jesus was descended from the House of David. From Paul we hear nothing of a virgin mother, a miraculous birth, or even a divine origin.

The earliest Gospel, scholars say, was Mark, written between 70-75 CE. This Gospel contains only two passing references to Mary. Once more there is no story here of a miraculous birth; in fact, in rejecting Jesus’ authority the people of his village point to the fact that he is the carpenter, the son of Mary. The Virgin story entered the Christian tradition in the early 9th decade gospel of Matthew, some 55 years after Jesus’ death; and in the familiar, early 10th decade gospel of Luke. It is only here that we see the seeds of a fully developed doctrine concerning Mary. John’s gospel does not cover Mary’s conception or birthing role, instead emphasizing the concept of Jesus’ divine pre-existence. It seems likely that the dogma of Mary developed gradually within the Biblical canon.

Mary’s legacy was destined to expand still further in the development of Christian history. By the early years of the 2nd century what would become the Catholic Marian tradition began to appear. Her virgin status became permanent, necessitating the transformation of biblically mentioned brothers and sisters of Jesus into half-siblings or cousins. Next, early theologians claimed for her the status of being a postpartum virgin (Christ not having disturbed her “gates” by his birth); and by the 19th century the Virgin was herself declared to be immaculately conceived. Even her own birth was now said to have been miraculous. Into the 20th century, Catholic doctrine on the Virgin Mary continued to develop, as she was proclaimed to have bodily ascended into heaven.

But before we get too critical of these developments, let’s look at our own tradition, which also tends to do a bit of elaborating on the circumstances of Mary’s experiences. Though Matthew’s Gospel account of Jesus’ birth tells us Mary was “found with child of the Holy Ghost,” and Luke’s account says that the Holy Ghost would come upon her to cause her to conceive, Latter-day Saints nonetheless believe that God the Father, not the Holy Spirit, is the literal father of Jesus Christ. Although how Jesus’ conception was accomplished has not been authoritatively established, there has historically been much speculation on this subject, even among our highest leaders. Our belief in the corporeality of God and our previous practice of plural marriage has led Mormons to postulate that Mary may have been one of God’s wives, one of the Heavenly Mothers; or even that God and Mary had intimate relations to conceive Jesus.

The LDS New Testament Sunday School lesson #2, which we will study next week, is entitled (after the Magnificat) “My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord.” The purpose of the lesson is stated: “To help class members develop greater faith in Jesus Christ through a study of the lives of Elisabeth, Zacharias, John the Baptist, Mary, and Joseph.” Over the years I’ve seen, in an attempt to develop greater faith in gospel principles, a tendency to “magnify” the foundational events of our history. How easy it is, when we don’t know very much about a scriptural principle or character, to try to explain or expound or expand!

I have to admit this is a personal idiosyncrasy of mine. For the past two years I’ve been engaging in some lovely and stimulating contentions with an evangelical friend over the meaning of the Virgin Birth. But I’ve about come to the conclusion that simply by reading the scriptures we really cannot tell exactly how the conception of Christ occurred. I have my pet theories, which appeal to and make sense to me, but whether the Catholics’, the Mormons’, the Evangelicals’, or some other group’s idea of the Nativity is exactly correct, I can’t say.  There simply is not enough information to impart a complete understanding of the details. In order to have saving faith in Christ, is it enough for all of us to simply know that Jesus’ conception was accomplished in a miraculous manner, by Divine power?  Or is that statement too vague; will some or all of us forfeit salvation because of our mistaken ideas?

Readers, how do YOU solve the problem of Maria?

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37 Responses to How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

  1. Stephen Marsh on January 2, 2011 at 6:10 AM

    In order to have saving faith in Christ, is it enough for all of us to simply know that Jesus’ conception was accomplished in a miraculous manner

    I don’t think that event that much belief is needed.

    The basic recitation of faith in Acts does not even carry that much information, yet it appears to have been enough to save them.

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  2. Aaron S on January 2, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    A lot of Christians would argue that Paul’s reference to Jesus as “born of a woman, born under the law” in Galatians is an odd manner of speaking for a Jew, and is likely an implicit reference to the virgin birth. And I don’t believe the absence of the virgin birth in Mark–a brief and incipient gospel, relatively speaking–is evidence of the “Virgin story enter[ing] the Christian tradition in the early 9th decade…”

    While no one here knows the specifics of the miracle of the virgin conception of Jesus, I think we can know basic ways it did not happen. The Biblical narratives make it at least clear that it did not happen through sexual intercourse[1]. I don’t see anything in the Biblically endorsed worldview that should make us prone to believing that God the Father came down as an exalted man and had sexual relations with Mary. To me, going that far is not just about getting it wrong, but rather about having rejected an entire way of thinking about God and relating to Him. Consider just why it was so troubling to Brigham Young that Matthew and Luke should simply say that Mary was “found with child of the Holy Ghost” and that the Holy Ghost would come upon her to cause her to conceive. Why did Young feel so passionate to essentially correct this disoriented way of speaking of the “natural course of events” concerning Jesus’ birth and lineage? I submit it was because Brigham’s theological worldview was too radically removed from that of Matthew and Luke.

    On a cultural level, I would ask my Mormon neighbors here to be aware of just what they are saying when they say that this (the issue of whether we can know God the Father had sexual relations with Mary) is just an obscure issue. Similarly, when past statements by Mormon leaders are demoted to mere “speculation” (a word which in Mormon culture seems to have a function of trivialization).

    If anything, given Catholicism’s treatment of it, it is an issue that has been blown out of proportion in historic Christianity. But even for Protestants who deny the Catholic doctrines of Mary’s perpetual virginity, immaculate conception, heavenly ascension, intercession, and addition to the Trinity (ok that last one is a jab), denying that we can know whether or not God the Father had sexual relations with Mary is no trivial matter. It is an indication that a massive worldview shift has taken place, one foreign to the way Christians have thought for thousands of years. At the very least I would ask Mormons to keep that in mind if they should again scoff at evangelical critics for having their jaws on the ground when Mormons say we cannot know if God had sexual relations with Mary.

    Another way to think about this is to compare it to things Mormonism seems quick to affirm as absolutely true, things that traditional Christians for the most part find obscure. Mormonism says we can know what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 15:29 about baptism for the dead, but we can’t know if God the Father had physical relations with Mary. In other words, going from traditional Christianity to Mormonism isn’t just about getting some things wrong, but also about a massive change in value system over what is acceptable as certainty and mystery.

    [1] Ironically, Mormon tradition seems to share this assumption in the claim that Mary was still a virgin since she had only had relations with an immortal man. In other words, even that redefinition of “virgin” assumes the virginity of Mary has something to do with not having had sex. It just changes the focus to the kind of partner.

    Grace and peace,

    Aaron

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  3. Course Correction on January 2, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    Miraculous, virgin births occur in other than the Christian religion. Apparently, the ordinary method of human procreation is too mundane or too dirty to give rise to a spiritual leader and innovator.

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  4. adamf on January 2, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    “Apparently, the ordinary method of human procreation is too mundane or too dirty”

    This is unfortunate.

    Whether “Mormons” really believe that “God had sex with Mary” or not, as some have said, it has always been strange to me how repulsed people are by sex.

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  5. MH on January 2, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    Aaron, I don’t get why a virgin birth is such a big deal in the first place. HOW Jesus was created isn’t nearly as important as his teachings, or his resurrection. Whether the Mormons or Catholics or Evangelicals are right or wrong on this subject seems really ancillary to Christ’s mission, IMO.

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  6. Bishop Rick on January 2, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    Jesus the Christ, by James E Talmage states that God had sex with Mary. Doesn’t this pretty much state what Mormon’s believe?

    “That Child to be born of Mary was begotten of Elohim, the Eternal Father, not in violation of natural law but in accordance with a higher manifestation thereof; and, the offspring from that association of supreme sanctity, celestial Sireship, and pure though mortal maternity, was of right to be called the “Son of the Highest.”

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  7. adamf on January 2, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    Yeah, if Talmage is the authority on contemporary Mormon beliefs, then you may have a point.

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  8. Bishop Rick on January 2, 2011 at 4:08 PM

    Jesus the Christ is not canonized, but its treated as such.

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  9. adamf on January 2, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    It certainly was on my mission, about 10 years ago.

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  10. Aaron S on January 2, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    MH, if you’re right, then your objection should be directed toward Matthew, Luke, and the early church fathers (as early as Ignatius of Antioch!). They really cared about it.

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  11. diane on January 2, 2011 at 7:23 PM

    I grew up Catholic and my mother refused to let me make communion because someone mentioned the word Virgin and Mary in the same sentence. You have to know my mother in order to understand that. I wound up not making my communion until I was twelve.

    That being said, I’ve never heard of the postpartum concept at all.

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  12. Starfoxy on January 2, 2011 at 7:23 PM

    Whether “Mormons” really believe that “God had sex with Mary” or not, as some have said, it has always been strange to me how repulsed people are by sex.
    Though there are some people who actually are repulsed by the idea of sex, the idea that God had physical sexual intercourse with Mary bothers me for two different reasons,
    1. Mary is God’s child. Him having sex with her is incest.
    2. God is all-powerful, therefore there is absolutely no way that Mary could give meaningful consent to the act, making it rape.

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  13. MH on January 2, 2011 at 8:00 PM

    So Aaron, please explain to me why I should care about the nuts and bolts of how Jesus was created/conceived? Specifically, what is the theological significance or whether or not Mary was a virgin? I mean if Jesus is the Son of God (which I believe), then why does it matter how he was created? Isn’t it good enough to believe he is the Savior, and the nuts and bolts of his conception are irrelevant to the “good news”?

    Specifically, where does Matthew or Luke specify the nuts and bolts of how God and Mary interacted? I mean it’s pretty vague and the gospel writers don’t exactly spell it out in fine detail. Secondly, we don’t even know who wrote either of these gospels–they’re merely attributed to Matthew and Luke, and I doubt that either of them personally witnessed any of the events between Mary and God, so they don’t exactly have eye-witness testimony. Ignatius certainly wasn’t an eye-witness either.

    In case you’re interested, I blogged about some early gospels that dealt with this subject in more detail: The Gospel of the Birth of Mary, and The Protevangelion. Both of these gospels seem to support the Catholic version of the virgin birth, and both were deemed unreliable enough not to be considered canonical. Perhaps it’s too bad, because if these gospels were more reliable, then the Catholic view of things would have a bit of strength to their position. Certainly, it seems to me that these gospels probably influenced early theologians like Ignatius.

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  14. Henry on January 2, 2011 at 8:10 PM

    May I recommend a movie on Netlfix?

    Mary, Mother of Jesus.

    Catholic inspired because you see Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist by sprinkling rather than by immersion but still a worthwhile film.

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  15. Mike S on January 2, 2011 at 8:14 PM

    I think there is a natural tendency to expand upon things. As in the OP, a few simple verses were expanded to the virtual worship of Mary we see today in the Catholic Church.

    But the same thing happens in the LDS faith as well, and in a much shorter time than the thousands of years since Christ’s birth. The Word of Wisdom has been radically reinterpreted and expanded upon since it was given, even to the point where we were willing to change the sacrament, probably the central ordinance Christ gave us, in order to adhere to the “not a drop” philosophy. A few verses in Abraham were radically reinterpreted to the whole policy on blacks and the priesthood which persisted for decades. Requirements to be modest have been expanded to include numbers of earrings, tattoos, color of shirts on Sunday, etc.

    It is natural to expand.

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  16. Bored in Vernal on January 2, 2011 at 8:18 PM

    Also, Aaron, responding to your #2, the thing is when you are talking to us Mormons you do realize that we believe the whole Christian world was in gross darkness and apostasy for those thousands of years when the Christian worldview was developing. With our restoration background, we have no compunction about reinterpreting doctrines that are based mainly on tradition. It really does seem to me that a strictly “virgin” birth as you describe it doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of scriptural support. Without all those years of Christian tradition, it might not be as pivotal as you think.

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  17. mh on January 2, 2011 at 8:26 PM

    starfoxy, your definition of incest would include all marriages: we are all brothers and sisters of adam and noah.

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  18. Justin on January 2, 2011 at 8:37 PM

    To add to MH: We are all spiritual siblings of one another.

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  19. Mormon Heretic on January 2, 2011 at 8:53 PM

    Starfoxy, Let me add one other thing. If you read the non-canonical gospels I referenced above, they all make it pretty clear that Mary had the choice. While I get your idea that God is “abusing” his position (and therefore rape), as Mormons, free agency tells us that we are free to choose. Certainly Joseph was convinced to continue his marriage to Mary (making a form of polyandry, but that’s a topic for BiV’s Friday post….)

    Anyway, I guess I can understand your point that “how could Mary possibly reject God?” and I think that’s a good point, but the gospels pretty much uniformly point to Mary choosing to do this. In that case, it wasn’t rape, because Mary consented–and we all know that girls as young as 14 were routinely married in that culture. Now whether a 14 year old can consent is the subject for another day, but clearly it was acceptable for a 14 year old to marry and engage in sexual relations in the culture of Christ’s day.

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  20. Bishop Rick on January 2, 2011 at 8:56 PM

    If no man or woman is given in marriage in heaven, and heaven is a polyamorous free for all, as Justin describes, we are not necessarily siblings.

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  21. George on January 2, 2011 at 9:50 PM

    #15: As I’d guess you’d agree, just because it’s natural doesn’t make it right. I suppose it took a while before the 613 commandments really were 613. You start with 10, then multiply and replenish in your respective sphere and, voila, you’re at 613.

    I suppose if you numbered contemporary Mormonism’s commandments, you’d be at least to a couple of hundred by now. ;)

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  22. Mike S on January 2, 2011 at 9:52 PM

    #21 George:

    You think it’s only a couple of hundred? :-)

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  23. LDS Anarchist on January 3, 2011 at 4:49 AM

    BiV said:

    Though Matthew’s Gospel account of Jesus’ birth tells us Mary was “found with child of the Holy Ghost,” and Luke’s account says that the Holy Ghost would come upon her to cause her to conceive, Latter-day Saints nonetheless believe that God the Father, not the Holy Spirit, is the literal father of Jesus Christ.

    Of course the Holy Spirit wasn’t the father of Jesus. The Holy Ghost is a woman.

    BiV #16 also said:

    It really does seem to me that a strictly “virgin” birth as you describe it doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of scriptural support. Without all those years of Christian tradition, it might not be as pivotal as you think.

    How about 1 Ne. 11: 13-21 and Alma 7: 10 and Isa. 7: 14 and 2 Ne. 17: 14? My dictionary says that a virgin is “a woman who has had no sexual intercourse; a maid.” We’ve got the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Book of Mormon (three witnesses) all stating that Jesus would be born of a virgin, meaning a woman who has had no sexual intercourse, and that it would be accomplished by the power of God/Holy Ghost. Kind of sounds like a pivotal point to me, otherwise, why even mention it? Why not just say that He would be born of a woman, or of Mary, etc., without the virgin designation? What is the point of making sure to label her a virgin and that her conception would happen by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost except so that people would understand that normal, everyday sexual intercourse was not going to be the manner in which Jesus was going to be conceived?

    Now, I’m not picking on you. I’m just saying…

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  24. Stephen Marsh on January 3, 2011 at 5:24 AM

    James E Talmage’s statement does not require anything but that Jesus Christ be the only begotten of the Father, full of light and truth … the only begotten son of God.

    Now that shows up in the scriptures all the time.

    To say that “a higher manifestation” requires sex as we know it is to misread Talmage.

    His Jesus the Christ is mostly a summary of what various texts and sources had to say so that it often contains many, many alternatives.

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  25. N. on January 3, 2011 at 6:28 PM

    Readers, how do YOU solve the problem of Maria?

    Mary = iconized by analogy with the Cult of Diana at Ephesus (c.f. Mary’s final home = Ephesus). Traits of Diana were introduced into Mary’s character (perpetually virginal, sanctified and sovereign, keeper of kings bloodlines) making her what she is known as in Sacred Tradition.
    Immaculate Conception got layered on in an attempt to explain universal sin (everyone who is born is a sinner) vis-a-vis Christ’s birth (ergo, Mary was retroactively atoned for so she could bear a child outside of Sin, therefore she was sinless).

    Her Assumption is layered on to explain why if death is the wages of sin and she was sinless (immac. conception above), she didn’t have to die, so she was taken to heaven bodily.

    Essentially, this is a Russian nesting doll of errors to cover errors and doctrinal inconsistencies, all getting back to the early Christians conflating the historical Mary with the pagan goddess Diana.

    The Mormon understanding of Mary removes her from her mountain tops and groves with Diana, and brings her down to a common life. After some singular manifestations, she has a troubled courtship; she gave birth in horrible circumstances; she spent time moving countries to save her child; she had to deal with a child that eventually far surpassed her spiritually; she watches her firstborn Son suffer and die at the hands of corrupt leaders; all the while she maintains the love and respect of the Son of God as His mother.

    She’s for sure a “precious and chosen” person. All the (erroneous, prurient) focus on the mechanics of how she conceived is just an attempt to rob Mormonism of a wonderful example of the limited doing the impossible with God’s help.
    It’s an attempt to enshrine the Holy Tradition Mary back in the marble temples of Diana.

    Leave Mary back on the dusty road in Judea, or the migrant worker’s mud hut in Egypt with the rest of us. Take the Diana-stand-in back to Ephasus where she belongs.

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  26. Bookslinger on January 3, 2011 at 11:03 PM

    #16: “With our restoration background, we have no compunction about reinterpreting doctrines that are based mainly on tradition.”

    I love the way you put that. I have not read that exact wording, but that’s exactly how I believe.

    #25: “She’s for sure a “precious and chosen” person. All the (erroneous, prurient) focus on the mechanics of how she conceived is just an attempt to rob Mormonism of a wonderful example of the limited doing the impossible with God’s help.
    It’s an attempt to enshrine the Holy Tradition Mary back in the marble temples of Diana.

    Leave Mary back on the dusty road in Judea, or the migrant worker’s mud hut in Egypt with the rest of us. Take the Diana-stand-in back to Ephasus where she belongs.”

    Love that too.

    OP: “She wasn’t told how to notify her family, her friends, or the man to whom she was betrothed. There’s no indication in the scriptural record that she was given instructions on how to raise a God. “

    “The scriptures are silent” as to both points, but didn’t Heavenly Father and/or Jesus, or angels under their direction, give instructions and teachings to other important people assigned to do important things, such as Moses and Joseph Smith?

    The pre-mortal Jesus (as Jehovah) in his spirit body visited the ancient prophets, Moses and others from the O.T., Nephi, Jacob, 3rd Nephi, and Bro-of-Jared in the BoM.

    Angels ministered (taught) both OT prophets, NT prophets, BoM prophets, and Joseph Smith.

    Therefore, I think it’s reasonable to speculate that Mary (and Joseph) received further angelic visits after Gabriel, giving her/them instructions on how to carry out her/their assignment/calling (of raising the Son of The Most High.)

    And, I do not necessarily assume it so, but I would postulate that it is in the realm of possibility, that she (they) also received the presence of the pre-mortal Jehovah as did the ancient prophets. Following the pattern of the Father introducing the Son, I would also postulate that it is in the realm of possibility that she may have been visited by the presence of the Father too.

    On a related note, connecting more dots, I point out the miraculous gift of the talking babies in 3rd Nephi, and postulate that any miraculous “gift” that the Savior gave others, He would have had the power to have himself.

    Also, if angels visited some shepherds that night in person, to announce the birth, would angels have totally ignored the parents?

    Just thoughts.

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  27. Bishop Rick on January 3, 2011 at 11:30 PM

    I was taught on my mission that God had sex with Mary, using Jesus the Christ as the source of this knowledge.

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  28. Bookslinger on January 4, 2011 at 12:20 AM

    I never heard as much heresy as I did on my mission. (Until the Internet came along.)

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  29. Bored in Vernal on January 4, 2011 at 6:07 AM

    I never heard as much heresy as I did on my mission. (Until the Internet came along.)

    QFT!

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  30. Aaron S on January 4, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    “Without all those years of Christian tradition…”

    BiV, if Matthew and Luke together (along with the reference by Paul) are not enough, I recommend looking at Ignatius of Antioch, who was even a student of John the Apostle. You’ll see that he is about as early as you can get (ca. 35 or 50-between 98 and 117). That he defended the virgin birth in his writings should be notable, since he can hardly be accused of basing belief on hundreds or thousands of years of tradition.

    MH, at a glance I would say that the virgin birth points us to both the genuine humanity of Jesus and his divine identity. It’s a divinely ironic way to bring the eternal Son of God in the world. It’s meant to get our attention and cause us to increase our worship of Jesus. I also believe there are ways God blesses his people with scripture that we can’t even comprehend yet. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16)

    Also, if it’s irrelevant, then, as I said in an earlier comment, I would level your objection of irrelevance to Matthew, Luke, and early church fathers as early as Ignatius of Antioch. “You stupid blokes, why are you talking about or defending something so inconsequential?”

    I never said Matthew and Luke “specify the nuts and bolts of how God and Mary interacted”, but what I would did say is that, together, they are quite clear that the conception happened without sexual intercourse. Mary had not known a man. And “knowing” a man wasn’t how Jesus conceived. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” That’s an important part of the conception/birth narrative.

    The burden of proof is on Mormons to show that the text, in the context of first century Judaism, allowed for the possibility that God the Father as an exalted man came down to have sexual intercourse with a spirit daughter. Somehow I think that Christianity’s greatest liberal enemies in academia (in Christian origins studies) would jump on that if you could show compelling evidence. We’d hear about it every year on the TV specials that mock traditional Christian beliefs.

    If you take a cynical view of the gospels, or even Mormonism’s conspiracy theory view of the Great Apostasy, then yeah, no amount of Matthew and Luke speaking on the matter will help. I receive Luke as a reliable historian who did his homework and who no doubt spent considerable time talking to Mary.

    The virgin birth issue is a good test of faith. Do we trust the narrative of scripture? Do we have faith that God can make it so that Jesus is born of a virgin? Do we see how glorious and beautiful and fitting it is that the Son of God be born of a virgin? Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear what is right in front of us? Do we prefer to add non-Christian theology into the text?

    Take care,

    Aaron

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  31. MH on January 4, 2011 at 10:05 PM

    Aaron, so Luke and Matthew and Ignatius thought the virgin birth was important. But you still haven’t explained why YOU think it’s important unless it is a “test of faith”. I have faith that Jesus is the Son of God. I don’t know the nuts and bolts of how he was conceived. Did I fail the “test of faith”?

    Do we trust the narrative of scripture? You know you are talking to Mormons, right? We believe the Bible to be the word of God so far as it is translated correctly. so yes, we trust it–to a point.

    Do we have faith that God can make it so that Jesus is born of a virgin? Sure, I have faith that God can do it that way. I also have faith that God can do it any way that He sees fit–even if YOU find that way repulsive.

    Do we see how glorious and beautiful and fitting it is that the Son of God be born of a virgin? Yes, if the Jesus was born of a virgin (your definition), then I have no problem. I also have no problem with sex between married people: It is not sin–it is glorious and beautiful and fitting.

    Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear what is right in front of us? Well, 2 people can look at the same thing and interpret it differently. Ask a policemen about police lineups.

    Do we prefer to add non-Christian theology into the text? You are talking to Mormons, so yes we do add non-Biblical theology with Mormon scripture. You call it non-Christian, because it is not traditional Christianity, but it is Christian in the real sense of the word. Your “non-Christian” terminology is merely a dig at Mormons, and we all know it. Remember, the Romans referred to Christians as Atheists too, but it’s not really accurate either, is it? It is merely a polemic attack.

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  32. Bishop Rick on January 4, 2011 at 10:32 PM

    I think there is a split camp on the God / Mary sex question. Many LDS clearly believe they had sex, mainly due to Jesus the Christ. At the same time, many LDS clearly believe they didn’t. There is no LDS doctrine either way, so I’m not sure what Aaron is saying.

    As adamF pointed out, JtC is not canonized scripture even though many treat it as such.

    MH isn’t advocating either scenario, he is merely stating that he doesn’t care either way. Funny how people often see what they want to see.

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  33. Mormon Heretic on January 4, 2011 at 11:11 PM

    Thanks Bishop Rick for clarifying–you nailed it for me. I don’t care either way, and find the whole argument about the virgin birth much ado about nothing–similar to the argument about whether grace or works are more important. (The answer is that both are important, and one shouldn’t be at the expense of the other. I digress.)

    Anyway Aaron, we can look at early church fathers and they said all sorts of things. You seem to have latched on to Ignatius’ position on the virgin birth.

    To illustrate the Mormon ideas are similar to early church fathers, Mormons can and should look at the idea of theosis. Some early Christian fathers (such as Ireneaus) said some things that you might find heretical. I did a post about theosis.

    Anyway, Athanasius said, ‘God became man, that man might become God.’ That sounds suspiciously like Lorenzo Snow’s couplet, “as God now is, man may be.” I don’t mean to take this topic in another direction, but even Mormons can find common ground from early church fathers for certain positions. Irenaeus also said “the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.” I’m curious if you defend Athanasius’ and Ireneaus’ position.

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  34. Justin on January 5, 2011 at 5:11 AM

    There is no LDS doctrine either way,

    LDS canonized scriptures refer to Mary as a woman who had not had sexual intercourse [virgin] — before her conception of Jesus, during her pregnancy of Jesus, and at the time of his birth.

    How is there any basis for a claim that God had sexual intercourse with her without glossing over the witness of the scriptures?

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  35. Bishop Rick on January 5, 2011 at 9:31 PM

    Justin #34
    “LDS canonized scriptures refer to Mary as a woman who had not had sexual intercourse [virgin] — before her conception of Jesus, during her pregnancy of Jesus, and at the time of his birth.”

    Doing a quick search of Virgin Mary in the LDS canonized scriptures the first verse I came up with is:

    Luke 1:27
    “To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.”

    I guess I have to concede this one to Justin

    Just kidding. The problem here is that the Hebrew word [almah] most often translated in the bible as ‘virgin’, actually meant ‘unmarried woman’. It had nothing to do with sexual activity.

    So like I said, there is no LDS doctrine either way.

    Now when you read the scriptures and plug ‘unmarried woman’ in place of ‘virgin’, it will make a lot more sense.

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  36. Bored in Vernal on January 5, 2011 at 9:49 PM

    Rick #35, you should have read a little farther. I think he was referring to our latter day scriptures, i.e. 1 Ne 11:15-20, which refers to Mary as a virgin. When quoting BoM scripture, it’s harder to explain away the meaning of a word by appealing to the original language!

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  37. Bishop Rick on January 5, 2011 at 10:14 PM

    Well, anachronism comes to mind, I just didn’t want to go there.

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