Was the "Son of God" a Human Being?

Today, with the advent of genetics, Christian thinkers now know that Mary must have contributed the female egg that made Jesus into a man. [Jesus, being a male, could not have been her clone, otherwise he would be a woman, and if cloned purely from Mary’s genes would nullify the claim that he was God’s son, too]. This presents a problem for we know that in order to be a human being in the first place, it takes a male sperm.

The ancients commonly believed that the woman contributes nothing to the physical being of the baby to be born. The mother was nothing but a receptacle for the male sperm, which grew to become a child. So the ancient and medieval church believed that Jesus’ humanity was a new creation, and therefore sinless. Modern genetics have forced Christians today to take a new view of the virgin birth. Can they adequately explain how Jesus is a human being, since a human being is not conceived until a human male sperm penetrates a human female egg. Until that happens you do not have the complete chromosomal structure required to have a human being in the first place.

Of course, Christians can always say God can do anything, even create a human being. But then how is Jesus a descendant of Joseph? Neither Luke's nor Matthew's geneologies genetically link Jesus with Abraham or Adam. He's not the "real" father of Jesus.

And as far as punting to the "God can do anything" defense," Christians only use that defense when they need to use it, for you don't hear them saying this when it comes to the problem of human suffering in the world. You don't hear them arguing that God could eliminate evil. "He has his reasons," they say.

It's just that at an ancient time when people thought virgin births were genetically possible, people claimed they happened, that's all. Does anyone really think they happen today? How hard would it be to convince someone in today's scientific world that a virgin had a baby, which was sired by God, and yet geneologically linked to a great great great...grandfather?

There are too many improbabilities here. Way too many.


Zachary Moore said...

It's even more tricky if you try to explain it by parthenogenesis. This process does result in a "virgin" birth, but all progeny are necessarily female.

To be a male, it is necessary to have a Y chromosome. Mary, being a female, had only the X chromosome. The Christian geneticist, to resolve this problem, has to explain where the Y chromosome came from- was it a "supernatural" chromosome? Put simply, if Jesus existed as a male, he was not born of a virgin. If Jesus was, however, born of a virgin, then he was female.

b4d6uy said...

If Jesus wasn't a human being, what was he?

Daniel said...

Didn't God say:
"I AM [Borg]"

Sine Nomine said...

Seems like an irrelevant meditation and something of a straw man. . There is no claim that the conception of Jesus follows natural laws. The claims of Christianity are miraculous and therefore transcend this kind of scrutiny.

If there is a God, if this is the God that the Bible presents, this God would not be constrained from bringing about the conception of Jesus of Nazareth without the instrumentality of sperm from a human male.

If the God of the Bible does not correspond to reality, someone should time travel back and conduct DNA tests for Mary's local male contemporaries. ;-)

Regardless, this blog entry addresses an issue, the resolution of which is automatic, depending on who is correct on the God existence/identification issue.

Daniel said...

I think the issue it raises is twofold, and you only addressed the first:
1) God can do anything, no matter how illogical
2) God chose to reveal the virgin birth through a Greek rendition of a word in Isaiah that does not align with the Masoretic (see II), despite a genealogy which makes no sense, despite the "original sin" problem still not being resolved (Mary had a perfect and untainted ovum but males have the "original sin" alleles? please...), and, some might argue, despite the more logical arguments of substitutionary atonement provided by homoiousion versus homoousion
(the idea that man is in the "image of", therefore, a "similar substance", and not the "same substance" of God...so why should Jesus provide consubstantiation with god rather than man?????)

I could keep going...

Jason said...

This is a good post. It illuminates some analytic problems with the doctrine of the incarnation.

Francois Tremblay said...

No remember, "Jesus" the boogeyman was 100% god, 100% man and 100% retarded raving failed cult leader. That means he gave it his 300%.

John W. Loftus said...

And to think...Van Tillian presuppositionalists presuppose that the Bible is true in its entirely.

Then they have a lot of explaining to do, and so does their God.

For instance, it all sounds well and good to say they presuppose all of this. But what if what they claim to presuppose is fraught with serious implausibilites and inconsistencies?

What then becomes of their set of presuppositions?

In Labore Requies said...

"It's just that at an ancient time when people thought virgin births were genetically possible, people claimed they happened, that's all."

When I was a Christian not many people believed in the incarnation/virgin birth because of its "possibility" genetic or otherwise. It is, and always has been considered a miracle. I am atheist, and I must honestly say that whoever posted this is contributing to bad name of non-believers on the grounds that we make ad hoc, shallow "proofs." If this is how you make your decisions regarding God and such topics than I suggest you actually do some research. If you are going to attacking the Bible like this, then don't ignore the millenia+ years worth of history, tradition, and writings regarding this very topic. These are good issues, but let's stop pretending that we are the first to deal with it.

John W. Loftus said...

Labore requies, exactly how does postulating that the virgin birth is a miracle solve the problem I referred to?

I don't have to be scholarly with every argument I make here, either. Nor does anyone else. Take my posts on the level they are intended. Many of them evaluate Christian doctrines reasonably and logically. That is, assuming a particular doctrine of the Christian faith, I examine how it's reasonable to believe it in the modern scientific world.

I usually let Christians debate the merits of one interpretation of the Bible over against the other, because that's what they are good at. I just wait to reasonably evaluate what they say when the dust settles.

Do I have your permission to do this? Or should I just ignore you?

Your very response didn't show me anything about the Christian doctrinal history of this topic. So thanks for nothing.

By the way, how do I know you're an atheist and not a Christian troll?

Jason said...

This blog post's argument is not ad hoc nor shallow. It illuminates a substantial obstacle to belief in a central Christian tenet. As John says, calling it a miracle doesn't eliminate this obstacle any more than does waving a magic wand.

Sine Nomine said...

To nihlo:

The virgin birth, being presented from the beginning as a miracle, would have qualities one would NOT expect, because miracles are by definition events that do not follow from natural causes but indicate a creative insertion by a transcendent and powerful being. I know of no Christians that argue a virgin birth and claim it was a natural event.

If one is going to argue against the virgin birth as presented by Christians, asserting a priori that miracles cannot happen, thereby claiming the conflict with natural sciences disproves it is fallacious. If there is a transcendent, creating God that acts, there is no problem. If there is not, problems abound just as Mr. Loftus says.

Ignoring the context for the claim invalidates his process. The virgin birth is postulated in situ and the “situ,” being a preexisting necessity, is where the debate is won or lost. If there is a God and this God is the one represented in the Bible, the virgin birth is no problem. If there is a God but this God does not from time to time interfere with natural processes, or if there is no God, then Christians will have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.

If miracles are possible, how is the virgin birth a problem? Or are you using a different meaning for miracle than a Christian would?

in Labore Requies said...

Part of your response helped prove my point. I shall try to communicate a little better.

You are attempting to debunk the doctrine of the incarnation on strong rational/physicalist bounds. Christians do not approach thier faith with such biological scrutiny, obviously. I mentioned the miracle aspect to show that, contrary to this post, people did not just think virgin births were genetically possible. They cared not, and still do not care about genetic or other physical plausibilities. I do not call it a miracle as any kind of absurd explanation.

Loftus, as a past student of apologetics you should understand the danger of playing endless "language games" solely within one's worldview construct. I know this blog is not meant to be an extensive academic discussion board, but in your brevity I urge you not to dismiss an entire faith base because of your minute dealing with an inconstistancy that was recognized by writers over 1,600 years ago. That seems like saying "since Galileo proved that the Earth rotated around the sun, then Plato's spheres are completely bogus, and therefore 'The Republic' must be dismissed as equally crapped crap." Such a dismissal would be ignorant of the numerous Platonic analysts that have written since Galileo.

Ideas are great, this site is largely great. But I know a lot of people who use this site as a source of 'knowledge' instead of a source of ideas of things to learn more about. That, of course, is not your fault, but remember to be honest, and not emotional in your pursuit to debunk anything, otherwise you become like most Christians, thier beliefs being built on assumptions built on assumptions built of assumptions. Here is the URL to an entire Marian library site containing old and modern writings: http://www.udayton.edu/mary/library.html. You may find something that may challenge you to think and conclude harder than just 'the modern advent of genetics debunks possible virgin incarnation.' I do not believe the incarnation, I am an atheist frustrated with most atheists (is there something wrong with this?), who wants to encourage endless learning with the recources available today, so that we DON'T become like most religions and play games with words within our worldview construct to prove whatever points we want.

Jason said...

"If one is going to argue against the virgin birth as presented by Christians, asserting a priori that miracles cannot happen, thereby claiming the conflict with natural sciences disproves it is fallacious."

No kidding. I'm not advocating philosophical naturalism. I'm an advocate of methodological naturalism. The fact that the doctrine of the virgin birth from its inception was declared an act of God does not explain how analytic hurdles could be cleared with regard to the definition of humanity and Jesus' status as a member of the set of humans. I fully admit of the possibility of a miracle. However, in order for belief in the occurrence of such to be justified a great deal of evidence must be submitted. This post is a way of showing the incredible weight required. The fact that such evidence is lacking speaks strongly against Christianity. An a priori assumption of the impossibility of miracles is simply unnecessary.

Todd Sayre said...

It seems rather obvious to me now that Jesus must have been some sort of robot.

DagoodS said...

Labore Requies, I respectfully disagree. We are humans that engage on blogs such as this. Some may be theistic humans, others agnostic or deistic, or atheistic or questioning humans, but all humans.

And as humans we can be emotional, or analytical or humorous, or serious or angry or happy, or just plain silly. Why should atheists or agnostics be hard, cold analytic arguers that ONLY employ hard facts, and stiff arguments and oh-so-serious looks on our faces?

Some days I may be a little more antagonistic, because of the response, my feelings, my thoughts. I may pose, what I think is a brilliant argument and it bombs. I may use facts, emotion, analysis, conclusions, and draw from a variety of sources. Guess what? I am HUMAN! Revel in it. Excel in it. Live it.

Do I want to be “better” than my theistic opponents? More calm, cool and collected? Sure. Will I be? Nope. One of the greatest pragmatic arguments against theism is the failure of the ability to differentiate between the theists and the atheists. Why is that? ‘Cause we are all so human.

I agree we must be honest, but what was dishonest about this initial post? Christians have a virgin birth, but a human baby. A virgin birth, but a vaginal delivery. A virgin birth, but a boy being potty trained. We point out the Infancy Gospels, and the use of the swaddling clothes to heal people, and protestants scoff with a “how ridiculous.” Yet a virgin birth? Ohhhh. Ahhhhh. How marvelous.

Why do we all want to argue all the same. One of the most interesting, and powerful tools of this blog is the variety of contributors. I don’t want John W. Loftus to argue just like I do. That makes one of us useless! (since it is really his blog, I think we all know who will get the chop!) I like to see the variety of posters.

Some are more philosophical, I am a little bit flowery, we all seem to have a long-winded problem (ahem). That is what make this a different opportunity—to see a variety of ex-believers, why they left, and what they think now.

And we left because of a variety of reasons, no sense to horn us in a box and say we must all respond or argue or be a certain way. Let’s be free to be very, very human, and display that humanity with our thoughts and feelings and arguments.

Kevin Parry said...

This is a great article.

I'm still curious about all the prophecies that state that the Messiah would be a descendant of David. From what I understand, Joseph was an ancestor of David. But if Joseph had nothing to do with Jesus' conception, then Jesus was not related to King David at all.

It all gets more confusing the more I read into the virgin birth story.


Memoirs of an ex-Christian

Adrienne said...

Christians have a virgin birth, but a human baby. A virgin birth, but a vaginal delivery.

In the Roman Catholic Church, at least, this is not the belief. In fact, the early church fathers were emphatic about the fact that Jesus was delivered in a miraculous fashion, such that 1) Mary's hymen remained intact (so she'd remain ever-virgin) and 2) Mary was spared the pain of childbirth, which in Genesis is one of the punishments God inflicts on women due to Adam and Eve's sin.

Jason said...

"In the Roman Catholic Church, at least, this is not the belief."

Most protestants disagree with this bit of Catholic wierdness. You have to interpret some parts of the gospels (those apparently referring to Jesus' siblings) rather counter-intuitively in order to hold this belief.

John W. Loftus said...

Kevin Parry, most evangelical scholars claim Luke's geneology (3:23-37) links Jesus to King David through Mary, even though Luke didn't say it was Mary's geneology. Why? Because Matthew's geneology of Joseph contains different names, and it would also mean Joseph would have two fathers. While it's possible that people had two different names (Matthew & Levi?), most likely the authors never knew who the immediate descendants were when they wrote. Just like they wrote all kinds of fiction they also listed a bunch of names to fill in the gaps.

Besides, if Jesus was linked to David through Mary, Mary provided the egg for Jesus to be born. The other half of the genetic material would've been created by God (who can do all things!).

Although, if God can create half the genetic material, then why even bother using Mary's egg at all? Why not just create a new human being like the early Christians believed?

While nothing I write on one single issue will probably ever convince a theist (much less be the proverbial "nail in the coffin" type of an argument), most of the time all we can do is to state reasons why we no longer believe in this hokey pokey stuff and hope it will eventually resonate with believers.

So once again, How hard would it be to convince someone in today's scientific world that a virgin had a baby which was sired by God, and yet geneologically linked to a great great great...grandfather?

Just answer this last question and I've made my point.

John W. Loftus said...

Labore Requires, I understand what you're saying...I really do. The biggest objection Dr. Craig wrestled with in becoming a Christian was the virgin birth, but then he thought that if God can do miracles, then a virgin birth isn't a problem.

And it isn't a big problem from the Christian perspective. It certainly won't singularly in itself ever lead someone away from that faith.

I was just pointing out the difficulties I have with it from my perspective, and that's all I can do.

In the future I will present an argument against miracles, which will indeed address your concerns.

Thanks for your comments. Please come back and comment all you like. We need informed freethinkers.

Democracy Lover said...

Having been raised a Southern Baptist and not being much of a scientist, I got persuaded by the historical and logical arguments. If there had been a virgin birth (hymen intact or otherwise), visitations by exotic Eastern moguls, astronomical anomolies, etc., then surely these would have reported in the first gospel, Mark, or in the early writings of Paul. But no such stories are there.

When you then discover how common these stories were in the mythologies of contemporary religions and how common it was to embellish stories of heroes with mythic events, it's obvious that the writers of Luke and Matthew invented these stories. Most New Testament scholars agree - those that actually perform scholarship.

in Labore Requies said...

John W. Loftus:

Thank you for your understanding. While I glean much from the blog experience, I think it frustrated when people seem to post strong thesi with questionable-no academic support, and/or clear ignorance of well-known counter-arguments of thier own view that would take only a pausity of research. It is this kind of un-informed decision making that I am against in religion, so to be consistant I feel I must be equally against it within our community.

Josh (Joshster@epals.com) said...
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