Friday, August 17, 2007

The "Virgin Birth"


Historically, both the Buddha and Jesus share the legend of the "virgin" birth. The allegorical meaning of both is that they were not affected by the lower nature. (Sexual sharing between a man and woman was seen to replicate the sexual sharing between males and females of other species, and so, was relegated to the "lower nature," or "animal" nature.")

So, it became the absolute and ultimate representation of non-animal (total spiritual) "purity" to ascribe the birth of the greatest sages to a kind of "spiritual intercourse."

The word translated as "virgin" in the ancient Hebrew texts can also be correctly translated "young maiden." So, the earliest record of the event is questionable, from an etymological (word-study) perspective.

As followers of Jesus, we need not deny the virgin birth. But neither is it necessary to insist on its historical or literal truth. If this miracle happened, wonderful!:) Anything is possible with God! But if Jesus was truly human, this implies that he might have enjoyed a normal human mother and father.

A few historical notes, such as we have them (not reliable) imply that Mary might have been as young as twelve, and Joseph as old as forty, when the two were reluctantly married. Some ancient traditions imply that Joseph never really got "on board," or "with the program," and married Mary only reluctantly after she was found pregnant, as the Scriptures imply.

Joseph is an interesting character. By then, he seems to have been a settled, seasoned merchant, with a reputation to protect, and so, Mary was an embarrassment. (Joseph was famously a carpenter; Jesus never was.) Mary, in her regret, sadness, or embarrassment, might have been the source of the "virgin birth" story. Both received messages in dreams-- not always the most reliable sources.

We can accept Jesus as the greatest teacher in history, we can accept him as "master," we can accept him as the "Son of God" even if we do not accept the virgin birth. Many early, non-traditional, Christians did not accept this. The Gospel of Phillip calls it a "superstition." So, within a century or two, many Christians, many believers, questioned this shaky dogma.

The orthodox later Church (Catholic) insisted that this dogma made Jesus special and supernatural. But we know that he was extraordinarily special, and extraordinarily supernatural, no matter who his earthly father might have been. It's irrelevant anyway, for we know that his real "Father" was God.

The same, by the way, applies to us his followers. For he commanded, "Call no man on earth your 'father," for One is your Father, the heavenly One." (Mt. 23:10-12). The fact that Christians regularly disobey, or ignore, this command does not change the fact that this is what Jesus actually said. So, exactly like him, we of enlightenment recognize no earthly "father."

A person's salvation is not at stake, depending on whether she believes in the virgin birth. As noted, many early Christians did not believe in it. Our salvation, like our relationship with our Father, does not depend on intellectual beliefs. It depends on a warm Love shared from God towards us (grace) and our response of that same Love. Salvation originates entirely with grace. And that is the best "good news"

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