UNWEAVING THE TRINITY

 

Noel Rude

Pendleton, Oregon

www.hebdomad.com

 

If you have come to reject the Trinity, chances are you arrived at your conclusion slowly and rather methodically.  You likely proceeded along a particular path, unraveling one error at a time—the errors upon which this doctrine was founded.  If you’re like me you began with the Holy Spirit.  You came to see that it is not some “person” in a Trinity but rather the power of divine wisdom and understanding and truth.[1]  Then you came to see that Jesus was not God, and that he did not pre-exist his human birth.  Lastly, perhaps, you have come to question the virgin birth.

 

If this is the order in which you have unwoven the Trinity, it is the reverse of the order in which the doctrine developed.  There is no disputation in regard to the virgin birth in the New Testament, yet this was one of the earliest controversies for the Gentile Church.  Justin Martyr, for example, cites Isaiah 7:14 in his disputation with Trypho. [2]

 

Then Trypho retorted, ‘The quotation is not, Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, but Behold a young woman shall conceive and bear a son,[3] and so forth, as you quoted it.  Furthermore, the prophecy as a whole refers to Hezekiah, and it can be shown that the events described in the prophecy were fulfilled in him. 2. Besides, in the so-called Greek myths there is a story of how Perseus was born of Danaë, while she was a virgin, when the one whom they call Zeus descended upon her in the form of a golden shower.  You Christians should be ashamed of yourselves, therefore, to repeat the same kind of stories as these men, and you should, on the contrary, acknowledge this Jesus to be a man of mere human origin.  If you can prove from the Scriptures that he is the Christ, confess that he was considered worthy to be chosen as such because of his perfect observance of the Law, but do not dare to speak of miracles, lest you be accused of talking nonsense, like the Greeks.’ [4]

 

What would the opening of the Gospel have sounded like to a Jew of the 1st century? [5]  It would have seemed to be saying that God was putting his blessing on an illegitimate birth!

 

Read it in Matthew 1:18: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”  It does not say that this was a virgin birth, only that Joseph was not the father, and because there was no virgin birth teaching in the Hebrew Scriptures nor was there any such tradition anywhere (that I know of) in Judaism, an obvious conclusion would have been that Jesus was illegitimate.[6]

 

But if this were the case then Jesus could not have been the messiah—thus David Klinghoffer (2005:164): “If he wasn’t Joseph’s son, he cannot be the messiah.  If he was Joseph’s son, he cannot be the son of God”.  This is to say that Jesus cannot be the Jewish messiah unless he descends through male parentage from David, and that if Joseph were Jesus’ father then he cannot be the Son of God in the way Christendom envisions Jesus’ only father as being God.

 

Now some who are yet with me will wonder how far this will go.  First we question the Trinity and then the Binity and/or Arianism, we question preexistence and then the Virgin Birth—where will it end?  Must we cast aside the New Testament and all of us convert to rabbinical Judaism?  I say that we not easily throw out anything, and that only by questioning sacrosanct doctrine will we arrive at the truth.  What is false we can cast aside and what is true will be strengthened by surviving the challenge.[7]

 

We have been in the process of peeling away the false doctrines of Christendom in reverse order in which they were established.  Justin Martyr begins with the Virgin Birth which to him means preexistence.  The Church Fathers later debate what preexistence means—is Jesus God or was he a being created at some point in the dim reaches of past eternity?  Last of all the Cappadocian fathers instantiated the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Trinity.[8]  If we highlight the virgin birth and make it central to our argument against preexistence,[9] why will it not lead right back to the Trinity just as it did in the beginning?

 

The mother of all Christological heresy, let me suggest, was the Virgin Birth.[10]

 

Son of David Son of Abraham

The New Testament opens with a genealogy (Mat 1:1): “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”[11]  Do the Scriptures allow that the son of Abraham could be by adoption?  When Abraham remained childless he himself wondered (Gen 15:2-3), “And Abram said, LORD God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.”  But, no, there was to be no adoption (Genesis 15):

 

ד  וְהִנֵּה דְבַר־יהוה אֵלָיו לֵאמֹר

4 And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,

לֹא יִירָשְׁ זֶה

This shall not be thine heir;

כִּי־אִם אֲשֶׁר יֵצֵא מִמֵּעֶי

but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels

הוּא יִירָשֶׁ׃

shall be thine heir.

 

God was explicit more than once, in Genesis 17:

 

טז  וּבֵרַכְתִּי אֹתָהּ

16 And I will bless her,

וְגַם נָתַתִּי מִמֶּנָּה לְ בֵּן

and give thee a son also of her:

וּבֵרַכְתִּיהָ

yea, I will bless her,

וְהָיְתָה לְגוֹיִם

and she shall be a mother of nations;

מַלְכֵי עַמִּים מִמֶּנָּה יִהְיוּ׃

kings of people shall be of her.

 

And again in verse 19 of Genesis 17:[12]

 

יט  וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים

19 And God said,

אֲבָל שָׂרָה אִשְׁתְּ יֹלֶדֶת לְ בֵּן

Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed;

וְקָרָאתָ אֶת־שְׁמוֹ יִצְחָק

and thou shalt call his name Isaac:

וַהֲקִמֹתִי אֶת־בְּרִיתִי אִתּוֹ

and I will establish my covenant with him

לִבְרִית עוֹלָם

for an everlasting covenant,

לְזַרְעוֹ אַחֲרָיו׃

and with his seed after him.

 

The same applies to David—there is no hint that Messiah would become a son of David by adoption—rather lineal, physical descent is emphasized (2Samuel 7): [13]

 

יב  כִּי יִמְלְאוּ יָמֶי

12 And when thy days be fulfilled,

וְשָׁכַבְתָּ אֶת־אֲבֹתֶי

and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers,

וַהֲקִימֹתִי אֶת־זַרְעֲ אַחֲרֶי

I will set up thy seed after thee,

אֲשֶׁר יֵצֵא מִמֵּעֶי

which shall proceed out of thy bowels,

וַהֲכִינֹתִי אֶת־מַמְלַכְתּוֹ׃

and I will establish his kingdom.

 

It’s there too in Psalms 132:[14]

 

יא  נִשְׁבַּע־יהוה לְדָוִד אֱמֶת

11 The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David;

לֹא־יָשׁוּב מִמֶּנָּה

he will not turn from it;

מִפְּרִי בִטְנְ אָשִׁית לְכִסֵּא־לָ׃

Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.

 

We read of it again in 1Chronicles 17:

 

יא  וְהָיָה

11 And it shall come to pass,

כִּי־מָלְאוּ יָמֶי לָלֶכֶת עִם־אֲבֹתֶי

when thy days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers,

וַהֲקִימוֹתִי אֶת־זַרְעֲ אַחֲרֶי

that I will raise up thy seed after thee,

אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה מִבָּנֶי

which shall be of thy sons;

וַהֲכִינוֹתִי אֶת־מַלְכוּתוֹ׃

and I will establish his kingdom.

 

Then there is the promise that David would never be cut off a man (אִישׁ as opposed to אִשָּׁה – Gen 2:23), which is paralleled by the royal genealogies, as in Matthew 1, for example, which always go from father to son and never to a daughter—which can be taken that Messiah would bear the Y-chromosome of David.  Thus David advises Solomon (1Kings 2),

 

ד  לְמַעַן יָקִים יהוה אֶת־דְּבָרוֹ

4 That the LORD may continue his word

אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר עָלַי לֵאמֹר

which he spake concerning me, saying,

אִם־יִשְׁמְרוּ בָנֶי אֶת־דַּרְכָּם

If thy children take heed to their way,

לָלֶכֶת לְפָנַי בֶּאֱמֶת בְּכָל־לְבָבָם וּבְכָל־נַפְשָׁם

to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,

לֵאמֹר

[saying]

לֹא־יִכָּרֵת לְ אִישׁ מֵעַל כִּסֵּא יִשְׂרָאֵל׃

there shall not fail thee … a man on the throne of Israel.

 

And Solomon petitions God (1Kings 8):

 

כה  וְעַתָּה יהוה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

25 Therefore now, LORD God of Israel,

שְׁמֹר לְעַבְדְּ דָוִד אָבִי

keep with thy servant David my father

אֵת אֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתָּ לּוֹ לֵאמֹר

that thou promisedst him, saying,

לֹא־יִכָּרֵת לְ אִישׁ מִלְּפָנַי

There shall not fail thee a man in my sight

יֹשֵׁב עַל־כִּסֵּא יִשְׂרָאֵל

to sit on the throne of Israel;

רַק אִם־יִשְׁמְרוּ בָנֶי אֶת־דַּרְכָּם

so that thy children take heed to their way,

לָלֶכֶת לְפָנַי

that they walk before me

כַּאֲשֶׁר הָלַכְתָּ לְפָנָי׃

as thou hast walked before me.

 

And God promises Solomon that if he is faithful (1Kings 9),

 

ה  וַהֲקִמֹתִי אֶת־כִּסֵּא מַמְלַכְתְּ

5 Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom

עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵל לְעֹלָם

upon Israel for ever,

כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתִּי עַל־דָּוִד אָבִי לֵאמֹר

as I promised to David thy father, saying,

לֹא־יִכָּרֵת לְ אִישׁ מֵעַל כִּסֵּא יִשְׂרָאֵל׃

There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel.

 

The promise and prophecy take up a chapter in Jeremiah (Jer 33):

                                   

יז  כִּי־כֹה אָמַר יהוה

17 For thus saith the LORD;

לֹא־יִכָּרֵת לְדָוִד אִישׁ

David shall never want a man

יֹשֵׁב עַל־כִּסֵּא בֵית־יִשְׂרָאֵל׃

to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel;

יח  וְלַכֹּהֲנִים הַלְוִיִּם לֹא־יִכָּרֵת אִישׁ מִלְּפָנָי

18 Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me[15]

מַעֲלֶה עוֹלָה

to offer burnt offerings,

וּמַקְטִיר מִנְחָה

and to kindle meat offerings,

וְעֹשֶׂה זֶּבַח כָּל־הַיָּמִים׃  פ

and to do sacrifice continually.

יט  וַיְהִי דְּבַר־יהוה אֶל־יִרְמְיָהוּ לֵאמוֹר׃

19 And the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah, saying,

כ  כֹּה אָמַר יהוה

20 Thus saith the LORD;

אִם־תָּפֵרוּ אֶת־בְּרִיתִי הַיּוֹם

If ye can break my covenant of the day,

וְאֶת־בְּרִיתִי הַלָּיְלָה

and my covenant of the night,

וּלְבִלְתִּי הֱיוֹת יוֹמָם־וָלַיְלָה בְּעִתָּם׃

and that there should not be day and night in their season;

כא  גַּם־בְּרִיתִי תֻפַר אֶת־דָּוִד עַבְדִּי

21 Then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant,

מִהְיוֹת־לוֹ בֵן מֹלֵ עַל־כִּסְאוֹ

that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne;

וְאֶת־הַלְוִיִּם הַכֹּהֲנִים מְשָׁרְתָי׃

and with the Levites the priests, my ministers.

כב  אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יִסָּפֵר צְבָא הַשָּׁמַיִם

22 As the host of heaven cannot be numbered,

וְלֹא יִמַּד חוֹל הַיָּם

neither the sand of the sea measured:

כֵּן אַרְבֶּה אֶת־זֶרַע דָּוִד עַבְדִּי

so will I multiply the seed of David my servant,

וְאֶת־הַלְוִיִּם מְשָׁרְתֵי אֹתִי׃  ס

and the Levites that minister unto me.

כג  וַיְהִי דְּבַר־יהוה אֶל־יִרְמְיָהוּ לֵאמֹר׃

23 Moreover the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying,

כד  הֲלוֹא רָאִיתָ מָה־הָעָם הַזֶּה דִּבְּרוּ

24 Considerest thou not what this people have spoken,

לֵאמֹר

saying,

שְׁתֵּי הַמִּשְׁפָּחוֹת אֲשֶׁר בָּחַר יהוה בָּהֶם

The two families which the LORD hath chosen,

וַיִּמְאָסֵם

he hath even cast them off?

וְאֶת־עַמִּי יִנְאָצוּן

thus they have despised my people,

מִהְיוֹת עוֹד גּוֹי לִפְנֵיהֶם׃  ס

that they should be no more a nation before them.

כה  כֹּה אָמַר יהוה

25 Thus saith the LORD;

אִם־לֹא בְרִיתִי יוֹמָם וָלָיְלָה

If my covenant be not with day and night,

חֻקּוֹת שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ לֹא־שָׂמְתִּי׃

and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth;

כו  גַּם־זֶרַע יַעֲקוֹב וְדָוִד עַבְדִּי אֶמְאַס

26 Then will I cast away the seed of Jacob and David my servant,

מִקַּחַת מִזַּרְעוֹ

so that I will not take any of his seed

מֹשְׁלִים אֶל־זֶרַע אַבְרָהָם יִשְׂחָק וְיַעֲקֹב

to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:

כִּי־אָשִׁיב[16] אֶת־שְׁבוּתָם וְרִחַמְתִּים׃  פ

for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them.

 

The preservation of David’s dynasty is important to God, for when God proposed to rend the kingdom from Solomon’s son he nevertheless would preserve the dynasty, just as he said to Solomon (1Kings 11:13), “Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen.”

 

Notice that God wants humans of Israel’s royal dynasty—not aliens from elsewhere—to rule over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, just as it says (Heb 2:5), “For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.”  This was the first law of the king as enshrined in the Torah (Deut 17:15):[17]

 

שׂוֹם תָּשִׂים עָלֶי מֶלֶ

Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee,

אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יהוה אֱלֹהֶי בּוֹ

whom the LORD thy God shall choose:

מִקֶּרֶב אַחֶי תָּשִׂים עָלֶי מֶלֶ

one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee:

לֹא תוּכַל לָתֵת עָלֶי אִישׁ נָכְרִי

thou mayest not set a stranger over thee,

אֲשֶׁר לֹא־אָחִי הוּא׃

which is not thy brother.

 

What was prophecied?  It was a man not unlike Moses from the midst of Israel (Deut 18):[18]

 

טו  נָבִיא מִקִּרְבְּ מֵאַחֶי כָּמֹנִי יָקִים לְ

     יהוה אֱלֹהֶי

15 The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the

     midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me;

אֵלָיו תִּשְׁמָעוּן׃

unto him ye shall hearken;

טז  כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר־שָׁאַלְתָּ מֵעִם יהוה אֱלֹהֶי

16 According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God

בְּחֹרֵב בְּיוֹם הַקָּהָל

in Horeb in the day of the assembly,[19]

לֵאמֹר

saying,

לֹא אֹסֵף לִשְׁמֹעַ אֶת־קוֹל יהוה אֱלֹהָי

Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God,

וְאֶת־הָאֵשׁ הַגְּדֹלָה הַזֹּאת לֹא־אֶרְאֶה עוֹד

neither let me see this great fire any more,

וְלֹא אָמוּת׃

that I die not.

יז  וַיֹּאמֶר יהוה אֵלָי

17 And the LORD said unto me,

הֵיטִיבוּ אֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּרוּ׃

They have well spoken that which they have spoken.

יח  נָבִיא אָקִים לָהֶם מִקֶּרֶב אֲחֵיהֶם

18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren,

כָּמוֹ

like unto thee,

וְנָתַתִּי דְבָרַי בְּפִיו

and will put my words in his mouth;

וְדִבֶּר אֲלֵיהֶם אֵת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוֶּנּוּ׃

and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.

יט  וְהָיָה

19 And it shall come to pass,

הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יִשְׁמַע אֶל־דְּבָרַי

that whosoever will not hearken unto my words

אֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר בִּשְׁמִי

which he shall speak in my name,

אָנֹכִי אֶדְרֹשׁ מֵעִמּוֹ׃

I will require it of him.

 

Peter invokes this prophecy (Acts 3:22), “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.”  Paul also invokes the prophecy (Acts 7:37), “This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.”  Similarly in the transfiguration the voice combines Moses promise with Psalms 2:7 (Mat 17:5), “While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud,

which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.”

 

Theoretically speaking the messiah could be born of a non-Israelite mother, a convert like Ruth, for example.  The promise was that his father be of the line of David.[20]

 

The Illogic of the Virgin Birth

Aside from the fact that the Virgin Birth doesn’t square with the Torah and the Prophets, but fits perfectly with the paganism of the period, and aside from the fact that it sparked no controversy in the New Testament but did the minute the Gentile church fathers began disputing with Jews, aside from all that the Virgin Birth is illogical.

 

The Virgin Birth would make sense if Jesus were an avatar of some preexistent divinity or angel such as suggested by Barker (1992).  Mary would have been a surrogate mother, and as such there would have been no need for a father.  But for those who reject the preexistence of the Messiah, why should there be a Virgin Birth?

 

Why would the Bible preserve father to son genealogies from Adam to Joseph only to have Jesus adopted into the genealogy?  If Jesus were a preexistent being then this would make sense—otherwise it does not.

 

And so for Trinitarians, Binitarians, and various genres of Arians, the Virgin Birth does make sense, and thus my argument is not directed at them but to those who reject the personal preexistence of Jesus.

 

William Barclay on Luke 1:26-38 (Barclay 1971:15-16):

  In this passage we are face to face with one of the great controversial doctrines of the Christian faith – the virgin birth. The Church does not insist that we believe in this doctrine. Let us look at the reasons for and against believing in it, and then we may make our own decision.

  There are two great reasons for accepting it.

(1)     The literal meaning of this passage, and still more of Matthew 1:18-25, clearly is that Jesus was to be born of Mary without a human father.

(2)     It is natural to argue that if Jesus was, as we believe, a very special person, he would have a special entry into the world.

  Now let us look at the things which may make us wonder if the story of the virgin birth is to be taken as literally as all that.

(1)     The genealogies of Jesus both in Luke and in Matthew (Luke 3:23-38; Matthew 1:1-17) trace the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph, which is strange if Joseph was not his real father.

(2)     When Mary was looking for Jesus on the occasion that he lingered behind in the Temple, she said, ‘Your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety’ (Luke 2:48). The name father is definitely given by Mary to Joseph.

(3)     Repeatedly Jesus is referred to as Joseph’s son (Matthew 13:55; John 6:42).

(4)     The rest of the New Testament knows nothing of the virgin birth.  True, in Galatians 4:4 Paul speaks of Jesus as ‘born of woman’. But this is the natural phrase for any human being (cf. Job 14:1, 15:14, 25:4).

   But let us ask, ‘If we do not take the story of the virgin birth literally, how did it arise?’ The Jews had a saying that in the birth of every child there are three partners – the father, the mother and the Spirit of God. They believed that no child could ever be born without the Spirit. And it may well be that the New Testament stories of the birth of Jesus are lovely, poetical ways of saying that, even if he had a human father, the Holy spirit of God was operative in his birth in a unique way. [Or that this emphasis on the spirit of God led to some textual corruption. NR]

 

There are some who subscribe to the preexistence of the soul,[21] but for such believers the body still results from the union of egg and sperm and thus for them the Virgin Birth still makes no sense.

 

Another scenario one might imagine would be that what was found in Mary’s womb derived not from the normal union of egg and sperm but was a zygote independently created as if at the moment of “conception”—perhaps prefigured by Adam who was without human parentage.  Nevertheless the new creation (καιν κτίσις) that we are to become (2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15) in no way implies a by-passing of the normal process of conception and birth.

 

Aside from such a scenario, what would the Virgin Birth entail for the non-Trinitarian, non-Binitarian and non-Arian?

 

It would mean that God committed adultery!  God would have committed adultery with the woman betrothed to Joseph.  For either the child entered Mary’s womb as a zygote (fertilized egg), or it resulted from the fertilization of one of Mary’s eggs by a sperm from outside.  And if this is what made God become the Father of Jesus, it was adultery plain (if not pure) and simple.

 

The Trinitarians, of course, have taken the position that Jesus was an avatar of the Second Person of the Trinity—whatever that means—and that Jesus’ sonship does not derive from a conception in Mary’s womb.  Thus the Trinitarians speak of “the Father eternally generating the Son.”[22]  One never hears that it was the conception in Mary’s womb that bestowed fatherhood on God.  To say so would be accusing God of adultery.

 

But Luke, it seems to me, speaks not of surrogate motherhood, but of a conception (Luke 1:31), “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.”  And then again in Luke 2:21 we are told, “And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”  It is similarly said of Elizabeth (Luke 1:24), “And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived,” and again by the angel in verses 36-37, “And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.”

 

Now to sum up: Mary was either a surrogate mother or God committed adultery with her.  The virgin birth makes sense only if Jesus was an avatar of a preexistent being, whether that being was God himself (the Second Person of the Trinity), a second YHWH (One of the Binity), or a created being.  The latter might have been created eons in the past (the Arian view) or at the moment the zygote entered Mary’s womb.

 

My wife brings up another irony: If God committed adultery with Mary he also committed incest, for wasn’t God also Mary’s Father even before the conception occurred (Isaiah 63:16; 64:8; 1Chron 29:10; Luke 3:38; etc.)?

 

Therefore I have to agree with the Trinitarians insofar as they reject the notion that God became Jesus’ father via the conception in the womb of Mary as described in Luke 1:31, 35.  Rather it was from the womb that Jesus was led by a holy spirit and that is what made him a son.

 

It’s not that Jesus began as a divine emissary from Heaven, or a special physical creation, rather it’s that a man of Israel—a prophet from the midst of Israel, an Israelite like unto Moses (Deut 18:15), one from the very reproductive organs of Abraham (Gen 15:4) and of David (2Sam 7:12) and from whose genealogy a man (אִישׁ) would never be cut off (2Sam 7:12)—that man is exalted to heaven via a resurrection from the dead such that he can occupy the throne of David and bring lasting peace to this world.  This is the good news of the Kingdom of God. [23]

 

How is he then a son?

The shocking but wonderfully good news of the New Testament was that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead.  Until that point the disciples seem to have understood that Jesus was the messiah, meaning that he had come to sit upon the throne of David and restore the kingdom to Israel.  It was not in their purview to think that he would die first.

 

But think what that would have meant.  Once again there would have been a mortal sitting upon the throne of David.  How long would he reign?  Forty years?  Maybe a little longer?  However long and however effective his reign, how would it be any better than that of Moses or Joshua or David?  Justice would prevail and the nations would flow up to Jerusalem for however long, and then what?  The same old same old.  Human nature being what it is, sooner or later the leader would stray and so would the people. [24]

 

No, a resurrection to immortality was required.

 

When the angel tells Mary that (Luke 1:35) “a holy spirit shall come upon thee,” this parallels what had been said to Zachariah in regard to his son (verse 15), “…and he shall be filled with a holy spirit, even from his mother’s womb.”  From the perspective of Luke neither pregnancy is sired by the Holy Spirit, rather in each instance the child is to be imbued with a holy spirit from the womb.

 

Again when the angel tells Mary (verse 35), “…therefore that which shall be born of thee

 

γιον κληθήσεται, υἱὸς θεο

shall be called holy, a son of God,”

 

this matches what Luke cites from the Torah[25] in Luke 2:23, “Every male that openeth the womb

 

γιον τ κυρί κληθήσεται

shall be called holy to the Lord.”

 

What is the contrast that Luke intends?  Let me suggest this: If the firstborn of an Israelite woman is holy, so also is the firstborn of the celestial Jerusalem—as pictured in the book of Revelation (Rev 12:1-5):

 

And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

 

Note that there is no mention of Jesus’ human birth and no mention of his death.  The “travailing” is the birth pangs of messiah (חֶבְלֵי מָשִׁיחַ)—not messiah’s “passion” and death—it’s the suffering not of messiah but of the nation giving birth—and there is no mention of his death.  Rather messiah is caught up to God so as not to be devoured by the dragon, i.e., the demonic power behind Rome.  Thus the birth chronicled here is not the virgin birth but rather Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  We, unlike messiah who has been so birthed already, we yet await our turn within the womb of Israel (Rev 20:1-5), nevertheless, as Paul says, we all—messiah included—have the same celestial mother (Gal 4:26): “But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.”

 

Thus Luke records that Jesus not only will be called holy, he will be called (Luke 1:35) “a son of God.”  And this accords with what Paul says in Romans 8:14: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”[26]  And just as every male that opens the womb is holy, so also would he that opens the womb of the celestial Jerusalem be called holy, a son of God.  It’s the spirit that would come upon him in the womb that would set him apart as a son of God.[27]  The angel’s statement (Luke 1:35),

 

πνεμα γιον πελεύσεται π σέ κα δύναμις ψίστου πισκιάσει σοι

“holy spirit shall come upon thee and power of the Most High shall overshadow thee”

 

is paralleled by Peter’s recollection (Acts 10:38),

 

ς χρισεν ατν θες πνεύματι γί κα δυνάμει

“as God anointed him with holy spirit and with power”

 

It was just as it had been prophesied.  Inheritance and scepter come via the patriarchy (Num 1:18-19; 2:1-2), and genetic descent is everywhere emphasized.  Israel’s messiah exemplifies both the human genealogy and a godly inspiration (Isaiah 11):

 

א  וְיָצָא חֹטֶר מִגֵּזַע יִשָׁי

1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse,

וְנֵצֶר מִשָּׁרָשָׁיו יִפְרֶה׃

and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:[28]

ב  וְנָחָה עָלָיו רוּחַ יהוה

2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,

רוּחַ חָכְמָה וּבִינָה

the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

רוּחַ עֵצָה וּגְבוּרָה

the spirit of counsel and might,

רוּחַ דַּעַת וְיִרְאַת יהוה׃

the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD …

 

Taking in stride all of Luke’s statements we see that the anointing in Luke 1:35 was not what made Mary pregnant—it was what made Jesus the Messiah or Christ.[29]

 

Luke 1:35 need say nothing different then John 1:14: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”  What was incarnated by a spirit of holiness was the Torah (Jer 31:32[33]), “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

 

The author of the Epistles of John says two things.  He says that we—including Jesus—are sons of God (1John 1:3; 3:2; etc.), and he says that Jesus has come in the flesh (1John 4:2-3):

 

Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

 

The point is made again in 2John 1:7—

 

For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

 

Now if saying that Jesus has not come in the flesh perverts the promise of Scripture in regard to the messiah, might also denying that the messiah had a human father verge on being an anti-messianic deception?

 

The Word of Life

Jesus prayed (John 17:3), “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”  How is knowing God the same thing as eternal life?  One is reminded of this in a verse of the New Covenant chapter (Jer 31:33[34]): “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them ...”  The key to it all is in 1John 2:3-4, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

 

Knowing God is keeping his commandments!  And the commandments in the heart equals eternal life—life via a resurrection from the dead.  The wisdom of Torah (1Chron 22:12) is symbolized by the tree of life (Prov 3:18): “She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.”

 

The spirit is connected to the word, as in John 3:34: “For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.” And it was this that empowered Jesus to triumph over sin (Heb 4:15), “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”  It was not easy, he could have failed (Heb 5:7-9), “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him …”

 

And so from the womb there would come upon Jesus ‘a holy spirit’ (Luke 1:35), and this, according to Paul, is what brought Jesus up from the grave (Rom 1:3-4):

 

Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made[30] of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead …

 

Jesus is called “the firstborn from the dead” in Colossians 1:18 and in Revelation 1:5, and “the firstborn among many brethren” in Romans 8:29, thus indicating that we are to follow the same path to resurrection.  Conception and birth as spiritual metaphor is explained in James (Jas 1:13-18):

 

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits [παρχή] of his creatures.

 

And so if we are firstfruits this implies resurrection, as it says (1Cor 15:20), “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits [παρχή] of them that slept.”[31]

 

And let us not forget that the seed of it all is Torah, as in James 1:18 (“… begat he us with the word of truth”), and as Jesus himself says (John 6:63), “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”

 

Now what is the end result of all this?  According to Jesus the sons of God are slated to be sons of the resurrection (Luke 20:36): “Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.”

 

This is the huge new understanding that Jesus’ disciples were destined to proclaim.

 

Of course Jesus had to die before he could be resurrected.  Paul writes (1Cor 2:2), “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Paul doesn’t mean, of course, that Jesus’ death is what it’s all about.  No, in “the resurrection chapter” of the same book he also says (1Cor 15:19-20), “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”

 

The disciples’ teaching differed little if any from that heard in the synagogue—except on the one huge issue of Jesus’ resurrection.  Why did Jesus’ disciples deem it necessary to lay down only the least requirements for their Gentile disciples?  Because they were already attending the synagogue and could learn there!  As James said at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:19-21),

 

Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

 

We are sons now but the birth process is not yet complete (1John 3:2), “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”

 

What’s the difference between the traditional Jewish view of the Messiah and the New Testament view?  Strip away the Trinity, preexistence and the virgin birth, and what remains is the resurrection.  In both the New Testament and in Judaism the messiah is a man, but in Judaism the messiah remains mortal and reigns however many years and then he dies.  I ask again, How will his reign be any more successful than that of Moses or Joshua or David or any other righteous in Israel?  He may restore the kingdom to Israel, but then he will die and Israel will go into apostasy and it will have to be done all over again.  Call it the eternal return!

 

Resurrection Implied in the Tanakh

On the Shavuot or Pentecost following Jesus’ resurrection, Peter preached from the Tanakh on the necessity of the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2:24-34),

 

Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. For David speaketh concerning him [Psalms 16:8-11],[32]

 

 

I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.

 

 

 

 

Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne [Psalms 132:11; 2Samuel 7:12-13]; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption [Psalms 16:10]. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself [Psalms 110:1],

 

 

The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool.

 

 

 

 

Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

     

 

Psalms 16 can be taken to refer to the future resurrection of David, other passages simply say that the throne[33]—not necessarily the mortal sitting upon it—will endure forever.  And I can imagine that this is precisely how Jesus’ contemporaries, his disciples included, understood such verses.  But then after the resurrection the full import became abundantly clear.  The Messiah would have to be resurrected from the dead!  Otherwise the throne itself could not endure—why?  Because sooner or later a scion of that throne would lapse into sin, the diaspora would forever repeat, and darkness never would be permanently expelled from the nations.

 

One great treasure that Judaism bequeathed to the world is the idea of progress.[34]  History is not just endless cycles.  Rather we are headed somewhere.  The God of Israel is goal oriented.  He has a plan and a schedule.  Winston Churchill expressed this conviction in his address to the Congress of the United States at the onset of America’s entry into World War II (December 26, 1941):[35]

 

If you will allow me to use other language, I will say that he must indeed have a blind soul who cannot see that some great purpose and design is being worked out here below of which we have the honor to be the faithful servants.

 

Commenting on a comment by atheist Sam Harris to the effect that Jews should repudiate the existence of God because of the Holocaust, David Berlinski replies (2008:31), “And if God did not protect his chosen people precisely as Harris might have wished, He did, in an access of his old accustomed vigor, smite their enemies, with generations to come in mourning or obsessed by shame.”  In spite of all the evil in the world, history is moving inexorably toward a better future.

 

But none of the Gentiles ever viewed time as linear.  They saw it as cyclical—the eternal return.[36]  Sometimes they envisioned a golden age long past, with the present and the future exhibiting but a pale semblance of that age.  And of course if there is no resurrection—and none of the Gentiles ever believed in a resurrection[37]—then we are stuck with the stark caricature laid out in Qohelet (Ecc 1:9-10):

 

ח  כָּל־הַדְּבָרִים יְגֵעִים

8 All things are full of labour;

לֹא־יוּכַל אִישׁ לְדַבֵּר

Man cannot utter it:

לֹא־תִשְׂבַּע עַיִן לִרְאוֹת

the eye is not satisfied with seeing,

וְלֹא־תִמָּלֵא אֹזֶן מִשְּׁמֹעַ׃

nor the ear filled with hearing.

ט  מַה־שֶּׁהָיָה הוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה

9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be;

וּמַה־שֶּׁנַּעֲשָׂה הוּא שֶׁיֵּעָשֶׂה

and that which is done is that which shall be done:

וְאֵין כָּל־חָדָשׁ תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ׃

and there is no new thing under the sun.

י  יֵשׁ דָּבָר שֶׁיֹּאמַר

10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said,

רְאֵה־זֶה חָדָשׁ הוּא

See, this is new?

כְּבָר הָיָה לְעֹלָמִים אֲשֶׁר הָיָה מִלְּפָנֵנוּ׃

it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

יא  אֵין זִכְרוֹן לָרִאשֹׁנִים

11 There is no remembrance of former things;

וְגַם לָאַחֲרֹנִים שֶׁיִּהְיוּ לֹא־יִהְיֶה לָהֶם זִכָּרוֹן

neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come

עִם שֶׁיִּהְיוּ לָאַחֲרֹנָה׃  פ

with those that shall come after.

 

That is the bleak message that tradition mandates be read on the intervening Sabbath within the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles, which begins with the sixth Yom Tov (annual Holy Day) of the sacred year.  It is then we anticipate rest from the sufferings inflicted upon us during the progress of God’s great spiritual creation—as in Isaiah 65:

 

יז  כִּי־הִנְנִי

17 For, behold,

בוֹרֵא שָׁמַיִם חֲדָשִׁים וָאָרֶץ חֲדָשָׁה

I [am creating] new heavens and a new earth:

וְלֹא תִזָּכַרְנָה הָרִאשֹׁנוֹת

and the former shall not be remembered,

וְלֹא תַעֲלֶינָה עַל־לֵב׃

nor come into mind.

יח  כִּי־אִם־שִׂישׂוּ וְגִילוּ עֲדֵי־עַד

18 But be ye glad and rejoice for ever

אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי בוֹרֵא

in that which I [am creating]:

כִּי הִנְנִי בוֹרֵא אֶת־יְרוּשָׁלִַם גִּילָה

for, behold, I [am creating] Jerusalem a rejoicing,

וְעַמָּהּ מָשׂוֹשׂ׃

and her people a joy.

 

Is it true that the Tanakh prophesied a messiah who would be resurrected from the dead before he would sit upon the throne of David?  Consider Psalms 2:

 

ו  וַאֲנִי נָסַכְתִּי מַלְכִּי עַל־צִיּוֹן הַר־קָדְשִׁי׃

6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

ז  אֲסַפְּרָה אֶל־חֹק

7 I will declare the decree:

יהוה אָמַר אֵלַי

the LORD hath said unto me,

בְּנִי אַתָּה

Thou art my Son;

אֲנִי הַיּוֹם יְלִדְתִּי׃

this day have I begotten thee.

ח  שְׁאַל מִמֶּנִּי

8 Ask of me,

וְאֶתְּנָה גוֹיִם נַחֲלָתֶ

and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance,

וַאֲחֻזָּתְ אַפְסֵי־אָרֶץ׃

and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

ט  תְּרֹעֵם בְּשֵׁבֶט בַּרְזֶל

9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron;

כִּכְלִי יוֹצֵר תְּנַפְּצֵם׃

thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

 

Paul sees in this passage the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 13:33), “God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.”  Luke emphasizes this divine sonship (Luke 1:35) and relates it to Adam “who was the son of God” (Luke 3:38).  Adam was made in the image of God (Gen 1:27), and part of that image is immortality—having the mind or spirit of God that merits eternal life as symbolized by eating of the fruit of the tree of life and living forever (Gen 3:22).  This is the birth imagery in John’s gospel, e.g., John 3:3, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Paul interprets this as the resurrection (1Cor 15:50-52):

 

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

 

And so the king of Israel who occupies the throne of Adam is—like Adam—a son of God.  The rulers of Israel already occupy offices of God, meaning that Israel fills in for Adam (Ezekiel 34:31):

 

וְאַתֵּן צֹאנִי צֹאן מַרְעִיתִי

And ye [fem.] are my flock, the flock of my pasture,

אָדָם אַתֶּם

ye [masc.] are Adam

אֲנִי אֱלֹהֵיכֶם

I am your God,

נְאֻם אֲדֹנָי יהוה׃

saith the Lord GOD.

 

But Israel is composed of mortals, as this Psalm of Asaph reminds us (Psalms 82):

 

ו  אֲנִי־אָמַרְתִּי

6 I have said,

אֱלֹהִים אַתֶּם

Ye are gods;

וּבְנֵי עֶלְיוֹן כֻּלְּכֶם׃

and all of you are children of the most High.[38]

ז  אָכֵן כְּאָדָם תְּמוּתוּן

7 But ye shall die like [Adam],

וּכְאַחַד הַשָּׂרִים תִּפֹּלוּ׃

and fall like one of the princes.

ח  קוּמָה אֱלֹהִים שָׁפְטָה הָאָרֶץ

8 Arise, O God, judge the earth:

כִּי־אַתָּה תִנְחַל בְּכָל־הַגּוֹיִם׃

for thou shalt inherit all nations.

 

In verse 6 ‘ye’ (אַתֶּם) is Israel but in verse 8 ‘thou’ (אַתָּה) is God—God shall inherit all nations—but how?  Doesn’t God already possess them?  He does—nevertheless he turns them over to the messiah (Psalms 2:8),

 

ח  שְׁאַל מִמֶּנִּי

8 Ask of me,

וְאֶתְּנָה גוֹיִם נַחֲלָתֶ

and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance,

וַאֲחֻזָּתְ אַפְסֵי־אָרֶץ׃

and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

 

When messiah has subdued the nations he turns them over to God who then shall inherit all nations (1Cor 15:27-28): “For he hath put all things under his feet [Psalms 8:7(6)]. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”

 

It is not a part of Judaism to suggest that messiah might be made immortal before being installed upon the throne of David.  Nevertheless there is an interesting passage in the Talmud which so alludes (Sukkah 52a):[39]

 

תָּנוּ רַבָּנָן

The rabbis discussed (apart from the Mishna):

 

מָשִׁיחַ בֶּן דָּוִד

Messiah son of David,

 

שֶׁעָתִיד לְהִגָּלוֹת בִּמְהֵרָה בְּיָמֵינוּ

let him be revealed speedily in our day,

 

אוֹמֵר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּ הוּא

the Holy One blessed be he will say to him,

 

שְׁאַל מִמֶּנִּי דָּבָר וְאֶתֵּן לְ

Ask whatever and I will give it to you,

 

שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר

as it says (Psalms 2:7-8),

 

אֲסַפְּרָה אֶל חֹק וְגוֹ׳ אֲנִי הַיּוֹם יְלִדְתּי

“I will declare the decree ... this day have I begotten thee.

 

שְׁאַל מִמֶּנִּי וְאֶתְּנָה גוֹיִם נַחֲלָתֶ

Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance …”

וְכֵיוָן שֶׁרָאָה מָשִׁיחַ בֶּן יוֹסֵף שֶׁנֶּהֱרַג

And seeing messiah son of Joseph who is killed

 

אוֹמֵר לְפָנָיו

he will say to him [to God],

 

רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם

Master of the Universe,

 

אֵינִי מְבַקֵּשׁ מִמְּ אֶלָּא חַיִּים

I ask you for nothing but life.

 

אוֹמֵר לוֹ

He will answer him,

 

חַיִּים עַד שֶׁלּא אָמַרְתָּ

Life before you said it!

 

דָּוִד אָבִי כְּבָר הִתְנַבֵּא עָלֶי

Your father David already prophesied about you,

 

שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר

as it says (Psalms 21:5),

 

חַיִּים שָׁאַל מִמְּ נָתַתָּה לוֹ וגו׳

“He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him ...”

 

 

Thus when messiah ben David sits upon the throne, it is life—eternal life—that is the prerequisite.  And so messiah is established upon the throne in the image of God as a son (Psalms 2:7), “I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.”  It is messiah son of Joseph who becomes God’s firstborn (Jer 31:8[9]), “for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.”  And then afterward messiah son of David is installed upon the throne as God’s firstborn (Psalms 89:28[27]), “Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.”  One imagines that God has only one firstborn by his legitimate wife the celestial Jerusalem (Rev 12:1-5).

 

The resurrection is still a very Jewish hope, itself immortalized as the 13th of the Rambam’s Thirteen Principle of Faith:

 

אֲנִי מַאֲמִין בֶּאֱמוּנָה שְׁלֵמָה

I believe in complete faith,

שֶׁתִּהְיֶה תְּחִיַּת הַמֵּתִים

that the resurrection of the dead shall occur

בְּעֵת שֶׁיַּעֲלֶה רָצוֹן מֵאֵת הַבּוֹרֵא

in the time when the purpose of the creation is manifest,

יִתְבָּרַ שְׁמוֹ

his name shall be blessed

וְיִתְעַלֶּה זִכְרוֹ לָעַד וּלְנֵצַח נְצָחִים

and his remembrance shall be raised up forever and ever.

 

And Judaism understands, just as the New Testament (John 1:14; 6:63; James 1:18; etc.) that eternal life is imparted by the word in us, as in the traditional prayer recited after reading the Torah:

 

בָּרוּ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶ הָעוֹלָם

Blessed are you Adonai our God king of the Universe,

אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לָנוּ אֶת תּוֹרַת אֱמֶת

Who gave us the Torah of truth,

וְחַיֵּי עוֹלָם נָטַע בְּתוֹכֵנוּ

and implanted eternal life within us.

בָּרוּ אַתָּה יהוה נוֹתֵן הַתּוֹרָה אָמֵן

Blessed are you Adonai giver of the Torah. Amen

 

Just like God himself—the messiah is a stone of contention for the Judeo-Christian (Isaiah 8:14; 28:16; 1Pet 2:6; Rom 9:33).  The one denies his Davidic descent, the other his resurrection to immortality.  If you accept that he was truly of the seed of David patrilineally and resurrected bodily from the dead to eternal life then you are a heretic in both camps.  The question, however, is: Might you be right?

 


 

References:

 

Barclay, William.  2001.  The New Study Bible: The Gospel of Luke.  Revised and updated from original 1953 edition 1953 of Saint Andrews Press, Edinburgh.  Louisville – London: Westminster John Knox Press.

 

Barker, Margaret.  1992.  The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second GodLouisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press.

 

Berlinski, David.  2008.  The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions.  New York: Crown Forum.

 

Brown, Raymond E.  1993.  The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  New Updated Edition.  Anchor Bible Reference Library.  New York: Doubleday.

 

Buzzard, Sir Anthony.  2002.  The Coming Kingdom of the Messiah: A Solution to the Riddle of the New Testament.  Atlanta, Georgia: Restoration Fellowship.

 

Buzzard, Sir Anthony.  2007.  Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian.  Atlanta, Georgia: Restoration Fellowship.

 

Buzzard, Sir Anthony, and Charles F. Hunting.  1998.  The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity’s Self-Inflicted Wound.  Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America.

 

Cappon, Lester J., editor.  1959.  The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams.  Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press.

 

Dunn, James D. G.  1988.  Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 38A, Romans 1-8.  Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson.

 

Dunn, James D. G.  1996.  Christology in the Making: A New Testament Inquiry Into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

 

Eliade, Mircea.  1954.  The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History.  Translated from the original Romanian by Willard R. Trask.  Princeton Classic Editions (with numerous reprints).  Princeton University Press.

 

Falls, Thomas B., translator.  2003.  St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho.  The Catholic University of America Press. 

 

Finazzo, Giancarlo.  1978.  The Virgin Mary in the Koran.  L’Osservatore Romano English Edition, April 13, page 4.  [L’Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See.  The Weekly English Edition is published in the United States by The Cathedral Foundation L’Osservatore Romano English Edition, 320 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21201.

 

Gershom, Yonassan.  1999.  Jewish Tales of Reincarnation.  Lanham, Maryland: Jason Aronson Publishers, Inc.

 

Goldman, Robert P., translator.  2005.  Ramáyana Book One.  BoyhoodBy Valmíki.  Clay Sanskrit Library.  New York University Press.

 

Green, Joel B.  1997.  The Gospel of Luke.  The New International Commentary on the New Testament.  Grand Rapids,k Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

 

Himmelfarb, Gertrude.  1980.  In Defense of Progress.  Commentary (June, pages 53-60).

 

Hold, Brian.  2002.  Jesus-God or the Son of God? A Comparison of the Arguments.  Tellway Pub.

 

Isbell, Charles D.  1978.  Does the Gospel of Matthew Proclaim Mary’s Virginity?  Biblical Archaeology Review 3 (February), 18-19, 52

 

Kleiman, Rabbi Yaakov.  2004.  DNA & Tradition: The Genetic Link to the Ancient Hebrews.  Jerusalem: Devora Publishing Company.

 

Klinghoffer, David.  2005.  Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History.  New York: Doubleday.

 

Marshall, I. Howard.  1978.  The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text.  The New International Greek Testament Commentary.  Grand Rapids,k Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

 

Navas, Patrick.  2007.  Divine Truth or Human Tradition: A Reconsideration of the Roman Catholic-Protestant Doctrine of the Trinity in Light of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.  Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse.

 

Nisbet, Robert.  1980.  History of the Idea of Progress.  New York: Basic Books.

 

Ohlig, Karl-Heinz.  2002.  One or Three?  Translated from the original German by Richard Henninge.  Saarbrücker Theologische Forschungen.  Frankfurt am Main: Europäischer Verlag der Wissenschaften.

 

Rhys, Jocelyn.  1922.  Shaken Creeds: The Virgin Birth Doctrine, a Study of its Origin.  London: Watts & Company.

 

Rubenstein, Richard E.  2000.  When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity during the Last Days of Rome.  San Diego: Harvest Books.

 

Schaff, Philip.  1890.  Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine.  Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church 2-01.  New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co..

 

Schaff, Philip.  1895.  Basil: Letters and Select Works.  Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church 2-08.  Edinburgh: T & T Clark.

 

Schiffman, Lawrence H.  1998.  Texts and Traditions: A Source Reader for the Study of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism.  Hoboken, New Jersey: Ktav.

 

Stewart, Melville Y.  2003.  Trinitarian Willing and Salvific Initiatives.  In Melville Y. Stewart, editor, The Trinity: East/West Dialogue, pages 53-73.  Kluwer Academic Publishing.

 

Tabor, James D.  2006.  The Jesus Dynasty: A New Historical Investigation of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity.  New York: Simon & Schuster.

 

Wexelman, David M.  1999.  The Jewish Concept of Reincarnation and Creation: Based on the Writings of Rabbi Chaim Vital Lanham, Maryland: Jason Aronson Publishers, Inc.

 

Wright, Nicholas Thomas.  2008.  Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church.  New York: Harper One (an Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers).

 


 

[1] What is the רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים ‘the spirit of God’ as in Genesis 1:2?  In the Scriptures it is the “software” of wisdom, such as, for example (Ex 31:3), וָאֲמַלֵּא אֹתוֹ רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים ‘and I have filled him with the spirit of God,’ which parallels (Ex 28:3), אֲשֶׁר מִלֵּאתִיו רוּחַ חָכְמָה ‘whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom’.

[2] Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 67.  The English translation is from Falls (2003).  Writing sometime in the mid 2nd century CE, Justin Martyr presents his protagonist (Τρύφων) as a Jew.  Trypho could have been the eminent Rabbi Tarfon (רבי טרפון), but see Shiffman (1998). 

[3] When Trypho says that Isaiah 7:14 says not (as in the LXX), ἰδοὺ ἡ παρθένος … ‘behold the virgin …’ but rather, ἰδοὺ ἡ νεᾶνις … ‘behold the young woman …,’ does this negate the claim that neither the Hebrew עַלְמָה nor בְּתוּלָה, the Aramaic ܒ݁ܬ݂ܽܘܠܬ݁ܳܐ, nor the Greek παρθένος carry the meaning of our word “virgin”?  I would say not, at least in the biblical texts, as argued in Isbell (1978), though likely by Justin’s time and based on this very verse in Isaiah, παρθένος was taking on this sense in theological disputes.

[4] Here one cannot resist a quote from Thomas Jefferson, who rejected the virgin birth but not necessarily biblical religion:

The truth is that the greatest enemies to the doctrines of Jesus are those calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them for the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors.

From a letter to John Adams dated April 11, 1823.  See Cappon (1959:594).  Letter is also available on line at http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/jefferson_adams.html.

[5] The Ebionites were evidently a remnant of the original Jerusalem Jewish congregation and, for what it’s worth, they rejected the virgin birth, as reported for example in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History III.27.2 (translation from Schaff 1890, available on line at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.iii.viii.xxvii.html):

For they considered him a plain and common man, who was justified only because of his superior virtue, and who was the fruit of the intercourse of a man with Mary. In their opinion the observance of the ceremonial law was altogether necessary, on the ground that they could not be saved by faith in Christ alone and by a corresponding life.

 

[6] Whereas Matthew indicates that Joseph was not Jesus’ father, the only real oddity in Luke is Luke 1:34, “Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?”  This is perplexing in its context and there are many theories.  According to Brown (1993:306), “One theory is that Mary understood the angel’s words in vs. 31 to mean that she was immediately becoming pregnant or was already so—not ‘you will conceive’ but ‘you are conceiving,’ or ‘you have conceived.’ Since the child was or is conceived without relations with her husband, Mary is forced to ask the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have had no relations with a man?’ It is true that the Hebrew participial expression in the annunciation of birth narratives can be understood as either a present or future …, but Luke’s Greek is clearly future. Any theory that Luke has mistranslated in vs. 31 is made unlikely by the presence of more future verbs in 35: the conception is yet to happen.  And indeed it would violate the genius of the Lucan narrative to have the conception take place before Mary has given her consent in vs. 38.”

[7] This paper aims to insulate against a trajectory such as in Tabor (2006), where the New Testament has been entirely cast aside.  The important truth is not the virgin birth.  If it falls this does not take away from what is central to the New Testament, namely the resurrection.

[8] See for example The Book of Saint Basil on the Spirit (De Spiritu Sancto) in Schaff (1895), which is available on the web at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf208.vii.i.html.

[9] As, for example, where Buzzard (2007:200) cites Dunn (1996:51): “Here it is sufficiently clear that a virginal conception by divine power without the participation of any man is in view ([Luke] 1:34). But here too it is sufficiently clear that it is a begetting, a becoming, which is in view, the coming into existence of one who will be called, and will in fact be the Son of God, not the transition of a preexisting being to become the soul of a human baby or the metamorphosis of a divine being into a human fetus.”  In this paper I argue that the divine sonship described in Luke comes not via a virgin birth but through the indwelling of Torah resulting in a resurrection from death to immortality.

[10] For an impartial and highly readable history of the development of the Trinity, see Rubenstein (2000).  For arguments against the Trinity and preexistence, Buzzard and Hunting (1998), Ohlig (2002), Buzzard (2002, 2007), and Navas (2007) are recommended.  I would also suggest that such efforts to define God and the impulse to bestow upon him ever greater transcendence contributed to the Deism that led to agnosticism that ended up in the atheistic materialism that now dominates the western world.

[11] The Greek (βίβλος γενέσεως ‘a book of genealogy’) reflects the Septuagint for Genesis 2:4 and 5:1: αὕτη ἡ βίβλος γενέσεως ‘this the book of genealogy …’, whereas the Peshitta’s ܟ݁ܬ݂ܳܒ݂ܳܐ ܕ݁ܺܝܠܺܝܕ݂ܽܘܬ݂ܶܗ (better still the Sinaitic ܟ݁ܬ݂ܳܒ݂ܳܐ ܕܬܰܘ̈ܠܕܳܬܴܐ) follows more closely Genesis 5:1.  There is no mention of מָשִׁיחַ ‘messiah’ in this verse in the Shem-Tov Hebrew (Howard 1988): אלה תולדות יש"ו בן דוד בן אברהם “These are the generations of Jesus son of David son of Abraham”.

[12] Here one is reminded of where the angel says to Zachariah (Luke 1:13),

ܘܰܐܢ݈ܬ݁ܬ݂ܳܟ݂ ܐܶܠܺܝܫܒ݂ܰܥ ܬ݁ܺܐܠܰܕ݂ ܠܳܟ݂ ܒ݁ܪܳܐ

and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son,

ܘܬ݂ܶܩܪܶܐ ܫܡܶܗ ܝܽܘܚܰܢܳܢ

and thou shalt call his name John.

The above is from the Peshitta which more perfectly mirrors Gen 17:19 and which also is reminiscent of the Old Syriac (Sinaitic and Curetonian) of Matthew where the angel says to Joseph (Mat 1:21):

ܬ݁ܺܐܠܰܕ݂ ܠܳܟ݂ ܕ݁ܶܝܢ ܒ݁ܪܳܐ

And she shall bear thee a son

ܘܬ݂ܶܩܪܶܐ ܫܡܶܗ ܝܶܫܽܘܥ

and thou shalt call his name Jesus,

 

[13] Paul, who knows nothing of the virgin birth, knows this (Acts 13:23): “Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus …”

[14] Peter alludes to these verses in his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:30), “Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne”.

[15] Genetic markers (mutations) on the Y-Chromosome of the sons of Aaron have evidently been identified, for which see Kleiman (2004).  If this claim holds true, then it is a remarkable confirmation of God’s having kept his promise, as here in Jeremiah 33 and as, for example, in Exodus 40:15 and Deuteronomy 18:5.  If God has secured an identifiable male to male genealogy for the priests from Aaron to today, could he not have done the same thing from David to Joseph?  And if so, why only adopt Jesus into that genealogy?

[16] Here the kətîb is אשוב.

[17] The United States Presidency is founded upon a similar law—Article II, Section I of the Constitution which states, “No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of the President.”

[18] Contained within this fundamental messianic prophecy is this warning (Deut 18:20-22): “But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”  The ultimate proof of the messiahship of Jesus is whether or not he will come back and finish the job (Acts 1:11): “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

[19] The Septuagint has, ἐν Χωρηβ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς ἐκκλησίας ‘in Horeb in the day of the assembly’, which recalls Jesus’ promise (Mat 16:18), καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν ‘and upon this rock [Jerusalem] I will build my assembly’.  Then, unlike the assembly convoked through Moses at Horeb and which perished in the 40 years in the wilderness, the gates of hell shall not prevail against Messiah’s assembly.

[20] In rabbinical metaphor the maternal line of Adam/Messiah is the ‘ground’ (אֲדָמָה), as in the Midrash (Bereshit Rabbah 14:8):

מִמָּקוֹם כַּפָּרָתוֹ נִבְרָא

Out of the place of his atonement was he created,

הֵי מַה דאת אָמַר

inasmuch as He said (Ex 20:24),

מִזְבַּח אֲדָמָה תַּעֲשֶׂה־לִּי

‘An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me’

Thus also the Rambam in Mishne Torah (הלכות בית הבחירה פרק ב):

אָדָם מִמָּקוֹם כַּפָּרָתוֹ נִבְרָא

Adam was created from the place of his atonement

And again the Ramban at Genesis 1:26:

אָמַר בָּאָדָם נַעֲשֶׂה

Concerning Adam he said, “Let us make …”

כְּלוֹמַר אֲנִי וְהָאָרץ הַנִּזְכֶּרֶת נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם

meaning, “I and the aforementioned land will make man.”

And then there is Rashi at Genesis 2:7,

צָבַר עֲפָרוֹ מִכָּל הָאֲדָמָה מֵאַרְבַּע רוּחוֹת

He collected his dust from the four winds

Which reflects Targum Jonathan at Genesis 2:7:

וּבְרָא יְיָ אֱלֹהִים יַת אָדָם בִּתְרֵין יִצְרִין

And the Lord God created man in two formations [i.e., clay and breath];

וּדְבַר עַפְרָא מֵאֲתַר בֵּית מַקְדְּשָׁא

and took dust from the place of the house of the sanctuary,

וּמֵאַרְבַּעַת רוּחֵי עַלְמָא

and from the four winds of the world,

וּפַתָּכָא מִכָּל מֵימֵי עַלְמָא

and mixed it from all the waters of the world,

וּבַרְיֵהּ סוּמֵק שְׁחִים וְחִיוַר

and created him red, black, and white …

All of which should remind us of the emphasis on four Gentile women (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah’s wife) in the genealogy in Matthew 1.

[21] See Gershom (1999) and Wexelman (1999).  Also among the pagans (especially among those of the East) the avatar of a preexistent being need not be without a human father—thus Rhys (1922:126): “These Buddhist and Hindu myths are of course generally connected with the doctrine of re-incarnation.  The God chooses a human father and mother, and then his soul enters the embryo of their child.”  For example, when the gods counseled Vishnu (a member of the Hindu Trimūrti) to incarnate in human flesh because only a human could slay the terrible Rávana, it says (Ramáyana I, 15.7 [translation from Goldman 2005]),

इत्य एतथ वचनं शरुत्वा सुराणां विष्णुर आत्मवान

When the self-controlled Vishnu had heard these words of the gods,

पितरं रॊचयाम आस तथा थशरदं नृपम

he chose King Dasha-ratha to be his father.

Preexistence does not require a virgin birth but a virgin birth suggests preexistence or else impregnation by some deity.

[22] One encounters, for example, comments such as this (Stewart 2003:59):

The Persons (of the Trinity) are necessary, but the necessity understood obtains in the context of a very strong perichoretic relationship.  The Father exists necessarily, but he does not have this necessity in isolation or independence.  A necessity issuing from his very essence impels him to generate the Son, eternally.  According to Richard of St. Victor and Richard Swinburne, since God is essentially a loving Being (“God is love.”[1John 4:20]), there is a society of Persons.  The Father eternally generates the Son out of necessity issuing from his nature—He is a loving Being—and so the Son he generates cannot not be.  The Father thus has an eternal Lover.

 

[23] A recent writer who understands this aspect of the kingdom of God is N. T. Wright, e.g., Wright (2008:202):

He did not want to rescue humans from creation any more than he wanted to rescue Israel from the Gentiles.  He wanted to rescue Israel in order that Israel might be a light to the Gentiles, and he wanted thereby to rescue humans in order that humans might be his rescuing stewards over creation.  That is the inner dynamic of the kingdom of God.

 

[24] The rabbis for the most part were divided on the length of Messiah’s reign. For example, in this excerpt from Midrash Psalms (ילקוט שמעוני. מדרש על תורה נביאים וכתובים  - Hebrew Text available at http://www.tsel.org/torah/yalkutsh/tehilim.html#A2209).

תהלים - פרק עב - רמז תתמא

Psalms – chapter 72 -

יִירָאוּ עִם שָׁמֶשׁ

“They shall fear thee as long as the sun …”

רַבִּי אוֹמֵר

Rabbi said,

יְמוֹת הַמָּשִׁיחַ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל שְׁנַיִם

The days of Messiah for Israel are two,

שְׁלֹשָׁה דּוֹרוֹת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר

three generations, as it says (Psalms 72:5),

יִירָאוּ עִם שָׁמֶשׁ וְלִפְנֵי יָרֵחַ

“They shall fear thee with the sun and before the moon,

דּוֹר דּוֹרִים

a generation of generations.”

ר' אֱלִיעֶזֶר אוֹמֵר

Rabbi Eliezer said,

אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר

Forty years, as it says (Psalms 95:10),

אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה אָקוּט בְּדוֹר

“Forty years long was I grieved with a generation” , etc., etc.

 

[25] See Exodus 13:2, Numbers 18:15, and Levicus 12:1-4.

[26] Romans 8:14: ὅσοι γὰρ πνεύματι θεοῦ ἄγονται, οὖτοι υἱοὶ θεοῦ εἰσιν.

[27] According to the Midrash, the spirit that conveys the office of Messiah is mentioned at the very beginning—in the second verse of the Torah (Genesis Rabbah 2:4):

וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת

“And the Spirit of God moved …”

זֶה רוּחוֹ שֶׁל מֶלֶ הַמָּשִׁיחַ

This is the spirit of the King Messiah,

הֵיאַ מַה דְּאַתְּ אָמַר

as it says (Isaiah 11:2),

וְנָחָה עָלָיו רוּחַ ה׳

“And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him …”

 

[28] Messiah is also pictured as a shoot or sprout (צֶמַח) from David (Jer 23:5; 33:15) and simply as a sprout (Zech 3:8; 6:12), and here as growing out of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1).  In the book of Revelation messiah is (5:5) “the root of David” and (22:16) “the root and the offspring of David”.

[29] This anointing is what’s meant by the term messiah [מָשִׁיחַ] or Christ [Χριστός].  And so the disciples recalled the Psalm (Ps 2:2—“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed …”) when they prayed (Acts 4:27), “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed [ὃν ἔχρισας], both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together …”  It is Matthew that provides the perplexity, e.g., Matthew 1:18, “… she was found with child of a holy spirit.”  Let me suggest that underlying Matthew 1:18-25 is a corruption or something yet to be understood.  As it stands Matthew seems to indicate a divine sanctioning of an illegitimate pregnancy—be it of God or man.

[30] If Jesus were not a son of David biologically but instead had been adopted into the Davidic line, this would have been big news and would have led to much disputation by the apostles.  A friend (Clyde Brown) points out that James D. G. Dunn, who accepts the virgin birth, is puzzled (Dunn 1988:13): “The degree in which Jesus’ Davidic pedigree was simply taken for granted is striking; there was evidently no consciousness of a need to argue for Jesus Messiahship despite his not being of David’s line.”  Another friend (in personal communication) argues for a “divine passive” here (‘which was made [τοῦ γενομένου] of the seed of David according to the flesh’) and in Gal 4:4 (‘made of a woman [γενόμενον], made [γενόμενον] under the law’), i.e., that Jesus was a special creation of God not in need of a human father.  But if Gal 4:4 doesn’t prevent Mary from being the mother why would Rom 1:3 accord with Joseph not being the father?  One could add to the list of divine passives Phil 2:7 (‘and was made [γενόμενος] in the likeness of men’); Heb 1:4 (‘being made [γενόμενος] so much better than the angels’); and Heb 6:20 (‘made [γενόμενος] an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec’)—God obviously took an active roll in every facet of Jesus’ birth and life—but why not?  He takes an active role in the birth of every human (Ecclesiastes 11:5):

כַּאֲשֶׁר אֵינְ יוֹדֵעַ מַה־דֶּרֶ הָרוּחַ

As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit,

כַּעֲצָמִים בְּבֶטֶן הַמְּלֵאָה

nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child:

כָּכָה לֹא תֵדַע אֶת־מַעֲשֵׂה הָאֱלֹהִים

even so thou knowest not the works of God

אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה אֶת־הַכֹּל׃

who maketh all.

And miraculous births are surely not unknown in the Bible.  Right off we’re informed (Gen 11:30), “But Sarai was barren; she had no child.”  And so also was Rebekah barren (Gen 25:21): “And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.”  And it was the same with Jacob’s wives (Gen 29:31), “And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.”  In each instance we see the birthright going to those born of miraculous births—but in no case to a virgin birth.

[31] It is possible that the offering of the omer that begins the count to the Feast of Firstfruits, called “a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest [עֹמֶר רֵאשִׁית קְצִירְכֶם - δράγμα ἀπαρχὴν το θερισμοῦ ὑμῶν]” (Lev 23:10), pictures Jesus’ acceptance in heaven after his resurrection.  Thus the morning after the resurrection he says (John 20:17), “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”  Yet later that same day (verse 20) “he shewed unto them his hands and his side.”  The implication is that they touched him.

[32] Psalms 16:

 

ח  שִׁוִּיתִי יהוה לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד

8 I have set the LORD always before me:

 

כִּי מִימִינִי בַּל־אֶמּוֹט׃

because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

 

ט  לָכֵן שָׂמַח לִבִּי וַיָּגֶל כְּבוֹדִי

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth:

 

אַף־בְּשָׂרִי יִשְׁכֹּן לָבֶטַח׃

my flesh also shall rest in hope.

 

י  כִּי לֹא־תַעֲזֹב נַפְשִׁי לִשְׁאוֹל 

10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell;

 

לֹא־תִתֵּן חֲסִידְ לִרְאוֹת שָׁחַת׃

neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

 

יא  תּוֹדִיעֵנִי אֹרַח חַיִּים

11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life:

 

שֹׂבַע שְׂמָחוֹת אֶת־פָּנֶי

in thy presence is fulness of joy;

 

נְעִמוֹת בִּימִינְ נֶצַח׃

at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Psalms 110:1

לְדָוִד מִזְמוֹר

A Psalm of David.

 

נְאֻם יהוה לַאדֹנִי

The LORD said unto my Lord,

 

שֵׁב לִימִינִי עַד־אָשִׁית אֹיְבֶי הֲדֹם לְרַגְלֶי׃

Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

 

 

[33] For example: 2Samuel 7:12-17; Psalms 72:5-7; 89:3-4, 26-37; 132:11-12; etc.

[34] For discussion and history see Nisbet (1980) and Himmelfarb (1980).  The idea of progress came under attack within the modernist-materialist agenda, as for example in Friedrich Nietzsche’s Also sprach Zarathustra (‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’, 1883-5), and two World Wars have not done much to resuscitate the Judeo-Christian optimism that inspired the scientific revolution in the first place.

[35] The speech is accessable on line at http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/ww2/churchill122641.html.

[36] See Eliade (1954).

[37] The resurrection is biblical and Jewish, escape from this world to “heaven” is pagan (Wright 2008:18): “The roots of the misunderstanding go very deep, not least into the residual Platonism that has infected whole swaths of Christian thinking and has misled people into supposing that Christians are meant to devalue this present world and our present bodies and regard them as shabby or shameful.”

[38] Sons of the most High (בְּנֵי עֶלְיוֹן - υἱοὶ ὑψίστου) recalls the angel’s words in Luke 1:35 (my translation)—

πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἐπελεύσεται ἐπὶ σέ,

A holy spirit shall come upon thee,

καὶ δύναμις ὑψίστου ἐπισκιάσει σοι·

and power of the Highest shall overshadow thee:

διὸ καὶ τὸ γεννώμενον ἅγιον κληθήσεται,

therefore he that shall be born of thee shall be called holy,

υἱὸς θεοῦ.

a son of God.

 

[39] This discussion follows a question in regard to (Zech 12:12): “And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart” – the Gemara asks (Sukkah 52a), “What is the nature of this mourning?” The rabbis, as usual, disagree. “One said [it is] for the messiah son of Joseph who is killed (חַד אָמַר עַל מָשִׁיחַ בֶּן יוֹסֵף שֶׁנֶּהֱרַג).”