Posts Tagged ‘Conspiracy’

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The virgin conception is a highly scrutinized event within the nativity story. As with other biblical miracles, the virgin conception has been explained by a whole host of conspiracy theories devoid of actual supernatural cause. Was the story copied from other pagan mythologies? Copied from Old Testament scripture? Was Christ simply the result of a shameful affair, the virgin conception concocted to hide His illegitimate origins? Is Jesus the result of an extremely rare but possible asexual reproduction? The theories are abundant, yet all try to find a way to rationalize the story without consideration that what is written in Matthew and Luke is actually plausible.

Even in the church, skepticism is present, spreading, slowly but surely. Bishop John Shelby Spong of the Episcopalian Church believes the virgin birth as written in Matthew and Luke is not literal truth.[1] Protestant theologian Wesley Wildman of Boston University believes that Jesus must have gotten his Y chromosome from Joseph, so what He received from God was more spiritual than physical.[2] Anglican Bishop John Arthur Thomas Robinson, former Dean of Trinity College in Cambridge shares similar beliefs, “… we are not bound to think of the Virgin Birth as a physical event in order to believe that Jesus’s whole life is ‘of God.’”[3] Doubt is clearly creeping into the nativity story and it is leading to explanations of spiritual analogy instead of literal acceptance. These compromises on the scripture all stem from doubt in something that seems too impossible to be true.

Yet, we all seem to overlook that it was just as impossible and hard to believe then in the first century as it is today. Luke and Matthew seem to have trouble writing of it. Even Mary noted of its impossibility when she was standing in front of the angel telling her it would happen! And it was additionally a target of skepticism then just as it is now, being doubted by the Pharisees and the Greek philosopher Celsus himself, among others. So we should not assume that skepticism of the virgin birth belongs only to a more modern and intelligent generation of people. Doubt was present right from the beginning, across two thousand years, to the present.

Here I will present the most popular arguments against the virgin birth that have emerged over these thousands of years. It is my hope that after exploring these issues you will see that they do not stand to refute the story of the virgin birth. In the end, you will find that the only way to deny the virgin conception is to deny the supernatural all together.

PAGAN MYTH THEORY

The most modern rebuttal to the virgin birth is a conspiracy that the gospel writers copied the story from other pagan mythologies. The train of thought is that only two of the gospels mention the virgin birth, and of these two there are shocking similarities to other mythologies commonly known in the first century. The motivation being that Matthew and Luke wanted to better promote Jesus to the gentiles, and giving Him attributes that resembled popular pagan mythologies would give Christianity more appeal.

Dr. Gerald Larue Professor Emeritus of Archaeology and Biblical Studies at USC, writes, “Sexual relationships between divine beings were common in hero stories. The Greek god Zeus impregnated women to produce heroes like Hercules, Perseus, and Alexander the Great. The god Apollo had intercourse with human females, who bore such heroes as Asclepius, Pythagoras, Plato and the emperor Augustus. Some of the women were said to have been virgins. The use of mythological symbolism was part of the first century literary tradition. The gospel writers simply used it to exalt Jesus.”[4] Even scientists like Dr. Aarathi Prasad, a former cancer researcher, have an opinion on the subject, “Hers [Mary’s] is the best known story of a virgin birth in the world, but it is by no means the only one. From the mothers of Buddha to Genghis Khan, most cultures tell the tale of a maiden untouched by man who gives birth.”[5] Other theories refer to influences from Greco-Roman deity (Perseus- Romulus, Mithras, Apollonius of Tyana), Egyptian deity (Horus, Osiris), and even oriental religions (Buddha, Krishna, and son of Zoroaster).

Right off the bat a discrepancy should be easily recognized here. How could the nativity story have so much in common with mythology from Greece, Rome, Egypt and even the orient? The nativity story is not that long! Most certainly not long enough to be capable of borrowing from all these other religions. Furthermore, even if intense similarities were to be found, that doesn’t in any way prove that the gospel writers copied from them. In fact, to make such a claim would be a genetic fallacy, the error of trying to disprove a belief by tracing it to its source. Regardless, an examination of each one shows that there is hardly any comparison to be made!

Alexander the Great: Born of King Philip II of Macedonia and Queen Olympia,[6] there are no records of Alexander being conceived from a non-sexual divine source.

Apollonius of Tyana: Apollonius was born after his mother fell asleep in a meadow where swans began to dance around her causing her to give birth prematurely. But more importantly, the story of Apollonius was written down no earlier than AD 217, well after the gospel accounts were already written down and being circulated.[7] Thus no claim of copying can be placed on Matthew or Luke.

Buddha: To declare the story Jesus was copied from Buddha is incredibly hard to substantiate considering the histories of Buddha are contradicting, convoluted and written hundreds (sometimes thousands) of years after the supposed events took place. For example, research when Buddha was born and you’ll get a wide range of answers ranging from 1700 BC to 400 BC. Regardless, the details of Buddha’s birth are not similar to Jesus in that Buddha’s mother Maya was a married woman to which there is no original declaration of her being a virgin. Historical scholars maintain Buddha’s birth has no hints of any abnormality. A tradition from the first century did emerge later in which Maya is declared a virgin and became pregnant after dreaming of a white elephant.[8] Hardly comparable to the gospel account.

Genghis Khan: Was born in AD1155,[9] thus no one can claim the gospel writers copied from a man not born for another one thousand years.

Hercules: The myth of Hercules is that Zeus fell in love with a married woman named Alceme, they had sexual relations, and Hercules was conceived.[10] Though Alceme had not yet slept with her husband (her cousin), the encounter between her and Zeus was sexual in nature, and therefore in contrast with the gospel narrative. It should additionally be noted that Alceme slept with another God, Tiresias, at a later date.[11] Other story details bring incredible contrast to the gospel narratives.

Horus and Osiris: This one is slightly more complicated because many pharaohs were named Osiris and Horus after the gods Osiris and Horus. Egyptian mythology holds that Pharaohs were thought be the result of their mother in union with a God.[12] This however would make the mothers non-virgins. The wife’s encounter with a God is sexual in Egyptian tradition, were as the account from Matthew and Luke is not. Even the mythologies of the original gods doesn’t match up; Horus was not born of a virgin. In fact one depiction is that of his mother Isis in falcon form hovering over the erect penis of Osiris. Scholars agree that Egyptian mythology maintains Isis had sexual intercourse with Osiris.[13]

Krishna: Krishna was born as the eighth son of princess Devaki. She was apparently impregnated by her husband god Vasudeva via “mental transmission.” And though one can argue the conception was non-sexual, the fact remains that Devaki had already had seven children and was therefore not a virgin.

Mithras: Mithras was born as an adult, not a child. Mithras was also born out of rock, not a virgin mother.[14] More importantly, the birth stories of Mithras come AFTER the gospels were being circulated.[15] Therefore, one cannot accuse Christianity of borrowing from it.

Perseus: Perseus was not really virginally conceived at all, but was the result of sexual intercourse between the god Zeus and Danaë. Zeus had previously turned himself into a shower of gold to reach the imprisoned damsel.[16] This is in high contrast to the gospel narrative.

Romulus: Romulus was born one of two twins to the virgin Rhea Silva after having sexual intercourse with Mars, and were thrown into the river Tiberinus where they were rescued by a she-wolf that reared them.[17] Though Rhea Silva may have been a virgin, she wasn’t considered one after being impregnated by Mars. Thus, it is not comparable to the gospel narrative.

Zoroaster: Like Buddha, Zoroaster is difficult to pin point as well, living any where from 1,700 to 600 BC. The details of the conception are vague and can only be sourced to a time after Christianity had already originated.[18]

To claim Matthew and Luke copied from pagan myths either comes from a lack of historical knowledge of these other mythological characters, or from a direct intent to mislead others. Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, AKA Pope Benedict XVI, writes, “Extra-biblical stories of this kind differ profoundly in vocabulary and imagery from the story of the birth of Jesus. The main contrast consists in the fact that in pagan texts the godhead almost always appears as a fertilizing, procreative power, thus under a more or less sexual aspect hence in a physical sense as the ‘father’ of the savior-child. As we have seen, nothing of this sort appears in the New Testament: the conception of Jesus is a new creation, not begetting by God. God does not become the biological father of Jesus.”[19]

Reverend Raymond E. Brown of the Roman Catholic Church writes, “In short, there is no clear example of virginal conception in world or pagan religions that plausibly could have given first-century Jewish Christians the idea of the virginal conception of Jesus.”[20]

Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, a chemist and national chess champion, writes, “The earliest Christians were Jews who abhorred paganism (see Acts 14), so would be the last people to derive Christianity from paganism.”[21]

Jean-Guenolé-Marie Daniélou , a Jesuit theologian, historian, cardinal and member of the Academie Francaise, writes, “… such attempts (to compare the Christian nativity to pagan mythology) are foiled by the absence of any precise element of comparison.”[22]

In summary here are some main points to consider regarding this poor theory:

A.         There is no proof that first century Christians knew of, or were at any point exposed to these pagan myths and stories.

B.         If they were known, what is the attraction to them, or motivation to borrow from them? Especially considering the NT’s aversion to anything pagan.

C.        When extra-biblical stories are compared to the virginal conception from Matthew and Luke there is arguably no similarities what so ever.

With these points considered, it becomes very clear that this theory has no legs to stand on and should be abandoned by skeptics.

COPIED FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT

Another theory holds that Matthew and Luke didn’t copy but pagan mythologies, but instead copied from the Old Testament. The motivation is the same for the pagan mythologies in that they wanted to make Christ more appealing. But instead of making Him more appealing to gentiles, they instead wanted to make Him appealing to Jews. And what better way to do this then to connect the nativity story with other Old Testament stories and attach a prophecy to the virgin conception.

The first concept of appealing to Jews was to copy from the stories of Isaac and Samson in which through the miracle of sexual reproduction God makes the conception of these heroes possible, much like Jesus. This theory is easily refuted though. Mary was a virgin, unlike Isaac and Samson’s mother. She was also very young whereas the other mothers were very old. The miracle is thus of a completely different nature since the other mother’s pregnancies were miracles in that they were too old to conceive. Mary’s pregnancy, conversely, was a miracle in that she was a virgin. Additionally, the other mothers conceived through sexual intercourse between two humans, with God only making the conception possible. Mary on the other hand had no sexual intercourse, and was made pregnant via the Holy Spirit. The nature of these miracles is different enough to refute the notion that Matthew and Luke fabricated the story from Old Testament scripture.

The second concept is that of prophecy. Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14 as prophecy of the virgin conception: “Therefore the Lord himself will give youa sign: The virginwill conceive and give birth to a son, andwill call him Immanuel” (NIV). Since this prophecy already had a historical fulfillment unrelated to Christ, many argue that Matthew was forcing prophecy on the nativity to convince Jews of Christ’s authenticity. Many scholars, still to this day, argue on the meaning and usage of this OT text by Matthew.

The Hebrew word used for virgin in Isaiah 7:14 is “almah.” When translated into Greek in the Septuagint, the word used is “parthenos.” “Parthenos” can be translated to “virgin,” but it can just as easily mean “young woman.”[23] Another Greek word “neanis,” could have been used and has closer meaning to “almah.” But it was not used, so the Septuagint translator interpreted “almah” to represent “parthenos.”[24] Others believe virgin is an accurate translation for “almah” since it is used in many other places in Old Testament for young women that were unmarried (virgin) women.[25] Many theologians argue why the Septuagint translator(s) used “parthenos.” But whether Isaiah 7:14 pertains to a woman being a “virgin” or “young,” it should be noted that Mary was both, so there is no contradiction no matter which way you put it. The issue is not so much as whether the woman mentioned was a virgin or not, but more so, the reason for Matthew’s use of it.

Some theologians believe that the virginal conception was so unexpected that it forced Matthew and Luke to interpret Isaiah 7:14 in a way very different from how Jewish tradition did.[26] Thus, Isaiah 7:14 is used out of context to be assimilated to the virgin conception of Christ. This is troubling for many to accept. However, there is another approach to this issue. The literal prophecy is directly linked with a past historical event, the birth of Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, which is directly followed by disasters in Israel. This has led other theologians to counter that Matthew is using the prophecy within context, but that we’re reading the wrong part of the prophecy. The purpose of Isaiah 7:14 (when read in context with 7:13) is that there will be a descendant of David that is a “sign.”[27] This prophecy should not be used to “prove” the virgin birth that fulfills the prophecy, but instead to indicate a parallel with offspring from the lineage of David born unto a “young” or “virgin” woman. After all, Isaiah 7:14 says the child would be named Immanuel, and Jesus is named… well… Jesus. Yet there is a parallel meaning between what the names mean; Immanuel meaning “God is with us,” and Jesus meaning “Savior.” So it can be argued the reference to Isaiah is not for fulfillment, but to establish a parallel.

Danielou concludes, “…the point of the reference to Isaiah 7 in Matthew is to support the central statement of the episode that Jesus is to be of the house of David… It does not base faith in the virgin birth on the fact that it is the fulfillment of a prophecy; on the contrary, it provides a Christian exegesis of the prophecy in the light of the virgin birth.”[28]

Further refutation of the original conspiracy in general can occur if we put ourselves in Matthew and Luke’s shoes for a moment, as first century Jewish men. Let us hypothetically say we were going to fabricate Jesus’ birth story to make it contextual to the Old Testament and Jewish tradition. They would have said the Messiah came down from heaven, or was the Son of David through Joseph. Yet, they went with virginal conception from Mary, a woman from the lineage of David. This is not expected. Clearly the gospel writers did not fabricate the virgin conception from Old Testament scripture.

LATER ADDITIONS

Both the pagan mythology theory and the theory of borrowing from the OT have a similarity in that they are additions to the gospel accounts. This leads to another theory that the virgin conception (and nativity story overall) was added long after the gospels were originally written. The theory proposes a multitude of motivations, some pertaining to the two previous theories of trying to make the story of Christ more appealing. Other motivations lie in trying to force sexual restrictions on men and women through lessons learned from the virgin birth. The case to me made is, why else would such an important story be found in only two gospel accounts and yet nowhere else in the New Testament. Since the books were written in the second half of the first century, it is argued they could have been added at any point during this time. Some believe that Mary was never even considered a virgin until the middle ages!

However, there is strong evidence that the gospels were written prior to the Pauline epistles in 70AD. In fact, famous archaeologist Dr. William F. Albright writes, “There is no reason to believe that any Gospels were written later than A.D. 70,”[29] Additionally, the composition of the infancy gospels in Matthew and Luke is archaic, Judaic, Old Testament character that preserved the first Judeo-Christian community traditions. And furthermore, the virginal conception doctrine is scriptural and affirmed by early Christians such as Ignatius (d. AD c. 108), Justin Martyr (c. 100 – c. 165), Irenaeus (c. 130 – c. 200), and Tertullian (c. 150 – c. 212).[30] Lastly, by the 3rd century or after, the gospel accounts were so wide spread it would be literally impossible to track down every single one to add in the nativity story.

French theologian Rene Laurentin writes, “A closer investigation of the prehistory of the oral traditions or written sources of the gospels reveals that there is no reason for considering the infancy gospels as late.”[31] Indeed, considering that the text is consistent with that of first century writing, it is consistent with the rest of the gospel text all dated prior to AD70, it would be impossible to add to every copy at a later date and was affirmed by first and second century Christians, it is unquestionably accurate to say the nativity story is not a late addition to the gospel accounts.

AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER… AND RECORD

Ok, so maybe we can conclude the gospel writers didn’t copy or add in the nativity story later. But that still doesn’t prove the virgin conception. How do we really know Mary was a virgin? Maybe Joseph and Mary had pre-marital relations? Maybe Mary had an affair? This is of course neglecting the gospel accounts themselves.

Here is what we first need to establish. The gospels are clear that Mary was committed to Joseph. Matthew writes that Joseph was “husband of Mary” (1:16) and that she was “his wife” (1:20, 24) Luke says she was his “betrothed” even at the time of birth (1:27, 2:5). Therefore to suggest Mary had an affair with someone else presents a significant obstacle: Why did Joseph stay with her? Even in today’s culture that is a tall order, but in first century Jewish culture, that is unacceptable. There is no way Joseph would stay with Mary if she was pregnant with another man’s child. There would be at the very least be a divorce. Yet Joseph stays with Mary, clearly indicating there was no affair.

This leads the argument to another possible theory that Joseph and Mary had sex and conceived Jesus. This isn’t as shocking, but it contradicts the gospel accounts of Mary being a virgin. In addition, It was not Joseph who begot him (Mt 1:16, 18-25, Lk 1:31, 34-35, 3:24). Mary is Jesus’ only human source (Mt 1:16, 18, 20-23, Lk 1:27, 35). The origin is not referred to the Father, but to the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:18, 20, Lk 1:35). Furthermore, if Joseph was Jesus’ father, why the need to concoct a story of virgin conception?

The only way to suggest the conception of Jesus was not supernatural is to deny the gospel narratives all together which affirm a virgin conception. To go further and propose an affair or normal human conception is to do so with no evidence and a denial of other historical facts.

SKEPTICISM AND EXTRA-BIBLICAL EVIDENCE

Skeptics argue, however, that there IS evidence of an affair or other illegitimate origin for Christ. Evidence that is extra-biblical and thus takes us into the realm of testimony from those who were skeptical of the virgin conception.

Ancient Jewish tradition maintains that Jesus was born of adultery.[32]  In the late 2nd century Celsus, a second century Greek philosopher, wrote, “[Jesus] came from a Jewish village and from poor country woman who earned her living by spinning… She was driven out by her husband, who was a carpenter by trade, as she was convicted of adultery. After she had been driven out by her husband and while she was wandering about in a disgraceful way she secretly gave birth to Jesus.”[33]  And, “The mother of Jesus is described as having been turned out by the carpenter who was betrothed to her, as she had been convicted of adultery and had a child by a certain soldier named Panthera.”[34]

Even in the Bible we see skepticism of Jesus’ father from the Pharisees in Mark 6:3 when they refer to Jesus was as the son of Mary, not the son of Joseph. This would be an insult in Jewish culture, unless of course they believed Joseph was not His father, and the real father was unknown.

The skeptics seem to provide evidence that the origin of Christ is questionable. Or do they? Consider the source; Jews and Romans skeptical of Jesus being the Son of God. The only value this evidence has is evidence of doubt from others. The doubt being no different than the doubt experienced today as a way to rationalize Christ’s origins without the supernatural. The inclusion of these doubts in the gospel accounts themselves only solidifies this notion.

Celsus was far removed from the events in question by about one hundred years. His only knowledge of the nativity story coming from what the gospel writers had already established. Hence, his critique of the story is based on what he thinks really happened under the presupposition that the virgin conception did not occur. Case in point is his claim that Mary was convicted of adultery, something Joseph would surely divorce and leave her for, and something Mary most likely would not have survived. He also claims Joseph turned her away, which is not found in the nativity stories, and in fact contradicts them as both Mary and Joseph went to find Jesus in the temple at age twelve. Then there is his claim that the father was a soldier named “Panthera,” which he obviously derived from “pantheos” (virgin).[35] Thus, Celsus’ testimony only proves that there was doubt of Christ’s origins among the Romans, but there is nothing to substantiate these doubts other than preconceived opinion.

These records of doubt additionally defend three points made earlier; the virgin conception was not a later addition, not copied from pagan myth and the gospel writers did not copy from the Old Testament. If the virgin conception was added at a later date how come we see Jews and Romans challenging it so early on? If copied from pagan myth why did the Romans challenge it? If copied from Old Testament scripture why would the Jews challenge it?

Likewise, we must also consider the difficulty and skepticism encountered from Matthew and Luke while writing virginal conception story as further testimony to its accuracy. Why would Matthew and Luke write of it, unless it actually happened? The strange conception of Jesus would only lead to criticism and attempts to discredit the miracle from those who heard of it, as it subsequently did receive from both Jews and Greeks, which is testimony it was not invented by the disciples.

Laurentin writes, “…the virginal conception was, for Luke and above all for Matthew, a crucial difficulty, indeed a scandal. It ran counter to their apologetic concern, to establish that Jesus was son of David, which was the very reason that had inspired Matthew to begin his Gospel with a genealogy. It was a tradition that came to them from reliable Jewish Christian circles, and nothing prepared our evangelists to resolve it. They managed to do so, however, in a more convincing way that Paul himself (Gal 4:4), not by choosing an easy route, but by accepting the very originality of this significant novelty.”[36]

Let us, for the moment, assume the virgin conception did happen as written in the gospels. If so, we would naturally expect opposition from skeptics since the claim of a virgin conception is extreme. We would naturally expect some form of mention of the virgin conception outside the bible. Which we do find this extra-biblical support in the form of skepticism. Thus, the factors we naturally expect to find in the event the story is true, we do indeed find.

A RELIABLE SOURCE

All the rebuttals to these conspiracy theories relies on a foundation that proposes the gospels are reliable texts. As can be shown by the overly abundant other historical events confirmed by the Bible, the gospels themselves present many cities, people and events which have been substantiated by archaeology and other extra-biblical histories. Luke’s gospel alone proves to be rich with details that testify to his objective to provide an accurate account of Jesus’ life. Also consider the historical accuracy of events surrounding the birth. The references to Quirinius’ census, the accuracy of the genealogies, the mention of Herod, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, etc., all historically verifiable people and places. Details of the nativity story in general, like there being no room at the inn, child laid in a manger, etc., have no real theological value other than being straightforward historical details. This adds more teeth to the reliability of the nativity story overall.

With so many facets of Matthew and Luke’s gospels validated, why would one immediately move to a position of doubt when they mention the virgin conception? For the disciples to accept this event as accurate, it is because it imposed itself as fact. Additionally, between Luke and Matthew we see many divergences, yet they both share a similar account of the conception. Laurentin remarks, “… the virgin birth stands as a serious and solid datum. It is affirmed in an independent way, as we have seen, by the two infancy Gospels. There divergences at other points corroborate this remarkable agreement.”[37]

Danielou agrees, “… it is important to notice how Matthew and Luke converg- which indicates at the very least that the virgin birth is an element in a tradition that antedates them both. And if it is further true, as now seems incontestable, that the infancy narratives are based, not just on the preaching of the apostles, but on the traditions in Jesus’ family (traditions related in Luke to Mary’s side, and in Matthew’s to Joseph’s) then we are faced with two independent witnesses fully in agreement with one another.”[38]

But what about the fact that only two places in the New Testament mention such a significant event as the virgin conception? The resurrection was a very significant, and we see it mentioned numerous times in the NT, and definitely in all four gospels. Why is the nativity story so scarce?

Well such might not be the case. Some theologians argue that John 1:13 confirms the virgin conception, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (NIV)”  Mark 6:3 seems to also support the virgin conception in that it testifies to skepticism among the people as they referred to Jesus was the son of Mary, not Joseph, which was not custom at the time to reference the mother instead of the father, unless there was doubt of who the father was. This likewise is shown in John 8:41, where the Pharisees tell Jesus that they were not born out fornication (ek porneias). Was this an insult to Jesus?

Some suggest Paul confirms the virgin birth in Galatians 4:4, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law…” (NIV). Declaring Jesus was born of a woman in that time in place is substantial to say the least. And thus it appears we have confirmation from Matthew, Luke, John, Mark, and Paul that Jesus was conceived from a virgin woman. The claim that the nativity story should be rejected because it only appears in two places in the NT was refutable originally, but now it would appear to be an unquestionably spurious claim to make.

Laurentin writes, “…Paul’s theology of Christ’s origin contains nothing that conflicts with the idea of virginal conception, but in fact, contains some surprising traits which harmonize with it.”[39] Scholar Antonion Vicent Cernuda writes, “His [Paul’s] archaic formulas confirm that [the virginal conception], often considered illusory in these times, did belong to the most ancient Christian tradition.”[40]

One factor that troubles some skeptics is the fact that Matthew and Luke did not witness the events described in the nativity story. How could they know the details of Mary and Joseph being visited by an angel? The story of the conception of Jesus is believed to come from Mary herself, since Luke makes reference to her prayerful recollection. Mary is of course the only witness to the annunciation.[41] Thus, Luke received the story from Mary’s testimony.[42] It should be likewise considered Matthew received it from the same source.

Considering the historical accuracy of the Bible in general, and more specifically Matthew and Luke, it is rational to presume the stories told are accurate. In addition, other books within the Bible confirm the tradition of a virgin conception. Again, if we assume for the moment that the virgin conception did happen in the first century, the evidence we would expect to find from the first century is supporting eye witness testimony and skeptical testimony from those that did not witness it. And this is indeed what we find.

SCIENTIFIC SKEPTICISM

The most common objection to the virgin conception I often hear myself, is that of scientific impossibility. Such an event is a miracle, considered impossible, and thus rejected unless it can be proven otherwise. Usually the skeptic requires scientific proof, ignoring the fact that there are many truths we all accept everyday without a shred of scientific proof. Yet, this has not prevented many from drawing up explanations for the virgin conception that are supposedly scientifically sound. Just as the previously mentioned conspiracy theory of an affair looks to find a simple and scientifically acceptable explanation, there are others to consider as well, such as Parthenogenesis.

A few years ago, discover magazine posted an article on Parthenogenesis which stated, “Virgin birth may sound like the stuff of myths and miracles, but now it’s the stuff of science, too. In recent years, asexual reproduction, aka virgin birth, has been confirmed in a number of organisms.”[43] Parthenogenesis is the capability for an organism to reproduce without the need for fertilized eggs. It has been observed in pythons, sharks, bats, and even lab mice.[44] So if it is possible for these animals to give birth without sex, then maybe it is possible for humans too. Maybe such was the case for Jesus. This would serve to provide scientific plausibility for the skeptics and maintain the virgin birth for believers. In fact, many Christians have indeed adopted Parthenogenesis into their theology. Problem solved! Right?

Wrong. There are theological and scientific implications to parthenogenesis that prove to be anything but harmonious with scripture. The theological problem: Parthenogenesis removes any need for God, the Holy Spirit, or anything supernatural, chalking up Mary’s pregnancy to incredible, but still natural, causes. The denial of any divine influence renders the event non-miraculous and pointless to the Gospels. As Dr. Prasad confirms, “…when it comes to having babies without males, the hand of God now seems redundant.”[45] The scientific problem: parthenogenesis works by giving the egg an X chromosome from the mother, creating an XX combination which results in a female. Jesus was a male however. Meaning he required a Y chromosome which mothers cannot give, but fathers can.[46] As Prasad clarifies, “In humans, a virgin birth would mean that a woman’s eggs develop successfully without sperm. This presents a sex chromosome problem. In mammals, females are XX while males are XY so a woman should never be able to provide the necessary Y chromosome genes to produce a son. They can only come from a father.”[47]

However, some argue it could still be possible for Jesus to have been conceived this way if Mary had a condition called “testicular feminization syndrome.” Meaning, Mary had an X and Y chromosome (like that of a man) but her X chromosome was mutated preventing her body from being sensitive to testosterone, and thus, would develop like a female.[48] Normally the syndrome leaves the carrier sterile, but if she were to spontaneously become pregnant, she would have a Y chromosome to give, making it possible to have a male child.[49]

This, however, leads to another problem. Such a case of parthenogenesis among a carrier of testicular feminization syndrome would mean the offspring would inherit the same X chromosome mutation, and subsequently develop like a female as well. The only way around this problem is to propose a “back mutation,” in which the X chromosome mutation mutates back to the original gene that doesn’t cause testicular feminization. The odds of a back mutation are, however, “highly unlikely.”[50]

Another theory maintains that Mary didn’t have testicular feminization, but was instead a genetic mosaic caused while she herself was in her mother’s womb. This scenario involves a twin embryo (with a Y chromosome) fusing with Mary’s at a very early stage.[51] Thus, Mary is a female, but has the Y chromosome from her unfortunate fused twin. Yet problems emerge just as before; why is that Y chromosome not expressed in Mary’s phenotype? Whatever would suppress that Y chromosome allowing Mary to be female, would likewise prevent Jesus from being male as well.

Furthermore, the processes required for natural virgin birth are extremely unlikely. Parthenogenesis has never been observed in humans. Testicular feminization syndrome is very rare, only effecting one in 20,000 to 64,000 births in modern times.[52] The possibility of females with testicular feminization syndrome giving birth is very rare. Mary being a genetic mosaic is also very rare. And a back mutation is also very rare. When you stack unlikely scenarios upon piles of other unlikely scenarios, you’re left with an overall scenario so unlikely, it might as well be a miracle! As Prasad writes, “You could be forgiven for thinking that the scientific possibilities are no more plausible than a miracle.”[53] Clearly, the purpose of parthenogenesis to provide a scientific explanation for the virgin conception absent of miracles completely fails in this regard.

This is naturally where the argument heads into the realm of miracles and the question of whether or not miracles can or have happened. There is obviously a great deal that can be written on this subject alone, but I will only briefly attend to it. I will start by suggesting that it is a fallacy to claim that science disproves miracles. Science can only measure and study the regular natural order of things. A miracle, being a suspension of the regular natural order, would thus not be detectable by science. Ergo, to argue that science leaves no room for miracles is to argue that science has a monopoly on determining what truth is. However, the process of science is the data collected from observable repeatable experiment. Thus, science is limited as to what it can prove or disprove.

We also need to recognize that science is descriptive, not prescriptive. It does not determine what is possible, it only recognizes what is possible, and hence is always changing as we discover and understand more and more. Things that once defied science in the past are now standards in science. So if we recognize the limitations of science it becomes clear that the assumption it disproves miracles, is ultimately, false. After all, if science absolutely disproved miracles we should see a complete absence of Christian scientists. Such is not the case though.

Here, I believe, it is important to understand God’s role between miracles and natural law. Philosopher and apologist Norman L. Geisler does a wonderful job in identifying this, “Natural law is a description of the way God acts regularly in and through creation (Ps. 104:10–14), whereas a miracle is the way God acts on special occasions. So both miracles and natural law involve the activity of God. The difference is that natural law is the regular, repeatable way God acts, whereas a miracle is not… Natural law is the way God acts indirectly in and through the world he has made. By contrast, a miracle is the way God acts directly in his creation from time to time… Natural law describes the gradual activity of God in the world, whereas miracles manifest his immediate actions.”[54]

Overall, attempts to reconcile the virgin conception through pure natural causes devoid of divine intervention have to be recognized as attempts to remove God from the picture completely. And to remove God from the event, ultimately leads to an even easier denial of it. Brown writes, “It [virgin conception] was an extraordinary action of God’s creative power, as unique as the initial creation itself (and that is why all natural scientific objections to it are irrelevant, e.g., that not having a human father, Jesus’ genetic structure would be abnormal). It was not a phenomenon of nature; and to reduce it to one, however unusual, would be as serious a challenge to deny it altogether.”[55] So there should be no interest for Christians to search out natural explanations for it in an effort to make the story more plausible to skeptics.

Yet, the removal of any natural cause might be the deal breaker for you, yourself. Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, I could never believe in miracles! I can, however, argue that you most likely all ready do. Atheists and agnostic skeptics tend to have more in common with Christians than they would like to think. The virgin conception proves this greatly in that it involves the spontaneous generation of Jesus’ first embryonic cell. Scoff and mock this notion if you wish. But it is no different than the first spontaneous generation of life on earth. Think of the parallels: Both involve a spontaneous generation of a cell. Both unobserved by modern science. A purely natural origin of life on this earth involves the same degree of miraculous cellular formation we see in the virgin birth. Yet skeptics will scoff and mock the notion of the virgin birth (of which we have eye witness accounts) and yet religiously adhere to the natural origin of life on earth (in which there is no eyewitness account, and additionally no conclusive evidence)! Such irony!

So from a scientific perspective there is no valid excuse to deny the virgin conception unless you wish to throw out every other miraculous non-observable event in history like the spontaneous generation of life on earth, the big bang event, etc. etc. Yet, if we believe these events to have occurred, than you no longer have any scientific grounds to refute the virgin conception.

CONCLUSION

My research has lead me to conclude the virgin conception story as recorded in the Bible can stand up to the refutations skeptics attack it with. As Laurentin concludes, “After so many hypotheses, which have on examination turned out be as many impasses, the obvious critical solution is to recognize that the virginal conception is a datum of tradition, handed down in Judeo-Christian circles. The two evangelists received it by different routes as a statement of fact… This is the conclusion to which an objective study of the text leads.”[56]

Through out the course of researching this topic it occurred to me that in arguing for and against the virgin conception of Christ, the issue will always boil down to a single question: Is there a God? This is ultimately the issue at hand. If there is no God then the virgin conception becomes null and void. If there is a God, then miracles are possible, and the virgin conception possible and confirmed. This is the question one must decide for themselves first, as the virgin conception debacle will only lead back to it. For Christians who claim to believe in God there is absolutely no reason to deny the literal accuracy of the virgin conception. To do so would be to pull on the thread of God’s capability that is tied to all Biblical events, unraveling the entire Bible itself.

Although this article does not alone prove whether the virgin conception actually happened or not, it does bring up two significant points: First, that if the virgin conception did occur in the first century as expressed in the gospels, all the evidence we would expect there to be of this event are indeed found. Second, if God exists as expressed in the Bible, then the virgin conception is possible, tied to the first point that there is evidence of the virgin conception, it can then be concluded it did occur. Alas, we are left with one final question then; does God exist? If your answer is yes, then I believe it is necessary to conclude the virgin conception is a historical fact.


[1] Spong, J.S., (1992) Born of a Woman: A Bishop Rethinks the Birth of Jesus, (San Francisco, CA: Harper)

[2] Flam, F., (May 2006) “What would Jesus’ DNA do?” seattletimes.com

[3] Robinson, J.A.T. (1967) But That I Can’t Believe! (New York, NY: The New American Library, Inc.) pp. 44.

[4] Larue, G. (1983) Sex and the Bible, (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books). Pp. 70.

[5] Prasad, A., (December 2008) “Virgin conception would be more plausible if mary was a man,” http://www.theguardian.co.uk

[6] “Alexander the Great,” http://www.biography.com

[7] Hold, J.P., “Was the story of Jesus stolen from Apollonius of Tyana?” http://www.tektonics.org

[8] Hold, J.P., “Was the story of Jesus stolen from Buddha? (Part 2)” http://www.tektonics.org

[9] “Genghis Kahn Biography,” (2012) http://www.biography.com

[10] “The Life and Times of Hercules,” http://www.perseus.tufts.edu

[11] “Alceme,” dante.udallas.edu

[12] Cazelle, H., (1959) “La mere du roi-Messie dans l’Ancien Testment,” Maria Ecclesia 5, pp. 39-56.

[13] Hold, J.P., “Was the story of Jesus stolen from that of the Egyptian deities Horus and Osiris?” http://www.tektonics.org

[14] Hold, J.P., “Was the story of Jesus stolen from that of the Persian deity Mithra?” http://www.tektonics.org

[15] Sarfati, J., (1994) “The Virginal Conception of Christ,” Apologia, 3(2) pp. 9.

[16] Sarfati, J., (1994) “The Virginal Conception of Christ,” Apologia, 3(2) pp. 9.

[17] Lindemans, M.F., (March 2002) “Romulus,” http://www.pantheon.org

[18] Hold, J.P., “Was the story of Jesus stolen from that of Zoroaster?” http://www.tektonics.org

[19] Ratzinger, J.A., (1969) Introduction au christianise. Translated, Queriniana, Pp. 207-208

[20] Brown, R.E., (1977)  The Birth of the Messiah: a commentary on the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke, Garden City, NY: Doubleday) pp. 523

[21] Sarfati, J., (1994) “The Virginal Conception of Christ,” Apologia, 3(2) pp. 9.

[22] Danielou, J., (1968) The Infancy Narratives, (New York, NY: Herder and Herder). Pp. 53.

[23] Danielou, J., (1968) The Infancy Narratives, (New York, NY: Herder and Herder). Pp. 48.

[24] Larue, G. (1983) Sex and the Bible, (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books). Pp 69.

[25] Bott, M. & Sarfati, J., (1995) “What is wrong with Bishop Spong? Laymen Rethink the Scholarship of John Shelby Spong,” Apologia 4(1):3–27

[26] Laurentin, R., (1982) The Truth of Christmas; Beyond the Myths, Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Publications) pp. 403.

[27] Danielou, J., (1968) The Infancy Narratives, (New York, NY: Herder and Herder). Pp. 50.

[28] Danielou, J., (1968) The Infancy Narratives, (New York, NY: Herder and Herder). Pp. 52.

[29] Quoted in, Little, P.E., (2000) “Know Why You Believe,” 4th Ed., (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press) pp. 41-42.

[30] Sarfati, J., (1994) “The Virginal Conception of Christ,” Apologia, 3(2) pp. 4.

[31] Laurentin, R., (1982) The Truth of Christmas; Beyond the Myths, Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Publications) pp. 410.

[32] Laurentin, R., (1982) The Truth of Christmas; Beyond the Myths, Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Publications) pp. 405.

[33] As quoted from Chadwick, H., (1953) Origen: Contra Celsum, Cambridge, The University Press, 1:28, pp. 28

[34] As quoted from Chadwick, H., (1953) Origen: Contra Celsum, Cambridge, The University Press, 1:32, pp. 31.

[35] Laurentin, R., (1982) The Truth of Christmas; Beyond the Myths, Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Publications) pp. 539 (ref 13).

[36] Laurentin, R., (1982) The Truth of Christmas; Beyond the Myths, Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Publications) pp. 416.

[37] Laurentin, R., (1982) The Truth of Christmas; Beyond the Myths, Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Publications) pp. 402.

[38] Danielou, J., (1968) The Infancy Narratives, (New York, NY: Herder and Herder). Pp. 42.

[39] Laurentin, R., (1982) The Truth of Christmas; Beyond the Myths, Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Publications) pp. 409.

[40] Vicent Cernuda, A., (1978) “La genesis humana de Jesucrist segun S. Pablo,” Translated, EB 37, pp. 289.

[41] Danielou, J., (1968) The Infancy Narratives, (New York, NY: Herder and Herder). Pp. 23.

[42] Danielou, J., (1968) The Infancy Narratives, (New York, NY: Herder and Herder). Pp. 58-59.

[43] Bai, N., (January 2009) “The Science of Virgin Birth,” blogs.discovermagazine.com

[44] Bai, N., (January 2009) “The Science of Virgin Birth,” blogs.discovermagazine.com

[45] Prasad, A., (December 2008) “Virgin conception would be more plausible if mary was a man,” http://www.theguardian.co.uk

[46] Bai, N., (January 2009) “The Science of Virgin Birth,” blogs.discovermagazine.com

[47] Prasad, A., (December 2008) “Virgin conception would be more plausible if mary was a man,” http://www.theguardian.co.uk

[48] Kour, V. & Abrol, A., (January-March 2005) “Testicular Feminization Syndrome,” Vol. 7, No. 1, http://www.jkscience.org

[49] Prasad, A., (December 2008) “Virgin conception would be more plausible if mary was a man,” http://www.theguardian.co.uk

[50] Prasad, A., (December 2008) “Virgin conception would be more plausible if mary was a man,” http://www.theguardian.co.uk

[51] Bai, N., (January 2009) “The Science of Virgin Birth,” blogs.discovermagazine.com

[52] Kour, V. & Abrol, A., (January-March 2005) “Testicular Feminization Syndrome,” Vol. 7, No. 1, http://www.jkscience.org

[53] Prasad, A., (December 2008) “Virgin conception would be more plausible if mary was a man,” http://www.theguardian.co.uk

[54] Geisler, N.L., (1992) Miracles and the Modern Mind, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker) pp. 111.

[55] Brown, R.E., (1977)  The Birth of the Messiah: a commentary on the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke, Garden City, NY: Doubleday) pp. 531.

[56] Laurentin, R., (1982) The Truth of Christmas; Beyond the Myths, Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Publications) pp. 416.

Christianity all revolves around a critical facet of the New Testament; the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. If Jesus never resurrected from the dead that Christianity is pointless for the most part. His conquering of death is the climax of His divine life. Though there are many conspiracies regarding whether Jesus died or not, there is one in particular regarding His burial that stands out. This is the conspiracy that Jesus’ body was eaten by dogs or other wild animals. And therefore there was no resurrection because there was no body left to resurrect.

Before proceeding, it should first be put to rest the debate on whether Jesus was actually crucified. The vast majority of scholars (secular and non-secular) agree Jesus was crucified. The writers of the gospels wrote an incredibly detailed and accurate account of it. It was also the most shameful way to die, which leads one conclude the stories were not concocted, as why would followers write of their Messiah dying in the most humiliating and shameful way? Unless it was true. Also non-Christian Roman historian Tactitus recorded Jesus’ crucifixion. So rest assured it can be logically established that Jesus was crucified. But what happened to Jesus’ body after it was crucified.

J.D. Crossan writes, “The norm was to let the crucified rot on the cross or be cast aside for carrion.”[1] Crossan believes Jesus most likely incurred the same fate of being left on the cross, his body then eaten by wild animals. Crossan’s conclusion is reached from evidence from the historical event from AD70 when Emperor Titus captured and crucified 2,000 Jewish rebels leaving their bodies to rot on the crosses from which they hung. There are numerous occasions when mass executions were recorded in Rome with bodies left to rot. Many Roman writers mentioned crucifixion in their literature, “The Vulture hurries, from dead cattle to dead dogs to crosses.”[2] Lastly Crossan points out that of the tens of thousands of crucified people killed for centuries, only one bone has been found of a crucified person. This, he claims, is testimony that the crucified had their bodies consumed by wild animals.

“In the ancient mind, the supreme honor of crucifixion was to lose public mourning, to forfeit proper burial, to lie separate from one’s ancestors forever… In normal circumstances the soldiers guarding the body until death and thereafter it was left for carrion crow, scavenger, dog, or other wild beast to finish the brutal job. That non-burial consummated the authority’s dreadful warning to any observer and every passerby.” John Dominic Crossan, Jesus Seminar.[3]

Jewish Law:

Sure, in most areas of theRoman Empirecrucified bodies were left for the wild animals. But Jesus was crucified inJudea, a Jewish country. AndJudeawas governed by Jewish Law, particularly Deut. 21:22-23; “If someone guilty of a capital offense is put to death and their body is exposed on a pole, you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance (NIV),” and Ezekiel 39:14-16, “People will be continually employed in cleansing the land. They will spread out across the land and, along with others, they will bury any bodies that are lying on the ground. After the seven months they will carry out a more detailed search. As they go through the land, anyone who sees a human bone will leave a marker beside it until the gravediggers bury it in theValleyofHamon Gog, near a town called Hamonah.And so they will cleanse the land (NIV).”

The Temple Scroll from Qumran from before the time of Christ also testifies to this, “You shall not allow bodies to remain on a tree overnight most assuredly, you shall bury them, even on the very day of their death,”[4]  The Jewish Book of Tobit written between the OT and the NT says that burying an abandoned corpse is an act of supreme piety.[5]

Rabbis of the time also recorded that even the death of criminals deserved proper burial.[6] Then take into consideration that Jesus died on the eve of a significant Jewish holiday, Passover. If there is one time you don’t break Jewish law, it’s a major holiday like Passover. That’s plenty of motivation to bury Jesus’ body, which is exactly the gospels say happened. Now you might be thinking, so what? Roman Law supersedes Jewish Law, so it doesn’t matter what the Jewish Law were.

Roman Law:

True it didn’t matter what the Jewish Laws were during periods of war. Like the Jewish revolt in AD 70, when the Romans crucified thousands of Jews and left their bodies to rot on crosses. But we’re talking about Jesus’ crucifixion forty years earlier. Jesus wasn’t crucified during a time of war, but in fact during a relatively peaceful time inJerusalem.

During times of peace, Romans respected the laws of the nations they controlled, in this case the Jewish law. Jewish-Roman historian Josephus wrote the following, “The Romans do not require… their subjects to violate national laws.”[7] Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria wrote the following of Jewish practices, “I’ve known cases when, on the eve of a holiday of this sort, people who have been crucified were taken down, their bodies handed over to the families, because it was considered good to give them burial and allow their ordinary rites. It was appropriate that the dead also should have the advantage of kindness upon the emperor’s birthday and also that the sanctity of the festival should be maintained.”[8]

Josephus records an event where Herod Antipas gave the body of John the Baptist back to his disciples after John was beheaded.[9] It is very probable Pontius Pilate gave the body of Jesus back to His family based off what was common place at that time, even though Roman law didn’t command it. It would have been in Pilate’s best interest to keep the peace anyways before such a big Jewish festival took place.

Even the Roman Law itself allowed leeway for this. Pandectae summarized Roman legal code for crucifixion as follows; “The bodies of those who are condemned to death should not be refused their relatives; and [Caesar] Augustus the Divine, in the tenth book of his Vita, said that this rule had been observed. At present the bodies of those who have been punished are only buried when this has been requested and permission granted; and sometimes it is not permitted, especially when the persons have been committed of high treason… The body of persons have been punished should be given to whoever requests them for the purpose of burial.”[10]

So then why is their so much recorded history of people being left on the cross and their bodies left to rot and be picked apart by wild animals? Because being crucified was the ultimate form of humiliation, torture and death, reserved only for the worst criminals. It was the most shame one could endure. So if a family member was crucified it would be a shame to the family to take the body down. Many people sent to the cross were disowned by their families. Then take into consideration that theRoman empirecovered vast regions of the earth were there were no Jewish inhabitants with such strict burial laws and it becomes clear why there are so many accounts of bodies being left to rot on the cross. But when taking into consideration Roman and Jewish law and the circumstances of Jesus’ death on the eve of Passover, there is no reason to assume Jesus’ body was left to rot.

What about their being only one bone of a crucified person found? This claim comes from the fact that there has only been one bone discovered in which a crucifixion nail was still imbedded in the bone. But there could be dozens of reasons why only one has been found in such a fashion: Not all crucifixions involved nails penetrating actual bone. If a body was taken off a cross the nails would be removed and why would someone bury the crucified body along with the nails? Just because we haven’t found any more bones with nails in them doesn’t mean they’re not out there. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. And just because nails were not found among the skeletal remains of a body does not mean there was no crucifixion. In other words, it’s quite a stretch to draw such a conclusion that only one bone found with a nail means that all crucified bodies were eaten by wild animals.

In conclusion, if one understands Jewish and Roman Law and crucifixion practices at that time, it becomes pretty clear that there is no basis to speculate Jesus’ body was left to rot, eaten by wild animals.


[1] J.D. Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, (Harper One 1995) Pg. 127

[2] Juvenal, Satires 14:77-78

[3] As quoted in Crossan and Reed’s, Excavating Jesus; Beneath the Stones, Behind the Text, (Harper Collins 2002) pg.290-291; J.D. Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, (Harper One 1995) Pg.153.

[4]11QT64:11-13, 4Q524l 11QT48:10-14

[5] Book of Tobit 1:18-20, 2:3-8, 4:3-4,14:10-13

[6] Mishnah Sanhedrin 6:4-6

[7] Josephus, Contra Apionem, 2:6

[8] Philo of Alexandria, In Flaccus, 10.81-85

[9] Josephus, Antiquities Judaica, 18:5

[10] Corpus Iuris Civilis, Pandectae 48.24.1-3

In the book, The Jesus Papers, written by Michael Baigent, the author claims to have seen a letter from Jesus Himself. The letter is supposedly in Aramaic, written to the Jewish council, and proves that Jesus faked his death and afterwards fled toEgypt. Is this true? Did Jesus really fake his death and flee toEgypt?

 

Well when you examine Baigent’s claims it becomes apparently not so true. For you see, Baigent can’t read Aramaic, but the antiquities dealer he purchased the letter from assured him of the contents of the letter. Problem is, the antiquities dealer himself couldn’t read Aramaic as well and Baigent fails to provide the name of this dealer. Baigent did have two scholars review the letter, yet both unfortunately passed away before Baigent published his book.[1] Not too convincing anymore is it?

 

As scholar Craig Evans concludes; “No living, qualified expert has seen these documents, and the two who say they have seen them- and are still living- cannot read them… Baigent neglects to mention that archaeologists and papyrologists will tell you that no papyrus… can survive buried in the ground, in Jerusalem, for two thousand years… Jerusalemreceives rainfall every year; papyri buried underground, beneath houses or whatever, decompose quickly. So whatever Baigent saw, they were not ancient papyri found beneath somebody’s house in Jerusalem, and they were not letters Jesus wrote.”[2]


[1] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies of the Cross (Lake Mary,FL: Frontline 2008) Pg. 159

[2] Craig A. Evans, Fabricating Jesus; How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels, (Nottingham,England: IVP Books 2006) Pg. 216.

…first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a massive conspiracy to cover up the truth which has been kept suppressed for thousands of years. This is what many skeptics think at least. Popularized by Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and the pseudo-documentary Bloodline, these works were inspired by Laurence Gardner’s The Magdalene Legacy, Charles Pellegrino and Simcha Jacobovici’s The Jesus Family Tomb, and Margaret Starbird’s The Woman With the Alabaster Jar and Mary Magdalene, Bride in Exile. According to these sources there is plenty of historical evidence indicating that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, but early church leaders suppressed the truth about the marriage. So did Jesus marry Mary Magdalene?

First, it is important to know who Mary Magdalene is. We all know who Jesus is, but Mary Magdalene seems to be this woman of mystery that is only referenced a handful of times in the NT. Luke 8:2 speaks of Jesus casting seven demons out of her, followed by her witness to the crucifixion and empty tomb as recorded in Matthew 27:56 and Luke 24:10. Tradition holds that she was also the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11, but the Bible does identify this woman, so it would be an assumption to identify her as Mary Magdalene. This tradition of believing John 8 pertains to Mary Magdalene was popularized by Bishop Gregory of the Roman Church in the 6th century.

As you can see, the Bible talks very little about Mary Magdalene, so the skeptics believe there is a cover up of her true relationship with Christ. Even though there are dozens of other biblical characters that have small appearances in the NT as well, Mary Magdalene’s situation MUST be a cover up. Zacchaeus the tax collector has a small role in the NT, maybe there is a conspiracy to conceal his true relationship with Jesus as well [insert sarcasm font]. But let’s play devil’s advocate and say Jesus really did have a relationship with Mary Magdalene. Why would this be covered up? Well according to skeptics this would mean Mary would be next in line for leader of the church after Jesus died. So power hungry church leaders, denied her place in the story. They also feared that Jesus being married would make it difficult for them to teach that sex is a sin[1], and also prevent them from keeping women in their place as second class citizens. Quite the accusations! I wonder what evidence these skeptics are using to make such audacious claims?

Why, apparently the evidence has been right in front of your face the entire time!!! In the Bible that is… Where you ask? Let’s take a look see:

v     According to Laurence Gardner the wedding dinner mentioned in John 2 was actually Jesus and Mary’s wedding.[2] The scripture doesn’t say that…but… ya know, why would Jesus talk about a wedding unless it was his own? Riggggght.

v     Gardneralso points out that Magdalene comes from the word migdal which means “powerful tower” in Hebrew. Therefore, she must be from a royal family, and by marrying the messiah they would be creating a dynasty![3] That’s a stretch…

v     Another skeptic points out that Jewish tradition holds that all males must marry.[4] Jesus would have had to marry to fulfill His duties as a Jewish man. If Jesus remained unmarried, how come the Pharisees did not question His single status? How come the disciples did not question His single status? Obviously because He was married, duh!

v     Margaret Starbird also maintains that Jesus would have had to have married for the same reasons, but also would have had to have kids to maintain the Davidic lineage from which the Messiah was supposed to have come from.[5]

v     Dan Brown points out that the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Philip reveals their relationship. It is written in the Gospel of Mary that Jesus “loved [Mary] more than any other woman.”[6] The Gospel of Philip says, “There were three who had been walking with the Lord in every time: Mary his mother, his sister, and Magdalene- the one they call his companion… The Messiah loved [Mary Magdalene] more than all the disciples, and he was kissing her.”[7] Sounds convincing… if the Gospel of Mary and Philip were actually trustworthy texts. But more on that later.

v     Many medieval paintings and other artworks depict Jesus and Mary Magdalene in poses and situations that suggest they were in a relationship or possibly even marriage. How scandalous!

v     Skeptic Simcha Jacobovici even teamed up with James Cameron to reveal that a dig site nearJerusalemturned up the bones of Jesus Christ, Mary Magdalene and their child! So not only was Jesus a father, but he also didn’t resurrect from the dead. Uh-oh… thanks a lot James Cameron. I’ll never watch Titanic again!!!

What’s a Christian to think? Jesus married Mary Magdalene, had a child, and never resurrected from the dead! Has Christianity as we know it been turned upside down?

Do You Know Anyone Named Mary or Jesus?

 

Raise your hand if you have ever met someone named Jesus, or met someone named Mary. Ironically Jesus Christ wasn’t the only one named Jesus, and Mary Magdalene isn’t the only person named Mary in the history of mankind. More specifically, let’s look at popular names from the first century. Jesus was the 6th most popular name amongst Palestinian Jews, making up about 3.8% of the male Jewish population.[8] While Mary comes in first, being the most popular female name amongst Palestinian Jews, compromising a strong 21.3% of the female population.[9]

So when some construction workers discover a tomb near Jerusalemfull of ossuaries with the names Mariamme, Judas, Matthew, Joseh, Mary and Jesus, do you think WOW, THE TOMB OF JESUS CHRIST!!! Well if you know how popular the names Mary and Jesus were you wouldn’t get that excited at all. But when you’re a creative movie producer named James Cameron with no formal education on such things, or a secular scholar of Jewish decent named Simcha Jacobovici who is better versed in Marxism than rabbinics,[10] such things don’t cross your mind.

Even more interesting is that not too far from this tomb, another tomb was found by the name of Dominus Flevit. Inside this tomb ossuaries were found with the names Joseph, Judas, Mary, John, Lazarus, Martha, Matthew, Salome, Simon, and (drum roll please) JESUS![11] One can only imagine how many hundreds of undiscovered ossuaries and graves exist out aroundJerusalem bearing the names Jesus and Mary.

Where’s the proof of the marriage?

 

Even if Jesus wasn’t buried with Mary, they could have been married. According to Baigent, the banquet in John 2:2 is for Jesus’ wedding hence why he was being “called” and had responsibility over the wine.[12] However, the word used in the original Greek for “called” is the word kaleo which means to invite, bid, or call.[13] It’s also used in Matthew 22:2-3 when Jesus speaks of a king that arranges a wedding for his son, asking the servants to go and call the guests to the wedding. Same happens in Matthew 22:8-9, Luke 14:8, and Luke 14:12-24. It’s clear that it is not Jesus being called to the wedding as a groom, but instead the guests of the wedding are being called to show up.

What about the claim that first-century Jewish men had to be married and have children? This claim makes it sound like that was the only option for Jewish men. But it was also popular and admired for men to devote themselves to celibacy for the sake of a divine task or purpose. For example the Jewish sect known as the “Essenes” commonly remained unmarried their entire lives which was revered by kings and nobility.[14] So yes, most Jewish men married, but many did not for devotional purposes (Matthew 19:12).

Now onto the Gospel of Mary. Before you can take anything in the Gospel of Mary seriously you have to first recognize that the original account of Mary was written long after the original NT gospels were written. The Gospel of Mary also never specifically identifies the “Mary” it is referring to. Is it Jesus’ mother? Is it Mary Magdalene? Or is it one of the thousands of other Marys that lived in the first century? And even if it did claim to be authored by Mary Magdalene, since the original was written in the mid to late second century, Mary Magdalene would have already have been deceased and could not have possibly written it.[15] Lastly even if Jesus did love Mary more than the other disciples that doesn’t mean there was sexual activity involved. So the Gospel of Mary hardly qualifies as sufficient evidence.

Then there is the Gospel of Philip, which was written even later than the Gospel of Mary, the late-second century at the latest, but most likely the third century.[16] Sure, the Gospel of Philip says Jesus kissed Mary, but there is a hole in the text (one of many holes) right after this statement. In other words, we don’t know where Jesus kissed Mary. And considering that kissing was a very common form of greeting in first centuryJudea as it is in many parts of the world still today, it shouldn’t be a shocker that Jesus kissed Mary. Kissing as a form of greeting can also be read in Acts 20:37, Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26, 1 Peter 5:14. Let’s think about it, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, does that mean Judas and Jesus were having a love affair? Hardly. Kissing was a common greeting among close friends, not certified evidence of a love affair.

The Gospel of Philip does refer to Mary as Jesus’ companion though, from the Coptic version of the Greek word koinonos, which skeptics claim translates to “consort” or “spouse.”[17] But this is an inaccurate translation of koinonos, which is accurately defined as “a fellow participant with a shared goal.”[18] The word appears 10 times in the New Testament and not once does it imply any sexual relationship. Read Luke 5:10, 2 Corinthians 1:7, 8:23, 1 Peter 5:1, Matthew 23:30, 1 Corinthians 10:18, Hebrews 10:33, or 2 Peter 1:4, and ask yourself if there is anything sexual in nature about those relationships. Even in the gospel of Philip the usage of koinonos doesn’t specify anything sexual.

Lastly, all the paintings and other artworks of Jesus in suggestive poses with Mary are not earth shattering. All the artworks were created over one-thousand years after the lifetime of Jesus. Historical paintings are not photographs of history. They’re imaginative reconstructions. Many artists painted Jesus in medieval clothing, not because Jesus wore medieval clothing during his ministry but simply because artists did not know how people dressed in the first century. In Reader’s Digest’s Atlas of the Bible, much of the artwork depicting the life of Jesus in the hundreds of years after his death were examined, to which it was concluded; “It was common for artists to incorporate various non-biblical details in their portrayals of the gospel stories.”[19] Personally myself, I’d take a collection of eyewitness accounts recorded less than 100 years after Jesus’ death over paintings and other artworks created over a thousand years after Jesus’ death.

Clearly, this conspiracy has no solid legs to stand on. When you already have a conclusion in your mind, you can find just about anything to serve as evidence when you spin it and misinterpret it. Which is exactly what is found in this conspiracy. As theologian Timothy Paul Jones states, “The marriage of Jesus didn’t become part of the church’s story of Jesus for a single reason: no reliable proof exists for such a marriage.”[20]

The Origin of the Mary Magdalene Conspiracy

 

So how did this conspiracy first come about in the first place? A Frenchman named Pierre Plantard aspired to be the King of France. To do so he tried to provide documentation linking a royal blood line between Jesus and Mary Magdalene to the Kings of France and then ultimately to himself. The documentation was based off nonsensical reinterpretation of a 19th century priest named Beranger Sauniere who lived in a tiny village in France called Rennes le Chateau. Sauniere supposedly used secret evidence of Jesus to blackmail the Roman Catholic Church. This is the foundation for the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Messianic Lineage. Problem was, Plantard’s evidence was forged. In 1993, Plantard admitted under oath that his claims were completely false.[21]

So, with the evidence not holding up, and the origin of the conspiracy itself based on fraud, I believe it is safe to say at this time that Jesus did not marry Mary Magdalene.


[1] The Bible does not say sex is a sin, but that sexual immorality is a sin.

[2] Laurence Gardner, The Magdalene Legacy, (Thorsons Element 2005) Pg 152.

[3] Laurence Gardner, The Magdalene Legacy, (New York, NY: Thorsons Element 2005) Pg 9-13.

[4] Michael Baiget, The Jesus Papers (New York,NY: Harper Collins 2006) Pg 107

[5] Margaret Starbird, Mary Magdalene, Bride in Exile (Rochester,VT: Bear 2005) Pg. 89

[6] Gospel of Mary 5:5

[7] Gospel of Philip 59:6-11

[8] Judas was also a popular comprising of 6.3% of the male population. Joseph 8.3%, Lazarus 6.3% and John 4.7%.

[9] T. Ilan, Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity, part 1 (Tubingen,Germany: Mohr, 2002).

[10] Pellegrino and Jacobovici, The Jesus Family Tomb, Pg 136

[11] Antonio Lombatti, “Inscriptions of the ossuaries of Dominus Flevit,” June 27, 2007. http://www.antoniolombatti.it

[12] Michael Baiget, The Jesus Papers (New York, NY: Harper Collins 2006) xiii

[13] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies of the Cross (Lake Mary,FL: Frontline 2008) Pg. 147.

[14] Philio of Alexandria, Hypothetica, vol IX, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1941) 8:11.

[15] J. Y. Leloup, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene (Rochester,VT: Inner Traditions, 2002) Pg. 5-6.

[16] “Gospel of Philip” in Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, ed.E. Ferguson (New York, NY: Garland, 1990)  Pg. 74

[17] Starbird, Mary Magdalene, Bride in Exile, Pg. 74. Gardner The Magdalene Legacy Pg. 129-130. Brown, The Da Vinci Code Pg. 246.

[18] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies of the Cross (Lake Mary,FL: Frontline 2008)  Pg. 148

[19] Reader’s Digest, Atlas of the Bible, An Illustrated Guide to the Holy Land (Pleasantville, NY: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1981)

[20] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies of the Cross (Lake Mary,FL: Frontline 2008)  Pg. 151

[21] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies of the Cross (Lake Mary,FL: Frontline 2008)  Pg 149

The four Gospels of the New Testament go by the name Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which tradition holds are the authors of these stories. But how do we know who really wrote them? Couldn’t anyone have written them and claimed to be Matthew, or John? How do we really know the Gospels are actual accounts of Jesus and not accounts far removed of the people and events described? The conspiracy theories on this subject are vast. There is a group called the Jesus Seminar, and books like Bart Ehrman’s, Misquoting Jesus and Timothy Freke’s, The Laughing Jesus: Religious Lies and Gnostic Wisdom, all of which testify to the NT Gospels not being authentic firsthand accounts from the people from which the names are ascribed. So how can we know for sure just who wrote the Gospels?

Today when you want to know who wrote a book you might flip to the copyright and publishing info in the first couple pages, or maybe even flip to the referenced sources to see how old they are to give you and idea of when the book was written. At the very least the author’s name will be printed largely under the title about 20 times in the pages preceding the actual text. But in Biblical times this was not the case. The earliest Gospel manuscripts didn’t have the author’s names printed up top like we find in our Bibles today. In fact, the first manuscripts to actually list the author’s names were from the 2nd century. And this is one of the many reasons conspiracies have evolved as to who wrote the gospels.

Skeptics claim early Christians didn’t know who wrote the Gospels and that even if they did, the information was long lost.[1] For example, Ehrman references the fact that the gospels are not written in first person narrative, but in third person narrative, which is evidence they are not firsthand accounts. He also points out that neither author claimed to be a direct eye witness.[2] Freke claims that the gospel’s authors weren’t even determined until AD 180 by Irenaeus who attributed them to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.[3]

But these claims aside there is something that should be addressed. Even if the four Gospels weren’t written by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, would that make them any less true? It is entirely possible for the story of Jesus as written in these accounts to be word for word true to history despite not being written by any of the now recognized authors.

Regardless, in response to Freke’s claim, the book of John does in fact make a claim it is an eye witness account; John 19:35. The book of Luke does as well at Luke 1:2. But skeptics say they just as easily could have been lying. How do we know they’re telling the truth? The Gospel of Thomas claims to be telling the truth as well, yet Christian scholars discount it as a genuine source.

It is possible to determine the appropriate authors by understanding three issues; when the Gospels were written, witness accounts outside the Bible, and internal components of the Gospels.

Timeline: When the Gospels were written.

History has taught us that different eras in time present differences in style of writing, type of ink and type of paper used by writers and scribes. Historians have particular ancient texts that give exact dates as to when they were written, so by matching up ink, paper, and writing style to those dated texts we begin to see just how old the manuscripts in question are. Papyrus 52 is a manuscript fragment containing John 18:31-33, with the reverse side containing John 18:37-38. And based on its composition it is known to have originated sometime in the late first century or early second century. Furthermore the fragment was determined to have originated in Egypt[4], meaning that by the end of the first century (or early second century), the gospel accounts were already circulating inEgypt. This would necessitate Jesus’ life story being compiled prior during the latter half of the first century while the witnesses to Jesus would have still been alive.

Papyrus 52

There are also other manuscripts such as Papyrus 66 and Papyrus 90, both copied in the late second century. Papyrus 64, 103 and 104 contains fragments of the Book of Matthew, copied in the second century. Papyrus 4 and 75[5] contain fragments of the book of Luke copied in second century.[6] Again, if these Gospels were circulating around theRoman Empire by the second century, then they had to have been written originally in the early 100s. Now, you may be thinking, what about the Gospel of Mark? Well, the book of Mark is the shortest of the gospels, and Matthew and Luke have many similarities to Mark. It is suggested that Matthew and Luke referred to Mark, which suggests Mark was in existence before Matthew and Luke. You might be shocked by the fact that a gospel author would refer or borrow information from another gospel, but there really is no issue considering Luke opens up in the first chapter in his book by claiming that his account is a collection of accounts from eye witnesses and others who have already taken it upon themselves to write an account of Jesus: “Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you…” Luke 1:1-3 (NLT).

Another interesting theme found among the Gospel authors is that none of them spoke of the temple being destroyed. The temple was destroyed in AD 70, yet none of the authors wrote of its destruction, but instead of Jesus visiting the temple multiple times and going inside to teach. If the gospels were written much later, surely the temple being destroyed would have been mentioned, but it is not, testifying to the gospel authors recording eye witness testimony prior to AD 70.

Also, Luke wrote the book of Acts after he wrote his gospel account. Acts was written to document the history of the early church. Yet the book of Acts also doesn’t reference the destruction of the temple. It also doesn’t mention Nero’s persecution of the Christians in AD 64, the death of James in AD 62, the death of Paul in AD 64 and the death of Peter in AD 65.[7] This would lead one to conclude Acts was written prior to these events, so possibly prior to AD 62. And since the book of Luke was written prior to Acts, it was surely written even earlier.

When we historically study the manuscripts that weren’t titled with the ones that were titled with an author, there is no name variance. In other words, as soon as we’ve found one Gospel titled Matthew, all subsequent Gospels (of the same Gospel of Matthew) were named Matthew.[8] We’ve never found a Gospel of Matthew named Philip or Andrew. This goes the same for Mark, Luke, and John. Thus further confirming the authorship of the Gospels was well known.

So by studying the oldest manuscripts we have, we can conclude that all four Gospels were well in circulation throughout theRoman Empireby the second century. Which would mean the Gospels were written originally prior in the first century while the witnesses to Jesus’ life were still well alive, just as Luke claims. Such close proximity to the events recorded would prevent any legends from developing. Considering how long it normally took historical accounts during this time to be constructed, the fact that the Gospels were written so soon after the events occurred is incredible. Relatively speaking they were like a news flash.

Witness accounts outside the Bible.

There is testimony from men in the second century that confirm the origin of the Gospels. Papias of Hierapolis was a pastor of Hierapolisin the area now known as Turkeyduring the late first to early second century. As recorded by Papias, “The elder said this: Mark, who became Peter’s interpreter, wrote accurately as much as he remembered- though not in ordered form- of the Lord’s sayings and doings. For [Mark] neither heard the Lord not followed after him, but later he followed after Peter, who was giving his teachings in short anecdotes and thus did not bring forth an ordered arrangement of the Lord’s sayings; so, Mark did not miss the point when he wrote in this way, as he remembered. For he had one purpose: To omit nothing of what he had heard and present no false testimony in these matters… And Matthew, in Hebrew dialect, placed the saying in orderly arrangement.”[9] Thus confirming Mark and Matthew each as an author of a Gospel account. Papias may have even written about Luke and John, but unfortunately what we have of Papias’ writings is only small fragments. We do know that he wrote the text quoted here around AD 110.[10]

Another pastor named Polycarp of Smyrna, was born around AD 70, and was a student of John, one of Jesus’ disciples and a direct eye witness. He wrote, “Matthew composed his gospel among the Hebrews in their language, while Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel in Romeand building up the church there. After their deaths, Mark- Peter’s follower and interpreter- handed down to us Peter’s proclamation in written form. Luke, the companion of Paul, wrote in a book the Gospel proclaimed by Paul. Finally, John- the Lord’s own follower, the one who leaned against His very chest- composed the Gospel while living in Ephesus, in Asia.”[11] As you can see, both Polycarp and Papias both wrote of the authorship of the four Gospels in extremely close proximity to the time when the gospels were first circulating around the Roman Empire, thus concluding that the authorship was not falsely determined hundreds of years later, or was lost over time.

Eusebius, a bishop from Casesarea from the 3rd century, wrote that Matthew first wrote his Gospel account while in Palestine, and left Palestine 12 years after Christ died.[12] If Eusebius is correct, that means Matthew wrote his gospel as early as AD 40 to AD 45. And if Matthew was indeed based off of Mark[13], then that pushes the origin of Mark back even further.

Those skeptics who maintain the conspiracy that the authorship wasn’t determined until hundreds of years later (believing Polycarp and Papias to be liars or their writings falsified) fail to acknowledge the number of manuscripts widely circulating in the Roman Empire. There wasn’t a central authoritative church until the 4th century. So the first, second and third centuries were ones of widely dispersed small churches. How could it be possible to assign authorship so long after the mass circulation of the gospels? It would be impossible to track down every manuscript at every church and assign authorship. Yet we can see from testimony above it was already well understood who authored each Gospel, right from the beginning.

Internal Content of the Gospels

In addition, the internal components of the Gospels should not be over looked as well. Take the book of Matthew for example, which described Matthew as a “tax collector.” First, tax collectors were despised in the Roman Empire, and any new religion looking to make up divine story to convert people wouldn’t dare used a despised tax collector as a disciple. But more importantly, what needs to be understood is that during the first century, those who could read and write were not common. However, tax collectors did in fact know how to read and write. In fact, tax collectors usually carried pinakes (sheets of wood covered in wax) and styli (metal or bone used to write in the wax) which they used to make notes, which they could later transfer onto papyrus to give back receipts to the tax payers.[14] So Matthew being a tax collector could read and write well thereby making it likely that we would in fact be one of the disciples to write an account of Jesus’ life. Just as Luke being a physician would make him a likely person to be able to write a Gospel account himself. Peter being a humble fisherman on the other hand would have Mark record his account.

Some other great examples that the Gospels were indeed direct accounts or collected accounts from eyewitnesses: The description of home construction in the book of Mark is consistent and accurate with historical first-century housing is that area. The Gospels record highly accurate knowledge of how the Jewish communities were organized during this time: Pharisees, Sedducess, etc. The torture and punishment of Jesus by the Roman authority concurs with methods of documented by the Romans. The book of Luke refers to many locations and geographical features that are accurate to the point that only someone who physically traveled to these locations could have written of them.

Based on the available evidence we can see that the Gospel of Mark was testimony of Simon Peter recorded by John Mark. The Gospel of Luke is a collection of accounts as recorded by Paul’s physician Luke. The Gospel of Matthew came from Matthew’s own testimony of Jesus, as did the Gospel of John come from John, or perhaps one of John’s students that recorded his teaching.

Other conspiracies

There is the conspiracy of “the Gospel.” Prior to the 2nd century, no one referred to multiple gospels, but just one gospel. This bred the conspiracy that there was only one true gospel (usually believed to be Mark) and the other three are fraudulent copies. That’s a lot of speculation… Skeptics are missing the obvious. The authors of the gospels were not hanging out together, they were spread out all over the Roman Empire, their writings being copied and spread around. Of course early church fathers would only refer to “the Gospel” because they only had or knew of one. By the 2nd century, they would of course have received other Gospel accounts and from that point on did of course refer to them as “the Gospels.”

The Jesus Seminar is another major adversary to the Gospel accounts being genuine accounts of Jesus. Started in the 1970’s by Robert Funk, their goal was to “rediscover” the Jesus of 2000 years ago that they believed has been misrepresented by 2000 years of myths, legends and traditions. The scholars of the seminar go through the four Gospels and determine whether or not Jesus actually said the phrases recorded in the Gospels. There are two problems with this: First, despite the insurmountable proof that the Gospel accounts have been copied accurately since their origin, these scholars feel they’re educated enough to determine what Jesus actually said 2,000 years later… over the four eye witness accounts written down less than 100 years from the lifetime of Jesus. Second, all these scholars up front admit they do not believe Jesus was the Son of God and savior of mankind nor did He have supernatural powers, etc. So what conclusions do you think such biased scholars are going to come to? I consider their findings to be that of conspiracy because their claims are based not on hard evidence but instead based purely on speculation which is driven by their presuppositions against Jesus to begin with. In the end, their Jesus was one striped of any divinity, left as nothing more than a wise man.

There is a gap conspiracy theory also. How come the gospels were written years after Jesus and not immediately after his death? Some suggest foul play. That the gap between when Jesus died and the gospels were written is suspicious, and there is often speculation that the truth has been skewed in that time gap. However, the reason for the time gap is because of the usage of oral tradition. In between this time the apostles were spreading the message of Christ via oral tradition.[15] Towards the end of their lives they decided to record the events they had witnessed as they would no longer be able to verbally compel it to any one once they had died. This is also confirmed by Polycarp’s quote earlier.

In conclusion, when we study the timeline of when the gospel accounts were written, the recorded testimony of men outside the Bible, and the internal components of the gospel narratives, it becomes evident that the gospel accounts were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They were not written hundreds of years later by a Church authority to substantiate the claims of their mythical Jesus. To claim such, is to ignore the available and rational evidence.


[1] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies and the Cross (Lake Mary,Florida: FrontLine, 2008) Pg. 14

[2] Bart Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999) Pg. 44 and 46

[3] Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, The Laughing Jesus: Religious Lies and Gnostic Wisdom (New York: Three Rivers, 2006) Pg. 69.

[4] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies and the Cross (Lake Mary,Florida: FrontLine, 2008) Pg. 19

[5] Papyrus 75 contains both fragments of the book of Luke and John.

[6] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies and the Cross (Lake Mary,Florida: FrontLine, 2008) Pg. 19

[7] Matt Slick, “When were the gospels written and by whom?” http://www.carm.org

[8] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies and the Cross (Lake Mary,Florida: FrontLine, 2008) Pg. 25

[9] Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History Vol. I, Loeb Classical Library, ed. K.Lake (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980) 3:39.

[10] Eusebius writes of Papias during Trajan’s reign prior to AD 107.

[11] Irenaeus, Contra haereses, 3:1:1

[12] “When were the gospels written?” http://www.gotquestions.org

[13] Matthew and Luke being based off Mark is a speculation.

[14] A. R. Millard, Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus. (New York:New York, University Press, 2000) Pg. 31, 170.

[15] In ancient times, the only way to communicate history most of the time was through oral tradition. They did not have laptops, typewriters or a pen and paper available (those who could read and write were few), so a speaker would announce his story to a community of people publicly. In turn, the community would correct the speaker or speak up if they disagreed or knew that what the speaker was saying was indeed false. Through this method, communities and civilizations would carry on historical events accurately through generations. In fact, archeology scholars know through their discoveries that oral tradition contained very little to no errors through hundreds of years of transcendence. Through this method ancient civilizations did pass down to their later generations, accurate safe guarded information.