For those of you who aren't familiar with the debate, both Islam and the Talmud have traditions that report that Jesus' father was a chap called Panthera/Pantera/Pantheras. Some suggest that this word, being similar to the Greek "parthenons" (virgin), explains where the virgin birth legend came from. The idea is this: if you hear of a person called Jesus ben (son of) Panthera, as a Greek, it might sound like Jesus son of a Virgin. Purportedly, in Celsus and others, Pantheras was a Roman soldier who raped Mary. To save her from stoning for adultery, Joseph married her, and claimed that her child was the son of God, not of a rapist. Superficially, this makes sense. The question is, however, when the Talmud entries were written. Some were written after Jesus' purported existence, and some were written a century before. So not only is there a question of the authenticity of the Talmud entries, but a question of the authenticity of the New Testament's claims, too.
For more information about this debate, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiberius_Iulius_Abdes_Pantera and my book, The Anointed, http://www.theAnointedBook.com, where I discuss this in more detail.
Personally, I think we lack sufficient information to get an actual answer. Merely stating that the NT is the word of God and therefore infallible is silly - the NT contains many contradictions (e.g., How many people were at Jesus' tomb? When was he born - was it 6 AD or 4 BC?). So we can't just assume the NT is correct in its mythical-like claims. To my mind, it makes sense that if Mary had been disgraced, that they'd have made up a story about her pregnancy being miraculous.
One of the points I mention in The Anointed is that parthenogenesis (virgin birth) doesn't occur in mammals, and when it does occur in lower animals, the child is genetically identical to the mother, and hence, female. Of course, Christians would respond by saying that this is precisely the nature of a miracle, that it defies the laws of science. Well, strangely, there are fewer reports of miracles nowadays than there were in the past. The more we learn about nature, the less miraculous it seems.
Tuesday, 19 January 2010
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