Re: spong's bad assumptions and virgin births - for jim

From: George Murphy (
Date: Sun Jan 05 2003 - 19:20:10 EST

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    I combine here responses to 2 related posts. wrote:
    > In a message dated 1/1/03 6:54:33 PM Eastern Standard Time,
    > writes:
    > > . The account of the creation of humanity in
    > > Genesis 2:4b-25 is of course different, but these are two different
    > > creation accounts.
    > >
    > I gave you a number of examples from a number of different religious
    > horizons to demonstrate that virgin birth was a historically ancient concept.
    > You are saying one of my examples is one of two accounts and I agree. what
    > about the others that suggest the phenomena was a norm for the ancient world?
    > You don't comment. What point are you making about the difference between
    > virgin birth and virginal conception? You mean you can have a virginal
    > conception and then not have a virginal birth? At what point is the male
    > principle introduced in a case like that?

            To begin at the end, I made the distinction between virginal
    conception and
    virgin birth because that has been done - unfortunately, I think - in
    parts of the
    Christian tradition. _Virginitas in partu_ means not just that Mary
    had not had sexual
    intercourse at the time that Jesus was born, but that she retained
    her virginity in
    giving birth - her hymen was not broken &c. I consider such a notion
    to have no
    biblical support, to have nothing to do with the normal meaning of
    "virginity" & to have
    no theological value. In fact it has a docetic character to it. If
    this sort of idea
    had never been introduced then the distinction wouldn't have to be
    made but it was & so
    it is.

            I said nothing about the ideas of virginal conception/birth
    outside the biblical
    tradition, in part because their significance is at best ambiguous.
    You argue that they
    provide some support for the Christian doctrine. Critics of the
    Christian teaching,
    OTOH, have argued that precisely because virginal conception was a
    common theme in other
    religions, the writers of Mt & Lk could have gotten the idea that the
    Son of God was
    virginally conceived from those sources, & thus that the historicity
    of the Christian
    claim is doubtful. I don't believe that argument is compelling, in
    part because it's
    far from clear that such traditions did influence Mt & Lk. In any
    case, the presence of
    this theme in other religions & cultures is a sword that can cut both ways.

            A good summary of some of these issues is Appendix IV,
    "Virginal Conception", in
    Raymond E. Brown's magisterial _The Birth of the Messiah_.

            In another post you wrote:

    > In a message dated 1/2/03 7:32:37 PM Eastern Standard Time,
    > writes:
    > > 2) The natural reading of Genesis 1:26-28 is that _adham_
    > > here means "man" in
    > > the collective (& inclusive) sense or "humankind" (NRSV) rather than
    > > to a single
    > > individual named "Adam" - pace the Zohar, the Gospel of Thomas &
    > > other speculations
    > > about the androgyny of the first human. The account of the creation
    > > of humanity in
    > > Genesis 2:4b-25 is of course different, but these are two different
    > > creation accounts.
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > Yes, and according to clevenot's materialist approaches to the bible, the
    > two versions are priestly (p) 2:1-4 and yahwist(3), but you are missing my
    > point entirely in fact it was not my point. I was quoting the zohar from
    > Adolph Frank's The Kabbalah so it is the judgment of Jewish mystics in the
    > zohar that these two accounts be interpreted that way and it is precisely
    > because an androgyne is perfect to them and Adam was an androgyne before Eve
    > as far as they were concerned and then when we go to the gnostics (in the nag
    > hammadi texts) who were also mystics they speak a lot about androgynes and
    > becoming both male and female to return to God.
    > It appears that the mystical aspect of early Christianity as in the early
    > zohar and the recently discovered nag hammadi texts is absent, unrecognized
    > or limited in the canonical works. It' source in the Kabbalah and its
    > appearance in the nag hgammadi texts suggest it was an essential element that
    > existed in Jesus' time. I was not quoting myself when I made the reference to
    > THEM in regard to Adam and Eve.

            The two accounts that I referred to were Gen.1:1-2:4a and
    2:4b-25. It is not
    only "materialists" who consider these to be from 2 different
    writers. I understand
    your point about what the Zohar is saying but on this matter I have
    more confidence in
    modern biblical scholarship - and, frankly, my own reading of the
    text - that I do in
    the Zohar. & while the Gospel of Thomas has interesting features, it
    in fact is not
    canonical. Among other things, I find the statement that you cited,
    to the effect that
    a woman must become a man in order to enter the kingdom of heaven (logion #114)
    appalling & far inferior to the attitude of Jesus toward woman as
    portrayed in the
    canonical gospels.


    George L. Murphy

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