The Virgin Birth also has a theological reason behind it. According to Paul, who we can assume understood Jewish thought in his day, the fallen sin nature that humanity suffers was passed on to all mankind through the seed of Adam, literally “the man.” This is implied in the OT by Genesis 5:1-3 and in the NT by Romans 5:12ff and I Cor. 15:21-22. Furthermore, we have the odd saying in Genesis 3:15 which focuses on “woman’s seed,” something fairly unique in the Scriptures. The theological assumption is therefore that in order for Jesus to be born as the suitable sinless substitute to atone for mankind’s sin, He couldn’t have inherited Adam’s seed, the fallen nature. This necessitated the Virgin Birth. But it would also appear, therefore, that Mary wouldn’t necessarily need to be sinless as the Immaculate Conception suggests.
PS. I have truly been enjoying your blogs.
Thank you very much, Mr. Mead, for properly stating that the Immaculate Conception has to do with Mary’s conception & birth, not that of Jesus.
It is a concept that many people often get confused on, even Catholics who should know better
“…, and that the free choice of a strong and faithful woman opened the door to salvation for the whole human race.”
You make the point several times that Mary acquiesced to God’s “request”. But I don’t understand how the Annunciation is anything other than an announcement of something preordained.
Please explain your interpretation.
See Luke 1:38. In my handy hotel-room Gideon’s NKJV Bible this reads: Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
This is generally interpreted as Mary giving her assent to God’s plan; she could have said no thanks.
I have always had trouble with the idea of the Immaculate Conception, which seems to me to be an attempt to reconcile three contradictory beliefs:
1) That all persons born of flesh are born with Original Sin.
2) That Jesus was not born with Original Sin.
3) That Jesus’ flesh, at least in part, came from Mary.
If we stipulate that points 1 and 2 are true – and the Bible strongly testifies that they are – then point 3 creates the problem.
I can see the arguments in favor of point 3. It emphasises Jesus’ earthliness, his connection with the rest of humanity, the potential for temptation and weakness and his triumph in overcoming them.
The argument I see against it is that there is nothing in Scripture to support point 3. Obviously, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and there are core theological principles (the Trinity) which are not implicitly stated in the Bible, but I am not convinced. It does not seem to me to be the simplest explanation.
What if, instead, Mary did not contribute anything to Jesus’ flesh, and that God simply conceived Jesus out of nothing and placed him in Mary’s womb? Certainly no sperm cell was present, so why was Mary’s egg necessary? God formed Adam from the dust of the ground, but the dust of the ground was formed from what? Ultimately, nothing.
Jesus’ conception, in this manner, fits very neatly with scripture and does not diminish his divinity, his glory, and (in my opinion) his humanity. Mary remains God’s chosen vessel, blessed with the honor of carrying Jesus to term, birthing him, and raising him.
This is just a thought that has rolled around in my head for a while.
Thanks for your posts, Professor. I am greatly enjoying them. It is a rare mind that can write so articulately about politics, culture, and religion. Another blogger I admire (similar to you) is David P. Goldman, who contributes frequently to First Things and to Asia Times Online under the pseudonym “Spengler”, if you are ever interested in checking him out.
Thanks for the reading tips. I guess I’d respond by saying that it’s theologically very important that Jesus is really one of us. God wanted to be part of the human family and half-measures weren’t enough. He wanted to be flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone. But the last time I looked, no one had elected me Pope, so you should just go on wrestling with these ideas as best you can.
Mary allows her body to be used as a vessel for the birth of Jesus. The Luther bible is even more specific than the KJ: Siehe, ich bin des Herrn Magd; mir geschehe, wie du gesagt hast.
The angel does not leave until Mary gives her spoken assent; not that the Lord understood her heart’s desire and acted. Mary’s spoken ‘okay’ starts the good news of the New Testament, building upon the generative word, logos, of the Old Testament. Mary’s ‘Let it happen to me, as you have said’ literally creates a new world.
Your comment #5 smacks of Arianism and Poppery.
It is all immaculate deception, not conception. God is organised crime’s most lucrative confidence scam. It is hard to tell who are the victims and who are the villains except when crimes like child abuse and the institutional cover-ups are proved and made public.