The Virgin Mary 

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Annunciation

The Bible The Koran
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach Thomas Jefferson
Bishop John Shelby Spong Latter Day Saints
The Talmud Celsus
Deism Perpetual Virginity

The Bible

What the Bible teaches about Mary is that she was a virgin when our Lord was conceived; she did not have relations with her husband Joseph until after His birth:

  • “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
  • “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
  • “But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
  • “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
  • “So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:
  • “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
  • “Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife,
  • “and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.”
  • (Matthew 1:18-25).

Matthew is quoting Isaiah 7:14,

“Moreover the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying, 'Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above.' 'But Ahaz said, 'I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!' 'Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:10-14).

Various interpretations have been offered for this passage in Isaiah, but since Matthew's words are inspired by the Holy Spirit, his interpretation is authoritative for Christians. Some competing interpretations are far from compelling in any case; for example, if the 'sign' were that a 'young woman' was to bear a child, it can only with difficulty be imagined why this should be a 'sign' of anything, rather than the normal course of nature. Luke's gospel confirms these circumstances:

  • “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
  • “to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
  • “And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
  • “But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.
  • “Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
  • “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.
  • “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.
  • “And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
  • “Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
  • “And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
  • “Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.
  • “For with God nothing will be impossible.”
  • “Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.”
  • (Luke 1:26-38).

The Koran

The Koran, a compilation made in seventh century Arabia by Mohammed ibn Abdallah, takes a similar view of Mary's status:

  • “And remember when the angels said, ‘O Mary! verily hath God chosen thee, and purified thee, and chosen thee above the women of the worlds!
  • “'O Mary! be devout towards thy Lord, and prostrate thyself, and bow down with those who bow.’
  • “This is one of the announcements of things unseen by thee: To thee, O Muhammad! do we reveal it; for thou wast not with them when they cast lots with reeds which of them should rear Mary; nor wast thou with them when they disputed about it.
  • “Remember when the angel said, ‘O Mary! Verily God announceth to thee the Word from Him: His name shall be, Messiah Jesus the son of Mary, illustrious in this world, and in the next, and one of those who have near access to God;
  • “And He shall speak to men alike when in the cradle and when grown up; And he shall be one of the just.’
  • “She said, ‘How, O my Lord! shall I have a son, when man hath not touched me?’ He said, ‘Thus: God will create what He will; When He decreeth a thing, He only saith, “Be,” and it is.’”
  • (Koran, Sura 3:37-42).

Mohammed's God was still a wonder-worker, and Mohammed thought of the birth of Jesus much as the creation of Adam, the first man, without father other than God. But there are others whose god is no wonder-worker, and whose imaginations run riot in protest against the very concept of a virgin birth.


Mohammed seems to have encountered fables from the Protevangelion, and in the Hadith there is even a hint of the immaculate conception:

"Narrated Said bin Al-Musaiyab:

"Abu Huraira said, "The Prophet said, 'No child is born but that, Satan touches it when it is born where upon it starts crying loudly because of being touched by Satan, except Mary and her Son." Abu Huraira then said, "Recite, it you wish: "And I seek Refuge with You (Allah) for her and her offspring from Satan, the outcast." (3.36)" (Sahih al-Bukhari Hadith, Volume 6, Book 60,  Number 71).

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Our first detractor is Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Rabbi to the stars. Rabbi Boteach likes to quote the Zohar, the 'Bible' of the Kabbalah. A word or two of background about the Kabbalah: the 'god' of the Kabbalah is depicted in an anatomically accurate manner, and he is a sexually active being. This might help in understanding Rabbi Boteach's concept of "a deity impregnating a woman:" 

  • “Many Christians may be surprised to learn the very idea of a virgin birth is as rooted in pagan belief as the concept of the man-god. Christianity’s adoption of this element of Jesus’ biography is likely the result of Paul’s efforts to make the burgeoning religion more palatable to pagan gentiles. By Jesus’ lifetime, virgin birth was not a new idea. In a number of ancient civilizations, deities were commonly born of virgins. . .This idea of a deity impregnating a woman had become very popular in the ancient world. Little surprise then that it would have been favored by those seeking to make the Jewish leader Jesus more appealing to ancient pagan sensibilities.”
  • (Boteach, Shmuley (2011-12-07). Kosher Jesus (p. 157). Gefen Publishing House. Kindle Edition.)

John Everett Millais, The Parables of Our Lord, Leaven

Evidently the only way Rabbi Boteach can conceptualize this matter is that "God would impregnate a woman." By "Immaculate Conception," he presumably means the virgin birth of Jesus, although he can wrap his filthy mind around no such circumstance as a 'virgin birth:'

  • “Nevertheless, the notion that God would impregnate a woman is utterly unacceptable for Jews. God is not corporeal. As has been made clear, He is not a man. He has no physical characteristics, or a body for that matter. Moreover, He does not engage in relations with a mortal woman. It is unthinkable. . . .Yet Immaculate Conception is another reason why Jews cannot consider Jesus divine. Just as a man can’t be a God, a woman can’t have God’s child.”
  • (Boteach, Shmuley (2011-12-07). Kosher Jesus (pp. 157-160). Gefen Publishing House. Kindle Edition.)

This distinctly unpromising theme, of God's sex life, is portrayed in the Kabbalah as several amongst the randy sefirot coupling with others. Bad theology deflects expectations downwards, so that when people immersed in this kind of material hear about Jesus' virgin birth, somehow the 'virgin' part gets lost, and God enters into the action as star of the x-rated production:

  • “Hokhmah and Binah are called man and woman, father and mother. Just as human sexual union requires the medium of genitalia, so above, these two qualities unite by means of the mystery of primordial Da'at, which mediates between father and mother. This union maintains and renews the sefirot, which are continually revitalized through their root, sunk deep within Binah and Hokhmah. . .This manner of union may be found in Tif'eret and Malkhut, who are male and female, groom and bride, lower father and mother, son and daughter of the upper couple, king and queen, the Holy One, blessed be he, and Shekhinah.”
  • (Moses Cordovero, (sixteenth century) 'Or Ne'erav,' ed. Yehuda Z. Brandwein, paraphrased pp. 45-46, The Essential Kabbalah, Daniel C. Matt).

The divine procreation is fruitful, not unlike that of Zeus and Hera:

"One might ask: what comes into being from the sacred marriage of Tsaddik and the Shekhinah? The Zohar's answer is: the souls of the righteous. Thus, a unique element is emanated into the substance of life — the Tsaddik procreates the righteous." (Gershom Scholem, 'On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead,' pp. 114-115).

Rabbi Boteach is not ashamed of the Kabbalah, he openly quotes the Zohar, and endorses such Kabbalistic ideas as that God is somehow inflated by human prayers, like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day float filled up by energetic bicycle pumping:

"The Zohar says that every time we choose to subdue and subjugate evil, God’s glory rises higher." (Boteach, Shmuley (2011-12-07). Kosher Jesus (p. 204). Gefen Publishing House. Kindle Edition.)

President Thomas Jefferson

Another detractor is Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, who said,

"The truth is that the greatest enemies to the doctrines of Jesus are those calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them for the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. " (Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823, at

Jefferson is sometimes called a deist, but he does not show the hostility toward the person and work of Jesus sometimes shown by deists; indeed he praises the Nazarene's moral teaching. Unfortunately he derides the virgin birth.

Bishop John Shelby Spong

Another of Mary's detractors is John Shelby Spong, Bishop Emeritus of Newark, New Jersey, for the Episcopal Church. Bishop Spong wrote a book about Mary in which he revived all the slurs against her reputation levelled by the Talmud. For some unknown reason, however, he recasts the involvement of 'Panthera,' Jesus' purported Teutonic father, as a rape:

  • "A God who can be seen in the limp form of a convicted criminal dying alone on a cross at Calvary can surely also be seen in an illegitimate baby boy born through the aggressive and selfish act of a man sexually violating a teenage girl."
  • (Born of a Woman, John Shelby Spong, p. 185.)

Latter Day Saints

In the Greek pagan conception of the gods, there was no great gulf between the immortals and ourselves. The gods were of human form, in their own inherent nature, although they could shape-shift. Divine DNA was not so different from human DNA, that hybrids, the heroes, could not thrive and even reproduce their line. The principle as stated by Pindar, is as follows: "One is the race of gods and men, and of one mother both have breath" (Pindar, quoted in Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Book V, Chapter XIV). (Pindar's 'mother' is probably Mother Earth, though Clement thinks otherwise.) The Greek gods were indeed very much like men, so much so that men who lived on earth, like Hercules, could rise into the sky and undergo promotion to the next level, continuing their career as gods whose credentials were beyond question, having undergone an apotheosis. The resemblance of the Greek gods to men led an exasperated Xenophanes to retort,

"But had the oxen or the lions hands,
Or could with hands depict a work like men,
Were beasts to draw the semblance of the gods,
The horses would them like to horses sketch,
To oxen, oxen, and their bodies make
Of such a shape as to themselves belongs." (Xenophanes of Colophon, quoted in Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Book V, Chapter XIV).

It is enough to understand how species which are practically identical can mate and produce young. Many practitioners in the modern-day 'Jesus' publishing industry take it for granted that what is described in the gospels is human-divine mating:

"Christianity said, according to Luke 1:26-38, that Jesus was born of Mary and the Holy Spirit, of a human mother and a divine Father. Paganism could not respond in rebuttal that such was quite impossible. Pagans knew, after all, of the birth of Aeneas from a divine mother and a human father. Closer to home, there was the claim that Augustus himself was conceived from a divine father and a human mother. Atia spent the night in Apollo's temple, the god visited her in the guise of a snake, and 'in the tenth month after that Augustus was born and was therefore regarded as the son of Apollo,' according to Suetonius's The Lives of the Caesars: The Deified Augustus 94:4 (Rolfe I.267). Against such a background, the best paganism could offer to refute Luke was this, from Celsus's late-second-century On the True Doctrine: 'Are we to think that the high God would have fallen in love with a woman of no breeding?' (Hoffmann 57-58). Not, It could not happen, but It could not happen to a peasant woman. In a world where gods and goddesses, spirits and immortals regularly interacted physically and sexually, spiritually and intellectually with human beings, the conception of a divine child and the vision of a dead person are neither totally abnormal nor completely unique events." (John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity, pp. xviii-xix).

You've got to giggle when you remember the guise under which the seducer-god might appear: "Apollo, too, was there, a country boy At times, or a shepherd, deluding Isse so, At times a hawk, at times a tawny lion." (Ovid Metamorphoses, Book VI, lines 122-124). This wouldn't be funny except that shepherds are part of the rural labor force. Crossan is somewhat inconsistent in his mockery of divine 'peasants.' To the monotheist, his paradigm is inconceivable.

However, though believers react to this with horror, Crossan's understanding of the virgin birth is not without precedent. Some, but by no means all, of the Latter Day Saints believe that Jesus is the result of a divine-human fling. This group are not self-conscious detractors, but rather mean it in the nicest way. They were driven to this position, I suspect, by the same Kabbalistic imperatives which make it impossible for Rabbi Shmuley Boteach to conceptualize any sort of virgin birth which is other than a sexual coupling.

"The official doctrine of the Church is that Jesus is the literal offspring of God. He's got 46 chromosomes: 23 came from Mary, 23 came from God the eternal father." (BYU Professor Stephen E. Robinson, in the video The Mormon Puzzle, quoted, Does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints teach that God had Sex with Mary?).

By the term 'literal offspring' observers fear is meant 'carnal offspring.' This seems to have been the view of Brigham Young, Joseph Smith's successor to the prophetic office:

"When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. And who was the Father? He is the first of the human family, and when he took a tabernacle, it was begotten by his Father in heaven, after the same manner as the tabernacles of Cain, Abel, and the rest of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve; from the fruits of the earth, the first earthly tabernacles were originated by the Father, and so on in succession. . .Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven" (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1, pages 50 and 51)." (quote of Brigham Young, p. 186, The Kingdom of the Cults, Dr. Walter Martin).

Where does this come from? In the final years of his life, Joseph Smith came under the influence of the Kabbalah; he was just naive enough to believe that this medieval revival of gnosticism was the authentic religion of ancient Israel, which is how its promoters package it. In the Kabbalah, God is a sexually active being. While the Kabbalists know nothing of Jesus and Mary, one can't help but suspect hearing language like this about God over a period of time will 'desensitize' listeners to the point where it seems quite natural to think of God as the pagans thought of their Zeus and Hera. Notice about that Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, an anti-Christian polemicist of this tendency, finds it quite natural to interpret the virgin birth in this non-virginal way.

Over the years, the Latter Day saints have suffered quite a lot of grief over Brigham Young's non-virginal conception of the 'virgin birth' as a divine/human sexual encounter. A typical example:

"In Mormon thinking, as reflected in the authoritative declarations of one of their prophets, our Saviour was produced, not by a direct act of the Holy Spirit but by actual sexual relations between Adam-god, 'an immortal or resurrected and glorified Father,' and Mary — a blasphemous view which takes its place beside the infamous mythology of Greece, wherein the gods fathered human sons through physical union with certain chosen women." (The Kingdom of the Cults, p. 187, Dr. Walter Martin).

Given that this teaching, when the orthodox become aware of it, is invariably denounced as 'obscene,' 'blasphemous,' etc., one wonders why a group with such tender concern for public relations as the Mormons has never fully renounced it.

It is a commonplace amongst atheists that the pagans all believed in a virgin birth, of their human-divine hybrid heroes. And yet none of this tribe were born in any other way than as the result of a sexual encounter, for instance,

"When Amphitryon was away fighting in the siege of Oechalia, Alcmena welcomed Jupiter into her chamber in the belief that he was her husband. He came in and reported what he had done in Oechalia, and so she believed that he was her husband and slept with him. And so happy was he to sleep with her that he took away one day and joined together two nights; Alcmena was amazed to find the night so long. When later it was announced to her that her victorious husband was home, she did not particularly care because she thought she had already seen him. When Ampihitryon entered the palace and saw that she was rather blase about the whole thing, he was shocked and complained that she had not greeted him on his arrival home. Alcmena answered him, 'You came home a long time ago, slept with me, and told me all about your deeds in Oechalia.'" (Hyginus Fabulae 29).

The outcome of this encounter was Hercules. In some cases the pagan heroes are born of kinky sex or unconventional sex, as when Jupiter appears in unfamiliar forms, such as a golden shower, a bull or a swan. Nevertheless these are always sexual encounters at least as real as when Queen Pasiphae climbed into the mock-up cow to have sex with the bull, resulting in the birth of the Minotaur. This persistent idea that Christians believe something similar about Mary is perhaps just the survival of pagan thought patterns.

The Talmud

The Talmud refers to Jesus both under His own name and under pseudonyms such as 'Balaam.' Given state failure to understand the benefits of free speech, some anti-Christian references have been censored out of the Talmud, it being impossible to publish them in 'Christian' Europe; they are now found in the footnotes. The Rabbis slandered Mary as an adulteress:

"And this they did to Ben Stada in Lydda, and they hung him on the eve of Passover. Ben Stada was Ben Padira. R. Hisda said: 'The husband was Stada, the paramour Pandira. But was nor the husband Pappos b. Judah? — His mother's name was Stada. But his mother was Miriam, a dresser of woman's hair? (megaddela neshayia): — As they say in Pumbaditha, This woman has turned away from her husband, (i.e., committed adultery).'" (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 67a).

"It was taught. R. Eliezer said to the Sages: But did not Ben Stada bring forth witchcraft from Egypt by means of scratches  [in the form of charms] upon his flesh? Was he then the son of Stada: surely he was the son of Pandira? — Said R. Hisda: The husband was Stada, the paramour was Pandira. But the husband was Pappos b. Judah? — His mother was Stada. But his mother was Miriam the hairdresser? — It is as we say in Pumbeditha: This one has been unfaithful to (lit., 'turned away from' — satath da) her husband." (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbath 104b)
"Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, [did the children of Israel slay with the sword].  A soothsayer? But he was a prophet! — R. Johanan said: At first he was a prophet, but subsequently a soothsayer.  R. Papa observed: This is what men say, 'She who was the descendant of princes and governors, played the harlot with carpenters.'" (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, 106a).

Some readers fail to see Jesus in 'Ben Stada' (to be interpreted, 'son of an adulteress'?) and 'Balaam.' The point of a pseudonym, after all, is to maintain deniability. But some of these references are quite specific:

"A certain min [heretic]  said to R. Hanina: Hast thou heard how old Balaam was? — He replied: It is not actually stated, but since it is written, Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days,  [it follows that] he was thirty-three or thirty-four years old.  He rejoined: Thou hast said correctly; I personally have seen Balaam's Chronicle, in which it is stated, 'Balaam the lame was thirty years old when Phinehas the Robber killed him.'" (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 106b).

Who was the 'Balaam' who died at about thirty-three years old? Not the Old Testament figure of that name. 'Balaam' seems to be a cut-out for Jesus of Nazareth.

A similar tack is taken in the synagogue liturgy, which accuses Mary of lewdness:

"The nations impute thy holy name to a child of lewdness.
They that are borne by thee make to be abominable the offspring of the lust of a lewd woman (Ez. xxiii. 44). The nations deify the idol of the image of a corrupt man. . .Scatter thy wrath on them who make thee jealous with jealousy, who join a dead carcase to the Most High (Ex. xv. 1)." (Gustaf Dalman, Jesus Christ in the Talmud, Midrash, Zohar, and the Liturgy of the Synagogue, p. 43).


Celsus was a pagan critic of Christianity, who wrote a diatribe against the gospel early in the second century A.D. His treatise 'On True Doctrine' is lost, but may be reconstructed from its inclusion in Origen's rebuttal. The 'Panthera' story seems to have gotten going quite early. Celsus shares Rabbi Boteach's impression that, inasmuch as there can be no such thing as a virgin birth, the gospel birth narratives must be cloaking divine/human intercourse. Celsus, a confessing pagan, represents a Jew as remonstrating against Jesus,

“You, sir, have invented your birth from a virgin! You, Jesus, were born in a certain Jewish village, of a poor woman of the country, who gained her subsistence by spinning. When she was pregnant she was turned out of doors by the carpenter to whom she had been betrothed, as having been convicted as guilty of adultery, and she bore a child to a certain soldier named Panthera. After being driven away by her husband, and wandering about for a time, she disgracefully gave birth to Jesus, who, brought up as an illegitimate child, having hired himself out as a servant in Egypt on account of his poverty, and having there acquired the knowledge of certain miraculous powers, on which the Egyptians greatly pride themselves, returned to his own country, highly elated on account of them, and by means of those powers proclaimed himself a god.

“How does the fiction of his birth from a virgin differ from the Greek fables about Danae, and Melanippe, and Auge, and Antiope? If the mother of Jesus was beautiful, then the god whose nature is not to love a corruptible body, had intercourse with her because she was beautiful. It was improbable that the god would entertain a passion for her, because she was neither rich nor of royal rank, seeing no one even of her neighbors knew her. When hated by her husband, and turned out of doors, she was not saved by divine power, nor was her story believed. Such things have no connection with the kingdom of heaven. The prediction that our Lord was to come into the world, and the account of the star, and of the wise men who came from the east to worship the child, are fictions." (The Address of the Jew, Celsus' On True Doctrine, reconstructed).


In a way that by now should be familiar, the Deist Thomas Paine is unable to conceptualize the incarnation except as the result of human/divine sexual coupling, and then proceeds to ridicule his own obscene misconception:

  • "The story, taking it as it is told, is blasphemously obscene. It gives an account of a young woman engaged to be married, and while under this engagement, she is, to speak plain language, debauched by a ghost, under the impious pretense, (Luke i. 35,) that 'the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.'. .Obscenity in matters of faith, however wrapped up, is always a token of fable and imposture: for it is necessary to our serious belief in God, that we do not connect it with stories that run, as this does, into ludicrous interpretations. This story is, upon the face of it, the same kind of story as that of Jupiter and Leda, or Jupiter and Europa, or any of the amorous adventures of Jupiter; and shows, as is already stated in the former part of 'The Age of Reason,' that the Christian faith is built upon the heathen Mythology."
  • (Thomas Paine, 'The Age of Reason,' Part II, Chapter II.)

Indeed it is absurd, blasphemous and paganish to think of a girl raped by a ghost, and these people ought to be ashamed of themselves for thinking like that. The New Testament passage says none of these things. Thomas Paine thinks himself quite clever to have discovered this point, and repeats it as a conclusive refutation of Christianity:

"What is it the bible teaches us?— rapine, cruelty, and murder. What is it the Testament teaches us?— to believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married; and the belief of this debauchery is called faith." (Tom Paine, The Age of Reason, Part II, Chapter III).

Perpetual Virginity

Some people believe, not only that Mary was a virgin when she became pregnant with Jesus, but that she also remained so throughout her life. Is there any Biblical background for this belief?

Cousins Theory
Taxonomy Mother's Sons Adelphos
Cousins Parallelism Abraham and Sarah
Consanguinity Unconstitutional Twelve
Spare a Dime Jonathan and David Abraham and Lot
James the Just Race-Baiting Error Checking

Elder Brother Theory
Protevangelium Nepal Birthright
At the Cross Till Firstborn
Postpartum Fathers Know Best So What?


It is normal to hear, from 'Jesus Seminar' types, that religion moves like a steam-roller from the less spectacular to the more spectacular. Consequently, they claim, if it is possible at all to arrive at any 'historical' Jesus, this would be done by subtracting the more spectacular, and thus later, elements:

  • “Here we must remember one of our fundamental axioms: if we possess two versions of a story, one more and one less spectacular, if either is closer to the truth, it must be the latter. . .The existence of the belief in the natural conception of Jesus must be understood as the stubborn persistence of an earlier belief in the face of the popular growth of a subsequent belief, perhaps influenced by pagan myth: the virgin conception of Jesus. It is easy to imagine how a natural origin such as everyone else has should eventually be though unimpressive, especially since rival savior deities could boast of supernatural origins. On the other hand, imagine a scenario in which Jesus was widely known to have had a miraculous birth and someone has it occur to him: 'Hey, wouldn't it be great if Jesus was no different from anyone else? That's it! He had a. . .a natural birth!' Not likely.”
  • (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, p. 50.)

"Not likely"?!! We've seen it happen! What are these people, road kill? The information on this page ought to explode, once and for all, the myth that a reductive, non-supernatural story cannot displace an earlier, supernatural version. Bishop John Shelby Spong does not deny the virgin birth owing to the "persistence" of any earlier belief; rather, these people for some reason imagine they are doing something noble in debunking claims they view as extravagant. Although when challenged to defend his principles, Robert Price resorts to uniformitarianism, he nevertheless insists upon applying principles which cannot be verified by any present experience; nor are reductionists like Theodotus the tanner any new thing in the church. People should stop insisting upon the operation of a principle which is disproved by everyday experience.