Talk:Virgin birth of Jesus/Archive 6

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Joseph's reaction ?

I'm looking at the edits made recently in this file, together with the following extract from the latest version of the article: Others,[who?] while not denying the existence of two independent written witnesses to the tradition, say that the miraculous aspect of the conception appears to rest on a "single attestation", that of Mary, and that the attestation of the angel to Joseph on the miraculous nature of the conception would not be accepted by many scholars as historiographically valid... > My question is: Could Joseph's reaction to the "news" not be regarded as a form of "independent testimony"? Admittedly, this would depend on whether we are prepared to give Joseph the benefit of the doubt, i.e., by discounting the possibility that he (and Mary) were being hypocritical.--DLMcN (talk) 08:40, 30 March 2012 (UTC) ... Putting it differently, my suggestion is that the whole of that^ piece which I have italicized, should really be removed. --DLMcN (talk) 08:45, 30 March 2012 (UTC)

I think Esoglou just edited that so we should wait for him to clarify. But what we think (i.e. whether we are prepared to give Joseph the benefit of the doubt) should not matter and references should determine it. Yet, a thinking reader may ask "attestation of the angel"? Angels are not historical, so the whole discussion is somewhere in the clouds anyway for those who think. But in Wikipedia thinking is not allowed, and WP:V rules. History2007 (talk) 09:47, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
I remember reading somewhere that 'Asking too many questions' and 'Making too many suggestions' were crimes which could incur the death penalty in communist Vietnam. And looking at my wording^, those are indeed offences of which I am (starting to be) guilty... Anyway, if you really >think< that we need to mention it, then we could certainly say that Leslie Weatherhead (Yes, him again!) argues strongly that Joseph's reaction was not at all compatible with the hypothesis that he was Jesus's biological father. However, my resources in this field are limited, and I am sure that other editors could find better ones. But my vote still goes in favour of deleting the whole sentence, unless of course someone manages to supply the reference requested by Esoglou. --DLMcN (talk) 14:37, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
As I understand it, the concrete attestations that we have access to are the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. We don't have access (except through these two writings) to Mary's attestation, Joseph's or the angels'. I think the remark about Mary's being the only attestation must have been an original-research and really irrelevant idea, inserted by whoever thought it up. Unless a reliable source can be cited for it in relation to the double-attestation argument, it should be removed. It really has nothing to do with the view that, since the two attestations that we have are independent of each other (neither one copied from the other), it appears that even before these two Gospels were written, and thus even closer to the alleged event, belief in a virginal conception of Jesus existed among Christians. The point of the double-attestation argument is precisely that the virginal-conception idea can't have been an invention of these two writers (whose accounts differ in so many other particulars), so its origin must have been earlier and therefore more likely to be an original tradition. Talking about the credibility of Mary (as recounted by Luke) or the conclusions to draw from Joseph's reaction (as recounted by Matthew) presumes that Luke's and Matthew's accounts are strictly historical, not even partly theological. Such talk may perhaps have a place elsewhere in the article but not in connection with the double-attestation argument, where it isn't relevant. The article mentions as a counter-argument to the double-attestation view the view that the virginal-conception idea was an invention of the two writers, who on the basis of Old Testament prophecies independently came up with the same idea. That is relevant. Esoglou (talk) 16:23, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
I am surprised at History2007's restoration of the passage: I thought he too did not favour keeping such matters as the "attestation of an angel".
Or is it unclear that both DLMcN and I think it should be deleted? Esoglou (talk) 20:26, 1 April 2012 (UTC)
I must be confused. I just reverted based on the 2 people agree comment. If you want it out, go for it. I do not like it at a logical level, but the WP:V angle was in favor of the angel, or maybe the angel was in favor that angle... Anyway, I will self revert. You guys agree on it and fix it. Thanks. History2007 (talk) 20:30, 1 April 2012 (UTC)
I have now looked at the Lachs work on Google Books and I see no evidence on the cited page that he must be classified among critics of the double-attestation argument. Perhaps there is evidence elsewhere in the book. I have no access to the cited page of the Ashe book. Esoglou (talk) 20:49, 1 April 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Actually one of the explanations for the divergence of the accounts is in the article already:

"James Hastings and separately Thomas Neufeld have expressed the view that the circumstances of the birth of Jesus were deliberately kept restricted to a small group of early Christians, and were kept as a secret for many years after his death.[25][26] Ronald Brownrigg suggests that the narrative in Luke was obtained via a path from Mary, while the narrative in Matthew was obtained from a path on Joseph's side.[27]"

That school of thought states that they heard it through different channels. History2007 (talk) 21:15, 1 April 2012 (UTC)

I do not have access to Lachs or Ashe, but the passage does look much better now than it did a few days ago. --DLMcN (talk) 02:39, 2 April 2012 (UTC)

Occam's razor

There is a new section now called Occam's razor. It only uses Matthew as a source, a WP:Primary usage that amounts to WP:OR. But even if WP:Secondary sources are added to it, is this argument not psilanthropism in any case? It seems to be just another psilanthropist argument, and should not really be in a separate section by itself. Moreover, for it to be so argued needs some notable supporters that use that argument. As discussed before on this talk page, Joseph Priestley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge etc. were notable psilanthropists and they were included. For this to remain someone of an equal level of notability needs to be mentioned, and needs WP:RS secondary sources, and in fact much of it shoudl appear in the psilanthropism page with a reference to that from here. History2007 (talk) 12:22, 6 April 2012 (UTC)

It has been a few days now, and we have not had a response. Unless RS sources (not blog type items) that relate to notable figures presenting that argument are added, we will have to zap that. History2007 (talk) 14:40, 9 April 2012 (UTC)
Paragraph reinstalled, with two more references. No objection if it is conflated within psilanthropism. Arrivisto (talk) 12:34, 17 April 2012 (UTC)
OK, but as is the references you added had no page numbers and as far as I can tell Dawkins does not state Occam. Does Hitchens? They certainly reject not only virgin birth but all supernatural events anyway, but it does not seem like they make the specific Occam argument you presented. And Dawkins is by far a more quotable source given that at least he is a scientist and represents the views of the scientific atheists rather than Hitchens who generally relied on clever word play rather than anything else. So my suggestion is to get a precise objection from Dawkins and use that in the psilanthropism section, as the view of a "leading scientific atheist" which Dawkins certainly is. So I added Dawkins to the psilanthropism section. History2007 (talk) 12:57, 17 April 2012 (UTC)

"born of a woman, born under the law"

Ola Pico sorry but this doesn't make sense. Cheers. In ictu oculi (talk) 09:58, 15 April 2012 (UTC)

I don't think the phrase "born under the Law" is a statement about the circumstances of Jesus' birth. Rather, it's saying, in a roundabout way, that he was a good Jewish lad, "under the Law". Focussing on the word "born" is putting an emphasis where none was intended (Paul was interested in Jesus's Jewishness, not how he was born). This, of course, is only my interpretation - we need to look up a good commentary on the Epistles. PiCo (talk) 02:03, 18 April 2012 (UTC)
This is a separate comment from the para above. On the little reading I've done on this subject, and focussing on OT texts (I'm not really very interested in the NT), it seems that the Isaiah passage might be the ultimate source of the virgin birth meme. For Isaiah, speaking to Ahaz, it would have been a matter of some young woman who was pregnant and about to give birth, and he was telling Ahaz that God would save Judah from Israel and Syria before the child was about seven years old. A little later, in exilic and early post-exilic times, this came to be read as a prophesy on the restoration of the Davidic dynasty, and attracted extra verses of mesianic character. Then in Second Temple times the Davidic restoration was forgotten and the passage was reinterpreted again, to refer to the restoration of Israel (the holy community, not the kingdom), through a supernatural messianism. Wile Jesus was actually alive he was accepted as the messiah, and I don't think anyone would have cared much about how he was born, except that he had to be Davidic. Then Matthew, writing half a century after the death of Jesus, tapped into what by then must have become a very well-deveolped body of belief about the nature of Jesus' messiah-ship - and the Isaiah passage, through the LXX, received its final interpretation at his hanbds. ("Final" because he was the first - propbably - to write it down - written texts gain an authority that oral traditions lack). PiCo (talk) 02:18, 18 April 2012 (UTC)
PiCo ... > Maybe In ictu oculi is just suggesting a slight modification in the wording of your last edit; e.g., by adding the italicised portions in: "[The Pauline Epistles]... refer to Jesus' mother without stating that she was still a virgin when He was born". --DLMcN (talk) 06:43, 18 April 2012 (UTC) .. [a minor point !]--DLMcN (talk) 06:49, 18 April 2012 (UTC)
I also think it is a minor issue, but suggest that it should be settled by looking up a few references rather than discussion. History2007 (talk) 09:20, 18 April 2012 (UTC)
This is the passage that Inictu says makes no sense (I've removed all the refs so it reads easily):
The Pauline epistles, the earliest surviving Christian writings, refer to Jesus' mother without stating that she was a virgin. Instead Paul focuses on contrasting the birth of Jesus with the fall of Adam, and presents Jesus as the "firstborn of all creation", and a second Adam, in Colossians 1:15-16 Some see the silence of Paul on virginity as implying that he knew of no account of the virgin birth of Jesus, while scholars such as Raymond Brown reject the "argument from silence" and state that Paul's letters were composed with a view to ecclesiastical problems with which he had to deal, not to give a narrative of the life of Jesus.
I'd like Inictu to expand on why he feels this isn't making sense (and by the way, I'm not the author of most of it, just the first bit). Maybe the whole thing could be collapsed like this:
St Paul, whose epistles are probably the earliest surviving Christian writings, mentions Jesus' mother (without naming her) but makes no reference to a virgin birth. Some scholars see Paul's silence as implying that he knew nothing of the story later recorded in Matthew and Luke, while others argue that, as the epistles were not composed to give a narrative of the life of Jesus, no conclusions should be drawn from the absence of the miraculous circumstances of his birth.
Still needs sources.
PiCo (talk) 12:55, 18 April 2012 (UTC)


Regarding oldid 518264618 - I've provided a book reference and a reference to footnotes to the Orthodox Jewish Bible, as published by the translation author on the OJB website. Are there any concerns with that specific reference remaining?

-- (talk)

There is no evidence that the concerns went away. As another editor said: "personal website not a reliable source" per WP:RS, of course. History2007 (talk) 08:04, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
Would this serve as a better source? - Gordon, Dr. Cyrus (1953), "Almah in Isaiah 7:14". The Journal of Bible & Religion vol. 21, p.106 ? -- (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 15:51, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
There are other problems. It looks like you found one source that contradicts the existing claim and changed the text to reflect the new source. Instead of changing the existing claim to match your claim, and assuming your new source is notable and is not a fringe theory, then better is to add your claim as an alternate view -- this does not have to be a situation where there can be only one viewpoint expressed. And then in your edit you have the passage that starts " It is, however, not clear why Isaiah" which feels very out-of-place relative to the rest of the paragraph. It feels like you are attempting to shoe-horn in your preferred interpretation instead of properly integrating this information in an encyclopedic manner. SQGibbon (talk) 17:16, 17 October 2012 (UTC)

Matthew and Isaiah, Marduk and me

Curses, foiled again!

Seriously, I don't think you can talk about Matthew's virgin prophesy without talking about Isaiah at the same time. It all belongs together. PiCo (talk) 03:09, 9 January 2013 (UTC)

Well, I beg to differ on that. OT material stands on its own, and then is referred to in the NT. One can refer to the OT from the NT, but the OT was there long before.History2007 (talk) 12:22, 9 January 2013 (UTC)
Mmm, as per History2007. In ictu oculi (talk) 12:30, 9 January 2013 (UTC)
Marduk will thank you. History2007 (talk) 13:07, 9 January 2013 (UTC)
Marduk sent me a message by seraphim, he says that there's no mention of a virgin birth in Isaiah 7:14, and that the Septuagint is the first to raise it, then Matthew. In other words, the OT material wasn't there at all until the Septuagint and Matthew inserted it. PiCo (talk) 01:07, 10 January 2013 (UTC)
Did Marduk have a source for that? Or did Matthew tell a seraphim to cook the OT books like the 3rd paragraph here... Would be interesting... History2007 (talk) 01:46, 10 January 2013 (UTC)
A source for saying that Isaiah doesn't mention any virgins? Yes - it's in the article, in the section that deals with Isaiah. The academic source would be Marvin Sweeney, probably the leading scholar today on matters concerning the OT prophets, but many others are available: an "almah" was a young girl who hadn't yet had her first child, not one who hadn't had sex. There was no equivalent in Greek, so the LXX translators used "parthenos", which is exactly equivalent to English "virgin". I'm impressed by the breadth of your reading - Count Tolstoy and Isaiah, forsooth! PiCo (talk) 04:11, 10 January 2013 (UTC)
I know the Isaiah issue. But the "inserted it" statement seemed like Mathew went all around late at night and rewrote the documents, while saying "interpreted it differently" is another story. History2007 (talk) 09:59, 10 January 2013 (UTC)
What "inserted it" statement? Matthew took the LXX Isaiah "parthenos"as he found it; he did, however, insert a few words elsewhere, notably changing "you shall call" to "they shall call." But what statement is this?PiCo (talk) 10:19, 10 January 2013 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I know the Isaiah issue. But then why even discuss it here, why not just add two sentence that: "Professors X, Y and Z say that Matthew wanted a specific portrayal so he used wording to achieve that effect. However professors A, B and C disagree with that". My main objection was the removal of Brown, by the way. Is there any scholarly consensus on this or are they just offering differing views? Is there a "majority view" that agrees on one perspective vs the other? History2007 (talk) 10:21, 10 January 2013 (UTC)

There is consensus that the word almah has nothing to do with virginity, if that's what you mean - I can provide a source from Sweeney saying that. A girl could be pregnant and still be an almah, as is the almah in Isaiah 7:14.
Our article says that Brown says that "the translators of the Septuagint may have understood the Hebrew word almah to mean virgin in this context" - presumably the context of Isaiah 7:14. But so far as I can see Brown doesn't say this at all. On that page (page 92) he says that "a knowledge of the Hebrew and the LXX of Isaiah 7:14 gives no indication of a reference to a virginal conception"and that it's unlikely Matthew cam by the idea through that verse; he then says that if the idea already existed then Matthew may have reinterpreted Isaiah as foretelling it. But there's no mention of what the translators of the LXX may have thought. The book is here - this link is to the front cover, you have to do a search for page 92.PiCo (talk) 12:04, 10 January 2013 (UTC)
I am sorry, this is really straightforward and may not even need discussion. What I encourage you to do is this:
  • You can tag Brown as failed verification, so someone will check it. If they do not can remove it in a week or two.
  • You can add "scholarly consensus" per WP:RS/AC but can not do your own survey to determine consensus, need a source that says there is consensus - and pref if it is heavy or not
  • You can state what the majority view is, again per WP:RS/AC, but must also include opposing and minority views per WP:NPOV.
You know more about this than yours truly, so I am sure you can do it right. The main issue I have is not to have the existing sources zapped all of a sudden and not to rely on personal surveys of scholars, but to follow RS/AC. So if you include both perspectives per policy, why should anyone object? I think even Marduk would be pleased with that... History2007 (talk) 13:36, 10 January 2013 (UTC)

Editing log

  • I recently made a large revision of the lead - aim was to make it more concise without losing anything, also make sure sources are good. Any comments/suggestions? PiCo (talk) 02:56, 23 April 2013 (UTC)
  • I made a new section quoting the two virgin birth texts; also moved some portals and illustrations to reduce clutter PiCo (talk) 12:19, 25 April 2013 (UTC)


I don't see that the cited pages of Machen and/or Gromacki actually say what the text says they do. There is no idea of two (only two?) explanations, nor a straightforward exposition of either of them. We should look for better references. Myrvin (talk) 08:54, 3 November 2013 (UTC) The LaVerdiere one doesn't work either. Myrvin (talk) 09:03, 3 November 2013 (UTC)

Postmodern interpretations

I am not sure of the scholarship behind these proposed additions. It would seem that a view from "Postmodern Christianity" would fall under WP:FRINGE. Elizium23 (talk) 02:47, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

Ah, that's different from you reverting the edits because "postmodern thinkers" were only Peter Rollins - whoever he is. I don't really understand what he's saying, but he appears to be a real Christian writer. Myrvin (talk) 12:56, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
The Rollins source fails WP:RS as it is self-published without any noticeable editorial oversight. Elizium23 (talk) 15:49, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
The second source is a transcript posted to a blog; the third source links to the purchase of a book on the vanity press of a megachurch. All three of these sources fail WP:RS and we are left with citations based on something Rollins said. It's a house of cards. Elizium23 (talk) 16:15, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
He seems to be published by Paraclete Press and SPCK Publishing. Maybe there are refs there. Myrvin (talk) 17:44, 25 February 2014 (UTC)