The Father of Jesus

It is clear that for many early Christian authors, the Virgin Birth was unknown. Paul seems to know nothing about it, and neither does Mark. John has a pretty clear view that God is the Father of Jesus, but never gets into the biological relationship. Lot’s of people are called “Son of God” without it meaning that God is the biological father. In fact, the story of the Virgin Birth is only known to Matthew and Luke for certain (though both tell the story with some significant differences) since none of the other authors of the New Testament mention it explicitly. Even Luke seems to slip up on occasion. In Luke 2:43, for instance, the more reliable manuscripts read: “and his parents did not know.” Later editors caught the problem and changed it to say: “and Joseph and his mother did not know.” All this leads one to wonder whether the Virgin Birth matters all that much. If it didn’t matter to most early Christians, who didn’t seem to know about, should it matter so much to us?

In classical Christology, Christ is a God-man, fully human (having a human soul and body) and fully divine (the Logos remaining unchanged and unchanging in complete harmony with the human agent). This is the view that comes out of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE. It begins with the assumption that God and humanity are ontologically separate. If God cannot change, how can he come to dwell in a changing, human form? Further, if Jesus’s salvific action required that he become human, he must be a fully human, having both a human soul and a human body. Christology differs from anthropology (the view of the human being) insofar as Christ is the fullness of divinity plus the fullness of humanity.

In Mormonism, Christology and anthropology are the same. The human consists of a body and soul, and Christ consists of Christ’s soul and a human body (a Logos-Sarx christology). The soul of Christ, and all human beings, is eternal and pre-existent. At some point, the pre-existent soul enters the human body where it dwells until death. At death, the soul is separated from the body until it is reunited with a more substantive resurrected body. This process is the same for all humans, including Jesus Christ.

In the Book of Abraham chapter 3, we are privy to the drama which unfolded before the Creation that tells us how Jesus came to be our Savior. Abraham sees the following vision:

And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good….And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell….And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me.

Here, we learn a key Christological insight. Christ’s spirit does not have any ontological difference from other spirits. The Lord asks the question about whom he should send because he could have chosen others. We were all there and all eligible in terms of potentiality. Rather, Christ is like God in character, but also just like us in substance. If one goes even further with Joseph Smith, one learns in the King Follett discourse that not even God has any ontological difference from other humans. God is different from humanity in degree, not kind.

If we take these two principles, that Christ’s spirit is ontologically the same as ours, and that God is simply a more advanced human being, the classical understanding of the need for a Virgin Birth is called into question. While in classical Christology, the Virgin Birth was the miracle that mysteriously united two ontologically separate substances, in Mormonism, the line between divine and human is already blurred. We are all fully human and fully divine because the ontological gap between God and humanity doesn’t exist. Departing from classical Christology, there is no need for a separate human soul in addition to Christ’s soul.

It seems that as a logical consequence of Mormon theology, there is no reason that Joseph could not be the biological father of Jesus. In this view, Joseph and Mary would provide the body to Jesus, the body which his soul would inhabit just like any other body/soul relationship.

What do Restoration scriptures have to say on the subject? The D&C does not comment. The Book of Mormon, however, has two unique references to the virginity of Mary. The first is in 1 Nephi 11:13-20. Here, Nephi sees a vision that Mary, a virgin will conceive. In the first edition of the Book of Mormon, Mary is described as the “Mother of God, after the manner of the flesh” (18). This adopts the Chalcedonian formula that Mary is the theotokos, the bearer of God. In the 1837 edition, the same passage reads “Mother of the Son of God,” a more consistent view with LDS doctrine in the separate persons and substance of the Godhead. In this version, there is no language about miracle or divine implantation. Mary is a virgin, but is not necessarily a virgin when Christ is born. Nephi says that he “beheld the virgin again,” but this does not necessitate that she was still a virgin he saw her again, only that he saw the woman that was the virgin that he saw before. Further, if we imagine that the term used here is the same Hebrew term used in Isaiah 7:14, we are dealing with a “young woman,” which doesn’t speak to her sexual status.

The second reference to Mary’s virginity appears in Alma 7:10, which explains: “she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.” This verse adopts the Lukan description of “overshadowing” by the “power” of the Holy Ghost (Luke 1:35). This text seems to mediate against a non-miraculous pregnancy, though the use of the Lukan language may point to a Joseph Smith “expansion” here.

There can be no doubt that the official LDS position affirms the Virgin Birth. There is, however, an early LDS tradition which questioned this view and hypothesized that God literally had intercourse with Mary. I repeat that this view is not official doctrine, but it raises a similar theological point that I am raising here. Why did Mary have to be a virgin? We accord no special status to the state of being a virgin. But I want to explore even further than our early leaders suggested, and ask why does God have the be the father of Jesus Christ at all?

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106 Comments

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106 responses to “The Father of Jesus

  1. Ronan

    TT,
    This is an excellent, provocative essay. I suppose one objection is that Jesus needed to be somehow divine in the flesh (i.e. with a divine father) in order to….um, in order to do something or other. (Don’t Mormons talk about Jesus not being able to be killed and that he had to “give up the ghost” himself?) You are right that it doesn’t hold up well under scrutiny. All that said, however, I do believe that Jesus was ontologically different to man, but that’s because I’m a closet Anglican.

  2. Julie M. Smith

    “Paul seems to know nothing about it, and neither does Mark. ”

    There’s a world of difference between not being aware of something and choosing not to write about something. And I think you’ve confused them here. Mark is writing a very tight narrative (almost 1/2 length of other gospels) with a very specific focus and I can easily see how the virgin birth didn’t fit into that agenda. I would be as uncomfortable concluding that Mark wasn’t aware of it as I would be concluding that the current First Presidency wasn’t aware of it if they (hypothetically) didn’t mention it in the most recent Christmas Devotional. Same goes for Paul, except I still don’t like him. :)

    Getting past that, I think your comments on Mormon Christology are very interesting.

  3. TT said: “We are all fully human and fully divine because the ontological gap between God and humanity doesn’t exist.”

    Ronan said: “I suppose one objection is that Jesus needed to be somehow divine in the flesh.”

    I would say that each of us has the divine seed/potential to be fully divine (since we are not ontologically different from the Father and Son and Holy Ghost, as you have so correctly pointed out), but none of us shares that fullness of divine relationship (i.e., oneness of love, power, glory, spirit, interpenetrating awareness, etc.) that characterizes the Father/Son’s/Holy Ghost’s relationship as they are now (and, in my view, as they were before the creation of the world). Thus I would disagree TT that we are all fully human and fully divine even though the ontological gap between God and humanity doesn’t exist. We might be heading to that goal, but I don’t feel fully divine as yet(though I see you may well be! :P ).

    In my view, I see Christ as having possessed a *fullness* of the divine relationship with the Father in the beginning–that is why he was chosen above all others. I don’t see the (somewhat sparse) Book of Abraham account as sufficient information to reach some of your conclusions regarding the differences (qualitatively, not ontologically) that may or may not have existed between Jesus and each of us individually. I certainly agree that it isn’t about a difference in ontology, but I see Jesus as still having been greater than “they all” in a very significant sense. He was/is individually and in relationship to the Father *fully* divine in a way that we were/are not–though our capacity for a fullness of divinity is always there, of course.

    Now, regarding your question and Ronan’s comment, I see there to be a need for a *fullness* of divinity to exist in Christ in his mortal life at times critical for the fullness of Atonement. Clearly prior to this experience he was growing in relationship to his Father after having “emptied” himself of the fullness of divine relationship to come to this earth and experience “humaness” fully. But at times critical for the fullness of Atonement to take place, I see a need for the fullness of the divine glory to enter him (cf. Jn. 17) so that a fullness of divine capacity for suffering and awareness (and whatever other divine capacities would be necessary for Atonement) would be available for him at these crucial times. He simply must be fully divine at these important junctures, for I see the Book of Mormon and other LDS scriptures affirming that God himself must atone for sin. A human sacrifice just won’t do, regardless of how much potential a human has to become divine. As Blake Ostler said in his first volume (pg. 453), he must be seen as “infinite in his capacities that are relevant to atonement.” In whatever ways and at whatever times relevant to Atonement, he must have had the necessary “properties” (for lack of a better word) necessary for Atonement. Any other view will not suffice (I know that you aren’t claiming otherwise, I am just saying).

    I know much of this didn’t relate directly to the question of the Virgin Birth per se, but I kept writing and this is what came out, and I thought some of it might be relevant.

    Oh, and I just set up a wordpress blog. How do I get a comment feed going? I can’t seem to figure it out. Just click my name please. Thanks.

  4. I just re-read my post, and I thought that I should clarify/add (in case it was sufficiently clear) that yes, just as a child is of the same nature and kind as a Father (as you have correctly pointed out), that it doesn’t necessarily possess the *fullness of the capacities* that the Father has necessarily. In my comment, I was not saying that Christ’s qualitatively different properties is an ontological difference. I was suggesting, as Blake said, that “Divinity arises from a relationship of unity in oneness…Christ is divine because of his relationship to the Father.” (pg. 455) Divinity then, in this sense, isn’t about ontology, but about relationship.

    And I meant a “recent comments” feed. Thanks.

  5. Good stuff TT. I suppose that, like Ronan mentioned, the notion that the fully-divine premortal spirit of Jesus was significantly different than ours would make a virgin birth seems more necessarily. (I would be more comfortable with “significantly different” than “ontologically different” on this subject). For instance one of the implications of the theory I posted on some time ago that Godhood might mean the fusion of a male and female spirit could be that Jesus was such a being prior to coming here whereas we are not. Of course that is all unsupported speculation but there are certainly a lot of possibilities that remain in play in the absence of revelation on a subject.

  6. cadams

    Pres. John Taylor used the phrase “First Begotten Son” to mean God’s first spirit child. And some believe “Only Begotten Son” means Christ was the eternal God’s only child born of Him in the flesh. I don’t know of any other possible meaning for Only Begotten Son, except for mystical, nonsubstantial meanings.

  7. I attended an SBL session that convinced me that Matthew doesn’t quote Isa 7:14 for purposes of establishing the Virgin birth, but for the “God with us” part. Luke, on the other hand, doesn’t quote Isa 7, but does flatly state that Mary had not known a man.

    I also agree with Julie that just because someone doesn’t talk about it doesn’t mean it’s not important. Paul apparently had very strong thoughts on the Lord’s supper (1Co 11:17ff), but we wouldn’t know anything about it if the Corinthians weren’t screwing it up.

  8. Kevin Barney

    Very interesting and provocative post, TT. I have a fair amount of sympathy to what you suggest. I personally do not believe in a virginal conception of Jesus, which is one of my little heresies. I actually like the early LDS speculation that God literally sired Jesus, which you mention at the end of your post. But I would take Joseph as his father before I would accept a miraculous, virginal conception. In my view Jesus had 46 chromosomes; we know Mary contributed 23, and the other 23 had to come from somewhere.

  9. And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me.

    As far as the Book of Abraham goes, I am not so sure this is talking about Jesus. It seems to me that the earlier verses in which the voice proclaims that He is “greater than all” is a pretty good fit for Jesus. The highlighted text above is a bit ambiguous, but considering the context, I think Michael would be a fairly good candidate for the one being like unto the Son of Man.

  10. The issue of whether “virgin” in the BoM is dependent upon the KJV phrasing is interesting. I tend to agree and I’m not sure “virgin” means what we think it means but is simply translated via quoting the KJV.

  11. Great post TT. I am open to a virginal birth, but it doesn’t hold up well under historical scrutiny. The account in Matthew seems to be heavily influenced by Jewish tales about Moses and it is unlikely that Luke knew Mary and certainly didn’t know the mortal Jesus. So I think that the virginal birth is open to doubt. However, if it is accepted, then it must be accepted that in some sense Jesus is not fully mortal like we are. He has a fully divine Father and only 23 mortal chromosomes. That doesn’t entail, however, that Jesus is a different species than we are or a different nature. It entails that his human nature is somehow a mutation or different biologically.

    My views are in alignment with Yellow Dart’s. I doubt that Jesus is the literal birth son of the Father through a heavenly mother (I see no reason whatsoever to adopt such a view). I also accept the possibility that the language of Alma 7:10 is dependent on Luke and thus a Joseph Smith expansion.

    Ronan’s view that Christ is ontologically different is part of what the Restoration rejected in my view (and his Anglican theology is both incoherent and contra-scriptural as a result). Jesus is the preeminent Son of God among other sons of God. What distinguishes him is that he has chosen to be fully at-one with the Father in each moment that it was open for him to do so (and in my view that is each moment of an beginningless eternity). The incarnation consists of the choice to empty himself and thus to give up the fullness of the expression of divinity, experiences the separation of mortality and dies as a fully divine being that has overcome such alienation in its fullness. Thus, I have adopted a kenotic Christology (Ronan would be forced into a two nature Christology which is just indefensible in my view).

    I would add that on my view divinity is not just more mortality that is more developed. There is a qualitative difference between the existence of alienated human beings and humans who are deified. The difference is not just a matter of time and realization of one’s own personal potential; rather, deified humans stand in a certain relationship of indwelling glory that Christifies us — it is the zoe or eternal life that we share as one with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. So the difference between alienated human beings and deified human beings is logically like the difference between hydrogen and water. Water is not just more fully developed hydrogen. It is hydrogen in a particular relationship with another element.

    I disagree with J. Stapeley — I believe that the Son of Man is rather clearly Christ. However, I agree to the extent that one who is “like God” is probably Michael.

  12. I disagree with J. Stapeley — I believe that the Son of Man is rather clearly Christ. However, I agree to the extent that one who is “like God” is probably Michael.

    It would seem that we agree.

  13. Mark D.

    A God who can resurrect people from the dead is certainly not going to have a problem arranging the conception of a virgin, by some process vaguely akin to “artificial insemination”.

    But the idea I *really* object to is the suggestion that Christ’s divinity is a function of genetics. We know that ordinary genetics have some impact on human ability, weaknesses etc. But the supposition that any biologically compatible genetic configuration is a major component of divinity is just too much.

    The popular dual-nature theory is easy to reduce to such a supposition, and that is reason number one why I find it distasteful in the extreme.

    An immortal body almost certainly operates on a superior form of biology. But that alone as an explanation for divine power reduces to little more than might makes right. I am compelled to conclude that God maintains his leadership not by superior knowledge or technology but rather by virtue of his goodness and the support of those who follow him.

    The traditional view is that God’s divinity, superiority, etc. is a metaphysical accident – God is God because he is God. That explains nothing, but it is better than God is God because he was born to the right father. I am inclined rather to believe that divine authority is more a function of goodness ratified by common consent than any accident or artifice of bodily construction.

  14. BiV

    I agree with Kevin on the literal conception of Jesus, as opposed to a “artificial insemination”-like process. This was a teaching that was very accepted when I was younger. I often wonder why, as a Church, we have moved from this position. It would seem to be very logical with our anthropological conception of Deity. Are there theological complications to this view, or do you think we have distanced ourselves because of the “Scientology Factor?”

  15. TT

    All,
    Thanks for you excellent comments and contributions. Allow me to deal with a few comments selectively.

    Julie Smith,
    I will agree that it is possible that they might have known about it. I don’t think that there is any reason to assume that they did know about it, however. Further, I think that it is reasonable to conclude that if they did know about it, they didn’t seem to value it theologically at all. We might say along with Nitsav that given the particular situations that Paul was speaking about, it is simply an accident that it didn’t come up. However, Paul speaks extensively about the character of Christ’s saving act in Galatians and Romans. You’d think that being miraculously conceived as the literal Son of God might have been relevant to that discussion. Further, we have a number of early creedal statements from Paul which synthesize the message of Christ’s life, most famously 1 Cor 15:1-5, but again the Virgin Birth is absent in all of these.
    As for Mark, granted that he is brief, but I don’t see why this would require him to exclude the Virgin Birth story if he knew it. No one is holding a gun to his head with a fixed word count. I think Mark’s brevity is more result of his bad writing style than a theological choice to focus on one more healing story but exclude the story of Christ’s birth for the sake of saving space (technically, this could be told in one sentence: “Jesus Christ was born from a virgin”). In my view, the best explanation for the exclusion of the Virgin Birth story is that he didn’t know it. I think that this could probably be backed up from a reading of the rest of the Gospel as well, but I am too disinterested to make this case.

    Yellow Dart,
    I think that you caught me being less precise when I said that we are all fully divine. I agree that I meant “potentially” here. I think that your notion of Jesus’s superior qualitative relationship to God is exactly what I am trying to get at. As you say, Jesus was more like God qualitatively, not ontologically, than the rest of us. I am not sure that I agree that this entails that he had obtained a “fullness” of that relationship in the pre-existence, but this is an ultimately inconsequential point. Certainly by the time of creation, he had obtained it, which is all that matters.

    “I see there to be a need for a *fullness* of divinity to exist in Christ in his mortal life at times critical for the fullness of Atonement.”

    Okay, but why does this mean that God had to be his father? Didn’t you already say that in the pre-existence Christ had already achieved that state of the fullness of his divinity in his pre-mortal soul? Why wouldn’t he continue to be fully divine in his soul, even if his body was 100% mortal?

    Blake,
    I am not fully clear on your position here, or at least it doesn’t seem to make sense to me.

    “However, if it is accepted, then it must be accepted that in some sense Jesus is not fully mortal like we are. He has a fully divine Father and only 23 mortal chromosomes. That doesn’t entail, however, that Jesus is a different species than we are or a different nature. It entails that his human nature is somehow a mutation or different biologically.”

    So, if I understand you correctly, Jesus has 23 mortal chromosomes and 23 divine chromosomes, but that somehow this doesn’t make him a different species. Later, you define what you mean be divinity, and I will get to that. Here, however, it seems that in fact Jesus is a sort of mule, neither horse nor donkey. If there really is a difference between divine and human DNA, which your argument implies, it seems that we run into the classical Christological problem of Jesus being a tertium quid.

    “The incarnation consists of the choice to empty himself and thus to give up the fullness of the expression of divinity, experiences the separation of mortality and dies as a fully divine being that has overcome such alienation in its fullness. Thus, I have adopted a kenotic Christology”

    I am similarly confused by this view of a kenosis for Christ. What do you mean by the “fullness of the expression of divinity” which Christ has given up? Are you saying that as a mortal, Christ is no longer fully divine?

    “So the difference between alienated human beings and deified human beings is logically like the difference between hydrogen and water. Water is not just more fully developed hydrogen. It is hydrogen in a particular relationship with another element.”

    In this paragraph, I am with you until you give this example. Maybe it is just a bad example, but it is hard not to see a two-natured view of humanity and divinity here. If humanity is hydrogen, and divinity is hydrogen + oxygen, it seems that you do see on ontological difference between humanity and divinity. I am not sure exactly how you apply this specifically to Christology, but it seems that we have the same problem of Christ being a different species if he is water and we are just hydrogen. If you mean to say that we are only water at the point when we are divinized in the future, then you seem to being denying any divine quality to the mortal Jesus. Have I misunderstood?

    Mark,
    I think that we agree and I appreciate your articulation of this view. While I don’t think that it is impossible for there to be a virginal conception in a logical sense, I also don’t think it is necessary theologically.

  16. TT,

    You said:

    “Okay, but why does this mean that God had to be his father? Didn’t you already say that in the pre-existence Christ had already achieved that state of the fullness of his divinity in his pre-mortal soul? Why wouldn’t he continue to be fully divine in his soul, even if his body was 100% mortal?”

    This is the question I have been thinking about. Perhaps for the Atonement to have been completed, he would have needed some genetic strength superior to regular human abilities to withstand the intense suffering occasioned by human sin. His divinity isn’t in his genetics (or really even a body at all, since I believe He was fully divine before birth anyway), but his strength to endure sin without being destroyed by it or passing out, etc.

  17. TT

    YD,
    But doesn’t this imply that divine DNA is different from human DNA if it can make Jesus’s body “stronger”? If so, then Jesus is a mule. If Jesus is a mule, he is not a human, and if he is not a human, he didn’t really take on humanity, didn’t really experience what I experience, suffer as I suffer, endure temptation as I endure temptation, and therefore cannot really save me, right?

  18. Mark D.

    TT,

    I don’t think it is theologically necessary either, in part because I believe in a process Atonement that Christ’s earthly suffering is just a type and a shadow of.

  19. TT,

    I have been thinking about those questions also. I must confess beforehand that I am not a biolgist and that I don’t know much about genetics or the philosophy that pertains to determining when something is so different genetically that it ceases to be of the same species. However, I certainly see the Father as of the same species as humans, though more (completely) advanced.

    If it (the Father as Jesus’s biological Father) is the case, I don’t see it as preventing Jesus from having a typically fully human experience–it doesn’t make him all knowing, perfect, omnipotent, etc.; it doesn’t make him any more able to refuse to choose to “sin” any more than you are I (that is up to each of us). Rather, it has to do with his capacity to suffer for sin. You are right that he wouldn’t have really suffered exactly as you suffer–he would have suffered far more and without the merciful thresholds your body has, like dying and passing out, etc.

  20. Z.Sorenson

    I think this whole issue is one that is pretty nuanced. I’ve often tried to view our relationship with God from two different perspectives. From a spiritual point of view, God is our Heavenly Father. The nature of this relationship is clear. From a physical point of view, I think we can see God as a creator and master. In the second situation, the notions of Holy Ghost/Son/Father don’t exist. There is only the one god, and creator of all. As physical beings, God is not our literal father in any sense.
    The whole gospel is sort of the story of a restoration from being creatures to becoming the sons of god. In other words, inasmuch as we obey the gospel, we become through Christ sons of God, his heirs, offspring, like him. If we don’t, we are the natural man, who is God’s enemy.
    Can we discuss the idea that Adam is God’s son (literally, an immortal being from God’s presence)? I know it isn’t common, but I have heard of it being discussed. It certainly frames the whole subject neatly, in the context of the fall of man and his restoration to God’s presence. Perhaps in contrast to the traditional christian point of view, man and God are of the same kind, but I think we can say that outside of that context man and God are not of the same kind. I can’t explain the difference. I don’t know about chromosomes or whatnot. The best way I can explain it is mortal vs. immortal (which isn’t a perfectly accurate way of looking at it).
    My point is that the virgin birth is necessary because Christ is of the mortal/creature nature as well as of the immortal/physical child of God nature. That way he can restore man to the divine destiny his spiritual nature implies, but from which his physical nature keeps him. This can be discussed much much more.

    In summary: Christ was of two distinct natures. Man in his physical state is not a son of God, but a creature. Man in his physical state is of a different nature than that of God. Christ’s dual nature allowed him to restore man’s spiritual inheritance to him, because spiritually man is a child of God.

    I think the idea that Christ was physically the son of Joseph and Mary is compelling, but simply doesn’t comply with the gospel. I don’t mean that in an attacking way, just to say that I think the Father’s divine parenthood – physical – is intrinsic to the gospel.

    I probably could have explained this better, but I think I will be understood.

  21. TT: I sometimes just assume that folks have read my books. I don’t espouse a two nature theory of Christology but a single nature that is transformed by divine relations. My entire first book is aimed at a Mormon Christology so I just assume that the discussion takes place against the background of that discussion as already part of the data discourse. On my view, divinity emerges from the relationship of indwelling unity of fully human persons.

    Thus, by kenotic emptying of divinity I mean the following: Divine beings enjoy a fullness of divinity in indwelling glory which entails being maximally powerful, knowing and present. Jesus as a mortal was none of these. He was limited in power, knowledge and was not omnipresent. Thus, his possession of the divine attributes or expressions of the fullness of the divine glory is something less than a fullness of divinity. Any person who enjoyed maximal power, knowledge and present wouldn’t be mortal. By becoming mortal Jesus also gave up the complete unity of indwelling light and spirit that he enjoyed with the Father before the world was.

    Look at John 17, at the beginning of the prayer Jesus asks the Father to restore to him the glory that he enjoyed with him before the world was. That entails, at least, that Jesus once had a glory he did not then enjoy as a mortal and that he sought its restoration. So Jesus once had a fullness of divine glory, he set it aside to become mortal, and then sought to have it added to his mortality as its completion.

    When Jesus takes upon himself a mortal body he doesn’t express the kind of divinity that is so overwhelming that a mortal cannot stand in its presence as he did as the pre-mortal God bearing the name Yahweh. His mortal body was begotten through some means. His mother was indisputably mortal. However, what did his paternal DNA look like? It wouldn’t make him a different species if God caused somehow that he has 23 paternal chromosomes since chromosomes of a human just are human chromosomes. But the inheritance of those chromosomes is what is in question. The paternal chromosomes didn’t make him immortal — as surely divinity is. His body was mortal and he was fully human. But he had great genetics however you look at it if the story of the virgin birth is true.

    Now I don’t believe that divine nature is a different species than human nature — I believe it is a category mistake to compare them the way it is a mistake to compare water with hydrogen. Divinity is a relation and not a species. It is a resulting relation that arises when humans enter into a certain kind of relationship. We partake of this nature already as mortals, but not in its fullness. We are growing in this relationship and in the divine glory. To the extent we realize the potential of our human nature, we are becoming more fully human, but we are not thereby a different nature.

    Thus, human nature is to divine nature logically as hydrogen is to water. Hydrogen doesn’t just grow into water if it realizes it nature. Rather, it requires entering into a relation with another element in which the nature of the individual remains constant but the sum of the parts is greater than the parts individually. Thus, it is a category mistake to compare human nature with divine nature as if they were two different natures.

    Perhaps another analogy. I have the properties of being a human. I also have the properties of being a human father. A human father must be human, but it isn’t necessary that a human is a father. So the divine nature is something that is added to human nature without being something different. It is an expression of a human potentiality but it is not merely the realization of human potentiality.

    All persons are deified in a significant sense — in the sense that our bodies are made immortal and thus partake of the divine eternal life in that sense. In fact, I suggest that in the tradition those who speak of having a divine nature mean nothing more than that Christian partake of immortal life and divine goodness due to the resurrection. However, that is no big deal to us since virtually everyone will enjoy this type of immortal life thru resurrection. However, not all enjoy a fullness of indwelling glory as one with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Only those who are exalted or truly gods enjoy that glory.

    In this sense, Z Sorenson overlooks that we all have mortal and eternal aspects. Our spirits are immortal. Our bodies in this life are mortal. That doesn’t entail that our bodies have a different nature because they will be transformed to be fully divine with glory and eternal life.

  22. TT, “The Lord asks the question about whom he should send because he could have chosen others. We were all there and all eligible in terms of potentiality.”

    I don’t think you can conclude that from Abraham 3. Yes, God asks, “Whom shall I send?”, but that very well could have been a formality. In other words, God asked the question for its effect, not because everyone didn’t already know the correct answer. Is it possible that Jesus was Christ and was with the Father from the very very “beginning”; i.e. before any of our intelligences were ever organized?

    As for Virgin Birth: After reading about Bathsheba, Ruth, and Tamar, a much more tidy story would be if Mary had ‘gotten in trouble with’ a Roman soldier while betrothed to Joseph.

  23. a random John

    This is a subject that is very interesting to me. I’ve actually been thinking about it quite a bit recently. I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t see why God the Father needs to be the physical father of Jesus. If Jesus had achieved godhood prior to mortality (if that term even applies) then how would having Joseph as a Father have hampered Jesus? What if God were my physical father? Would I have some advantage?

    Finally, if Jesus is a mule, does that mean he is sterile?

    Actually this whole thing plays into the obsession that some have with Joseph Smith being a descendant of Jesus and other concerns over lineage that I think hold us back from fully living the gospel.

  24. a random John

    While I’m at it I think that the tradition of the Virgin Birth is closely tied to misconceptions about the Fall and Catholic hangups about sex.

  25. a random John

    Also, I’ve been contemplating a short story about Jesus and some random guy (not named Brian) accidentally jumping into the wrong bodies at birth and Jesus running around being morally perfect but somehow shortchanged in the genes department while Bruce has the genes but not the inclination. Bruce would lead the Jews to conquest while Jesus becomes a great moral teacher whose life is shortened by some disease that we cure easily now.

  26. TT — Your “mule” argument is pretty interesting/compelling I think.

    Blake — I don’t see anything in your Christology that theologically requires a virgin birth. Am I missing something? If not then I think that TT’s to Mark D. applies to you as well. Is there any reason you see it as being theologically necessary?

  27. Nick Literski

    I am inclined rather to believe that divine authority is more a function of goodness ratified by common consent

    So, if we choose not to consent, there is no divine authority? I assume you mean true “common consent,” and not the sort of “prove your conformity by consenting to what we proposed,” such as practiced in modern sustainings.

    #20:
    Can we discuss the idea that Adam is God’s son (literally, an immortal being from God’s presence)? I know it isn’t common, but I have heard of it being discussed. . . . My point is that the virgin birth is necessary because Christ is of the mortal/creature nature as well as of the immortal/physical child of God nature.

    The divine parentage of Adam’s physical body was taught quite commonly in early Mormonism, and in fact, it negates any necessity for a “virgin birth.” If all of mankind is descended, both spiritually and physically, from a deified father, there is no chance for the “divine genes” to dissipate, since every childbearing couple is made up of two individuals who are equally descended from deity. An immediate divine parentage for Jesus would have no hereditary distinction.

    #23:
    Actually this whole thing plays into the obsession that some have with Joseph Smith being a descendant of Jesus and other concerns over lineage that I think hold us back from fully living the gospel.

    Precisely, arj, and I made this point in my review of Vern Swanson’s Dynasty of the Holy Grail. Clearly, however, early Mormons were of the opinion that such lineages mattered. George Q. Cannon, for example, claimed to be a direct descendant of Jesus of Nazareth, as did other early Mormon leaders. Somehow, this was supposed to give their ecclesiastical authority extra legitimacy. Such an argument makes no sense at all, however, if taken in light of the equally-common early Mormon teaching that Adam, and thus ALL of mankind, are the physical descendants of deity.

  28. a random John

    Nick,

    Given that I’m a direct descendant of GQC’s sister, that works out well for me, doesn’t it?

  29. Howard

    Robert J. Matthews explains it this way:

    The earliest scriptural allusion to Mary is found in the writings of Moses. The Father, speaking to the serpent (Lucifer) in the Garden of Eden after the transgression of Adam and Eve:

    “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed [Christ]; and he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Moses 4:21; compare Gen. 3:15).

    The Hebrew word translated “bruise” actually means to “crush,” and thus the seed of the woman (Christ) will crush the head of the serpent (Lucifer), and that is a fatal wound.

    Jesus Christ is the only one born into mortality who is the seed of a woman but has no mortal father. Hence the woman referred to in this passage is Mary.

  30. Nick Literski

    Matthews is just wrong there. The passage quoted from Moses says nothing at all about a child who has no mortal father. The passage simply says that “her seed” will “bruise” Lucifer’s head. That doesn’t mean that the “seed” in question has no mortal father. If we use Matthews’ reasoning, we can say that “my daughter” is attending BYU, and since I called her “my daughter,” she obviously has no mother.

    The only woman on the scene in this passage is Eve, and “her seed” includes all her descendants, not just her immediate children.

  31. Nick Literski

    #28:
    Heck no, arj! Didn’t you see the LDS press release, just before The Da Vinci Code hit theatres? GQC, Heber C. Kimball, Joseph Smith, and all those early leaders were just speculating, and there’s just no reason at all (especially not simple logic in Mormon theology of divinization!) to think that Jesus was married, let alone had children!

    I guess that means you don’t exist anymore?

  32. Howard

    Nick,
    George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl:
    “…the first prediction of the “seed of woman” who should crush the head of the serpent. Follow the gradual development of this prophecy, until later prophets are able by the Spirit of God to describe not only the minute details of the birth, life, and death, of our Savior…”

  33. Nick Literski

    Howard, I’m sorry, but the Reynolds & Sjodahl quote doesn’t do anything to support Matthews’ interpretation. Perhaps there’s more before or after the excerpt, to make you feel that it does support Matthews?

    “Seed of woman” or “seed of the woman” merely indicates the descendants of the woman in question. It in no way indicates that the “seed” has no mortal paternity, thus Matthews’ fanciful claim that the “woman” in question is Mary is without textual support. All the passage says is that a male descendant of Eve would bruise/crush/etc. the serpent’s head.

  34. Howard

    Nick,

    Talmage seems to disagree with you.

    “…that though the devil, represented by the serpent in Eden, should have power to bruise the heel of Adam’s posterity, through the seed of the woman should come the power to bruise the adversary’s head. It is significant that this assurance of eventual victory over sin and its inevitable effect, death, both of which were introduced to earth through Satan, the arch- enemy of mankind, was to be realized through the offspring of woman; the promise was not made specifically to the man, nor to the pair. The only instance of offspring from woman dissociated from mortal fatherhood is the birth of Jesus the Christ, who was the earthly Son of a mortal mother, begotten by an immortal Father. He is the Only Begotten ofthe Eternal Father in the flesh, and was born of woman.”

    James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 43:

  35. a random John

    Howard,

    Julie’s argument in #2 applies to your assertion. The fact that a father isn’t mentioned doesn’t imply much about the father.

  36. Nick Literski

    Howard,
    I don’t think you’re understanding my point. I’m not arguing who Jesus of Nazareth’s biological father was. Rather, I’m pointing out that Matthews’ interpretation of the Moses passage is completely tortured. The passage doesn’t say anything at all about paternity, yet Matthews seems to pretend that because the passage says Jesus of Nazareth was the “seed” of a woman, that must mean he had no mortal father. That simply doesn’t follow.

    Even your Talmage quote doesn’t try the sort of tortuous reasoning that Matthews engaged in. Instead, Talmage states his position on the “virgin birth” without trying to claim that Moses 4:21 refers to Mary, rather than to Eve. The Moses passage doesn’t say that the messiah’s birth would be “disassociated from mortal fatherhood.” It merely notes that the messiah would be the seed of Eve.

  37. Howard

    Nick,

    TT’s question is “I want to explore even further than our early leaders suggested, and ask why does God have the be the father of Jesus Christ at all?”

    Matthews is Professor Emeritus of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University and he offers a viewpoint on the subject. So, I posted #29 (sorry about the bold, I was trying to do a block quote).

    I don’t pretend to be a scholar, I was simply looking for something to add to this discussion.

    Your response “Matthews is just wrong there” seemed pretty strong and disrespectful. So I went looking for more on the subject. But, I wasn’t expecting to find a video link catching the participants of the moment of conception on tape.

    I believe in inspiration and revelation as well as rational thought. When someone of Talmage’s stature speaks I tend to listen first, pray for conformation second and save any criticism as a distant third.

    You are welcome to eviscerate these quotations, please offer something better in their place.

  38. Nick Literski

    Howard, I am quite well aware of who Robert J. Matthews is. It would not surprise me, in fact, if I knew as much as you do about his accomplishments, particularly his tremendously important work in regard to Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible.

    You did not, in fact, address the question of why deity would need to sire the messiah. Several in this thread have suggested possible reasons why divine paternity might have an effect on the salvific role of Jesus of Nazareth. Others have suggested that divine paternity may not have an effect on the ability of Jesus to carry out an atonement for mankind.

    You, on the other hand, posted one scholar’s attempt to reinterpret the “woman” of Moses 4:21 as Mary, rather than Eve. Frankly, you will find Matthews alone, or nearly so, in this interpretation. While I may have been very direct in stating that Matthews was wrong, there is nothing “disrespectful” in doing so. Respect for a scholar does not entail unquestioned acquiescence toward all of his or her opinions.

    Now, you seemed to think I was arguing against the “virgin birth,” rather than against Matthews’ interpretation of Moses 4:21. Therefore, you posted a statement by James Talmage which argued in favor of the “virgin birth,” and did not, in fact, agree with Matthews’ interpretation of “the woman.” I pointed this out to you, and you somehow confused that with “criticism” of James Talmage. If you read more carefully, you will find I didn’t criticize Talmage at all, nor did I say anything at all which could be construed as an attack on “inspiration and revelation.”

    I also pointed out that Moses 4:21 says nothing at all regarding the paternity of the messiah. The passage simply indicates that a promise was made to Eve, that through her seed, a messiah would be provided for mankind. It is only fitting that this promise should be made to Eve, since Adam had just blamed her for their transgression, and she had been “cursed” as pertaining to childbirth. The message of deity to Eve was essentially that despite her disobedience, and the consequences of that disobedience, deity would turn it to good. Because Eve would now bear children, she would become the ancestor of the very individual who would atone for sin and restore glory to the human family.

    To torture this passage into a prophecy of Mary, is to deny the compassion demonstrated by deity toward Eve, at a time when she experienced shame and sadness.

  39. Howard

    Nick,

    “…why does God have the be the father of Jesus Christ at all?”

    The Talmage quote says that the devil has the power to bruise the heel of (or crush) Adam’s posterity. In other words the devil has the power to crush mere mortals.

    But, through the seed of the woman, the offspring of woman not the man, nor to the pair comes the power to crush the adversary.

    God had to be the father of Jesus Christ or he would not have the power to crush the devil.

  40. Nick Literski

    So, you believe Talmage was making a genetic argument, Howard? If I understand your restatement correctly, you’re suggesting that the messiah had to have 1/2 deity DNA, in order to “crush” Lucifer.

    I would note that there is significant difference between “crushing” a man’s heel vs. “crushing” Lucifer’s head. The former is an injury, to be sure, but the latter is, as even Matthews noted, “a fatal wound.”

    Here’s an interesting thought, however. If Talmage is correct, then what reason did deity have for saying that Eve’s seed would crush Lucifer’s head? To you and Talmage, Mary’s DNA had nothing to contribute in that regard. Any power to crush Lucifer’s head came from deity’s DNA, instead, according to you and Talmage. If that is the case, you’d think deity would say that His seed would crush Lucifer’s head, instead of “the seed of the woman.”

    I still say Moses 4:21 is a very poor prooftext for the “virgin birth.”

  41. Howard

    Nick
    DNA? Maybe, but not necessarily. Before Watson and Crick what did we call DNA? DNA is actually quite limiting. What is spirit? What is soul? What is spiritual light?

    Heel vs. head – sure there is a difference but Matthews, Reynolds, Sjodahl and Talmage all use “head”

    “Any power to crush Lucifer’s head came from deity’s DNA, instead, according to you and Talmage. If that is the case, you’d think deity would say that His seed would crush Lucifer’s head, instead of “the seed of the woman.”

    As I stated above it may not be a DNA issue. But to use your example; maybe a woman’s DNA (or whatever) has the ability to crush the adversary but when mixed with a mortal man’s that power is cancelled.

  42. Howard

    Btw, don’t you think God can find a better place to hide the devil’s “kryptonite” than DNA?

  43. Nick Literski

    Ahhh…Well, there you go. I’m obviously not even on the same planet as you, Howard.

  44. Geoff: No, I don’t see the virgin birth as theologically necessary. However, it was theologically necessary for Matthew and for Luke. Their explanation of how Christ is both human and divine is in terms of a human mother and a divine father. In the context of the birth narratives, the term “Son of God” took on new meaning. In addition, there were ubiquitous stories in Jesus’s day about the divine son of God, the Emperor Ceasar. In that context, where the Roman emperor was proclaimed to be a son of God and God, such claims had a different meaning. There were also numerous Greek stories of wunderkind who were born directly as sired by God. In that context, the claim that Jesus is God’s son had a particular meaning that we often miss and overlook.

    Moreover, I’m a bit uncomfortable with the virgin birth story because it makes Jesus superhuman — human, but super at it. As I have explained, I don’t believe that it necessarily entails that Jesus was a different species (though it opens that door). However, it does lead to a rather Docetic view where Christ’s capacities are so much greater than ours that we really cannot compare.

  45. Howard

    Blake,
    All of our spirits come from a heavenly father and mother. Mortal beings have a mortal biological father and mother. So, in a sense, we are all half divine and half mortal. The virgin birth would make Jesus three quarter divine and one quarter mortal.

    Superhuman — human, but super at it, ok, an advantage He probably needed. Imagine bringing His message to an Old Testament world. Satan was ready, would you be able to go head-to-head with him?

    He literally suffered, died and was resurrected, so I don’t see how he was Docetic.

  46. For a long time I’ve felt the “virgin birth” concept was nutty.

    However, I do believe Jesus is a literal physical son of God – that Joseph is _not_ the father. I don’t think Matthew leaves much room for us to move around on this one. The text states that Joseph was going to put Mary away privily because he knew she was pregnant and he wasn’t the father of her child … how would we explain that passage away?

  47. Howard

    Hebrews 2 explains:

    16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.

    17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

  48. a random John

    Now Howard, doesn’t the reference to “seed of Abraham” and that “it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren” imply a mortal father in the same way that the other passages you’ve cited imply a mortal mother?

  49. Howard

    Nick,
    “…not even on the same planet…”
    We just have different perspectives. You were micro focused on Matthews quote, I was macro focused on TT question.

  50. Danithew,
    Due respect, Joseph and God the Father are not the only two possible paternity options here.

  51. Howard

    ARJ,
    A literal reading would be yes.

    But, heredity is insufficient, only the faithful are truly of his seed and adoption is possible also through faithfulness.

    According to JS those who are adopted actually have their blood purged to become literally the “seed of Abraham” (HC 3:380).

    “…I say unto you that God is able of these stones to raise up children into Abraham” (JST, Matt. 3:36).

    Those who obtain both Priesthoods “…become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God” (D&C 84:33, 34).

  52. a random John

    Howard,

    You’re skipping the “like unto his brethren” part.

  53. Howard

    ARJ,

    The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve on June 30, 1916 explained Hebrews 2:17 this way:

    “Among the spirit children of Elohim the firstborn was and is Jehovah or Jesus Christ to whom all others are juniors ….

    There is no impropriety, therefore, in speaking of Jesus Christ as the Elder Brother of the rest of human kind. That He is by spiritual birth Brother to the rest of us is indicated in Hebrews: “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). Let it not be forgotten, however, that He is essentially greater than any and all others, by reason (1) of His seniority as the oldest or firstborn; (2) of His unique status in the flesh as the offspring of a mortal mother and of an immortal, or resurrected and glorified, Father; (3) of His selection and foreordination as the one and only Redeemer and Savior of the race; and (4) of His transcendent sinlessness.

  54. a random John

    I do not see how item #2 follows from that scripture, nor how it impacts #1, #3, or #4.

  55. Brad Kramer,

    There’s also the whole Annunciation matter in – where Mary is told she will be pregnant, and she asks how it is possible since no man has touched her. She is told that she will be “overshadowed” by the Most High.

    Here’s the verse from Luke 1:35:

    And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

    How do we get around that?

  56. Howard

    ARJ,

    They seem to be saying “to be made like unto his brethren” means that he is our spiritual brother.

    Then they go on to say; “Let it not be forgotten, however, that He is essentially greater than any and all others, by reason” and they list four reasons.

    By placing reason #2 in the same paragraph as an explanation of Heb. 2:17, it clearly rules out any implication that Heb. 2:17 is referring to a mortal father

    Also, would we expect the scriptures to say (Heb. 2:16) “he took not on him the nature of angels” regarding someone as mortal as you of I?

  57. Brad Kramer,

    Who would you suggest, besides God the Father and Joseph, as potential paternity? Are you alluding to the story of the Roman soldier?

    Here’s a wikipedia link about Tiberius Tulius Abdes Pantera.

    Or maybe you mean someone whose name is not available to us?

    It’s not clear to me where people want to go with this … or what they actually believe. Don’t be coy, people.

  58. Nick Literski

    I have no need to be coy. I believe that long, long ago, in a land far, far away, a carpenter became an itinerant rabbi and great moral teacher. I believe he developed a small following, which came to be seen as a threat by religious and political leaders of the day. I believe he was betrayed by one of his close associates, fell victim to those leaders he frightened, and was publicly executed. I believe a handful of his followers, including some who never knew him in person, borrowed all sorts of “miraculous” descriptions of past mythological deities, in order to turn their deceased leader into a miracle-performing, resurrected demi-god.

  59. So what you’re saying, Nick, is that Christianity is a bunch of hooey and hype? I disagree. The stories of the resurrection are early and clearly well established long before Paul came on the scene. The resurrection is the real story, and to suggest it was based on myth is to suggest that Judaism had dying and rising gods. Yet such stories of dying and rising gods are completely foreign to Judaism. I believe that the things Jesus did, including the resurrection, that the only adequate category his followers could find for him was “God”. But your rejection of Christianity except for Jesus as an itinerant preacher worthy of little notice is noted.

  60. TT

    Blake 21:
    Thank you so much for engaging me on this topic. I find your ideas very interesting and would like to push them a bit.
    With regard to a kenotic Christology, you said: “Jesus as a mortal was none of these. He was limited in power, knowledge and was not omnipresent. Thus, his possession of the divine attributes or expressions of the fullness of the divine glory is something less than a fullness of divinity.”

    With respect to these things then, you have argued that Jesus is not divine. Let me ask, is there something about mortal embodiment that you think causes Jesus to cease to be divine, or is it something particular about his coming to earth that caused him to have to accept a veil, similar to the kind of veil we all have, with regard to the pre-existence? The reason that this is important is because if it is the body itself which causes Jesus to cease to be divine, rather than simply a voluntary condition, I think that this impacts the issue of paternity.

    You and others have taken a position of divine DNA as providing Jesus with some sort of advantage. I had previously excluded this idea along the lines of the mule argument, but you have insisted that my argument doesn’t apply. I am not fully convinced yet, so I want to press it a bit further. I think that you need to be more specific about what exactly you think that the divine DNA might provide. Above, you noted that Jesus was not fully divine in the incarnation with respect to his capacities. Obviously you don’t see these things as communicated through DNA.
    You have also argued that divine chromosomes do not constitute a difference species. So, if Jesus does somehow need 23 divine chromosomes, what exactly is he getting from those chromosomes? Is it something as crude a “strength” as others have put it? If so, what does this say about the nature of God the Father’s body? Is is just “stronger” physically, and its offspring can inherit it, like he was a great weightlifter? i think that this issue needs to be thought through more carefully. What specifically is Jesus inheriting that he couldn’t get from Joseph? I think that this also begs the question, if God is not a different class of being than humans, why exactly does God need to be the father?

    As for your water/hydrogen example, I still think that it is in conflict with your assertion that you don’t see the divine and human as different species, though I take you at your word on this point. I think that water and hydrogen have different essences and that they cannot be mixed. If God is water and Mary is hydrogen, and you take 1/2 of each, you end up with H30, which is neither hydrogen (humanity) nor water (divinity).

    Blake 44:
    I think that here I get a clearer picture of your views. If you “don’t see the virgin birth as theologically necessary,” and are uncomfortable with a “superhuman” view of Jesus’s humanity, I think that obviates most of your arguments in 21, but I might be wrong here. Is this your actual position, and 21 was just an exercise? Please explain.

    These two posts are at the heart of the theological question at hand, but I wanted to address a tangential point you made later:

    Blake 60:
    “The resurrection is the real story, and to suggest it was based on myth is to suggest that Judaism had dying and rising gods. Yet such stories of dying and rising gods are completely foreign to Judaism.”

    I am not sure I follow this. Why exactly is Judaism immune to cultural borrowings from Greek and Roman neighbors? It certainly doesn’t seem to be a problem on nearly every other theological and cultural issue. While I am not sure that I agree with Nick that the dying and rising gods tradition (which is much less attested than Frazer asserts) is the best context in which to situate the resurrection, I am also not convinced that the story must be true because it makes no sense in a “Jewish” context.

    “I believe that the things Jesus did, including the resurrection, that the only adequate category his followers could find for him was “God”.”

    I am also skeptical of this claim. Except for John, it is very difficult to make the case that most early Christians thought of Jesus as “God.” This sounds a little like C.S. Lewis’s apologetic claim that Jesus must have been the Son of God or a crazy person because no one sane would say the thing he said. The problem, of course, is that we only have what was attributed to Jesus after the fact by his disciples who had already decided what they thought Jesus was, not what Jesus actually said or did.

    Danithew 46/56:
    “The text states that Joseph was going to put Mary away privily because he knew she was pregnant and he wasn’t the father of her child … how would we explain that passage away?”

    Well, I am not advocating any one interpretation, but I think that the answer would be that Matthew is not citing history in the sense that we understand it here, but legend. As mentioned in the original post, Mark doesn’t seem to know of this tradition at all, Luke’s version is different, and John also never mentions it. Since the authors weren’t there, and likely never knew any of the primary characters, these recollections deserve some historical suspicion.

  61. a random John

    TT,

    I’d go even further and say that suggesting that Jesus needed some sort of hybrid physical body in order to accomplish his mission lessens his accomplishments and makes him less of an example for us to emulate. If his deciding advantage is an accident (or non-accident as the case may be) of birth then it would seem that he overcame less than he might have otherwise had to and never really experienced mortality in the way we do. It makes him a more distant being in a certain sense.

  62. Danithew,
    The Roman soldier question is tricky, since if a soldier did sire Jesus of Nazareth, the conception was likely the result of what we today would term a rape. I juxtapose what may have happened against what we might call it today, because the legal concept of rape presupposes the ability of women to produce legally binding testimony as witnesses — i.e. for their word to be taken as of at least equal weight to that of the males they accuse. For most of human history, of course, including turn-of-the-Era Palestine, this was not the case. The idea of giving the woman the benefit of the doubt or of considering a “rape” victim to still be virtuous is a recent development and would have not even have crossed the mind of even someone as judicious and forgiving as Joseph.

    I’m wholly unconvinced thusfar by arguments for any kind of theological necessity for a virgin birth. And I find arguments that a virgin birth is theologically nonsensical to be rather compelling. I know Matthew and Luke are fond of the notion, but not, as far as I can tell, for anything like theological necessity. They are concerned with crafting a narrative that a) discredits and supplants the Markan account and b) (this is especially the case for Matthew) depicting Jesus as a newer, better, cooler version of Moses. John’s gospel is far more driven by concerns we would consider to be “theological” and does not mention a virgin birth. For him Jesus’ divinity or quasi-divinity (and John is, very arguably, the only NT writer who actually views Jesus as God or a god) has nothing to do with any miraculous birth but with his position and glory vis a vis the Father before his mortal birth.

    Matthew and Luke’s insistence on a virgin birth, given their agendas, and given other considerations outlined here and elsewhere on this thread, is not a compelling enough reason for me to embrace it. Then again, the un-compelling nature of such arguments is not enough for me to stubbornly reject it out of hand. I’m still open to having my view altered, but right now lean heavily in favor of rejecting the VB.

    As for Mary’s insistence that she was chaste, a) Matthew is the source for this interaction, so if I’m not trusting Matthew’s overall claim for a VB, I have no reason to trust his account of Mary’s interaction with Gabriel; and b) it’s not as though Mary wouldn’t have a reason to be less than forthright about her “virtue” if she had been raped.

    One need not imbibe outlandish claims about specific, named soldiers or secret lineages to consider it highly plausible that Mary was at some point raped by a soldier. (Most) modern readers would not consider that a strike against her virtue, but Matthew’s original audience most assuredly would. I personally suspect that God’s overshadowing was a form of psychological protection from the trauma of what she experienced and that an angel reasoned with both Mary and Joseph in an idiom wholly outside their cultural paradigm and convinced them that Mary’s virtue was still in tact and that Joseph could still in good conscience marry her, regardless of what anyone else thought.

  63. TT

    ARJ,
    I think that you make an interesting point. Historically, Christology has nearly always been about either soteriology or anthropology. You make a classical soteriological point, but it does cut both ways. If Jesus is not human, he cannot save us because he has not actually taken on humanity. If Jesus is not divine, he cannot save us because he does not have the capability. One can see the attractiveness of the Chalcedonian two-natures formula. For me, I think that one has to be more specific about the nature of the atonement because tells us what we are being saved from. Howard seemed to advocate both a tricking of the devil model as well as a subsitutionary punishment model. I think that you might be suggesting that Christ’s salvation is offered in the form of an example of a virtuous life that we can emulate. The amount of emphasis one puts on the humanity or divinity of Jesus depends greatly on what they think the atonement is doing.

  64. TT

    Brad,
    While I think that the rape of Mary is possible, it should be noted that this accusation is relatively late (3rd c.), so I think that it shouldn’t be given strong historical weight.
    Further, Roman presence in Galilee was next to nothing, especially in an inconsequential town like Nazareth, which makes it very unlikely that Mary would have had any interactions, let alone these kind. Also, Roman-Jewish relations were quite tense all the time, but especially in the years around Jesus’s birth and an incident like a rape would probably have been a powderkeg moment, so I don’t think it too likely. Not that the VB is more historically likely, just that this isn’t necessarily the best alternative explanation.

  65. TT,
    But in order for a rape to have been a “powderkeg moment” wouldn’t rape have to have something like modern connotations? I’ll have to look a bit more closely at the arguments about a non-robust military presence in Galilee, but if she was raped (or if she was subjected to what we today would consider rape) it would have been a powderkeg moment — the very kind of moment Joseph chose to diffuse in the narrative by dealing with the matter privately and judiciously. I’m not necessarily committing to the Roman soldier version of the story, especially if you are correct about the relative likelihood of the presence of potential perpetrators in or around Nazareth. But what we would consider rape today, given the status of women then, is very likely.

    That’s part of what gets missed in most discussions of the woman taken in adultery — a story that, for reasons I can’t quite pin down (perhaps just Jesus’ defensive posturing on behalf of a woman who, according to modern standards, might well have been the victim of a rape) leads me to think along the lines of something like a rape as a highly plausible explanation for Jesus’ conception. While the VB might very well be dismissable as a historical account, if there are any actual historical tidbits preserved by the VB accounts or which they seek to explain away, it seems likely that there was some controversy surrounding the betrothal, marriage, and birth.

  66. Also, RE: rape as a 3rd-c accusation, I’m not taking a position in favor of that particular claim. I agree that it is historically suspect on a number of grounds. But that doesn’t meant that rape — even, but not necessarily, a rape by an anonymous soldier — is equally historically implausible.

    And, of course, none of this discussion deals with the possibility that Mary was simply a repentant sinner. I know for many non LDS Christians that is blasphemous, and for many LDS (including Talmage) the suggestion is indefensible disrespectful. But, ultimately, to suggest that Mary’s sinning and subsequent repentance would cast insurmountable aspersions on her character (the way Talmage does in his defense of the chastity of Mary Magdalene) is to cheapen repentance and, by extension, the Atonement and Christ’s power to save.

    Hardly fitting in a discussion of the birth of the Savior.

  67. Howard

    “…why does God have the be the father of Jesus Christ at all?”

    Abinadi prophesied that “God himself” in flesh called the “Son of God” shall “come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.”

    Mosiah 15:
    1 And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.
    2 And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—
    3 The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—
    4 And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.

    The Talmage quote #34 says that the devil has the power to crush Adam’s posterity (mere mortals). But, through the seed of the woman, the offspring of woman not the man, nor to the pair comes the power to crush the adversary.

    It is through death the devil is destroyed.
    Hebrews 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

    Men know that they will die, so the power to crush the adversary goes beyond death itself to include resurrection and salvation. Men are drawn to the Son because of these benefits and the devil’s power is crushed.

    3 Nephi 27:
    14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—

    15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.

    16 And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.

    17 And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.

    The plan from “the foundation of the world” included the “Son of God” in this role. Mosiah 15:
    19 For were it not for the redemption which he hath made for his people, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, I say unto you, were it not for this, all mankind must have perished.

    20 But behold, the bands of death shall be broken, and the Son reigneth, and hath power over the dead; therefore, he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead.

  68. Howard,
    Simply following a question with a long list of quotations by no means insures that said quotations furnish sufficient answers to the question. No one here has disputed that Christ is the Son of God or the source of salvation. Jesus’ Sonship figures more prominently into John’s gospel than perhaps any other text in canonized scripture. Yet, as I noted above, John makes no mention of virgin birth. For John, Jesus’ divinity is a function of proximity to and shared glory with the Father before His mortal birth, not of the nature of that mortal birth itself.

  69. Howard

    Brad, I was answering the question “…why does God have the be the father of Jesus Christ at all?”

    It was planed from “the foundation of the world” because mortal men do not have the power to to crush the adversary.

  70. Nick Literski

    #60:
    The stories of the resurrection are early and clearly well established long before Paul came on the scene.

    “Well established” by whom? We have a handful of named individuals who claim to have seen Jesus killed and subsequently alive. We have a claim from those individuals that some 500 completely unidentified others also saw Jesus alive after his execution. We have no witnesses to the claimed resurrection itself.

    The resurrection is the real story, and to suggest it was based on myth is to suggest that Judaism had dying and rising gods.

    This is incorrect, Blake, unless the Jews were somehow living in complete isolation, even from their Roman rulers.

    Yet such stories of dying and rising gods are completely foreign to Judaism.

    Even the Bible makes it clear that the Jews were rather good at assimilating aspects of “completely foreign” religions. Yahweh seems to have been repeatedly irritated at such behavior.

    I believe that the things Jesus did, including the resurrection, that the only adequate category his followers could find for him was “God”.

    Even if the accounts of Jesus’ actions are correct, Blake, assigning him to the status of deity would be an indication that he fit long-established stories about what deities do. This only reinforces the fact that the accounts of Jesus as miracle-worker and resurrected being come directly out of pre-existing mythology.

    But your rejection of Christianity except for Jesus as an itinerant preacher worthy of little notice is noted.

    Did I say that? No, I said he became a “great moral teacher.” I rank him among the greatest moral teachers in history—none of which happened to be deities.

  71. Howard

    Kinda makes me wonder how a carpenter grew to become one of the greatest moral teachers in history. DNA maybe?

  72. Nick Literski

    As arj previously noted, the DNA theory would negate, or at least diminish, any accomplishments of Jesus.

  73. TT

    As far as being a great moral teacher (which I am also not sure is the best category for Jesus), unless one is willing to say that Confucius, Buddha, and Kant have divine DNA, I am not sure divinity is a prerequisite.

  74. a random John

    Howard,

    Referencing one of the most confusing passages in the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 15) won’t win you any points with me. Clearly the Nephites had a very different concept of the Godhead than post-Talmage Mormons do. The first edition of the Book of Mormon makes this especially obvious but the even with the revisions made since then it is clear to a careful reader that this is the case. Joseph Smith’s own ideas about the Godhead underwent significant revisions during his lifetime. I don’t think that the Book of Mormon is going to be the source of definitive answers on this topic.

  75. a random John

    Howard,

    Would I be a great moral teacher if I had 50% divine DNA?

  76. Howard

    Seems like your chances might improve at 75% just based on who you know!

  77. Howard

    ARJ,
    What’s confusing about; “…God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.”?

    What’s confusing about; “For were it not for the redemption which he hath made for his people, which was prepared from the foundation of the world…”?

    Actually all the verses in #68 seemed pretty clear to me. Which ones gave you trouble?

    “Clearly the Nephites had a very different concept of the Godhead than post-Talmage Mormons do.”
    Please enlighten me.

  78. Nick Literski

    Things are rarely “troubling,” when we don’t bother to take the time to think about them. Of course, we don’t grow under those conditions, either.

  79. Howard

    So, my growth has stopped because I posted # 68?

  80. Nick Literski

    Howard, if you do nothing more than spew scripture quotations, giving no actual thought to what those passages mean, then you’re likely to miss out on some important things. Joseph Smith taught that the things of god are of deep import, and only careful thought and pondering can find them out.

  81. annegb

    In answer to your question, I would say, “He doesn’t, and it really doesn’t matter except perhaps as a way of explaining it in terms we could begin to understand.”

    I think the true order of heaven is completely beyond our comprehension and that we are in a cave interpreting shadows. Some of us interpret them a little better than others, but basically, it’s all on faith anyway.

    Knowing that wouldn’t, shouldn’t make a difference how I live. Basically, I’m just doing the best I can and hoping for the best.

    Not to be redundant or anything.

  82. Howard

    Actually, this is growth for me Nick I never served on a mission and spent most of my life out of the church. Until recently I had less of a testimony than you expressed in your well articulated # 59 post.

    “Bother to take the time to think”? “Thought and pondering”? Nick, you have no idea what I go through.

  83. a random John

    Howard,

    Here’s an exercise that would be worthwhile. In fact, I should do it myself:

    Get a replica first edition Book of Mormon and highlight each reference to any member of the Godhead and then try to figure out which individual member is meant by the author. Approach it with an open mind and not with the Talmage Godhead definitions. My opinion is that things are not crystal clear.

  84. Howard

    ARJ,
    Yes, I agree that things are not crystal clear, but aside from the who is “God” vs. “Son of God” question I don’t find the plain language of Mosiah 15 to be confusing.

    I understand Abinadi to say that the Son of God is God himself in flesh, he will redeem us using his divine power and that was the plan from the foundation of the world. This is what others have to say about Mosiah 15:1-4 & 19-20:

    Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet:
    Abinadi’s purpose in this sermon, however, is to declare more than the unity of the Godhead; his is “the pronouncement of pronouncements, the doctrine of doctrines, the message of messages, which is that Christ is God. And if it were not so, he could not save us.” (Promised Messiah, p. 98.) That is, Abinadi is declaring the true doctrine of the Incarnation: he is teaching and testifying that God (Jehovah) will become a man (Jesus), that he who was the “Great Spirit” (see Alma 18:24-28) shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay (see Mosiah 3:5).

    Mosiah 15 4 In summary, Christ will be both the Father and the Son. He will be called the Father because he was conceived by the power of God and he inherited all of the divine endowments, including immortality, from his exalted Sire. He will be called the Son because of his flesh-his mortal inheritance from his mother, Mary.

    Rodney Turner:
    This is precisely the point that Abinadi made in Mosiah 15:1-5. Rodney Turner describes Jehovah’s father-son roles as follows: “Literally possessing his Father’s name and powers, the Son was worthy and able to act as the Father’s divine surrogate. To this end, he became the Only Begotten Son in the flesh when he was conceived by Mary, a mortal woman.

    Richard D. Draper:
    Abinadi stresses that He is literally the physical offspring, the son, of Elohim.

    Sidney B. Sperry
    Here Abinadi speaks of the Savior as “God himself”, and then hastens to point out that he is called the Son of God because he was to come in the flesh. Evidently Abinadi is alluding to the fact that God the Father was to conceive Christ in the flesh. In referring to Jesus as “the Father and the Son”

  85. Howard

    Summary:
    The Talmage quote says that the devil has the power to crush mere mortals. But, through the seed of the woman, the offspring of woman not the man, nor to the pair comes the power to crush the adversary.

    Hebrews 2:14 says that through death the devil is destroyed.

    Men know that they will die, so the power to crush the adversary goes beyond death itself to include resurrection and salvation. Men are drawn to the Son because of these benefits and the devil’s power is crushed.

    Mosiah 15 – Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet say; Christ is God. And if it were not so, he could not save us.

    So, Christ must be both divine and mortal.

    The most likely way this would be accomplished would be that the Father was his biological father and Mary his mother. This conclusion is supported by Richard D. Draper and Sidney B. Sperry’s view of Mosiah 15.

  86. a random John

    Howard,

    I’m familiar with many of the quotes you provide and find them to all be poor attempts at trying to pound a square peg (BoM authors’ understanding of the Godhead) into a round hole (the Talmage Godhead).

    As for Christ being both divine and mortal I fail to see how his divine spirit in a mortal body doesn’t accomplish this.

  87. Howard

    “…find them to all be poor attempts at trying to pound a square peg into a round hole”

    Not a good one in the bunch, huh?
    Thanks for your critique.

  88. Howard,
    Prolific name-dropping is no more an argument than taking umbrage at the fact that readers here are not silenced by name-dropping.

    Observe the staggering distance between the understanding of the Godhead promoted by the Lectures on Faith, on the one hand, and the Section 130 or the King Follet Sermon on the other, more than a decade later; if it is possible for Joseph Smith to incorrectly understand the Godhead at one point and to teach and promote those incorrect conceptions (here I’m using Joseph’s late revelations as a standard for judging the doctrinal legitimacy of the LoF), why is it unreasonable to think that BoM authors/prophets also had a less-than-complete understanding?

    The fact that McConkie/Millet/Sperry/Draper/whoever wish to refashion Nephite writers into teachers whose curriculum would be approved by today’s correlated standards is hardly a compelling case for believing that they actually were.

    If you stick squarely to the text of Mosiah 15 and to Abinidi’s words, turning him into a post-Talmage Mormon trinitarian requires selective semantic acrobats and proof-texting frenzies that would make Jehovah’s Witnesses blush.

  89. Howard

    Brad Kramer,
    True, it is hardly a compelling case.

    Name dropping wasn’t the point. We have scriptures which are basically revelation that was written down, we have Prophets who receive revelation, we have GAs who are divinely inspired and we have ourselves. Why should LDS bloggers limit themselves to just scripture and themselves? “…whose curriculum would be approved by today’s correlated standards…” Is this what you fear? So you throw revelation and inspiration out with the correlated standards?

  90. “So you throw revelation and inspiration out with the correlated standards?”

    No, I just don’t subject revelation and inspiration to the correlated standards.

  91. Howard

    Good, so how do you make use of the Prophets and GAs then?

  92. I rely upon them to receive new revelation and, more importantly, to govern the day to day affairs of the global church — not to repackage existing revelation or tell us what it really means.

    And equating the correlation committee with Prophets and/or GAs is a logical leap that practically defies gravity.

  93. And JF McConkie, R Millet, S Sperry, R Draper, et al are no more prophets or GAs than you or I.

  94. I should also add that by arguing that Abinidi and JE Talmage have differing views of the Godhead, I am not necessarily preferencing one view over the other; I am simply saying that one man had one understanding, another man had another, and I still have to make a decision about what I think about the question.

    The very notion that all men who have ever lived who might reasonably be called prophets saw totally eye to eye on all important theological questions is a rather spurious, wholly indefensible contemporary myth that lies at the heart of my distaste for the correlated gospel.

  95. Howard

    Differing views can be contrasted when it is relevant, and they can certainly be part of the discussion.

    I understand your distaste for correlation, how do you include Prophets and GAs in your posts?

  96. I think I have an obligation to seriously and thoughtfully consider the words of modern prophets when I try to work out serious doctrinal matters, but I think their most important function is the governing of the day-to-day affairs of the kingdom and not telling us what the scriptures mean. One of correlation’s gravest sins, in my opinion, has been steady momentum in the direction of reducing the entirety of the vast, everlasting gospel to a veneration of American middle-class families and a kind of prophet-worship that Joseph Smith would have found highly distasteful.

    In terms of how I live my life and my own continued process of repentance, I have found the words of living prophets to be profoundly helpful, in particular Elder Oaks and Presidents Eyring and Hinckley. I genuinely believe they are God’s chosen servants. But when I want to understand the scriptures, I focus my attention primarily on the scriptural texts themselves and on whatever reliable information I can get as to their production as texts and for placing them in historical, social, and cultural context.

    I rely extensively on personal guidance with the Spirit because my own experience has shown me that spiritual insights come as “strokes of pure intelligence” and some of my most profound sacred experiences have been connected with what would be typically considered academic, intellectual endeavors.

  97. Mark D.

    #27:

    So, if we choose not to consent, there is no divine authority? I assume you mean true “common consent,” and not the sort of “prove your conformity by consenting to what we proposed,” such as practiced in modern sustainings.

    Nick L,

    If (nearly) everyone, heaven and earth included refused to recognize divine authority, I believe it would evaporate. There might be some residual power, but I think power is primarily a function of authority, and authority is a function of social consent.

    Otherwise good is nothing more than agreement with divine will – making God either a timeless abstraction or an arbitrary tyrant.

  98. Nick Literski: “Even if the accounts of Jesus’ actions are correct, Blake, assigning him to the status of deity would be an indication that he fit long-established stories about what deities do. This only reinforces the fact that the accounts of Jesus as miracle-worker and resurrected being come directly out of pre-existing mythology”

    Nick, you are seriously mistaken. There is a reason that the Jews didn’t take Jesus seriously and Christ was a scandal for Paul. They didn’t expect a humble Messiah who didn’t wage war. The old Christianity=myth school has long been discredited — did you miss that part of the history of Christian studies? The notion of a resurrected being was scarce in Jewish thought — that is why it was just impossible for his disciples to believe. You are imposing on Christian sources associations that I don’t believe any serious scholar — critical or otherwise — take seriously. Yes, Osiris was resurrected, but how common were associations between Osiris and Messiah in Jewish thought? You’ll look forever because there just isn’t a case to be made for. There is certainly some resemblance between Jesus and other Jewish miracle workers, but none of these miracle workers had a virgin birth or resurrection attributed to them. In my view, you assertion (without evidence really) is pretty flimsy. No on in Judea-Christian studies that I know of accepts this kind of argument any more.

  99. Howard

    Brad Kramer,
    Many in authority disagree.

    President J. Reuben Clark Jr. said only the President of the Church has the right to give authoritative interpretations of scriptures. Elder Spencer W. Kimball said that some seem to take pride in disagreeing with the orthodox teachings of the Church presenting their own opinions which are at variance with the revealed truth. They may innocent in the matter but others are feeding their own egotism.

    Elder Dallin H. Oaks; Living Prophets words “serve as a guide for each of us, in scripture interpretation as in other matters.”

  100. michaelz

    #100 Howard,
    That’s just crazy. Where is there room within “authoritative interpretations” for individual study and discovery of truth? Are living prophets then inerrant?

    In other words, just because Dallin H. Oaks says something, does it make that something automatically true?

    This is a serious question.

  101. Howard

    In other words, just because Dallin H. Oaks says something, does it make that something automatically true?

    No, of course not. There is plenty of room for Prophets, GAs, “authoritative interpretations”, individual study and discovery of truth with the aid of the Spirit.

  102. What gives President Clark the right to declare who has the right to declare which scriptural interpretations are correct or “authoritative”? If Elder Kimball was uncomfortable with deviating from orthodox interpretations, that’s his business. I, for one, am glad he did choose to deviate on at least one orthodox interpretation circa 1978. And if Elder Oaks chooses to use the statements of the brethren as standards for interpreting the scriptures, more power to him. I have no problem if anyone wants to follow that course; but if they want to impose such standards for studying the scriptures on everyone else, I’m comfortable ignoring that imposition.

    Joseph Smith’s revelatory career consisted very much in constantly reading scriptures against the grain of convention. He consistently sought answers outside the box of orthodox interpretation, with magnificent results. He even challenged his own earlier statements of doctrine. We would never have received the King Follet Sermon if Joseph considered the Lectures on Faith to be the “authoritative” scriptural interpretation on the nature of God.

    As long as I am still receiving spiritual witness that the brethren have been called by God to direct the affairs of the Kingdom while simultaneously receiving spiritual inspiration in the direction of independent interpretations of sacred texts that may be outside the boundaries of traditional orthodoxy, I’ll continue to assume that there is no such thing as an authoritative interpretation of any scripture.

    The scriptures are living documents, vivified by the holy spirit, accessible to any and all who seek it. Asking some independent authority to tell us what the scriptures mean is the penultimate step toward permanently squelching the spirit of personal revelation.

  103. Howard

    Giving authoritative interpretations of scriptures doesn’t limit a President’s ability to seek answers outside the box.

    “As long as I am still receiving spiritual witness that the brethren have been called by God to direct the affairs of the Kingdom while simultaneously receiving spiritual inspiration in the direction of independent interpretations of sacred texts that may be outside the boundaries of traditional orthodoxy, I’ll continue to assume that there is no such thing as an authoritative interpretation of any scripture.”

    Follow the Spirit! But others may not have your ability to interpret or your access to the Spirit. They need a touch stone for their understanding and it is provided by the leadership.

  104. Howard,
    Like I said, I don’t begrudge anyone else’s taking whatever approach to scripture study they see fit. But there is a fine line between a “touchstone” for understanding and relying upon leadership as a substitute for “access to the spirit” or “ability to interpret”; the latter, in my opinion, is a dangerously slippery slope.

  105. Howard

    Brad Kramer,
    You make a good point about the fine line, but unfortunately there are many in the church who must rely upon leadership as a substitute for “access to the spirit”. I used to be one of them.