I’m pleased to announce that I will be doing a special event this Christmas season, a two-lecture online course called Jesus: The Actual Son of Joseph: Evidence From the New Testament Itself. This is a topic I have long thought about casually but never really dug into until recently. And when I dug, I started realizing that in fact there’s a lot buried, more than I expect. There are very good reasons for thinking that a number of the earliest sources of the New Testament (Paul, Mark, the sources of Matthew and Luke), as well as the latest (John), not only did not KNOW the tradition about Jesus being born of a virgin, but actually maintain (in some places) and suggest (in others) that he was not. Whoa.
In two lectures delivered remotely on Sunday December 10, I’ll be laying the case out in full. Obviously what someone (say the authors of the Gospels) *thought* about the circumstances of Jesus’ birth (whether those who indicate his mother was a virgin and those who indicate she was not) is not “evidence” of what actually happened. You may think your own spouse was divinely conceived (or, well, not), but that’s not exactly proof. But still, it’s interesting to see just how widely the non-virgin birth of Jesus is assumed among the New Testament authors themselves.
I should stress this course is not connected with the blog per se, but is part of my online course offerings. Blog members CAN, however, receive a discount by using the code BLOG5. Moreover, please note there is, in addition to that, early bird pricing is available until December 2. For more info and registration, go to Jesus the Actual Son of Joseph: Evidence From the New Testament Itself.
Here is a basic description:
Jesus: The Actual Son of Joseph: Evidence from the New Testament Itself
December 10, 2023
It is widely known that both Matthew and Luke describe how Jesus was born of a virgin. What is not widely known is that other passages of the New Testament indicate that Jesus was actually the biological son of Joseph. Some of this evidence suggests that Mary became pregnant before they were married. Even if Jesus was not born out of wedlock, he may well have been conceived out of wedlock.
This is obviously a highly controversial claim that will almost certainly cause offense to many Christian believers. But the evidence nonetheless needs to be seriously considered. It comes to us not only from other passages of Matthew and Luke themselves (both within and after their birth narratives), but even more clearly in Mark and John, neither of which mentions a virgin birth but, on contrary, contain explicit statements and other accounts that show the authors believed Jesus was the son of Joseph.
In addition to these Gospels we have a hint of Jesus’ parentage in the yet earlier writings of Paul. Moreover, alternative traditions of Jesus’ unusual birth can be found both within later Christian sources and from Jewish and pagan opponents of the third and later centuries. These later traditions may not be historical in their details, but they support the claim that Jesus’ was not actually born of a virgin.
In this two-lecture course we examine all this evidence, including the later (unlikely) rumors among the enemies of the Christian faith that Jesus was the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier. We will then reflect again on the virgin birth stories of Matthew and Luke, which may represent Christian attempts to prove that even though Jesus’ birth was highly unusual, he was nonetheless both the Son of Man and the Son of God.
In this course we will consider the following issues.
- Why is Jesus’ virgin birth mentioned only in two passages of the NT; why don’t the other authors (such as Paul, or the authors of Mark and Luke) mention it? Was it simply not important? Didn’t they know?
- Why do three of the Gospels explicitly call Joseph Jesus’ “father”?
- Is it possible that Luke’s entire story of the virgin birth (Luke chapters 1-2) was not original but was only added to the Gospel later?
- Why do the two genealogies of Jesus trace their lines down to “Joseph,” and not to Jesus? Did their authors assume that Jesus stood in that genealogical line? If not, what’s the point of giving a genealogy that he is not related to?
- If over time Christian scribes changed the texts of the Gospels to emphasize that Joseph was *not* the father of Jesus and Christian story tellers devised narratives to show he wasn’t, does that show that they were arguing the point against earlier Christians who thought otherwise?
- Are there any stories in our NT Gospels that make almost no sense if Mary was a virgin?
- Do later rumors of Jesus’ unusual birth to a Roman soldier named Panthera suggest that it was widely known that he was not born to a married couple?
- Why did belief in the Virgin Birth become so central to Christian thinking if it is not an idea mentioned, let alone stressed, by most of the NT writings?
Again, for more info and registration, go to https://ehrman.thrivecart.com/son-of-joseph.