Tuesday, December 24, 2013


2000 Years 


Male Tampering 


 Reproductive Functions 

A recent  PBS television series about a mystery-solving priest named Father Brown has the priestly sleuth  lecturing a severe nun who is inflexible on the sin of pregnancy out of wedlock with these words: “Even Our Lady was a single mother for a while.”  

Indeed, she was.

There is a great deal of debate about tampering with women’s reproductive functions these days, from  religious doctrinaires in the Roman Catholic Church to evangelical Christians in America, yet the world is about to unquestioningly celebrate tomorrow what is perhaps the most famous religious holiday in history, a holiday which depends on the story of just such a tampering by a divine tamperer.

The virgin birth of Jesus is believed to be a true occurrence by all Roman Catholics and a majority of Protestants in 2013 , even though scholars in dusty divinity closets debate whether in fact this doctrine is based on a centuries-long mistranslation.

The entire  virgin birth theory of Christianity in the New Testament is based on the translation of one word alleged to be predicting the birth of just such a messiah as Jesus; a word in the OLD Testament book of Isaiah 7:14; a word  which in Hebrew (the original text) is “almah“ meaning “young woman”.  However, when the Hebrew “almah”  gets translated in  into the later Greek version of the Bible ,  the word used is “parthenos” meaning “virgin”. 

Therefore, the Lord, of His own, shall give you a sign; behold, the young woman (the virgin?)  is with child, and she shall bear a son, and she shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14)

Hence the possibility that the entire superstructure of the Nativity in Chriitianity  (the event we are about to celebrate tomorrow across the world) is based on a willful or sloppy scholarly mistake made centuries ago and  universally ignored by the faithful.  (See below).

NOTE: There is a similar scholarly debate about the translation of “virgin” in another major world religion whose divine reward is “72 virgins” in paradise , but I prefer to deal with the religion of my upbringing here, and leave other religions to their own internal debaters.

Putting aside the question of patriarchal control of women's bodies, what can we make today, December 24, 2013, of this focus on women’s reproductive functions as the central pillar of the Christian religion?  

Joseph obviously is concerned about his future wife’s purity and even considers a 'divorce' when Mary becomes pregnant during the one year period of  Hebrew betrothal, a time to establish property rights and family relationships, and, incidentally, to figure out if your betrothed is pregnant with another man's child ! 

In one version,  Joseph is visited by an angel who tells him  to calm down, since the pregnancy has been caused by God so his own son can be born of human flesh.

Angel or no angel, Joseph calms down and Jesus is born in Bethlehem, out of wedlock, a situation which Joseph belatedly—and nobly -- remedies.

If sloppy scholarship has built up a story based on a mistranslation of the Hebrew text, sloppy believers have used that story to punish women for their reproductive decisions ----– and accidents ----- for centuries.

Perhaps Christmas (the birth day of the illegitimate son of God and Joseph)  is a time to focus our  judgments on  Hebrew and Greek translations of Isaiah, rather  than  on the reproductive functions of the  the world’s women.

After all, to rephrase Time magazine's  Man of the Year, who are we to judge?



Main articles: Isaiah 7:14 Isaiah 7:14 and  Immanuel Immanuel
Therefore, the Lord, of His own, shall give you a sign; behold, the young woman is with child, and she shall bear a son, and she shall call his name Immanuel. Cream and honey he shall eat when he knows to reject bad and choose good. For, when the lad does not yet know to reject bad and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread, shall be abandoned."
—Isaiah 7:14-16 Isaiah 7:14-16

In this passage from the Book of Isaiah Book of Isaiah the prophet predicts to King Ahaz Ahaz that a young woman will give birth to a son who will be called "Immauel Immanuel", meaning "God with us", and that Ahaz's enemies will be destroyed before this child learns the difference between good and evil, i.e., before he reaches maturity. The Hebrew word is "עלמה" (almah almah), which scholars agree means a young woman of child-bearing age, without any connotation of virginity, and the context of the passage makes it clear that Isaiah has in mind events in his and Ahaz's near future. The Greek-speaking author of Matthew, however, used the Greek  translation Greek translation of Isaiah, in which the word is given as "παρθένος", parthenos, meaning a virgin. [52] [52]

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