Monday, December 19, 2016

Jesus son of ...?

'TIS THE SEASON: Virgin Mary, Career-Killer. Questioning the birth story central to Christianity has been taking down scholars and skeptics for just about 2,016 years (Candida Moss, The Daily Beast).
Of all of the miracles recorded in the New Testament, the virgin birth of Jesus Christ garners the most cynical attention. Upon learning that I teach at the University of Notre Dame, almost every atheist I meet will make a crack about Mary’s sexual history. It’s an interesting phenomenon: People rarely tell me that they think the disciples lied about the Resurrection. But when it comes to the doctrine that Mary conceived the Son of God without having sex , no teaching is as closely protected or as broadly scorned.

The idea that Jesus’ mother was named Mary is uncontroversial in scholarly circles. But whether or not she was a virgin has been questioned since the second century. The pagan writer Celsus, a well-known critic of Christianity, wrote that Jesus’ biological father was a Roman soldier named Pantera. He wasn’t alone in his opinion; writing in the Talmud, rabbinic authors describe Jesus as “Yeshu ben Pantera”—meaning Jesus son of Panther, which was a relatively common name for Roman soldiers. The implication here is that Mary was a collaborator who got knocked up by a hated occupier and decided to concoct a story in which Jesus was the product of a sexless encounter with God.

Interesting article. One point that could have been added is that "Pantera" also looks suspiciously like a mispronunciation of the the Greek word parthenos, "virgin." So the origin of the idea that Jesus' real father was named Pantera could be an (accidental or deliberate) corruption of the phrase "Jesus son of the virgin" in Greek.