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Abstract

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Appendixes


     

Part III: When the Word Became Flesh

Chapter 22

Why Mary?

And the angel came in unto her, and said,
Hail, thou art highly favoured,
the Lord is with thee:
blessed art thou among women. . . .
Fear not, Mary:  
for thou hast found favour with God. 

(Luke 1:28,30) 

     I have implied by several statements made previously that, at any time in history, the Lord Jesus could have appeared as Man if God had chosen to prepare a body for Him from any woman's seed as He did Mary's seed. To this extent, physiologically considered, the Incarnation might have taken place any time at all: long before Mary or long after her, during the centuries that have intervened from Eve right down to the present moment. It may therefore be asked, "Why did the Lord appear just at that time?" and "Why was Mary chosen and not one of her contemporaries?" What particular circumstances converged to make that moment and that individual so propitious? In what sense, if any, was Mary herself unique so that she in particular should be chosen to become "the mother of the Lord," as Elizabeth called her (Luke 1:43)?
     There are three main lines of inquiry which are worth pursuing in this matter. First of all, she may have had a unique kind of personality. After all, she was called upon to bring up as a child one who was her Creator! Secondly, she may have stood at a kind of 'genealogical

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crossroads,' combining in her person (whether by marriage or by pedigree) both the Davidic titular rights to his throne and his actual blood line: on account of which two circumstances the Lord's claim to the throne of David was validated in a very special way. For it must be assumed that David had many other descendants by blood who nevertheless had no such title. Thirdly, she may have been the last in a line in which, for providential reasons, the genetic strain was particularly pure and free from the damage of mutant genes such as are assumed to be common to the rest of us, leaving us with damaged cells in every organ and tissue of our bodies. In the body of the Lord such damage, whether visible or invisible, is unthinkable.
     Let us therefore examine these three lines of evidence. Such an examination will show at once that not one of these qualifying conditions is sufficient alone to account for the choice of Mary. But where we find all three of them converging in a single individual due to circumstances that cannot reasonably be taken as purely accidental, then we seem to have a clear demonstration of a unique situation entirely appropriate for such a unique event as the Incarnation of God in human form.

1. Mary as a special person.

     Upon many occasions the Lord pointedly played down those family relationships which we count so important, especially in times of stress. We find it disconcerting that He should never, according to Scripture, have referred to or directly addressed his mother by this term which seems to many of us one of the most beautiful words in any language.
     But this same avoidance of directing attention to his mother, and his father also, is reflected in the Gospel accounts in other ways as well. It is customary in many societies, especially in the older ones that have changed little, to give credit always for a notable son to the parents, not to the child himself. When Saul desired to honour David after his valiant defeat of Goliath, he did not ask "What is his name?" He knew David well enough, for David had often soothed his frayed nerves with his harp. What he asked was, "Whose son is he?" For he wished, in accordance with an almost universal custom, to reward his father, not David himself. Such societies have always credited the goodness of a son to the worthiness of his father (1 Samuel 17:55-58).
     The reverse is also true, of course. A man must be held partially accountable for his bad son. Thus when Noah found what his son Ham had done to disgrace him, he could not curse his son for that was to curse himself! So he cursed his son by cursing his grandson, Canaan (Genesis 9:21-25).

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     In 1 Kings 11:1113 we find that for his father David's sake, Solomon is not punished for his disobedience (verse 10) but his own son is punished. We are told this quite specifically: "Notwithstanding, in thy days I will not do it, for David's sake thy father: but I will tear [the kingdom] out of the hand of thy son." In 2 Samuel 3:27-29 we have a further illustration in which Joab is to be punished in his descendants.
     By contrast, a woman who wished to compliment a man upon the greatness of his son could not with propriety address herself directly in such a fashion to the father and so she would praise the mother instead. Just such an occasion occurs in Luke 11:27 where a woman, recognizing the true greatness of the Lord, said, "Blessed are the breasts that have nursed thee." However, contrary to what was normal, the Lord rebuked the speaker for drawing attention to Mary in her role as his mother. For He said, "Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it."
     Now we run into this anomalous situation frequently in the Gospels. We begin with the Wise Men from the East who came with their gifts and these they presented not to Mary and Joseph (though doubtless Mary and Joseph took care of them afterwards) but to the Lord Himself, babe in arms though He was. And it is He, not Mary whom they worship (Matthew 2:11). The text is most specific. "They fell down and worshipped Him. . ." and "unto Him" did they present their gifts.
     At the age of twelve we find Him staying behind at the Temple when his parents began the return journey to their home in Nazareth at the conclusion of the Passover festival (Luke 2:41-52). Naturally when his parents discovered his absence towards the end of the day, probably having assumed meanwhile that He was among the many other children from the village who would also be in the caravan, they anxiously returned in search of Him. They found Him in the Temple after visiting all the friends and relatives without success for three days. They were excusably amazed that He had not given them some warning as to his whereabouts. They were probably in fact not merely troubled but even possibly angered a little, but the joy of rediscovery dispelled their personal reaction.
     Yet what must their surprise have been when He virtually repudiated any claim upon Him that they might have felt they had. It was his father's duty to teach Him a trade, by Jewish custom. Yet He said with surprising pointedness, "How is it that ye sought Me? Did you not realize that I must be about my Father's business?"
     Joseph knew that he was not the Lord's true father, only a father by adoption. But his mother must surely have still felt a certain possessiveness: after all, He was only twelve years old. We are told,

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however, that though she (like Joseph) did not really understand what He meant, Jesus did obediently return with them and Mary "kept all these sayings in her heart."
     Then we come to the marriage in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1ff.). At a crucial point in the celebrations, the host found himself suddenly in the embarrassing position of being out of wine. Perhaps Mary as a guest felt the embarrassment as keenly as her host, for her whole family was there. And in her concern she at once turned to her Son, expecting from Him some special action to relieve the situation simply because she was his mother. She said to Him, "They have no wine." That was all. Nothing more. No spoken request that He do something. Yet He knew it was actually a request. And He at once rebuked her for a kind of familiar presumption. Jesus said to her, quietly no doubt, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come."
     Now woman is a term of respect. It does not in any way indicate a derogatory attitude. Nevertheless it seems strange that He so consistently avoided the use of the word Mother in direct address in public, though He must surely have used the word in private as He grew up. That there was no disrespect involved in the use of the term woman is clearly revealed at the end of his earthly ministry in that last gracious act from the cross. Here He saw his mother, largely forsaken the family was never wealthy it seems, and Joseph was dead; and his other brothers and sisters at this time appear to have repudiated Him. He thus, in spite of the agony of his position on the cross after several hours, turned to one of the few of his disciples who refused to desert Him and said to his mother, "Woman, behold thy son"! (John 19:26,27). Then to the disciple, the beloved John, He said, "Behold thy mother"! And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. Not one of her other children had come to her aid or offered her shelter. What a burden she had borne all through her life. And now at the end she was as utterly forsaken as any mother has ever been. Yet even here, despite her loneliness in the last moments of her Son's life so it must have seemed to her He still did not call her by that most endearing of all names, Mother.
     Again and again, Mary was thus challenged by a kind of repudiation that could only appear (to most women) like the worst kind of cruelty. Her whole life seems to have fulfilled the prophecy spoken to her in the Temple by Simeon, "Yea, and a sword shall pierce through thine own heart also" (Luke 2:35). In Mark 3:31-35 we have the story of his mother and his brethren coming to "rescue" Him whom they all felt was killing Himself with overwork. It seems they could not even get near Him! But he was soon notified of their concerned presence: "Behold," the people said, "thy mother and thy brethren outside seek

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for thee." What was his response? He asked, before the crowd, "Who is my mother and my brethren?" Then, to make his point clearer, He added, "Behold my mother and my brethren! Whosoever doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, my sister, my mother." No wonder his brothers and sisters were not there at the end, as far as we know. . . .  But Mary was.
     Throughout his whole ministry He exemplified personally what He had told his disciples in Luke 14:26, namely, that all such relationships must be held very lightly relative to our relationship to our Father in heaven as his children: so lightly, in fact, that it must seem we hate our parents relative to the love we have for God. It was, and is, a hard saying.
     In all these things we see the Lord Jesus Christ restoring perspective regarding his true position as a member of the human family, not simply the son of Joseph and Mary. And we have proofs of Mary's extraordinary grace in that she kept these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19, 51) even though she could not understand them. She seems never to have raised her voice in protest, or sought in any way to assert her rights as his mother. She accepted humbly her calling as the "handmaid of the Lord" (Luke 1:38) and all that her unique position imposed upon her. No mother of such a great son was ever less possessive or less complaining.
     Much has been made in a large part of Christendom of the angel's statement, "Hail, highly favoured: the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women" (Luke 1:28). Does this single Mary out uniquely?
     In her song of praise when she was reassured by her visit with Elizabeth as to the reality of the visitation by the angel, she said, "All generations shall call me blessed." This would seem to justify her subsequent veneration under the title "The Blessed Virgin Mary." But actually the Greek verb (makaridzo) "call me blessed" means only "to count as blessed," exactly as it does in James 5:11 where the same word is used. The blessedness of Mary at this early time in her life was not due to herself but to the great fortune that had become hers by reason of her humble submission and her faith in the word of the Lord (Luke 1:45). As Elizabeth said to her, "Blessed (the same word again) is she that believed." Moreover, the angel had actually said to her, "Blessed art thou among women," not "Blessed art thou above women."
     Other women besides Mary had been similarly declared "blessed" and indeed in the very same words. Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite was one. "Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be; blessed shall she be above women in the tent" (Judges 5:24). It is applied to Leah in Genesis 30:13 in reference to her pregnancy, and the Septuagint employs the same Greek word. Once again, using

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this same Greek word, Psalm 144:15 reads, "Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord."
     Thus as the New Testament everywhere shows, nothing can be grounded in these declarations in behalf of Mary's character which may not be claimed for the partakers of grace generally. It is surely true that Mary was a gracious woman indeed and doubly blessed by reason of the part she was to play in the Incarnation. Yet the One of whom she was to be a virgin mother was also the One by whom she, like all others, was to be saved by grace. And she most gladly acknowledged the source of her salvation. "My spirit hath rejoiced," she exclaims, "in God my Saviour" (Luke 1:47). Mary was as much in need of a Saviour as any other sinner. She was not saved by being the mother of a Saviour-Son but by becoming a believer in her Son as her Saviour exactly as we do.
     It is well to realize, perhaps, the circumstances of the events surrounding the annunciation and the nativity. She was a virgin, betrothed to Joseph, and by Jewish custom already legally his wife though not living with him until the wedding was actually celebrated. As she awaited this ceremony, the angel came to her and announced that she had been chosen of God to be the mother of the Messiah, the Son of God. This was wonderful enough in itself, but it may not have occurred to her then that she would become pregnant out of actual wedlock. Perhaps she understood something of the angel's words regarding the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit to mean she would become pregnant supernaturally (Luke 1:34,35) in due time. But it seems unrealistic to assume that she supposed at that moment she would be called upon to endanger her marriage by appearing in the light of a faithless wife to her betrothed. Her spirit of submission, beautiful though it was (Luke 1:38), does not necessarily require us to believe that she had any immediate realization of what might be Joseph's natural reaction if she should become pregnant before they had come together.
     But when she went to stay for a little while with her cousin Elizabeth in order to share with her the great promise made to herself that she was to be the mother of the Messiah (the hope of every Israelite woman, as we see from Daniel 11:37) and when Elizabeth, under inspiration, declared her already to be indeed "the mother of her Lord," Mary must have suddenly realized what the angel meant. The open exultation of Elizabeth who, of course, knew that Mary was yet unwed by law, overwhelmed her spirit and reassured her: and by the end of her three month stay (Luke 1:56) Mary certainly knew she was indeed pregnant.
     Yet she still had not "known" Joseph. Before leaving to visit Elizabeth, she may well have shared the angelic visitation with Joseph

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and perhaps both of them pondered its meaning without anticipating what the immediate consequences might be in terms of their betrothal. So as she returned to Nazareth, she may indeed have wondered what Joseph would say when he discovered she was already pregnant.
     But the Lord had provided for this potential hazard. Joseph may already have suspected that Mary was pregnant, and at first have felt compelled to take steps to dissolve the betrothal. But he was now assured by an angel that he should receive his beloved not indeed in spite of her condition, but rather because of it. This pregnancy was a supernatural one.
     Thus Joseph became her shield and provided for both mother and child a normal family relationship. And though Joseph was not the father of her child, he did perform the two duties required of any adopting father. First, he gave Him his name (a practice of very long standing cf. Genesis 48:16); and secondly, he taught him his trade. Edersheim tells us that it was deemed a religious duty, frequently and most earnestly insisted upon, to learn some trade provided it did not minister to luxury or tend to lead away from personal observance of the law. *
     No father was truly a father who did not teach his son a trade even when the family was well-to-do. Joseph could not better have demonstrated his adoption of Jesus as his son than by teaching Him his own trade. That he did perform both duties to ensure true adoption we know from Matthew 1:25 (he, not she, called his name Jesus) and by comparison of Matthew 13:55 with Mark 6:3 (where Jesus is called the carpenter's son and where Jesus is Himself called a carpenter!). One cannot doubt that Jesus was a good carpenter. Did He not Himself say without fear of contradiction that the yokes He makes are "easy" (Matthew 11:30)? The Scriptures have hedged in the truth and built a firm fence about it.
     There is no doubt that Mary was in an extraordinarily difficult position. She was indeed mother to her Son but had to learn that she could never "own" her Son in the sense that other mothers could (and do). On each occasion upon which she might naturally have felt proud of having borne such a Son, she was in one way or another rebuked. He rebuked her by refusing to allow that she bore any special relationship to Himself above any other of his disciples, whether men or women.
     He never once (as we have said) referred to her as his "mother," not even from the cross in the one hour when her need of comfort must have seemed most pressing. He committed her to a

* Edersheim, Alfred, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, New York, Herrick, 1883, vol.1, p.252.

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beloved disciple John . . . not even, be it noted, to his brothers or sisters * in the flesh (Matt. 13:55,56). A sword did indeed many times pierce her own heart. How could it be otherwise, her own motherly nature being what it was, and his identity being what it was. When Joseph died she must have felt alone in a very special way. Perhaps Luke was her physician and confiding in him was a particular comfort - which could account for the greater detail of the Lord's birth and earliest days which appear in Luke's Gospel.
     Yet, for all this, it cannot be stated with certainty that there was no other "mother" in Israel who might not, with God's grace, have responded to the unique circumstances of Mary's life in an equally submissive and beautifully resigned way.
     It does not seem, therefore, that Mary was chosen for spiritual or psychological reasons alone and, humanly speaking, certainly not by reason of her social status, since her offering at the time of her ceremonial purification after giving birth to a firstborn male child was the offering appointed specifically for those who were to be numbered among the financially impoverished (Luke 2:2224 and Leviticus 12:8). It is a striking irony that the injunction in Leviticus 12:8 reads, "If she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtle doves or two young pigeons." The irony is that she brought two birds and a lamb. For the Child she brought was indeed a sacrificial Lamb if she had but realized it at that time.
     We look, then, for some other contributing reason for the choice of Mary and consider the possibility that she was chosen particularly because of her pedigree. And here we have two separate matters to examine: her title to the throne of David and her right by natural descent, by blood line. And it is in the latter we must ask also whether it is merely "continuity of seed" from David or whether there might not be some more profound "continuity" of a genetic nature that would in a special way provide in Mary an ovum of particular purity.

2. Mary's pedigree.

     It has for centuries been noted with surprise by those not familiar with Jewish modes of reckoning pedigrees that Mary, through whom the Lord's body as to the flesh must be traced back to David's loins in order to validate his right to David's throne, does not actually appear

* This circumstance was clearly foretold in Psalm 69:8, "I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children." Although the Rabbis do not seem to have counted this Psalm as a messianic one, yet verse 9 shows clearly that the reference was to the Lord when it says, "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up," etc., words particularly applied to the Lord Himself in John 2:17.

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in the only genealogies we have relevant to the issue. Why did neither Matthew nor Luke include her name when they traced the line from David to Jesus? Both pedigrees end with Joseph, not Mary.
     It is perhaps not so surprising that Matthew did not include Mary. For there is some reason to believe that Matthew's account of the circumstances of Jesus' birth stemmed originally from the fact that Matthew was Joseph's confidant. Joseph probably sought advice from Matthew when he first heard rumours of Mary's condition. Matthew seems to have been a lawyer, or if not a practicing one, at least a man trained in the law, for he is elsewhere called Levi, i.e., lawyer (Mark 2:14). From Joseph he learned much that was very personal about Joseph's inward struggle which he subsequently recorded in his Gospel. To present Joseph's relationship in the Davidic line seems to follow naturally from these circumstances.
     By contrast we know that Luke was a physician (Colossians 4:14), and what more natural, therefore, than for Mary in her unusual condition to have sought him out as her confidant. Certainly the account of the circumstances surrounding the nativity in Luke's Gospel reflects Mary's point of view and her personal experience. For this reason we might surely have expected that Luke would have shown Mary's place in the Davidic line. Clearly he was not merely a physician but a historian with the mind of a scholar. He says (Luke 1:3) that he had been involved in the circumstances "from the very first," and if this is so he would surely have known Mary's father's name. But instead of tracing Mary back to Heli, Luke has stated that Joseph was the son of Heli (Luke 3:23) which not only seems to prevent Heli from being Mary's father but also contradicts Matthew 1:16 which makes Joseph to be the son of Jacob. If the blood line from David to Jesus must be established according to Jewish law, why was Mary's name omitted by both writers, for certainly the blood line could not be traced through Joseph since he was not the natural father of Jesus?
     It is important to realize that in Israel a blood line was always traced officially through males only. No females are ever listed as actual links in the chain. If a man happened to have only daughters and no sons to continue his line,
(226) it was customary to set forth the daughter's husband as her representative in the pedigree and so to enter his name as a son not as a son-in-law, as we would judge him to be. * Thus the line passes from the father to the son-in-law to the grandson: not from the father to the daughter to the grandson.
     Occasionally both the son-in-law and the daughter (his wife) are

* According to Numbers 27:1-11 regulating birth rights in a "daughters only" family, the one stipulation was that a girl marry a man from her own tribe.
226. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page 22).

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simply passed over so that a whole generation is omitted. The blood line is then shown as passing directly from the father to the grandson. These practices are exemplified in the two genealogies in question, as will be seen in Appendix VI. This is the reason that Mary's name is omitted in Luke's genealogy, while her husband's name stands in her place. And this is the reason why her husband is shown not only as Jacob's son (in Matthew) but as Heli's son (in Luke). Meanwhile, there is no break in the blood line from Heli to Jesus, for although Joseph had no connection, Mary is the physical link.
     What we have here may be set forth as follows:

     Jesus becomes by adoption the son of Joseph, and Joseph by marriage to Mary becomes the son of Heli, even though he remains a son of Jacob his natural father: and all contradiction is resolved.
     But now the question arises, How do we know that Mary was the daughter of Heli? We don't. It is a surmise on the basis of inference from other Scriptures, and on the basis of certain traditions both Jewish and Christian. These inferences, however, amount to virtual proof, "proof from necessity." Let us examine them briefly.
     According to rabbinical teaching, the wife of Joseph was listed in the Jerusalem Talmud (Hagigah Book 77,4) as Beth-Heli, i.e., daughter of Heli. This is an important piece of evidence, because the Jews who made these records can hardly have been prejudiced by Christian convictions. Added to this testimony is the account given of Mary's parents in the so-called apocryphal 'Christian' work called Protoevangelium of James. This work is undoubtedly ancient and is quoted or alluded to by a number of Church Fathers from the early fourth century onwards. They speak as though it were a work long familiar to their readers. It is attributed to James, the brother of the Lord. It was apparently written either in Hebrew or Syriac (Aramaic?), and a copy of it was brought from the Middle East by Guillaume Postel (15031581) and translated into Latin. It was sent to Oporimus, a printer in Basle, where a Protestant divine named Bibliander, a professor of divinity at the University of Zurich saw it through to publication in 1552. Postel asserts that it was publicly read as a

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canonical work in the Eastern Church but rejected as such in the Western. *
     Now the Protoevangelium of James tells us that Mary's parents were named Joachim and Anna of Bethlehem. The importance of this piece of information is that Joachim is a shortened form of Eliakim (see, for example, 2 Chronicles 36:4). Subsequently the name Eliakim seems to have been shortened to Eli/Heli. The two lines of tradition therefore appear to converge in their testimony to the fact that Mary was indeed the daughter of Heli and thus continued in her body the seed line of David. The early Church was almost unanimous in making this assumption and the form in which Luke's genealogy appears is entirely concordant with what we know of Jewish practices in such matters.
     But there are certain statements in Scripture not appearing in direct connection with the genealogies of Matthew or Luke, which virtually settle the matter. First of all, it is apparent from the angel's words to Mary in Luke 1:32 that she had a real title to David's throne. The angel said to her with respect to her son, "He shall be great and shall be called the son of the highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David." Now it is true that this right might accrue to Him only by title through Joseph who was also clearly a lineal descendant of David according to Matthew. However, other Scriptures add somewhat to this simple statement. Romans 1:3 assures us that "He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh," and since Joseph contributed nothing to this flesh we have to assume that Mary was the link. The fact is re-affirmed in 2 Timothy 2:8 ("Jesus Christ of the seed of David"); and Acts 2:30 tells us that "of the fruit of his loins [i.e., David's] according to the flesh [God] would raise up Christ to sit on his throne." This was the fulfillment of Psalm 132:11 which reads, "Of the fruit of thy body will I set [one] upon the throne."
     The root of this fulfillment was not through Joseph's loins, i.e., through Joseph's seed, but via Mary. We can therefore say with assurance that the evidence we have clearly reinforces the conclusion that Luke's genealogy is the line of Mary's seed and the blood line from David to Jesus the Messiah through her. This line, it may be said, passed through some very precarious but providentially preserved channels, both male and female, at the time of the Babylonian captivity. These are complex but they are so important that they are carefully explored in Appendix VI.

 * A translation of this work by Alexander Walker was published in the Scribner's edition of The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol.VIII, 1916, p.361-367.
 
See chap. I. v. i; chap. II. V. i; chap. V. v. 9.

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     The evidence combined serves to show how God preserved both the seed and the title, and joined the two in Joseph and Mary in order to channel them and unite them in the Lord Jesus Christ. The titular right to the throne of David was channelled through Joseph according to Matthew, and the blood line of David's seed was channelled through Mary according to Luke. The circumstances which necessitated separating these two essential components of full title to David's throne are discussed in the above mentioned Appendix and they account for the need of two distinct genealogies and for the apparent conflicts between them. These same circumstances account, perhaps, for the divergence of tradition (Jewish and early Christian) regarding the actual name of Mary's father.
     But Revelation 22:16 is also an important additional testimony to the reality of Mary's role according to Luke's genealogy. For Luke traces the line backward from Mary's father Heli, through David, Abraham, Noah, and so to Adam. But he does not stop here. He closes his genealogy with the words "which was the son of Adam which was a son of God" (Luke 3:38).
     The last link in the chain is God Himself, the Creator of the world and the Creator of man. God therefore lies at the root of this long chain in the human family tree from Adam to Christ. But who was this Creator? It was none other than the same Christ Himself! By Him all things were created, man included (Colossians 1:15f). Thus, through Mary's unbroken line, the Lord Jesus Christ is shown to have been not merely (by his bodily existence) the offspring of David, but also (by his pre-existence as the Creator in whose image Adam was made) the root of David as well. In Revelation 22:13 He said, "I am alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." And then in verse 16, "I am the root AND the offspring of David." *

     So He, the Lord Jesus Christ, now God made man, stands at the beginning and the end of this chain of seventy-seven generations stretching from Adam through Abraham, David, and Mary, to Mary's firstborn son who was indeed the "Word made flesh."
     Thus while the majority of encyclopedias and dictionaries of the Bible take the position that there is no absolute proof that Mary was the daughter of Heli or that Luke's genealogy is really Mary's pedigree, and while this may be strictly true as to absolute proof, the total  

* Nestorius wrote: "Learn how close a conjunction existed between the Godhead and the flesh of the Lord visible in the child. For the same [person] was both child and Lord of the child." [Quoted by Aloys Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, Atlanta, John Knox Press, 1975, p.4571]. As the Son was "father" to Himself, so the child was "Lord" to Himself.

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evidence is so strong that it cannot be seriously questioned. The blood line could not pass through Joseph because Joseph was the father of Jesus only in a legal sense, "as was supposed" (Luke 3:23), hos anomidzeto (). This Greek verb (nomidzo) has the meaning of "being by custom" when used in the passive voice as here. *
     The number of hedges built around the stated relationships between Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to preserve the exact truth and avoid mis-statement is truly amazing. For example, Matthew 1:15, 16 tells us that Mattan begat Jacob and Jacob begat Joseph but it does not say "and Joseph begat Jesus." The truth is hedged by the words "and Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus, who is called Messiah."
     Again, in Luke 1:13 we find the words of the angel addressed to Elizabeth's husband with respect to the birth of John the Baptist, recorded thus: "Thy wife, Elizabeth, shall bear thee a son." But in Matthew 1:21 the words addressed to Joseph with respect to the birth of the Lord Jesus are thus recorded: "She shall bring forth a son." There is no "to thee" in this instance. It is a small omission but what a profound truth is preserved by it! Jesus was not a Son brought forth to Joseph but to the Father in heaven.
     In the East it was normal for a father to rejoice publicly and to be congratulated by all on the birth of a son. But here we find Mary rejoicing publicly in the beautiful Magnificat (Luke 1:4655). Of Joseph we hear nothing in this respect. By contrast, and in harmony with normal custom however, it is not Elizabeth but Zacharias who rejoices publicly over the birth of John (Luke 1:6779).
     In Matthew 1:16 Jesus is said to have been "of Mary" not "of Joseph." We find the words are: "Joseph the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus who is called the Christ." It could be argued on the basis of the English translation that the words "of whom" revert back to Joseph. But the Greek is very clear on this matter, for the "of whom" is ex hes (
) , i.e., feminine, not masculine. The intent of the writer is effectively made quite clear.
     We have noted that Jesus was by no means an only child: he had brothers and sisters (Matthew 13:55,56). We have also noted that this

* In the Papyri the word is so used regularly to signify "customary payments" in the form of dues. The basic root is nomos, law, and in the New Testament it has reference to social custom and to legal principle rather than to natural law. The present context clearly shows that Joseph was not the father of Jesus the Messiah. If he had been so, there could be no possible reason to say any more than simply that Jesus was the son of Joseph who was the son of Heli, etc., as it is in the rest of the pedigree. In the New Testament the word nomidzo appears fifteen times and always has the meaning of "supposing," of supposition rather than actuality (cf. Matthew 5:17; 10:34; 20:10; Luke 2:44; 3:23; Acts 7:25; 8:20; 14:19; 16:13, 27; 17:29; 21:29; 1 Corinthians 7:26, 36; 1 Timothy 6:5). 

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circumstance was anticipated in Psalm 69:8. It is striking to find that the Word of God is careful even here: "I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children." The passage does not say "and an alien unto my parents' children." While He shared their mother, He did not share their father.
     Whereas the angel went first to Zacharias to announce the birth of a forthcoming son before Elizabeth was informed (Luke 1:520), the same angel (Gabriel) appeared first to Mary regarding the birth of hers (Luke 1:2638). For this was not Joseph's natural son in the sense that John was the son of Zacharias. Hence in Luke 2:7 we are told that Mary gave birth to her son, not to Joseph's son, or even to their son jointly. Moreover, the angel had said to Zacharias "Your wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son" (Luke 1:13) and this was the normal form of speech in such angelic annunciations. Thus had God spoken to Abraham, "I will bless [Sarah] and give thee a son also of her" (Genesis 17:16). The son was brought forth by the woman, but it was always the man's son. Nowhere else in Scripture, I believe, is a woman ever said to have brought forth her firstborn son as Mary is said to have done (Matthew 1:25 and Luke 2:7).
     In Luke 2:33 we find the words, "and Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him." It does not say "his father and his mother marveled . . ."
     And so the truth is here always guarded and kept in every way against the slightest contradiction or possibility of misunderstanding. Thus was Mary's firstborn child, by supernatural generation and by Joseph's adopting of Him, certified as the Messiah of Israel and the Saviour of men.
     As will be seen in Appendix VI, the pedigree of Joseph followed a tortuous path but a firm one to its end in the Person of Jesus Christ to whom now descended the title to the throne of David. By marriage to Mary and by the act of adoption, Joseph became the "father" of Jesus according to law and thereby passed to Him his titular rights, while Mary fulfilled through herself the promise made to David that of the fruit of his own loins should one sit upon his throne whose kingdom would be everlasting. Each parent conveyed one aspect of the two kinds of claims the Messiah must validate to possess rightfully the throne of David.
     Mary's pedigree was not traced through the first blood line from David but through David's younger son Nathan for reasons examined in Appendix VI. But she was nevertheless truly of David's loins and bore David's "greater son" (Matthew 12:42). What she could not pass to her son came to Him through Joseph's marriage to her and by Joseph's official adoption of Him as his son.
     While it is possible that another woman in Mary's day might have

     pg.14 of  24 


fulfilled the position that Mary did as the daughter of Heli and so of David, it seems that we do have in these circumstances a special situation that probably made her position unique. And with the death and bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the full title to the throne of David has passed forever beyond the reach of any other human claimant.

3. The existence of a 'pure' line from Adam to Mary.

     We have considered at some length the psychological and spiritual qualifications of Mary, and the complete suitability of her pedigree from a legal point of view. We have now to give some thought to the suitability of her seed from the scientific point of view, genetically considered. Some more cautious souls would say, Are you not trespassing into mystery? Is this not unwarranted speculation? Do not such secret things belong only unto the Lord? The answer has to be, of course, It may indeed be so.
     To one who has not given much thought to the matter, it may seem manifestly absurd to even think about it. But if one has thought about it, it soon becomes apparent that there are some genetic problems that can hardly be dismissed once they have been raised. For there is no question that the Lord Jesus Christ was both the sacrificial Lamb of God and the High Priest who alone was worthy to present that sacrifice. Both roles were undertaken by the one individual. And both sacrificial victim and High Priest must be without spot or blemish, not to outward appearance only but inwardly as God sees. This requirement would seem to mean a body (for both Lamb and Priest) free entirely of mutant genes.
     A lamb offered according to the Mosaic Covenant might be approved for sacrifice by man's limited powers of observation and yet be far from perfect due to some hidden defect. The Lamb who was to fulfill all these prototype offerings in the Old Testament had to be not merely without blemish apparent to the superficial view of man but without blemish in the most absolute sense in the sight of God. Such a body that was to be offered for man's redemption could not conceivably be one hiddenly marred in every cell by damaged genes.
     Such damage would be in every body cell, for it seems virtually certain that there are very few individuals born today in whom, quite by chance, there are no mutant genes. And it is equally safe to say that since all mutant genes are damaged genes and are in some measure detrimental, and since they will exist in every body cell, we are to that extent defective, every one of us, as to our tissues and organs even though there may be no outward evidence of it.
     The care which was to be exercised by the priests who approved the lamb of atonement was precisely set forth in Leviticus 22:1723. The very health of the whole nation

     pg.15 of 24     

depended upon minute examination of the victim. Yet it was, after all, limited to what man could see. The same must be said of the rigid examination accorded to all those who presented themselves as candidates for the priesthood. And this was even more true of anyone who was to be chosen as High Priest. Such an appointee might be disqualified for any disfigurement whatsoever, no matter how small it was. Basing their procedure on the instructions given in Leviticus 21:1724, the Jewish authorities began with the enumeration of eleven characteristic blemishes that would exclude the holding of any priestly office involving the approach to any altar. These blemishes included blindness, lameness, facial disfigurement, malformation of hand or foot, any extraneous growth, hunchback, short stature, defective eyes, scurvy, running sores, and damaged sex organs. Any one of these defects disqualified the individual from officiating in the offering of sacrifices.
     This Mosaic list of eleven disqualifying blemishes was extended in the Talmud to 142. Later on the rabbis added two more, raising the total to 144 perhaps for mnemonic purposes. All of them were, of course, external and manifest. They could not know of the hidden blemishes which were internal.
     Any neophyte who desired to serve as a priest had to undergo an extremely rigid and probably sometimes embarrassing personal examination before admittance. If he should subsequently be injured, he might be reduced to a wholly subservient role in the Temple services, such as preparing the wood for the fires for example. Josephus notes that Antigonus cut off the ears of Hyracanus who had been High Priest in order to ensure that he would never be restored to this office again (Antiquities of the Jews, XIV. xiii. 10).
     I think we must assume that so long as the nation of Israel had moral leadership, any candidate for the high priesthood would also be judged as to the suitability of his character. But in terms of strict rules and regulations the emphasis was, of necessity, placed on physical suitability. One Hebrew word above all others seems to have gathered under its head these qualifying traits physical, moral, and spiritual. This was the word tamim. It has, in a broad sense, the meaning of perfection. The passover lamb was to be tamim, and so were all sacrifices offered to the Lord. Of the 89 occurrences of the word, 54 refer to physical perfection and 35 to perfection of character. The word is first used with reference to Noah, a just man and perfect (tamim Genesis 9:6). The context of this reference may be particularly significant, for we are told that Noah was not only a just man but also "perfect in his generations."
     The Septuagint translated the Hebrew tamim by the Greek word amomos (). And the New Testament employed this word in

     pg.16 of 24     

Hebrews 9:14 when speaking of the Lord Jesus who offered Himself without spot unto God, and in 1 Peter 1:19 in speaking of the Lamb without blemish. But in other places in the New Testament amomos clearly has the sense of moral perfection or blamelessness.
     The phrase "in his generations" is really the deciding factor. In the Hebrew the word "generations" (toledoth) is a word consistently referring to the matter of pedigree in its 38 occurrences in the Old Testament. It is a word customarily written in a plural form, probably because any pedigree assumes a plurality of predecessors or descendants. The Septuagint rendering of the Old Testament regularly translated toledoth by the Greek word genea () which signifies pedigree, line, descent, breeding, nation: a word so used in this sense in Classical Greek to express the same idea. A concordance will show at once that toledoth is always associated in the Old Testament with pedigree, even as Matthew opens his Gospel (1:1) with the pedigree of the Lord Jesus and refers to it under the heading, "These are the generations of . . ."
     It could therefore be argued with good reason that at this critical point in human history the life-line from Adam was being preserved in one man (and his family) who qualified in his own person not only because he was a just man but because of the purity of his seed from a genetic point of view. Through Shem he passed it on to Abraham and through Abraham to David. Through David's son Nathan the line passed to Mary, and through Mary to the Lord Jesus Christ.
     It was, of course, quite impossible for the authorities in those days to know of hidden defects in candidates under their scrutiny, whether youths for the priesthood or offerings for sacrifice. But surely no such clemency could possibly be permitted by God Himself as He looked upon his own Lamb (John 1:29), and as He looked upon the High Priest who was to offer it.
     The Lord Jesus Christ was both Lamb and High Priest: for "He offered Himself without spot to God" (Hebrews 9:14). His perfection of body and spirit must have been absolute. That He should have damaged genes in every cell is surely an unthinkable thing. But how could He receive such a body through a woman, coming as it did after 6000 years and 76 generations of accumulated mutations?
     Let us look briefly at what we do know from Scripture, which is the only data we have as to the requirements and the historical circumstances. And then let us compare this with the known data of genetics which can be set forth with some measure of assurance because they are based for the most part on experimental verification.
     First, then, the data of Scripture. 

     pg.17 of 24     


     (1) We can be sure that since mutant genes are damaged genes, Adam had no mutant genes when God created him. His body was perfect and without spot or blemish.
      (2) We can be sure that the Lord Jesus Christ had no mutant genes in his body either. As the Lamb of God, his body had to be perfect, without spot or blemish (1 Peter 1:19). It had to be as perfect as Adam's body.
     (3) We know from Scripture that Mary's seed was supernaturally fertilized by the Holy Spirit, and therefore that no damaged genic material was thereby contributed to it. It was a "holy thing" (Luke 1:35).
     (4) We know that Mary was only 76 generations from Adam, a fact of some importance in the light of the rate at which genetic damage accumulates from generation to generation.

     This is our basic biblical data, though it has to be considered largely in the terms of implications rather than explicit statements.
     Bringing to bear on this biblical data what we know from genetic research, we note the relevance of the following.

     1. Mutant genes are damaged genes.

     2. Mutant genes, contrary to popular opinion, are remarkably rare. G. G. Simpson has estimated that the chances of any one cell nucleus containing five mutant genes would be of the order of 1 in 1022  or one in ten thousand million million million! * To state it slightly differently, if there were available for analysis ten thousand million million million cells with a nucleus in each, only one of those cells would be found with five mutant genes in it. All the rest would have less than five mutant genes or none at all!
     Since the ovum is a cell with a nucleus, the composition of which will be much like all other cell nuclei, this statistical estimate applied to it also. The ovum which Mary presented might therefore conceivably have five mutant genes (by this method of reckoning), but she might just as easily have fewer than five or even none whatever.
     At any rate, the damage is of an extremely low order of magnitude relative to the number of genes in the cell which are estimated

*Simpson, G. G., The Major Features of Evolution, New York, Columbia University Press, 1953, p.96. Only where in-breeding enhances the probability of damaged genes being paired is the percentage likely to be higher. Bernard Rensch notes that H. J. Muller's genetic analysis of marriages among close relatives has demonstrated that every individual has an average of at least ten detrimental hereditary characteristics in his genetic make-up [Homo Sapiens: From Man to Demi-God, New York, Columbia University Press, 1972, p.11]. This is still a remarkably small number. Moreover, it is based on our generation, and it should be remembered that we today are not in the 76th generation as Mary was, but probably at least in the 150th generation from Adam. Mutant genes have had longer to accumulate and the mutagenic influences in our generation are probably much higher. Mary's generation was almost certainly less damaged than ours in this respect. 

     pg.18 of 24     


to be between 50,000 to 10,000: some would place the figure as high as 1,000,000!
     And if there was a providential filtering out in the process of cell division at the time of fertilization, there might be none at all. Since one "parent" was the Holy Spirit, there would certainly be nothing surprising in the appearance of a body completely free of mutant genes. Even natural generation must result in individuals now and then being born in whom there are no inherited mutant genes in the cell nucleus, though their cytoplasm would of course still be carrying the mortogenic factor introduced by the male. It is this cytoplasmic entail of sin that virgin conception eliminated.

     3. Furthermore, it is now known that a very large proportion of damaged genes revert to the original undamaged state by some built-in repair process which is only partially understood but clearly demonstrable. (227) Thus the figure of a possible five mutant genes would in any case probably be on the high side in most individuals.

     4. Because of the nature of the chromosomes which carry the hereditary material in the nucleus of each cell, all genes are found in pairs called alleles. When a gene mutation occurs, only one gene of the pair is affected. The undamaged allele or pairing gene neutralizes the damaged gene. If, however, in the next generation the damaged gene by chance is paired with another damaged gene at the same position on the matching chromosome, the damage becomes manifest in the developing organism. * The chance of this happening is virtually nil unless the marrying partners are closely related by blood.
     The Holy Spirit's contribution could not possibly introduce any mutant genes, so that there would be no reinforcement of any that Mary herself might have contributed. In point of fact they would be neutralized. But
it seems clear that we have no right to suppose any damaged genes would be allowed through the sorting process that precedes actual fusion of the nuclei of the two seeds in her case.
     Moreover, it is by no means necessary to assume that such damaged genes were present at all. There is no evidence that we are all loaded with mutant genes. The evidence is quite to the contrary: mutant genes are rare to begin with. In natural procreation chance alone must allow their reduction by half in any case: and divine

227. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page 22).
* A determined effort has been made here to avoid the use of technical jargon which would have made the description of these events easier but much less intelligible to the reader who does not "speak the language." To the geneticist, the shuffling processes involved here are very familiar.
This sorting out process takes place at the time of the expulsion of the first and second polar bodies from the ovum after fertilization. 

     pg.19 of 24      


oversight of this process of shuffling could very well assure that there were in fact none in the woman's seed that was to be God's chosen vessel.
     Furthermore, as we have already seen earlier, the cytoplasm of the woman's seed would by its very nature be entirely free of any mortogenic factor. The body of the Lord Jesus Christ could thus be not only perfect in outward appearance but perfect in its inner constitution also.
     In conclusion, I do not think it is necessary to introduce the doctrine of immaculate conception in order to ensure that the Lord's body would be free from the effects of original sin as it was being prepared for Him.
(228)
     While Herman Olshausen can hardly have had Mary's genetic constitution in mind when he wrote his Commentary on the New Testament, * it is remarkable how apt his observation was when he said: "We must look upon the incarnation of Christ as a fact for which preparation was made by a vein of nobler life flowing through the whole line of our Lord's ancestors." Mary's body came of a very pure strain.

    Taken together her character, her titular standing with respect to the throne of David, and her pedigree all help to explain what made Mary God's choice. When Paul wrote to the Galatians (4:4) he said, "When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his son, made of a woman, made under the law." The immediate reference may be only to the period of gestation, but it could also be to the period of world history in which those events transpired, or it might even relate back to the fulfillment of the predicted time interval of Daniel's prophecy (Daniel 9: 25). Mary certainly satisfied in her person all the hedgings and fencings that were essential for the mother of the Lord, in order that his title to the throne of David might be unchallengeable and that He might qualify as the Lamb of God without spot or blemish.
     Perhaps this is one of the few cases in Scripture where the reason for the choice of a particular individual for a very special work of God is not hidden in the secret councils of the Almighty but is revealed to us and to our children (Deuteronomy 29:29). All three of the reasons we have considered in this chapter may together answer the question, Why Mary?

228. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page 22). 
* Olshauen, Herman, Commentary on the New Testament, translated by A. C. Kendrick, New York, Sheldon, 1861, vol.I, p.168.

     pg.20 of 24     


     We now turn to a consideration of the moment of incarnation and the change in relationship which took place between the Lord Jesus Christ and his heavenly Father as a consequence of his embodiment. In the history of the human race, indeed in the history of the Universe, it was for this moment that both the Universe and our race were created. The Incarnation was an event when time and eternity were scarcely distinguishable. And it was an event made possible by the very way in which God had designed man's body and the processes of human reproduction. The Incarnation was and is in fact, the key to the Universe. It is also the key to man's origin, to man's constitution, to man's history, to man's destiny.
     There must have been a profound silence among the angels in heaven when that moment arrived: and not until Mary's firstborn had uttered his first cry did the angelic hosts burst forth with the praises heard by the shepherds (Luke 2:13)! 

     pg.21 of 24     


NOTES

226. (See page 9)  It has been argued that Heli had at least two daughters, for in John 19:25 reference is made to Mary's sister. To have two Marys in the same family seems most unusual unless (as sometimes happens) the later one is named after a sister who has predeceased her. We know this was not true in the present instance for both Marys are spoken of as alive together. An alternative is to suppose that the Mary of John 19:25 was really only a sister-in-law. This is fair enough in so far as she would be called Mary's sister in Jewish terminology. But such a sister-in-law cannot have been the wife of a brother of our Mary because it is virtually certain that any brother of Mary would have been mentioned somewhere in the record. She may have been a sister-in-law by some less direct connection and this would still account for the wording of John 19:25. There is also the fact that our Mary is called Miriam (Matthew 13:55) whereas the Mary of John 19:25 is called Maria. The fact could be made the basis of an argument for the existence of two daughters of Heli, true sisters with variants of a common Jewish name.

227. (See page 19)  Repair of DNA. On this subject see A. M. Srb, Genes, Enzymes and Populations, New York, Plenum, 1973, p.223-235. A more readily accessible paper with some excellent diagrammatic illustrations was published by P. C. Hanawalt and R. H. Haynes, "The Repair of DNA," Scientific American, Feb.,1967, pp.3643. These authors wrote: "Modern industry . . . involves intensive application of quality-control procedures for the correction of manufacturing errors, since even the best assembly lines can introduce faulty parts at an unacceptable rate . . .  Recent studies have demonstrated that living organisms employ analogous processes for repairing defective parts in their genetic material: deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). This giant molecule must be replicated with extraordinary fidelity if the organism is to survive and make successful copies of itself. Thus the existence of quality-control mechanisms in living cells may account in large part for the fact that 'like produces like' over many generations.
     "Until recently it has been thought that if the DNA in a living cell were damaged or altered, for example by ionizing radiation, the cell might give rise either to mutant daughter cells or to no daughter cells at all. Now it appears that many cells are equipped to deal with some of the most serious hazards the environment can present. . . .  The ability to recover from injury is a characteristic feature of living organisms."

228. (See page 20) It is an over-simplification to say that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was the Roman Catholic answer to this problem, yet essentially this is the case. This doctrine teaches that Mary herself when she conceived was freed by sanctification from the taint of original sin. It is interesting to note that a precedent was believed to exist by reference to Jeremiah 1:5 which speaks of that prophet being sanctified before he "came out of the womb." Why could this not be true also of Mary?
     The doctrine was the result of long and deep reflection upon the problem of how the Lord's body escaped this stain; and it was formulated, of course, in the absence of what is now known about the foetal relationship between mother and child. Since that time, the Roman Catholic theologians have at least officially favoured the position that by reason of the immaculate conception of Mary herself, the sinful but not the human connection between Adam's body and the Lord's body was severed so that the latter was free of original sin but truly human. During prenatal development the Lord's body was preserved or was sanctified in the virgin's womb due to the presence of the divine soul which infused it.

     pg.22 of 24     


     Here are some of the "feelings after the truth" that we find from the writings of the earlier Church Fathers and up to and including Reformation times as men struggled with the problem.
      Athanasius (c. 296373), the great champion of orthodoxy against Arianism, held that Christ's body was first redeemed and then sanctified to become the means of our redemption. As he put it: "Although it was only after He was made man for us and became our brother by similitude of body, still He is called (and is) the 'first-born' of us, because all men being lost according to the transgression of Adam, his flesh before all others was saved and liberated as being the body of the Logos [the divine Son]. And henceforth we, becoming incorporate with It, are saved after Its pattern" [Apologia Contra Arianos, Discourse II. lxi, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, New York, Scribner, 2nd series, 1913, vol.IV, p.381, col. b]. It will be noted that Athanasius did not for one moment suppose that the Lord as Logos needed redemption, but only his body as received from Mary.
     Augustine (354430) wrote: "If the soul of Christ be derived from Adam's soul, He, in assuming it to Himself, cleansed it so that when He came into this world He was born of the virgin perfectly free from sin either actual or transmitted. If however the souls of men are not derived from that one soul [of Adam] and it is only by the flesh that original sin is transmitted from Adam, then the Son of God created a soul for Himself just as He creates souls for all other men: but He united it not to sinful flesh but only to the 'likeness of sinful flesh' (Romans 8:3)" [Letter No.164, chap.7, 19, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, New York, Scribner, 1st series, 1885, vol.1, p.521].
     One observes the influence of Augustine's thought on Roman Catholic theology which also holds that original sin was excluded from the soul of Jesus by the sanctification of it through the divine indwelling presence of the Logos.
     In the eighth century, Felix of Urgellis (died 818 in Spain) maintained that the Logos united Himself with a human nature that was not sanctified, and that therefore Christ had a corrupted nature although He never actually committed sin. He believed this was a necessary condition of his incarnation in order that He might be tempted in all points like as we are, that is to say, that He might be tempted from within also [quoted by W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1969 reprint, vol.II, p.302].
     It is important, as we have already noted, to keep in mind that the words like as (represented in the Greek by homoi-oteta) does not mean in exactly the same way which would have required some such form as homo-oteta [see ref. #223 on this].
     Anselm (10331109) in his Cur Deus Homo? [Bk. II, chap.17] has his companion in conversation arguing that Christ's mother's body was somehow purified "prospectively" by the power of Jesus' death. With this Anselm seems to agree.
     John Calvin (15091564) wrestled with the problem. In his Institutes [II. xiii. 4] he wrote: "They betray their ignorance who argue that if Christ is perfectly immaculate and was begotten of the seed of Mary by the secret operation of the Spirit, then it follows that there is no impurity in the seed of the woman, but only in that of the man. We do not represent Christ as perfectly immaculate merely because He was born of the seed of the woman unconnected with any man, but because He was sanctified by the Spirit in order that the generation might be pure and undefiled as would have been true before Adam's fall."
     If only he had known what we now know, he might have seen how near to the truth was that which he firmly denied!

      pg.23 of 24      


     Zacharius Ursinus (15341583) in his Christian Religion (Question 35) wrote: "Mary was a sinner: but the mass of flesh which was taken out of her substance was by the operation of the Holy Spirit at the same instant sanctified when it was taken."
     John Owen (16161683) in his Discourse on the Holy Spirit [vol. II, published in 1674] wrote: "The human nature of Christ, being thus formed in the womb by a supernatural creative act of the Holy Spirit was in the instant of its conception sanctified and filled with grace . . . . [this] human nature, being not begotten by natural generation, derived no taint of original sin or corruption from Adam."
     Francois Turrettin (16231687) in his Institutio Theologae Elencticae [XIII. xi. 10] wrote: "The Holy Spirit must prepare the substance cut away from the substance of the virgin by a suitable sanctification . . . by purifying it from all stain of sin . . . and this
in order that Christ may be born without sin. There is no need of having recourse to the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary (herself)."
     John Howe (16301705), a non-Conformist Puritan theologian, in his Oracles [II. xxxvii] wrote: "It is a mighty confirmation of the natural descent of sin with the nature of man in the ordinary way, that when God designed the incarnation of his own Son, in order to avoid the corruption of nature descending to Him, He then steps out of the ordinary course; a consideration that hath weight with it, that, if anyone allow himself to think, it must overbear his mind in that matter, that surely there is some secret profound reason in the council of God whether obvious to our view or not obvious that the descent of corrupt nature was in the ordinary way unavoidable; that when God had a design to incarnate his own Son, when it was intended that God should be manifested in the flesh, to avoid that contagion and corruption which in the ordinary course is transmitted, He doth in this single instance recede and go off from the ordinary course. Because the human nature had been corrupted if it had descended in the ordinary way, therefore the ordinary course of procreation is declined and avoided: a most pregnant demonstration that in the ordinary course sin is always naturally transmitted" [quoted by W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1969 reprint, vol. II, p.2]. For all the complexity of his sentence structure, it is clear that Howe was nearer than most of his predecessors to recognizing the real significance of the virgin conception.
     Throughout these centuries men had struggled with the problem. How could the Lord Jesus be truly human without a truly human body, and how could He acquire a truly human body without also acquiring the taint of original sin? Many adopted the view that his body had to be, and indeed was, sanctified either by his own entry into it or by the Holy Spirit before He entered it. At first the relevance of the virgin conception does not seem to have been clearly perceived. One of the earliest of the Church Fathers, Justin Martyr (110165), illustrates lack of perceptiveness in this regard when he wrote: "And our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, for no other reason [emphasis mine] than that he might destroy the begetting by lawless desire, and might show to the devil that the formation of man was possible to God without human intervention" [Fragments of the Lost Works of Justin on the Resurrection, chap. III, Ante-Nicene Fathers, New York, Scribner, 1913, vol. I, p.295]. To Justin, the virgin birth was a display of God's miraculous power and a rebuke to Satan. That it could be related to the present issue was not perceived. It was not until considerably later that it began to be realized such a perfect body was not preserved against the inheritance of original sin by some act of cleansing but by the exclusion of natural generation. Thus it slowly became apparent that the male seed had to be by-passed. It is perhaps time now to explore afresh the significance of the necessity of virginal conception in the light of modern knowledge. 

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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