EVOLUTION OF PRIMITIVE VIEWS ABOUT THE BIRTH OF JESUS

--by Yuri Kuchinsky--

Here's how Alfred Loisy deals with this subject (based on ORIGINS:366, and
BIRTH:277ff).

Loisy traces five stages in the historical evolution of these early
Christian beliefs about the birth of Jesus.

1. Davidic descent unnecessary

It seems that, naturally, the earliest belief would have been that Jesus
was born without miracle to Joseph and Mary. So this would have been the
starting point in this evolutionary process.

But in Jewish tradition the Messiah had to be descended from David. When
earliest Christians first announced that resurrected Jesus became the
Messiah, the expression of doubt on the part of Jewish critics as to his
Davidic descent would have been completely expectable. So here would
come the citations of Psalm 110 in Mk 12:36 (and parallels in Mt/Lk),

(Mk 12:36-37a) David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declared, 'The
Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I put thy enemies under
thy feet.' David himself calls him Lord; so how is he his son?

The author of this early view in the Synoptics probably thought that it
is enough for Jesus to be the Son of God. But then the genealogies were
added up, in any case!

2. Davidic descent made a part of the tradition

To prove Davidic descent clearly appears to be the original intent and
meaning of the genealogies of Jesus in both Mt and Lk. Originally, the
intent would have been to demonstrate Davidic descent through his father
Joseph. (ORIGINS:25) (Actually, by the very fact of the genealogies of
Jesus being included in the gospels, both of them tend to confirm that
the earliest belief would have been that Jesus was born without miracle
to Joseph and Mary, as they are based on the name of Joseph as the
father of Jesus.)

3. The source of Lk: the birth of a miraculous child to Joseph and Mary
(but no Virgin Birth as yet)

According to Loisy, in the source of Lk, the Virgin Birth was still
lacking. So angel Gabriel would have originally announced that Jesus,
who will be born to Joseph (understood as his natural father) and Mary,
shall be the Messiah of Israel. Seen in this light, Lk's version would
have preceded that of Mt.

4. The Virgin Birth introduced

This is the view of Mt and of Lk in its canonical version (that was
interpolated with Lk 1:34-35).

5. Pre-existence of Christ

This is the later view of Jn.

Considerable traces of earlier traditions are still visible in the NT.
It is clear that these five traditions all tend to contradict each other
to some extent.

An interesting question is how and in what circumstances did arise the
hostile speculations about Jesus being somehow born illegitimately. The
existence of such hostile objections are already reflected in Mt. In my
view, these objections are not relevant to the earliest layers of the
tradition. Rather, they probably arose as late as at stage 4, i.e. after
the legend of the Virgin Birth was first promulgated. Later Jewish
critics of Christianity probably would have used the Virgin Birth story
as an opportunity for speculation about Jesus being born as an
illegitimate child.

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