Wednesday, 1 September 2010


Post By Ian

In my studies of early Christianity, I've come across various non-dogmatic views on the divinity of Jesus. The one which, I feel, corresponds most closely to the "original" Christianity are those of the Ebionites. The Ebionites were a 1st Century sect of Judaic Christianity, focussing on the message of Jesus without claiming divinity on his behalf. They believed he was the messiah and would herald God's Kingdom, a physical kingdom here on Earth rather than a heavenly spiritual kingdom. They practised as Jews, following the Torah and observing the festivals. They accepted Gentiles to the faith as long as the Noahide laws were observed.

In Mark, Matthew and Luke, during the baptism of Jesus by John a light descends from Heaven and a voice is heard saying "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased". The virgin birth story leads the reader of the Bible to think this is a confirmation, rather than an adoption. Without the virgin birth story, a common story in the Roman middle-east, the passage could indicate an adoption or a blessing.

So where does the virgin birth story come from? The authors, Matthew and Luke, were documenting oral infancy stories that were around at the time of authorship (between 75ad and 95ad). They both used different stories as a basis, hence the differences between the accounts, but both reference Isaiah as a prophecy of Jesus. However, Isaiah doesn't refer to Jesus and the prophecy of a virgin birth, I believe, comes from a mistranslation.

The Septuagint was the Greek version of the Tanakh in use at the time when Matthew and Luke were writing their accounts. Both accounts were written in Greek, both seem to have used the Septuagint as a source. In Isaiah 7:10-17, Isaiah points out a young pregnant woman seen across from Ahaz and himself. Before that child is grown, Isaiah says, the two kings feared by Ahaz will be gone and God will bring Ahaz's people to their ancestral house.

The virgin part of the account comes out of the translation of Hebrew in to Greek. In Isaiah, the Hebrew word used to describe the young woman is almah, which means "young woman". In the Greek Septuagint, the Greek word used is parthenos , which means "virgin". The Hebrew word bethulah is the word meaning "virgin", and is used elsewhere in the Bible where this meaning is required. It can be deduced therefore that, because, almah is used the meaning of "virgin" was not meant and the meaning of "young woman" is the one that should be read. In the Didache (the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles), the Eucharist is taken thanking God for the message given through Jesus and the line of David, both referred to as "Sons of God".
Didache 9:2 First, concerning the cup. We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine, David thy Son, which thou hast made known unto us through Jesus Christ thy Son; to thee be the glory for ever.

Could it be that Jesus is A Son of God rather than THE Son of God? David is also referred to as the Son of God (2 Samuel 7:14). The Son of God that was used as a title of the kings of Israel? The comparisons of Jesus are then with David as king, being the promised Messiah who would bring God's Kingdom in to effect and rule from God's throne, the throne of David. Not a divine god-creature, but a human - favoured by God and chosen to teach. A teacher who shows the path to God. It's up to us to follow the path he laid down and become children of God ourselves. The divine spark resides within us. It's up to us to nurture it.


  1. Again, a well thought out and helpful article. And I can only say a big Amen to your final sentence.

  2. Great blogpost. I wrote a piece with a similar conclusion, entitled What is a Messiah?

    Just a note re blogpost titles - uppercase is generally regarded as SHOUTING on the web :)

  3. The 1st century Galilean Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa was also referred to as God's son in the Talmud, "Rabbi Yehuda taught in the name of Rav, every day a Heavenly voice emerges from Mt. Sinai and proclaims: “The entire world is sustained (through or because of) Chanina my son."

    I think I once read in a book by Geza Vermes that the expression Son of God, was historically used to refer to a righteous individual who lived a life of piety and devotion to God.

  4. how about, "The Messiah", as a relative term, instead of one awaited Messiah for all time, and all people? Why not the Jewish Messiah that was needed at that particular time and place? A relative son of God, and a relative Messiah.