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§ 11. Objections to the Narrative drawn from the subsequent Dispositions of Christ’s Relatives, answered (1) from the nature of the case; (2) from the name Jesus.

An objection to the credibility of the narrative has been raised on the ground that if such events had really preceded the birth of Christ, his own relatives would have been better disposed to recognize him as the Messiah. It is possible that the circumstances of his birth did raise their expectations to a lofty pitch; but as for thirty years no indications corresponding with ordinary views of the Messiah manifested themselves, their first impressions gradually wore away, only to be revived, however, by the great acts which Jesus performed after the opening of his public career. And as for Mary (in whom a doubt of this sort would appear still more strange, as she was directly cognizant of the miraculous features of the history), there is no proof whatever that she ever lost the memory of her visions, or relinquished the hopes they were so well calculated to raise. Her conduct at the marriage of Cana proves directly the reverse. She obviously expected a miracle from Christ immediately after the proclamation of his Messiahship by John the Baptist. The confirmation which John’s Gospel, by its recital of this miracle, affords to the other evangelists is the more striking, as John himself gives no account of the events accompanying the birth of Christ.3636   (a) John’s silence in regard to the miraculous conception is no proof that he was either ignorant of the accounts of that event or disbelieved them. His object was to testify to what he had himself seen and heard, and to declare how the glory of the Only begotten had been unveiled to him in contemplating Christ’s manifestation on earth. But that he recognized the miraculous conception is evident from his emphatic declarations (in opposition to the ordinary Jewish idea of the Messiah), that the Divine and the human were originally united in the person of Christ, and that the Logos itself became flesh in him; while at the same time he avers that “that which is born of the flesh is flesh.” No man could hold these two ideas together without believing in the immediate agency of God in the generation of Christ (b) The objection that Jesus was known among the Jews as the son of Joseph and Mary, and that this fact was adduced against his claims, has been sufficiently met in the text; but it has been urged further that Christ himself, when this objection was brought against him (Matt., xiii., 55), did not allude to the miraculous conception. As to this, we need only say that it was far more likely and natural that Jesus should call men’s attention to the proofs of his Divinity which were before their eyes in his daily acts, showing, at the same time, that the causes of their disbelief lay in themselves, rather than that he should dwell upon the circumstances which preceded his birth, the proof of which had to rest upon the testimony of Mary alone. (c) Nor is Paul’s silence on this point proof of his not acknowledging it. It only shows that, for his religious sense, the sufferings Ad resurrection of Christ, the centre and support of the Christian system, stood out more prominently than the miraculous conception.’ In the passages in which he speaks of Christ’s origin, he had a different object in view than to treat of this subject; e. g., in Rom., ix., 5, “Whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever,” and in Rom., i., 4, where he brings out prominently the two-fold manifestation of Christ, as the Son of David and as the Son of God, raised above all human and national relationships, as he revealed himself after the resurrection. If we could infer from such passages Paul’s disbelief in the miracle, we can draw precisely the opposite conclusion from Gal., iv., 4; although, as the case is, we do not lay much stress upon the expression, “born of a woman.” And if Paul could represent Jesus as the Son of God from heaven, as being without sin in the flesh (σάρξ), in which sin before had reigned, while at the same time he taught the propagation of sinfulness, from Adam down, it is likely that the supernatural generation of Jesus was so firmly established in the connexion of his own thoughts, that he felt the less necessity to give it individual prominence. We shall have occasion to make a similar remark hereafter in regard to the omission of the ac count of Christ’s ascension as an individual event.


The name Jesus itself affords additional proof that his parents were led by some extraordinary circumstances to expect that he would be the Messiah. Such names as Theodorus, Theodoret, Dorotheus, among the Greeks, were usually bestowed because the parents had obtained a son after long desire and expectation. As names were also given among the Jews with reference to their significancy, and as the name Jesus betokens “Him through whom Jehovah bestows salvation;” and, moreover, as the Messiah, the bearer of this salvation, was generally expected at the time, it must certainly appear probable to us that the name was given with reference to that expectation. Not that this conclusion necessarily follows, because the name Jesus, Joshua, was common among the Jews; but yet, compared with the accounts, it certainly affords confirmatory evidence.

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