-- miriam berg

Who was the real father of Jesus, God, Joseph, or somebody else? Let's take a look at the available evidence.

The Gospels.. The text of the gospels tells us that the people of his native town considered him the son of Joseph, the carpenter. They are reported as saying so on the occasion of his visit to his hometown after his career had begun:

Matthew 13:15. Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joseph and Simon, and Judas? and his sisters, are they not all with us?

Mark 6:3. Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?

Luke 4:22b. Is not this Joseph's son?

John 6:42. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?

The gospel of Mark is the only one which does not name Joseph as the known or accepted father of Jesus. The other three bear witness against Mark, however, by declaring him unequivocally to be the son of Joseph, also known as the carpenter. And John the gospel which otherwise paints Jesus in the most godlike terms possible, is the most unequivocal, declaring that Jesus is known to be the son of Joseph and his mother who are well-known to them. (John never names Mary, but always refers to her simply as "the mother of Jesus.")

Can we suppose that Mark is most authentic, since his gospel is generally considered to be the oldest of the gospels, despite the traditional view of the Catholic Church? How does it happen, then that Matthew, who elsewhere declares that Jesus was sired by God reports that the people called Jesus the "carpenter's son"? Or that Luke tells us that the people referred to him clearly and definitely as "Joseph's son"? If Matthew and Luke copied from Mark as is generally concluded by scholars, can we suppose that they altered the words of Mark to explicitly make Jesus the son of Joseph or the carpenter, when it is also certain that they were written in the belief that Jesus was the son of God? Why would they have made such an alteration? Finally, how does it happen that John which gospel certainly claims that Jesus was very God himself maintains the tradition that the people of his home area knew him to be the son of Joseph? Can we suppose that Mary, or Joseph never told anyone about the visits of the angels, or the miraculous birth of Jesus before Joseph had mated with Mary, and that therefore all of these reports by Matthew, Luke, and John are erroneous?

These reports also seem to tell us positively that Jesus had brothers and sisters, presumably also the children of Mary, his mother. They may simply have not bothered to call them "half-brothers" or "half-sisters" in view of the belief that Jesus' father was God himself, or some other man, but in any case the Greek word used is "brother" and "sister", so that there is no basis for the assumption by traditional Catholicism that they were cousins. Nor is there any basis for the assumption that they were step-brothers and step-sisters (children of Joseph by a previous marriage). There is no basis from these reports that the "brothers" referred to were either "half-siblings" or "step-siblings", other than the preconceived notion that Jesus was sired by God, or some other man.

The Genealogies. Matthew and Luke each give us a genealogy of Jesus, but they trace his ancestry through Joseph.

Matthew 1:1-16. The book of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, Luke 3:23-38. And Jesus, when he began to teach, was...(as was supposed)... the son of Joseph, [descended from:]

the son of Abraham.
God; Adam; Seth; Enos; Cainan;
Mahaleel; Jared; Peleg; Reu; Serug;
Nahor; Terah; Abraham;
Abraham begat Isaac;
and Isaac begat Jacob;
and Jacob begat Judah;
and Judah begat Pharez and Zerah;
and Pharez begat Hezron;
and Hezron begat Ram;
and Ram begat Amminadab;
and Amminadab begat Nahshon;
and Nahshon begat Salmon;
and Salmon begat Boaz;
and Boaz and Ruth begat Obed;
and Obed begat Jesse;
and Jesse begat David the king;
and David begat Solomon...
and Solomon begat Rehoboam;
and Rehoboam begat Abijah;
and Abijah begat Asa;
and Asa begat Jehosaphat;
and Jehosaphat begat Joram;
and Joram begat (Ahaziah;)
   (Ahaziah begat Jehoash;)
   (Jehoash begat Amaziah;)
   (Amaziah begat) Uzziah (Azariah);
and Uzziah begat Jotham;
and Jotham begat Ahaz;
and Ahaz begat Hezekiah;
and Hezekiah begat Manasseh;
and Manasseh begat Amon;
and Amon begat Josiah;
and Josiah begat Jeconiah;
**Jonam (Jonah);

**Eliezer; *Jesus; *Er; *Elmadam;
**Cosam; *Addi; *Melchi; *Neri;
and Jeconiah begat Shealtiel;
and Shealtiel begat Zerubbabel;

and Zerubbabel begat Abiud;
and Abiud begat Eliakim;
and Eliakim begat Azor;
and Azor begat Sadoc (Zadok);
and Sadoc begat Achim (Joachim);
and Achim begat Eliud;
and Eliud begat Eleazar;
and Eleazar begat Matthan;
and Matthan begat Jacob;
and Jacob begat Joseph the husband
of Mary, of whom was born Jesus.

*Rhesa; *Joanan; *Joda; *Josech; *Semein;
*Mattathias; *Maath; *Naggai; *Esli;
Jesus (the son of Joseph).
   * in Luke but not in Matthew
   ** different name than in Matthew

I have reversed the order of the names as given by Luke for ease of comparison. This comparison of the two genealogies shows several discrepancies in them:
1) Matthew omits the names of three of the kings, shown in parentheses.
2) Luke shows 14 generations more than Matthew, indicated by a single asterisk.
3) The names in Luke are different for all generations between David and Joseph, except for Shealtiel and Zerubbabel indicated by a double asterisk.
4) Shealtiel cannot both be the son of Jeconiah and a man named Neri.
5) Several names of the patriarchs occur several times in Luke's list.
6) Many of the names in Luke's list occur nowhere in the Old Testament.

We wonder where Luke got his information, since it is so different than what is told us by Matthew. Matthew's genealogy comes at the logical place, at the zeginning of his gospel; but Luke's is out of context where it is given, wedged between the baptism of Jesus by John and the temptations in the wilderness, which two events should logically follow one another. Can we trust either of the two genealogies? Why should we trust either of them, when they are not confirmed by any of the Jewish records? The mere fact that the two genealogies give different names for Joseph's father tells us that we don't know who his father was; but WHY WOULD EITHER GENEALOGY HAVE TRACED JESUS THROUGH JOSEPH IF HE WAS NOT JOSEPH'S SON??! Or if, as is certain, both the authors of Matthew and of Luke believed that Jesus had a divine paternity?? The only inference we can make from the genealogies, it seems, is that the original compiler of those genealogies believed that Jesus was the son of Joseph, as stated by the gospels. Else why bother with the descent through Joseph? Luke in fact tries to negate the whole genealogy by inserting the words "as was supposed" in parentheses.

Some Catholic scholars have suggested that, since the gospels can tell no lie, that the genealogy according to Luke must be a real genealogy, and therefore it must be the genealogy of Mary, who is therefore also descended from David. This is not a tenable viewpoint, however. Apart from the fact that the gospels explicitly tell us that they both are the family tree of Joseph, there is no way of reconciling the difference of fourteen generations between them. Nor is it conceivable that Joseph would have had intercourse with his daughter, if the Lukan genealogy ends with Mary, or with his sister, if both Mary and Joseph are descended from the same parent. Even if it were possible that Heli was the grandfather of Mary instead of Jesus, according to Luke's genealogy, and that her father was Joseph the son of Heli rather than Joseph the son of Jacob, the fact remains that later Christian tradition, though not before the 3rd century, came to believe that her parents were named Anna and Joachim, as told in the infancy gospels. Since Heli is completely unknown outside of this reference in Luke, and the name does not occur in the Old Testament or in the books of the Maccabees, nor is anything known about Jacob, who Matthew tells us was the father of Joseph the disputed father of Jesus, we are justified in simply doubting or disbelieving both of the genealogies.

Apocryphal gospels. The apocryphal gospels all take God to be the literal father of Jesus and Joseph as no more than a foster-father. On occasion Jesus even says to Joseph in these gospels, You are not my father. However, they were not accepted as canonical by the church at the council in Nicea which voted on which gospels even though they treat Jesus as the son of God; and there is nothing in any of them to suggest that some other man was the father of Jesus.

The Talmud. The Talmud, a compendium of Jewish writings and legal decisions since Biblical times, tells us that Jesus was the illegitimate son of Mary and a Roman soldier named Pander, or Panthera or Pantherus. It also tells us that Mary had been put away by her husband, named Pappos, before Jesus was born, and it makes no mention of Joseph. This Talmudic story is the source of the rumor that Jesus was really the son of a Roman soldier. Should we accept the report of the Talmud over the report of the Gospels, especially since it was hostile to Jesus? Should we accept it at all, since it appears to be only a rumor, and rumor has no standing as legal evidence in jurisprudence?

There has been found in northern Germany the gravestone of a Roman soldier named Tiberius Julius Abdes Panther, born in Sidon in Phoenicia and stationed in Palestine about 9 A.D. This seems too late for him to have been the father of Jesus, who must have been born about 15 years earlier, in about 6 B.C. The birthdate of Jesus is not known for sure, nor is the exact year of his death which could have been either 27, 28 or 29 A.D., but if both the New Testament AND the Talmud tell us that he was 33 years old at his death, any Roman soldier who came to Palestine in 9 A.D. could not have been his father, unless Jesus was only 18 or 20 years old at the time of his death. In the absence of any knowledge of any other Roman soldier who might have been in Palestine in 6 B.C., shouldn't we just regard this as a slanderous story told to discredit Jesus?

The Talmud also tells us that Jesus was a false messiah, who deceived the people and led them astray, causing them to sin. Shouldn't we then accept this report also if we accept the rumor that he was the illegimate son of a Roman soldier? This report is curious, since Jesus also warned his disciples against the coming of "false" messiahs, who would lead the people astray: "Go ye not after them." Why should we accept the report of Jesus' birth in the Talmud, and reject the report of his false messiahship?

But since the gospels tell us one thing, and the Talmud another, and Christian tradition a third, so that "no two witnesses agree" with one another, shouldn't we suspend belief in any of them, and look for other evidence?

Other tales. There were other tales being circulated during the first few centuries of Christianity as well, all more or less scurrilous and derogatory to Jesus and Mary. Two of them were: a) Jesus was born of an incestuous union between Mary and her brother. b) Tertullian tells of a Roman pantomime in which the founder of Christianity is referred to as "the notorious son of an artisan and a whore."

At least two modern scholars hold to the theory of adultery however, Heinrich Paulus and Karl Venturini, who believe that Mary had offered herself as the mother of the messiah after someone posing as an angel persuaded her to that course. In addition, Venturini believes that the man was Joseph of Arimathea! and that this explains why he braved the Jewish priests and Roman government to bury Jesus in his own tomb, since Jesus would have been his own son. This might also explain the traditional belief that the father of Jesus was a man named Joseph, if his name actually was Joseph! And if we assume that Joseph did marry Mary at some point, Venturini's theory might also explain why Jesus was so opposed to divorce and supportive of marriage, if his father Joseph had divorced Mary and gone to live in Arimathea.

Still another modern scholar, Aurelio Turcotti, conjectures that Elizabeth and Zacharias, the parents of John the Baptizer, contrived a meeting between Mary and an Arab prince who was passing that way with his caravan! But all of these stories are just speculations. None of them, even the story in the Talmud, are any more credible than the report in the gospels.

Summary. Thus there are three general theories as to the parentage of Jesus which have attained greater or lesser circulation.

1) Jesus was the son of a man named Joseph, who was reputed to be a descendant of David, the king who founded the Israelite empire in the year 1000 B.C., and a woman named Mary, about whom very little is known for sure.
2) Mary was a whore and Jesus was a bastard.
            a) His father was a Roman soldier named Panther.
            b) His father was Joseph of Arimathea.
            c) His father was somebody else other than Joseph or Joseph of Arimathea.
3) Jesus was the "son of God", born of the impregnation of the woman Mary by the "Holy Spirit".

The third hypothesis falls under its own weight: Jewish and Israelite theology had no concept of a "son" of Yahweh or of Yahweh copulating with any human woman; and it borders on if it does not actually constitute polytheism, with three divine entities, God, Jesus, and something called the "Holy Spirit". Nothing in the Old Testament can support the notion of a "holy spirit" as a being separate from God nor of a "son" of Yahweh separate from Yahweh. The story in Isaiah of a virgin conceiving makes no mention of the baby having been conceived by Yahweh, nor can it apply to Jesus in any case, since it had to do with Isaiah's own time; and the image in the book of Daniel, of "the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven", does not refer to him as a second divine being, and the book of Daniel is a late fraud in any case, having been composed about 165 B.C. The whole idea comes from Egyptian and Persian myths which tell of a god dying and being reborn each year; the Egyptian story duplicates the Christian story almost exactly, with the father-god Osiris the mother-goddess Isis, and the child-god Horus. As H.G. Wells unanswerably puts it after the conversion of Constantine in the year 312 A.D. the Christian church found it necessary to convert the sun-god of various pagan religions into the Son-god.

Except for the possibility that Joseph and Joseph of Arimathea were the same man the second hypothesis seems nothing more than slanderous stories invented by the detractors of Christianity and Jesus. It may be true that Mary was pregnant before she and Joseph were married; such an event is common enough in the history of men and women and marriages; but the story requires a great deal more evidence than we have in order to assert positively that the father of Jesus was somebody other than the man she married, and especially to assert that no man at all was the father, but Yahweh himself. Rumors are not evidence. And if a pregnant woman came to us today and said that she was with child by God, or by the "Holy Ghost" what would we think?

As for the first hypothesis, Leroy Waterman, a prominent Biblical scholar in the mid-20th century, argues that the editors of the gospels could not have included the report that Jesus was in fact the son of Joseph unless that was an actual report, since they believed that he was the son of God. They could not have made it up, in other words. It must have been a bit of oral tradition that they transmitted without realizing how it contradicted the belief in the divinity of Jesus. Therefore we must take it as an extant piece of valid information. And how can we accept it if the gospels tell us that Jesus was the son of God and Mary, and also that he was the son of a man named Joseph, unless of course everyone is a child of God as well as the child of human parents? These are the reasons that I accept the first hypothesis, without however admitting the claim that Joseph was actually descended from David. Marcello Cravera and Alfred Loisy both tell us that the Davidic line was extinct by that time, anyway, although the Chronicler (the author of the books of the Chronicles) traces the descendants of David for eight generations after Jeconiah, the last king of the independent Judean kingdom. None of those names matches anything in Matthew's or Luke's list, however.