WHO WAS THE REAL FATHER OF JESUS?
-- 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
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;
**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.