Original Research

Virgin mother or bastard child?

John D. Crossan
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 59, No 3 | a668 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v59i3.668 | © 2003 John D. Crossan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 October 2003 | Published: 27 October 2003

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John D. Crossan, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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Virginal conception presumes divine intervention, but divine inter-vention does not necessarily presume virginal conception. In the case of Mary, two phenomena, both unusual in Jewish tradition, are found, namely divine and virginal conception. This article argues that the virginity claim by Christian Jews preceded and generated the adultery accusation by non-Christian Jews. It does so by stating three points. Firstly, that the earliest dated text containing the accusation of Jesus’ bastardy is dependent on the redactional text of Matthew. Secondly, that the general structure of Matthew 1-2 and especially its dyad of Divorce and Remarriage is dependent on the popular traditions about Moses’ conception and birth. Thirdly, that the pre-Matthean tradition of divine and virginal conception is rather a reaction against Roman tradition than coming from Jewish tradition. However, this argument does not take Jesus out of Jewish tradition but, places the Judaism of Jesus’ time firmly within the Roman Empire. It is a Judaism which opposed Rome’s ideological ascendancy and theological eschatology. This article will also be published in A Feminist Companion to (Mariology) or (the Jesus Movement), edited by Amy-Jill Levine, Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.


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