Pakistan Christians to celebrate Christmas under shadow of gun: Religion of Peace

[PTI] Christians across Pakistan are gearing up to celebrate Christmas with joy and fervour but under the shadow of tight security and the gruesome bombing of a Peshawar church in September that killed 82 people. 

After Hindus, Christians are Pakistan’s second-largest minority, representing about 1.6 per cent of the country’s overwhelmingly Muslim population. Large populations are in the southern metropolis of Karachi, and there are many Christian villages in Punjab province.

“It is also a somber occasion this time around because of the Peshawar church bombing. Despite the element of fear, people are thronging churches and the numbers would be high on Christmas,” Cecil Shane Chaudhry, Secretary of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, told PTI.

Asked about security measures, he said churches are taking care of this on their own along with government agencies. “We are living in a sort of situation where there is a sense of consciousness in the community that one has to be conscious and aware of security needs,” he said.

The NCJP is a human rights body set up by the Pakistan Catholic Bishops Conference in 1985.

Though Christian community has earlier been targeted by extremist groups, the bombing of All Saints Church in Peshawar was the deadliest attack against it.

Two bombers blew themselves up in the courtyard of the historic church as worshippers exchanged greetings after a service leaving at least 82 dead and hundreds of families shattered.

Father Bonnie Mendes of the Society for Human Development said besides state-provided measures, churches are ensuring security through volunteers.

“We are sorry that the situation is going this way. It is not hurting just our country but others in the region also,” he said.

He said churches have volunteers who keep an eye out for suspicious people and put up metal detectors.

“So much security to even celebrate,” he rued.

It is not just extremists that Christians are afraid of. Many Christians have been convicted under the controversial blasphemy law in the country.

Punjab’s governor Salman Taseer and Minorities Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti were shot dead by extremists after they voiced support for a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy. Taseer was shot dead by his own police guard for opposing the blasphemy law.

Christians in Pakistan often belong to lowest status and hold the lowest paid jobs.

2 thoughts on “Pakistan Christians to celebrate Christmas under shadow of gun: Religion of Peace

  1. OTHER STORIES OF VIRGIN BIRTHS It may be thought that the story of a virgin birth is too wonderful to have been invented merely to show that a misunderstood prophecy had been fulfilled, and that so miraculous a doctrine could not, without some basis of fact, suddenly be created by any mind, however fertile. But a study of ancient literature discloses the fact that myths of virgin births were part of many — if not all — of the surrounding pagan religions in the place where, and at the time when, Christianity arose. “The gods have lived on earth in the likeness of men” was a common saying among ancient pagans, and supernatural events were believed in as explanations of the god’s arrival upon earth in human guise. THE EGYPTIAN MYTHS About two thousand years before the Christian era Mut-em-ua, the virgin Queen of Egypt, was said to have given birth to the Pharaoh Amenkept (or Amenophis) III, who built the temple of Luxor, on the walls of which were represented: 1) The Annunciation: the god Taht announcing to the virgin Queen that she is about to become a mother. 2) The Immaculate Conception: the god Kneph (the holy spirit) mystically impregnating the virgin by holding a cross, the symbol of life, to her mouth. 3) The Birth of the Man-god. 4) The Adoration of the newly born infant by gods and men, including three kings (or Magi?), who are offering him gifts. In this sculpture the cross again appears as a symbol. In another Egyptian temple, one dedicated to Hathor, at Denderah, one of the chambers was called “The Hall of the Child in his Cradle”; and in a painting which was once on the walls of that temple, and is now in Paris, we can see represented the Holy Virgin Mother with her Divine Child in her arms. The temple and the painting are undoubtedly pre-Christian. Therefore, we find that long before the Christian era there were already pictured — in pagan places of worship — virgin mothers and their divine children, and that such pictures included scenes of an Annunciation, an Incarnation, and a Birth and Adoration, just as the Gospels written in the second century A.D. describe them, and that these events were in some way connected with the God Taht, who was identified by Gnostics with the Logos. And, besides these myths about Mut-em-ua and Hathor, many other origins of a virgin birth story can be traced in Egypt. Another Egyptian god, Ra (the Sun), was said to have been born of a virgin mother, Net (or Neith), and to have had no father. Horus was said to be the parthenogenetic child of the Virgin Mother, Isis. In the catacombs of Rome black statues of this Egyptian divine Mother and Infant still survive from the early Christian worship of the Virgin and Child to which they were converted. In these the Virgin Mary is represented as a black negress, and often with the face veiled in the true Isis fashion. When Christianity absorbed the pagan myths and rites it also adopted the pagan statues, and renamed them as saints, or even as apostles. Statues of the goddess Isis with the child Horus in her arms were common in Egypt, and were exported to all neighboring and to many remote countries, where they are still to be found with new names attached to them — Christian (Roman Catholicism) in Europe, Buddhist in Turkestan, Taoist in China and Japan. Figures of the virgin Isis do duty as representations of Mary, of Hariti, of Kuan-Yin, of Kwannon, and of other virgin mothers of gods. And these were not the only pre-Christian statuettes and engravings of divine mothers and children. Such figures were stamped on very ancient Athenian coins. Among the oldest relics of Carthage, of Cyprus, and of Assyria figures of a divine mother and her babe-god are found. Such figures were known under a great variety of names to the followers of various sects; the mothers as Venus, Juno, Mother-Earth, Fortune, etc., and the children as Hercules, Dionysos, Jove, Wealth, etc. In India similar figures are not uncommon, many of them representing Devaki with the babe Krishna at her breast, others representing various less well-known Indian divinities. It is difficult to assign the exact position in the divine hierarchy which polytheists believed their various gods to occupy. Their beliefs probably differed, and were certainly vague. The better-educated classes were — without a doubt — inclined to be skeptical then, as at all times, and to regard all these stories of different manifestations of divinity as more or less allegorical or symbolic. And, when they were not skeptical, their minds became so entangled in the complexities of metaphysical speculation that the stories they told grew very confused. On the other hand, the ignorant classes, both rich and poor, certainly believed in the most miraculous explanations of the pantheon which the priests could invent. By such people, the more improbable the alleged fact, the better they liked it. THE SACRED BULL In Egypt we also find that Apis — the sacred bull of Memphis and a god of the ancient Egyptian Pantheon — was believed to have been begotten by a deity descending as a ray of moonlight on the cow which was to become the mother of the sacred beast. As a result he was regarded as the son of the god. This miracle was said to be constantly repeated. An Apis — according to Plutarch and the ancient Mathematici — was conceived every time a cow “in season” happened to be struck by a beam of light from the moon. The Mathematici, of course, realized that the light of the moon was really the reflection of the light of the sun, and they therefore believed that the moon received her male generative power as proxy for the sun, the creator of all things. Apis, the living calf, was regarded as a re-incarnation of Osiris — or at any rate as an emblem of the spirit or soul of Osiris. He is occasionally represented as a man with the head of a bull. It is more than likely that the story of the rape of Europa by Jove (in the guise of a bull) originated in this myth of a cow impregnated by a ray from the moon. The idea of a god incarnate in a bull easily gave rise to variants of this kind. Notes Insight On the Scriptures — “Shortly after the Exodus, even the Israelites, likely because of being contaminated by the religious concepts with which they became acquainted while in Egypt, exchanged Jehovah’s glory for “a representation of a bull.” (Ps. 106:19, 20) Later, the first king of the ten-tribe kingdom, Jeroboam, set up a calf worship at Dan and Bethel. (1Ki 12:28, 29) Of course, according to God’s law to Israel, no veneration whatsoever, not even in a representative way, was to be given to the bull or any other animal. — Ex 20:4, 5; compare Ex 32:8″ (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. 1988, Vol. 1, p. 374). Perhaps the most curious and best known variant of the bull-lover theme is the story about Pasiphae, the wife of Minos. She was said to have developed a violent passion for the bull which Poseidon (Neptune) had sent to her husband. So, with the aid of an artist named Daedalus, she disguised herself as a cow and resorted to the meadow in which the bull grazed. The fruit of her union with the bull was the celebrated Minotaur, partly human, partly bovine, which Minos shut up in the Labyrinth. The ancient superstition that monsters have been born from the union of human beings and animals survived until quite recently — and probably still exists among the uneducated and semi-educated. Exact, or comparatively exact, knowledge of the possibilities of hybridization is a science of quite recent growth. It should be noted that the Minotaur was named after the husband of his mother, as well as after his real father the Tauros. That is a peculiarity of many of these stories. VIRGIN BIRTHS IN OTHER COUNTRIES In many other countries besides Egypt similar stories of the virgin birth of gods were told. • Attis, the Phrygian god, was said to be the son of the virgin Nana, who conceived him by putting a ripe almond or pomegranate in her bosom. • The Grecian God Dionysos was said — in one version of the myth concerning him — to be the son of Zeus out of the virgin goddess Persephone. In another version he was said to be the miraculously begotten son of Zeus out of the mortal woman Semele. According to this story he was taken from his mother’s womb before the full period of gestation had expired, and completed his embryonic life in Zeus’s thigh. As a result, Dionysos was considered to be half human and half divine — born of a woman and also of a god. His myth, which was current long before the Christian era, is a remarkable example of the kind of story which could be, and was, invented about a man-god. He was said to have been persecuted by Pentheus, King of Thebes (the home of his mother); to have been rejected in his own country; and, when bound, to have asserted that his father, God, would set him free whenever he chose to appeal to him. He disappears from earth, but re-appears as a light shining more brightly than the sun, and speaks to his trembling disciples; and he subsequently visits Hades. The story of his birth is alluded to, and the story of his persecution related, in The Bacchae, which Euripides wrote about 410 B.C. when the myth was already very old and very well known. Jason, who was slain by Zeus, was said to have been another son of the virgin Persephone, and to have had no father, either human or divine. Perseus was also said to have been born of a virgin; and it is this story which Justin Martyr — the second-century Christian “Father of the Church” — stigmatizes as an invention of the Devil, who, knowing that the Messiah would subsequently be born of a virgin, counterfeited the miracle before it really took place. The “Fathers of the Church” frequently gave this explanation of the numerous pre-Christian virgin birth stories to which their rivals tauntingly referred. Adonis, the Syrian god; Osiris, the first person of the principal Egyptian Trinity; and Mithra, the Persian god whom so many of the Roman soldiers worshipped — all had strange tales told about their births. At the time when Christianity arose all these gods were worshipped in various parts of the Roman empire. Attis, Adonis, Dionysos, Osiris, and Mithra were the principal gods in their respective countries; and those countries together formed the greater part of the Eastern provinces of the Roman empire, and of its great rival, the Persian empire. VIRGIN BIRTHS IN CLASSICAL MYTHOLOGY Classical mythology is full of similar stories, and the idea of a virgin birth was familiar to all men of that time. Of Plato it was related that his mother Perictione was a virgin who conceived him immaculately by the god Apollo. Apollo himself revealed the circumstances of this conception to Ariston, the betrothed husband of the virgin. Virginity, perhaps on account of its rarity in those days among women of a marriageable age, had always a halo of sanctity cast over it by barbaric and semi-civilized tribes. Even in civilized Rome itself the Vestal Virgins were looked upon as peculiarly sacred. Strangely, this reverence for virginity seems to have sometimes been contemporaneous with the institution of religious prostitution on a large scale. There is, indeed, no reason why this should not have been the case, incongruous though it seems to us, as such religious prostitution was looked upon very differently from the way in which it would now be regarded. Originally it was an institution designed to bring fertility to the fields by sympathetic magic. The sacrifice of chastity in the service of the goddess was an act of devotion — not an act of licentiousness. When studying these customs we must remember that we are dealing with men and women brought up in an entirely different psychological climate from our own. A veneration for chastity was with them not incompatible with periodic orgies, nor with places set aside for sacred prostitution or asceticism. Such prostitution was regarded as an alternative way of making a sacrifice for the public good. It is likely that an historian of the future may well find it difficult to reconcile our own professions and our own practice in similar matters, and will be confused by the protestations of virtuous horror which he reads alongside of accounts given by the same authors of conspicuous lapses from virtue. The conventions of romance are not always the same as the customs of the people. They reflect the theory rather than the practice. Extremes are always more conspicuous than the mean. An old story about the children of AEgyptus and of Danaus is a myth that curiously illustrates this same reverence felt for virginity by the ancients in romance rather than in reality. The former had fifty sons; the latter fifty daughters. The former ruled over Arabia; the latter over Libya. They quarreled over the kingdom of Egypt which AEgyptus had conquered, and when AEgyptus tried to patch up the quarrel by sending his sons to marry the daughters of Danaus the latter pretended to consent, but provided his daughters with daggers and with instructions how to use them. On their wedding night all the daughters of Danaus, save one, murdered their husbands in their sleep. Hypermnestra spared her husband Lynceus because he had respected her virginity, and not availed himself of his marital privileges. So Lynceus survived the slaughter of his brethren, and lived happily ever after with Hypermnestra, by whom he had at least one son. THE CURIOUS VENERATION FOR VIRGINITY It is not possible here to discuss at length the origin and history of the curious veneration for virginity which was current at this period. However, it is of interest to note that the belief that some occult power was attached to the state of virginity survived even up to the Middle Ages of our era. For example, it was thought that virgins were peculiarly efficient as bait for Unicorns. The Unicorn, or rather his congener the Monoceros, was evidently a fastidious beast that could only be attracted by a virgin. On finding one tied up in the forest as a lure he was enticed to kiss her, and then to fall asleep on her breast. Whereupon the brave hunter came up and slew him in his sleep. If the young woman was not really a virgin, the Monoceros immediately killed her and disappeared before the hunter arrived. This method of hunting the Monoceros is described in the Bestiary of Philip de Thaun, written in the twelfth century, and is but one of the many strange facts alleged by authors of that period in support of the theory that virginity had special virtues when dealing with animals, with demons, and with human beings. It was a semi-romantic, semi-religious halo that was cast over this particular physical condition. To the Vestal Virgins in Rome were attributed the faculty of prophesying and many sacred virtues. All virgins were immune from death at the hand of the executioner, and the Vestals enjoyed many other privileges so long as they preserved their chastity. The same idea is found in the histories of miraculous virgins that are so numerous in the mythologies of Asia. Such, for example, was the Chinese legend that tells how, when there was but one man with one woman upon earth, the woman refused to sacrifice her virginity — even in order to people the globe. The gods, honoring her purity, granted that she should conceive beneath the gaze of her lover’s eyes, and a virgin-mother became the parent of humanity. One of the legends which arose, as Buddhism degenerated from its original lofty idealism, was to the effect that the Buddha Gautama was given birth to by Maya, an immaculate virgin who conceived him through a divine influence. Gautama the Buddha, was the son of a Hindu rajah named Suddhodana, and was born, in the ordinary course of nature, in 563 B.C. He never claimed to be a god, neither did he nor his disciples claim that his birth was miraculous. But after years a myth arose among Buddhists to the effect that his mother Maya — having been divinely chosen to give birth to the Buddha — was borne away by spirits to the Himalayas, where she underwent ceremonial purifications at the hands of four queens. The Bodhisattva then appeared to her, and walked round her three times. At the moment when he completed his travels the Buddha (the incarnate Bodhisattva) entered her womb, and great wonders took place in heaven, on earth, and in hell. Her body became transparent, so that the babe could distinctly be seen before it was born; and he was finally born without any of the pain and suffering which usually attend the births of mortal infants. Events Surrounding the Messiah’s Birth in Matthew and Luke • The “multitude of the heavenly host” who, according only to Luke sang before the shepherds as they watched their flocks by night while the Messiah was being born, are paralleled in Buddhist scriptures by a heavenly host who worship the Buddha in heaven immediately before his descent into his mother’s womb. • The miraculous birth is pre-announced both to Maya and to her husband, King Suddhodana, who parts from her for thirty-two months, so that she should live immaculately during the whole of that time. • Maya, “in order that the (Buddhist) scriptures might be fulfilled,” was on a journey when the birth took place as, according to Luke, was Mary when the Messiah was born. Some of the Apocryphal Gospels give fuller details than the Canonical of the wonders attending the birth of the Messiah. In these — as also in the account given in the Koran — the resemblances to the Buddhist legends are even more remarkable than those to be found, as we have already seen, in the Gospels according to Matthew and to Luke. The latter has, however, another story which corresponds closely with the earlier Buddhist legends about Gautama. • The devout Simeon who is filled with the Holy Ghost and recognizes the child Yeshua as the Messiah (Luke 2:25-35) is a duplicate of the Holy Brahmin Asita, who recognizes the child Gautama as the Buddha. He, Simeon, speaks of the Messiah as “a light to lighten the Gentiles” (verse 32), using the same metaphor as is used in the gatha with which, later on in the story, the young Gautama is greeted by the rishis: “In the darkness of the world a light has appeared to lighten all who are in ignorance.” • And Matthew’s story of Herod being told that one who would be “King of the Jews” had been born, and of the consequent massacre of the innocents, also corresponds with Buddhist legend. • Luke’s account of the child Yeshua confounding all the learned doctors of the temple with his “understanding” is a modified version of stories, told in the apocryphal Gospel of the First Infancy, of the child Yeshua’s precocity in grammar, arithmetic, astronomy, and physics. Those stories are themselves paralleled by legends of the youthful Gautama’s extensive knowledge, and of how he himself teaches the guru engaged for his education. In the case of both Catholicism and Buddhism the Virgin Birth stories came as later explanations of the spiritual uniqueness already accounted for otherwise. THE INDIAN MYTHS And, long before the rise of Buddhism, the story of Rama’s miraculous birth had been told to millions of Hindus: 1) Rama was conceived, so the story went, by his mother drinking a sacred potion prepared by the god Vishnu himself. 2) The wives of King Dasharatha drank of this “divine rice and milk.” 3) From one of them was born Rama; from another, Bharata; and from the third, who had drunk a double portion, Laksmana and Satrughna. Therefore, Vishnu became not only the parent of Rama but, by re-incarnation, became identical with that Rama whose virtues and exploits are celebrated in the great Indian epic, the Ramayana, and whose worshippers can still be numbered by millions. • Sita, the bride of Rama, was said to be not born of human parents, but sprung from a furrow as her reputed father ploughed the ground. These Buddhist and Hindu myths are, of course, generally connected with the doctrine of reincarnation. The god chooses a human father and mother, and then his soul enters the embryo of their child. But this re-incarnation idea does not really distinguish them clearly from other virgin birth stories, as many of the latter, including the Christian story, involve the doctrine of a preexistent being. So the only distinction — and that more apparent than real — which can sometimes, though not always, be made is that in some of the Indian cases other human incarnations had previously taken place. In some of the uncanonical stories of the incarnation of the Messiah it is said that the Messiah’s spirit had previously been incarnate in Adam, Abraham, and other prophets — and it has even been alleged that it was subsequently incarnate in Mohammed. Moreover, in a great number of these myths of miraculous births — which are to be found, as might be expected, in the Hindu scriptures — the re-incarnation theme has been dropped out and the popular story left free from all metaphysical subtleties. We will now refer to a few more of the best known of these stories. However, it should be remembered that in the course of time, some of these 3,000-year-old myths have evolved into a number of different versions and so, in minor details, discrepancies between the stories as related here and as related elsewhere may be noticed. As far as possible the best authorities have been consulted and followed. • The Pandavas, the heroes of the Mahabharata, were not the sons of Pandu, though they took their names from him and were born of his wives Kunti and Madri. Their fathers were respectively the gods Dharma, Vayu, Indra, and the Aswins, the latter twins and jointly the fathers of twins. Even the Kauravas, cousins and rivals of the Pandavas, were abnormally, though in this case not divinely, born. One hundred of them were born at one birth, a number considerably exceeded by a lady named Sumati, who, according to another Indian myth, gave birth to a gourd which burst open and produced 60,000 children. There are, of course, many legends — even European — about the birth of large numbers of children at one time. A well known one relates the circumstances in which a Countess of Henneberg gave birth, in the year 1276, to 365 children at one time — half of them being male, half female, and the odd one an hermaphrodite! • The Pandavas, like so many other divinely-born children, had to flee for their lives, because it was foretold to the King that they would one day reign in his stead and rule over his own children. • Before she married Pandu, Kunti, the future mother of three of these Pandavas, had once been given a charm which enabled her to have a child by any one of the gods whom she thought of. Out of curiosity, she invoked the Sun, and by him became the mother of Karna, who was born fully clothed in armor. This demi-god, Karna, is spoken of as “an emanation from the hot-beamed Sun,” who was able, on important occasions, to illuminate his semi-mortal son living upon the earth by his rays. To conceal the birth of a strangely begotten son, Kunti placed him in a box made of wicker work soon after he was born, and floated him down the Ganges. He was then rescued by a charioteer who brought him up as his own child. It was not only to the virtuous heroes that miraculous births were ascribed, but sometimes also to the wicked villains of mythology: • Kansa, the king of Mathura and persecutor of the divine hero Krishna, was said to be the child of an union consummated by violence in the jungle between a demon and the mortal woman Pavanareka. In another myth Kartikeya, who was incarnated for the purpose of saving the gods from the armies of the demons, is said to have been given birth to by Ganga (the river Ganges), into whom (or which) the male germ of life had been dropped by Siva. There are other curious myths about this god Kartikeya, who was supposed to have had six or seven mothers. This was accounted for, in one of these myths, by his having been suckled by six young women who were coming to bathe in the Ganges when he was born. In another myth he was suckled by Svaka, his actual mother, having successively assumed the forms of seven wives of Rishis on her visits to the god Agni (Siva), whom she repeatedly seduced. An even more primitive myth describes how Garuda, the bird god who acted as Vishnu’s chariot, was hatched from an egg which his mother, Vinata, a daughter of the patriarch Daksha, laid. Many of these Hindu myths about the birth of their gods are, as we have noted before, stories of re-incarnation in what seemed to the Hindus to be very much the ordinary course of nature. Others, however, are very often accounts of a child being born merely as an effect of concentrated thought on the part of the parent god, such thought giving birth, or rise, to a divine-human being who is, therefore, a conception of the mind of the god concerned — a materialized emanation of the Supreme God, or of some minor deity. A considerable number of such asexual births are recorded in the Hindu Scriptures, and we can trace how what was probably originally a purely metaphysical speculation or poetical fantasy takes shape as a supposed material fact. The children are sometimes mental emanations, and others sprung from the glory of the god’s countenance or from the sparks cast from his eyes, and in at least one case — Ganesa from Parvati — born of the emanations from the body of a goddess. In some stories children begotten in the usual way are said to have been born in a strange manner, as, for example, by drops of sweat from the mother being received by trees, collected together by the wind, and matured by the sun. In this way Pramlocki gave birth to Marisha, the future mother of the patriarch Daksha, who has already been mentioned. It is of interest to note, in connection with Indian mythology, that Hanuman, the monkey-shaped god, was said to have been begotten by the wind-god. One Indian case of alleged incarnation of a god is especially remarkable because it took place in comparatively modern times. In 1640 Ganapati, the Indian god of wisdom, is said to have appeared to a very holy Brahmin of Poona, and to have imbued him, as a mark of his especial favor, with a portion of his own holy spirit. This idea seems at first to closely parallel that of the Gnostic inspiration doctrines than that of a more carnal connection with the god. But Ganapati went further than the inspiration of an individual, as he made a covenant that the senior descendants from Muraba Goseyn should likewise partake of his divine nature unto the seventh generation. Muraba Goseyn therefore became a portion of the god himself. The seventh descendant has now passed away, but only quite recently the last of these man-gods was still worshipped in India, and said to perform occasional miracles. It is so easy to observe miracles when miracles are expected! DIVINE KINGSHIPS The Egyptian pharaohs were all looked upon as divine — as the sons of god, or as the incarnations of some one god, or even of several gods at the same time. This divinity was, of course, regarded as hereditary. In order that the royal and divine blood should be kept absolutely pure, it was enacted that the only legitimate sons of a pharaoh were those born of his marriage with his own sister. But even when the throne of the pharaohs passed to a usurper, the latter, if he supported the priests, was soon able to take on the divine as well as the other titles of his predecessors, and demand divine honors from his subjects. It has been correctly stated that the deification of Alexander the Great by the Egyptian priests — and his being called the son of the god Amen — was merely a formality gone through by every usurper who seized the throne of the pharaohs after overthrowing the preceding dynasty. It may be that neither the priests nor Alexander himself had any illusions about the matter; but the point which concerns us here is that the public of the day was prepared to accept the king as a god and as the son of a god. Moreover, the legends about the birth of Alexander arose quite independently of any apotheosis of the king by the priests. A supernatural parentage seemed, to the men of his time, the best explanation of genius such as his; and the many varieties that are to be found of the legend show that it originated in the usual way of legend — gossip passing into tradition, and not in the pronouncement of a priesthood. According to the best-known version of the story, Philip of Macedonia, the ostensible father of Alexander, discovered his wife in the embraces of a serpent, and thereafter — whether from fear of sharing his connubial couch with so unpleasant a bed-fellow, or from fear of offending the god — he seldom entered her bed. The courtiers of Alexander accounted in this way for the birth of their master and hero, who was thus shown to be not only descended, through his legal father, Philip, from Hercules, but also from Jupiter, whose amours had been conducted in the lowly guise of the serpent. It is interesting to note that the double pedigree holds good: the descent through the supposed father and the descent through the actual father are both credited to the hero. Another story relates that Nectanebus, having prophesied to Olympias, the mother of Alexander, that she would give birth to a son whose father would be the god Ammon, enjoyed, in the guise of that god, the embraces of the queen. Oriental nations and, imitatively, even the Greeks in their degenerate days, showed a tendency to deify their kings and generals. Even when they did not actually worship them, they gave them titles which we are inclined to regard as Divine — such as “Soter” (Savior), a title given to Ptolemy I, and “Epiphanes,” a title given to Antiochus IV. Besides Alexander, Lysander and others were also given divine honors during their lifetime. Demetrius was hailed by the Athenians as the Only God. When we consider the divine or semi-divine honors paid in historical times to men like Miltiades, Brasidas, Sophocles, Dion, Aratus, and Philopoemen — whose real existence is incontestable — it seems impossible to deny that the tendency to deify ordinary mortals was an operative principle in ancient Greek religion. The distinction between human and divine seemed so small to anthropomorphists as to be entirely negligible. Many of the Roman emperors also were, during their lifetime, worshipped as gods, and, after their death, admitted to the Pantheon. By a decree the emperor Hadrian deified his favorite Antinous who had been drowned in the Nile. LOVE OF GODS FOR MORTAL WOMEN One of the favorite subjects for romance in ancient days was the love of gods for mortal women. That the gods were at times inclined to visit favored ladies was believed by all credulous folk — and nearly all men were credulous in those days! Silvia, the wife of Septimius Marcellus, was said to have had a child by the god Mars. It may be that this legend about the wife of Septimius Marcellus arose from her name Silvia, as the mother of Romulus and Remus — so a still older myth related — was a vestal virgin named Rhea Silvia, and their father was Mars. Many similar stories were told, and believed, of other women, both illustrious and humble. Until a growing skepticism made the plot appear unreal — or a more refined or hypocritical taste debarred such subjects from literature — comic authors of all countries were fond of writing tales about foolish women who, believing that they had found favor in the eyes of a god, gave themselves up to the embraces of cunning priests or of secular womanizers who had bribed the priests to help them in their deceptions. But sober historians also record as facts — and there is no reason for doubting these facts — several episodes of this kind: 1) Mundus, a Roman patrician — so Josephus and several other authors relate — bribed the priests of Isis to induce a married lady named Paulina, a devout worshipper of the god Anubis, to come to their temple at night to meet the god, whom they alleged to be enamored of her charms. Mundus impersonated the god, and thus enjoyed the favors of the lady who, up till then, had always rejected his advances. 2) Demaratus, the presumptive son of Ariston, about whose parentage there were grave doubts, was told by his mother that there had come to her one night, in the appearance of Ariston, a man with a garland which he placed on her head. Upon the departure of this man, Ariston himself had come to her and inquired as to the origin of the garland which she was still wearing. He denied that he had visited her earlier in the night, and identified the garland as one which came from the temple of the god Astrabacus. The soothsayers who were called in and consulted about the affair declared that the visitor must have been Astrabacus himself! Therefore, if Demaratus was not the son of Ariston, he was the son of the god Astrabacus. This event was supposed to have taken place about the year 510 B.C., but long before that a somewhat similar tale was told about the birth of Hercules — 3) Hercules’ mother, Alcmena, was the wife of Amphitryon, who, at the time when our story begins, was away hunting the Cadmean vixen and performing other actions worthy of a Greek hero. Shortly before his return to his wife, Zeus assumed his likeness and took his place in Alcmena’s bed, at the same time prolonging the night so that it lasted as long as three ordinary days and nights. On the next day Amphitryon returned, and, not finding himself so warmly welcomed as he hoped and expected, inquired the reason, and learnt that he had, so Alcmena thought, already spent the previous night with her. He then discovered the trick which the chief of the gods had played upon him. Alcmena subsequently gave birth to two boys, of whom Hercules, the son of Zeus, was older by one day than Iphicles, the son of Amphitryon. An event of a similar kind was reported to have taken place in much later days: A princess of Gasna is said to have been seduced by an adventurer named Malek, who pretended to be Mohammed. These old stories, and others like them, were probably the origin of the numerous tales with a similar plot to be found in the novels of French and Italian authors of the Renaissance period and later. So the story of Nectanebus having impersonated the god Ammon and begotten Alexander may well have been invented by men anxious to detract from the fame of the Macedonian hero; but the female credulity which it alleges was certainly very common — • At the temple of Belus, at Thebes, a different woman used to be dedicated to the god every night, and to sleep in a chamber at the summit of the building. • At the great temple in Babylon a similar custom existed. • At Patara, in Lycia, a priestess was locked in the temple every night to receive the embraces of the god. • Jupiter Ammon was visited by the most beautiful and most noble ladies in Egypt. Thus we learn, from classical authors, that the notion of the gods visiting mortal women and becoming fathers of their children was commonly entertained throughout the near East in Greek and Roman times. Some of the priests must have known who it was that impersonated the god on these occasions; but probably others, and certainly the general lay public, believed that the god himself actually generated mortal children. We cannot tell for certain whether Alexander really came to believe that he was the son of Jupiter Ammon. Men in his position are subject to megalomania, and megalomaniacs are capable of entertaining such beliefs. But we do know that he posed as son of the god and was acclaimed in his lifetime as divine, and that he demanded from his courtiers and other subjects the honors usually paid only to gods. He had been informed by the oracle of Ammon — flattering priests who impersonated the god — that he was the son of Zeus and, his pride swollen by conquest, he eventually seems to have believed that this was really a fact. That the priests should hail as a god one who could and did shower rich presents upon them is not surprising. But that even the Greeks, in spite of their philosophy and their democratic theories, should so degrade themselves is to be accounted for only by the blinding effects on men’s minds of success so striking and so vast as Alexander’s. Man idolizes that which he fears, that which he envies, and that from which wealth, power, and all other earthly blessings seem to flow. TRANSITORY CULTS & REAL RELIGIONS The precise relation of these transitory cults to the real religions of the near East cannot, of course, be exactly determined. The fact of their having existed, however, shows the readiness of men in those ages to set up new gods, and to accept mortal men as gods. Like individuals, some cults die in youth, by accident or by not being well fitted to survive in competition with others. In Western Asia and the neighboring lands scores of religions have arisen and left records, more or less blurred, of their existence. Doubtless many scores of others have arisen and disappeared without leaving any distinguishable traces behind them. Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam are the most conspicuous survivors of a host of cults which, at different times, sprang, apparently suddenly, into existence — many of them with doctrines and stories not very dissimilar to those of their more fortunate rivals. THE INVENTION OF PEDIGREES We are not presently concerned with these stories except in so far as they incorporate a miraculous birth story. This the Zingis Khan legend does. • When Zingis the Mogul had conquered a great part of Asia and become master of a formidable and aggressive empire and a terror to the whole Eastern world, his courtiers evolved for him a genealogy which traced his descent seven generations back to an immaculate virgin. He received the title of Son of God, and divine honors from his subjects. Even when the founder of a family has neither known nor cared about the names of his ancestors, his descendants and their courtiers usually invent a pedigree suitable for the wealthy and powerful. • The pedigree of Togrul Beg, the first of the Seljuk dynasty, was unknown to contemporary experts in genealogy. Yet, when the Seljuks had carved out a vast empire for themselves and the Turks, a lengthy pedigree was attached to the name of their founder, and at the beginning of that family tree we find the name of Alankavah, who is described as a virgin mother. • Nurhachu, who was born in 1559 A.D. and eventually united for the first time all the Manchu tribes into one great confederacy which conquered the Chinese Mongols, was the grandson of Aisiu Gioro. The latter, so the Chinese legend relates, was made chieftain of his tribe because of his miraculous birth. He was the son of a virgin, into whose lap, as she sat on the banks of a lake, a red fruit was dropped by a magpie. The effect of the red fruit was such that she immediately conceived, and nine months later gave birth to a son, Aisiu Gioro. Gioro was destined to become the grandfather of the great Nurhachu. Thus do legends arise to account for the birth of great men! • The Scythians, who inhabited the Crimea and Southern Russia, had a tradition that their race was descended from a man named Targitaus, who was a child of Jove and “a daughter of the Borysthenes” — i.e., of God and of a mortal woman. The approximate date of the birth of Targitaus would be, according to the Scythian legend, about 1500 B.C. • The Greeks told another story, attributing the birth of one Scythes, the first Scythian, to the union of Hercules — that always prolific parent — with a being who was half woman and half serpent. This being had stolen his mares, so that Hercules was unable to continue the journey upon which he was engaged; and she refused to surrender them unless Hercules made her his mistress. The satisfaction of her demands resulted in triplets, of which Scythes was the youngest. Herodotus also relates that the Tauri worshipped a virgin goddess. This was probably either Iphigenia or Artemis, to both of whom we refer elsewhere. Around the birth of Tamerlane arose many curious legends, which are gravely recorded by his biographers. LOWLY BIRTHS A COMMON FEATURE The lowly as well as marvelous birth of heroes is likewise a common feature of legends and myths. For example, Sargon, the semi-legendary king of Accad, one of the earliest rulers of whom any historical records have been found, is made to describe himself as “Sargon, the mighty king, the king of Agade, am I; My mother was lowly, my father I knew not. My lowly mother conceived me; in secret she brought me forth.” Gudea, a Sumerian king, later in time than Sargon but reigning as early as the first half of the third millennium B.C., used to boast, it is recorded, that he had neither father nor mother. He worshipped the god Ningirsu, who is said to have visited him and to have given him injunctions as to the building of temples, the purification of cities, the burnt-offerings to be made at his own shrines, and the false priests to be destroyed DIFFERENT FROM ORDINARY MEN Even when the birth of the hero is not alleged to be virginal, it is distinguished in some way or other from the birth of ordinary men. In one type of such stories great men are said to have been removed from the wombs of their mothers by an operation, instead of being birthed in the normal manner. Julius Caesar is said to have been brought into the world in such a manner. Shakespeare, in one of his plots, uses this same theme. Macbeth is told by the witches that he cannot be slain by a man born of a woman, and is eventually killed by Macduff who “was from his mother’s womb untimely ripp’d.” There is nothing miraculous alleged; yet such stories show how prevalent was the belief that famous men were usually born in some exceptional manner, and that men born in an unusual way were capable of doing things impossible to ordinary men. Shakespeare is not writing history, but weaving into his tale a popular legend of great antiquity. The authors of the Caesarian story, on the other hand, were writing what they intended for history. Such stories used to be regarded as facts, fully explanatory of genius and good fortune. They came to be regarded as fictions that were very useful in the making of plots. Not that the operation has not often been performed by modern surgeons, perhaps even by ancient physicians; but it is no longer regarded as being an adjunct of genius, a portent, or a mark of divine esteem. To the founders of all great religions (either mythical or historical) virginal or other remarkable births are usually attributed. We have already referred to the Buddha’s birth, as also to the myths about Attis, Adonis, Dionysos, and Osiris. Three other great religions remain to be mentioned: 1) Lao-Tzu, the actual or semi-legendary philosopher, whose works form the foundation of the now degenerate Taoist, and perhaps even of the still lofty Confucian, religions in China, is said to have been the son of Lao — a virgin who conceived him by the sight of a falling star. 2) Among the legends which grew up round the name of Zarathustra (or Zoroaster as he is now better known) after his death was one to the effect that his mother conceived him by drinking a cup of Homa, the sacred drink which so often figures in Persian and (as Soma) in ancient Hindu legends. The educated Zoroastrian of today does not believe in such myths; but, as in other religions, its myths were at one time believed by all men, and are still believed by the less well educated. 3) It is said that Amina, the mother of Mohammed, told the latter’s grandfather that she had seen, shortly before the birth of the prophet, a light proceeding from her body which illuminated the whole neighborhood. Another story told of Amina is, though not impossible, exceedingly improbable. This is to the effect that her husband, the father of Mohammed, was so handsome and attractive that on the night of his wedding with Amina two hundred disappointed maidens died of jealousy and despair. Islam is very much poorer in birth stories (and, in fact, in all stories of the miraculous) than any of the other great religions of the world — probably on account of the comparative lateness of its origin and because of the fierce historical light which shone upon it from the beginning. This is so even though it conquered lands where such miraculous stories were exceedingly common. One of its predecessors in western Asia was Manichaesism, a post-Christian religion which blended Christian and Zoroastrian doctrines (with some peculiar to Islam itself) into a whole which was sometimes regarded by Christians as a heresy — and sometimes as a pagan religion. The Manichaeans related that a certain Terebinthus, said to have been the writer of the books from which Manes, their founder, learnt his doctrines, was born of a virgin. If there is any truth in the traditions about Terebinthus, he must have lived in the first or the early part of the second century A.D. This story of his virgin birth would therefore be another example of the ease with which claims to such miraculous births were made and granted at that period in the world’s history. Even if Terebinthus himself is altogether mythical, the fact that the story was told shows that it was credible to men of the third century. That it was considered not only credible — but even probable — that men of great piety should be born of virgins is illustrated by a much later example of such a story: • It was told that St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominican order of monks, was born of an immaculate conception. To this twelfth-century saint belongs, in all likelihood, the honor of being the last man in Europe — though, as we have already seen, not in Asia — for whom a virgin birth has been claimed. However, this myth was not very widely accepted, and it is now devoutly buried in various old biographies of the saint, where it is unlikely to be resurrected by even his most ardent admirers. A curious Christian sect known as the Nazoreans, or Sabaeans, which is still to be found in the neighborhood of Basra, believe that John the Baptist was conceived by the chaste kisses imprinted on the lips of the elderly Elizabeth by her husband Zacharias. MIRACULOUS BIRTH STORIES IN FOLKLORE Stories about miraculous births are to be found in folklore as well as in religious histories and traditions: • A Sicilian tale, probably of ancient origin, tells of a king’s daughter who was shut up in a tower which had no aperture through which the sun could shine, since it had been foretold that she would conceive a child by the sun and her father was anxious to prevent this from happening. The girl, however, made a small hole in the wall with a piece of bone and a sunbeam — entering through this hole — impregnated her. • Among the Red Indians of the North American continent similar tales are told about women who have become pregnant by being struck by the rays of the sun as they lie upon their beds. The children thus conceived eventually visit the sun, and, like Phaeton in the old story told by Ovid and by many of his predecessors, take over their father’s business for one day, and nearly involve the whole world in destruction by their inexperienced clumsiness in driving his chariot or in controlling his heat. This form of the miraculous birth story also has a long ancestry — • Danae was said to have been impregnated by Zeus in the shape of a shower of gold which fell in her lap, even though she had been shut up by her father Acrisius in a bronze chamber specially built to protect her from such an unwanted event. • In another myth of a similar nature a Siberian maiden of the Kirgis tribe was impregnated by the eye of God. The peculiarity of this form of the story is that the mortals are generally said to make every endeavor to avoid the woman’s union with the god. With great plausibility, therefore, some of the ancients themselves attributed this class of legend to explanations given of the birth of illegitimate children. No one would have thought of doubting a story by which the reputation of the king’s daughter was not only preserved, but enhanced. Why should they wish to doubt it? They had all heard curious stories of similar events having taken place long ago in other countries, and now they were in the fortunate position of being almost eyewitnesses of so glorious a sign of divine favor. They could tell their children and grandchildren, and strangers from other less-favored lands a tale to make them wonder — and could vouch for it as having happened to their own immediate knowledge. We have all learned in recent years — even if we did not know it before — how men and women are apt to claim immediate and intimate personal knowledge of events which have really never taken place. How otherwise honest people will claim to have seen with their own eyes, or to have heard with their own ears, things which were never done and words which were never spoken makes an interesting study. In ancient times such legends, once well started, were seldom contradicted. No inquisitive skeptics made inquiries and shattered beliefs in new fairy tales. No enterprising newspaper proprietors re-awakened the flagging interest of their clients by contradicting this week the exciting story they had vouched for last week. Gossip became legend, and legend became myth — with no historic searching of the archives for documentary proofs or cross-examining the witnesses. Men, then even more than now, longed for romance rather than for facts. These last examples, however, have been culled from folk-lore, and we must now return to the regions of religion, which can still furnish us with further examples of the widespread existence of virgin-birth stories. THE CONCEPT OF A MAN GOD The idea of a man-god born of a virgin was conceived so early in the history of mankind that it was carried into America in that remote age when men first migrated into that continent. • Huitzilopotchli, the god of war and chief deity of the ancient Mexicans, was said to have been miraculously conceived by a virgin. His mother, a mortal woman named Coatlicue, saw a ball of bright-colored feathers floating in the air. She took this ball, placed it in her bosom, and by its touch found herself pregnant. Afterwards she gave birth to the god, who entered the world fully armed. The detail about the war-god or hero being born fully armed is common to many myths. We have already noticed the case of Karna, the son of Kunti by the Sun, who was so born. • Athena is the most notable of the gods and goddesses who entered this world fully armed. Regarding her it was related that she sprang from the head of Zeus, which had been cleft by Prometheus, or, as others said, by Hephaestus. • The detail about the impregnation by touching the brightly colored feathers also has many parallels, notably the case of Juno who, on being touched by a flower — or, as some said, by the help of the goddess Flora — conceived the war-god Mars. • There is the Latin version of the still older Greek myth according to which Here, “without being united in love” — “without intercourse with the other sex” — gave birth to Hephaestos, and conceived Ares by the touch of a flower. Of this goddess Here it was said that after losing her virginity by marriage with Zeus she recovered it annually by bathing in the spring of Canathus. It is curious to meet this poetical fantasy again in regions as far afield as the South Pacific Ocean and Eastern Asia: • In Tahiti the goddess Hina is believed to have conceived by passing under the shadow of a leaf which the god shook. • In China it was said that virgins sometimes conceived children by the mere act of smelling roses. • The Indians of the Queen Charlotte Islands in Canada, tell a story about a certain chiefs daughter who conceived by accidentally swallowing a leaf as she drank a draught of water. This leaf was really a raven who had assumed this disguise in order to gain admittance to the chiefs house; and so, nine months later, the young woman gave birth to a child who was really the raven in human form. It is therefore apparent, either spontaneously or through some source which cannot now be traced, that the inhabitants of America — as well as of other places remote from those which we first considered — had formed or inherited the idea that gods were born of virgins. They also believed that divine beings (including in that term the animal ancestors of totem worshippers), though born of mortal women, could not be conceived in the normal human manner. Possibly such an idea arises necessarily and naturally from a belief in a god who walks upon earth as a man. The resemblance of minor details in the European and the American stories makes it probable that the myths all come from the same pre-historic Asiatic source. In other parts of the North American continent the virgin-birth story takes a different form — one of great interest, because it has some very curious resemblances to the Christian story, though these stories must have developed quite independently: “The North American Indians have many traditions of a disobedient virgin who gives birth, by magical Impregnation, to a being who at an early age develops the characteristics of a miracle worker….the manifestation of altruism on the part of the hero personage in behalf of human beings, the destruction of existing monsters and personified evils….and finally….the departure of the hero to another world, after leaving his promise to return again in some future time of need to benefit his people.” While all this may differ in unimportant mythological details from the Gospel stories of the Virgin Birth, it corresponds remarkably closely with what we find in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke. Travelling further afield, we still find the idea of gods living upon earth; but the conceptions are more primitive and should be classified somewhere between the animism theory of spirits inhabiting inanimate objects and the anthropomorphic doctrine of gods like men: • At the present day in Samoa , men believe that their gods are incarnate in their sacred animals; and doubtless in Egypt and in India similar beliefs preceded the doctrine that the gods had ever become incarnate in men. We cannot tell how long ago it was that this idea of the miraculous conception of a god was first formed, but it was certainly formulated in pre-historic times since it can be found in the very earliest historical records. • In the very ancient Cretan religion, which flourished before the days of Greek civilization, the chief goddess who was worshipped had, as a youthful companion, a young god who was said to be her immaculately conceived son. The goddess herself was spoken of as a virgin. Again, in some of the numerous ancient forms of phallic worship, virgins were deflowered by a priapus made of stone or some other hard material; and in one of the legends connected with this custom a semi-divine person, Ocrisia, was said to have been conceived by this method. Although we do not agree with the views of those who trace all myth motives to phallic or kindred origins, there is no doubt about the great antiquity of phallic worship, or of its widespread nature. But there are other possible sources to be explored if we desire to embark upon the hopeless search for beginnings. Some people have argued that the universal myths of semi-civilized mankind all have their remote origins in astronomical events, or are derived from the names of the constellations. Therefore, when the sun began the new year in the constellation Virgo, his birth on December 25 in each year was greeted by his worshippers with the cry, “The Virgin hath brought forth.” Today most “Christians” celebrate the Messiah’s birth on this date. The constellation was “the celestial virgin,” and the title “celestial virgin” was sometimes given to Juno, and to Cybele, “the mother of all the gods.” Possibly, perhaps probably, allegorical explanations of astronomical phenomena were one of the sources from which some myths were derived. Doubtless there were other sources as well, and the myths as we know them were gradually evolved from a very varied ancestry. Even if we were able to trace the descent of a myth in detail over a number of ages, we would not necessarily learn much. Characteristics must have been inherited through maternal and more remote matronly influences. And this analogy rather under-estimates than over-estimates our difficulties — the variety and complexity of mythology being extraordinarily great. MANY VIRGIN GODDESSES By the time that Greek mythology had reached the earliest stage that has survived for our study, we find that there is already a bewildering array of virgin goddesses. Many of these goddesses were eventually identified with each other, and said to be merely the same person under different names; but others always remained distinct. When we come to Roman times we meet with many new names of goddess mothers, some of which are undoubtedly synonyms for the earlier Greek divinities, though others are distinct from them. Some of these were virgin mothers of mortals; others were ordinary mothers of the immortals. Among these Greek and Roman names — of which several are really synonymous — are Artemis, Iphigenia, Athena, Pallas, Here, Juno, Agdistis, Cybele, and Rhea. The last-named is identifiable with Agdistis and with Cybele, and was known as “The Mother of Zeus,” “The Mother of the Gods,” and “The Great Mother.” We need not consider here the details of the myths connected with such goddesses we have not already referred to, since it is with human mothers of “God” that we are now more concerned with. We have already noted how familiar the ancients were with miraculous birth stories. It is not necessary in this brief survey of the best-known miraculous birth stories, to refer to the births of demi-gods and mortal heroes from mortal women and gods — or from goddesses and mortal men — where such births were not miraculous in any other respect than as being the result of a union between a mortal and an immortal. But the fact that this title of “The Mother of God,” so familiar to the pagans, was transferred to the Messiah’s mother Mary should not be overlooked. When in later years Catholics began to worship Mary as “The Mother of God,” it caused great scandal among those (many of them devout Christians but convinced monotheists) to whom the notion of God having a human mother, or indeed a mother of any kind, was most abhorrent. As civilization advanced, the new “Mother of God” was pictured as a more refined being than the old “Mother of the gods.” Mary, the new conception, was a pure and refined virgin; Cybele, the old conception, had been looked upon as an emblem of fertility, and sometimes represented in sculpture as having teats as numerous as those of a bitch or of an old sow. The notions of a coarser age were also illustrated in some of the statues of Isis which represented the virgin mother of Horus wearing a sistrum — an article somewhat similar to that afterwards known as a “ceinture de chastete” — as a symbol of her perpetual virginity. The art of a more refined age returned to the style of sculpture which had been used to represent the ancient Chaldean virgin goddess and her child. In the simpler statues of Isis and her child many of these figures — as well as of the ceremonies and ideas connected with these ancient pagan goddesses — were transferred to the new cult of the Virgin Mary. The conquered absorbed the conqueror: Christianity became permeated by Paganism. And this in despite of the attempts frequently made to formulate the Incarnation doctrine in metaphysical terms. SPIRITUAL CONCEPTION? The pagan tales of mortal women being visited by gods made no pretence that the progeny of such unions were conceived by any other than the ordinary physical process. On the other hand, however, the Christian theologians sometimes attempted to show that, though they used physiological terms, they were really speaking of a spiritual process. These attempts were, as must be the case when men use one set of words to imply another set of opinions, doomed to failure. The pagan tales described conceivable, though incredible, miracles; while such Christian apologists described a process which cannot be conceived, being not only miraculous, but indescribable in any terms which are not self contradictory. The conception of a living creature is brought about by the conjunction of a spermatozoon with an ovum. If a living creature owes its origin to any other process, that origin may or may not be miraculous — but it certainly is not a conception. The same word is used for the mental conception of an abstract idea and for the physical conception of an embryo, but it is used in an entirely different sense. A further miracle is certainly required if men are ever to be enabled to understand how those processes — the mental conception and the physical conception — could have been combined. Men may be prepared to believe that a human embryo has once been formed in a woman’s womb without any male assistance. That may be comprehensible, though to most people it is incredible. Men may be prepared to believe that a god miraculously conceived in his mind a being of real flesh and blood. That may, to some people, appear credible, though incomprehensible. A combination of the two processes is, however, not only incredible, but also incomprehensible. This, however, is what the Christian theologians attempted. On the one hand, the virgin birth story, as known to the pagans, had been introduced into their story; and, on the other hand, the Gnostic doctrine (that the Logos, an emanation from the Supreme Mind, had become flesh and blood) was also part of their story. They tried to combine the two conceptions, the mental and the physical. The spirit of God had, so they said, fertilized Mary. The doctrine retains, or adds to, the coarseness of the pagan myths — while at the same time substituting for the simple physiological process of the latter an incomprehensible process. The theologians found themselves in a dilemma. Since they desired to retain the very popular virgin birth doctrine, they set aside considerations of its incongruity with their other doctrines — even if they fully appreciated those considerations. They were not men of a scientific habit of thought. They should have been far better informed about physiology than were the men of pre-historic days, among whom all the curious stories which we have already noted originated. THE PROBLEM WITH THE NEW TESTAMENT Notes James Still: “Biblical scholars have long ago dismissed the literal interpretation of the miraculous Virgin-Birth of the Messiah. Also, many…Christian denominations have either quietly purged this curious piece of teaching from their body of philosophy, or conveniently ignore the issue altogether. Despite this, the allure of such an intriguing concept is still very powerful and the Messiah’s Virgin Birth continues to enjoy the unquestioning belief of millions of people” (Origins of the Virgin Birth Myth). There is a lot of evidence to show that the original Hebrew or Aramaic forms of both Matthew and Luke were — like the present Gospel of Mark — WITHOUT the first two chapters, starting their accounts of the Messiah’s ministry with John the Baptist’s calling. It is a fact that the Ebionites of the second to fourth centuries after the Messiah, used the Gospel of Matthew written in Aramaic but WITHOUT the Virgin Birth narrative — unlike our version of this gospel that, like Luke, includes the Virgin Birth story. Writes Barrie Wilson — “…they [the Ebionites] did not accept the virgin birth story at all since this MYTHOLOGY does not find its roots in Jewish thinking. So, unlike later Christians [of the Roman Catholic variety], they did not see Jesus as a divine being. Nor did they think that Jesus ‘preexisted’ his human form in any fashion…He was, like you and me, HUMAN IN ALL RESPECTS, feeling our pain, joy, sorrow, and gladness. He became God’s CHOSEN Messiah because God judged him more righteous than any other person” (How Jesus Became Christian, St. Martin’s Press, N.Y. 2008, p. 100). However, a conscientious “Seeker of Truth” can still spiritually discern most of the truth from the highly biased translations of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) that have come down to us. The New Testament we have today is at least a THIRD LEVEL translation of the original Apostolic Writings and Epistles that have mysteriously vanished. These Gospels and Epistles were originally translated from the Aramaic or Hebrew by uninspired Hellenized Judahites — followed by pagan Greeks and cano


    OH YEAH!


    By Sami Zaatari

    We the Muslims just like the Christians believe that Mary gave birth to Jesus as a virgin, and not the result of sexual intercourse. Both us and the Christians agree that this was a mighty miracle and sign from God, however so the differences between us and the Christian arise when we discuss why the virgin birth was done, both of us have different reasons, and in this article I shall talk about why Allah choose to carry out such a great miracle.

    To begin with, here are the relevant passages from the Quran:

    YUSUFALI: Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah;
    YUSUFALI: “He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous.”

    YUSUFALI: She said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?” He said: “Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be,’ and it is!

    Ibn Kathir’s tafsir writes:
    Delivering the Good News to Maryam of `Isa’s Birth
    This Ayah contains the glad tidings the angels brought to Maryam that she would give birth to a mighty son who will have a great future. Allah said,
    ((Remember) when the angels said: “O Maryam! Verily, Allah gives you the glad tidings of a Word from Him,) a son who will come into existence with a word from Allah, `Be’, and he was. This is the meaning of Allah’s statement (about Yahya)
    (Believing in the Word from Allah.) [3:39], according to the majority of the scholars.
    (His name will be Al-Masih, `Isa, the son of Maryam) and he will be known by this name in this life, especially by the believers. `Isa was called “Al-Masih” (the Messiah) because when he touched (Mash) those afflicted with an illness, they would be healed by Allah’s leave. Allah’s statement,
    (`Isa, the son of Maryam) relates `Isa to his mother, because he did not have a father.
    (Held in honor in this world and in the Hereafter, and will be one of those who are near to Allah.) meaning, he will be a leader and honored by Allah in this life, because of the Law that Allah will reveal to him, sending down the Scripture to him, along with the other bounties that Allah will grant him with. `Isa will be honored in the Hereafter and will intercede with Allah, by His leave, on behalf of some people, just as is the case with his brethren the mighty Messengers of Allah, peace be upon them all.
    `Isa was Created Without a Father
    When Maryam heard the good news that the angels conveyed from Allah, she said;
    (“O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me.”)
    Mary said, “How can I have a son while I did not marry, nor intend to marry, nor am I an indecent woman, may Allah forbid” The angel conveyed to Maryam, Allah’s answer,
    (So (it will be) for Allah creates what He wills.)
    He is Mighty in power and nothing escapes His ability. Allah used the word `create’ here instead of the word `does’ as in the tale about Zakariyya [3:40], to eradicate any evil thought concerning `Isa. Allah next emphasized this fact when He said,

    (When He has decreed something, He says to it only: “Be! ? and it is.) meaning, what Allah wills, comes into existence instantly and without delay. In another Ayah, Allah said,

    (And Our commandment is but one as the twinkling of an eye.) [54:50], meaning, “We only issue the command once, and it comes into existence instantly, as fast as, and faster than, a blink of the eye. ”
    So from this we can conclude one reason why Allah did this why to show his strength and how he can do what he wills whenever he wills, he just says be and it is. As the tafsir says, he is mighty in power and nothing escapes his ability, this is showing that Allah is able to do all things, including a birth of a child with no father, and also a birth of a child with no father and mother, such as in the case of Adam.
    The Quran touches on the virgin birth again in Surah Maryam:
    YUSUFALI: Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East.

    YUSUFALI: She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent her our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects

    YUSUFALI: She said: “I seek refuge from thee to (Allah) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear Allah.”

    YUSUFALI: He said: “Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son.

    YUSUFALI: She said: “How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?”

    YUSUFALI: He said: “So (it will be): Thy Lord saith, ‘that is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us’:It is a matter (so) decreed
    Here we see why Allah carried out the virgin birth, as verse 21 says, Allah wanted to make Jesus as a sign for man. What this basically means is that Allah wanted the virgin birth to signify a mighty miracle and mighty proof and sign of God, because such a thing was impossible and unthinkable, and that the only way that such a thing could happen is only if a divine being carried this act out.
    And what better proof do we need than the existence of a divine being and creator than a virgin birth? This is a very strong proof for the Children of Israel, and mankind, and only a fool would deny the existence of God with such a miraculous sign.
    verse 21 also shows us that Allah said that causing a birth even with the fact that no man has touched Mary is easy for him, this once again demonstrates God’s mighty power and how all things are possible with him.

    Ibn Kathir’s tafsir writes:

    The Story of Maryam and Al-Masih (`Isa)

    After Allah, the Exalted, mentioned the story of Zakariyya, and that He blessed him with a righteous, purified and blessed child even in his old age while his wife was barren, He then mentions the story of Maryam. Allah informs of His granting her a child named `Isa without a father being involved (in her pregnancy). Between these two stories there is an appropriate and similar relationship. Due to their closeness in meaning, Allah mentioned them here together, as well as in Surahs Al `Imran and Al-Anbiya’. Allah has mentioned these stories to show His servants His ability, the might of His authority and that He has power over all things. Allah says,

    (And mention in the Book, Maryam,) She was Maryam bint `Imran from the family lineage of Dawud. She was from a good and wholesome family of the Children of Israel. Allah mentioned the story of her mother’s pregnancy with her in Surah Al `Imran, and that she (Maryam’s mother) dedicated her freely for the service of Allah. This meant that she dedicated the child (Maryam) to the service of the Masjid of the Sacred House (in Jerusalem). Thus, they (Zakariyya, Maryam’s mother and Maryam) were similar in that aspect.

    (So her Lord (Allah) accepted her with goodly acceptance. He made her grow in a good manner.)[3:37] Thus, Maryam was raised among the Children of Israel in an honorable way. She was one of the female worshippers, well-known for her remarkable acts of worship, devotion and perseverance. She lived under the care of her brother-in-law, Zakariyya, who was a Prophet of the Children of Israel at that time. He was a great man among them, whom they would refer to in their religious matters. Zakariyya saw astonishing miracles occur from her that amazed him.

    (Every time Zakaiyya entered the Mihrab to (visit) her, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said: “O Maryam! From where have you got this” She said, “This is from Allah.” Verily, Allah provides to whom He wills, without limit.) [3:37] It has been mentioned that he would find her with winter fruit during the summer and summer fruit during the winter. This has already been explained in Surah Al `Imran. Then, when Allah wanted to grant her His servant and Messenger, `Isa, one of the five Great Messengers.
    (she withdrew in seclusion from her family to place facing east.) [19:16] This means that she withdrew from them and secluded herself from them. She went to the eastern side of the Sacred Masjid (in Jerusalem). It is reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said, “Verily, I am the most knowledgeable of Allah’s creation of why the Christians took the east as the direction of devotional worship. They did because of Allah’s statement,

    (When she withdrew in seclusion from her family to a place facing east.) Therefore, they took the birthplace of `Isa as their direction of worship.” Concerning Allah’s statement,

    (She placed a screen before them;) This means that she hid herself from them and concealed herself. Then, Allah sent Jibril to her.
    and he appeared before her in the form of a man in all respects.) [19:17] This means that he came to her in the form of a perfect and complete man. Mujahid, Ad-Dahhak, Qatadah, Ibn Jurayj, Wahb bin Munabbih and As-Suddi all commented on Allah’s statement,
    (then We sent to her Our Ruh,) “It means Jibril.”
    (She said: “Verily, I seek refuge with the Most Gracious from you, if you do fear Allah.”) This means that when the angel (Jibril) appeared to her in the form of a man, while she was in a place secluded by herself with a partition between her and her people, she was afraid of him and thought that he wanted to rape her. Therefore, she said,
    (Verily, I seek refuge with the Most Gracious from you, if you do fear Allah.) She meant, “If you fear Allah,” as a means of reminding him of Allah. This is what is legislated in defense against (evil), so that it may be repulsed with ease. Therefore, the first thing she did was try to make him fear Allah, the Mighty and Sublime. Ibn Jarir reported from `Asim that Abu Wa’il said when mentioning the story of Maryam, “She knew that the pious person would refrain (from committing evil) when she said,
    Verily, I seek refuge with the Most Gracious from you, if you do fear Allah.” He said: “I am only a messenger from your Lord…”) This means that the angel said to her in response, and in order to remove the fear that she felt within herself, “I am not what you think, but I am the messenger of your Lord.” By this he meant, “Allah has sent me to you.” It is said that when she mentioned the (Name of the) Most Beneficent (Ar-Rahman), Jibril fell apart and returned to his true form (as an angel). He responded,
    `I am only a messenger from your Lord, to provide to you the gift of a righteous son.’
    (She said: “How can I have a son…”) This means that Maryam was amazed at this. She said, “How can I have a son” She said this to mean, “In what way would a son be born to me when I do not have a husband and I do not commit any wicked acts (i.e. fornication)” For this reason she said,
    (when no man has touched me, nor am I Baghiyya) The Baghiyy is a female fornicator. For this reason, a Hadith has been reported prohibiting the money earned from Baghiyy.
    (He said: “Thus said your Lord: `That is easy for Me (Allah)…”) This means that the angel said to her in response to her question, “Verily, Allah has said that a boy will be born from you even though you do not have a husband and you have not committed any lewdness. Verily, He is Most Able to do whatever He wills.” Due to this, he (Jibril) conveyed Allah’s Words,
    (And (We wish) to appoint him as a sign to mankind) This means a proof and a sign for mankind of the power of their Maker and Creator, Who diversified them in their creation. He created their father, Adam, without a male (father) or female (mother). Then, He created Hawwa’ (Adam’s spouse) from a male (father) without a female (mother). Then, He created the rest of their progeny from male and female, except `Isa. He caused `Isa to be born from a female without a male. Thus, Allah completed the four types of creation (of the human being), which proves the perfection of His power and the magnificence of His authority. There is no god worthy of worship except Him and there is no true Lord other than Him. Concerning Allah’s statement,
    and a mercy from Us,) This means, “We will make this boy a mercy from Allah and a Prophet from among the Prophets. He will call to the worship of Allah and monotheistic belief in Him. This is as Allah, the Exalted, said in another Ayah,
    Remember) when the angels said: “O Maryam! Verily, Allah gives you the good news of a Word from Him, his name will be Al-Masih, `Isa, the son of Maryam, held in honor in this world and in the Hereafter, and will be one of those who are near to Allah. And he will speak to the people, in the cradle and in manhood, and he will be one of the righteous.) [3:45-46] This means that he will call to the worship of his Lord in his cradle and while and adult. Concerning His statement,
    and it is a matter (already) decreed (by Allah).) This is the completion of Jibril’s dialogue with Maryam. He informed her that this matter was preordained by Allah’s power and will. Muhammad bin Ishaq said,
    and it is a matter (already) decreed (by Allah).) “This means that Allah determined to do this, so there is no avoiding it.”
    So as you see, the virgin birth was to signify a mighty sign for the people, and it also showed Allah’s strength and power, his perfect strength and power.
    So hence if anyone ever asks you why did Allah wish to carry out a virgin birth for Jesus, then respond to him by these answers which I have just given you. This is the Islamic reason to why the virgin birth was carried out, and is a consensus among Islamic scholarship.
    And may Allah continue to send us mighty miracles! Ameen


    From about 80 A.D. to the present time, most Christian faith groups have taught that Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) was conceived and born by his mother Mary, while she was still a virgin. They believe that this happened by the action of the holy spirit, without an act of sexual intercourse. However, the Virgin Birth story was not new when the Messiah was born. Mythology is full of such stories. An Egyptian Virgin Birth story, told about 2,000 years before the Messiah, had many details identical with those found in the Gospel accounts.

    What is the TRUTH?

    Roman Catholicism has taught the doctrine of perpetual virginity — that Mary lived, gave birth to the Messiah, and remained a virgin throughout her entire life.

    Islam also teaches that Mary was a virgin when she conceived the Messiah.

    Some of the early leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — by far the largest of the Mormon denominations — taught that YEHOVAH God has a physical body, and that He came down to earth, engaged in sexual intercourse with Mary, and conceived the Messiah. However, this was never made an official church teaching and is rarely heard of today, with the exception of statements by anti-Mormon groups who often claim that YEHOVAH God engaging in sexual intercourse with Mary is current LDS Church teaching.

    The Anglican Communion, Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism and Roman Catholicism have taught the “virgin birth,” although the term “virgin conception” would be much more accurate. This has long been one of mainstream Christianity’s foundational beliefs, along with the inerrancy of the Bible; YEHOVAH God’s inspiration of the authors of the Bible; the atonement, resurrection, and the anticipated second coming of the Messiah, etc. All of the commonly used major ancient church creeds have also mentioned the virgin birth.

    However, there is an incompatibility between belief in the virgin birth and the messiahship of Yeshua:
    (1) The virgin birth implies that the actual father of Yeshua was the Holy Spirit.
    (2) Numerous places in the Hebrew Scriptures state that the coming messiah was to be of the House of David.


    (1) If Yeshua is the Messiah, then he could not have been born of a virgin; he would have had to have a father who was of the House of David, and

    2) If Yeshua was born of a virgin, then he could not have been the messiah, because his father — the Holy Spirit — was not a human descendent of the House of David.

    Most modern educated theologians have generally rejected the virgin birth.

    They regard it as a religious myth that was added to Christian belief in the late first century A.D. and was triggered by a Greek mistranslation of the book of Isaiah from the original Hebrew. Its purpose was to make Christianity more competitive with contemporary pagan religions in the Mediterranean region, most of whom featured their founder having been born of a virgin. Without the claim of a virgin birth, many believe it to be unclear whether “Christianity” could have survived.





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