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25 September 2009

The Scandal of the Virgin Birth


Scandalous! The scandal of the Gospel may have been the crucifixion for Paul. But for far too many others it is the specific circumstances of the Incarnation. Human flesh and blood. Worse, a woman's flesh and blood - that she was not sexually experienced only mitigates the horror and shame a little.
Dr. Cornell West suggests that the scandal is the proximity of the Messiah to urine and feces. I suggest that the proximity of the Messiah to a
woman's offal is even more untenable.
I've been having (or trying to have) a conversation off and on with some church folk about what it means (and meant) that Jesus of Nazareth was woman-born. And how that impacts how we understand the expression "Son of Man" in the Gospels in particular, but also in other parts of the scripture.

God uses the Hebrew expression
ben-adam to address Ezekiel and remind him that he is only human.
Daniel sees the Aramaic equivalent bar-enosh in a vision that testifies that this child-of-human-flesh is no ordinary mortal.
The Gospels translate the Hebrew (and Aramaic) description into Greek:
huios to anthropou, anthropological offspring. Jesus applies the term to himself seeming to mean both mortal - he will die on that cross and, more-than-mortal; he will transcend that cross.
The mortality of Jesus is inseparable from his humanity. And the historic creeds of the Church through the ages affirm that Jesus inherited his humanity biologically, from his mother.

What is at stake in proclaiming that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God and the Son of Woman is not some radical departure from the Gospel. It is the radical (radix = root) Gospel.

But if we call Jesus the Son of Man (in the generic sense of course), we don't have to think about that woman's body or the
parts of her body with which Jesus had the most intimate contact.
The poet Frances Croake Frank asks:
Did the woman say,
When she held him for the first time in the
dark dank of a stable,
After the pain and the bleeding and the crying,
"This is my body, this is my blood?"
Did the woman say,
When she held him for the last time in the
dark rain on a hilltop,
After the pain and the bleeding and the dying,
"This is my body, this is my blood?
Well that she said it to him then,
For dry old men,
Brocaded robes belying barrenness,
Ordain that she not say it for him now.
To be continued...

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