Celsus, Toledot Yeshu and early traces of apology for the virgin birth of Jesus

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Abstract

In this article New Testament passages referring to the birth of Jesus are related to Celsus’ anti-Christian arguments and the Jewish Toledot Yeshu tradition with a new question: Why it was so difficult to speak about the virgin birth of Jesus? It is argued that the concept of the virgin birth of Jesus was seen to be problematic for two reasons: 1) The concept was liable to result in scurrilous rumours, even scoffing and parodic episodes revolving on its sexual aspects. 2) Every attempt to explain that God was in some way the agent when a young girl conceived came too close to Gen. 6:1–4 – the text which explained in ancient Judaism the origin of the demonic world. Therefore, some New Testament authors (for example, the writer of the Gospel of John) deliberately avoided speaking about the virgin birth and instead presented the birth of Jesus in terms of the idea of an incarnated, personified, divine Wisdom. In order to avoid erroneous connotations relating to Gen. 6:1–4, Matthew and Luke followed a tradition where the Holy Spirit (a feminine word in Hebrew and Aramaic) played an active role in the pregnancy.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)61–80
JournalScripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis
Volume27
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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