Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A question about Mary

I happened to flip through Lesley Hazleton's book Mary the other day (not my normal reading material, long story there) and came across the following passage that tries to make the linguistic case that concept of the virgin conception was a simple case of mistranslation and misunderstanding, and that the Holy Mother was possibly a rape victim. I've heard this argument before but don't know what the Church's response is. Something tells me it's not, "Dude, we totally missed that! Thank you, feminist author, for pointing out what some of the greatest thinkers in Western civilization have missed for 2,000 years."

Can anyone give me a summary of the counter-argument to this theory, or to a book that would address it?

Here's a passage from Hazleton's book:

The original Hebrew uses the word alma, which referred to any unmarried woman...Matthew uses the Greek word parthenos, which generally meant physical virginity. The difference in meaning was not exactly Matthew's fault. The Hebrew bible had been translated into Greek three hundred years earlier. That edition, known as the Septuagint...was the one the Matthew author would have used.

It may be convenient to argue that parthenos meant a physical virgin, but that was not always the case. The word was also used for a girl who had been raped or was an unmarried mother. Faced with an evident pregnancy and no known father, the language allowed for there having been no father at all, despite the physical evidence. In short, prthenos was an ancient euphemism.

She goes on to say that referring to unwed mothers as "virgins" was common practice back in the day.

This classic tome also includes a graphic description of what it was probably like when Mary was raped, and a mention that Mary was probably skilled in the ways of abortion and considered that as an option. (With this sort of content I'm shocked it didn't get a Pulitzer.)


At February 14, 2006 10:25 PM, Blogger Morris said...

gesh you religous nuts need to keep your views to yourself.

Mr. Morris
Ask Morris

At February 15, 2006 3:32 PM, Blogger Colleen said...

Oh look Jennifer, you have a troll!

I wrote you a lengthy message about Mary earlier and it got swallowed when I tried to post it (I was reassured that whatever problem "Blogger" was having was being evaluated by an engineer.) Sigh.

Really, you can ignore all that crap you have been reading. The rape business is quite a stretch. I have read that its genesis is in the Talmud. (I cannot yet verify that this is true, so take with a grain of salt.) This is what I found on one site "This [rape accusation] is an ancient slander thrown against Jesus by some of his enemies. It is recorded in the Talmud, which is an ancient writing, but the charge is untrue. First of all, Panthera (the soldier who supposedly raped her) is not a Roman name, so no Roman soldier would have that name. Second, it is actually a corruption of the Greek word parthenos, or "virgin".

You see, a common form of mockery back then was to corrupt someone's name. Jesus' early followers used to call Him the Son of the Virgin (that is, "of the Parthenos"). His enemies in turn corrupting that title, calling Him "son of Panthera". They then made up the myth of "Panthera the Roman soldier", His alleged father.

But it's just an old slander against Jesus, with no truth to it. Had Christ been illegitimate, He could not have been an observant Jew (Deuteronomy 23:2). Since He was one, He was certainly not illegitimate."


Girls came of age and could be married at 12.5 years of age. Mary was likely no older than that at her betrothal. The idea that Mary was a member of the "intifada" of the time is preposterous.

I would recommend that you read up on her at the Catholic Encyclopedia which has a lot to say about her, the biblical evidence and the evidence preserved in other sources from the time. All of it is interesting.


Just start by looking up "Mary".

At February 15, 2006 9:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmmmmm...so the translators of the Septuagint (immenently more versed in both the Hebrew AND the Greek of the time) mucked up the translation, but Lesley Hazleton, whose qualifications include being a psychologist and journalist (nothing in her bio about expertise with ancient Greek or Hebrew) will get things cleared up for us more than 2300 years later.

Ummm.... thanks, but no thanks, I'll pass. ;-)

I would love to see what her source for the claim she's making is. I am suspicious that it's either the Jesus Seminar (which is utterly debunked in Luke Timothy Johnson's wonderful book The Real Jesus), or John Shelby Sponge (who is not even worthy of refutation).

Regardless of her sources, I am somewhat proud to say that it's highly likely that the 'official' Church position on something like this is silence. She usually only speaks to challenges that are serious enough to warrant a substantive response. Hazleton's claims fall far short of that hurdle.

If you want to see a knowledgeable response to some of this type of nonsense, I'd highly recommend adding yet ANOTHER book to your reading list and picking up Johnson's book I mention above. My copy is currently out on loan, but if I recall correctly, I think he may even address this particular claim about.

At December 20, 2009 2:23 PM, Blogger KennyK said...

Panthera IS a Roman name, in fact it was common for some Roman soldiers. The rape business is not a stretch and goes back to the first century.

At December 05, 2010 10:54 PM, Blogger foreverautumnskies said...

Some places say mary was raped around 4 or 5 b.c...so she carried jesus for 4 or 5 years? Longer gestation period than an elephant.
Also let's not forget the english language is very profound. Anyone who's taken latin will tell you such as with native american languages, there are no possessive statements in lakota souix. What Im saying is who cares what the terminology is now or what it correlates to NOW. Back then they had very few words so that claim is almost impossible to argue and win.

At April 21, 2011 11:51 AM, Blogger molly said...

@ foreverautumn skies.

Jesus wan't born at exactly 0 CE, he was born slightly before it, at around 3-4 BCE. This is actaully common knowledge (assuming he existed at all of course).


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