Just after Christmas I was reminded, by comments shared with Pollygarter about the Christmas story, of a blog I saw written by an American lady named Ruth Dickson, who has a sharp satirical wit. The blog, reproduced below, with permission, has been published in a book of her writings entitled LIFE, DEATH AND OTHER TRIVIA ISBN No. 978-1-4116-8432-4 http://www.lulu.com/ruthdickson
Of all the hundreds of variations in Biblical content, there is one glaring mistranslation that has had the most profound effect on the most people over the longest period of time. This is the meaning of the Greek word “parthenos”.
In both the ancient and modern language, this word means “maiden”, or “unmarried girl”. It does not specifically mean “virgin”. Although common mores would probably lead to an expectation of chastity in a nubile girl, there was no guarantee then, anymore than
there is now, that a young woman would retain her virginity until marriage.
So we see that the whole story of the ghostly insemination of Mary, leading to the “virgin” birth of Jesus, is based on nothing more than one translator’s interpretation of the Latin, then English, word for “parthenos”. The original text simply referred to Mary as “an unmarried girl”, which she was at the time, although apparently sleeping with Joseph, or maybe some other horny village kid.
Don’t you find it incredible that two billion people base an entire belief system, and in some cases, their whole lives, on this one little hiccup? A universal mythos has been built on it, millions of people have been slaughtered because of it, trillions of dollars have been made on it, virtually every aspect of every life on the planet has been affected by it. And all because a couple of kids in a Jewish community called Nazareth decided to have a little premarital roll in the hay.
If the truth be told, I think this would be it: After some sneaky shtupping in the fields, Mary found herself thoroughly knocked up. Knowing that no nice Jewish girl could remain in the village in that condition, without suffering severe shame and probable banishment, the couple decided to cut their losses and arranged for a hasty elopement, sans rabbi, chupah or hora-dancing.
They wandered the countryside, hitching rides and taking odd jobs for food until Mary went into labor when they arrived at Bethlehem. They tried to check into the Best Mideastern Inn, but because they weren’t married, the tightass desk clerk refused them a room and they were forced to bed down out in the stable, where Mary gave birth to a boy. Nobody knows how long she was in labor, nor who actually delivered the baby; however, if we believe the Genesis story, one has to wonder, in light of God’s curse upon Eve that “in pain shall ye bring forth children” how many hours of kvetching the poor kid had to endure before delivering a son.
After the birth, the couple finally legalized their union, but realized that as soon as they got home, people would start counting on their fingers, so they needed to devise a good cover story.
They did this by enlisting the aid of the local Mensa chapter, comprised of a group of well-educated mystics called “Magi” (add a “c” for a fuller picture of their talents).
Current translations say there were three of them, but there might have been as many as twelve. Whatever their number, they concocted a story so outrageous, it was impossible to refute. They threw the new parents a baby shower (myrrh, gold and incense, but no Diaper Genie). Then, to add veracity to their tale, they launched an amazing PR campaign to fill in the details. They chronicled a new star in the East, broadcast a story of a girl giving birth without having had sex, and declared that the baby must surely be the son of God, because who else could be born from an unfertilized egg?
The fact is, if the ovum actually did start to split without benefit of a spermatozoon poke, as in the experiment performed on frog eggs in every Bio 101 class, the resulting offspring would have been female, lacking a Y chromosome. So, either Jesus was a girl, or those Magi dudes were superb spin doctors.
In any case, the story spread, was told and retold so many times it became “truth”. (We all know how that happens…see “Hitler, A” and “Bush, G.W.). And here we are, some 2000 years later, still telling and believing it, still shedding blood over it, still capitalizing on it, still swallowing a completely irrational premise based on an unknown writer’s editorial error. Now, don’t you feel silly?