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December 27, 2012


After taking a graduate level class studying the synoptic gospels this semester, I'm much more open to the two-gospel hypothesis (which theorizes that Matthew's gospel was written first, followed by Luke, then Mark) than I was before. That theory (also called the Greisbach hypothesis) seems to fit better with this post than the more commonly-cited two-source hypothesis (ie, Mark first, Matthew & Luke used Mark & Q). This omission of Jesus' birth narrative makes more sense if Mark was written last of the synoptics.
(I'm not convinced the two-gospel hypothesis is correct ... I think it has merit though.)

Did the disciples and/or James know that Jesus had been born of a virgin?

What would have been the reaction of the people around him , when they knew he had been born of a virgin?

Perhaps they (like James) would simply not have believed it.

So why should we?

'It is highly unusual for the “many listeners” in this first century Jewish culture to describe Jesus as the “son of Mary” rather than the “son of Joseph”. '

Perhaps Mark didn't know it was unusual, and thought people would have talked like that?

@Steve Carr...Mark definitely would have known it was unusual to talk like that. Women in Jewish societies were held with very little regard. They weren't even allowed to be witnesses in a trial as their testimony was considered worthless. By calling Jesus, the "Son of Mary" Mark was intimating the virgin birth. The lineage would come down through the father and if Joseph was the father, Jesus would have been called the "Son of Joseph." It's extremely important to understand Jewish culture and beliefs when reading the New Testament documents. Which is another reason why women discovering the empty tomb and being the first witnesses is a sign of credibility of the Gospels. It fulfills the criterion of embarrassment. If they Gospel writers were going to make it up, they would not have used women as witnesses.

Why should Mark have a narrative of Jesus' virgin birth when the context of his account of Jesus would not even require it? Who knows? Maybe Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John came together and decided on and divided between themselves who would cover a particular aspect of Jesus' life. What I know is that each gospel account had a particular purpose in the recollection of the events of Jesus' life. Why are we not concerned with what Jesus was doing as a toddler and into his teenage years and his young adulthood? You know what I mean? The fact that Mark mentions Jesus in His hometown is enough to know that Mark was well aware of the virgin birth. Mark had a specific reason and purpose for his account and it simply did not need to make mention of the birth of Jesus.

Thanks for your post Mr. Wallace and your service to the Kingdom.

You are correct that Mark had a different focus than the authors of the other gospels. A professor in Seminary (the late Dr. Robert Lowery) told us a key to understanding the focus of the gospel writers can be found in the opening chapters/birth narratives.

Matthew - shows Jesus as King;
e.g., "David the king" (Mt1:6), plus Christ ~ King for Jews [not the last name of Jesus]
e.g., the genealogies have 2 sets of 7 (7 is a Jewish number for completion) three times (cf. Mt1:17) - this shows the call of Abram to the high point (with King David), the downfall of the kingdom (deportation), and God bringing redemption (to the Christ) - that revolves around kings...

Luke - shows Jesus as fully human
e.g., genealogy all the way back to Adam (not just Abraham of Matthew)
this human aspect is carried out with Luke's concern for the "outcasts" of society

John - shows Jesus as divine
e.g., in the beginning was the Word and the Word was God...
the "I Am" statements of Jesus

Mark - no genealogy b/c Mark shows Jesus as a slave...and in the ancient world slaves did not have genealogies
e.g., Mk10:45 - "...came not to be served but to serve..."

Four gospels, each written to portray a truth/facet of Jesus. Obviously there is overlap between them - but the themes of King (Mt), man (Lk), slave (Mk), and divine (Jn) are prominent.

grace & peace - Brent

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