Saturday, December 29, 2007


It's that time of year again when people are expected to abandon common sense and believe in human parthenogenesis, or at least one instance that supposedly took place about two milenia ago. The doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ was formulated as an essential doctrine of the Church under the third canon of the Lateran Council held under Pope Martin 1 in 649. This doctrine was foreshadowed in the Nicene Creed, adopted under Emperor Constantine which states that Jesus was "born of the Virgin Mary". Catholic doctrine asserts not only the virginity of Mary at the time of the conception of Jesus, but also her perpetual virginity thereafter. The first assertion may have some scriptural backing- with the liberal use of apologetics of course- but the latter has no basis in the New Testament. It is, however, accepted as necessary dogma by the Roman Catholic Church.
Many have asserted that the myth of a virgin birth was a "borrowed concept" from surrounding pagan cultures, in particular from Mithraism, popular at the time of the early years of Christianity. Christian exegesis often attempts to put a prophetic gloss on the supposed event by citing Isaiah 7:14 , though most scholars agree that the "prediction" of a virgin birth of a Messiah in this passage was more than slightly distorted by Mathew (1: 22-23). The opposite theory, that the doctrine of the immaculate conception was a direct borrowing from pagan concepts, may, however, overstate the case. The fact is that the original literature from which the canonical New Testament was drawn (often by the violent suppression of conflicting texts) were written in an atmosphere in which certain ideas were taken as "givens". The mythology of a virgin birth was easily incorporated into the texts, not from any direct borrowing but rather from the authors taking the popular ideas of their time as an unquestioned framework to put their stories in. It is hardly different today. Only the tiniest intellectual elite of the Christian world knows just how common "virgin birth" stories were at the time of early Christianity. If they knew this fact they might question the whole doctrine that has built up around the immaculate conception over the centuries. But this source of questioning is not available to the average person today.
Comparing and contrasting is necessary to form intelligent opinions on many matters. What follows is a short list of some of the virgin birth mythologies from across the world. Those current in the Roan world at the time of the composition of the New Testament accounts are marked with an "@". Others are simply introduced with an asterix. What I hope the reader can see is the very common appearance of this myth across many human cultures, often with the concomitant idea of "impregnation by a god" such as that of Mary by the Holy Spirit.
@Mithras, the main object of the Mithraic cult in the early Roman Empire. Born on December 25th, according to legend.
@The philosopher Plato, supposedly a son of Apollo via the virgin Amphictione.
@Romulus and Remus, birthed of the vestal virgin Rhea Silvia, supposedly raped by the god Mars.
@Perseus, supposedly born of Danae by Zeus. Actually adduced as "evidence" by early Christian apologists to "prove" that their idea of virgin birth was not so strange.
@The Emperor Augustus, supposedly conceived via a virgin birth of his mother Atia by the god Apollo.
@Zoroastrian myths that the sperm of Zoroaster was preserved in the waters of Lake
Kansaoya to later impregnate a virgin who was to become a prophet and a savior.
@Many of the pharaohs of Egypt were believed to have been conceived of virgin births via impregnation by Amon-Re.
@Dionysus, supposedly born of the virgin Persephone via impregnation by Zeus. Persephone also reportedly gave birth to another son, the hero Jason, without resort to a godly sperm donor.
@The Egyptian god Horus was reportedly the parthenogenic offspring of the goddess Isis.
@Apis, the sacred bull of Memphis, was supposedly the offspring of a cow impregnated by a god the guise of a ray of moonlight.
@The supreme god of the Egyptians, Amon-Ra, was himself supposedly of a virgin mother Net, and had no father.
*Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom. Lord of the Maldive Islands. Reportedly born three times, the last two of virgin births.
*Deganawidah, a hero of the Hurons who reportedly planted the Tree of Peace at Onondaga. Greatest failure- not telling the Iroquois about said tree.
*Huitzilopochtli. Aztec god of war and the sun, conceived when a ball of feathers fell on his mother Coatlicue when she was cleaning a temple. This ball was supposedly Mixcoatl, god of the hunt. The Spaniards under Cortes were later to perform a similar "fluff job" under the name of this god. This resulted in the Aztecs being much more thoroughly "fucked" the second time around.
@Attis, a Phrygian god, was born of the virgin Nana who was impregnated by holding either a ripe almond or a pomegranate to her breast.
*Hunahpu and Xbalanque, Mayan hero twins supposedly, according to the Popul Vuh, conceived via the severed head of one of the original sons of the creators, killed for playing a ball game that was too noisy. Virgin mother- Ixquic.
*Laozi. Also known as LaoTzu. Would undoubtedly be very upset if he was able to see what succeeding generations had made of him, the author of the Tao Te Ching. Supposedly conceived when his mother gazed on a falling meteor.
*Montezuma (of the Pueblo Indians, not the Aztec Emperor of the same name). Supposedly conceived by a virgin after she either ate a pinyon nut or fell out of a tree onto her belly.
The above is merely a short list of the many world myths about virgin births. What can they say to us other than to avoid pomegranates, moonlight, swans, golden showers, almonds, pinyon nuts, climbing trees, feathers and, of course, toilet seats ? Either that or to always wear tent dresses and have the address of the local orphanage handy. They can say to a Christian who hasn't examined the dogma of their beliefs that they should perhaps examine at least one of these dogmas with a bit more of a critical eye.

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