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THE ancients very naturally concluded that an offspring of God (a son of God) should have a purer, higher and holier maternal origin than is incident to the lot of mortals, and this was to constitute one of the evidences of his emanation from the Deity — that is, of his supernatural or divine origin. He, as a matter of course, must not only have a different origin, but one in the highest degree superior and supernatural. He must not only be able to claim the highest paternal origin, but the highest maternal also. And on the part of the mother, a sexual connection with the great Potentate of heaven would evince for her offspring the very acme of superiority with respect to his origin, moral perfection and authority. That the Savior was born of a woman could not possibly be made a matter of concealment. But his paternal parentage was not so obvious and apparent to general observation, being cognizant alone to the mother. This circumstance furnished the most propitiates opportunity to concoct the story that “The Most High” had condescended and descended to become both a father and a grandfather to a human being, or a being apparently human at least.
We say grandfather, because, if God (as the Christian bible itself frequently asserts, both directly and by implication) is father of the whole human family, then he was father to the maternal parent; so that her son, though deriving existence from him, would be his grandson as well as his son. Hence the corollary, Jesus Christ was a grandson of God as well as a son of God, and Jehovah both his father and grandfather.
Again, to make the origin and character of the God and Savior stand higher for purity, and partake in the highest degree of the miraculous, the impression must go abroad that he was born of a woman while she was yet a maiden — i.e., before she was contaminated by illicit association with the masculine sex. Hence, nearly all the saviors were reputedly born of virgins. And the process of birth, too, was out of the line of natural causes, in order to invest the character of the savior with the ‘ne plus ultra’ of the miraculous.
And hence it is related of Jesus Christ (in an Apocryphal Gospel), of Chrishna of India, and other saviors, that they were born through the mother’s side.
It is true our present canonical gospels are silent as to the manner of Christ’s birth; but one of the Apocryphal gospels, which gives the matter in fuller detail, and whose authority in the earlier ages of the Christian church was not disputed, declares that the manner of his birth was as related above. And, besides, some of the early Christian fathers fully indorsed the story. The same is related in the pagan bibles of heathen Gods. The motives which originated the reports of the immaculate conception of the Saviors, it may be further remarked, were of a two-fold character: —
- To establish their spotless origin (as the word immaculate means spotless.)
- To make it appear that there was a Deific power and agency concerned in their conception.
And we may observe here that it is not the Saviors alone who are reported to have been ushered into tangible existence without a human father, but it is declared of beings known and acknowledged to be men, as Plato, Pythagoras, Alexander, Augustus and a number of others. Of Plato an author remarks, “He was born of Paretonia, and begotten of Apollo, and not Ariston, his father.” Both the manner, or process, and the source of the influence by which the Gods and Saviors were generated, seem to have been different in different countries, though the idea of “overshadowing with the Holy Ghost” seems to have been most current. Mr. Higgins says that “the Supreme First Cause was generally believe to overshadow, or in some other mysterious manner to impregnate, the mother of the God, or personage” (vol. i. 378). We are told that Pythais, the mother of Pythagoras, five hundred and fifty years B.C., conceived by a specter or ghost (of course the Holy Ghost) of the God Apollo, or God Sol.
In Malcolm’s “History of Persia” (vol. i. 494) the author tells us that “Zoroaster was born of an immaculate conception by a ray from the Divine Reason.” The immaculate conception of Juno of Greece is thus described by the poet: —
“Juno touched the flower;
Its wondrous virtues such,
She touched it, and grew pregnant at the touch;
Then entered Thrace — the Propontic shore;
When mistress of her touch,
God Mars she bore.”
This case may certainly be set down as the ‘ne plus ultra’ of etiquette with respect to sexual commerce or purity of conception. The sweet odor of an expanded flower, we are here taught, is adequate to the conception and production of a God. Here we have “the immaculate conception” in the superlative degree, and while much more beautiful and grand it cannot be more senseless or unreasonable than the conception by a ghost. It proves at least that the doctrine of the immaculate conception is of very ancient date. And this fastidious maiden lady and immaculate virgin, Juno, not only conceived the God Mars by the touch of a flower, but she also (so the story reads) conceived Vulcan by being overshadowed by the wind — exactly a parallel case with that of the virgin Mary, as we find that ghost, in the original, means wind. Thus we observe that Vulcan, long before Jesus Christ, was “born of the Holy Ghost, i.e., both were conceived by the “Holy Wind.” And the author of the “Perennial Calendar” speaks of the miraculous conception of Juno Jugulis, “the blessed virgin queen of heaven,” and describes it as falling on the second of February, the very day which the early Christians celebrated with a festival, as being the date of the conception of the “ever Blessed Virgin Mary.”
Of the ancient Mexicans, it is said “they had the immaculate conception, the crucifixion, and the resurrection after three days.” (Mex. Antiq., vol. i.) And in an ancient work called “Codex Vaticanus,” the immaculate conception is spoken of as a part of the history of Quexalcote, the Mexican Savior. “Suchiquecal,” says the Mexican Antiquities, “was called the Queen of Heaven. She conceived a son without connection with a man” — a very obvious case of immaculate conception.
Alvarez Semedo, in his “History of China, page 89, speaks of a sect in that country who worshiped a Savior known as Xaca, who was reputedly conceived of his mother, Maia, by a white elephant, which she saw in her sleep, and “for greater purity, she brought him forth from one of her sides.” Colonel Tod, of England, tells us in his “History of the Rajahs,” page 57, that Yu, the first Chinese monarch, was conceived by his mother being struck with a star while traveling.
In the case of Christ, it will be recollected, the star did not appear till after his birth. But here the star is the author and agent of the conception.
According to Ranking’s “History of the Moguls,” page 178, Tamerlane’s mother (of Bermuda) professedly conceived by having had sexual intercourse with “the God of Day.” The mother of Ghengis Khan, of Tartary, “being too modest to claim that she was the mother of the son of God, said only that he was the son of the sun.” (History of Mogul, page 65.)
Both Julius and Osiris of Egypt are spoken of by some authors as having been honored with a divine immaculate conception — the former being the son of the beautiful virgin Cronis Celestine, and “begotten by the Father of all Gods.”
Both Buddha and Chrishna, of India, are reported as having been immaculately conceived. The mother of the latter (God) was (as the Hindoo Holy Book declares) overshadowed by the Supreme God, Brahma, while the spirit-author of the conception (that is, the Holy Ghost) was Naraan. The mother of Apollonius of Cappadocia, who was contemporary with Jesus Christ (according to his history by Philostratus — and his (Apollonius’) disciple Damis testifies to the same effect (gave birth to this God and rival Savior of Jesus Christ, by having been previously “overshadowed” by the supreme God Proteus. For the corporeal existence and earthly career of Augustus Caesar, the world has ostensibly to acknowledge itself indebted to the “overshadowing” influence and generating power of Jove, by whose divine influence he was immacuously conceived in the temple of Apollo, according to the statement of Nimrod, his biographer. The virgin mother Shing-Mon of China furnishes another case of immaculate conception. Possessing a sensibility too lofty and too refined to descend to the ordinary routine of the world, she gave birth to the God Yu from previous conception by a water lily. This case, with respect to the degree of procreative delicacy and refinement evinced, may be classed with that of Juno of Greece. Here it may be noted as a curious circumstance, that several of the virgin mothers of Gods and great men are specifically represented as going ten months between conception and delivery. The mothers of Hercules, Sakia, Guatama, Scipio, Arion, Solomon and Jesus Christ may be mentioned as samples of this character. This tradition probably grew out of the established belief in the ten sacred cycles which constitute the great prospective and portentous millennial epoch, as described in Chapter XXX. Arion, mentioned above, is represented as being both miraculously and immaculously conceived by the Gods in the citadel of Byrsa.
In view of the foregoing facts, drawn from accredited histories, the reader will readily concede that the tradition of the miraculous conceptions of Gods (sons of God), Saviors and Messiahs was very prevalent in the world at a very ancient period of time, and long before the mother of Jesus was “overshadowed by the Most High.” Indeed, says Mr. Higgins, “the belief in the immaculate conception extended to every nation in the world.” And Grote, referring to Greece, makes the remarkable declaration, that “the furtive pregnancy of young women, often by a God, is one of the most frequently recurring incidents in the legendary narratives of the country.” And we find that both the prevalence and great antiquity of the doctrine of the immaculate conception among the heathen is conceded by Christian writers themselves (of former ages) in their attempts to find arguments and commendatory precedents to justify their own belief in the doctrine. For proof of this, we need only cite the Christian writer Mr. Bailey, who remarks, “What I have said of St. Augustine is applicable also to Origen and Lactanius, who have endeavored to persuade us of the immaculate virginity of the mother of Jesus Christ by the example of similar events stored by the heathen.” Here we have several Christian authorities cited by another writer, also a Christian, for placing the doctrine of the immaculate conception among the heathen legends in ages long anterior to Christ.
With respect to the degree of credence to be attached to the story of the immaculate conception of the mother of Jesus, it need only be observed that there was no other person concerned in the transaction but herself who could possess positive, absolute knowledge of the parentage. And she, let it be noted, settles the matter forever, by virtually affirming that Joseph was his father in the declaration addressed to Jesus when she found him in the temple, “I and thy father have sought thee sorrowing.” (Luke ii. 48.) No one will dispute that the father here spoken of was Joseph, which amounts to a positive declaration by the mother, that Joseph was Jesus’ father.
IMMACULATE CONCEPTION AND MIRACULOUS BIRTH OF THE CHRISTIAN SAVIOR
The following considerations exhibit some of the numerous absurdities involved in the story of the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ.
- The evangelical narratives show that Christ himself did not claim to have a miraculous birth. He did not once allude to such an event; while if, as Christians claim, it is the principal evidence of his deityship, he certainly would have done so.
- His paternal genealogy, as made out by Matthew and Luke, completely disproves the story of his miraculous conception by a virgin. For they both trace his lineage through Joseph, which they could not do only on the assumption that Joseph was his father. This, of course, disproves his sireship by the Holy Ghost, ergo, the miraculous conception. It is the lineage and parentage of Joseph, and not Mary, that is given in tracing back his ancestry to the royal household — a fact which completely overthrows the story of his miraculous birth.
- And the fact that his own disciple (Philip) declared him to be the son of Joseph, and that several texts show that it was the current impression, is still further confirmation of the conclusion.
- We find the story of the immaculate conception resting entirely upon the slender foundation comprised in the legends of an angel and a dream. We are told that Mary got it by an angel, and Joseph by a dream. And through these sources we have the whole groundwork and foundation of the story of the divinity of Jesus Christ.
- It should be noticed that we have neither Joseph’s nor Mary’s report of these things, but only Matthew and Luke’s version of the affair. And we are not informed that either of them ever saw or conversed with Joseph or Mary on the subject. It is probable they got it from Dame Rumor, with her thousand tongues.
- If Christ were a miraculously born God, is it possible his mother would have reproved him for misconduct when she found him in the temple, as she must have known his character?
- If Mary was miraculously conceived, why was the important secret kept so long from Joseph? Why did she keep the “wool drawn over his eyes” till an angel had to be sent from heaven to let him into the secret?
- If she were a virtuously-minded woman, why did she thus attempt to deceive him?
- Why did not God inform Joseph by “inspiration” instead of employing the roundabout way of sending an angel to do it?
- We are told that “Mary was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” But as we are not informed who found it out, or who made the discovery, or how it was made, is it not thus left in a very suspicious aspect?
- As the whole affair seems to have been based on dreams, and was carried on through dreams, and has no better foundation than dreams, why should we consider it entitled to any better credit than similar stories found in works on heathen mythology?
- And would it not prove that Christianity is rather a dreamy religion?
- Should not the astounding and incredible report of the birth of a God be based on a better foundation than that of dreams and angels and the legends of oriental mythology, to entitle it to the belief of an intelligent and scientific age?
- Or can any man of science entertain for a moment the superlative solecism of an Infinite God by any special act “overshadowing” a finite human female, especially as modern thought teaches us that God is both male and female, and as much one as the other?
- As history teaches us the ancient orientalists believed that sexual commerce is sinful and contaminating to the child thus begotten and born, and hence had their incarnate Gods sent into the world through human virgins, can any unbiased mind resist the conviction that this is the source of the origin of the story of Christ’s immaculate conception?
- And finally, if it were necessary for Christ to come into the world in such a way as to avoid the impure channel of human conception and parturition, why did he not descend directly from heaven in person? Why could he not “descend on the clouds” by his first advent, as the bible says he will do when he makes his second advent?
- Would not this course have furnished a hundred fold more convincing proof and demonstration of his divine power and divine attributes than the ridiculous story and inscrutable mystery of the divine conception, which is not susceptible of either investigation or proof?