Friday, January 29, 2016

The Expression "By The Holy Spirit" In Matthew 1:18

AP: Thomas is hard at work finalizing the translation of my book on the early years of Jesus' life. The title in English is The Hidden Life of Jesus. Actually, Thomas has the translation complete. He is just going through and proofing the document one final time and finalizing all of the typesetting tags and other pre-pub matters. We'll keep you updated as we get news on when the book is available. In the meantime, I thought I would share just a little from the section dealing with the divine conception of the Nazarene. Matthew 1:18 reads: "The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit." What does the phrase "by the Holy Spirit" mean? Here's the brief note I wrote in The Hidden Life of Jesus on this issue.

We do not know exactly what Matthew meant by the expression “by the Holy Spirit,” but in contrast to what was said in Matt 1:25 it is clear that the male half of the relationship is excluded from the conception of the child. Someone who read Greek during that time period might imagine the Holy Spirit acting like Zeus or another one of the Greek-Roman gods who took a virgin or a young bride and through a sui generis sexual act begat a child.

In a Jewish environment where the Holy Spirit is none other than God himself as a spirit acting out of his own strength, it seems this is what is implied in the passage from Luke 1:35, i.e., that divine protective shadow of the “Most High,” which replaces the male sperm. The thought of a sexual act would never have crossed the mind of a Jewish person. The shadow is just a sign of the active presence of God. Another example of this is seen in the account of Jesus’ transfiguration:
"While he was saying this, a cloud appeared and overshadowed them. They became afraid as they entered the cloud. Then a voice came from the cloud, saying: 'This is my Son, the Chosen One; listen to him.'" (Luke 9:34–35)

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