Christian Deceptions: Case Study: How Mary Stays A Virgin


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    Where the virgins are soft as the roses they twine,
    And all, save the spirit of man, is divine?
    George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), The Bride of Abydos


    The Virgin Birth is mentioned in New Testament passages, but there are grounds for regarding these mentions as unreliable additions, a fact well known to all theologians, but not generally passed on to the faithful. Different Christian denominations have different understandings of Mary's virginity. Orthodox Churches refer to her as aeiparthenos (ever-virgin). Roman Catholics and some others state specifically that she remained virgo intacta throughout her life, even during the birth of Jesus*. Others believe that she remained a virgin throughout her life in the sense that she never engaged in sexual intercourse with a man. Almost all accept that she was a virgin at the time of Jesus" conception. For clarity we will look separately at the claims to virginity after, during, and before the birth of Jesus.

    After the Birth of Jesus

    We pick out a text here and there to make it serve our turn; whereas if we take it all together, and consider what went before and what followed after, we should find it meant no such thing.
    John Selden (1584-1654), Table Talk, "Bible Scripture"

    The claim that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus is difficult to sustain. For one thing the gospels strongly imply that sexual intercourse took place between Mary and Joseph. The author of Matthew, for example, says "then Joseph ... took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son ..." (Matthew 1:24-25). Earlier in his account, the same author refers to a time "before they came together ..." (Matthew 1:18). (In modern translations the euphemisms knew and came together are sometimes replaced by other euphemisms such as came to live together , having union, or by explicit references to intercourse.)

    More damaging still are the numerous references throughout the New Testament to Jesus" brothers and sisters. One of his brothers is called James*, explicitly identified as the brother of Jesus in Galatians 1:19. Jude (or Juda or Judas) is referred to as James's brother in Jude 1:1. Both James and Jude, and others named Joses and Simon along with unspecified sisters, are mentioned in the Matthew gospel. Jesus" brothers are also mentioned in Matthew 12:46, Mark 3:31, John 2:12, Acts 1:14 and 1 Corinthians 9:5. Elsewhere the historian Josephus mentions Jesus" brothers*. Again, in the non-canonical Gospel of the Hebrews Jesus specifically addresses James (James the Righteous) as "my brother".

    Such facts are difficult to reconcile with the concept of Mary's eternal virginity. In an attempt to reconcile the contradictions, it has been pointed out that Middle Eastern languages do not always distinguish between close relations such as siblings and cousins, and that Jesus" brothers and sisters could really be cousins. Since the gospels were not written in a Semitic language, but in Greek, and supposedly by people close to the events, this argument is of doubtful value. Both Mark and Luke use the word adelphoi, which means brothers, rather than anepsioi or other alternatives, which might have meant "close relations" (and similarly for adelphai, sisters).

    Another difficulty for the close relation theory is that some of the brothers are specifically identified as sons of Mary. First, Matthew 13:55-6 introduces the family group:

    Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not with us? ...

    A parallel passage in Mark 6:3 gives a similar list (with Juda instead of Judas). Critically, the Mark author identifies Mary as the mother of James, Joses, and perhaps one of the sisters (Mark 15:40). Rather tenaciously, theologians have sought to explain this away by suggesting that Mary had a sister who was also called Mary or, when that theory became too difficult to sustain, that she had two sisters, both of them also called Mary*. Many consider these theories to be contrived, and of little value against the straightforward interpretation that the same Mary was the mother of Jesus, James, Joses (or Joseph), Simon, Judas (or Juda, or Jude), and at least two sisters.

    Different Churches tried to explain away Jesus" siblings in different ways, attributing weight to dubious early writings according to whether they supported their favoured line. They became Mary's nephews and nieces in the West, but another explanation was favoured in the East. According to Eastern Churches Mary's other children were step-children, Joseph's sons and daughters by an earlier marriage. There is not a scintilla of evidence for either contention. The truth is that any straightforward reading of the New Testament suggests nothing other than that, after the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary settled down to an ordinary married life, and that Mary bore Joseph a number of children. This is the interpretation given in Protestant versions of the Bible, and also seems to have been the prevailing view of the earliest Christians*.

    During the Birth of Jesus

    It is one of the superstitions of the human mind to have imagined that virginity could be a virtue.
    Voltaire (1694-1778), Notebooks

    What exactly it can mean to remain a virgin during birth has been the subject of much speculation. For present purposes we shall adopt the meaning favoured by the Roman Catholic Church, that the hymen remains intact during birth.

    There is no evidence, not even a suggestion, in the canonical gospels of Mary's hymen having remained intact during the birth of Jesus. Early Christian writers accepted that Mary did lose her virginity during the birth of Jesus*. The earliest sources that suggest otherwise, dating from the second century AD, are Gnostic*, and would now be discounted as heretical if they had not been the only straws to clutch at for those who liked the idea of Mary remaining virgo intacta. Some later Church Fathers had also clutched at those straws, and the Roman Church now cites these Fathers as authorities on the matter. The earliest and most respected Fathers either did not consider the question or else rejected the idea of Mary remaining virgo intacta during the birth. The same applied to other important figures well into the fourth century, including the champions of orthodoxy*.

    A vierge ouvrante, evidently rather crowdedPossible mechanisms by which Mary could have remained virgo intacta have exercised the minds of theologians since the fourth century. During the Middle Ages, it was widely believed that Mary had conceived by being inseminated by the Holy Ghost through her ear*, a belief that resulted in female ears being treated with the utmost modesty for a time.

    An ear would hardly serve for the delivery. One possibility was that Jesus had exited Mary's womb through a sort of door in her abdomen. Statues of Mary with the whole Trinity snuggled behind an opening door in her belly were once popular objects of devotion. Characterised in this way Mary was known as the vierge ouvrante ("Opening Virgin")

    Alternative posibilities were that he appeared through Mary's side, or that he emerged as a ray of light from her intact vagina, or that he dematerialised in the womb and then re-materialised again outside of Mary's body. One Church Father claimed that he came through Mary like water through a pipe*. However it was done, traditional teaching has been that it involved no labour pains and no afterbirth — known to theologians as sordes, or filth.

    The tradition that Mary had retained her virginity arose at the same time as, and is just as reliable as, a range of other pious traditions that have now been abandoned: for example that the baby was weightless, never cried, never needed cleaning, and was born with adult intelligence. The canonical gospels make no suggestion that the birth was carried out in any but the usual way, and imply that parturition was perfectly normal. After all, purification was required under Jewish Law for women after childbirth primarily because of the blood involved; and Mary undoubtedly underwent purification*. Furthermore the gospels confirm in so many words that Jesus was born in the conventional manner:

    And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him [Jesus] to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) Luke 2:22-23

    "Openeth the womb" is as specific a term for conventional childbirth as one could hope for. In the absence of any other contemporary evidence it is difficult to reach any conclusion other than that the mechanics of the birth of Jesus were perfectly conventional. For an objective scholar there is no reason to doubt that they involved not only the normal orifice, but also normal labour and normal afterbirth.

    Madonna Ouvrante with the Holy Trinity Inside, French c. 1400

    Madonna Ouvrante with Holy Trinity Inside, French c. 1400




    Before the Birth of Jesus

    Now has come the last age according to the oracle at Cumæ…Now too, the virgin goddess returns.
    Virgil (70-19 BC), Eclogues, 4, 1.4

    That Mary was a virgin before the birth of Jesus is at least supported by the gospels. Luke for example reports that she claimed to be a virgin at the time of the conception:

    Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? Luke 1:34

    Also she is referred to as a virgin on a number of occasions. The case therefore looks reasonably good, until we look into the matter a little more deeply. First it is notable that the oldest New Testament writings refer to Jesus as being born of a woman rather than of a virgin*. His human ancestry on the male side is assumed in Galatians 3 (see particularly verse 16). St Paul makes no mention of the Virgin Birth anywhere in his copious writings. Also, the earliest gospel, Mark, offers no nativity story at all. In fact the nativity story occurs only in two gospels, Matthew and Luke, and the versions are different and often contradictory. The older of the two, the Matthew gospel, makes little of Mary's virginity. He mentions it only once and then indirectly:

    Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:22-3

    This is a reference to a passage in the Old Testament:

    Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel* Isaiah 7:14

    A critical point is that in the original Hebrew the word translated as virgin in Isaiah is "almah , and "almah does not mean "virgin" but "nubile young woman", which is a different concept altogether. Elsewhere in the Old Testament the word "almah is applied to harem girls and to young widows*. If the Hebrew text had meant to convey the idea of virginity, a more explicit word like bethulah could have been used*. The confusion apparently arose because the word "almah had been inaccurately translated into Greek in the Septuagint as parthenos, which does mean "virgin", rather than an alternative word for a girl such as neanis. So parthenos was the term that the Matthew author would have found in the Septuagint. This, therefore was the term he used as well, apparently unaware of the error in the original translation. Matthew's error has long been known. A Jew named Trypho pointed it out in the second century AD*.

    What all this seems to suggest is that some Greek speakers invented the Virgin Birth in order to match a prophecy that they had misunderstood. It begins to look as though the virginity aspect was introduced to improve the match between a supposed Old Testament prophecy and Jesus" life story. As we have seen, a number of the details mentioned by the Matthew author seem to have been invented to fit in with real or imagined prophecies. Incidentally, the Orthodox Church, aware of this embarrassing situation, has found an explanation. It claims that the mistranslation in the Septuagint was made deliberately under the influence of the Holy Spirit as part of God's continuing revelation*.

    The only other canonical gospel to mention Mary's virginity is the Luke gospel. The author of this gospel is universally accepted as having drawn upon the Matthew gospel, and it is more than possible that he took the virginity story from there. Neither in the Matthew nor Luke gospels are the events of the nativity referred to again after the initial story. Neither is the nativity mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament. Sometimes the nativity stories are plainly at variance with the rest of the text. For example, after searching for three days Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple:

    And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. Luke 2:48-50

    Mary and Joseph's failure to understand would be relatively unremarkable if they had thought Mary to be the ordinary mother of an ordinary child with an ordinary father. It is not however consistent with the knowledge with which the nativity stories credit them. Even after 12 years, one might suppose that a mother would not forget the words of angels, much less the fact that her child's father was God himself. What can be the explanation for this? Is the text reliable? The answer to this question has to be "no". The two nativity stories are widely acknowledged by Bible scholars to have been additions to the texts of the Matthew and Luke gospels. Moreover, a number of textual variants reveal the hands of interpolators. For example the genealogy of the Matthew writer is altered in different ways in different manuscripts, apparently to avoid naming Joseph explicitly as the father of Jesus*. Significantly, the earliest surviving Semitic version of Matthew, the Old Syriac Gospel, retains Joseph as the father*. Surviving manuscripts betray a range of amendments, not only in the genealogies but also throughout the texts, clearly made to avoid mentioning that Joseph was the real father. Indeed, there are so many that they provide a good academic case study in how "orthodox" Christians have deliberately corrupted their own scripture*.

    There is no suggestion of Jesus being born the son of God in the Mark gospel. Instead he seems to have been adopted as a son of God at his baptism (Mark 1:9-12). Echoes of this event are still to be found in the other gospels, providing another set of inconsistencies.

    If we discount the nativity stories as later additions, many anomalies are automatically removed from the New Testament. The author of Matthew, for example, had taken great trouble to trace Jesus" ancestry through Joseph to King David and ultimately to Abraham*, which would hardly be appropriate if Joseph was not his father. Elsewhere Jesus claims to be descended from David (Revelation 22:16). He is referred to as "the seed of David according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3-4) and as being descended from the patriarchs (Romans 9:5 Jerusalem Bible). Mary and Joseph are explicitly mentioned as Jesus" "parents" (Luke 2:41), and as cited above Mary refers to Joseph as Jesus" "father" after finding him in the Temple. Jesus is also explicitly identified as the son of Joseph in John 1:45 and 6:42. The nearest any early writings come to attributing divine fatherhood to Jesus is in a passage by Ignatius of Antioch., who died around AD 107. In a letter to the community at Ephesus he introduced a divine influence into an otherwise conventional human conception: "Jesus Christ our God was conceived by Mary of the seed of David and of the spirit of God ..."*, and in another letter he referred to Jesus as being "truly of David's line in his manhood, yet Son of God by Divine will and power"*.

    If we look at the beliefs of others that were in a position to know, such as the Jewish Christians known as Ebionites, we find that they denied the Virgin Birth, regarding Jesus as "the child of a normal union between a man and Mary"*. So did other early sects (like the Carpocratians ), and so did important early Church figures like Jovinian. According to early non-believers, Jesus' real father was a Roman centurion named Pantheras*, an accusation that is supported by the Talmud and other Jewish documents.

    If the two gospel nativity stories are unreliable, there is no basis for the belief in the Virgin Birth. On the other hand there are many reasons for doubting it. We know that the Jews never expected the Messiah to be born of a virgin, and it is clear enough that the Matthew author did only because of a mistranslation. We know that the Matthew author liked to arrange matters to match Old Testament prophecies. Elsewhere, Jesus" human ancestry is assumed, and in some instances, which escaped the attentions of editors, Joseph is named as the father. We even have evidence of editors erasing mention of Jesus" human father from the text. All in all, the case for doubting the story of the Virgin Birth is a strong one.

    Perpetual Virginity

    It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.
    Bertrand Russell , Sceptical Essays

    On the evidence Mary did not remain a virgin after the birth of Jesus. There is no reason at all to suppose that she remained virgo intacta during the birth of Jesus, and the evidence for her having been a virgin before the birth is questionable.

    It is not difficult to see how the Virgin Birth story might have arisen. Early Christians were embarrassed that their leader was reputed to have been illegitimate. In the Hellenic world, where gods often impregnated human women, an obvious solution for any illegitimate putative leader was that a deity was the father. This had the dual advantage of explaining the illegitimacy and introducing an element of the divine. An Old Testament passage about a birth to a virgin apparently provided the key to the solution, or it would have done, had not the passage contained a critical mistranslation.

    Many modern theologians accept that the story of the Virgin Birth is a myth designed to emphasise Mary's purity. It follows an established pattern, and may well have been based on existing stories. For example the mother of the Buddha was believed to have conceived without the aid of her husband. The infant emerged not by normal means but through his mother's side. She died soon afterwards "because it is not fitting that she who bears a Peerless One should afterwards indulge in love" (Mahavastu 21).

    Theological positions that were once absolutely certain can become questionable,
    and even demonstrably false.

    Despite all the evidence Mary still purports to retain her virginity, at least for the time being. The trick is done by tampering with the original texts, retaining known errors of translation, inserting suitable confirmatory material into sacred texts, rejecting the plain meaning of words in favour of contrived meanings, and glossing over contradictions and inconsistencies. All this is an open secret. No Church scholar of any standing denies it. But then none openly advertises it either, so the faithful masses remain in ignorance.



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    §. In 451, at the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, Mary was given the title aeiparthenos (ever-virgin). In 649 at the first Lateran Council Pope Martin I declared Mary's perpetual virginity a dogma of the church. The catechism of the Council of Trent (AD 1563) upheld the virginity of Mary even during and after Jesus" birth. The Second Vatican Council of 1964 chose not to declare such a belief to be an article of faith. Nevertheless a number of people have been excommunicated for expressing doubts about her virginity in partu and post partum, most notably Jovinian.

    §. There are several Jameses amongst Jesus" followers, and it is not always clear which is which. James the great was the brother of the disciple called John. It is unclear whether James, the brother of Jesus, might be the same person as James the less (Mark 15:40) and/or James son of Alphaeus (Mark 3:18). It is very possible that the latter two Jameses were the same person.

    §. Josephus, Antiquities, 20:9.1 (200-3).

    §. According to the Golden Legend: Nativity of Our Lady, the three Marys were daughters of St Anne by three different husbands
    - Joachim, father of the Mary who married Joseph;
    - Clopas, father of the Mary who married Alphaeus (father of James the less, - Joses (Joseph the Just), Simon and Jude ( = Juda = Judas)); and Salome, father (sic) of the Mary who married Zebedee (father of James the Great and John the Evangelist).

    §. We have already mentioned the views of the Ebionites and other early Christians. Their ideas seem to have been shared by others, even after the Church started to suppress them. See Graef, Mary, vol.1, pp 38-48 (as late as inter alia Tertullian, De Carne Christi, 23, 2, and Origen, Homily 14). John of Damascus, who died around 750, mentions that people say "she is the mother of many children" (cited by Graef, Mary, vol.1, p 156).

    §. Most notably Tertullian, De Carne Christi, 20.

    §. The earliest documents to discuss the miraculous birth were the Ascension of Isaiah (early second century) and the Odes of Solomon (mid second century). The latter dates from around the same time as the Protevangelium of James.

    §. For example Epiphanius rejected the idea in Panarion 77, 8. Athanasius, the great champion of orthodoxy in the fourth century, also rejected it: Letter to Epictetus, 5.

    §. The theologian John of Damascus seems to have been one of the first to espouse this idea. See Graef, Mary, vol.1, p 154. A hymn with the line "the virgin conceived through her ear" is apparently still sung to this day. It may be found, in its Latin form, in The Oxford Book of Latin verse, edited by H. W. Garrod ( Oxford, 1921), pp 23-4.

    §. Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus Omnes Haereses, I, vii, 2.

    §. The sacrifice of two birds after Jesus" birth (Luke 2:24) fulfils the purification requirements set out in Leviticus 12.

    §. Jesus is said to have been "made of a woman" in Galatians 4:4, which is generally accepted by scholars as predating the gospels.

    §. The spelling of Immanuel rather than Emmanuel follows the Authorised Version.

    §. From the context it is clear that the word "almah is applied in the Song of Solomon 6:8 to harem girls (they are mentioned along with queens and concubines). The word is also applied to a widow in Joel 1:8: "Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth". English translations of the Bible still generally use the word virgin in Isaiah. The Revised Standard Edition is an exception, translating "almah more honestly as "young woman".

    §. Jewish proselytes have been pointing out since very early times that Isaiah was talking about a young woman and not a virgin. See Eusebius, The History of the Church, 5:8.

    §. St Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, 43ff., 67.

    §. Ware, The Orthodox Church, p 208.

    §. For a discussion on Jesus as the son of Joseph, and how different manuscripts have been doctored, see Vermes, Jesus the Jew, pp 215-8.

    §. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, pp 216; see also Ashe, The Virgin, pp 52-5.

    §. See for example Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp 54ff.

    §. Jesus" paternal ancestry is given in Matthew 1:1-17. Luke gives an ancestry for Joseph, though it is wildly incompatible with Matthew's version. The Luke author tries for the best of both worlds by citing Joseph's prestigious Royal ancestry, but then disclaiming it because of Jesus" divine origin.

    §. Ignatius, Epistle to the Ephesians 18.2, cf. Epistle to the Romans 7 where Jesus is merely "the seed of David" and Epistle to the Romans 9 where he is "of David's line".

    §. Ignatius, Epistle to the Smyrnæans, 1.1.

    §. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 3:27.

    §. Origen, Contra Celsum, 1:28-32. The Platonistic philosopher Celsus, writing circa 150 to 200 AD, wrote a narrative describing a Jew who discounts the story of the Virgin Birth of Jesus.

    ". . .[Jesus] came from a Jewish village and from a poor country woman who earned her living by spinning. He says that she was driven out by her husband, who was a carpenter by trade, as she was convicted of adultery. Then he says that after she had been driven out by her husband and while she was wandering about in a disgraceful way she secretly gave birth to Jesus. He states that because he [Jesus] was poor he hired himself out as a workman in Egypt, and there tried his hand at certain magical powers on which the Egyptians pride themselves; he returned full of conceit, because of these powers, and on account of them gave himself the title of God . . . the mother of Jesus is described as having been turned out by the carpenter who was betrothed to her, as she had been convicted of adultery and had a child by a certain soldier named Panthera." (translation by Peter Schäfer, Jesus in the Talmud, Princeton University Press, 2007. p 18-19)

    Talmudic narratives give striking parallels: Mary's adultery, father's name "Panthera" or "Pantheras", return from Egypt, magical powers... The Talmud also identifies this Jesus as Jesus the Nazarene, a rabi who healed people using magic., who had disciples, and who was killed on the eve of Passover. (for details see Bernhard Pick, The Talmud: What It Is and What It Knows of Jesus and His Followers, 1887 [reprint Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2007. p 117-120]). According to the Toledot Yeshu (The Book of the History of Jesus, or Generations of Jesus, or Life of Jesus) a Jewish work of uncertain date Jesus was an illegitimate child, who practiced magic and heresy, was wise but direspectful, seduced women, and died a shameful death. The earliest stratum of composition of the Toledmaot Yeshu was probably in Aramaic. A number of variant manuscripts. This is a summary of the Summary of Wagenseil version (Miriam is the Hebrew form of Mary, and Yeshu of Jesus)

    A great misfortune struck Israel in the year 3651 [c. 90 BCE]. A man of the tribe of Judah, Joseph Pandera, lived near a widow who had a daughter called Miriam. This virgin was betrothed to Yohanan, a Torah-learned and God-fearing man of the house of David. Before the end of a certain Sabbath, Joseph looked lustfully at Miriam, knocked on her door and pretended to be her husband, but she only submitted against her will. When Yohanan came later to see her, she was surprised how strange his behavior was. Thus they both knew of Pandera’s crime and Miriam’s fault. Without witnesses to punish Pandera, Yohanan left for Babylonia.

    Miriam gave birth to Yehoshua, whose name later depreciated to Yeshu. When old enough, she took him to study the Jewish tradition. One day he walked with his head uncovered, showing disrespect, in front of the sages. This betrayed his illegitimacy and Miriam admitted him as Pandera’s son. Scandalised, he fled to Upper Galilee.

    Yeshu later went to the Jerusalem Temple and learned the letters of God’s ineffable name (one could do anything desired by them). He gathered 310 young men and proclaimed himself the Messiah, claiming Isaiah’s “a virgin shall conceive and bear a son” and other prophets prophesied about him. Using God’s name he healed a lame man, they worshipped him as the Messiah. The Sanhedrin decided to arrest him, and sent messengers to invite him to Jerusalem. They pretended to be his disciples to trick him.

    Bound before Queen Helen, the sages accused him of sorcery. When he brought a corpse to life, she released him.

    Accused again, the queen sent for his arrest. He asked his disciples not to resist. Using God’s name he made birds of clay and caused them to fly. The sages then got Judah Iskarioto to learn the name. At a contest of miracles between the two, they both lost knowledge of the name.

    Yeshu was arrested and beaten with pomegranate staves. He was taken to Tiberias and bound to a synagogue pillar. Vinegar was given to him to drink and a crown of thorns was put on his head. An argument broke out between the elders and Yeshu followers resulting in their escape to Antioch (or Egypt). On the day before the Passover, Yeshu decided to go to the Temple and recover the secret name. He entered Jerusalem riding on an ass, but one of his followers, Judah Iskarioto, told the sages he was in the Temple. On a day before the Passover, they tried to hang him on a tree; using the name he caused it, and any tree they should use, to break. A cabbage stalk, being not a tree, was used successfully to hang him on, and he was buried.

    His followers on Sunday told the queen that he was not in his grave, that he ascended to heaven as he had prophesied. As a gardener took him from the grave, they searched it and could not find him. But the gardener confessed he had taken it to prevent his followers from stealing his body and claiming his ascension to heaven. Recovering the body, the sages tied it to horse tail and took it to the queen. Convinced he was a false prophet, she ridiculed his followers and commended the sages.

    (This version from Van Voorst, Robert E (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence. Wm B Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 0-8028-4368-9. pp. 123–6.)

    One element that suggests an early date is the story of the gardener and the body. This story was clearly known before the resurrection stories were incorporated into the canonical gospels, as these gospels are so keen to explain away the story by the improbable claim that guards were bribed to claim that the body had been stolen while they slept.






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