I’m my own grandpa

This week at Evangelical Realism, we take a look at one big factor that William Lane Craig leaves out when trying to decide what Jesus must have meant by “the Son of God.” According to the Gospels, Jesus’ mom was impregnated by God Himself, making Jesus God’s (bastard) son—a relationship of mere biology rather than shared divinity. In the process of typing out “the son of God” versus “God the Son,” though, it struck me that the story of the Virgin Birth really wreaks havoc with Trinitarian theology. If Jesus is the son of God, then whom, exactly, is he the son of?

According to Trinitarians, there are three Persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Also according to Trinitarians, Jesus is God the Son, whence his claim to actual deity. But there’s a problem there, because God is also supposed to be the biological father of Jesus. If Jesus is God the Son, then that makes him the father of himself. In some sense, then, he must have got his own mother pregnant.

You can get around this by saying that Mary was impregnated, not by the Triune God, but by just one Person in that Godhead: the Holy Spirit. But that’s a problem too, because if you’re going to say that God the Son did not get Mary pregnant, then God the Father didn’t either. The Holy Spirit is the real Father here. So the Father is not the Father, the Holy Spirit is. Jesus is not the Son of the Triune God, nor is he the son of the Father, he’s the son of the Holy Spirit. Of course, in Trinitarian terms, that is the same God as God the Father, so it’s also true that God the Father is the Father of the Son of God. That means that the Father is the same God Who got Jesus’ mother pregnant, as well.

But wait, Jesus is supposed to be that same God too! Mary got pregnant through one Person of a God Who was the same God as the other two Persons, including Jesus himself. So he really did get his own mother pregnant—with himself! And since the Father and the Holy Spirit are both non-corporeal spirits, that leaves Jesus himself as the sole possible source for the paternal DNA (which of course he did not obtain until after he got his own mother pregnant). So if you used DNA testing to find out who Jesus’ biological father was, it would have to come out to be Jesus’ DNA, because the other two fathers don’t have any. Thus, neither the Father nor the Spirit were Jesus’ biological father. Only the Son is the Father, even though only the Spirit is, even though He is the same God as the other two, one of whom is the Father even though He’s not the person who got the mother pregnant.

That makes no sense whatsoever, which in Trinitarian terms is proof that it all must be true. “Motherfucker” is one of the true names of God.




  1. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    When the Romans took over Christianity, they imported many of their previous religious trappings: temples, priests, virginity cult, and polytheism. Jews are monotheists, Christians are not. There’s Dad, JC and the Spook; Satan is at least a demi-god; in Catholicism Mary is a goddess; and there’s all the junior gods, only they’re called saints and angels.

    • mikespeir says

      Like I’ve argued before, Satan would rank rather high in most pagan pantheons. I mean, really, who among the Greek gods had the kind of power ascribed to him?

    • DR says

      Actually, Jews never really managed to get a handle on that “one god” thing very well, and there were quite a number of minor gods and spirits within Jewish belief, both at the time the Torah was written (either late in, or just after the Babylonian “exile”), and at the time of the birth of Christianity. To claim that the polytheistic aspect of Christianity comes from the Romans is just not supportable. Judaism has always been as polytheistic as its competitors in practice, even when some of its elite were desperate to embrace a more “pure” monotheism. The religious literature of Roman-era Judaism makes that quite clear.

      To claim that Judaism was monotheistic would be like saying that Christians don’t really believe that the Bible should not be taken literally because some of its elite theologians claim that. The reality is that most Christians have religious views that are far less sophisticated than those of their elites. This was as true, if not even more so, at the turn of the era as it is today.

      • mikespeir says

        Yeah. It’s amazing how in-the-dark Christian believers are kept about the real history of Jewish beliefs. Rarely were they truly monotheistic, and never as a whole. Why, even the Maccabean “rebellion” was probably more on the order of a civil war between the Hellenized Jews and the more traditional (I mean, traditions picked up from Persia centuries earlier) ones. It appears Menelaus, the high priest, was probably just trying to force a synthesis of Yahweh and Zeus so as to keep the peace. (Something that had happened more organically between El and Yahweh much earlier.) It’s curious that this same impulse appears later, in Acts 17, when Paul is quoting Cleanthes (and/or Aratus and/or Plautus): “…in him we live, and move, and have our being…,” as though trying, again, to conflate Yahweh with Zeus.

  2. dcortesi says

    Mary got pregnant through one Person of a God Who was the same God as the other two Persons, including Jesus himself. So he really did get his own mother pregnant—with himself!

    I’m afraid this is not a useful argument against either the virgin birth or the trinity, exactly because the screwy circularity of it will tweak the Woooo factor in the dedicated believer’s mind. “Omigosh, it makes my head spin—isn’t it wonderful?”

  3. matthewhodson says

    Its not entirely clear how exactly the stories of Jesus were developed but its seems fairly likely that the earliest followers of Jesus did not consider him to have been anything more than a prophet until some point in his life (baptism by John or later) or that he would return as a god after his death.
    The the various nativity and childhood stories of Jesus seem to have been tacked on at a later stage to attest to his divinity, using familiar patterns from earlier god/demi-god myths. Some of the early Christians seem to have accepted that this implied polytheism. It’s just a quirk of history that the dominating borg-like church that assimilated or annihilated most other forms of Jesus worship needed some hand-waving cover-story for the pantheon of deities actually being a single being (though this makes no sense). Having a Christian pantheon of 4 or 5 gods must have had some practical value in replacing the pagan pantheon.

  4. sailor1031 says

    Duncan: it’s all just one of those divine mysteries that the faithful must simply accept because it can never be explained in a way that makes sense. It happened, you can’t explain it et voila – another divine mystery (like transubstantiation……)

  5. davidct says

    You are talking magic and mythology here so with enough imagination it can all make sense. Perhaps it could be the basis of a new interactive online fantasy game called the Trinity. That way it could at least be fun.

  6. Azuma Hazuki says

    Fascinating how almost no religious training ever talks about any of this. As a girl I did ask and just got told to shut up and believe it unless I wanted to burn in Hell for eternity (yay, CCD run by charismatic Catholics!).

    But as has been stated upthread, the virgin birth motif likely got added on later. IIRC Mark (most likely the earliest Gospel) doesn’t mention it, and Paul (predates all the Gospels) simply says Jesus was “born of woman under the law.”

    My best guess is that in order to make Christianity more palatable to the pagans, late-first-century or early-second-century propagandists started syncretizing pagan myths into the Christian corpus.

    Reminds me of an Eddie Izzard skit. “Dew yew havva virgin birth~? Naow virgin birth, naow God!”

    • jerthebarbarian says

      (yay, CCD run by charismatic Catholics!)

      Or, really, ANY CCD program. There’s really nothing like leaving the answering of honest questions about theology to volunteers from the congregation who, shockingly, don’t know much about their own religion. I credit CCD with a good chunk of starting me down the path towards my own atheism, because damn their answers were weak.

      Anyway – the whole “Mystery of the Trinity” starts to make a lot more sense when you find out some things about early church history. Like the existence of a belief known as “adoptionism” – whose adherents believed that Jesus was a normal human who became the Son of God through adoption by God (either at baptism or at crucifixion). Or the existence of Arianism – a belief that Jesus was created by God at the start of creation and was a distinct being from God. What became known as “Christian” is a rejection of both of these – that Jesus was divine from birth and that Jesus was “one in being” with God rather than a separate entity.

      The Trinity makes no sense because it’s essentially a political construct – a way for one group of Christians to beat up on other groups of Christians. And it shows all the marks of being the kind of mushy collaboration you get when you try to build a coalition of people whose ideas are close but not quite the same. So you get the idea that Jesus has always been God (not adopted) but also that he is “one in being” with God (or as the kids these days say “consubstantial” with God – so not Arianism). The Trinity is likely a big political compromise to keep a political coalition together. It didn’t have to make any sense, it just had to form a coalition larger than the various opponents to be successful.

  7. says

    What I want to know is how this holy whatever it is ginned up the Y chromosome in the first place.

    Let’s fact it, a fully functioning sperm cell would have to be involved — one that had a Y chromosome. Process of meiosis and all that.

    So, far from being a virgin, Mary had to have mated in a very real sense with the goddy thing. So, she’s either a slut or a rape victim. To be fair, judging by the stories, a rape victim.

    That’s the problem with primitive superstitions — they just keep running up against inconvenient facts.

  8. says

    And if you like that logic, here is some more for you:


  9. Andrew Woods says

    Jesus was the son of Joseph, as is explained at enormous length in the Gospel of Matthew: chapter 1, verses 1-17.

    Verse 18 then tells you that he was not the son of Joseph.

    Oh, and the Gospel of Luke gives a different and incompatible genealogy.

    Being impolite enough to voice doubts concerning all this is proof that you are unfit for the Kingdom of Heaven.

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