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Luke and Jesus’ Conception: A Case of Double Paternity?

From: Journal of Biblical Literature
Volume 132, Number 3, 2013
pp. 639-658 | 10.1353/jbl.2013.0035

Abstract

Abstract:

The presence of the notion of a virginal conception in Luke’s annunciation story has sometimes been disputed. While arguing that this notion is indeed to be found there, this article also highlights material in Luke’s writings that assumes another version of Jesus’ paternity in which he is seen as the physical descendant of David through Joseph as his father. It explores possible tradition-historical explanations for the juxtaposition of these two perspectives before proposing that the inclusion of both would not have been seen as so awkward or inconsistent to Luke and his audience as it appears to present-day readers. The elision of any mention of the male progenitor in significant births was already a feature of the Jewish Scriptures, where only God and the female womb are emphasized. Luke takes this a stage further in the annunciation story, where the male parent is actually absent from the conception. This enables him to present two versions of Jesus’ conception in line with the conventions of other ancient biographies that also contain two different accounts of their subject’s origins, one natural with two human parents and one miraculous highlighting the subject’s descent from the gods. Once this phenomenon of double paternity is recognized, it can be seen to play its part in a broader dialogical reading of Luke’s Christology.



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