Did Mary and Joseph claim that Jesus was conceived in a supernatural way?

Was Jesus conceived in a supernatural way? Did Mary and Joseph claim so? Let's find out. 

Did Mary and Joseph claim that Jesus was conceived in a supernatural way?

Answer: Who more than Mary and Joseph should have remembered the "miraculous" events surrounding the birth of Jesus? One can reasonably expect that when a woman goes through a virginal conception, she would remember it, and that a man whose wife becomes pregnant while they are engaged, without any effort on his part, does not easily forget it. Yet, the evangelists relate several strange lapses of memory.

According to Luke, Mary finds Jesus in the Temple teaching the teachers (Luke 2:42-50). She scolds him for causing so much trouble, whereupon he replies with the enigmatic

Questions: "Why is it that you were looking for me? Did you not know that I must be concerned with the affairs of my Father?" Luke's Gospel adds: "And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them." Mary does not understand; Joseph does not understand. If Mary and Joseph were both visited by angels before their son's birth, how is it that they are so completely surprised only twelve years later? Does not Mary remember that Jesus was supernaturally conceived in a way never experienced by any other creature?

It is inconceivable that Mary would forget Elizabeth saying to her: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why is this [granted] to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:42-43); and especially her own words: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has looked upon the humble state of His slave girl; for, behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; because the Mighty One has done great things to me; and holy is his name . . "(Luke 1:46-49). After all this, she still does not know what Jesus meant when he said that he must be concerned with his Fathers affairs!

Mary and Joseph did not remember that the wise men (Magi: Members of the Zorastrian priestly caste variously associated with interpretation of dreams, astrology, and magic) worshiped Jesus and presented him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). They did not recall how an angel appeared to Joseph telling him to go to Egypt with Mary and Jesus (Matthew 2:13), and that Herod slew all the children two years of age and under in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16). Besides the fact that it "fulfills" Scripture (Hosea 11:1), why did they have to flee to Egypt? According to Luke 2:39, they went to Nazareth and were not even in the dangerous vicinity of Bethlehem when Herod allegedly had the children slain. Perhaps Matthew's placing them in Egypt in order to fulfill Scripture was too quick for Joseph and Mary to remember, for Luke 2:22 has them in Jerusalem forty days after the birth (cf. Leviticus 12:1-8), and then in Luke 2:39 they return afterwards to Nazareth. Yes, they forgot how the shepherds "made known the saying which had been told to them about this child" (Luke 2:17). Mary and Joseph even forget how they marveled ten months after the angelic visitations, that is, only one month after the events surrounding Jesus' birth. At that time they already were surprised when Simeon and Anna, the daughter of Phanvel, spoke of Jesus' future while he was yet a mere infant (Luke 2:25-38).

If these events are historical, why is it that later, during Jesus' active period, no one, not even his family, seems to know of his marvelous origins (Matthew 13:54-55)? If a virginal conception took place would it not carry for Mary some implications as to who Jesus was? Would she not convey this vital information to at least her nuclear family? Yet we find that Jesus' relatives, who come to seize him (Mark 3:21, 31), are not told by Mary who joins them) that, contrary to what they think, Jesus is not crazy. The Gospel of John explicitly states: "For neither did his brothers believe in him" (John 7:5). Did Mary not inform them of his divine origins? Is it conceivable that Mary would not have informed them that Jesus was the Messiah so that they too might believe in him and thereby enjoy salvation? And what of her own reaction toward Jesus?

In the few appearances Mary herself makes in the Gospels, during Jesus' lifetime, there is no indication that she showed any understanding that Jesus was the "Son of God" by virtue of a unique conception (Mark 3:31-35, John 2:3-4). She certainly communicated no such understanding to his followers. In fact, Jesus' earliest followers proclaimed that Jesus had become Son of God through the resurrection and never mentioned a virginal conception. Paul declared Jesus to be "the son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:4, see also Acts 13:33 where Psalms 2:7 is applied to the resurrection). The doctrine of a virginal conception seems to have had no effect upon Christian teachings prior to its appearance in the last third of the first century. On the basis of the New Testament record it is doubtful that Jesus' family, or the first Christians, and, most of all, Mary herself knew of the virginal conception she is alleged to have undergone. "Did you not know that I must be concerned with the affairs of my Father?" No, Mary and Joseph did not know it. They did not know it because they had never heard of their son's "miraculous" conception. There is no doubt that the story of the virginal conception came into circulation long after the deaths of the principal participants in this drama.

© Gerald Sigal