John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

John 8:41, Was Jesus Illegitimate?

“We are not illegitimate children,” [the Jews] protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

Some interpret this verse to be a subtle accusation by the Jews that Jesus was illegitimate. As in, “we aren’t the illegitimate ones, you are.”

It appears that quite early after the Gospel story began, rumors began to surface that Jesus was illegitimate. That Mary had been raped by a Roman soldier named Pantera. I personally don’t buy it, the whole accusation sounds like “normal” slander bolstered by flimsy evidence, but the logic runs something like this:

John the Apostle (or The Beloved Disciple, if you prefer) knew Jesus best, having been with him from the very beginning to the very end of Jesus’ ministry.

John’s Gospel was the last one written, probably in the mid-90’s, by which time any such rumors could have easily found their way to him. It’s possible, then, that John was cognizant of the slander and intentionally addressed the issue in his Gospel.

At the same time, this Gospel is quite hesitant to talk about Jesus’ parents. John mentions Jesus’ father Joseph only twice in passing, and refuses to call Jesus’ mother by name.

This same Gospel redirects attention away from Jesus’ beginning, rejecting the virgin birth story in favor of a different theology: That Jesus existed eternally and came down from heaven.

So … where did Jesus come from?

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