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?

1 Comment

  1. Friend, I was not looking for your site or even a site such as this, but google caused me to stumble upon it while I was doing some search on the charge that Jesus was illegitimate.
    Even thought this post is ancient as we count time and you could already on your way to some other other intellectual quasi religious pursuit…or not, I thought I would just express my exasperation with the flimsy poor deduction and horrible forced literally assumption that John had no interest in nor thought the virgin birth of any significance. (I am baiting you.) Just to say that john’s late gospel arrangement to fulfill other informational aims does not demand any such idea that John was deflecting attention away from the virgin birth. That truly is a shallow deduction unworthy of significant attention. Yes. he obviously wanted to emphasize his pre existence, his connection with creation, the father and truth. It is a very ordered thoughtful development specially when John would consider the fact of the virgin birth to have received appropriate staging.
    If it was John’s goal to divert attention away from this already accepted idea, he would be quite disappointed that he failed so well at his intention. However, if his goal was to underscore, using popular greek thought/grammar, that Jesus was the logos and the light that lightens all men who will seek after God, then he succeeded well. Just one other quick point, I do not see how the author that brings us the high priestly prayer that so well underscores (along with John 3) the dichotomy between this world and another would have any difficulties with the virgin birth. I do not think he outgrew it in theological thought. Instead, he simply built upon it beautifully. The same Jesus that John depicts as going to create a home for his followers elsewhere and then to return for them would not suggest an author that was deflecting from a virgin birth, but focused on the future.
    The idea that John is deflecting is much more likely to be a projection backward by minds trapped in a materialistic box that is much much too small to deal with the God of the Bible.
    Peace and grace with love.

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