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Born of a woman : a bishop rethinks the…

Born of a woman : a bishop rethinks the birth of Jesus (edition 1992)

by John Shelby Spong

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John Shelby Spong, bestselling author and Episcopal bishop of Newark, NJ, challenges the doctrine of the virgin birth, tracing its development in the early Christian church and revealing its legacy in our contemporary attitudes toward women and female sexuality.
Title:Born of a woman : a bishop rethinks the birth of Jesus
Authors:John Shelby Spong
Info:[San Francisco] : HarperSanFrancisco, c1992.
Collections:Your library
Tags:Jesus Christ -- Family, Women -- Religious aspects -- Christianity, Sex -- Religious aspects -- Christianity

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Born of a Woman: A Bishop Rethinks the Virgin Birth and the Treatment of Women by a Male-Dominated Church by John Shelby Spong



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This is another book many would consider heresy, so if offended by different perspectives ignore this.

According to the creation story, Adam was “created in the image of God”, but Eve was an afterthought to provide companionship to Adam. And this is where it all began. The book talks about how the Bible, written by men, has influenced Western civilization in so many ways.

There seems to be only two kinds of women in the Bible. Eve (had sex therefore bad) vs. Mary (the virgin, good).

So many issues revolve around sex. Celibacy, birth control, abortion, female priests, homosexuality and sexual desire. In many in the early church, marriage was considered a compromise for sin….marriage is only for the weak.

The Seventh Commandment talks about adultery, yet during the time of Moses, polygamy was widespread and acceptable. So much for “traditional marriage”. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. And what is a concubine? A woman, who cohabits with a man, without being legally married to him. So much for God wanting a marriage between one man and one woman. So what exactly is adultery, when someone has 700 wives and 300 mistresses? The original meaning of the Seventh Commandment was that a man should not have sex with a woman “who belongs to someone else”. The custom seemed to be having sex with whomever, as long as the woman is not already married or someone’s mistress.

What would this world be like had God, the Mother, sent Her only begotten Daughter?

Spong says the stories about Jesus in the Gospels are that …stories. They are not to be considered biographical. “To force these narratives into the straight jacket of literal history is to violate the intentions of the author”.

Many “pagan” gods were born a virgin, rose from the grave and ascended into heaven. Gautama Buddha was said to have been born of a virgin birth in about 600 BC. The Holy Spirit descended upon his mother. Egyptian god Horus was born a virgin around 1500 BC and he received gifts from three Kings. Indra was born a virgin in Tibet around 1700 BC. He died and later ascended into heaven. Zoroaster was also born a virgin. Krishna was born a virgin around 1200 BC.

Many of the Roman and Greek gods were born of virgins. The idea that Jesus was born a virgin did not surface until about 100 years after he was born.

Spong says that the resurrection was not to be taken literally, but “the dawning internal realization that this life of Jesus reflected a new image of God”.

Spong makes a good argument that Jesus was married. He refers to the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11). Jesus was at this wedding and so was his mother. Spong asks why his mother would be at a wedding with Jesus. Could be a family member or it could be Jesus’ wedding. In the story Mary, his mother, is concerned this is not enough wine. Spong suggests Mary would not be concerned about this, unless she was a major player in the wedding entourage.

Spong also refers to Mary Magdalene as his possible wife. Spong uses the story of Mary Magazine visiting the grave of Jesus after his death. It was common in those days for the wife to claim the body of a deceased. In this story, she sees Jesus in front of the empty grave, but he tells her not to touch. In those days, according to Spong, women did not embrace a man unless they were married to that man.

Mary turned into someone, who would go to God on your behalf, but it was the men (God and Jesus) who had the real power.

Overall interesting book. Dry at times. It is a good book to skim. ( )
2 vote GaryMiller | Jan 21, 2010 |
Born of a Woman: A Bishop Rethinks the Virgin Birth is another book by my favorite liberal Christian bishop John Shelby Spong. Here the good reverend studies the Gospels and Christian history and finds that the virgin myth of Mary has had a negative impact on women’s role in the church. He also showed how the myth developed, showing that Paul did not have an idea of the virgin birth, to Mark who didn’t write a birth narrative, to Matthew and Luke who had diverging and incompatible birth narratives, and finally to John who didn’t need (perhaps even rejecting) the virgin birth to show Jesus’ divinity.

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  HeathenDan | Jul 13, 2009 |
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For Katharine Shelby Catlett and John Baldwin Catlett III, who have given to Chris and me the joy of being grandparents
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For most of the two thousand years of history since the birth of our Lord, the Christian church has participated in and supported the oppression of women.
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