Thursday, August 4, 2011

Did Jesus Have Mary's DNA?

(see also Jesus DNA Follow Up)

A few weeks ago I was asked my opinion regarding the teaching that Jesus was implanted into Mary who carried Him and delivered Him but that His human physicality was wholly formed by God. According to this view Mary is the mother of Jesus in that she birthed Him but not in the sense that He is physically descended from her. There are a number of arguments that are used to support this view. First, there is the argument that Jesus is the new Adam and also a new federal representative of the human race. As such He was the start of a new “line” fully formed by a miraculous act of God just like the first Adam. There is also the argument the human genetic code mutates over time (because of sin) so if Jesus had Mary’s DNA He would also possess the “junk” DNA that we all have and would therefore not be perfect. There are also various arguments built around the idea that the virgin birth is the fulfillment of the new covenant contract prefigured by the Abrahamic covenant where “God passed through the flesh” to seal the agreement.

It is true that biblical words such as “conceive” may simply mean “to get pregnant” and do not refer specifically to the genetic processes that we think of today. The bible is not biology textbook and we should not necessarily understand begetting and conceiving etc. in their technical sense. This, however, does not mean that the biblical writers did not understand anything about these processes. The bible demonstrates that that they knew a great deal about the process of pregnancy and birth and certainly knew that 9 months after the introduction of the constituent elements a baby would be born. In my opinion the various arguments in support of the view that Jesus was not genetically descended from Mary are all easily answered. It is not necessary for a federal representative to be the first of a physical line and at any rate Jesus has no descendants and is thus not the head of any physical line.  It is also not a given that “junk” DNA serves no purpose and even if it does not it doesn’t follow that it results from sin. No major view of the transmission of original sin entails a genetic inheritance. Even those who hold to traducian procreation have historically argued that the inherited depravity was the result of the spiritual not the physical element. To make sin a materialistic substance is highly problematic. In addition to these observations I would add that Christ’s perfection is a reference to His moral character and divine nature and not to His physical characteristics. The interpretation of the virgin birth as the sealing of a contract is allegorical and fails to find sufficient historical-grammatical support.

I should point out that the brother advocating this position was clear that he believed that Jesus was completely and fully human. Some have argued that to deny that Christ is physically descended from Mary would entail a denial of His humanity and thus is patently heretical. To deny Christ’s humanity is certainly heresy but this is not a necessary outcome of denying Marian physical motherhood. Adam was fully human though created through a miraculous act of God and it is logically possible that a similar miraculous act could have occurred in the case of Christ. While it is logically possible I do not believe that it has biblical support. In addition to the very brief objections already raised I would like to point out another reason why I believe that Jesus had Mary’s DNA.

Jesus is the focus of all redemptive history. As such He is the fulfillment of all the historical-redemptive promises given to the people of God. This includes the promises given to Eve and to the prophets. Many of these promises, if interpreted plainly, indicate that the blessings of the coming “One” will come from the physical familial lines of Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, etc. The redemptive drama is a history of God working through a particular chosen line to bless all nations.

First are the promises made to Eve. The so called protoevangelium records the first promise of redemptive history pointing to Christ. The promise seems to imply that the redeemer will come from Eve’s line.

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
(Genesis 3:15 ESV)

One could argue that offspring might simply refer to the fact that a human descendant will birth the Lord but the plain understanding of the promise would seem to be that the coming "One" will come through Eve. It is at least reasonable to assume that Eve understood the promise in that way.

If that isn’t convincing enough there are also the promises given to Abraham. In Genesis we see the great promise given to Abraham that the everlasting covenant would come through his lineage.

God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.
(Genesis 17:19 ESV)

And later it is explicitly revealed that the blessings would come through that line…

I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,
(Genesis 26:4 ESV)

The New Testament makes it clear that the focus and fulfillment of these promises is Jesus Christ.

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.
(Galatians 3:16 ESV)

These promises make the most sense and are most plainly understood as a promise that the blessing would come through the progeny of Abraham and not simply be facilitated by one of his descendants. One might point out, however, that Abraham is the father of faithful and that the term offspring is also used of his spiritual children in the bible. That is true but the genealogies of Jesus are physical genealogies. The Gospel writers consciously connect Jesus with those promises when giving their genealogies and at any rate the force of this argument disappears when we look at other promises given elsewhere.

One example is the promise that the messiah king would come from the line of David. It seems difficult to understand this promise as a promise of facilitation because the emphasis in that promise is clearly on descent. The Lord tells David that the king will come from “his body”.

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”
(2 Samuel 7:12-16 ESV)

This prophesy includes the whole lineage of David up through Jesus Christ and though Solomon and others are also implied it is clearly Christ who is the focus of the Davidic promises as is made clear in the New Testament.

“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.
(Acts 2:29-32 ESV)

These promises appear to be promises from God that the Christ would be among his physical descendants. If Jesus were simply implanted into Mary it would seem that these promises to David and the others were not fulfilled. Claiming that they do not necessitate actual genetic descent seems to be reading the theology into the passages rather than taking them at face value. This is true especially in the case of David where genetic descent would be necessary to place Christ in the royal succession. It is inconsistent to spiritualize the promise with relation to the culmination in Christ when the other prophesies related to the descendants were all fulfilled literally and physically.

When we have to choose between a conclusion that rests solely upon the logical deductions of speculative theology in opposition to the plainest interpretation of biblical passages we should place the greater weight on the biblical rather than the speculative theology. Of course, if the exegetical conclusions lead us to a logical contradiction we know that we need to study further. In this case, however, accepting the plain interpretation of the promises provides no logical problems for historic Christian doctrine. For many reasons, including the interpretation of the historical-redemptive promises, I find no reason to accept that Jesus was not the genetic son of Mary.


  1. I never heard of this teaching before. Does it have any support in church history?

  2. This is not a new teaching. It was a popular teaching among some of the Anabaptist groups during the Reformation period. The earliest references to this teaching I am aware of are among certain German and Dutch Anabaptists in the late 1500's. The doctrine is also documented a bit later in England and was likely due to the influence of the aforementioned Anabaptists on the continent.

  3. This is a good breakdown of the logical support from Scripture that Jesus had Mary's DNA. It does not, however, deal with the theological support -- the "why is it necessary?".

    As presented, the reader might just decide, "well, that's nice you see it that way. I don't."

    You do give the Anabaptist (and others') theological "why" argument. They have posited that it is Necessary that Christ NOT have Mary's DNA, but rather be created "ex nihilo", as it were.

    So the burden of contradiction is on us. We must show Why it is Necessary that Christ DO have Mary's DNA.

    A great starting point for this is St. Athanasius' "On the Incarnation."

  4. Steve,

    Thanks for your comments. Great observation. My original intent was to deal with the theological argument but space constraints led me to only respond to one element i.e. the historical-redemptive aspect. "On the Incarnation" by St. Athanasius is an excellent work that I also highly recommend as a starting point for the theological support you allude to. If there is sustained interest perhaps I will follow up with another article addressing it from that aspect.

  5. There is sustained interested...please follow-up...please and thank you!

  6. OK, I will write a follow up post as soon as I can.

  7. Rather than trusting the ESV which is based on the corrupted Greek New Testament fabricated by occultists Hort and Westcott, I use the King James Version. In the KJV, Genesis 3:15 reads "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Satan's "seed" was unable to derail God's plan of salvation but God will utterly detail Satan's plan.

  8. I'm sorry, I meant God will utterly derail Satan's plan.

    1. Genesis 3:15 says the same thing in the ESV. If you are interested in the discussion regarding modern translations you may find some of these articles helpful to you:

    2. I agree, Genesis 3:15 in both the ESV and KJV are close in meaning but I suspect the ESV, like the horrible NIV and NASB versions, attacks all the major tenets of Christianity. I'll investigate the resource you mention above however, based on a quick perusal, it seems way off. Professor Gail Riplinger did an exhaustive six year study on the different versions and put her findings in an excellent book I've read called New Age Versions. The KJV is an excellent version based on the vast majority of manuscript evidence and it's the one I recommend all Christians read.

    3. I appreciate your concern. As I am sure you know, the Greek manuscript issue does not have any bearing on Genesis 3:15 since the "Textus Receptus", "Majority Text", and the Alexandrian textual traditions are all representatives of the New Testament. The translations of the O.T. are not made on the basis of Greek texts of either family.

      I studied these issues a number of years ago and do not find the KJV only arguments compelling. I am confident in the ESV and NASB translations as faithful translations.

  9. Hello sons and daughters of the one true living God, please pray always that you will be accounted worthy to escape the hour of temptation that is going to come upon the entire world. And pray always that you will also be accounted worthy to stand in the presence of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Son of God.