Islam and atheism have been critics of the ideology of God having a son. Ironically, the Islamic view is in agreement with the atheistic view. Both views are based on the assumption that having a son would mean that God had sex with a woman and begat a son. Islam argues that God wouldn’t do such a thing and therefore, the ideology of God having a son is not acceptable. Once again, the stand-up comedian and atheist Bill Maher, who described the death of Jesus as a suicide mission, takes the birth of Jesus to another extreme level saying ‘God impregnated a poor Palestinian woman’. Many of you will agree with me that mere impregnation of women doesn’t always result in a son, or a daughter, and Bill Maher knows it better.
So, how did God have a son? While the concept of gods having sex with women and producing sons and daughters is not alien to Hinduism and many religious mythologies, this is not the case with the God of the Bible. So, did God impregnate a poor Palestinian woman and have a son? Or more explicitly, “Did God have sex with a woman and have a son?”
I am not going to discuss the actual meaning of the Aramaic, Greek or Hebrew word for ‘Son’, because I am not an expert in these languages. Instead I focus on the English word ‘Son’ because that is what we use. What is the meaning of ‘Son’? The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English, Fourth Edition, gives the following meanings for ‘Son’:
1. Male child of a parent
2. Male descendent; male member of a family, country etc. one of France’s most famous sons
3. Form of address used by an older man to a young man or boy: What’s the matter with you, son?’ asked the doctor. What is it you want to tell me, my son? Asked the priest.
4. The Son [sing] Jesus Christ: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
5. (Idm) like father, like son; a son of a bitch, unpleasant person, bastards: I will kill that son of a bitch when I get my hands on him.
Of these five meanings, only one represents something that is a product of sex or impregnation. In other words, 80% of the meaning is not related to sex, but metaphorical. Now you can accuse me of deliberately ignoring the 20%, which indeed relates to sex. To settle this, let us see what exactly the Bible says.
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you”. Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you. So, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 1:26-37)
Indeed the poor Palestinian woman was worried about impregnation and having a son because she was a virgin. But the angel did not tell her that God will have sex with her, impregnate her and have a son. Rather, the angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the most high will overshadow you”. Can someone please educate me where does it say God had sex with that poor Palestinian woman? Let me make this very clear – the Bible never shies away from explicitly stating sexual acts. Read ‘Genesis’ and the ‘Song of Songs’. The latter one is completely dedicated to love and sex. So, if someone is intending to suggest that ‘the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the most high will overshadow you’ are the euphemisms for sex, I beg to differ. It is a miracle that you and I cannot fathom – for nothing is impossible with God.
Let us read the passage again and focus on the term ‘Son of God’. The angel’s instruction to Mary was to call the child Jesus, not ‘Son of God’. To the best of my knowledge, Mary never called Jesus Son of God. Although Jesus identified himself as God (read the book of John), and liberally used the terms ‘Son’ and ‘Father’ to describe the relationship between him and the one who sent him, he never used the term ‘Son of God’ to describe himself. Instead, he had a strange way of addressing himself – ‘Son of Man’. We do not know why he addressed himself like that. Either he was humbling himself, or, he was quoting Daniel 7:13-14 to reiterate that he is God everlasting.
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.(Daniel 7:13-14)
The point is, Jesus never called himself ‘Son of God’. Then what is all the fuss about? Let us read the verses again. The holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. By whom? You and I. By his followers. By his accusers. By the devil. By the One who sent him. By the world – the world will call him the Son of God. Yes. That is what has been happening. There are many examples in the Bible. Let us see some of them:
The Baptism (by the One who sent him): A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
The Transfiguration (by the One who sent him): And a voice came from the cloud: “This is my son, whom I love. Listen to him” (Mark 9:7)
Peter (one of his followers): “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. (Matthew 16:16)
The crucifixion (his accusers): The Roman soldier who crucified Jesus said, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54)
The devil: Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” (Mark 3:11)
You and I and the world: Isn’t why we are discussing it here in the first place?
So, how did God have a son? Through a miraculous act the human mind cannot fathom. The term ‘Son’ in this context is metaphorical. Interpretation of this as an act of sex between God and a poor Palestinian woman is a reflection of misunderstanding of the Bible and perhaps a shallow mind.
For those who ridicule miracles as superstition or non-scientific, I have something to say. It is similar to fighting fire with fire. My experience is that 100% of the people who ridicule miracles as superstition or non-scientific are believers of the big bang theory. The big bang theory simply means everything came from nothing. Can anything other than miracle explain this? A belief that everything came from nothing is considered science but a belief in the act of an Almighty God is ridiculed as superstition.
To be more precise, if you believe in the miracle that everything came from nothing, then you are considered either a scientist or an intellectual. On the other hand, if you believe in the miracle that God came down to earth as a human being, then you are simply a superstitious idiot. In this context, I rather choose to be a superstitious idiot.