Sorry to be so long completing this post. I've been working the last few nights and when I come home from a twelve hour shift of patient care and teaching a student (I currently have a student) I just don't have two functioning brain cells to rub together.
John (cowart.info) asked me to give the link to the book discussed in the last post. Here it is: http://www.amazon.com/New-Testament-Original-Greek/dp/0759800774/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1201512804&sr=1-1
And now, without further ado, the rest of the story.
Alphaeus’ son, Matthew Levi, was a tax-collector. He was considered something of a traitor by the Jews. He had taken this position because it provided him an opportunity to make a good living without a lot of manual labor.
Tax collectors were assigned a certain amount they had to collect from their district. They could use what ever method necessary to collect the amount required by the Romans. All they collected over and above this amount was theirs. If they failed to collect at least the required amount, they were subject to retribution by the Roman official.
All this means that he was accustomed to detecting fraud and deception on the part of those from whom he was to collect money.
He was an expert at detecting deception.
He was also accustomed to compressing the results of his investigations into tight statements of fact.
He was also a convert of John Baptist. He had investigated him and found him to be legitimate. He had been convicted about the way he did business. He had straightened up and made restitution to those whom he had ripped off. He had believed John’s preaching that the Messiah was about to appear. He knew that John had identified Jesus of Nazareth as this person.
It only stands to reason that Matthew collected the information given in chapter two of his gospel account from Mary and possibly Joseph, the still living witnesses, Jesus himself and from the synagogue records in Nazareth. (In the last 150 years there have been those who assert that the gospel accounts are forgeries written in the second century. These assertions break down under examination, and are only attempts to assasinate the witnesses (the gospel writers) because their testimony is unimpeachable as it stands.)
Matthew was a disciple of John Baptist. He had been watching Jesus for months. Jesus had been identified by John Baptist as the one who was to come, the Messiah of God. Matthew had been investigating in his spare time. He had though about what it would mean to throw in with this Jesus. He had considered the cost in time and money.
One day Jesus stopped by the office and called him to make the decision and be his full-time follower. Luke says he just got up and left it all and followed him.
Now, a balanced man would not do this unless he had been investigating. Evidence is that Jesus’ mother and brothers were somewhere proximal to him and his disciples during his early ministry. At one point they wanted an audience with him and could not get at him because of the crowds. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to think that at some time, possibly in the days of transition from being a disciple of John Baptist to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ, Matthew Levi interviewed Mary, Jesus’ mother, and investigated the official records of the elders in Nazareth to find out about the rumors of his birth.
So in his little summary sentence, “she was found to be pregnant by the Holy Ghost” what does he imply?
“She was found” means that there were other people involved in the investigation. It would be no problem to figure out that she was pregnant. But how would the investigators “find” that she was with child by the Holy Ghost?
Her own story, along with her known character would be the first line of evidence.
Then Joseph’s account of what happened to him is another.
The critics assert that in those times, people believed that a woman could become pregnant by the gods. However, the Jews did not believe in “gods”. And, as C. S. Lewis points out in his essay “They Asked for a Paper”, if they believed this, then why the investigation, and why did Joseph seek a way to divorce her? Why didn’t they all say, “Yeah, well, these things happen once in a while.”
Then, in a tiny little town with the strict Jewish/Middle-Eastern customs that required young women to be completely separated from young men except under the most careful supervision, it would have been sure she was not pregnant by Joseph.
Read the outline of the ritual related to this in Deuteronomy 19:15ff. If she were found to have been seduced, she was under sentence of death at the door of her father’s house, which would bring reproach on the whole family for not watching and protecting her from such an occurence.
It would have been against Mary’s interests because of the consequences. It would have been completely against the interests of Joseph for him to get her pregnant before the wedding. He could lose his business, his standing in the synagogue, his life. Matthew’s record states that it was before they came together.
If she had been courted by another man it would have been common knowledge.
If she had been raped, it would have been known.
When she told her story to the women folk, there would have been some kind of a gynecological examination by a rabbi or priest to see if she still had her hymen, called in the Deuteronomy passage “the tokens of her virginity”. There would have been a report entered in the official records of the synagogue.
There was just everything against it happening by any other means than by the Holy Spirit. There would have to be a report made to the elders. There would have been some kind of documentation in the city or synagogue records about this.
So she had been kept separate, she still had her hymen, there were no other men, it definitely was not Joseph. and her story was in accord with the expectation of elect Jews that one day this would happen to bring the Messiah into the world, and apparently she was of a character that made her story believable.
The matter had been investigated by the group of people who are charged with investigating such things. They had interrogated and looked and examined and thought and verified.
Matthew had interviewed, asked, read the synagogue record, talked to the still living witnesses, sifted the evidence, looked for fraud, deceipt, or just a plain mistake. He was convinced. It was settled in his skeptical and analytical mind.
And in his summary he reports, “She was ‘found’ to be with child by the Holy Ghost”