By John Shelby Spong
John Shelby Spong, bestselling writer and Episcopal bishop of Newark, NJ, demanding situations the doctrine of the virgin beginning, tracing its improvement within the early Christian church and revealing its legacy in our modern attitudes towards ladies and feminine sexuality.
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There were contractions, pain, blood, an umbilicus that had to be cut, and the after birth with which someone had to deal. As I shall chronicle later, there may even have been a hint of scandal connected with this birth. Never, however, would these birth narratives have been created had not the experience with the adult Jesus cried out for an explanation. Who is this man? Whence has he come? It took years for the birth stories to be formed. They did not appear in written form until the ninth decade of the Christian era.
R:2) . So they searched the ancient record for hints, clues, foreshadowings, and interpretations. One had only to possess eyes that could see. Hence, to retell stories out of the Jewish religious past to illumine a new experience was not to be deceitful, misleading, or false. It was, rather, to illumine the new experience by showing how the past was seen in and fulfilled by the present. The readers of the Gospels who understood this midrashic method of probing Scripture would understand. Only to a generation liv ing hundreds of years later, separated from their Jewish religious roots and clinging to a peculiarly Western mind-set, would the choice appear to be between literal truth and overt lies.
Or must I leave Christianity in order to escape my preju dices and take seriously my post-Christian world? Perhaps I can open my readers' eyes to see that literalism in all its forms can die and yet God will continue to live. This journey will be, I be lieve, worth the reader's time and worth the believer 's risk. 2 APPROACHING THE STORY THROUGH M I DRASH If the Bible is to be read today with intelligence, our knowledge of how it came to be written needs to be expanded. If I can offer that knowl edge, then perhaps I can also offer enough security to enable the fundamentalists to listen and enough hope to enable those who have abandoned Christianity as premodern nonsense to look again.