The spirit-bearing man who gave Mary a pure son was a real, mortal man

The spirit-bearing man who gave Mary a pure son was a real, mortal man

 
Please read this interesting passage:

And relate in the Book, Mary, when she withdrew herself from her people to a place in the east. 19:16

So she took a barrier to separate her from them. Then We sent to her Our Spirit, and that appeared for her as a man full-grown.” 19:17

Here we will observe why this divine spirit (‘Our spirit’) that was ‘sent’ to Mary – that ‘appeared for her’ as ‘a full-grown man’ who ‘gave her a pure son’ (19:17-19) – refers to a real, mortal man.

To better understand a text like this, we need to keep in mind the unique literary style of the Quran as a scripture that is laced with allegories, similes and idioms.

Take the word ‘sent’ as an example. Since God is not bound in space or time, here the word ‘sent’ cannot literally mean ‘sent from a specific place or dispatched at a specific moment’. Rather it implies actualization of a potential (i.e. ‘a divine word’) for an addressee, through a natural process involving a cause and effect chain (cf. 4:171). When God ‘sends’ something to someone, He actually endows her with it through a spontaneous course, rather than directly transferring it from somewhere.

Now, it is important to observe that the divine spirit (‘Our spirit’) that was ‘sent’ to Mary through a male human form (19:17) actually parallels the divine spirit that is re-mentioned in the phrase ‘We breathed into her of Our spirit’ as a reference to Mary’s conception of Jesus (21:91). Note the same words ‘Our spirit’ in both instances. However, again, this expression ‘breathed into … of Our spirit’ in 21:91, contrary to popular belief, is not exclusive to Jesus since the Quran uses the same expression ‘breathed into … of Our spirit’ in three other places with reference to the creation of man in general (15:29, 32:9, 38:72), thus making it clear that God ‘breathes of His spirit’ into every human. One may postulate that the word ‘spirit’ in these occasions refers to a set of highly organized information, buried deep in the essence of matter.

In other words, the ‘spirit’ that was ‘sent’ to Mary through a man parallels the ‘spirit’ that was ‘breathed into her’ on her conception of Jesus. And this ‘spirit’ in turn parallels the ‘spirit’ that is ‘breathed into’ every woman on her conception of a child and is ‘sent’ to her, obviously, through a man prior to her pregnancy.

The above interactive explanation also clarifies the phrase ‘appeared for her’ (tamaththala laha), which is very different from ‘appeared to her’. Sharing common root with mith’l (resemblance) and mathal (bodily form; cf. mathal of Jesus, 3:59), the verb ‘tamaththala’ means ‘it presented itself in a different form1. Evidently, here, it implies the representation of the ‘spirit’ through a physical carrier, i.e. a mortal man, actualized via a natural, evolutionary process involving a long cause and effect chain. Thus the whole narrative is about a real life experience of Mary with a real man. Not about any illusory vision of an angelic mirage (also cf. Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-38).

This ‘spirit’, which one may figure as ‘a set of highly organized information’ (such as the information stored in DNA), in fact approaches every woman through ‘a full-grown man’ prior to her conception of a child.

As noted elsewhere, this understanding that Mary underwent an actual spousal relationship with a real, mortal man is confirmed by the Quran in many ways.

Final thoughts

The ‘spirit’ that was ‘sent’ to Mary through ‘a full-grown man’ (19:17) actually parallels the ‘spirit’ that was ‘breathed into her’ on her conception of Jesus (21:91). And this ‘spirit’ in turn parallels the ‘spirit’ that is ‘breathed into’ every woman on her conception of a child (15:29, 32:9, 38:72) and is ‘sent’ to her, obviously,  through ‘a full-grown man’.

In other words, this is the same ‘spirit’ – which one may figure as a set of highly organized information, buried deep in the essence of matter (such as the information stored in DNA) – which approaches every woman, and is transferred into her, through a man prior to her pregnancy. Note: Often mistranslated as ‘angel’, the actual word used in 19:17 is ‘spirit’.

Thus, the ‘spirit’-bearing man who gave Mary a pure son was NOT a mysterious angel, but a real, mortal man.

Further reading: Does the Quran really support the Virgin Birth of Jesus?

 

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1 The Qur’an: An Encyclopedia

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Does the Quran really support the Virgin Birth of Jesus?

does-the-quran-really-support-the-virgin-birth-of-jesus

 
The Virgin Birth is the doctrine that Jesus was miraculously begotten by God through the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary without the agency of a human father.

Traditional Muslims, while sharing this common belief with traditional Christians, derive it from Quranic texts misinterpreted by Islamic secondary sources that were impregnated with Christian influences during the earlier Islamic centuries.

But does the Quran really support the virgin birth of Jesus?

Let us go through a few observations 

The Quran makes an analogy between the nature of Jesus and the nature of Adam (Adam is a mythical name for all humans), both being ‘created out of dust’ (3:59).

However, contrary to popular belief, this analogy is not meant to make the birth of Jesus anything special, but rather the opposite, since this is part of an argument against the Christian doctrine of the divinity of Jesus. As the Quran also speaks of every human (Adam) as created in the same way, ‘out of dust’ (18:37, 22:5, 30:20, 35:11, 40:67), this stress on the Adamness (humanness) of Jesus in the common humble origin of all humans – with no reference to any special birth – simply reminds us of the fact that Jesus, like Adam, i.e., like any human, was only a mortal ‘created out of dust’.

The Quran maintains that Jesus resembled Adam, both being created through the process of “kun fayakoon” (“‘Be’, and it becomes”, 3:59).

But this too is not specific to Jesus since the Quran elsewhere, like here, also speaks of every human (Adam) as created in the same way, through the same process of “kun fayakoon” (40:67-68). Please note that, while the divine command “Be” is beyond the physical dimension of time, its effect “and it becomes”, when actualized in the domain of temporal succession, cannot be instantaneous or mutually exclusive from the concept of evolution.

The Quran uses the term ‘word’ (‘kalimah’) for Jesus (3:45, 4:171).

But this again is not unique to Jesus. The same term is used also for John (3:39) as well as for everything in the world (18:109, 31:27). In fact, ‘word’ (‘kalimah’) is often used in the Quran to denote an announcement from God, or a statement of His will, or His promise (e.g., 4:171, 6:34, 6:115, 10:64, 18:27).

The Quran describes Mary as one ‘who guarded her chastity’ (21:91, 66:12).

But once again, as opposed to the traditional misunderstanding, this doesn’t indicate ‘virgin birth’. While confirming Mary’s purity and abstinence from immorality (e.g. by marriage, which is another meaning of ‘ahsanat’, guarded, protected, married, 21:91, 66:12; cf. 4:24, 4:25, 5:5 etc), this is no more than a rejection of the calumny that the birth of Jesus was the product of an illicit union (4:156, 19:27- 28).

The Quran uses the expression ‘We breathed into her of Our spirit’ as a reference to Mary’s conception of Jesus (21:91).

However, widely misinterpreted, this too is not relating only to the birth of Jesus. The Quran uses the same expression ‘breathed into … of Our spirit’ in three other places with reference to the creation of man in general (15:29, 32:9, 38:72), thus making it clear that God ‘breathes of His spirit’ into every human. This also clarifies that the divine spirit (‘OUR SPIRIT’) that was ‘sent’ to Mary through a male human form, in fact refers to a real, mortal man (19:17; cf. 4:171).

The Quran states that Mary expressed surprise at the announcement of Jesus’ birth to her (“How can I have a son when no man has touched me, nor am I a desirer?” 19:20; cf. 3:47).

But this too, once again, is not exclusive to Jesus. This surprise expressed by Mary is exactly parallel to the surprise expressed by Zachariah at the announcement of John’s birth to him, only in a few verses earlier (“How can I have a son when my wife is infertile, and I became so old?” 19:8). Also the description around Mary’s surprise (19:16-34) is similar and parallel to the description around Zachariah’s (19:2-15).

Both these instances are meant to emphasize God’s unlimited creative power, specifically His power to create the circumstances whereby divine will can manifest itself, however unexpected or seemingly improbable at the time of the announcement. Clearly, God creates these circumstances through a causally determined sequence of events, i.e. through His ‘laws of nature’, which are made perfectly accurate and absolutely immutable to avoid any chaos in the natural order (17:77, 33:38, 33:62, 35:43, 40:85, 48:23; 6:34, 6:115, 10:64, 18:27; cf. 4:26, 3:137).

For example, in the case of Zachariah’s wife, her infertility was treated that made her fit for childbearing (21:90). And in the case of Mary, the hurdles were removed for her to go out of the convent (3:44): thus she abandoned monasticism in response to the divine direction (3:42-47, 66:12) and entered a conjugal relationship (19:16-22), like others, bowing together to the natural design that is ordained for average humans (3:43).

The Quran confirms this actual spousal relationship of Mary with a real, mortal man, in many ways, e.g.: ♦ The Quran insistently maintains that creation is invariably through the UNION OF OPPOSITES (6:101, 7:189, 36:36, 42:11, 51:49, 53:45-46, 76:2). Note: This same natural process, the immutable divine way (sunnah) that even applies to God Himself (6:101), where no one can have a child without having a sexual counterpart, also applies to Mary and so must involve the birth of Jesus: “Originator of the Heavens and the Earth, how can He have a son when He never took a mate?” 6:101. ♦ The Quran narrates events when Mary left behind her monastic life (3:42-47) and went to live in an eastern location unattended by her people (19:16-17). Note: the prelude of the pregnancy required a PRECONDITION like this. ♦ The Quran then graphically portrays, with remarkable sophistication, how Mary’s pregnancy was initiated by her meeting there with ‘a full-grown man’ (19:17), who ‘gave her a pure son’ (19:19; 19:16-28). Note: the initiation of the pregnancy required a FULL-GROWN MALE, not a child or a female. ♦ The Quran obliquely mentions JESUS’ FATHER: “And Zachariah and John, and Jesus, and Elias … and from their fathers” 6:85-87. Note: The Quran would specifically exclude Jesus from this list if it rejected his father.

Conclusion

We cannot get in the Quran any support for the Virgin Birth of Jesus unless our minds are preconditioned by the influence of secondary sources that were impregnated with conventional Christian ideas during the earlier Islamic centuries.

Further reading: The spirit-bearing man who gave Mary a pure son was a real, mortal man