Was Jesus Illegitimate?
Feb 2, 2017 5099
We don’t use the term much today, because it unfairly stigmatises children, but in the past, the word “illegitimate” was applied to children born outside of marriage. It was a big deal, especially in traditional cultures like the one Joseph and Mary lived in.
When Joseph married Mary, it was inevitable that he was afraid of what people would say about the son that was to be born to her, the son that was clearly not his.
So it was that the annals of early Christianity are peppered with the accusations that Jesus had been born as the result of adultery, or the worst thing that the Jews could think of: that Jesus was the result of Mary’s sexual relationship with a Roman centurion (named Pantera).
This last rumour went on to become fertile ground for many of the myths and conspiracy theories about Jesus that do the rounds every few years today, along with the one about how Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.
Concerns about the illegitimacy of Jesus followed him throughout his ministry. In Mark 6:3, you have the people of Nazareth saying,
Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” They were repulsed by him (CEB).
The issue is that a person was always named according to who the father was, and not the mother. That is, of course, unless you were illegitimate, as was the accusation against Jesus.
In John 8 and 9 this issue is highlighted even more, and you can see Jesus and his oppponents arguing about his legitimacy. They asked him the pointed question:
Where is your father? (John 8:19, NIV).
A little later in this discussion, they say to Jesus,
Our ancestry isn’t in question! (John 8:41, CEB).
By implication, his was.
This is even clearer, when referring to Jesus, they say,
…as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from (John 9:29, NIV).
Could they have been any more pointed?
The issue of Christ’s legitimacy was played out in his crucifixion, for if he was not of a legitimate birth, then he could not be the King of the Jews, or any king at all. The Jews rejected Jesus as their King, saying, “We have no king but Caesar.” When Pilate nailed the notice above Christ’s head on the cross, the Jewish leaders protested that the wording: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
On the question of Christ’s legitimacy hangs every other issue of importance in this life.
We live in a culture that rejects the legitimacy of Jesus in a million ways. Hardly anyone denies that Jesus lived, but they dethrone him by taking away the legitimacy of his ancestry. They refuse to acknowledge his claim to be the Son of God, not just a son of God, such as we all are, but the unique, one-and-only, co-equal and co-existent Son of God.
Will you accept Christ’s legitimacy? Will accept his legitimate claim as the only one who can save your soul and grant you eternal life? Will you receive him as your only true Lord and King? Will you crown him with many crowns? Will you fall at his feet in gratitude and wonder?
He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (John 1:11–13).
You see, your legitimacy depends on his. when you accept the legitimacy of Jesus, then your legitimacy as a child of God will never be questioned again. – Eliezer Gonzalez