The ‘Father-Son’ relationship between God and Jesus Christ is central to Christianity. Let us first try to understand what is the meaning of being a literal son. When we concentrate on the meaning of being a literal son to a literal father, things begin to appear which force us to revise our opinion of Jesus’ ‘sonship’. What is a son? During the period when science had not yet developed and discovered how a child is born, this question could only be vaguely answered. Ancient people thought it quite possible for God to have a son through human birth. It was a belief prevalent in almost all pagan societies in different parts of the world. Greek mythology abounds with such tales and Hindu mythology does not lag far behind either. For the so-called gods to have sons and daughters, as many as they pleased, was in fact never seriously challenged by human reason. But now science has developed to a stage where the process of human birth has been described in greater detail than ever before. This issue has become very complicated and those who still believe that literal sons and daughters can be born to God have very serious problems to resolve and some very difficult questions to answer.
The Scientific Basis of Parenthood
First of all, let me remind you that the mother and father participate equally in producing a child. The cells of human beings contain 46 chromosomes, which carry the genes or character bearing threads of life. The ovum of a human mother possesses only 23 of the 46 chromosomes, which is half the number found in each man and woman. When the mother’s ovum is ready and available for insemination, the other half of the chromosomes which it lacks, is provided by the male sperm, which then enters and fertilizes it. This is the design of God, otherwise, the number of chromosomes would begin to double with every generation. As a result the second generation would have 92 chromosomes; humans would soon be transformed into giants and the entire process of growth would run amok. God has so beautifully planned and designed the phenomenon of the survival of species that at productive levels of regenerative cells, chromosomes are halved in number. The mother’s ovum contains 23 chromosomes and so does the father’s sperm. As such, one can reasonably expect half the characters bearing genes of the child to be provided by the female and half by the male partner. This is the meaning of a literal son. There is no other definition of being a literal son which can be ascribed to any human birth. There are variations in the methodology of course, but there are no exceptions to the rules and principles just explained.
Focusing our attention on the birth of Jesus, let us build a scenario about what might have happened in his case. The first possibility, which can be scientifically considered, is that Mary’s unfertilized ovum provided the 23 chromosomes as the mother’s share in the forming of the embryo. That being so, the question would arise as to how the ovum was fertilized and where did the remaining 23 essential chromosomes come from? It is impossible to suggest that Jesus’ cells had only 23 chromosomes. No human child can be born alive with even 45 chromosomes. Even if a human being was deprived of a single chromosome out of the 46 necessary for the making of all human beings, the result would be something chaotic, if there was anything at all. Scientifically, Mary could not provide the 46 chromosomes alone, 23 had to come from somewhere else.
If God is the father then that presents several options. One; God also has the same chromosomes that humans have, and these must have been transferred somehow to the uterus of Mary. That is unbelievable and unacceptable; if God has the chromosomes of human beings it means he is no longer God. So as a consequence of belief in Jesus as the literal ‘Son’ of God, even the divinity of the Father is jeopardised.
The second possibility is that God created the extra chromosomes as a supernatural phenomenon of creation. In other words, they did not actually belong to the person of God, but were created miraculously. This would automatically lead us to reject Jesus’ relationship to God as one of child and father, and would result in the all embracing relationship of the Universe to God, that is, the relationship of every created being to its Creator.
Is a Literal Son of God Possible?
Evidently therefore, literal sonship of God is impossible because a literal son must have half the character of his father and half the character of his mother. So another problem surfaces, the son would be half man and half god. But those who believe in the literal sonship, claim and emphasise that Christ was a perfect man and a perfect god.
If the chromosomes were half the required number then we are not left with any problem, no child would be born anyway. Suppose it did happen, that child would only be half a man. Not to mention the missing twenty-three full chromosomes, even a single defective gene within one chromosome can play havoc with a child born with such a congenital defect. He could be blind, limbless, deaf and dumb. The dangers attendant to such a mishap are unlimited. One should be realistic; it is impossible to conceive God as possessing any chromosomes, human or otherwise.
Therefore, with the personal physical contribution of God having been ruled out, if a son were born to Mary with only the human character bearing genes possessed by her ovum, whatever the outcome, he would certainly not be the ‘Son’ of God. At best you can describe that freak of nature as half a man and no more. If the reproductive organs of Mary were like any other female and still the ovum were to fertilize somehow by itself, the maximum one can expect is the creation of something with only half the human characters. It is abominable to call that something the ‘Son’ of God.
So how was Christ born? We understand that research on the subject of single mother birth without the participation of a male is being carried out in many advanced countries of the world. But so far human knowledge is only at a stage where scientific research has not yet advanced to such a level where positive irrefutable evidence of virgin births in human beings can be produced. However, all sorts of possibilities remain open.
At lower orders of life two phenomena are scientifically well established: Parthenogenesis and Hermaphroditism. As such, the miraculous birth of Jesus, to Mary, can be understood to belong to some similar natural but very rare phenomenon, the peripheries of which are not yet fully fathomed by man.
Here follow brief descriptions of the phenomena of Parthenogenesis and Hermaphroditism. Readers interested in a more scientific treatment of the subject matter, based upon current understanding, may refer to Appendix II.
This is the asexual development of a female ovum into an individual, without the aid of a male agent. It is observed among many lower forms of life such as aphids and also fish. There is also evidence that parthenogenesis can be a successful strategy among lizards living under low and unpredictable rainfall conditions. In laboratory conditions, mice and rabbit embryos have been developed parthenogenetically to a stage equivalent to halfway through pregnancy, but have then been aborted. In recent study, human embryos could be activated occasionally by parthenogenesis using calcium ionophore as a catalyst. Such research raises the prospect that some early human pregnancy losses may have involved the parthenogenetic activation of the embryo.
This term applies when organs of both sexes are present within a single female and the chromosomes show both male and female characters aligned side by side. Laboratory tests have revealed cases such as that of a hermaphrodite rabbit which, at one stage, served several females and sired more than 250 young of both sexes, while at another stage, became pregnant in isolation and gave birth to seven healthy young of both sexes. When autopsied, it showed two functional ovaries and two infertile testes while in a pregnant condition. Recent studies suggest that such a phenomenon is possible, rarely, among humans also.
What are Miracles?
With the possibility of virgin birth being wide open, it does not remain to be all that impossible and unnatural. Where is the need to search for a supernatural explanation of Jesus’ birth, or even go beyond that to the farthest extreme of believing in the birth of a literal ‘Son’ of God through a human birth? When all this is observed as a fact of nature, why is it hard to believe that the birth of Jesus Christ was a hidden natural phenomenon, brought about by a special design of God? Something happened in Mary which gave that child a miraculous birth, without a man having touched her. It is the Ahmadiyya Muslim belief that this is exactly what happened. Our case is unshakeable because no scientist can dismiss it as nonsensical or opposed to the known laws of nature.
Miracles are not seen in Islam as unnatural occurrences, but as natural phenomena that are concealed from human knowledge at that period of time. Otherwise, there would be many questions raised against the wisdom of God. If God created the laws of nature Himself, He should have made some provisions whereby without breaking them, He could bring about desired solutions to a problem.
Not all laws are known to man. There are categories of laws working as if in different tiers and on separate plains. Sometimes they are known to man only on one plain and man’s sight is not able to penetrate beyond. As time goes on, man’s knowledge increases, so does the penetration and his capacity to observe such laws as hitherto remained unperceived. In another era of scientific progress, new discoveries throw more light on such laws which seem to work in groups. So, not only is their function better understood but also their interaction with other laws.
Those things that appeared to be miracles in the early ages are no longer considered so. Miracles are so, only in relation to man’s knowledge in a specific period of time. When a special exercise of God’s power is displayed, apparently a law is broken. But it is not so; it is a hidden law that was already there and came into operation through God’s command. The people of that time could not have understood that law nor had they any control over it. For example, the force of magnetism was not known to man a few thousand years ago. If somebody had accidentally discovered it and had contrived a device by which he could levitate things without any apparent cause discernible to the naked eye and to the wonderment of everyone, he could then exclaim, ‘Lo, a miracle, a miracle’. Today, such tricks are considered common place and trivial. The knowledge of man is limited whereas that of God is unlimited. If a law comes into operation that is beyond the scope of man’s knowledge, it looks like a miracle. But looking retrospectively at such instances with the hindsight of knowledge gained since, we can dismiss all such so-called breaches of the laws of nature as merely natural phenomena which were not fully comprehended by the man of that age. This is why I said that there had to be a natural phenomenon responsible for the single parent birth of Jesus Christ, which was unknown to man of that period; it is not fully known to man even today. But science is advancing in that direction and more is being understood. A time may therefore come, when no one will be able to claim that the birth of Jesus was unnatural. They would have to agree that it was a natural but rare occurrence, so rare that it seldom occurs in human experience.
Jesus the Son of God?
There are many other problems with the Christian understanding of Jesus, his nature and his relationship with God. From further critical and analytical study of Christian doctrine, what emerges is that there is a ‘Son of God’, who possesses the characteristics of a perfect man and also that of a perfect god. However, remember that even according to the Christian doctrine the Father is not exactly like the ‘Son’. The Father God, is a perfect God and not a perfect man, while the ‘Son’ is both a perfect man and a perfect god. In that case these are two separate personalities with different characteristics.
It should be realised that these characteristics are not transferable. There are characters in certain substances which are transferable. For instance, water can become snow and also vapour, without causing a change in the substance or composition of water. But the sort of differences in the characteristics of God and Christ, where certain characteristics are added to one of them, are irreconcilable. It is not possible for one of them to go through this transformation and still remain indistinguishable from the other. That, again, is a problem and a serious one for that matter, whether Jesus Christ was a perfect god as well as a perfect man. If he was, then he was surely different from the Father who was never a perfect man; not even an imperfect one. What type of relationship was this? Was the ‘Son’ greater than the Father? If this additional character did not make the ‘Son’ greater then it must have been a defect. In that case a defective ‘Son God’ is not only against the claims of Christianity, but is also against the universal understanding of God. How, therefore, could anyone comprehend the paradoxical tenet of Christianity which would have us believe that ‘One in Three’ and ‘Three in One’ are the same thing, with no difference at all. This can only happen when the very foundation of a belief is raised, not on a factual base, but merely on myth.
Yet another problem to be resolved
is this: If Jesus became the ‘Son of God’ as a consequence of his birth from
Mary’s womb, then what was his position before that? If he was eternally
the ‘Son’, without having been born of Mary, why was it necessary to give
birth to him in a human form? If it was necessary, then the quality of Son
was not eternal; it only became an added characteristic after he was given
birth and it disappeared when he rejected the body and returned to heaven.
So there are many complexities rising out of a belief which common sense
rejects. I invite you again to accept a far more respectable and realistic
scenario; that of believing the birth of Jesus Christ to be a special creation
brought about by God, having activated some hidden laws of nature. Jesus
was the metaphorical son of God, loved by Him in a special way; but a human
being all the same. His ‘Son’ status was attached to his character some three
hundred years later, to allow his legend to live on—this will be discussed
On the question of the nature of the nuptial relationship between God the Father and Mary. This is a question which one loathes to discuss bare thread. Yet in an attempt to understand the intermediary role of Mary between the ‘Father’ and the ‘Son’, this is an unavoidable evil. Perhaps it is the same question which bothered Nietzsche so much that he gave vent to his pent up dissatisfaction on this issue, at last, in the following words:
Not long after Zarathustra had freed himself from the sorceror, however, he again saw someone sitting beside the path he was going: a tall, dark man with a pale, haggard face; this man greatly vexed him. ‘Alas,’ he said to his heart, ‘there sits disguised affliction, he seems to be of the priestly sort: what do they want in my kingdom?’ … ‘Whoever you may be, traveller,’ he said, ‘help one who has gone astray, an old man who may come to harm here!’
The world here is strange and remote to me, and I hear the howling of wild animals; and he who could have afforded me protection is himself no more.
I was seeking the last pious man, a saint and hermit who, alone in the forest, had as yet heard nothing of what all the world knows today.
What does all the world know today? asked Zarathustra. This perhaps: that the old God in whom all the world once believed no longer lives?
That is so, answered the old man sadly. And I served that old God until his last hour.
Now, However, I am retired from service, without master, and yet I am not free, neither am I merry even for an hour, except in memories.
That is why I climbed into these
mountains, that I might at last celebrate a festival once more, as becomes
an old pope and church—father: for know, I am the last pope!—a festival
of pious memories and divine services.
‘But now he himself is dead, the most pious of men, that saint in the forest who used continually to praise his God with singing and muttering.’
‘When I found his hut I no longer
found him himself, but I did find two wolves in it, howling over his death—for
all animals loved him. Then I hurried away.’
‘Had I come into these forests
and mountains in vain? Then my heart decided to seek another, the most pious
of all those who do not believe in God—to seek Zarathustra!’
‘Thus spoke the old man and gazed with penetrating eyes at him who stood before him; Zarathustra, however, took the old pope’s hand and for a long time regarded it admiringly.’
‘Behold, venerable man,’ he said then, ‘What a long and beautiful hand! it is the hand of one who has always distributed blessings. But now it holds fast him you seek, me, Zarathustra.’
‘It is I, the godless Zarathustra, the same who says: Who is more godless than I, that I may rejoice in his teaching?’
Thus spoke Zarathustra and pierced with his glance the thoughts and reservations of the old pope. At last the latter began:
‘He who loved and possessed him most, he has now lost him the most also:’
‘behold, am I myself not the more Godless of us too now? But who could rejoice in that!’
‘You served him to the last,’ asked Zarathustra thoughtfully, after a profound silence, ‘do you know how he died? Is it true what they say that pity choked him,’
‘That he saw how man hung on the Cross and could not endure it, that love for man became his Hell and at last his death?’
The old pope, however, did not answer, but looked away shyly and with a pained and gloomy expression.
‘Let me go,’ said Zarathustra after prolonged reflection, during which he continued to gaze straight in the old man’s eye.
‘Let him go, he is finished. And although it honours you that you speak only good of this dead god, yet you know as well as I who he was; and that he followed strange paths.’
‘Between ourselves,’ said the
old pope, becoming cheerful, ‘or, as I may say, spoken beneath the eyes’
(for he was blind in one eye) ‘in divine matters I am more enlightened than
Zarathustra himself—and may well be so.’
‘My love served him long years, my will obeyed all his will. A good servant, however, knows everything, and many things, too, that his master hides from himself.’
‘He was hidden god, full of secrecy. Truly, he even came by a son through no other than secret and indirect means. At the door of faith in him stands adultery.’
‘Whoever honours him as the god of love does not think highly enough of love itself. Did this God not also want to be judged? But the lover loves beyond reward and punishment.’
‘When he was young, this god from the orient, he was hard and revengeful and built himself a Hell for the delight of his favourites.’
‘But at length he grew old and soft and mellow and compassionate more like a grandfather than a father, most like a tottery old grandmother.’
‘Then he sat, shrivelled, in his chimney corner, fretting over his weak legs, world-weary, weary of willing, and one day suffocated through his excessive pity.1
- Thus Spoke Zarathustra, by Friedrich Nietzsche. p271–273. Translation
published by Penguin Books 1969.