In coming into this world, did the Lord derive any genetic inheritance from his mother Mary?
The questioner has in mind recent claims by an evangelical writer that the body of the Lord Jesus was formed by the action of the Holy Spirit on genetic material provided by Mary, and that it is this ‘union’ which made the Lord truly man. Several supposed Biblical ‘proofs’ are offered, while the one critical Scripture that completely destroys his theory is ignored.
Extrapolating from Lev. 25: 25, it is asserted that in order to exercise the right of redemption, Christ must be a blood–relative of the sinner. Scripture teaches no such thing. Ruth was not a blood–relative of Boaz, and yet Naomi says to her “the man is near of kin to us, one of those who have the right of our redemption” (Ruth 2:20, my emphasis). Christ’s kinship to us lies in virtue of the simple fact that He is a man. There is, for example, no kinship between angels and men, and hence no angel could redeem us. That is why it “behoved” Christ “in all things to be made like to [his] brethren” (Heb. 2: 17), and since they partook “of blood and flesh, he also, in like manner, took part in the same” (v14; see John 1: 14). Furthermore, to redeem means to buy back—and you can only buy back what you had rights to in the first place. Christ’s rights to mankind are not genetic, but creatorial: “thus saith Jehovah, that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, I have called [thee] by thy name; thou art mine” (Is. 43: 1).
It is said that the word conceive (sullambanw—see Luke 1: 31) means that Mary’s ovum (or egg) must have been involved in the incarnation. Scripture itself explains what conceive means in the context of Luke 1: 31 and it is clear that the Lord’s mother had an entirely passive role: “[The] Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and power of [the] Highest overshadow thee, wherefore the holy thing also which shall be born shall be called Son of God” (v35). God’s Word is explicit: all creation is affected by the fall (see Rom. 8: 22), and a woman’s ovum is no exception. She has two sinful parents, and both are involved in the genetic makeup of that ovum. In short, it is tainted, and subject to death. If (as is alleged) Mary’s ovum was used in the incarnation, then the “holy thing” (Luke 1: 35) would not be holy at all. Talk of such a union without contamination is speculative nonsense. Now the Bible does not reveal how the sinful nature and its effects are transmitted, only that “by one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death; and thus death passed upon all men” (Rom. 5: 12—where the word for man in “all men” is anqrwpoV, that is, man as a race and not in contrast to woman). Some say that the sinful nature is only passed on by the male line, and so Mary could not contaminate her own ovum. However, Adam could not then have passed on his sinful nature to his daughters (see Gen. 5: 4) contradicting Rom. 5: 19 that “by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (AV). All is confusion once the boundaries of Scripture are abandoned. The Lord Jesus came only in the “likeness of flesh of sin” (see Rom. 8: 3). It had to be so, for the pure could never coalesce with the impure.
Much is made of the word seed, and it is asserted that this demands a genetic connection. Scripture says otherwise. Thus: “God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham” and “if ye [are] of Christ, then ye are Abraham’s seed” (Matt. 3: 9; Gal. 3: 29). Of course, when talking about Mary, we are specifically talking about Christ as the seed of woman (see Gen. 3: 15). However, what is ignored is that this seed is not mentioned by itself in Genesis 3—there are two seeds: the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. This fact completely crushes the argument that the woman’s seed necessarily implies a genetic link. Why? Because while the serpent has seed among mankind (see Matt. 3: 7; John 8: 44), his seed is obviously not genetic—and it follows that there is no reason for the woman’s seed to be genetic either! How is Gen. 3: 15 to be understood then? A man’s seed can be seen (see Gen. 38: 9), a woman’s seed is only manifested in pregnancy and childbirth. The Lord Jesus was born of Mary—thus it is in that sense He was of her posterity (see Luke 3: 23). The writer also refers to the prophecy that Christ was to come out of David’s loins (see 1 Kings 8: 19; Acts 2: 30)—the same David who testified that “in iniquity was I brought forth, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51: 5)! Certainly Christ is described as the Son of David (see John 7: 42) but His credentials as Israel’s Messiah are based on His link to David through Joseph—His step–father (see Matt. 1: 16, 25).
It is further argued that “come of woman” (Gal. 4: 4; the AV has made instead of come) implies that Mary provided the material that the Holy Spirit united with in forming the body of “[the] man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2: 5). However, “come of woman” needs to be read in context: the first thing said in Gal. 4: 4 is that “God sent forth his Son” and the rest of the verse tells us how this took place. Now the sending forth was public, and hence the conditions under which the Lord was sent were also public. The Greek words ginomai ek (come out of) have to be understood in this setting, for, as regards his public existence, the Lord was literally from out of woman. Hence, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son” (Matt. 1: 23). Put another way, Gal. 4: 4 refers to the point at which the Lord’s manifestation in flesh commenced (see 1 Tim. 3: 16).
Finally, it is argued that to deny Christ’s genetic connection to Adam in Luke 3: 38 is to deny His humanity. Certainly, the Lord Jesus was (and is) a real man (see John 8: 40; 1 Tim. 2: 5) but to speak of His humanity is to associate Him too closely with our fallen race. Scripture says He took “his place in [the] likeness of men” and was “found in figure as a man” (Phil. 2: 7, 8). Man is a tripartite being (see 1 Thess. 5: 23), and the Lord had a spirit, soul and body (see John 11: 33; Matt. 26: 38; Heb. 10: 10). He was, therefore, a man. As for Luke 3: 38 itself, there the Lord’s genealogy through Mary is traced back to Adam. Does this then imply a genetic connection? No, because Adam is equally said to be “of God”, and in that context, genetics clearly do not apply.
It can be seen then, that none of the supposed ‘proofs’ are credible. The Lord’s body was prepared by God (see Heb. 10: 5), and there is never the slightest intimation of any input from his mother, except as the vessel in which that “holy thing” (Luke 1: 35) would be conceived, carried and nurtured. The Lord was “a lamb without blemish and without spot” who “bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Pet. 1: 19; 2: 24) thus fully answering to the divine requirements set out in Lev. 22: 20–25. If Christ inherited one atom from Mary then He could not offer Himself “spotless to God” (Heb. 9: 14) and there is no salvation.
What is the critical Scripture that the writer ignores? It is what the Lord Jesus Himself says in John 3: 6: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit”. These are two parallel and absolute statements. What comes from the flesh remains flesh and cannot change. Equally, that which comes from the Spirit remains spirit, and cannot change. Flesh cannot become or produce spirit, nor can spirit become or produce flesh. Mary was born in “flesh of sin” (Rom. 8: 3), and what came from her was flesh. If her flesh was changed in any way then the Lord’s words in John 3: 6 cannot be true, and He is no longer “a man who has spoken the truth” (John 8: 40).