He shall be called the son of God – for what reason

Anthony Buzzard’s (and hence the Restoration Fellowship’s) position of retaining the virgin birth doctrine hangs largely on this single verse.

Luke 1:35
The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy child shall be called the son of God.

However, if we read this verse in context we discover a couple of problems with it as somehow it doesn’t fit into the context.

Luke 1:
30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 Youwill conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.?

34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?? 35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy child shall be called the son of God. 36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.?

The angel has just told Mary “behold, you WILL conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus”. Notice, no timing is given. Just as with Abraham, God announces the event ahead of time, but with no indication about WHEN the event will take place. In that context Mary’s question sounds quite foolish: “How can this be, since I am a virgin?? – lit. “I know not a man”. The angel did not tell her that she HAS conceived, but that she WILL. She was betrothed to Joseph, her legal husband, and she knew that one day she would have sexual relations with him.

The expressions “the Holy Spirit will come upon you” and “the power of the Most High will overshadow you” are simply saying the same thing twice, which often occurs in Jewish writings and used for emphasis (funny that these two expressions actually identify the Holy Spirit with the “power of the Most High”, rather than with the Most High Himself, yet, trinitarians ignore it).

Then the angel makes the statement: “for that reason the holy child shall be called the son of God”.

Let’s just read again what the angel said to Mary a bit earlier:

Luke 1:
31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.?

So Mary would conceive, give birth and name her child Jesus. No mention of him being the son of God. But then he will be great AND will be called the son of the Most High. The title “son of God” is related to his greatness, that is, it is his righteous life that guarantees him this title, not his birth.

For this reason Luke 1:34-35 seems to be completely out of step with the rest of the passage. Hence, I think there is strong internal evidence that these verses are spurious. Do we have ANY textual evidence, that these verses were not part of the original autograph? It seems the textual evidence is weak. However, we need to remember that we have no complete manuscripts before the fourth century, and there is only about a single small fragment with a few words from the gospel of John on it from the second century, which was probably the most theologically turbulent time. So while textual criticism is able to reconstruct the biblical text very well, we have no absolute certainty about what the original autograph exactly looked like.

Therefore, when internal evidence is against a passage, I think it is appropriate to put a question mark against it and ignore it for theological purposes.

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