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By John Shelby Spong

John Shelby Spong, bestselling writer and Episcopal bishop of Newark, NJ, demanding situations the doctrine of the virgin beginning, tracing its improvement within the early Christian church and revealing its legacy in our modern attitudes towards girls and feminine sexuality.

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5:4), and to love their ene­ mies (Matt. 5:44). He placed his cause on the side of the "woman of the city" who washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, not on the side of the morally righteous Simon the Pharisee, in whose home he was guest when that woman arrived (Luke 7:36ff) . He was not willing to fight for his rights or his life, to use compulsive power to achieve his objectives. He suggested that his disciples must forgive not once or twice but up to and beyond seventy times seven occasions (Matt.

This will enable the reader to grasp the purpose each Gospel writer had in including the birth ac­ count and then to see how each part of the birth story serves that larger purpose. The birth narratives then become miniature introductions of larger themes that will be developed in the later chapters for both Matthew and Luke. They also serve to reveal the Matthean and Lucan understanding of the adult Jesus in unique ways. The birth stories ad­ dress the issue of the origins of the one whom the disciples have come to believe is Messiah and Savior.

It was not a king-like portrait. As if that were not bad enough, little else in the life of this Jewish Je­ sus appealed to the images and hopes of his people. His closest friends certainly did not understand him as a messiah. One of them betrayed him, another denied him, and all forsook him and fled. This ignoble group of disciples had acted in an ignoble manner. Would a real messiah have chosen so benign and lowbrow a group of disciples? When his words were remembered, he fit neither the mythic hero im­ age nor the messianic image.

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