Christ Incarnate: How Ancient Minds Conceived the Son of God

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The idea of Jesus’ pre-existence was developed circa 30-50 CE, and it did not necessarily differentiate believers in him from other Jews. The idea of his virgin birth was developed circa 70-90 CE as a defense against reports of Mary’s early pregnancy. Parthenogenesis was itself novel within Second Temple and early Judaism, and its harmonization with the previously developed idea of Jesus’ pre-existence differentiated proto-orthodox Christians from Jews. It also differentiated them from other Christian groups. Historical-critical methods cannot get at the details of this harmonizing thought process.

Blending theory explains how the two separate ideas of Jesus’ pre-existence and virgin birth were harmonized and how the doctrine of Incarnation through parthenogenesis emerged: blended spaces have emergent structure and meaning that are not reducible to input spaces. Incarnation through parthenogenesis is not reducible to the ideas of Jesus’ pre-existence and virgin birth, any more than it is reducible to Paul and John, Matthew and Luke, Jewish or pagan literature. It was a new idea that emerged from the blending of two separate ideas in the second century and has since been taken for granted as it became proto-orthodox and then orthodox Christian doctrine.

Furthermore the cognitive theory of minimal counterintuitiveness suggests why the doctrine was historically successful: concepts that violate one or two expectations, such as the concept of a pre-existent Jesus who is incarnated through virgin birth, have mnemonic advantage over other concepts that violate no expectations or too many of them.

Doctor of Philosophy
Doctrine of incarnation, Virgin birth, Jesus Christ, Early christology, Pre-existence, Heavenly descent

Adamson, Grant. "Christ Incarnate: How Ancient Minds Conceived the Son of God." (2014) Diss., Rice University.

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