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Mary and Panthera:

A made-up story about Jesus' father

Many myths arose about Jesus in the first several hundred years after Jesus. A church leader named Origen (185-254) wrote about one of these: that Mary actually slept with a Roman soldier and Jesus was the result. This is made up, but some people still believed it. Here is the story:

Once upon a time a Jewish teenage girl lived in the small Israel town of Nazareth. She lived when the Roman Empire dominated not only Israel but also the surrounding countries. In order to maintain control, the Romans stationed soldiers throughout the conquered lands. But they didn’t have enough soldiers for every town and village, so some soldiers were stationed in one city while others patrolled a number of villages.

The town of Nazareth was one of those villages. There may have been soldiers stationed there, we don’t know, but if so it was a small number of soldiers.

This young Jewish girl, her name was Mary, and her girl friends no doubt thought about getting married. And, of course, they looked forward to the "honeymoon." But times for Mary and her friends were different, because they lived in a culture and time period in which a girl who slept with a man before marriage could be killed. So you can imagine the horror a girl would feel if she slept with a man plus got pregnant.

But that is what happened to Mary, she got pregnant. But she did not get pregnant by a Jewish boy, she got pregnant by a Roman soldier named Panthera. It is unclear (in the story) whether Mary slept with Panthera voluntarily or was raped by Panthera.

In any case, Mary was pregnant by this Roman soldier. We do not know Panthera’s intention. Did he fall in love with Mary, slept with her, and then after she became pregnant leave her? Or did he want to marry her but couldn’t since she was a Jew and he was a Roman soldier, plus she was engaged? Or did he grab her one night during his guard duty and rape her? No one knows the story. All the story tells is that Mary was pregnant and Panthera was the father.

To make matters worse, Mary was engaged to a carpenter named Joseph. When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, he could have had her killed. He decided instead to break the engagement. But he changed his mind (we are not sure why) and agreed to marry her.

And that way Mary was able to bear a son—who was called "Jesus"—without being accused of either having slept with or being raped by the Roman soldier Panthera.

So everyone in Nazareth thought Jesus was Joseph’s son and Mary was never questioned. Then, after Jesus began teaching and preaching, or maybe after His death, His followers created the story of Mary’s miraculous pregnancy in order to throw off the stigma of Jesus having a Roman soldier as a father and to prove that Jesus was God.

So made-up stories which question who Jesus was is nothing new but have been around since the time of Jesus. Origen wrote about this in a long letter he wrote entitled "Against Celsus" some 1800 years ago. And there will be more in the future, for that is what history teaches us.

©2006 Mark Nickens All Rights Reserved