Discussion → The Bible as Writing/Fertility and Miraculous Birth

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    Ann Bogle
    May 15, 08:21am

    I have been trying to find out, using religious sources I have at home, whether fertility was under control in the cities and towns at Jesus' birth. I read Luke, where social conditions are somewhat detailed: taxation brought Joseph and Mary back to Bethlehem. That the religion endlessly celebrates the miraculous birth has only recently caused me to wonder whether fertility (population) was somehow being curbed. I read in Karen Armstrong's _A History of God_ that fertility cults of the Canaanites of the 10th c. A.D. existed; otherwise, I could not easily find references to birthing in her Biblical history. It also occurred to me that in all the religious art I have ever viewed in any museum or country, I had never seen religious art depicting the Birth itself, only depictions of Madonna and Child. It further occurred to me that while people seem unconvinced that Jesus was conceived in the usual way (distinction not expressed in Luke), people do not seem to doubt that he was born in the usual way. I'll seek more sources. A solid history of the period would be helpful. Lucretius wrote around the same time as Jesus' birth. I read Lucretius' poetry in translation excerpted in the Norton Anthology. It is about philosophy of death. Huston Smith notes that Lucretius was an atheist. The writing as writing in Luke is refreshing and new and follows Cicero (dull) in that anthology.

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    Steven J. Kolbe
    Jul 13, 09:37pm

    There are a lot of sources on this subject, so I doubt I will be able add anything, but I do know that at the time of these first century writings there are a number of ways people prevented births. Early Christians were roundly against contraceptives of any kind. If fact, many today translate the magic and potions prohibited in the New Testament as references to various abotifacients and otherwise s sterilization methods. Furthermore, this was nothing new to the religion. The recounting of the flood and the ark is often seen as the Jewish response to similar stories of the time, stories which explained the flood as the answer to over population. The Jewish response was of course, Be fruitful and multiply!

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