THE ORIGIN OF THE SOUL
In modern times there are often debates as to the origin of the soul and when the embryo becomes a viable human being. The revelations of the New Church are clear: a soul becomes infused in the embryo at conception. This matches the biological definition of the beginning of life: it begins at conception.
In prior posts, I have discussed the belief in reincarnation in some eastern religions. The revelations of the New Church provides an answer once and for all: life begins at conception. Past life memories do indeed happen, but this happened more often in ancient times when one would enter into communication with a spirit and begin to recall the memory as if it was one's own (see Heavenly Arcana, n. 5843, 5858, 6199). It would often be a similar personality, or one that had similar habits or fears, as the thoughts of our mind is the result of constant influx from the spiritual world.
Swedenborg received an amazing revelation on Christianity and the Second Coming that provides spiritual understanding that is rationally and logically consistent. The majority of the writings are based on direct revelations he received from the Lord, but occasionally he does draw upon his scientific knowledge of his day (18th century). On the surface, he made some false declarations on genetics, namely, the soul originates from the seed of the father and the body comes from the mother (e.g., Heavenly Arcana, n. 1815, 2005, 10052.2, 10125.2, True Christian Religion, n. 92, 103). This idea he may have borrowed from Aristotle (Generation of Animals, book II, 4), but Aristotle's opinion on this matter is not so simple and a bit convoluted and contradictory (for an analysis see Understanding Aristotle's Reproductive Hylomorphism). We know this is incorrect: modern genetics states that the body of a human is composed of equal parts from both the father and mother.
This presents a difficult problem, as Swedenborg makes these statements on genetics to support some of the theology concerning the virgin birth. But actually it is only an apparent falsehood. Although Swedenborg may have believed the scientific knowledge derived from Aristotle, the revelations explicitly declare that the soul is only derived from spiritual influx, not from the seed of the father or ovum of the mother:
"Who at this day does not believe that man springs from the seed and the ovum according to nature? and that there is in the seed from the first creation the ability of producing itself into such forms, first within the ovum, next in the womb, and afterward of itself, and that it is not the Divine which continues to produce? The cause of its being so believed is, that no one knows there is any influx from heaven, that is, through heaven from the Lord" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4322)
And then we have this statement:
"Unless there were such an eminent perfection in prior and simple things, neither man, nor any animal, could exist and afterward subsist from seed" (Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 204)These statements are correct, but they directly contradict the other statements that says the soul comes from the seed of the father. So what gives? It is later explained that the seed of the father is merely a receptacle for the spiritual influx of the life of the soul (Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 269, 310). Also, "nature contributes nothing at all to the production of plants and animals, but ...all are produced by that which flows in from the spiritual world into the natural" (Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 344). Also, the image of creation originates from the spiritual, not the natural (Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 315). Elsewhere, Swedenborg explicitly states that as the soul descends it becomes "clothed" with natural substances, and becomes seed (Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love, n. 220, 245). This process of "clothing" or encapsulation of the soul from influx first begins with the seed of the father and ends with conception in the ovum of the mother.
The soul is spiritual in origin, and in its descent first becomes conjoined with the seed of the father and then the ovum of the mother. It is merely a receptacle for spiritual influx. A viable embryo must have spiritual influx, seed from the father and the ovum from the mother. Thus we see that when Swedenborg says the soul is from the father, or the seed of the father, he is oversimplifying for the audience of his day.
It should also be pointed out that the seed corresponds to the soul of the body (Heavenly Arcana, 3855, 9258.2) and the "giving of seed" corresponds to spiritual influx (Heavenly Arcana, 6139). Thus what Swedenborg said on the matter is true by symbolic correspondence - for the seed of the father eventually becomes the vessel of the soul at conception.
THE VIRGIN BIRTH
The gospels of Matthew and Luke describe how Jesus was born of a virgin, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 as well as some ancient myths describing a God-man born of a virgin, which probably originated from a more ancient church in the Middle East that preceded Judaism. It is by virtue of the virgin birth that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God (Luke 1:35) - the idea of a second person or a Son "born from eternity" is a later falsehood invented by men that was unknown to the early church. Although the virgin birth is not explicitly declared in the gospel of John, John states that Jesus is the "Word made flesh" and was thus unlike any other man or ordinary prophet. In later dialogue the Jews argue with Jesus over the identity of His father, whom Jesus does not reveal to them.
So why did Jesus have to be born of a virgin? No one has been able to answer this question, if it was even asked, but the revelations do give us an answer. The virgin birth is very important as it is a sign given to explain exactly who Jesus is: His soul was Divine, and was not derived from the seed of any human father. It was God Himself who descended as to the Divine truth and became clothed in human form. The invisible God is the Father, His visible form is the Son, born in time to the virgin Mary.
Every person inherits hereditary evils from the father and mother, and the other revelation is that another reason why God had to become incarnate in human form was that so that He could dwell in a human body and fight against the temptations and power of the hells which had been inherited from the evils from the human mother. Jesus had only inherited evil tendencies from Mary in his most external outward form, but at a higher level, the level of His soul which was Divine, He could succumb to no evil. Evils from the mother can be removed, but those inherited from the father cannot (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1573). Otherwise, in no manner could the Divine be tempted. The idea of an "immaculate conception" for Mary is not only false, but it obscures the rationale for why God had to become incarnate to save humanity. It was only through the human form that God could fight directly against the hells which at the time had gained dominion and power over humanity.
FIRST PROBLEM: CHRIST IS OF THE SEED OF DAVID
The majority of Christianity accepts the virgin birth at face value without questioning why Jesus had to be virgin; even Islam accepts this fact. There is an obvious problem posed by the virgin birth: many prophecies in scripture state that the Messiah would be born from the seed of David. This was first given to David with the promise that his seed would rule over the house of Israel forever (2 Sam. 7), and this was fulfilled by Jesus. But that simply could not be true if Jesus was born of a virgin, correct? One simple explanation around this is that Mary was a descendant of the house of David - we know that as her genealogy is presented in Luke. But "seed" and "son" is always through the male line, and this can be seen in the genealogy of the kings that descended from David.
Another curious fact is that Joseph's genealogy is presented in Matthew. But that yet brings up another question: why even mention the genealogy through Joseph if he had nothing to do with the virgin birth? Joseph is specifically called "son of David" (Matt. 1:20), moreover, Mary only conceived only after she was espoused to Joseph of the "house of David" (Luke 1:27). Why, if Joseph has nothing to do with the virgin birth?
Throughout the gospels, Jesus is called "son of David," and its actually the very first statement of the New Testament (e.g., Matt. 1:1, 9:27, 12:23, 15:22, 20:30-31, 21:9,15). In Luke, David is called Jesus father (Luke 1:32) and of the lineage of David (Luke 2:4). In John, people mention how the Messiah must come from the "seed of David" (John 7:42). Paul is even more specific: concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was of the seed of David, according to the flesh (Rom. 1:3). And later, Paul again calls Jesus of the "seed of David" (Heb. 4:7). But this can only occur through the male line, not through a virgin birth.
Jesus, interestingly, points out this problem. In all three of the synoptic gospels, He asks the question: if Christ or the Messiah is the son of David, how come David calls the Messiah "Lord"? (Matt. 22:42-46) It ends with "no one was able to answer." And an explicit answer is never given in the Gospels. One answer was given in the revelations of the New Church: Jesus indeed was a man like you and I, but upon the resurrection He made His body fully Divine, to the point that Jesus is now the Divine Human, or "God-Man," and it can no longer be said of Jesus that He is the son of Mary, for everything that was of the human nature has now been transformed into the Divine. In this manner God can interact directly with humanity without the intermediary of angels. But this still does not answer how Jesus could be of the seed of David if He was born of a virgin.
The problem I am pointing out here is not a new one. In the history of Christianity, one of the earliest heresies was a Jewish Christian sect that was later known as the "Ebionites." They regarded Jesus as a mere man and followed the "Adoptionist" heresy which declared Jesus only became the Son of God at the baptism of John. They modified the Gospel of Matthew into a forgery known as the Gospel of the Ebionites which removed the story of the virgin birth, perhaps due to the apparent discrepancy between that story and these prophecies indicating that the Messiah was to be born of the seed of David. Most accounts from the early church fathers agree that the Ebionites rejected the virgin birth and regarded Jesus as the biological son of Joseph and Mary. There are some modern scholars who followed a similar reasoning to the Ebionites and surmised the virgin birth was added later since its not mentioned in the Gospel of Mark.
SECOND PROBLEM: WHERE DID THE Y CHROMOSOME COME FROM?
The second problem with the virgin birth is an obvious problem to anyone with a knowledge of human genetics, much of it unknown before the 20th century. The problem is simple: all males have a Y chromosome, and can only be passed from male fathers. An XX chromosome means the offspring would be female and an XY chromosome means the offspring would be male. Jesus, being fully man, obviously had a Y chromosome. Where did it come from? In the animal kingdom there is the phenomenon of parthenogenesis, where a female spontaneously gives birth when her egg undergoes division, but this always leads to female offspring.
There is one exception to this: there is a rare genetic defect among females known as "XY gonadal dysgenesis." In this case, a female is born that is female in every way except she happens to carry the Y chromosome. Such females do not undergo puberty and their ovaries are non-functional: they can never give birth. However recently a girl was discovered who had this syndrome but her ovaries were discovered to be normal: see Girl with Y chromosome sheds light on maleness.
So, was this the case for the virgin Mary? Two (or more) things would need to occur biologically:
- Mary would need to produce an ovum that somehow produces an XY pairing for a male, and this has never been documented among any female.
- The XY ovum would need to undergo parthenogenesis as it does it some animal species, where it splits and then recombines. This has never been documented, and several very rare steps would need to happen for this process to end with a viable embryo (see Can a Virgin Give Birth? Yes—but it’s very, very, very, very unlikely.)
This would solve the problem of the missing Y chromosome, and even though born of a virgin, Jesus could still be said to be of the "seed of David."
Another possibility: the Holy Spirit, as it overshadowed Mary, borrowed the Y chromosome from Joseph, and created a unique vessel which became Jesus Christ, somehow done with no sexual intercourse. This would explain why the Gospels trace back the lineage of both Joseph and Mary to the house of David. Thus two conditions are satisfied: Jesus is of the seed of David and yet has no human father, for only God is His Father as the spiritual influx came direct from the Holy Spirit, that is, from the Divine alone. In this scenario, the seed of Joseph was modified to be a vessel of God's spirit, rather than house another human soul. In His day the Jews recognized Jesus as the son of Joseph (see John 6:42)
The underlying biological science of the virgin birth is merely a rational exploration into the truth of what has been revealed. While we do not have a definite answer, I would prefer these routes of exploration rather than mutilate the gospel records. That it may be important can be seen from the fact that it took 46 years to build Herod's temple, which Jesus said represented his body. And there happen to be 46 chromosomes in the human body (see The Lost Doctrine of the Temple of the Divine Human)
The important thing to realize here, is that the Father and Son are one
in Jesus Christ just as the soul and body are one. For the Father dwells
in Jesus (John 14:9-10) just as the soul dwells in the body. And this is why Jesus had to be born in such a miraculous manner.
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