Friday, May 30, 2008


This is surely the naughtiest image of Mary you could ever imagine. It's the sort of porn stuff that the police in my native Australia will surely be banning and burning during the Pope's July visit to Sydney for Youth Day. The Virgin is fondling a serpent with her left foot, and the rigid reptile seems to be enjoying every moment of the caresses.

Seriously, this image reflects a legend about the Greek goddess Eurynome [whom you can look up on Google: today's cornucopia of facts, if not necessarily of knowledge and wisdom].

It appears that the whole Catholic thing about the mother of Jesus being a virgin is based upon a translation error. The origin of the legend is a statement in Isaiah 7, 14. Here's how it reads in the antiquated King James Version:

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

The Revised English Bible introduces an interesting surprise: the word "virgin" has disappeared!

[...] the Lord of his own accord will give you a sign; it is this: A young woman is with child, and she will give birth to a son and call him Immanuel.

The change from "virgin" to "young woman" reflects the true content of the original Hebrew, which speaks of almah ["young woman"], not bethulah ["virgin"]. The error of the King James Version was introduced way back before the birth of Jesus, when scholars translated the Hebrew almah into Greek as parthenos ["virgin"]. Much later, in Matthew 1, 22-23, the evangelist is inspired by this Greek translation error when he declares:

All this happened in order to fulfil what the Lord declared through the prophet: "A virgin will conceive and bear a son, and he shall be called Emmanuel..."

That's to say, Matthew was the ignoramus in elementary biology who set out to mystify everybody by claiming that the conception of Jesus had never been preceded by the sexual penetration of Mary and the introduction of male sperm. Many Catholics persist in considering that Mary's hymen membrane had remained perfectly intact although she was in a state of pregnancy. The least that can be said is that they have a lot of explaining to do! These days, high-tech interventions enable a woman's reproductive cell to be fertilized without an explicit sexual union with a male. Otherwise, failing technology, we remain in the fairy-tale domain of frogs that metamorphose into princesses.

Sadly to say, ever since the Isaiah translation bug and Matthew's failure to do his Hebrew homework, the trivial concept of virginity has become a Big Thing among Christians and Moslems. Amazingly, a French marriage has just been canceled, as if it had never been enacted, because a dissatisfied husband discovered with horror that his legal wife wasn't a virgin. Somehow or other, the court in Lille has contrived the delicate argument that the canceled marriage was a transaction founded upon the presence of "goods" [my word, not theirs] that did not conform to what was imagined by the male "acquirer" [again: my word, not theirs]. In other words, it was as if the guy imagined that he would be obtaining a fresh piece of meat, only to discover that it was tainted.

Most cases of canceled marriages in France are due to the fact that the consent of a partner had not in fact been obtained. The case of a ruptured hymen is something new... and shocking.

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