Paul’s Version of the Nativity

painting of Tiananmen Square image
Image credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/theredproject/3591567650/">Michael Mandiberg</a>

Galatians 4:4-7

But when the time was right, God sent God’s son, born of a woman, subject to the law, so that everyone subject to the law could be reclaimed and adopted into God’s family. And, since you’re family, your hearts share the spirit of God’s son, so you can call God, Daddy. You’re not slaves any more. You’re sons and daughters. You’re God’s children and heirs.

These short lines are as close as Paul comes to saying anything about the nativity. But unlike the gospel’s accounts, which go out of their way to elaborate on the extra-natural character of Jesus’ birth, Paul’s whole point is to show how much Jesus’ lot is the same as everyone else’s.

So there is no reference to virginity. Jesus is born of a woman (Greek: gunaikos), which is as much to say, at least so far as his earthly lot is concerned, he puts his pants on one leg at a time. He’s subject to the same law as the rest of us. And for Paul’s theology, this sameness is the essential link to get the rest of us back to God.

But even if you can’t swallow Paul’s theology, it’s still worth noting that, however you want to construct it, the whole Jesus enterprise is aimed at setting people free. And it’s accomplished by people who put their pants on one leg at a time. People like Jesus and like you and like me.

In that sense, it’s the ultimate democratic movement.