Leave it to nature to contribute with a twist to the “true meaning” of
Christmas. Scientists have just announced that a female Komodo dragon named
Flora, a resident of the Chester Zoo in England, will give multiple births
around Christmas – with no help from any male dragon!
The fact that Komodo dragons can undergo parthenogenesis, the technical term for
self-fertilization, is new to science, but it is certainly not uncommon among
animals and plants. Natural selection, according to researchers who study the
dragons, may have favored parthenogenesis as an option so that individual
animals would be able to colonize new areas, such as an island. You get there
first, have sex with yourself, then have sex with your own offspring (which in
the case of female dragons would all be males, because of the genetics of this
species), and a new population would be established. Of course, I wouldn't
recommend conservative commentators pick this species as an example of family
values, better stick with penguins.
The obvious question, given the season, is: could Jesus (assumed he was a
real historical figure) be the result of human parthenogenesis? Well, the
process is unknown in humans so far, but then again it was unknown in Komodo
dragons until this week too (though parthenogenesis had been described before in
reptiles, but not in primates). Of course, given the peculiarities of human
genetics, this would make Jesus a woman. Take that, Dan Brown!
Much more likely, however, Mary wasn't a virgin at all, but simply a
young woman. As is well known, the oldest Greek version of the Septuagint did
use the word “virgin” referring to the prophecy of Isaiah, allegedly predicting
the birth of Jesus: “ Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold,
a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
(Isaiah 7:14) Besides the apparently neglected little detail that Jesus was
named Jesus, not Immanuel, the original Hebrew word was “ha-almah,” which means
young woman, not virgin. To think that scores have been killed throughout
history for not believing in a translation error. Ironically, ha-almah was
translated into Greek as “parthenos,” the root word for parthenogenesis.
Beautiful, ain't it?