Grant Adamson, Ph.D. 2014
Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies, University of Arizona
How Ancient Minds Conceived the Son of God
Grant is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Arizona. He was a Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellow in the Program of Writing and Communication at Rice University from 2014-2016. He teaches courses in biblical studies, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as well as courses in writing for undergraduates. His research interests focus on the New Testament and early Christianity, christology, the development of orthodoxy and heresy, ancient Mediterranean religion, philosophy, science and medicine, papyrology, cognitive linguistics, and the digital humanities. He has co-edited and published (with April D. DeConick) a series of papers in the volume Histories of the Hidden God (Durham: Acumen). He has published extensive articles on the topics of gnosticism, sethianism, hermetism, and the Gospel of Judas in top venues. His full c.v. can be found on his own webpage, grantwadamson.com.
Grant is currently rewriting his thesis into a monograph called Incarnation through Virgin Birth: The Earliest Christological Developments. He begins with the problem that the idea of Jesus’ pre-existence was developed circa 30-50 CE, but it did not necessarily differentiate believers in him from other Jews. The idea of his virgin birth was developed circa 70-90 CE as a defense against reports of Mary’s early pregnancy. Parthenogenesis was itself novel within Second Temple and early Judaism, and its harmonization with the previously developed idea of Jesus’ pre-existence differentiated proto-orthodox Christians from Jews. It also differentiated them from other Christian groups. Historical-critical methods cannot get at the details of this harmonizing thought process. Blending theory explains how the two separate ideas of Jesus’ pre-existence and virgin birth were harmonized and how the doctrine of Incarnation through parthenogenesis emerged: blended spaces have emergent structure and meaning that are not reducible to input spaces. Incarnation through parthenogenesis is not reducible to the ideas of Jesus’ pre-existence and virgin birth, any more than it is reducible to Paul and John, Matthew and Luke, Jewish or pagan literature. It was a new idea that emerged from the blending of two separate ideas in the second century and has since been taken for granted as it became proto-orthodox and then orthodox Christian doctrine. Furthermore the cognitive theory of minimal counterintuitiveness suggests why the doctrine was historically successful: concepts that violate one or two expectations, such as the concept of a pre-existent Jesus who is incarnated through virgin birth, have mnemonic advantage over other concepts that violate no expectations or too many of them.