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So I'm curious if there exist any Christian sects which deny the physical birth of Jesus, i.e. that Jesus was born from Mary. Perhaps such a sect would say that Jesus simply appeared from the Heavens and didn't need anyone to bring him into the world.

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    I guess the Docetists would count, seeing as they didn't believe Jesus had a physical body. I haven't heard of any modern Docetists.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jan 27 at 0:43
  • @curiousdannii Thanks, I've heard of those guys but likewise, I've never seen a modern one
    – setszu
    Commented Jan 27 at 0:44

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The most likely candidate would be one from the 'stables' of Gnosticism. It initially flourished during the middle of the second century and proved to be a major challenge for early Christianity, not least because of its teachings being couched in Christian language. But it was utterly not Christian! In 1945 Gnostic texts were discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt, adding to what we knew from the early church fathers' refutations of Gnosticism. Now we can understand even better why early Church creeds were formed, as some of them refuted head-on some Gnostic beliefs, such as how they denied any physical resurrection of the body. They rejected belief in the crucified Christ being raised with a glorified physical body.

However, you ask about denial as to his literal birth from Mary. It is necessary to first grasp their utter contempt of physical matter. Basically, they taught that spiritual is good, but physical is bad. Gnostics believed that the Demiurge created an evil, material world. Their idea of the Supreme god holds that he is only interested in non-spiritual reality. If that was who resurrected Jesus, then Jesus would have been raised as an invisible spirit creature. If that was who caused Mary to conceive Jesus, it could only have been the outward appearance of a baby that she bore.

Gnostics radically rejected creation, and the body. Their idea of salvation was to escape from 'matter', i.e. the physical world, and the physical body. Immediately, it can be seen that if they agreed that the man, Jesus, was born of the woman, Mary, he would have been in need of salvation! He would have needed to die (not as the Saviour, for he needed saving himself!) but to die in order to escape his contemptible physical, corrupt, body. If he was raised as a spirit creature, that would be salvation for him. The way to Gnostic salvation is enlightenment, affirming the divine spark within. Jesus is a 'revealer', who gives knowledge (gnosis) of our true spiritual identity and divine origin. This gnosis equips the chosen few to return to the realm of light after death. Gnostics, and their modern-day counterparts, would view Jesus as one who only appeared to be human, but who knew his divine origin, shared that knowledge with his chosen followers, and escaped from his corrupt physical body after death.

Today, there actually are some denominations within Christianity that insist that God 'disposed of' Christ's dead, physical body, and resurrected him as a pure spirit creature. It is unlikely that they realise that that is a Gnostic view, but it is. However, they can hardly be seen to have other Gnostic views. Two of them are very clear that the woman, Mary, physically birthed the baby called Jesus, who was fully human.

Another view from Gnosticism - which has come down to us in the writing below - expresses what entering God's kingdom amounts to; nothing short of androgyny:

"When you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female... then you will enter the kingdom." Gnostic Gospel of Thomas

Any Gnostic agreement that Jesus is the King of the Kingdom (as Christianity maintains) would have to say that he became androgynous. This is all tied up with their revulsion of the physical sexuality of males and females.

Nowadays, there is a clear social movement towards this supposed ideal, but it cannot be called Christianity. The most likely 'camp' to find traces of Gnosticism that hold to such antagonism against human physicality, which would include that of Jesus Christ's earthly existence, from birth to resurrection, would be in the ever-morphing New Age religiosity. It is not a single denomination but encourages a melting-pot, pick-and-mix approach to spiritual ideas.

Source for a lot of the above from a booklet called 'Gnosticism' published by the Christian Institute, November 2017. For much more, and links to quotes, go to http://www.christian.org.uk/gnosticism-ref

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    Up-voted +1. Well-informed and incisive. Good background information. Much appreciatedd.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Feb 5 at 14:05

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