As a Christian and an adoptee, the question “Was Jesus Adopted?” has not been something I ever wrestled with. I knew that Moses was, but never heard of any other adoption stories in the bible. Growing up, I always knew Jesus as God’s son who was sent to earth to be sacrificed for our sins. I never questioned if He was adopted or not. Throughout my life, I have always seen Jesus as a beacon of light, goodness, and hope to me. I, on the other hand, viewed myself as corrupted, unwanted, and disregarded as an adoptee. The obvious dichotomy for Now that I’m contemplating the commonalities and the difference between Jesus and adoption, I can see why the conclusion can be drawn that he was. In the article, we will explore different theological and biblical references to adoption that relate to Jesus.
What is adoption in the Bible?
Christian adoption theology is a field of study that specifically analyzes adoption in the context of Christianity and religion. The Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology explains several different definitions of adoption, which loosely can be defined as one of “several family-related terms used to describe the process of salvation and its subsequent benefits.” Because God is known as Father, among many other things, one can recognize all of humanity as his children – those who believe and have faith in Him. The dictionary also references adoption in the context of Israel. God calls Israel his “firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22), as he is the Father. This automatically made all the Israelites his children. One must wonder, however, whether this statement was because the Israelites were fatherless before or whether God has always been their Father and is simply declaring it during this verse.
Was Jesus Adopted?
Perhaps the most obvious statement of adoption is in Ephesians 1:5, which concludes that God “predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.” Here, we have a direct association between adoption and Jesus. He came to ensure that we could all be adopted as God’s “sons,” meaning that humans are adopted through Jesus with God as their father. An important part of Christianity is the belief that Jesus and God are one. If this is true, then Jesus is adopted.
Ephesians 1:5 also provides reasoning as to why believers in Christ are adopted through Jesus; it is based only on the “outworking of God’s love and grace.” Although the word “adopted” is specifically mentioned in this verse, without it the conceptual idea behind adoption can still be found.
Lauren Rae Konkol, a writer for the First Things journal, reviews a book by Gilbert Meilaender titled Not by Nature but by Grace. The book analyzes adoption through a traditional Christian viewpoint. In biblical text, the Greek word “huiothesia” is a word associated with adoption. In fact, it can be translated as such. God’s “huiothesia” of humans is reflected in Meilaender’s statement “the adoptee’s sonship [and daughtership] is not assured ‘by natural descent or merit,’ but is a sonship always dependent on God’s free grace.” Konkel refers to this concept as “the gospel proclamation.” If this is, in fact, the gospel proclamation, then adoption (or the philosophy of it) is the basis of
During his lifetime, Jesus walked with the poor, the disadvantaged, the criminal, and the mentally ill. He loved everyone, even if they were a complete stranger to him. He preached how important it was to help the needy and to “love thy neighbor.” These principles are quite similar to the altruistic motive for most families to adopt a child. They want to provide a loving home for a child who otherwise may not have had a home to go to. On top of that, God chose them to be the parents of the only perfect human to ever walk the earth. While regular humans are nowhere near what Jesus was, and are not meant to be, this process is exactly what happens when an expectant parent chooses an adoptive family for their child. In their eyes, their child is perfect; again, this is not the same thing but can be seen as a loose association.
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus’ birth and the nativity story is exemplary when questioning whether He was adopted or not. Mary, Jesus, and Joseph are the ultimate representation of what we refer to today as a “non-traditional family.” Each member represents a member of the adoption triad: Jesus as the adoptee, Mary and God as the birth parents, and Joseph as the adoptive parent. When it’s broken down like this, the resemblance to the adoption triad is unmistakable. A guest blog featured on adoption.com emphasizes that Jesus knew that he was a part of a unique type of family; he was very much aware that he was special and chosen to do something monumental. Maybe, he might even have recognized that he was adopted in that sense. Although we will never know that, it’s mind-boggling to think that the adoption journey that many expectant parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents go through today.
When Mary was told that she would carry the child of God, can you imagine how intimidating that would be? Here she was, a young and unmarried virgin, getting ready to carry a baby sent from God. Before her community knew wholeheartedly that she was You see, in those days, if a woman gave birth before she was married, much less lived with a man at all before marriage, she was considered a woman of loose morals. Even though it wasn’t true, being labeled with this stereotype must have taken a significant toll on her. Although the stereotypes about birth mothers have slightly shifted since biblical times, the idea that women who are pregnant, unmarried, and young are immoral still persists today.
Joseph, whom she was to be wed to, had to decide whether or not he would assume the ultimate responsibility for Mary and her unborn holy child. Would he protect the child as if it was his own, loving it as if it were his own flesh and blood? I’m sure for Joseph this was not even a question considering the circumstances. However, this is something that expectant parents have to consider when selecting an adoptive family for their child in the adoption process.
You can see Mary as the birth mother of Jesus and Joseph acting as the “adoptive” father. God is technically Jesus’ birth father, as he is the one whom he shares the ultimate lineage with. Because Joseph takes him as his own son, Jesus adopts his lineage as well. While this is not an example that follows the traditional method of adoption, it does match the conventional concept behind it: providing a child with a loving family, a home, care, and protection. However, when it comes down to it, can we really say that Jesus was adopted based on this? He was sent by God to be a representative of himself in human form. Essentially, he was an extension of God that the people could see and talk to. What we can say, however, is that Jesus embodies what an adoptee is. The adoptee experience has no one definition, I believe Jesus exemplifies the diversity that is apparent within our experiences. Although we usually don’t like the word “chosen” in reference to our existence, we are. We were chosen by God to live the path we have been given, even if that path means being born to one family and being raised by another or getting pregnant and choosing to place your child for adoption. It can be hard to see a struggle as something that you were chosen to do, but in reality, we are all chosen for something.
How does Jesus’ potential adoption relate to adoption as we know it today?
Now, let’s take a minute to acknowledge the different types of adoption. People usually have a general view of adoption being a happy family adopting a newborn baby straight from the hospital. While infant adoption is one of the most common types of adoptions in the U.S., there are many different options for expectant parents to choose from. Here are some of the types of adoption today:
- Closed or open adoption
- Domestic or international adoption
- Foster care adoption
- Newborn or older child adoption
- Kinship adoption
In contrast, during biblical times and even up to the early 1900s, adoptions were not classified the same way as they are now; if a child was in need, someone took them in. It was that simple. Remember when Joseph had to make that decision with Jesus? That was the same thing. So, while Jesus’ “adoption” was not the costly, lengthy, and complex type that we see today, he still experienced the basis of what adoption is. An important thing to remember when making this connection, however, is that while Jesus has two wonderful earthly parents to take care of him, his original Father was not incapable of doing so himself. He did not send Jesus to earth because he wanted a better life for him. He sent him to ensure that we would live better lives. This in itself is such a powerful statement. As an adoptee who has struggled with my adoption history, just being reassured that there is a reasoning behind it provides me with a sense of peace. For expectant parents, I can only imagine that it would provide the same feeling.
So, was Jesus adopted or not? What does this mean for members of the adoption community?
An important thing to remember is how adoption affects the expectant parent or the adoptee. Humans are the underdogs, the downtrodden; we are the people that Jesus walked with and although he walked alongside them just as he walks with us today, they shared something in common – they had experienced struggle. Jesus is perfect, as he is God’s son; humans are not perfect, we are sinners. However, Jesus endured the ultimate suffering of dying on the cross – all earthly struggles seem minuscule compared to this. The sacrifice that expectant parents make when making the decision to place their child for adoption is rooted in this ultimate sacrifice.
The shame that sometimes comes with adoption, as mentioned at the beginning of the article, can lead to expectant or birth parents and adoptees to feel bastardized because of their adoption experience. Whether it is because a parent feels they cannot care for their child or an adoptee that is struggling to come to terms with their adoption, the internal conflicts that come with adoption can also lead to guilt. But, why should we feel guilty about our existence if this is the path that God chose for us? Although it’s not the way that God phrases procreation and reproduction, our adoption journeys make us who we are. He created us in his image and loves us unconditionally; those of us in the adoption community can find comfort in this.
At the end of the day, there are infinite answers to whether Jesus was adopted or not. After researching Christian adoption theology and analyses of adoption in the biblical text, I personally believe that Jesus was adopted – but not in the sense that we know adoption today. As mentioned, adoption today is complex and lengthy. When Mary found that she was pregnant with Jesus, there wasn’t really time to figure everything out. They assimilated as a family and relied on God for strength and direction throughout the pregnancy. I think this takes us back to the core philosophy of adoption, minus all the bells and whistles and formalities; taking time to reflect on what these biblical figures had to endure during Mary’s pregnancy and the nativity as expectant parents and other members of the adoption triad gives us a much better appreciation for our own adoption experience.
Overall, one can conclude that while Jesus meets the qualifications of being “adopted,” he more importantly embodies the philosophy of adoption. He embodies acceptance, peace, wantedness, and love.
May you find comfort in knowing that as an expectant parent, no matter what decision you make in your child, you are loved by Jesus Christ.