The virgin birth of Jesus: Fact or fable?
Conflicting quotations showing the diversity of beliefs about the virgin
"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by
the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be
classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of
Jupiter." Thomas Jefferson, 1823. 1
"There can be no doubt as to the Church's teaching and as to the
existence of an early Christian tradition maintaining the perpetual virginity of our Blessed
Lady and consequently the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. The mystery of the virginal conception is furthermore taught by the
third Gospel and confirmed by the first."
Catholic Encyclopedia 2
"Larry King, the CNN talk show host, was once
asked who he would most want to interview if he could choose anyone from
all of history. He said, 'Jesus Christ.' The questioner said, 'And what
would you like to ask Him?' King replied, "I would like to ask Him if He
was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history
for me'." From Just Thinking, RZIM, Winter 1998. Cited by
"Although the virgin birth cannot be understood as a
historical-biological event, it can be regarded as a meaningful symbol at
least for that time." Hans Küng, "On Being a Christian," 4
"Matthew's Gospel was written in about AD 80-90 for Christians who were
not of Jewish provenance - that is, Gentiles who had no knowledge of
Isaiah's original Hebrew. For them, the passage announced, unambiguously,
the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy: the miraculous birth of a divine
being. But the prophet himself and readers of his original Hebrew sentence
regarded it as a quite specific allusion to the historical circumstances of
Isaiah's age, and would have found its mutation in Greek into one of the
foundations of Christian doctrine quite baffling." Geza Vermes, discussing
Isaiah 7:14 5
"The virgin birth of Jesus Christ is the root from
which everything the New Testament says about him grows. ... Both Luke and
Matthew state it up front as a fact, which they are convinced explains the
unusual nature of the man, Jesus, and the amazing things he said and did."
"The virgin birth is an underlying assumption of
everything the Bible says about Jesus. To throw out the virgin birth is to
reject Christ's deity, the accuracy and authority of Scripture, and a host
of other related doctrines that are the heart of the Christian faith. No
issue is more important than the virgin birth to our understanding of who
Jesus is. If we deny Jesus is God, we have denied the very essence of
Christianity." John F. MacArthur, Jr. 7
From about 80 CE to the present time, most Christian faith groups have taught that
Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) was
conceived and born by his mother Mary, while she was still a virgin. They believe
that this happened by the action of the Holy Spirit, without an act
of sexual intercourse.
||Roman Catholicism has
taught the doctrine of perpetual virginity -- that Mary lived, gave birth to Jesus, and
virgin through her entire life.
||Islam also teaches that Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus.
Some of the early leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints -- by far the largest of the Mormon denominations -- taught that God has a physical
body, and that he came down to earth, engaged in sexual intercourse with Mary, and
conceived Jesus. However, this was never made an official church teaching
and is rarely heard today, outside of statements by anti-Mormon groups who often
mistkenly claim that God engaging in sexual intercourse with Mary is current LDS
The Anglican Communion, Eastern Orthodoxy,
Protestant faith groups and Roman Catholicism have taught the "virgin birth," although the term
conception" would be much more accurate. This has long been one of the
foundational beliefs, along with the inerrancy of the
Bible; the God's inspiration of the authors of the Bible; the
atonement, resurrection, and
the anticipated second coming of Jesus,
All of the commonly used major ancient church creeds have also mentioned the
There is an incompatibility between belief in the virgin birth and the
messiahship of Jesus:
||The virgin birth implies that the actual father of Yeshua was the Holy
||Numerous places in the Hebrew Scriptures state that the coming messiah was
to be of the House of David.
||If Yeshua is the messiah, then he could not have been born of a virgin; he
would have had to have a father who was of the House of David, and
||If Jesus was born of a virgin, then he could not have been the messiah,
because his father -- the Holy Spirit -- was not a human descendent of the
House of David.
Scientists have observed that virgin conceptions (parthenogenesis) occurr in nature, but only in much smaller animals that humans; it has never been observed as ocurring in humans, except in unique births as mentioned in religions myths and documents.
Most modern liberal theologians have generally rejected the virgin birth.
They regard it as a religious myth that was added to Christian belief in the
late first century CE and was partly based on a Greek mistranslation
of the book of Isaiah from the original Hebrew. Its purpose was to make
Christianity more competitive with contemporary Pagan religions in the
Mediterranean region, most of whom featured their
founder having being born of a virgin. Without the claim of a virgin birth, it
is unclear whether Christianity would have been able to compete with Mithraism and other Pagan religions in the Roman Empire; it might not have survived.
Conservative Christians generally acknowledge that the virgin birth/conception happened as a historical event. Some denominations believe that it was necessary in order to prevent Jesus from inhereting the original sin passed down from Adam and Eve.
Various polls have found that about 80% of American adults believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. This
exceeds the total number of American adults who identify themselves as
Christian or Muslim. In fact, 47% of non-Christian adults also believe in the
virgin birth. 8
Topics covered in this section:
L.M. Graham, "Deceptions and Myths of the Bible", Citadel Press, New
York, NY, (1991), P. 304.
Out of print. However, a used copy may be obtainable from Amazon.com online book store
"The Virgin Birth of Christ," New Advent, at:
"Isn't the virgin birth of Jesus Christ mythological and scientifically
impossible?," ChristianAnswers.Net, at:
Hans Küng, "On being a Christian," Image, (Reprinted 1984).
Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
Geza Vermes, "Matthew's Nativity is charming and frightening... but it's a
Jewish myth," Telegraph, 2004-DEC-19, at:
- R.C. Girard & Larry Richards, "The Life of Christ,"
Thomas Nelson (2007), Page 7-8.
- John F. MacArthur, Jr, cited in R.C. Girard & Larry
Richards, "The Life of Christ," Thomas Nelson (2007), Page 8.
Nicholas D. Kristof, "Believe it or not," New York Times,
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Latest update: 2011-DEC-16
Written by. B.A. Robinson