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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Does the Virgin Birth Matter?

Liberal theologians say that certain details about the life of Christ, such as His virgin birth, are really just fanciful tales concocted by His followers long after His death. The disciples were trying to make Christ seem special, these scholars suggest, and so made these outrageous claims about His conception and birth when really He was just born in the ordinary way. The people of Jesus’ time did not have our medical knowledge and so the story caught on. But is it really that simple?

Does it Really Matter How Christ was Born?

Yes, it certainly does matter. The story of the virgin birth is vital to our understanding of Christ’s divine, sinless nature. It is no coincidence that so many of the theologians who reject the Virgin Birth also reject the deity of Christ. After all, if one part of His life story is just a myth, then many other parts might be mythical as well.

But those who scorn the gospel accounts forget that the promise of a holy child born to a virgin is very much older than the New Testament. In fact, it is implied in the very beginning of Genesis. After the serpent tempted Adam and Eve into sin, God warned the serpent that the seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15). Odd that God would speak about the seed of the woman and not the seed of the man. Was it a divine slip of the tongue?

We also find a promise of a child born of woman but not of man in the book of Isaiah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). “Immanuel” means “God with us”. So here, hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus and before the gospels were written, we have a clear promise of a divine child, born of a virgin, who was to come into the world. It seems evident, at least, that the gospel writers did not invent the idea of the virgin birth. Even the Koran, the holy book of the Muslim religion, affirms that Jesus was born of a virgin.

But a Virgin Birth is Impossible!

Very true. Humanly speaking, a virgin cannot have a child. But the people of Jesus’ day knew this as well. That is why Joseph had to be persuaded by an angel not to put Mary away. That is why the Jews who opposed Jesus called Him illegitimate (by referring to Him as “Mary’s son” in Mark 6:3, and by implication in John 8:41). They did not have to have modern medical knowledge to know just as well as we do that a virgin birth is ordinarily impossible. But an all-powerful God is certainly able to do miracles far greater than this in accordance with His will. To say that the virgin birth is just a myth, and that it is not necessary for a Christian to believe in it, is to deny not only the testimony of the Scriptures but the power of God.

RJA

Republished by permission of the author

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