Was Jesus Virgin Born?
The doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus is so well accepted and cherished by most Christians that it has become a criterion for membership in most Christian organizations. All those who would dare to question it are generally held in contempt. Devout Christians religiously carry their bibles to church and are involved in 'bible study' classes and yet most haven't the slightest idea what their bibles really teach. Even fewer do not know where their bibles came from or how they were assembled and edited. It is assumed that somehow or in some way their bibles just dropped down from heaven. This subject however is never brought up in preaching or bible studies thus leaving most Christians, Bible illiterate. The question is never asked, where the Bible came from, or how and when was it edited and canonized? However we will take the Bible at what it says, and in this article compare the birth stories of Jesus of Nazareth as they are related in the Gospels.
The Gospel of Mark, most bible scholars tell us, is the earliest of all the other gospels. There is nothing in this gospel about the birth of Jesus. It opens up by saying, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God". Then with Jesus being baptized and preaching in Galilee. The Gospel of John, we are told, is the most recent of the four gospels. We find nothing in this gospel about the birth of Jesus or of His childhood. The writers or editors of these gospels either had no knowledge of the virgin birth of Jesus or thought it not noteworthy enough to mention. The opening statement in the Gospel of Mark is much closer to the Gospel in the first canon of the Christian Bible that was introduced by Marcion, 144 AD. Marcion's 'Gospel' opens with Jesus preaching in Galilee.
The other two Gospels, Matthew and Luke, both mention the birth of Jesus. The traditional nativity stories are taken from these two gospels.
Both of these gospels agree on the following events:
Joseph and Mary were the parents of Jesus, they were betrothed but not living in a marriage relationship when she became pregnant. (Matt.1:20 & Luke 1:27, 2:4). Although the details differ greatly, both tell of an angelic announcement about the child Jesus who was to be born (Matt.1:20-23 & Luke 1:30 -35). Both seem to indicate this child was not conceived in the normal human way, but rather by an intervention of God's Spirit (Matt. 1:20, Luke 1:34). Both have an angel saying His name was to be Jesus and that He would be a Savior (Matt. 1:21 & Luke 2:11). Both set the time of His birth during the reign of Herod the Great (Matt. 2:1 & Luke 1:5). Both tell us He spent His youth in Nazareth (Matt. 2:33 & Luke 2:51).
From this point on the details of the nativity stories are much different and are even in conflict with each other. Luke's genealogy begins with Adam (Luke 3:38) and ending with verse 23. Please note in verse 23 when it says Jesus was the son of Joseph, the words ("as was supposed,") are inserted in brackets. The editor saw this insertion to be necessary to support the doctrine of the 'virgin birth'. Matthew starts with Abraham (Matt. 1:32) and traces the lineage of Jesus ancestry through the royal line of David while Luke goes from David to Nathan, not Solomon, and ignores the royal line. Matthew also has several women in his genealogy; some were not even Hebrew, such as Rahab the prostitute. Some of the other women mentioned in this genealogy also had a cloud over their morality. Both Luke and Matthew have Jesus' lineage through Joseph, but they disagree as to who Joseph's father was. Luke says it was Heli and Matthew says it was Jacob. Some have tried to explain this contradiction by saying Matthew's genealogy was that of Joseph and Luke's was for Mary, but seeing that Luke has Jacob as the father of Joseph, so if this is also the genealogy of Mary, this would make Joseph and Mary brother and sister. This creates a greater problem than it solves. Neither does it deal with the problem of Joseph having two different fathers. It is also a contradiction to give a physical genealogy of Jesus through Joseph, as both gospels do, if the Holy Spirit and not Joseph was His father. The Christian community seems to ignore this contradiction all together pretending it doesn't exist.
Luke uses a Roman census, (of which there is no historic record), to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem (Luke 2:1&2), while Matthew assumes they already live there in a known house over which a star can stop, (Matt 2:11). Matthew seems to know nothing about a stable, a manger, an angelic chorus or wondering shepherds; while Luke knows nothing of a star in the east, wise men (Magi) or of any gifts nor of Herod's slaughter of the infants in Bethlehem. These two gospels are also at odds as to what happened right after Jesus' birth. Matthew has Joseph having a dream wherein an angel told him to take the child and flee to Egypt. After they had been in Egypt for some time the angel told Joseph that Herod had died and it was safe to return to Israel, but not go to Judea as Herod's son was reigning instead of his father, so to avoid danger go to Galilee (Matt 2:21-23).
Luke's story is all together different, Joseph and Mary took the child to the synagogue at Bethlehem when He was eight days old and had Him circumcised. When he was forty days old they took Him to the synagogue in Jerusalem for a special dedication (Luke 2:2). When they were finished there they went directly to their home at Nazareth. There is no agreement, nor consistency in these two stories. They both cannot be true. They could not go south to Egypt and north to Nazareth at the same time. This contradiction is far too great to be ignored.
It appears that the editor of the gospel of Matthew generated his story and tried to support it with passages from the Hebrew Scriptures, which he took out of context. He had to get Jesus into Egypt so he could misapply Hosea 11:1 in Matt. 2:14, which says, "Out of Egypt I have called My Son". He did not use the entire verse as that would have killed his story. This verse reads, "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I have called my son." One does not have to be a genius to understand that the son referred to here is Israel and the calling out of Egypt was the exodus and had no reference whatsoever to Jesus.
One might say "the golden text" used for the 'virgin birth' myth is found in Matthew 1:23. However verses 23 & 24 are in brackets in the original 1611 King James Version. This is an indication of an insert by the editors. Isaiah 7:14 was inserted here to support their doctrine of the 'virgin birth'. If we keep this prophecy within the realm of its context we will learn that Jehovah had promised Isaiah the defeat and downfall of Israel's enemies that were an immediate threat. This passage reads as follows, "Therefore Jehovah Himself will give you a sign; Behold a virgin (almah, Hebrew for a young woman), shall conceive and bare a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Curds and honey he shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good, for before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land you dread will be forsaken by both kings." The fulfillment of this prophecy is found in Isaiah 8:3. "Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bare a son. Before the child shall have knowledge to cry my father and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be taken away before the king of Assyria". One can see at once that the young woman (not a virgin) of this prophecy was Isaiah's wife, who was a prophetess, and the mother of this conceived son. His name was Immanuel (God with us) because the fulfillment of this prophecy was proof that Israel's God (Jehovah) was with them. This prophesy was made about 700 BC and fulfilled in the matter of a few months and has nothing whatsoever to do with the birth of Jesus. To insert this passage to promote the virgin birth of Jesus is deception and a misrepresentation of scripture. Perhaps the editor of this gospel used the 'double fulfillment theory', like the futurist's do in our time. They disregard the first fulfillment so they can try to make it fit somewhere else at a later time.
Then we are confronted with, "Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they were no more" (Matt. 2:18, Jeremiah 31:15). This passage is taken from a poem or song (Jer. 31:2-22). This song or poem reminisces past hardships of the children of Israel and has no reference whatsoever to any future events. This is used by the editor of this gospel to establish his generated story about the slaughter of the infants at Bethlehem and of Joseph fleeing to Egypt. "Rachel weeping for her children" was not in Bethlehem, but in Ramah, which is in a mountain area of Galilee and is nowhere near Bethlehem, but about 80 miles to the north. It seems as though the editor did not expect anyone to check on his references. He was largely right because only a very few do. Otherwise this story would have no creditability or audience.
It is common knowledge that Paul's writings out date all others in our New Testament. What did he have to say about the birth and lineage of Jesus? Paul died about 64 AD and at this point in time the virgin birth of Jesus had not yet been thought of. What he did have to say was, "_ _ Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh." (Romans 1:3). According to Paul, Jesus had a natural physical lineage from the line of David and it was by His resurrection and not His physical birth, by which He became the Son of God with power. If there was a virgin birth of Jesus, Paul as well as his contemporaries either knew nothing about it, or thought it not important enough to mention. He wrote to the Galatians that Jesus "was born of a woman born under the law." (Gal.4:4). Had Paul known of a virgin birth, this would have been a good place to mention it. Also in 2 Timothy, a book attributed to Paul, we read, "Remember that Jesus Christ is the seed of David, (not the seed of the Holy Spirit) was raised from the dead according to my gospel". So if the Holy Spirit was the father of Jesus, Paul was unaware of it or completely ignored it. It was also ignored by John, James and Peter as well.
These apostles were not the only ones that were unaware of a virgin birth of Jesus. Philip, one of Jesus' apostles, had this to say, "_ _ Jesus the son of Joseph _ _," (John.1:45). If Jesus had been virgin born you would think this apostle would have been aware of it, but he knew Joseph was the father of Jesus. The Jews also who knew Jesus' family very well, said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?" (John 6:42). So again we see that the Jews, who lived in the area where Jesus was brought up, were familiar with Jesus and His parents, also understood that Joseph was the father of Jesus. If the Holy Spirit was the father of Jesus, all of these people were badly deceived!
Perhaps the best witness of the impossibility of a virgin birth is Jesus Himself. In His conversation with Nicodemus He said, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit". (John 3:6). He makes it very clear the flesh and the spirit are distinctly different. The flesh consists of matter made up of atoms and there is not a single atom of material matter in a spirit. Therefore we conclude that the Spirit of God did not posses a single atom of material matter, not even sperm, to father a human child. It had been commonly believed for centuries that the man planted a seed into the woman much like planting a seed in the soil (mother earth). This is why he is called a husband (farmer). With this belief, if a virgin conceived from the Spirit of God, a God would be produced. So, according to their belief, if God the Spirit fathered Jesus then He would be God. This myth was promoted to support the claim that Jesus is God. However there is no valid record from the 1st century can be or has been produced that claims Jesus to be 'virgin born'. This myth was generated in the 2nd century.
The myth of the virgin birth was not first with Christianity, but Christianity stole it from previous non-Christian religions. In the Hindu religion the god Vishnu had an incarnate Son, Chrishna (Krishna) by a virgin birth. This was about 1156 BC. It is also interesting to note, at his birth, there was a special star in the sky, there were shepherds, and the local king out of jealousy slaughtered infants. The myth of a Virgin birth of other gods are, the Buddha, the Egyptian god Horus, a Roman savior Quarrnus, the Greek deity Adonis, the Persia god Mithra who was born December 25th. The list could go on and on including the god Zoroaster of BC 500, but this list should be sufficient to make the point.
So when did Christianity begin to believe and teach that Jesus was virgin born? It seems to have been shortly after the first Christian missionaries returned from India. This was sometime shortly after the turn of the first century. Having learned of the birth story of the Hindu god Chrishna, the Christian leaders felt the Son of God they worshipped should also have these credentials. This is why they adapted the Hindu story, with some variations, but including the star, the shepherds and a king who's jealousy motivated him to murder infants. They stole the birth story of Jesus from the Hindus.
There were many fantasy stories circulated during the 2nd century AD such as Jesus speaking to His mother shortly after His birth. This story came from the stories of the Buddha and Chrishna. The present day Koran (The Muslim bible) has a story that was circulated in the 2nd century that Jesus while a boy made mud birds and then commanded them to fly away, which they did.
It still stands that there is no solid evidence of any virgin birth stories of Jesus that came out of the 1st century AD. The Evangelicals have tried to prove otherwise, but for proof they always come up empty. The first allude to an immaculate conception was by Ignatius A.D.115. There is no record of the four Gospels, as we now have them, until mentioned by Irenaeus 190 AD. If this subject were investigated from all available sources, not just one sided history, one would see at once the four gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, were developed during the 2nd century using some 1st century material. At this time the Church at Rome took liberties to edit and even insert passages into the scriptures. For an example, the triune baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19 and Matthew 1:23 concerning the 'virgin birth' were inserts. They were creating a bible to support their ever-changing doctrine.
The first Gospel to be included into a Christian canon was called, "The Gospel". The evangelist Marcion introduced this first Christian canon 144 AD. This canon consisted of one gospel only along with the then known epistles of Paul. 1st & 2nd Timothy, Titus and Hebrews were at that time unknown and therefore not included in this canon. This Gospel opened with Jesus preaching in Galalee, and had no birth story. Those who considered themselves to be the 'orthodox' Christian leaders, at that time did not have a canon of Scripture. At this time there was no agreement by the 'orthodox' theologians on just what to put in a canon.
It is believed by some that the Gospel in Marcion's canon was edited and added to by Theolophus, the bishop of Antioch about 160 AD. He doubled its size by adding other information that he thought essential for a Gospel, and then named it, "The Gospel according Luke".
During the latter part of the 1st century there were various stories about Jesus, mostly transmitted orally from one generation to another. There were very few written articles at that time. The oral stories that survived were eventually written down and edited by scholars in the 2nd century. They kept what sounded reasonable and rejected that which they considered fantasy. Bits and pieces were taken from, "The Acts of Pilate", Gospel "Q", the gospel of the Hebrews, the gospel of Peter, the gospel of the Egyptians, and the gospel of Macron and others, all of which were written long after the death and resurrection of Christ. The 'Orthodox' church leaders using some of these previous writings compiled what supported their doctrinal views at that time. So the four Gospels that we now have were edited and canonized using information from earlier writings along with other information that had been passed to them orally. The author of Luke said this is how he got his information. see (Luke 1:1&2).
How and when did Jesus become the Son of God?
The whole story of the 'virgin birth' was to make Jesus God by a physical birth. They tried to make Jesus some sort of a 'half breed', being half God and half man. The 'Orthodox fathers', of the 2nd and 3rd centuries formed most of what is known today as Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christian Doctrine. They came up with the idea of Jesus' virgin birth to give Him, a God nature and human nature. They called this the "Twofold nature of Christ". This is taught as a fundamental doctrine in most theological schools even to this day. According to Scripture there is overwhelming evidence that Jesus was born the son of Joseph and Mary, and was a normal human being who grew up "increasing in wisdom and stature" (Luke 2:52). (If Jesus is God, does God increase in wisdom?). He is called "The only begotten Son of the Father". So when was Jesus begotten of the Father? Again the Scripture is not silent. At Jesus' baptism the voice He heard said, "Thou art My Son, This day I have become your Father", Luke 3:22 (Moffit translation). Also some ancient texts place Psalms 2:7 here at Jesus' baptism, "Thou art My Son, This day have I begotten Thee". Paul seemed to place the fulfillment of this passage at the resurrection of Christ, (see Acts 13:33 and Romans 1:4). So in either case, Jesus became the Son of God by His Spiritual birth, which was some time after His physical birth. By His Spiritual birth He became the Son of God the Father in a very special way, saying, "I am in the Father and the Father in Me". He became the "express image of the Father," and the sole revealer of the Father. His image of the Father was so complete that He said, "If you have seen Me you have seen the Father", and again, "I and the Father are one." However He still maintained His distinction from the Father by saying, "The Father is greater than I".
So in conclusion, the teaching of the "virgin birth of Christ" is an unfounded fable, a Myth that was invented and placed in the Gospels to give support to the doctrine that Jesus is God. This doctrine had developed during the 2nd century. The 'Virgin birth' is a physical impossibility, a fable that was borrowed from pagan religions. One should not be required to commit Intellectual Suicide in believing a lie in order to be a Christian!
It's what Jesus accomplished at the cross that is all-important. The Christian Faith is founded upon the death and resurrection of Christ, not His birth. The Christian faith either stands or falls on the fact of the resurrection of Christ. (See 1 Cor. 15:12-19). Paul tells us we are not to know Christ after the flesh, (2 Cor.5:16). We are to know Him as, "Christ in you, the hope of glory," (Colossians 1:27). Our salvation is in our personal relationship with Christ, knowing Him and the power of His resurrection, and is not in the teachings of theologians, nor in the doctrines of men or even in the Bible, but in Christ only, who said, "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6).
"For we worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh". (Phil.3:3)
Carroll R. Bierbower, DD, PhD
PO Box 636
Cave Junction, Or. 97523