What can be said to defend the virgin birth? (Which I do affirm) Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
There seems to be an inevitability that when atheists bring forth accounts meant to embarrass Christianity, one of them is the virgin birth. (Which I do affirm.) It is acted as if we now know better that it takes sex to make a baby, despite that if you read the whole Old Testament, it looks like they discovered the correlation pretty quickly. When I meet people like this who like to point out that “We know better”, I ask them when it was that we discovered that it takes sex to make babies.
Technically, we no longer even have to have it that way thanks to IVF procedures. As Catholic thinker Jennifer Roback Morse said once, we wanted to have sex without babies, and now we are having babies without sex, which she is sure is not as much fun as the traditional way. That’s just a fun aside.
So first off atheists out there, please learn that when you say something is nonsense, you are assuming that on your worldview it is. If atheism was true, then yes, miracles would be nonsense, but to start out with that assumption is begging the question. If you want to disprove miracles, you might actually have to, gasp, disprove miracles.
So let’s look at some specific data on the virgin birth, which I do affirm, accounts.
First, it needs to be addressed why this is not mentioned by Paul, which that question is the whole origin of my repeated emphasis on the virgin birth, which I do affirm. Paul would not need to mention this since he was not writing a biography of Jesus. In a high-context society, this would be background knowledge.
So now let’s look at the Gospels. I don’t think Mark would mention it because his account is the account of Peter which would include everything Peter was able to witness. Peter was not there at the virgin birth, which I do affirm. However, Mark 6 speaks of Jesus as the son of Mary and not Joseph, which could be a veiled reference.
As for John, there is a possibility that when John 1 speaks of someone being born not of natural descent, human decision, or a husband’s will, it could be referring to the virgin birth. (Which I do affirm.) John is more emphasizing the full deity of Christ. He wants to jump straight to the life of Jesus to demonstrate that.
But don’t the accounts of Matthew and Luke contradict? Even if we granted that, that’s hardly the best way to have a virgin birth (Which I do affirm) account. It would have been easier for the church to just reject one Gospel or go with the Diatessaron which was an attempt by Tatian to combine all the Gospels into one.
It also seems strange that both writers would go to what are thought to be extreme conditions to get the child born in Bethlehem when they could have just avoided that altogether. They did, putting themselves open for attack. Also, if both of them were practically identical, we would have heard collusion instead.
So what about something like Luke’s census? The reality is that there are numerous responses to this. Luke is highly accurate in many areas so it seems strange he would invent a whole census across the Roman Empire no one heard of for a story. There are numerous suggestions such as that the census was the one that took place before the time of Quirinius. It is possible that there was a census that took place in various shifts. I don’t have a firm hypothesis I go with, but that there is one shows this is not unsurmountable.
Didn’t pagans have virgin births? Not really. Usually, there’s something else going on that makes it clear that a god is getting his business on with a lady. One lady has a golden shower falling over here. Alexander the Great’s mother had a dream involving a thunderbolt hitting her womb and we can question if Philip was one who wanted to avoid pre-marital sex. As for Mithras, well, technically I suppose it was a virgin birth. That rock that he popped out of fully grown quite likely never had sex.
Not only this, but the early church was extremely resistant to paganism. In examining garbage in ancient Jerusalem, it is noticed that it is after 70 AD that we find pigs’ bones showing up. It’s also highly unlikely that Matthew in wanting to explain the birth of Jesus would want to risk implicating YHWH Himself in the affair. It would not do a favor to Jesus to give an account of His birth that could seem remotely pagan.
Keep in mind that they could have done what Mark and John did and just avoided it. If anything, by addressing it, they were implicitly acknowledging that Jesus was viewed as illegitimate, hardly a good trait for a Messiah. For some reason, they did face it.
Also, consider what is said in Luke 1. Jesus will be given the throne of His father David and will reign over His kingdom forever and it will have no end. Many skeptics date Luke to after 70 AD so let’s go with that for the sake of argument. Any Jewish reader at the time who wasn’t a Christian would say “That never happened! Jerusalem was destroyed! He wasn’t given a kingdom!”
Yet that is what Luke said, which is hardly something he would say if he thought it could be easily disproven. Now a Christian will understand how that was fulfilled and before 70 AD, it would be a lot easier to make that claim. So either it’s more likely that Luke was early or that Luke included material that could be seen as embarrassing.
All of this is something brief. I really recommend those wanting more go and read the classical defenses, especially J. Gresham Machen. It was a long time ago, but it’s still really good.
Merry Christmas everyone! Let’s celebrate the virgin birth, which I do affirm, of our Lord.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)