What does it mean to say Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Was Jesus the natural son of Joseph? This would change a lot if he was. The Christian claim has been that Jesus is the unique Son of God and even His incarnation is unique. His birth was brought about not by sexual action on the part of a man, but a divine action on the part of the Holy Spirit.
Now there are many today who will claim that virgin births were common in the ancient world. Unfortunately, many of these times, the birth really isn’t a virgin birth. Sometimes, unique births happen to women who have already had children, such as the mother of Krishna.
Many times, it is actually some kind of sexual intercourse on the part of the gods, such as in the case of Zeus and his many lovers. Other claims to having a virgin birth are stretching it. Mithras, for instance, was born out of a rock in a cave carrying a knife and wearing a cap. I suppose we could say technically that the rock was a virgin.
Christ is a unique case in that Jesus would have been seen as illegitimate in his birth somehow, a shameful occurrence. Now how would be the best way to explain your Messiah was illegitimate? In a Jewish culture, it would hardly be best to do something that would implicate YHWH in the process! “Why yes. Our Messiah is illegitimate. It’s YHWH’s fault too!”
I wager in fact that this is why only two Gospels mention the circumstances of Jesus’s birth. It really would not have been something they’d want to draw attention to. First, people would be skeptical of it. Second, it would lead to the charges of illegitimacy. David Instone-Brewer takes the same stance in his work “The Jesus Scandals“. That this was explained somehow would show that there was something that needed to be explained.
Someone could also ask how it is that if Jesus is the Son of God that the Holy Spirit is the one who did this. Does this mean the Holy Spirit is the Father? Not at all. What it means is that the Holy Spirit is often the manifest way God acts in the world. It is the same as God acting by His Wisdom. (I take His Wisdom to be Jesus by the way.) There is still one God who is the source of all and yes, this one God still exists in three persons.
Of course, there is more that can be said about the virgin birth. Those who are wondering why I have not said anything about a passage such as Isaiah 7:14 need only wait until next time when we discuss the status of the Virgin Mary.
Until then, there are sufficient reasons for realizing that the birth of Jesus was different from births that he was supposedly copied from and also that there are reasons why it would be the case that the other Gospel writers would not want to mention the virgin birth.