By Daniel Downs
Christians believe Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. The two gospels explicitly proclaiming the virgin birth of Jesus is Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-45. The most succinct statement of the Christian confession is the Apostle’s Creed, which is the oldest version of Christian confession. The Apostle’s Creed is as follows:
“I believe in God the Father Almighty. And in Jesus Christ His only (begotten) Son our Lord, who was born of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary; crucified under Pontius Pilate, and buried; the third day He rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father, from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost; the holy Church; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; the life everlasting.”1
The Apostle’s Creed originated in apostolic times and was a baptismal formula. As such, new followers of Christ confessed this creed to confirm their faith in the essential message of the gospels and of the church. The Apostle’s Creed is the foundation of all other confessions including the Nicene, Chalcedon, Westminster, and all other creeds. It is venerated by the Roman Catholic Church and by most Protestant Churches.
The clause of importance here is “Jesus Christ His only (begotten) Son our Lord, who was born of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary.”
Liberal scholars and their followers deny the possibility of the virgin birth. Because other ancient religions claimed their saviors were virgin born or otherwise supernaturally born, liberals believe the early church adopted the myth probably to make the gospel more attractive to superstitious ancient people. This skeptical view might be true. However, what is often behind liberal skepticism is their outright rejection of the supernatural. Liberals tend to deny all of the miracles mentioned in the Bible, not just the virgin birth.
The Christian confession would be meaningless if the supernatural was not an experienced reality. As the Apostle Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, and your faith is in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14) The faith was not an exercise in philosophy or superstition to allay fear of death. Faith is rooted in eye-witness testimony as well as personal experience. Faith is (was) based on seeing, hearing, feeling the the reality of the resurrection of Jesus and of others. Healing and resurrection from the dead was an experienced reality during the apostolic era that continued well beyond the apostles’ witness to Jesus’ resurrection and heavenly ascent. In fact, healings and resurrections continue in our own time.
Even though the virgin birth of Jesus cannot be absolutely proved, it can not be disproved either. An appropriate question requiring a logical answer is whether it is reasonable to believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. Merely dismissing the possibility because one does not believe in miracles or the supernatural is as meaningless as blindly confessing the virgin birth is true. To answer the question, one must consider whether any historical evidence exists to support or refute the possibility of virgin birth. Is there any scientific evidence for virgin birth? If so, does the evidence prove the virgin birth? In addition, a search for evidence to support the reasonableness of Jesus’ virgin birth must consider any rational argument that might exist.
Skeptics readily supply a logical argument. However, from the outset, the argument against testimonials first defended by David Hume for miracles must be discarded. This argument states that the testimony of people who have presumably experienced a miracle is unreliable. It is unreliable primary because such testimony is not verifiable. Hume’s argument is no longer tenable because medical testing confirms divine healing miracles based on religious faith do occur. We can also eliminate arguments against resurrection because many have occurred. More importantly, they are being medically and empirical verified. Consequently, by eliminating those two arguments that confirm the reality of God and the supernatural, much time will be saved in order to focus on the primary argument: Is belief in the virgin birth of Jesus a reasonable belief?
A few observations from my past studies may be instructive. A number of years ago, I began searching for proof of the virgin birth of Jesus. I reviewed medical and scientific research on oocytology, regenerative medicine, genetics, reproductive behavior of animals and insects, neurology, paranormal science, and the like. Based on my less than infallible memory, I discovered research showing that virgin births do occur in nature. Moreover, medical research has proven men can have female type (XX) chromosomes of the 23rd pair just as women can have male type (Xy).
Since then, Frank Tipler wrote The Physics of Christianity. In this book, he shows how Jesus was virgin born. First, he notes studies that many researchers believe virgin births of humans are probably common occurrences. These medical scientist come to this conclusion because of the ease at which they are able to induce cell division of a woman’s egg without it being fertilized by the male component.2 Second, he explains three ways medical scientists propose human virgin births are possible. He argues for the one in which a woman’s XX chromosome is inserted by the male SRY gene. This hypothesis is preferred because almost all known males with an XX 23rd pair of chromosome also have an inserted SRY gene.3 Another reason is the genetic studies of both the Shroud of Turin (Jesus’ burial cloth) and the Oviedo Cloth (another burial cloth that was wrapped around his head).3 Third, he discovered in the latest genetic study of the Oviedo Cloth clear evidence of an XX male with the SRY gene inserted in the 23 chromosome pair.4 Four, Tipler also explains how Jesus could be directly descended from King David. As a descendant herself, Mary could have inherited the genes of David and his progeny. Because the Y genes of an XX male must come from one or more male ancestors of Mary, the X chromosome Jesus inherited could have had inserted into it most of the Y genes of David’s lineage.5 Thus, Jesus would have been a genetically legitimate descendant of David.
Assuming the Shroud and especially the Oviedo Cloth were in fact Jesus’ burial cloths, we can conclude that the virgin conception of Jesus by a creative act of the Spirit of God is a reasonable belief. And, assuming Mary was in fact a descendant of David, it is reasonable to believe Jesus was the heir of David prophesied about by the Hebrew prophets. Being rejected by the leaders of his time may have prohibited him from fulfilling his destined place on David’s throne, but it did not hinder him from becoming the light of the world–the ultimate plan of God for His Servant-Son.6
1. James Orr, “The Apostle’s Creed,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Vol. 1, at www.reformed.org/documents/apostles_creed.html.
2. Frank J. Tipler, The Physics of Christianity, NY: Doubleday (2007): 167-168.
3. Ibid., pp. 171-173.
4. Ibid., pp. 181-187.
5. Ibid., pp. 174-175.
6. Luke 3:23; many scholars believe Luke gives Mary’s genealogy. The promise to David recorded in 2 Samuel 7:13-16; Jeremiah 33:14-22; Isaiah 9:7 has yet to be fulfilled, but Isaiah 49:5-9; 53-1-12; 9:6; Rev. 12:5 is being fulfilled.