This time of year, skeptics tend to shift their focus from denying the possibility of the resurrection of the Christ to denying the possibility of the virgin conception and birth. I’ve detailed evidence for the authenticity of the resurrection in earlier posts, so let’s take a look at the nativity this time around.
I agree with the skeptics that the idea of the virgin birth of the Christ is, at first look at least, a bit ridiculous. In the history of the human race, such an event, other than the Gospel accounts, has never been seriously offered as anything more than myth or fairytale. It certainly hasn’t been observed in modern times, and medical and scientific research is apparently quite conclusive that human parthenogenesis is not possible.
And yet, every year Christians worldwide celebrate this impossible event. What possible reasons could they have for believing such a silly thing?
The skeptics ridicule the virgin birth precisely because they dismiss out of hand the supernatural and because they don’t understand the event in context. In order to understand and accept the historicity of the virgin birth, you must understand these two things: context and the existence of a personal, active, and omnipotent Divine Being. We call this being God.
Because I’ve dealt extensively with the subject of the existence and nature of God before, I’ll just refer you to the Signposts series of articles for that. For now, I’ll just state that without Divine intervention, the virgin birth would be impossible; with it, the very fact that it was a singular event points to the hand of God – especially when viewed in context.
The context of the event is that it is part of the story of God’s overall offer of redemption and reconciliation for a rebellious and depraved people. Starting way back in the book of Genesis, the Bible records the foretelling of the advent (arrival) of a Savior who would redeem those who follow Him from damnation and separation from God. Throughout the Old Testament, details of His purpose, character, and events of his time on earth are revealed. Isaiah 7:14 specifically predicts the virgin birth, and Genesis 3:15 strongly implies it in the original language.
But as well as looking back to the Old Testament, the immediate context of the nativity is Easter. The primary reason for the miraculous birth of Jesus was to make possible His death for our sins and resurrection to demonstrate both His deity and power over the curse of sin and death. Adam, the first (and only other) man created without a human father, introduced sin into the world. Christ, the “last Adam” came into the world in order to bring an end to the curse.
In that context, the virgin birth narrative becomes a reasonable demonstration of God’s grace and mercy.
I’ll briefly refute the other main argument against the virgin birth, and leave it to you to check out the links below for more detailed discussion. The argument is “The virgin birth story is nothing more than a repackaging of prior pagan stories.” Horus and Mithras are most often offered as proof against the authenticity of the nativity story.
First, it should be obvious to any thinking observer that just because a similar story has been told before, the one you are presently considering should not be discounted just because of that. For example, if I were telling you about how my neighbor had just been in a automobile accident in which his car rolled over, should you call me a liar because you had read about a rollover accident in the newspaper last year? Or, should you discount the historical reality of the Titanic sinking because a novel published prior to the event detailed a ship called the Titan sinking in the north Atlantic after striking an iceberg?
Second, both the Horus and Mithras “virgin birth” stories have no historical or archaeological corroboration. In fact, the Horus origin story is postivily pornographic! Mithras, on the other hand, does have some similarities to the Biblical nativity narrative – but virgin birth is NOT one of them (he emerged from a rock), and ALL of the similar stories date from AFTER the life of Christ.
So, remember that Christmas is all about Easter – and have a very merry Christmas and rejoice in the advent of our Savior!
Ed Richard has a brief article at The Mooring showing evidence for the historicity of the Nativity.
The Apologetics Guy summarizes the main problems with the ‘virgin birth as recycled pagan myth’ argument.
For those of you who prefer a visual explanation of the Horus / Mithras / etc. as ‘protoChrist’ argument, Lutheran Satire is not only brief and factual, but humourus as well.
A post on the blog “And sometimes he’s so nameless” has very detailed information on the subject.
And finally, J. Warner Wallace at Cold Case Christianity gives all of the known factual sources of information about Mithras we have to date.