Why I Deny the Virgin Birth of Jesus
The test read positive. Ayesha’s face flushed; tears formed in her eyes. She was trapped. She would be killed. She was a stain on her family’s honor. Amir, her soon-to-be husband, would turn her in as soon as he found out. She knew she deserved death. The shame was unbearable.
That night she had a vision. The brightness blinded her at first, but gradually she saw an angelic face and it said, “Ayesha! You are favored indeed by Allah! For God himself is the Father of your child. Do not be afraid. He will be great and be called the Son of the Most High.”
The next day Ayesha told her fiancé that God had impregnated her, she was still a virgin, and an angel had told her this. Would you believe Ayesha?
An ancient book says a man 2,000 years ago was born of a virgin and was sired by God himself. I once believed this, because I believed the Bible — a book I thought God himself wrote.
I was wrong.
Here are five reasons why I no longer believe in the virgin birth.
1) There is no reliable evidence.
Ordinary events require evidence, but extraordinary events require extraordinary evidence. By any classification, the virgin birth is an extraordinary event, yet there is no evidence to support it.
We have no eyewitness accounts, no doctor confirmations, no DNA samples — we have nothing except a couple references in the Bible that were written many decades after the event occurred.
2) The earliest references are late and sparse.
Paul, the earliest New Testament author, never mentions the virgin birth. For someone who we rely upon for much of Christian theology, it is an odd omission. Paul refers to Jesus’ birth twice (Rom 1:3; Gal 4:4) and never says he was born of a virgin or of different means than anyone else. You’d think that would be important.
The virgin birth is also not in Mark, the earliest gospel, or in John, the only other gospel not based on Mark. Why is such an important story left out of all the early sources? Probably because it hadn’t been made up yet.
Why would the story be made up? Perhaps to fulfill an old prophecy of a virgin birth, which the Gospel of Matthew cites:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
Some scholars say “virgin” was a mistranslation in the Septuagint (the Greek translation the gospel writers used), and should have been translated “young woman.” That means the story might have been based on a mistranslation!
It seems likely the virgin birth was created to boost the authority of Christianity through prophecy and compete with rival gods who were born of virgins.
3) It’s the same old myth.
Jesus was not the first god to be born of a virgin. Mut-em-ua, the virgin Queen of Egypt, supposedly gave birth to Pharaoh Amenkept III through a god holding a cross to her mouth.
Ra, the Egyptian sun god, was said to be born of a virgin. So was Perseus, Romulus, Mithras, Genghis Khan, Krishna, Horus, Melanippe, Auge and Antiope.
In the ancient world, great men were born of divine fathers and human mothers. Alexander the Great and the Roman emperor Augustus were great men and (therefore) said to have divine fathers. Jesus was also a great man, so he too must have a divine father.
The claims of Jesus’ birth are no different from any of the other virgin birth legends. It doesn’t have any more evidence or appear to be any more likely. Why believe it over the others?
4) Is it more likely to be a lie, or to be true?
Thomas Paine, American revolutionary and author, said “Is it more probable that nature should go out of her course, or that a man should tell a lie? We have never seen, in our time, nature go out of her course, but we have good reason to believe that millions of lies have been told in the same time; it is therefore at least millions to one, that the reporter of a miracle tells a lie.”
A betrothed teenage girl finds out she is pregnant. The father is not her soon-to-be husband, and he knows this. In her society, the penalty for this prescribed by God is death by stoning. What does she do? She claims an angel appeared to her and told her God impregnated her, and that she is now carrying the Son of God.
Now what is more likely, that she is lying or telling the truth? Even if Mary claimed this herself, we would not believe her. Now consider that the story didn’t appear until over 50 years after it supposedly happened.
The likelihood of the virgin birth being true is very, very, very low.
5) We would never, ever, believe this today.
Imagine if a teenage girl in your neighborhood claimed that her pregnancy was due to God impregnating her and that she was still a virgin. Would you believe her? Or would you think she was lying?
If she insisted on it being true, we would put her in a mental hospital.
Why does this change just because Jesus’ birth happened 2,000 years ago? There is no evidence in favor of it. Even if Mary herself claimed it, there would have been every incentive to lie about it since the only alternative was death. Again, why would anyone believe this?
We have seen this incredible claim has no reliable evidence and no early Christian sources. There were claims of virgin births before Jesus, and Jesus’ virgin birth was probably invented to compete with those claims. It is far more likely to be a lie than true. And we would never believe anyone who claimed such a thing today.
Because of these reasons, I have no choice but to deny the virgin birth of Jesus — and all other claims of virgin births and divine fathers.
- Daniel Florien (guest contributor)
Daniel Florien was a passionate evangelical Christian for over a decade. He is now an unbeliever and skeptic and blogs at Unreasonable Faith.