The myth of the virgin birth of Jesus
We have spent a considerable time on this blog, addressing Biblical myths. HeIsSailing wrote on several myths of the Bible including the Leviathan, the creation story, the tower of Babel, the origins of languages, and the Crucifixion story. I compiled an entry on the Exodus and wrote a short blog on the myth of the devil. Richard most recently wrote on the Apocalypse.
An interesting myth that is widely embraced by the Christian church today is the story of the impregnation of a young Jewish woman by YHWH 2000 years ago. The Apostles Creed includes the lines:
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary
There are several issues with the story of the virgin birth. The first, of course, is the parallel of this story with many other such conceptions of “gods” over the course of history. I read one Christian’s rebuttal this argument which stated that this is in fact more of a declaration of its truth since the devil always tries to counterfeit truth. Well, he had quite a head start on this one.
The second is the genesis of the virgin birth story itself. The first person to write about an individual named Jesus was Paul, the Apostle. In his letters, there is no mention of the virgin birth of Jesus. One would think if this was such an important doctrine to be embraced as a core belief of Christianity, it would be trumpeted by Christianity’s greatest evangelist.
Most scholars believe that Mark was the first gospel to be written. Mark seem to take Paul’s theology of the Christ and create a biography of his life paralleling many of his stories after Old Testament tradition (see DagoodS’s most excellent commentary on the Gospel of Mark for more details). The Gospel of Mark also does not contain any references to the virgin birth of Christ. The only Gospels containing references to the virgin birth of Jesus are Matthew and Luke, which are generally believed to be based on the Gospel of Mark.
Lastly and probably the greatest issue of the virgin birth story is that it is based on what many scholars believe to be a mistranslation of Isaiah 7:14. Matthew quotes the Septuagint (the Greek translation used at the time of the writing of the gospels) which states “virgin.” However, if one was to go back to the original text, it actually reads “young woman.” One rebuttal to this I read stated that in those days “young woman” and “virgin” were synonymous terms. I’m not sure that is a valid argument.
In my opinion, religious writings claiming the miraculous generally fall into the category of myths. The challenge we have is separating out the philosophical nuggets contained in many of these writings as they are so often wrapped in an unbelievable package.
- The de-Convert