The miracle of Jesus' birth

307 the miracle of Jesus' birth"Can you read this?" Asked the tourist, pointing to a large silver star with a Latin inscription: "Hic de virgine Maria Jesus Christ natus est." "I will try," I replied, trying to find a translation by bringing forth the full power of my lean Latin: "Here Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary." "Well, what do you think?" asked the man. "Do you believe that?"

It was my first visit to the Holy Land and I stood in the grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The fortress-like Church of the Nativity is built above this grotto or cave where, according to tradition, Jesus Christ was born. A silver star set in the marble floor is to mark the exact point where the divine birth took place. I replied, "Yes, I believe that Jesus was miraculously received [in the womb of Mary]," but I doubted if the Silver Star marked the exact place of his birth. The man, an agnostic, believed that Jesus was probably born out of wedlock, and that the gospel accounts of the virgin birth were attempts to cover up this embarrassing fact. The authors of the Gospels, he speculated, borrowed the theme of supernatural birth from ancient pagan mythology. Later, as we walked around the paved area of ​​Nativity Square outside the ancient church, we discussed the subject more deeply.

Stories from early childhood

I explained that the term "virgin birth" refers to the original conception of Jesus; that is, the belief that Jesus was received in Mary through a wonderful work of the Holy Spirit, without the intervention of a human father. The doctrine that Mary was the sole natural parent of Jesus is clearly taught in two passages of the New Testament: Matthew 1,18-25 and Luke 1,26-38. They describe Jesus' supernatural conception as a historical fact. Matthew tells us:

But the birth of Jesus Christ happened like this: When Mary, his mother, was confided to Joseph, before finding her, it was found that she was pregnant with the Holy Ghost. But all that has happened is fulfilled What the Lord said through the prophet who says, "Behold, a virgin will be pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will give him the name of Immanuel," meaning, "God with us" (Mt. 1,18, 22 -23).

Luke describes Mary's reaction to the angel's announcement of the virgin birth: "Then Mary said to the angel," How is this supposed to happen, since I know of no man? The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Ghost will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, even the Holy One who is born will be called the Son of God "(Lk 1,34-35).

Each writer treats the story differently. The Gospel of Matthew was written for a Jewish audience and dealt with the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. Luke, a Gentile Christian, had in writing the Greek and Roman world in mind. He had a more cosmopolitan audience - Christians of pagan origin who lived outside of Palestine.

Let us again note the account of Matthew: "The birth of Jesus Christ happened as follows: When Mary, his mother, was familiar to Joseph, it was found, before he brought her home, that she was pregnant with the Holy Ghost" ( Mt1,18). Matthew tells the story from the perspective of Joseph. Josef considered secretly dissolving the engagement. But an angel appeared to Joseph and assured him: "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary, your wife, to you; for what she has received is from the Holy Spirit "(Mt. 1,20). Joseph accepted the divine plan.

As a proof to his Jewish readers that Jesus was their Messiah, Matthew adds, "But all this has happened to fulfill what the Lord has said through the prophet who says," Behold, a virgin will be pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will give him the name Immanuel ", that is translated: God with us" (Mt 1,22-23). This refers to Isaiah 7,14.

Maria's story

With his characteristic attention to the role of women, Luke tells the story from the point of view of Mary. In Luke's account, we read that God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary in Nazareth. Gabriel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you shall give him the name of Jesus "(Lk 1,30-31).

How is that supposed to be, Mary asked, being a virgin? Gabriel explained that this would not be a normal conception: "The Holy Ghost will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the Holy One who is born will be called the Son of God "(Lk 1,35).

Although her pregnancy would certainly be misunderstood and jeopardized her reputation, Maria bravely accepted the extraordinary situation: "Behold, I am the Lord's Maid," she exclaimed. "Me, as you said" (Lk 1,38). By a miracle, the Son of God entered space and time and became a human embryo.

The word became meat

Those who believe in the virgin birth usually accept that Jesus became man for our salvation. Those people who do not accept the virgin birth tend to understand Jesus of Nazareth as a human being - and only as a human being. The doctrine of virgin birth is directly related to the doctrine of incarnation, though it is not identical. The incarnation (incarnation, literally "incarnation") is the doctrine that affirms that the eternal Son of God added human flesh to his divinity and became a human being. This faith finds its clearest expression in the prologue of John's Gospel: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1,14).

The doctrine of virgin birth states that the conception of Jesus was miraculously done by having no human father. The incarnation states that God became flesh [man]; The virgin birth tells us how. The incarnation was a supernatural event and included a special kind of birth. If the child to be born was only human, there would have been no need for a supernatural conception. The first man, Adam, for example, was also miraculously made by the hand of God. He had neither father nor mother. But Adam was not God. God chose to enter humanity through a supernatural virgin birth.

Late origin?

As we have seen, the wording of the passages in Matthew and Luke is clear: Mary was a virgin when Jesus was received in her body by the Holy Ghost. It was a miracle of God. But with the advent of liberal theology - with its general suspicion of everything supernatural - these biblical statements have been challenged for a variety of reasons. One of them is the supposedly late origin of the accounts of Jesus' birth. This theory argues that as the early Christian faith established, Christians began to add fictional elements to the essential history of Jesus' life. The virgin birth, it is claimed, was simply her imaginative way of expressing that Jesus was God's gift to humanity.

The Jesus Seminar, a group of liberal Bible scholars who vote on the words of Jesus and the evangelists, takes this view. These theologians reject the Biblical account of the supernatural conception and birth of Jesus, calling it "later creation." Maria, they conclude, must have had sexual relations with Josef or another man.

Did the authors of the New Testament engage themselves in myths by deliberately making Jesus Christ bigger? Was he merely a "human prophet," an "ordinary man of his time," later adorned by a bona fide successor with a supernatural aura to "sustain her Christological dogma"?

Such theories are impossible to maintain. The two birth reports in Matthew and Luke - with their different content and perspectives - are independent of each other. The miracle of Jesus' conception is indeed the only common point between them. This indicates that the virgin birth is based on an earlier, well-known tradition, not on a later theological extension or doctrinal development.

Are miracles out of date?

Despite its wide acceptance by the early church, the virgin birth is a difficult concept in many cultures in our modern culture - even for some Christians. The idea of ​​a supernatural conception, many think, smells of superstition. They claim that the virgin birth is a petty doctrine on the edge of the New Testament that has little meaning for the gospel message.

The rejection of the supernatural by skeptics is consistent with a rationalistic and humanistic worldview. But for a Christian, the elimination of the supernatural from the birth of Jesus Christ means compromising its divine origin and its fundamental significance. Why reject the virgin birth when we believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ and in his resurrection from the dead? If we allow a supernatural exit [Resurrection and Ascension], why not a supernatural entry into the world? Compromising or denying Virgo birth deprives other doctrines of their value and importance. We no longer have any foundation or authority for what we believe as Christians.

Born of God

God engages himself in the world, actively intervening in human affairs, overriding, if necessary, laws of nature to achieve his purpose - and he became flesh [human] through a virgin birth. When God came into human flesh in the person of Jesus, he did not give up his divinity, but rather added humanity to his divinity. He was both God and man (Phil 2,6-8, Kol 1,15-20, Hebr 1,8-9).

Jesus' supernatural origin sets him apart from the rest of humanity. His conception was a God-given exception to the laws of nature. The virgin birth shows the extent to which the Son of God was ready to go to become our Savior. It was an amazing demonstration of God's grace and love (Joh 3,16) in fulfilling His promise of salvation.

The Son of God became one of us to save us by assuming the nature of humanity so that he could die for us. He came to the flesh so that those who believe in him can be redeemed, reconciled and saved (1T in 1,15). Only one who was God as well as human could pay the tremendous price for the sins of humanity.

As Paul states, "But when the time was fulfilled, God sent his Son, born of a woman, and done under the law, that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the sonship (Gal. 4,4-5). , For those who accept Jesus Christ and believe in his name, God offers the precious gift of salvation. He offers us a personal relationship with him. We can become sons and daughters of God - "children born not of the blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (Jn 1,13).

Keith Stump

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