The Virgin Birth of Jesus
Only Matthew and Luke recorded the historical facts of the virgin birth of Jesus. One might wonder why Mark and John did not record this miracle since it is so important to the Christian faith.
On the one hand, Matthew portrayed Christ as a King, the Son of David; and Luke portrayed Him as the Son of Man. In both of these Gospels, it was necessary to mention His birth as a detail essential to a proper understanding of these respective presentations of His person.
Mark wrote, on the other hand, of Christ as the Servant, and John wrote of Him as the Son of God. In neither case was it necessary to mention His virgin birth.
Some of the Epistles contain veiled references to the virgin birth, leading one to believe that the writers had this thought in mind as they wrote.
Certainly, there are ample grounds for believing that Mark and John accepted the doctrine of the virgin birth of our Holy Lord.
Let us examine two of their statements. The first one from Mark, “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary?” (Mark 6:3). Why did Mark not say, “The son of Joseph”? Surely the omission of Joseph’s name is not accidental; the Holy Spirit guided the writer, and thus Mark affirmed his faith in the virgin birth of Christ. What an intimation of the verbal inspiration of the Bible!
In the prologue to the Gospel that bears his name, John asserts, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). In his book, “The Aramaic Origin of the Fourth Gospel,” Dr. Burney argues that the passage in verse 13 should read, “Who was born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” A simple paraphrasing of this passage might help us to understand its import, “But as many as received Him, to all these God gave the right to become sons of His, even to them who believed in the name of Him Who was born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” If this is the correct rendering (and it may well be), then John also bore testimony to the fact that Jesus was born of the virgin.
In his account of the event, Matthew wrote that “Jacob begat Joseph,” but he did not add that Joseph begat Jesus (Matt. 1:16), as we might have expected. The birth of this wonderful child was linked with His virgin mother, and not at all with Joseph. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: when as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 1:18).
Surely, words could not be plainer; Joseph had nothing to do with the conception of our Lord.
The birth of John the Baptist can be contrasted with that of the Lord Jesus. “But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son” (Luke 1:13). The pronoun “thee” is significantly omitted in the reference to the birth of Jesus: “A virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son” (Matt. 1:23).
At the birth of John, Zacharias the father praised God (Luke 1:64), but when Jesus was born, it was Mary the mother who praised God (Luke 1:46).
Both of these births were supernatural. In the case of John this is seen in the age of the mother; in the case of Jesus this is seen in the absence of a father, surely a much greater miracle.
Matthew records another very interesting fact in his Gospel. “The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and His mother, and flee into Egypt” (2:13).
Why did the angel not say, “Arise take your wife and child, and flee into Egypt.” Note the accuracy of Holy Scripture, “The young child and His mother.” Unique circumstances call for unique phraseology!
According to the course of nature, neither the birth of John nor that of Jesus was humanly possible; human reason would say, “How can these things be?” However, when we take God into account, we realize that with Him, all things are possible. He is not restricted by His own laws; He possesses the power and the right to operate in a manner different from that with which we are naturally acquainted; it is perfectly congruous with His character to give life contrary to the usually observed course of nature, when it is His pleasure so to do.
The doctrine of the virgin birth is the scriptural statement that our Lord was conceived and born of the virgin Mary without the agency of a human father, and that His birth was not the origin of His personality, but only the means by which it entered into the conditions of human life.
The Holy Scriptures reveal that there are four different ways through which men have entered into this world. First, by the agency of neither man nor woman, as in the case of Adam who was created directly by God. Second, by the agency of a man without a woman, as in the case of Eve who was taken out of the side of Adam. Third, by the agency of both a man and a woman, as in the natural method of procreation. Finally, by the agency of a woman without a man, as in the case of the Lord Jesus.
What is essential is revealed, but what is not revealed is not essential. The conception of Jesus took place in Nazareth, before the time that Joseph and Mary were married, but the birth took place in Bethlehem after they had been married; consequently, the Lord Jesus was born in wedlock. Now, since Joseph was of the lineage of David, Mary’s child became the legal descendant and heir of David through Joseph, but never was He Joseph’s son. Christ in His human relationship was the Son of Mary; in His legal relationship, the Son of David, and in His divine relationship, the Son of God.
Let it also be understood that the conception of Jesus by Mary was not only supernatural and miraculous, but it was also immaculate. Now, in speaking of the “immaculate conception,” it should be understood that the word “immaculate” appertains to Christ, and not to Mary. There was neither trace nor taint of sin in the perfect nature of our Saviour.
The atoning death of Christ for sin could not have taken place apart from His incarnation, and His incarnation is made possible through the virgin birth; that miracle brings it nearer to the compass of our understanding. By His incarnation the Lord brought God to man in order that through His vicarious death, He might bring man to God.
The cross of Christ is the centre of all the purposes of God, but the incarnation of Christ is the dividing point of time. That wonderful event changed the whole course of the ages from “Anno-Mundi” (the year of the earth) to “Anno-Domini” (the year of our Lord). Well might we cry as the Apostle Paul wrote, “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim 3:16).
Why is this doctrine emphasized? If Jesus was born of human parents in the natural manner, it is difficult, if not impossible, to see how His nature and life could have been perfectly virtuous; His death, vicarious; and His resurrection, real and therefore victorious.
Let us hold inviolate at all times the glorious truth that Jesus was born of a virgin, without sin, the immaculate Son of God. To deny this doctrine is to deny the plain statements of Scripture; to do neither is to play into the hands of those who would deny all of the fundamental truths concerning the person and work of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. To Him be glory throughout all ages, for ever and ever. Amen.