Historical Evidence for the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ

The virgin birth of Jesus Christ was documented by a physician and world class historian who interviewed eyewitnesses, probably including Mary herself, for his account of this world-changing event—the entry of God into the world. Luke gives the most detailed account of the Nativity and mentions Mary twelve times, more than any other Biblical writer. He also gives special, detailed attention to the birth of John the Baptist and many see his gynecological interests to be a result of his training as a physician.
At the beginning of his Gospel, Luke indicates that he has made a thorough investigation of the things about which he is writing, which included his utilization of eyewitness accounts. He spent extended periods of time with Paul in Jerusalem and Judaea and would have had opportunity to interview those who were closest to the event, including Mary if she were still alive. There is no reliable information on how long Mary lived, but some traditions say she lived as much as 24 years or longer after the resurrection. The detail Luke presents does indicate that he has derived his information from a primary source, either Mary herself or someone to whom Mary had relayed the intimate details of the event.

Luke Recognized in the Scholarly World
as a First-Class Historian
Luke’s attention to detail and the accuracy of his accounts of people, places, dates, and events in his Gospel and in Acts have been noted in the scholarly world and gained for him a high regard as a historian. For example, the famous archaeologist and agnostic, Sir William Ramsay, expected to discredit Luke’s accounts by visiting and examining the places mentioned in his Gospel and Acts. Ramsay taught that the New Testament was a religious treatise written in the mid second century and not an historical document recorded in the first century. He was so convinced of this that he went to Asia Minor to retrace Luke’s account of Paul’s journeys expecting to find the physical evidence to refute Luke's account.
But after years of travel and study, Ramsay completely reversed his view of the Bible and first century history. He acquired a very high regard for Luke as a historian and wrote, “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of the true historic sense; in short, this author should be placed along with the greatest of historians” (Sir William Ramsay, 81, 222.)

Another famous historian, A.N. Sherwin-White, carefully examined Luke's references in Luke/Acts to 32 countries, 54 cities, and nine islands, finding not a single mistake (Norman Geisler, 47). His findings corroborated the findings of Ramsay’s archaeological research who also said, “You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian's and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment” (Sir William Ramsay, 89).
This begs the question that if Luke was this careful to get his facts right about names, places , events, and dates, can we not be confident that he was just as careful to get his facts right concerning the more important things about which he reported, such as the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. The well-known Greek scholar, Kenneth S. Wuest, writing of Luke’s attention to detail, said, “If Mary was still alive, he, a doctor of medicine, investigated the story of the virgin birth by hearing it from Mary's own lips;” and commenting on accusations by critics that the story of the virgin birth was a hoax, the noted Greek scholar, Professor John A. Scott, said, “You could not fool Doctor Luke" (Kenneth S. Wuest, 52-54).
The Bible Teaches & the Earliest Christians
Believed in the Virgin Birth
Like Matthew in his Gospel, Luke is clear that the birth of Jesus was supernatural and that He was conceived without the involvement of a man. He records how Mary asked the angel Gabriel how she could give birth when she did not know a man, a reference to her state of virginity and being unmarried. Luke says the angel answered, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the highest shall overshadow you; therefore, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 2:34-35). Interestingly, Gabriel links the miraculous conception of this Child with His deity, for it is because of His miraculous birth that He will be called the Son of God.
That the earliest Christians believed in the virgin birth of Jesus is verified by the “Apostle’s Creed,” an early confession of faith that probably dates from the second century in its earliest formulation. It reads in part:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried;
The third day he rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven,
And sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
Not a Myth
Some, of course, refuse to accept the historical evidence, and claim that the virgin birth and other miracles of the New Testament are myths fabricated by followers of Jesus who wanted to deify Him. This reminds me of C.S. Lewis, an agnostic professor of Renaissance Literature at Oxford University, who exposed the shallow arguments concerning the mythological character of the New Testament. Lewis was an expert in mythological literature and he tells of his astonishment the first time he read the Gospels. His surprised response was, “This is not myth!”
Lewis, of course, became a believer and an astute apologist for Christianity. It was at this time that higher criticism was being popularized in seminaries in Germany and certain theologians, such as Rudolph Bultman, were claiming that the New Testament accounts of the virgin birth of Jesus, His miracles, and His resurrection were myths created by His followers. Lewis challenged these theologians, saying, “I would like to know how many myths these people have read!” Lewis went on to explain that he had been a long-time professor and critic of mythological literature and knew how a myth sounded and felt, “And the gospel story,” he said, “is not myth!”
Old Testament Prophecies Concerning the Virgin Birth
Genesis 3:15. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heel.
The “seed of the woman” in this passage is an allusion to a future descendant of Eve who would defeat Satan. The Bible normally speaks of the seed of men but in this case it is the “seed of the woman.” This prophecy thus clearly anticipates the future virgin birth of Christ--a birth in which the seed of a man is not involved. As Adam Clarke says; “The seed of the woman; the person is to come by the woman, and her alone without the concurrence of man” (Adam Clarke, 53). This Seed of the woman will receive a temporary wound from Satan—you shall bruise His heel—but the Seed of woman shall inflict on Satan a final and mortal wound—He shall bruise your head. This Messianic promise was fulfilled through the virgin birth and through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Isaiah 7:14. Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
The Hebrew word translated “virgin” in this passage refers to a young woman of marriageable age, but would include the idea of virginity since that was expected of a young woman being married for the first time. This is borne out by the Septuagint, which translates the Hebrew with the Greek word parthinos, a word that specifically means “virgin,” i.e., a young woman who has never had sex with a man. Parthinos is the word used by both Matthew and Luke in their description of Mary, affirming that she was a young woman who had never had sex with a man when Jesus was born. Incredibly, Isaiah says that this Son that will be born of a virgin shall be called Immanuel, meaning “God with us,” a clear Old Testament prophecy of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.
3 Reasons it is Important to Believe in the Virgin Birth
(1) To affirm the veracity of the Biblical record.
To deny the virgin birth is to deny the reliability of the Biblical record, particularly the accounts of the Lord’s birth by both Matthew and Luke. This then becomes a slippery slope, for if one is comfortable denying the clear Biblical account of the virgin birth, then from there it is an easy path to denying the deity of Christ and His resurrection.
(2) To affirm the deity of Christ.
If Jesus was born a natural birth with two human parents, then this would undermine His claims to deity. Unlike normal births that take place by the natural processes of procreation between a man and a woman, the virgin birth required a miraculous conception with God’s direct involvement. Gabriel linked Jesus’ deity with His miraculous conception (Luke 2:34-35). As mentioned above, to deny the virgin birth of Christ is only a small step from denying His deity as well.
(3) To affirm the efficaciousness of our salvation.
If Jesus was a normal man born of two normal parents, then His death would not be efficacious for all humanity. It is the fact that He died in our place as God incarnate—not a mere human being—that gives His death and subsequent resurrection the power to release salvation and forgiveness into our lives.
Believing in Christ does not require a so-called "blind leap of faith." Because of the clear and reliable account of Dr. Luke, it is more reasonable to believe in the virgin birth than it is to deny it. Those wonderful Christian carols heralding the birth of our Savior can be sung with zest and confidence because the Christmas story is true. We know it is true because of the witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts; but even for those who do not yet have this inner witness, there is adequate, external evidence provided to by Dr. Luke that Jesus was truly born of a virgin. And if that part of the story is true, then we can have confidence that the rest of the story is true as well.

by Eddie L. Hyatt

Works Cited
Ramsey, Sir William M. The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament. Hodder & Stoughton, 1915.
Geisler, Norman. Baker Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999.
Wuest, Kenneth S. Word Studies In The Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979.
Clarke, Adam. The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments with a Commentary and Critical Notes. 3 Vols. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1824.

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight