Compelling Evidence for the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ
There is enough evidence for the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ to convince any open and fair-minded agnostic or atheist of its veracity. This is because there is as much, or more, evidence for the Virgin Birth as any event in ancient history. To deny the evidence for the Virgin Birth and remain consistent, one must then be skeptical of all ancient history. Evidence for the Virgin Birth includes the fact that:
(1) It was documented by a physician and renowned, world class historian.
(1) It was documented by a physician and renowned, world class historian.
(2) It was accurately predicted centuries before it happened.
(3) It was believed universally by the earliest Christians.
(4) It convinced a well-known agnostic professor of mythology.
Documented by a World-Class Historian
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 theologian, 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 an unreliable 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 research also confirmed the accuracy of Luke’s accounts. In fact, Luke turned out to be so accurate that Ramsay wrote, “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 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 Virgin Birth Predicted by OT Prophets
Genesis 3:15. 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.
These words were spoken by God to the serpent after the fall of our first parents. The “seed of the woman” in this passage is an allusion to a future descendant of Eve who will defeat the serpent and reverse the curse brought on by his deception. The Bible normally speaks of the seed of men but in this case it is the “seed of the woman.” This is a prophecy of hope at a very dark time and clearly anticipates the future virgin birth of Christ--a birth in which the seed of a man is not involved. As the Methodist theologian, 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, vol. 1, 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 Jewish 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.
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.
Through the centuries followers of Jesus continued to believe in the Virgin Birth. Note the words of the 18th century hymn, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” written by Charles Wesley, an Oxford graduate, Anglican minister and, with his brother John, the leader of the great Methodist revival. Because of the references to the virgin birth, this hymn became a popular carol sung at Christmas.
Christ by highest heav’n adored,
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb!
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emanuel.
Hark the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn king!
An Agnostic Professor of Mythology is Convinced
With the advent of modern skepticism and higher criticism, many began to discount the historical evidence, and speculate that the virgin birth and other miracles of the New Testament are myths fabricated by followers of Jesus who wanted to deify Him. However, C. S. Lewis, an agnostic professor of Renaissance Literature at Oxford University, 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!”
Believing in Christ does not require a so-called “blind leap of faith.” Because of the historical evidence, 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 agnostics like C. S. Lewis who do not yet have this inner witness, there is adequate, external evidence that Jesus was truly born of a virgin. And if that part of the story is true, then when can have confidence that the rest of the story is true as well. It is enough to convince any open and fair-minded atheist.
Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian and Biblical scholar. He is the founding director of "The Revive America Project" and his books on church history and Spiritual renewal can be found on Amazon and at his website at http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html.
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.