Was the Virgin Birth a Myth or Historical Fact?
Three New Testament writers wrote historically of the virgin birth:
Just as the virgin birth was implied at the beginning of the Old Testament, so it is fully revealed at the beginning of the New Testament. Matthew clearly believed Mary was a virgin until the birth of Christ. He cited Isaiah 7:14, identifying the birth of Christ as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (Matt. 1:22, 23). On two occasions in the first chapter, Matthew identifies the Holy Spirit as the source of Mary’s son (Matt. 1:18, 20).
In listing the genealogical data concerning Christ, Joseph is listed as the husband of Mary but not the father of Jesus. Even though this is an argument from silence, its omission is not accidental. Matthew records that Joseph married Mary knowing her condition. Then he clearly states, “”And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son; and called his name Jesus”” (Matt. 1:25). Even in announcing the birth of Jesus, it was the birth of “her son” (v. 25), not “his son” or even “their son.”
In Matthew’s account of the birth of Christ, there are at least seven direct or indirect statements suggesting Jesus was born of a virgin. Since Matthew was one of the original twelve apostles, it is reasonable to assume that the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ was one of the original parts of “the apostles’ doctrine” taught to the members of the Jerusalem church (Acts 2:42).
Matthew’s Gospel was written by a Jew primarily to a Jewish audience. The only other Gospel writer to emphasize the virgin birth of Christ was a Gentile writing primarily to a Gentile audience. It is particularly significant that Luke, a medical doctor, should be among the men that the Holy Spirit chose to comment on the doctrine of the virgin birth.
Luke twice calls Mary a virgin. He tells of an angel sent by God “to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:27). When she learned she was to become a mother, “Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34). Later, Luke listed the family tree of Mary, not Joseph. Here he identified Jesus as “being (as it was supposed) the son of Joseph” (Luke 3:23).
Luke also teaches the virgin birth by his careful phrases. He calls Jesus “the Son of the Highest” (Luke 1:32) and “the Son of God” (Luke 1:35), but never clearly identifies him as the son of Joseph.
Luke was both a medical doctor and a historian concerned with accuracy, “to write unto thee in order … That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed” (Luke 1:3, 4). The virgin birth was not simply a rumor but rather an event investigated by a historian who was also a physician, after which the account was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The third New Testament writer to support the doctrine of the virgin birth was the apostle Paul. Writing to the churches in the province of Galatia, he said, “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4).
The readers of Galatians were concerned with Old Testament law, so they would have been careful to list the genealogies from father to son. But Paul recognized the uniqueness of this birth. Jesus was “made of a woman,” meaning more than a simple acknowledgment that Jesus had a mother. It suggests that Jesus had only a mother, a reasonable assumption when we realize that both Paul and Luke were closely related in the ministry and both accepted the virgin birth.