JT asks, ‘Did Paul invent the virgin birth?’

History of Early Christianity


Dr. James Tabor, once part of the old Worldwide Church of God, had an article published titled Did Paul Invent the Virgin Birth?  Here is some of what he had published:

Paul never explicitly refers to Jesus’ virgin birth nor does he ever name either Mary or Joseph. What he does affirm is that Jesus pre-existed before his human birth and subsequently gave up his divine glory through his birth as a human being. He writes that Jesus “though existing in the form of God” emptied himself and took on human form, “being made in the likeness of humankind” (Philippians 2:6-7). He says further “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). He has to be referring here, metaphorically, to the “riches” of Jesus’ pre-existence with God, since all our sources have Jesus born of a poor peasant family. Paul also writes “In the fullness of time God sent forth his Son, made of a woman . . .” (Galatians 4:4). The implication of these texts is that Jesus’ mother was merely the human receptacle for bringing Jesus into the world. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-d-tabor/did-paul-invent-the-virgin-birth_b_2355278.html

While in the article, Dr. Tabor does mention the accounts in Matthew and Luke, he also suggests that Roman mythology may have played a role in the “virgin birth” doctrine.

The Bible, and early writings, clearly support the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin (Mary). And the first suggestion of it precedes that Apostle Paul by centuries.

Was the Virgin Birth Prophesied?

It was if you believe what was written by the prophet Isaiah:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14, NKJV throughout).

Does the Bible Teach that Jesus’ Birth Fulfilled Isaiah’s Writing?

Well, according to Matthew’s writings, the answer is yes:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS (Matthew 1:18-25).

Luke also records some of how it would occur:

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her (Luke 1:26-38).

Did Any Early Church Leaders Specifically Teach a Virgin Birth?

Well yes, one of the most prominent of the church leaders in the second century taught the virgin birth.

Melito of Sardis wrote:

65. And indeed there were many other things proclaimed by numerous prophets concerning the mystery of the passover, which is Christ, to whom be the glory forever. Amen.

66. When this one came from heaven to earth for the sake of the one who suffers, and had clothed himself with that very one through the womb of a virgin, and having come forth as man, he accepted the sufferings of the sufferer through his body which was capable of suffering. And he destroyed those human sufferings by his spirit which was incapable of dying. He killed death which had put man to death…

70. This is the one who became human in a virgin, who was hanged on the tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from among the dead, and who raised mankind up out of the grave below to the heights of heaven…

104. This is the one who made the heavens and the earth, and who in the beginning created man, who was proclaimed through the law and prophets, who became human via the virgin, who was hanged upon a tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from the dead, and who ascended to the heights of heaven, who sits at the right hand of the Father, who has authority to judge and to save everything, through whom the Father created everything from the beginning of the world to the end of the age.

105. This is the alpha and the omega. This is the beginning and the end–an indescribable beginning and an incomprehensible end. This is the Christ. This is the king. This is Jesus. This is the general. This is the Lord. This is the one who rose up from the dead. This is the one who sits at the right hand of the Father. He bears the Father and is borne by the Father, to whom be the glory and the power forever. Amen (Melito of Sardis. On the Passover. Translation from Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary, Vol.4,1;May 1989).

Melito also wrote:

This is He who took a bodily form in the Virgin, and was hanged upon the tree, and was buried within the earth (Melito. Translation by Roberts and Donaldson. Fragment V. Online version copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/melito.html 11/18/06).

Virgin Birth Was A Difference Between Some True and Some False Christians in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries

Although he had his own problems, Origen noted that there were two groups that he considered to be “Ebionites” in the early third century, one who believed in the virgin birth (and that would be those who this paper suggests were also known as the Nazarenes) and those who did not:

Let it be admitted, moreover, that there are some who accept Jesus, and who boast on that account of being Christians, and yet would regulate their lives, like the Jewish multitude, in accordance with the Jewish law,—and these are the twofold sect of Ebionites, who either acknowledge with us that Jesus was born of a virgin, or deny this, and maintain that He was begotten like other human beings…(Origen. Contra Celsus, Book V, Chapter 61).

The true Christians in Africa were not those associated with Origen (please see what happened in Alexandria), nor those that denied the virgin birth. The true Christians were those professed Jesus and had practices similar to those of practices Jews (see also Revelation 2:9;3:9)–and they also believed in the virgin birth.

Anyway, while the writings of the Apostle Paul do support the idea of the virgin birth, the teaching preceded the Apostle Paul and was believed by true and some simply professing Christians.

Some articles of possibly related interest may include the following:

Virgin Birth: Does the Bible Teach It? What does the Bible teach? What is claimed in The Da Vinci Code?
Jesus is God, But Became Flesh Was Jesus fully human and fully God or what?
Was Jesus Born in the Grotto of the Nativity? Was Jesus born in a below ground cave? Was Jesus born below the “Church of the Nativity”? Were the wise men there?
Is Keeping Christmas a Sin? Is keeping Christmas acceptable for true Christians? What are some scriptures to consider?
What Does the Catholic Church Teach About Christmas and the Holy Days? Do you know what the Catholic Church says were the original Christian holy days? Was Christmas among them? Is December 25th Jesus’ birthday or that of the sun god?
Did Early Christians Celebrate Birthdays? Did biblical era Jews celebrate birthdays? Who originally celebrated birthdays? When did many that profess Christ begin birthday celebrations?
Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Apparitions Do you know much about Mary? Are the apparitions real? What happened at Fatima? What might they mean for the rise of the ecumenical religion of Antichrist? Are Protestants moving towards Mary? How do the Eastern/Greek Orthodox view Mary? How might Mary view her adorers?
Origin of the Marian Dogmas: Where Do Catholic Scholars Say The Four Dogmas of Mary Came From?

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