N.T. Wright, Scepticism, and the Virgin Birth

ABC Religion and Ethics has published a provoking article by N.T. Wright on the virgin birth of Christ.  Wright discusses the skepticism that prevails among non-believers about the historicity of the virgin birth of Christ.  Below is a small excerpt from the article:

Jesus’ birth usually gets far more attention than its role in the New Testament warrants. Christmas looms large in our culture, outshining even Easter in the popular mind.

Yet without Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 we would know nothing about it. Paul’s gospel includes Jesus’ Davidic descent (Rom. 1:3), but apart from that could exist without mention of his birth. One can be justified by faith with no knowledge of it. Likewise, John’s wonderful theological edifice has no need of it: God’s glory is revealed not in the manger; but on the cross.

If you try to express any New Testament theology without Jesus’ death and resurrection, you will find it cannot be done. “Man shall live for evermore,” says the song, “because of Christmas Day.” No, replies the New Testament; because of Calvary, Easter and Pentecost.

Nevertheless, the birth stories have become a test case in various controversies. If you believe in miracles, you believe in Jesus’ miraculous birth; if you don’t, you don’t. Both sides turn the question into a shibboleth, not for its own sake but to find out who’s in and who’s out.

Wright says that whenever Christians speak about the virgin birth, they mean “the virginal conception of Jesus.” Wright concludes:

If the first two chapters of Matthew and the first two of Luke had never existed, I do not suppose that my own Christian faith, or that of the church to which I belong, would have been very different.

But since they do, and since for quite other reasons I have come to believe that the God of Israel, the world’s creator, was personally and fully revealed in and as Jesus of Nazareth, I hold open my historical judgment and say: If that’s what God deemed appropriate, who am I to object?

Wright’s article is worth reading, primarily by those who are skeptical about the historicity of “the virginal conception of Jesus.” You can read the article here.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

This entry was posted in Jesus Christ and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to N.T. Wright, Scepticism, and the Virgin Birth

  1. Charles says:

    I wonder whether Wright has overlooked Galatians 4:4-5, a passage which ties Jesus’ birth and redemption together. Also, although it is admittedly a challenging passage, one could also point to Revelation 12 as at least an allusion to the birth of Christ. So it seems to me that it is a bit of an overstatement to state that, without Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 we would know nothing about it.” It would seem better to say that we would know less about it.

    Like

    • Claude Mariottini says:

      Charles,

      If I understood N. T. correctly, he is referring to the “the virginal conception of Jesus” and not his “birth and redemption together.” Without Matthew and Luke we would never know that Jesus was born of a virgin.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

  2. Pingback: N.T. Wright, Scepticism, and the Virgin Birth | Dr. Claude Mariottini – Professor of Old Testament

  3. Charles says:

    Claude,

    I do get that much. The problem is that the wording is not as clear as it should be. Note the following quotes and my parenthetical insertions.

    “Jesus’ birth [not virgin birth/conception] usually gets far more attention than its role in the New Testament warrants. Christmas [Christmas is of course more than the virgin conception] looms large in our culture, outshining even Easter in the popular mind.

    Yet without Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 we would know nothing about it {What does the “it” refer to grammatically? It cannot refer to the virgin birth because he has not yet mentioned it]. Paul’s gospel includes Jesus’ Davidic descent (Rom. 1:3), but apart from that could exist without mention of his birth [Not quite sure what his point is here]. One can be justified by faith with no knowledge of it [again what is the it?]. Likewise, John’s wonderful theological edifice has no need of it {What is the it?]: God’s glory is revealed not in the manger [seems to referring to the birth story in general and not to the virgin birth in particular]; but on the cross.

    I am not trying to be pedantic, but I would expect a bit more clarity and precision in a piece like this.

    Like

    • Claude Mariottini says:

      Charles,

      You have a good point. Either the article was poorly edited or it was not clearly written. Without the clarity that you are looking for in N. T. Wright’s statements, the reader has to guess what he is trying to say. Thank you for your keen observation of this weakness in Wright’s article.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

  4. Pingback: N.T. Wright on the Virgin Birth « James’ Ramblings

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s