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.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary