virgin birth


virgin birth
The assertion in the gospels of Matthew and Luke that Jesus was born of Mary without the intervention of a human partner. The pregnancy was initiated by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18; Luke 1:35). The earliest writers in the NT (Mark and Paul) show no knowledge of such a virginal conception, and it is suggested that the narratives are a midrash on the LXX of Isa. 7:14 which prophesies a birth from a ‘virgin’ (in the Greek). The Greek parthenos was used to translate the Hebrew almah, which means a ‘young woman’, and is so translated at Isa. 7:14 by NRSV, REB, NJB, thus correcting the ‘virgin’ of AV, RV. But modern translations of Matt. 1:23 correctly translate the Greek parthenos by ‘virgin’ because Matt. is quoting the LXX. As early as the 2nd cent. CE the Jewish controversialist Trypho was pointing out that the Hebrew did not mean a virgin but that Isa. 7:14 was referring to the natural birth of Hezekiah. Indeed the LXX went out of favour with Greek-speaking Jews, who opted for the literal translation by Aquila in the early 2nd cent. CE. Later in the 2nd cent. the pagan philosopher Celsus claimed that Jesus' father was Panthera, a Roman soldier.
The narratives in Matt. and Luke are very different from the exuberant birth stories of heroes in Hellenistic literature. But since historical enquiries cannot settle the truth or otherwise of the gospels' accounts, theological arguments are brought in. In favour of the traditional doctrine it is argued that it is appropriate as a means by which God made a decisive break with the old, sinful humanity and inaugurated in Jesus a new, untainted humanity. The miracle of the birth came to be regarded as a sign of the divine nature of Jesus, while the birth itself indicated true humanity (and as an argument against docetism it was included in the creeds). On the other hand, some modern theologians argue that the doctrine must imply that the humanity of Jesus was somehow impaired, since with only one parent he could not have been a fully male human being. If Jesus was provided miraculously with chromosomes, specially created by God, with no human ancestry, how did he have a human inheritance, of the house of David (Matt. 1:17, 20; Rom. 1:3)?

Dictionary of the Bible.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • virgin birth — n the virgin birth the birth of Jesus, which Christians believe was caused by God, not by sex between a man and a woman …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Virgin Birth — ► NOUN ▪ the doctrine of Christ s birth from a mother, Mary, who was a virgin …   English terms dictionary

  • virgin birth — virgin birth. См. девственное размножение. (Источник: «Англо русский толковый словарь генетических терминов». Арефьев В.А., Лисовенко Л.А., Москва: Изд во ВНИРО, 1995 г.) …   Молекулярная биология и генетика. Толковый словарь.

  • virgin birth — virgin birth. = parthenogenesis (см.). (Источник: «Англо русский толковый словарь генетических терминов». Арефьев В.А., Лисовенко Л.А., Москва: Изд во ВНИРО, 1995 г.) …   Молекулярная биология и генетика. Толковый словарь.

  • virgin birth — n. 1. [usually V B ] Christian Theol. the doctrine that Jesus was born to Mary without violating her virginity and that she was his only human parent: cf. IMMACULATE CONCEPTION 2. Zool. parthenogenesis …   English World dictionary

  • Virgin birth — A virgin birth can refer to:*The virgin birth of Jesus, believed by Christians and Muslims *The miraculous birth of a person from folklore or mythology; see also List of virgin births *Parthenogenesis, birth without fertilization …   Wikipedia

  • virgin birth — 1. Theol. the doctrine or dogma that, by the miraculous agency of God, the birth of Christ did not impair or prejudice the virginity of Mary. Cf. Immaculate Conception. 2. Zool. parthenogenesis; parturition by a female who has not copulated.… …   Universalium

  • virgin birth — noun a) A birth (or vegetal reproduction) after spontaneous, unfertilized gamete development in a virginal mother, parthenogenesis b) (often capitalized and used absolutely: the Virgin Birth) In Christian theology, the miraculous birth of Chris …   Wiktionary

  • virgin birth — noun 1》 (the Virgin Birth) the doctrine of Christ s birth from a mother, Mary, who was a virgin. 2》 Zoology parthenogenesis …   English new terms dictionary

  • virgin birth — birth by a woman who never had intercourse with a man …   English contemporary dictionary


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