Romans 1:3-4, The Virgin Birth, Part I of V

Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power….

//Liberal Christians like myself often don’t feel it’s necessary to read the Bible in an entirely literal manner. Some of the stories, we insist, not only contradict common sense but were never meant to be read literally in the first place!

Consider the virgin birth of Christ. The Christmas story is a staple of Christian belief, it seems, yet was it really meant to be read as history? While I would never criticize you for believing in the story as a historical event, I don’t think it’s necessary for Christians to believe Christ was born of a virgin. There are a number of clues that make me believe otherwise.

To kick off this series, let me point out that the earliest writings in the New Testament imply otherwise. Pauline and Markan writings don’t just ignore the virgin birth, they hint that their authors didn’t believe it … probably have never heard any such stories. Paul writes merely that Jesus was “born of a woman, born under the law” (for an idea of how this phrase was understood, see Job 1:1, 15:14, 25:4) and that Jesus descended from David “according to the flesh.” In today’s verse, Paul hints at Adoptionism; the popular understanding among many early Christians that Jesus became the Son of God later in life, rather than at birth. Meanwhile, Mark portrays Jesus as estranged from his family, disowning mother and brothers, hardly an endorsement for the idea of Mary being informed by an angel of Jesus’ divinity. The evidence from the Bible seems to point to the idea that the virgin birth stories evolved 40-50 years after Christ died.

Continued tomorrow.

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