Luke 1:34-35, The Moment of Jesus’ Conception

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.

//While it’s not quite as clear here in Luke as it is in Matthew, today’s verses appear to be saying that God—in the form of the Holy Spirit—will come down and impregnate Mary. Many Christians read this quite literally, interpreting the title “Son of God” to mean the literal offspring of God and Mary—a god impregnating a human. So, let’s carry this further. When did the act occur?

A clue may be hidden a few verses later in what scholars title the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). The story is this:

Told by an angel that Mary will indeed bear a child, and needn’t worry about being a virgin because God himself will impregnate her, she hustles off to see her pregnant cousin Elizabeth near Jerusalem. There, at God’s city, the Spirit comes over Elizabeth, her own baby leaps in her womb, and she exclaims loudly to Mary: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” Is this not likely the moment the Spirit “overshadows” Mary as well?

Mary confirms this in the midst of her Magnificat, with these words: “From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” Since she is blessed “henceforth,” it seems likely that in Luke’s telling, the conception—as promised by the angel a few verses earlier—occurs at that moment.

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