Social Question

prolificus's avatar

Do you believe in the "Virgin Birth" of Jesus? Why or why not?

Asked by prolificus (6285 points ) September 15th, 2010

I was talking about this topic with a friend today, and I was surprised at a difference in opinion. Aren’t all Christians supposed to believe in the Virgin Birth?! ~

So, do you? Why or why not?

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85 Answers

janbb's avatar

I’m not a Christain.

prolificus's avatar

@janbb – Ok. That’s your final answer?

JustmeAman's avatar

Yes I do believe and know how this happened and what happened. When one understands why this is an issue and the means behind it one will know how it was and how it was possible. This is such a key issue as to bring about an understanding beyond what most of us ever will know. Thanks for the question.

Seek's avatar

No.

Even on the offchance that a female was capable of reproducing without the presence of sperm (the probability is out of this world, but I’ll grant it), she could not have a male offspring, as there would be no “Y” chromosome involved.

iamthemob's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr – unless she was a hermaphrodite. How about that…;-)

jaytkay's avatar

Aren’t all Christians supposed to believe in the Virgin Birth?

Opinions differ.

Some people call themselves Christians because they believe in the teachings of Christ without the supernatural bits.

Example
Making good on a promise to a friend to summarize his views on Christianity, Thomas Jefferson set to work with scissors, snipping out every miracle and inconsistency he could find in the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John…

…In a letter sent from Monticello to John Adams in 1813, Jefferson said his “wee little book” of 46 pages was based on a lifetime of inquiry and reflection and contained “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.”...

muppetish's avatar

No, I do not.

Seek's avatar

@iamthemob I have a feeling that our Apostolic Dr. Luke wouldn’t have left that little tidbit out.

JLeslie's avatar

Absolutely not. Mary was lucky that story held or they probably would have stoned her to death, or whatever they did back then.

@Seek_Kolinahr great point.

iamthemob's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr that’s totally the kind of thing he would have left out ;-)

iamthemob's avatar

I’m going to throw out that Klinefelter’s syndrome allows for the genetic possibility of a XX chromosome person who is phenotypically male.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I started to question my Christianity after thinking about the story of Noah’s Ark, and the Virgin Birth shortly followed. It took many years later to have the opportunity to meet people who had other religious vies or no belief in any type of god. It was only then that I was able to take on a more global appreciation of people and their religious beliefs. Who knows if Mary was a virgin and bore the child of God? I for one do not.

Seek's avatar

@iamthemob

Sorry, but Klinefelter’s Syndrome still requires a Y chromosome. A mutated Y, but a Y nonetheless.

iamthemob's avatar

Again, there’s nothing to say that the mutated Y wasn’t in the X already carried in Mary, and did not cause a atypical expression of the phenotype until it was passed on to the next generation.

Seek's avatar

So… you’re saying that Mary was an XX male, who cloned himself in his uterus, and gave birth to a clone that *re*deformed itself into an expressive male? People with Klinefelter’s don’t have egg cells and are sterile. Not going to happen.

iamthemob's avatar

That’s why it only happened once! :-)

But seriously, we can’t point to the fact that Jesus was male and say that it’s impossible when there are plenty of ways genes can be swapped around, expressed in one instance, and not in another to make odd and seemingly impossible genetic things happen. There’s a very real possibility that it could have happened, especially when you consider that humans are genetically one of the least diverse species and you add on a period in the world where there were a limited amount of mates around, so often your first cousin was your best shot.

But again, this is the only time it apparently happened. Improbable, but not impossible, and actually semi-reasonable considering the above factors and the low instance of the occurrence claimed.

iamthemob's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer

It’s funny, and I never thought of it before, but if you consider the Saharan mega-drought which pushed all of mankind’s genetic ancestors to the southern part of South Africa, where they lived by the ocean and began a new life as a sea-adapted people, there’s an interesting historical link that could explain this allegorical tale (not to mention that first-generation man being wiped out by a flood is not an uncommon myth across religion).

Seek's avatar

Explain to me how a sterile male magically developed an egg cell that cloned itself in its estrogen-deficient uterus.

iamthemob's avatar

I mentioned Klinefelter’s because it was the one I was most familiar with. However, de la Chapelle syndrome doesn’t require a Y chromosome at all, but results in a phenotypical expression that is distinctly male.

There are also a wide variety of genotypes that do not result in classic or standard phenotypical expressions that could be brought into discussion to discuss the possibility of a fully fertile female (either both in geno- and phenotype expression or merely the latter) could give birth to a phenotypically male child without the introduction of any Y chromosome in the mix.

It’s not magic…it’s science. I’ve given instances where it is possible (although highly improbable) that this could take place. Explain to me how it’s genetically impossible…

Seek's avatar

It was your link for Klinefelter’s that stated that de la Chapelle is the same thing.

For one – human parthenogenesis is theoretical. It has never been recorded to have actually happened. In every species in which parthenogenesis is recorded (none of which are wild mammals, though a few instances of parthenogenesis in rabbits and mice have been induced in a lab), the host parent and the offspring are both female. Always. There has never been a recorded instance of a male producing offspring, or a female producing a male offspring.

From Wiki:
Induced parthenogenesis in mice and monkeys often results in abnormal development. This is because mammals have imprinted genetic regions, where either the maternal or paternal chromosome is inactivated in the offspring in order for development to proceed normally. A mammal created by parthenogenesis would thus have double doses of maternally imprinted genes and lack paternally imprinted genes, leading to developmental abnormalities. It has been suggested[34] that defects in placental folding or interdigitation are one cause of swine parthenote abortive development.

If there’s never been a case of parthenogenesis in males, never been a case of parthenogenesis in mammals without artificial chemicals present, and never been a case of a fertile human male with two X chomosomes, I find it decidedly un likely that such a thing would have happened in 33 BC, solely because this one holy text mentions a virgin birth.

Oh, and there’s the little thing about people with de la Chapelle having no uterus. That too.

janbb's avatar

@prolificus You state that Christians are supposed to believe in the Virgin birth, Jews are not so I thought my answer was sufficient as to the why or why not.

iamthemob's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr -

If there’s never been a case of parthenogenesis in males, never been a case of parthenogenesis in mammals without artificial chemicals present, and never been a case of a fertile human male with two X chomosomes, I find it decidedly un likely that such a thing would have happened in 33 BC, solely because this one holy text mentions a virgin birth.

That I can agree with. I have admitted that it is highly improbably (probably the equivalent of decidedly unlikely). So we totally agree!

But our understanding of genetics shows us how it COULD happen, although it probably didn’t. Since the bible claims it only happened once (in fact, that it was miraculous), it’s not unreasonable to accept that it was possible. You don’t have to (I raise my eyebrow at it myself)...but genetics only lends support to the possibility, rather than the impossibility.

iamthemob's avatar

@janbb – that’s the first time we found out you were Jewish – so that’s the first indication of why :-)

Aster's avatar

Not sure; doesn’t matter to me.

Seek's avatar

@iamthemob

But our understanding of genetics shows us how it COULD happen,

No, it doesn’t.

iamthemob's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr You’re right. Replace “how” with “that” in the above.

Seek's avatar

@iamthemob

Our understanding of genetics says nothing but that it hasn’t happened, will likely never happen, and even talking about it is delving into the realms of fantasy.

Are we even having the same conversation?

De la Chapelle’s patients have no uterus. All XX males are sterile. All of them. All parthenogenesis occurs in females. All offspring of parthenogenesis are female. Parthenogenesis does not occur in mammals.

What about this sounds to you like “Yeah, that could happen”.

Seek's avatar

Please refresh – you started typing before I edited.

iamthemob's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr – False. Our understanding of genetics doesn’t say anything about what hasn’t happened. We do not have a complete record of the births, deaths, and genetic type of our ancestors going back the past year…let alone the past two thousand or so.

Seek's avatar

We have no information that would suggest that an infertile male with two X chromosomes and no uterus can give birth to a male offspring.

There’s the male thing, and the no uterus thing. Both of these mean impossible.

prolificus's avatar

Eh hm. I think this thread is becoming an argument over whether or not the Virgin Birth is legit, instead of a discussion of what people believe and why. It’s a subtle difference. Just sayin’. Carry on.

iamthemob's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr -it is really you that has the burden of proof here. You can’t say that “no information” means it can’t happen. You can only say that based on what we’ve seen, we don’t have a record of it. But, no report has said that it is impossible. Show me that the scientific study of genetics has proven that what you say is impossible, and this is widely accepted, and I will review the material and support your statement. But a lack of evidence is not proof, when there are indicators to show that the phenotypical expression of a human genotype is way more complicated than we first thought, allowing for the possibility (again, unlikely) of their being a man born to a woman without the obvious contribution of any Y chromosome.

Seek's avatar

@iamthemob

I have shown you that according to the evidence at hand, such a thing cannot occur in nature.

You are free to dispute it, but you cannot continue to ignore my posts.

prolificus's avatar

@janbb – Even Jewish scripture mentions a virgin birth, though, right? Isaiah 7:14. (Although, I do see there are varying translations that don’t necesarily render the passage to mean “virgin.” It could also mean “young girl.”)

iamthemob's avatar

I find it decidedly un likely that such a thing would have happened in 33 BC

but now

I have shown you that according to the evidence at hand, such a thing cannot occur in nature

I can only say that lack of direct evidence of the assertion is not the same as proof to the contrary, and that unlikely, and improbable, are different than impossible.

filmfann's avatar

The Old Testament prophesy was for a virgin birth.
I believe it. Not all Christians do.
God can do anything. Doesn’t need X, Y, or Z. Not for turning water into wine, not for making a thousand fish sanwiches out of 3 fish, not for a virgin birth.

BoBo1946's avatar

@filmfann like my friend, I believe it also and for the same reasons.

Blackberry's avatar

Yeah, sure…....as soon as I see another case of it that wasn’t thousands of years ago…

iamthemob's avatar

God can do anything. Doesn’t need X, Y, or Z.

Pssh. I bet he can’t write “the zebra’s xylophone” unless he uses an X,Y, AND Z. ;-)

Deja_vu's avatar

Yes I do :P

Dutchess_III's avatar

As a Christian I have to ask…is it really important?

filmfann's avatar

@Dutchess_III I think it is. Any church that puts forth the idea that doubts the virgin birth, or the resurrection, isn’t following the Bible.
Proberbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.”

iamthemob's avatar

@filmfann

But there are a lot of parts of the bible that the church doesn’t follow – what is essential about this belief that without it, the rest of the lessons of the new testament are undermined?

filmfann's avatar

It challenges the validity of the Lord, as opposed to the practices of the followers 2000 years ago. (I am thinking about women keeping their hair covered while in church)

Seek's avatar

@iamthemob

Talk about taking quotes out of context, oi vey!

If you find a single case of parthenogenesis anywhere on Earth that supports the notion that a female can produce male offspring, that a mammal can nurture an offspring to term without a uterus, and/or that a male can take part in parthenogenesis at all, and I’ll eat my hat.

Until then, I will maintain that your claim is scientifically unfounded.

Ben_Dover's avatar

Whatever the case may be in regards to Mary’s condition when she gave birth to Jesus, his life has caused many people to regard life as more than just survival of the fittest. Because of his example, many people understand what it is to be a decent human being. Many people love others readily and willingly thanks to Jesus.
To squabble over whether or not Mary was a miracle birth in regards to Jesus is just silly. It merely detracts from the incredible fact that God decided that 4bc was time enough to show us that we are all one. And to help nudge us back onto the path (from which we had surely fallen astray…)

Seek's avatar

@Ben_Dover

On the contrary, it is believing that a human female can spontaneously impregnate herself with a male offspring that is just silly. It’s almost as silly as believing she was impregnated by a god.

Ben_Dover's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Not by a god. By the god. after all, there is only one of them. And this is his story. Hence history As improbable as it might seem, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence supporting the claim, and I don’t see you presenting any real evidence at all except your disbelief in the spontaneity of the human female.

iamthemob's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr – is it really appropriate to call it silly, though?

Seek's avatar

@iamthemob

I, unlike many, am not under the impression that insane, unfounded statements are any less deserving of ridicule because the word “religion” is attached to them. A popular untruth is still an untruth.

Qingu's avatar

I don’t believe in the virgin birth of Jesus for the same reason that I don’t believe that a cow gave birth to a lamb as a floating army with skyborne chariots flew across ancient Rome in 80 AD (despite the report by the Roman historian Josephus).

I also don’t believe that Muhammad rode a flying donkey up into the sky (as reported in the Bukhari hadith).

Why on earth would anyone believe nonsense reported by completely unreliable ancient writers? Let alone ancient writers who wouldn’t even sign their names, date their manuscripts, or quote chains of witnesses (i.e. the gospel writers)?

Qingu's avatar

@iamthemob, of course a virgin birth is silly.

Do you think the idea of riding a flying donkey is silly? I sure as hell do, despite the fact that more than a billion Muslims believe that it happened to their magic man of preference.

Qingu's avatar

@Ben_Dover, I would rather live in ancient Greece or Rome than the feudal Christian states that replaced it.

I don’t really see how Jesus was such a turning point for the world. The good parts of moral philosophy already existed and was taught by previous teachers (Socrates, Buddha, Cicero). Jesus’ philosophy also had plenty of bad parts. He was a cult leader demagogue who threatened his followers with hellfire and promised magical eternal life.

Battousai87's avatar

I believe that there was a Mary, Joseph, and Jesus who are the same as are mentioned in the scriptures. I however have a problem with a “virgin” birth by our modern standards. Virgin though, can also mean pure. Which is how i interpret it. I am skeptical of much of the bible as it is today due to the great deal of time and modifications that have been made to it. the biggest modifications being 1) The Council of Niceau meeting and agreeing on a single text to follow, since at the time there were bibles all over and biblical stories filled them all, so the council went through and weeded out what they believed to be false stories, and created what would become the beginings of the modern bible. 2) translations, from hebrew to greek, greek to roman, roman to german, german to english, and so on. Even the text that is in the old testiment can be called into question for possible lost meaning through translation.

Ben_Dover's avatar

Jesus taught a lesson those others couldn’t quite impart. Jesus showed that death experienced in this dimension is not the end of life, but rather a doorway into the next life.

Socrates, Buddha, Cicero…They really couldn’t teach that lesson….

Jesus didn’t threaten his followers with hellfire, and the magical eternal life awaits you whether or not you believe in it. @Qingu

Qingu's avatar

@Ben_Dover, Jesus wasn’t the first to offer his followers and devotees a magical afterlife. Most Greco-Roman mystery cults at the time did this.

Promising people “If you obey me, you’ll get candy after you die” is always great marketing for cults.

iamthemob's avatar

@Qingu

I forget though…what did he tell them to do?

Qingu's avatar

Jesus told his followers to ditch his family to join his cult (Luke 12:53). He said that people who did not follow him were doomed to hellfire (John 3:18, Mark 13).

He had some nice moral messages (which predated his cult), but he was still a pretty standard cult leader.

iamthemob's avatar

@Qingu

Thanks for the paraphrasing…but what I’m asking is moreso what message he was spreading that was wrong?

I’m not pro the hellfire bit – but that wasn’t a huge part of his message as far as I have read. I feel like he pretty much was talking about people being better to one another (as the Lazarus example was used to demonstrate).

Plus, everything that we have in the bible that Jesus was to have said is all pretty much hearsay…so…isn’t it just as likely that John and Mark were hellfire obsessed?

Although not a pleasant tactic, they may have just needed something to motivate citizens to rebel against the Roman Empire (and I hear those guys were pretty nasty to the Christians).

Qingu's avatar

Well… to a large degree, what the “real Jesus” actually said is a pretty big mystery. The earliest Christian writings we have are Paul’s letters, from the 50s AD, and he doesn’t mention any of Jesus teachings (for Paul, Jesus is more of a magical resurrection figure than a philosopher to follow). The earliest gospel, Mark, is probably from around 80 AD, and the others are a little later.

Mark, Matthew, and Luke clearly share some sources, and these sources contain “sayings” of Jesus. So those might be closer to what the real Jesus said, but it’s hard to tell. There’s also the gospel of Thomas, which is more gnosticy. But the problem is that ancient writers (and even ancient historians) were terribly unreliable. Even Thucidydes, widely regarded as the best of all ancient historians, simply made up entire speeches by famous heroic figures. Ancient people did not have anything like our modern idea of objectivity and accuracy in reporting, and there are obvious examples of gospel writers putting things to reflect their sectarian agenda (Matthew’s sermon on the mount is often cited as a smack-down of Paul and his rival sect).

What all the sources in the Bible do agree on, though, is that Jesus was very much against divorce. That’s the one thing we can be pretty sure of.

As for what else the real Jesus “really” said, I think it’s mostly speculation. His cult seems to have absorbed an earlier cult by John the Baptist. I like some of the things Jesus says (the golden rule, nonviolence) but those things had been said before, without the cultishness.

iamthemob's avatar

@Qingu

Okay – but you can’t say that the words of the “real Jesus” are still a mystery and that there are significant potential errors in the reporting of what the specific instances of his “reign” were, but also make claims about the workings of his cult (I’m sure there is some outside support for what you say, mind you…but you’ve focused only on the Bible so far…I don’t really trust the Bible for the “facts” per se).

And sure, divorce – but doesn’t that pretty much apply to church marriage? I doubt he would care what two people signing a contract in front of a judge would do about terminating that contract….

Seek's avatar

@iamthemob The church, and marriage as we know it today, did not exist 2,000 years ago.

iamthemob's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr – Weird…all the politicians though…weird.

Currently, though, it would apply to church marriage (ceremony with all the religious trappings), which would be the realm of the divine. I was going for modern day implications.

Seek's avatar

@iamthemob That is impossible to answer, as every Christian group has their own interpretation of the scripture.

JustmeAman's avatar

Christ was born and conceived as any other human including Adam. But Mary was a virgin in the sense she had not had sex with a man.

Qingu's avatar

I don’t know why Jesus apparently had such a bee in his bonnet about divorce.

I see your point about making claims about the working of his cult, but I think those claims are better supported by the historical record than any particular claims that Jesus said something or other. For one thing, we can make pretty good guesses about the general state of Jesus’ early cult by looking at Paul’s writings. By the time Paul wrote his letters, Jesus’ cult was already well-formed and had already split up into sects, some of which wanted to follow Old Testament law (Paul rags on these people in Galatians). Paul’s theology—which at least some of Jesus’ early followers must have accepted—is very similar to mystery cults of the time. All (iirc?) of the gospels make a point of absorbing John the Baptist into the theology of Christianity, which is a pretty clear indication that the early Christians syncretized this perhaps rival cult.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@filmfann I, personally, believe the Christian religions get too caught up in what physical manifestations and rituals you “must” believe in, which overshadow the spiritual message, which is far more important. For example, I attended a Pentecostal church for 10 years. Loved the church, not so much all it’s rules, like, if you don’t experience speaking in tongues then you’ve missed out on something important. I don’t believe that.

@Qingu Per bee in bonnet….possibly because at the time divorce might be close to a death sentence, especially for the woman who didn’t have many options of caring for herself. Maybe what started out as protection for women twisted into enslavement of women of sorts.

filmfann's avatar

@Dutchess_III I have attended Pentecostal gatherings, and have witnessed people Speaking In Tongues. I think they are batty. You want to know what else I think about Speaking in Tongues? One of the best Talking Heads albums.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@filmfann well, there ya go! LOL! I kind of felt the same way! I mean, I can recognize a “real” language when I hear it….and repeating one blathering, nonsense phrase full of vowels and consents, over and over is NOT a language in my book! But in that branch of religion they feel it’s important that everyone be “spiritual” enough to “actually experience” it…..and you know, if you stand up and say, “YA KNOW, YA’LL ARE BLATHERING!!” you’re frowned upon. I know this because…I have a big mouth! But again….it all detracts from what is really important.

Jabe73's avatar

Very unlikely in literal terms for obvious reasons.

Seek's avatar

@Dutchess_III @filmfann

“Yo ko no po ko no see! Yo ko no po ko no see!”
That was my assistant pastor’s version of “speaking in tongues”. The whole movement is batshit. Seriously.

I’m in this video. Sadly.

prolificus's avatar

How did we get on the Pentecostal debate? Speaking in Tongues wasn’t even at the time of the Virgin birth. Btw, saying the Pentecostal movement is scary or incomprehensible is one thing, calling it battshit is offensive (IMO). Sure, there are crazy people out there doing crazy things that aren’t necessarily God-breathed. But, there is historical documentation verifying the legitimacy of Speaking in Tongues. Please don’t badmouth the whole movement because of a few examples of craziness.

Seek's avatar

@prolificus After 15 years of direct experience, I think I’m allowed to call it whatever I feel like calling it.

@janbb – yep, the one with the glasses.

prolificus's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr – after 36 years of direct experience, and having three generations of Pentecostals before me, and a Bible college degree from a Pentecostal school, I can challenge your statement. ~

Seek's avatar

@prolificus You sound like my step family. I’d ask if we were related, but judging by your “hobbies and interests” list, you’d have been outcast from the Borg Collective long ago.

MissAnthrope's avatar

My view is that much about the Bible is not meant to be taken literally. Quite a bit of it is allegorical. In addition to that, you have the subtle differences in language when you translate it from the original.. not to mention potential bias, depending on the translator, their views, their agenda, etc. As has been pointed out, ‘virgin’ for a very long time meant ‘pure’, it did not necessarily mean you had never had sex.

I think a lot of crazy, unexplainable stuff happens in the world, but a woman giving birth without any sort of sperm introduction is just a bit much for me to buy.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr “Yo ko no po ko no see! Yo ko no po ko no see!” ...EXACTLY! Say WHAT? That is NOT a language.

@prolificus I’ve heard the story of where the speaking in tongues originated, back in Biblical times during Pentecost. My problem is that people in my church blathered nonsense, like what @Seek_Kolinahr posted above, yet managed to convince themselves they were speaking in another language. What is the point of deluding yourself? God knows they weren’t speaking in another language! And why would you have to speak in another language ANYWAY? If you have something to say to God that you’re having a hard time articulating, just think about it instead. He’ll understand.

All of it is totally detracting from His message.

@Seek_Kolinahr I don’t think the whole movement is batshit! The speaking in tongues part is, but I loved my church. I don’t think it matters what denomination you subscribe too, a good church is made of of good people, period. After I moved here, 50 miles away, I tried several different churches trying to replace mine…never did find one. The one Pentecostal church I found here had a racist pastor. I never went back there. Tried other churches..no luck.

Pepshort's avatar

Could it have happened? Perhaps. I think that the more relevant question is: does evidence exist that it did occur?

Joybird's avatar

Context people!!!!! We are talking about premarital sex that would have resulted in the stoning of both parties. What doesn’t anyone get about this factual piece of information? So Mary refuses to expose her sexual partner…if she even was aware that what she was doing would produce a pregnancy. And in order to protect her, her father arranges a marriage to a more elderly male in the village who agreed to keep the secret. They leave in order to hide how far along the pregnancy actually was. I don’t know why anyone would deny this as a most basic in realities.
This is the model for this particular religion. And we wonder why we have the highest teen pregnancy rates in the world? It’s right there in that “good” book.

iamthemob's avatar

@Joybird – prove it. ;-)

Joybird's avatar

@iamthemob I bet I can come up with a pretty thick volume of scholarly material to support my theory…more than anyone can gather to support her “immaculate” conception and a birth of a “god’s child”.

iamthemob's avatar

@Joybird – to prove it? I doubt that. I’ve never tried to “prove” the opposite…I’ve never made an assertion that it was a fact.

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