Friday, February 13, 2009

How important is the Virgin Birth? (2)

This is a reflection of N. T. Wright's explanation of the Virgin Birth in the book he co-authored with Marcus J. Borg entitled "The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions", found in chapter 11 (pg 171-178).

Far too much attention is given towards Jesus' birth than "it's role in the New Testament warrants". A song noted by Wright simply says "Man will live forevermore because of Christmas Day", a song popularized by Bony M (if I am not mistaken), further enhances Wright's argument. According to the NT however it is the explanation of "Calvary, Easter and Pentecost" which looms as the highlight of New Testament theology. It is not possible to construct a meaningful NT theology minus the death and resurrection.

In the NT, the virgin birth account can only be found in Matthew and Luke but nowhere in Mark and John. The rest of the NT writers did not bother to mention it to support the understanding that Jesus is divine or is the Messiah who is to come. As Wright notes, "One can be justified by faith with no knowledge of it."

According to Wright "it has become a test case in various controversies" noting arguments such as accepting miracles, biblical truth, views of sexuality and incarnation being cases made for the authoritative case for the virgin birth. Wright being ever so right, nails these test cases of their freedom to fly by stating, "None of these arguments bears much relation to what either Matthew or Luke actually say."

It seems like these test cases are just vain reflections of authoritative fallacy. Which brings us to the question of 'what does Matthew and Luke actually say?'. The next post will deal on this issue.


Eilidh said...


a couple of things here.

first of all, while the NT may not focus a lot on the virgin birth and while you're right in saying that "It is not possible to construct a meaningful NT theology minus the death and resurrection", I still the think the virgin birth is absolutely vital in an understanding of Christ, His divinity and humanity and His uniqueness. I do not dispute that Calvary, Easter and Pentecost are hugely important, but I think the Incarnation and what was involved there is also vital.

Secondly, "As Write notes, 'One can be justified by faith with no knowledge of it.'" - can you expand on this please?

Interesting posts.


Tremonti said...


I have only just thought about how we should understand Jesus' birth. I have to say that I do believe it just not the over emphasis that comes with it. Like the quotation that I took from Mark Driscoll's book which states "denial of the virgin birth is a denial of Jesus as the Christ". I think this is true to some degree.

Let me explain this further with Wright's quotation that you mentioned "One can be justified by faith with no knowledge of it." I think wright here is referring to its 'seemed to be not an issues' in the other NT books.

Now for how i reflect on this. I think from experience I think wright is right here. You see the older folks of my tribe are illiterate and they are not inclined towards a doctrinal issues. And i dont think that they have a clue of understanding virgin birth. Anyway I do believe that they accept Jesus as God even without knowledge or fully grasping the virgin birth.

I think the quotation taken by Driscoll above only applies for people who know what they are denying.Because they have reasoned and postured themselves to deny it.

Well that is how i understand this. So to reinstate my view again I do believe the virgin birth as historically true but I am inclined to hold it as a defining doctine for the divinity of Jesus.

Hope that helps.

Kurt said...

1st of all... I believe in the Virgin birth. With that said, if for some reason in the future we were able to 'prove' that the word 'virgin' actually only refers to a 'young girl' and not one who had never been sexually intimate, this will not cause me to run from my faith in Jesus. It just would mean that what we attribute to the word 'virgin' needs to be rethought. Bell makes this point in A Velvet Elvis, and this gets stretched out of proportion and gives him a bad reputation among modernists conservative Christians. I have to agree with wright that it is not the point that because Jesus was born of a vigin that he is divine, but that because he resurrected!!!

Mason said...

I too believe in the virgin birth, and I do think there is importance to the doctrine, when you read the early Church Fathers for example it was a big point for many of them.
However, I think Wright is correct in what he was trying to get across, if we had no idea about the virgin birth we could still have the Gospel, while if we had no idea about the cross or the resurrection then the Gospel is gone.

As far as Rob's comment in Velvet Elvis, I get frustrated when people jump on him for that as well. Because he goes on to affirm it, and because he was just using it as an example of how we need to be able to think critically about our own beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Allow me to share my thoughts:

Steven Sim

Hopeful Theo

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