A new Pew Research Center survey notes the number of Christians and religious “nones” who believe in the virgin birth of Jesus has decreased significantly since 2014.
Two-thirds (66%) say Jesus was born to a virgin, compared with 73% who said this in 2014. Among 18-29-year-olds, only 54% agreed.
In other words, only about half of American young adults believe Jesus was born of a virgin. A review is in order.
The Origin of the Virgin Birth
The first note alluding to the virgin birth of Jesus in the New Testament occurs in Matthew 1:16: “Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.” Previous names in the list refer to the husband as the father of the child.
In this sequence, Joseph is the husband of Mary. However, he is not directly called the father of Jesus. Instead, Mary is the the mother of Jesus. (Note: Isaiah 7:14 also mentions a virgin birth.)
Pregnant by the Holy Spirit
Matthew 1:18 then adds, “This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.” This is the second time Matthew clearly notes Jesus came in a special way.
Married but Celibate
Matthew 1:24-25 further notes the order of events. First, Joseph is told about the virgin birth of Jesus in a dream. Second, he obeys the command to make Mary his wife. Third, he does not have sex with her until after Jesus is born.
Why is this important? If he did not wait, opponents could argue Joseph was the father of Jesus rather than a virgin birth. Matthew made it very clear how Jesus was born. He came in a unique way–through a virgin birth:
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Luke’s Version of the Virgin Birth
In Luke 1, Gabriel announces Mary as the one who will give birth to Jesus. After she asks how this would be possible, the angel answers in verse 35: “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke clearly affirmed the virgin birth.
The Bible is clear on this issue. So are the creeds. The Apostles Creed includes the words, “I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.”
The Nicene Creed further adds, “Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary.”
Jesus came in a special way for a special reason–his love for us. Merry Christmas!
Dillon Burroughs is the author and coauthor of numerous books and blogs about his experiences of handwriting the Bible at the Holy Writ Project on Patheos.com. Find out more about Dillon at Facebook or Twitter.