This is the third instalment in the “Debunking the Nativity” series and I will concentrate on the virgin birth. These posts sit alongside my book The Nativity: A Critical Examination.
Continuing along the theme of the conception of Jesus, let us look at biological problems that have theological implications.
One must look at these events reported from within the historical context in which they supposedly took place. The understanding of how the whole biology of reproduction took place was woefully inadequate as an accurate representation of reality. The Greeks had done some thinking on the subject. The preformationists believed that the father was like the plough and the mother the field. This meant that the seed and all the ‘genetic’ material was delivered by the father with the mother merely providing the milieu in which the development took place.
Later, Aristotle, based on research into animals, and recognising that children could look like more distant relatives, moved the thinking on a little. He believed the mother provided the material cause whilst the father provided the moving cause.
In effect, however, contemporary physiological understanding was fairly limited. Thus a claim that Jesus, as a man, came from an virgin conception raised few eyebrows of surprise (biologically speaking).
The problem is that we now know better. Christians claim that Jesus was fully man, which meant that he was fully comparable to your next man. Your next man is conceived when the genetic material of the father, carried in the sperm, comes together with the genetic material from the mother, in the egg (ovum). These two genomes combine to create a new genome, without one of which you simply cannot have a viable living organism with a complete genome. Strictly speaking, without the genetic blueprints of both parents fusing, you simply will not get the conception and birth of a ‘man’.
With thanks to scientists like Darwin, Watson and Crick we understand the importance of heredity, and understand the units of heredity and how they are sequenced. Our genotype (genetic blueprint) informs our phenotype (set of traits: physical, emotional, personality and otherwise). It is hard to see how Jesus could have had a viable genotype and resulting phenotype.
The result of this is twofold. Either it makes the virgin conception impossible and renders such a claim redundant or it means that the male genome was magically fused with Mary’s egg (or indeed another supernatural egg implanted into Mary) to make a fully workable genetic sequence.
If we take the first option, then that leaves us with the idea that the virgin birth is even more likely to be fiction than we have already discussed. The second option, a sort of theistic ‘get out of jail free card’ doesn’t make life all that easier for the theist. It implies that the genome came from God in some capacity. This invalidates the claim that Jesus was fully man, since he was clearly half-God. If God somehow managed to input purely ‘human’ male genetic matter, then this prompts the question as to what criteria were used for deciding such a genome.
We can already surmise that Jesus was pretty much a perfect example of a man, from the Christian point of view. In a realistic sense, it is impossible for a ‘real’ human being to be that perfect, surely. So how can it be, with a genome selected by God, that Jesus can be hailed as being fully man? Let me refer to Hebrews 2:17:
Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Aside from the difficulties with being both fully man and fully God, as is claimed, and the notions that Christians equivocate over the terms man or God or both, we can see that the lack of proper understanding of genetic biology means that an virgin conception presents quite a headache.