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Biblical Reliability

Why Didn’t Paul Mention the Virgin Conception?

We’ve been looking at the virgin conception of Jesus recently, and in this post, I’d like to address an objection leveled at the writings of Paul. Many critics have argued that Paul was either completely silent about the virgin conception or spoke directly against such a concept in his writings. In either case, these critics argue that Paul’s silence or apparently contradictory statements cast doubt on the truth of the virgin conception. But is this really the case? The evidence does not supports such a claim:

Paul’s Silence is Not Enough
We need to be very careful about drawing conclusions from silence. Paul may not have mentioned the virgin conception simply because it was widely understood or assumed. Paul may also have been silent because it was not the focus or purpose of his letters (which are often devoted to issues related to the Church). Remember that Paul was a contemporary of Luke (who was one of the two authors who wrote extensively about the conception of Jesus). Paul appears to be very familiar with Luke’s’ gospel (he quotes Luke in 1 Timothy 5:17-18 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). If Paul disagreed with Luke’s account of the conception, we would expect to hear Paul say something about it in his letters. Paul never refuted or openly questioned the claims of Luke regarding the “virgin conception”.

Paul’s Statements May Be More Than Enough
Critics also cite two verses in Paul’s letter as specific proof that Paul was not aware of Jesus’ virgin conception. The first is found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

Galatians 4:4-5
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

Paul says that Jesus was “born of a woman” and not “born of a virgin”. Critics have argued that this is proof that Paul was unaware of the virgin conception. But this is not necessarily the case. Many scholars have observed that the expression, “born of a woman, born under the Law” implies that Jesus had no earthly father because Paul curiously chose to omit any mention of Joseph in this passage. It was part of the Hebrew culture and tradition to cite the father alone when describing any genealogy, yet Paul ignored Joseph and cited Mary alone, as if to indicate that Joseph was not Jesus’ father. In addition to this passage in the letter to the Galatians, critics also cite the openly lines of Paul’s letter to the Romans to make a case against Paul’s knowledge of the virgin conception:

Romans 1:1-4
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord

Critics claim that Paul’s statement that Jesus was a “descendant of David according to the flesh” reveals the fact that Paul believed Joseph, a descendant of David, was the physical father of Jesus. But careful examination of this letter leaves open the possibility that Paul may simply have been referring to the fact that Mary was herself was also a descendant of David. Mary’s relationship to David was important, because Joseph was a descendant of Jeconiah, the King of Judah described in 2 Kings 24:8. Jeconiah was cursed by God:

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Jeremiah 22:30
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Write this man down childless, A man who will not prosper in his days ; For no man of his descendants will prosper Sitting on the throne of David Or ruling again in Judah.’ “

According to this passage, no descendant of Jeconiah would ever sit on the throne of David. If Jesus was a direct descendant of Joseph, he would be excluded according to this curse, as Joseph was in the line of Jeconiah. But Paul consistently omits Joseph when describing the genealogy of Jesus. In addition, Paul later refers to Jesus as the “son of God” in the same passage from the letter to the Romans. Paul often used this expression to describe Jesus, and Paul was consistent and clear about Jesus’ divinity throughout his letters. If Paul believed that Jesus was born of a human mother and father, we would expect Paul to describe how a normal man, born of human parents, could be God Himself. Paul never does that, and this is consistent with the fact that Paul was aware of the virgin conception. Paul’s writings simply cannot be used in isolation to determine what he knew (or didn’t know) about the virgin conception. Click To Tweet

Paul’s writings simply cannot be used in isolation to determine what he knew (or didn’t know) about the virgin conception. It’s hard to believe that a man familiar with Luke’s gospel would be ignorant of the birth narrative Luke wrote.

For more information about the reliability of the New Testament gospels and the case for Christianity, please read Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. This book teaches readers ten principles of cold-case investigations and applies these strategies to investigate the claims of the gospel authors. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Cold-Case Christianity DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.

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Written By

J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured cold-case homicide detective, popular national speaker and best-selling author. He continues to consult on cold-case investigations while serving as a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He is also an Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, and a faculty member at Summit Ministries. He holds a BA in Design (from CSULB), an MA in Architecture (from UCLA), and an MA in Theological Studies (from Gateway Seminary).

8 Comments

8 Comments

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  6. Pastor Rob

    January 29, 2022 at 7:31 am

    After much careful study on the virgin birth, I’ve concluded that the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke were later additions – not part of the original inspired word of God. Chop those two chapters off, and then the narratives are right in line with Mark, as we would expect God’s inspired word to be. The fact that the two genealogies do not match up, meaning that one, or both are incorrect, should indicate that those passages do not belong in the Bible.

    There’s plenty more evidence. As this writer stated, Paul mentioned nothing of a virgin birth – nor did Jesus, John, Peter, Luke (in Acts), etc. The wonderful speeches by Stephen, Peter and Paul explaining to the people how Jesus was the Messiah made no mention of a virgin birth; they definitely, absolutely would have included it if it was true. I often say that the religion known as Christianity today shares NOTHING with the one true faith handed down from Christ and His apostles. “Get out of her, my people!” Every single doctrine and teaching that came from Rome (Babylon) must be rejected. This should be a no-brainer, but somehow it isn’t. The trinity is the worst abomination ever created. It is the epitome of false worship, and antichrist by nature. Jesus had, has, and will always have a God – just like us. Rev 3:12 should make this abundantly clear.

    • Don Smith

      June 28, 2022 at 7:48 pm

      What is the reason behind your denial of the virgin birth? Do you think Jesus was born as a result of a natural conception?

      There is nothing wrong with the Genealogy in Matthew’s Gospel once the error in Matthew 1:16 is corrected to read: Joseph the Father of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
      There were TWO Joseph’s. I can provide the evidence, or you can look up Matthew 1:16 in the REV Bible, click on the verse and look at all the evidence.

      FROM MATTHEW’s GOSPEL
      18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way: his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.

      19 Now Joseph her husband, being righteous and yet not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.

      20 But while he was thinking about these things, look! An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to favorably accept Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit.

      21 And she will give birth to a son, and you are to call his name Jesus,a for it is he who will save his people from their sins.”

      22 Now all this took place with the result that what was spoken by Yahwehb through the prophet was fulfilled, saying, Look!

      23 The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call his name Immanuel,c (which translated, means, “God with us”).

      24 Then Joseph, awaking from sleep, did as the angel of Yahweh commanded him and took to himself his wife,

      25 but he did not know her sexually until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

      FROM LUKE’s GOSPEL
      “Mary asked the angel, ‘But how can this happen? I am a virgin’ ” (Luke 1:34).

      The angel explained this conception would take place by the Holy Spirit, “so the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

      The angel said it would be a miracle and added, “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

      FROM MARK’s GOSPEL
      The circumstances of Jesus’ miraculous birth to a virgin caused him to be labeled as an illegitimate child.
      “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary”
      They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him” (Mark 6:3).
      In CONTECT for that time referring to Jesus as the “son of Mary” rather than the traditional way of calling Jesus the Son of Joseph was an unambiguous insult in a society that called children by the name of their father’s name—except, of course, in the case of children whose paternity was doubted. It’s hard to keep a secret in a small town. It was obviously well known that Mary had not tied the knot with Joseph (had no sex with any man) when she was discovered to be pregnant. Joseph knew he didn’t cause the preganancy, and he was about to call off the entire deal with her dad. Joseph. like most Jewish men 2000 years ago purchased their wives as virgins. To find out later that the woman he puchased from her father was not a virgin was enough to call off the agreement. It ould have been a severe dishonor for Mary’s father for selling Mary to Joseph as a virgin if she really wasn’t a virgin.

      Virginity in Jewsih culture 2000 years ago was highly valued. We must not let todays culture dictated to us how people would have valued virginity back then.

      FROM JOHN’s GOSPEL 8:41
      “We were not born out of wedlock!”
      This reference, “born out of wedlock” indicate that it was common knowledge in Jesus’ hometown that he had been conceived before Mary’s wedding to Joseph. If they had heard of that, the surely they would have heard Joseph’s claim that it was not by him.

      CRITICS POINT TO ISAIAH
      The Hebrew word used in Isaiah 7:14 is ’almah, meaning “young woman” but can also mean “virgin.”

      Matthew quoted the Greek translation of the Old Testament which uses the word “parthenos” which is translated to English as “virgin.”

      Readers during Isaiah’s time understood “almah” was being used in a traditional sense to describe a young woman (a virgin) would conceive.

      Matthew and Luke were quoting the Greek translation that had been made by some 70 Hebrew scholars 200 years earlier. The LXX which is was, and still is considered to be an accurate Hebrew to Greek translation.

      The Aramaic Targum was composed some time between the first and seventh century A.D., so it is not as old as the LXX.
      It has “young woman” in Isaiah 7:14. Within the culture of Isaiah’s time, a young woman who was not married yet, and was almost always a virgin.

      The Syriac Peshitta, the accepted Bible of Syrian Christian churches from the end of the 3rd century, has the meaning as “virgin.”

      Jerome’s Vulgate version of Isiah 7:14 was (405 AD.) brought a new dimension to the debate. He was the only Christian of that time to argue from the Hebrew text. He wrote the Hebrew ha almah (העלמה) should be read as virgo (virgin). Jerome actually believed the girl in Isaiah 7:14 was more than a virgin. She was a highly protected and sheltered girl, which necessitates virginity.

      Aquila and Theodotion, two of the three Jewish revisers of the LXX in the first and second centuries, translated the text as follows: ἰδοὺ ἡ νεᾶνις ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει καὶ τέξεται υἱόν. They clearly remove the idea of a virgin from the text. Of course a young woman might incidentally be a virgin but they rendered the Hebrew Of Isaiah 7:14 to imply that the conception and the birth of the son will happen in the natural way. This is a clear deviation from what the original LXX translators wrote when they used a Greek word that can only mean virgin.

      Justin Martin and others debated the three Jewish revisionists version.
      It was a clear deviation from the Hebrew scholars who worked on the LXX.

      Conclusion:
      Jesus was born of a virgin who was also a young woman.
      Mary was probably about 13 to 15 years old at the time she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit.
      This age would fit with the Jewish custom of the time.
      The scripture evidence indicates people were aware that Jesus had been conceived out of wedlock.

      Paul does not mention the virgin conception, however, his companion Luke does mention it. Therefore, it is likely Paul was aware of it. It would have been common knowledge at the time. We should be careful about making an argument from silence with respect to Paul’s knowledge of it.

      Paul was familiar with Luke’s’ gospel since he quotes Luke in 1 Timothy 5:17-18 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. Paul makes no mention of disagreeing with Luke’s account of the conception in his letters.
      Paul never refuted or openly questioned the claims of Luke regarding the “virgin conception”.

      Paul does not mention a belief in the virgin birth is required for salvation, however, to use this as an excuse to not believe Jesus was born of a virgin (who had not known a man sexually), in the face of all the other Biblical evidence, is not a reasonable position.

      The LXX is a reliable translation of the OT vs. later revisions.
      Matthew quoted Isaiah 7:14 from the LXX which contains the Greek word for virgin.

  7. Trestin Gamble

    July 6, 2022 at 1:23 am

    Paul Died before Luke’s gospel was written.

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