Virgin Birth Issues
The prophecy of Jesus's birth required he was of the true lineage of David:
30Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; (Acts 2:30)
Peter was quoting 2 Sam. 7:8-16 which reads:
‘The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’ (2 Sam. 7:8-16 NIV 2010)
This clearly contemplates this Davidic heir is of the "flesh and blood" of David. See also similar Davidic-lineage prophecies for Messiah in Isaiah 11:1-2 and Jeremiah 23:6.
Paul too understood Jesus was born of the flesh of David:
Jesus Christ our Lord...was made of the seed of David, according to the flesh;.... (Romans 1:3-4.)
Jesus Christ of the seed of David....(II Timothy 2:8.)
Of this man’s [i.e., David’s] seed hath God, according to his prophets, raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus. (Acts 13:23 KJV.)
As H.R. Mackintosh (1870-1936), a famous Christian theologian in Scotland, wrote in “Three Essays” The Expository Times (editor James Hastings)(1901) Vol. 12 at 350: "As to [Christ’s] Virgin Birth, we must say either that [Paul] knew nothing about it, or that he speaks in terms which exclude it."
Moreover, the prophecy of Samuel to which both Peter and Paul allude clearly contemplates more than this child would be born of the flesh of David. It also makes clear this child is born an ordinary human. Otherwise, why should it say: "When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands"? 2 Sam. 7:14. God can do no wrong, so this child must be fully human at birth. But, in this case, this human child proved sinless, so he could not only be the Messiah, but also the Sacrifice spoken of in Isaiah 53.
Then in fulfilment of 2 Samuel 7:14, this child became God's Son. God at Jesus' baptism clearly spoke from heaven "This day I have begotten thee." See for yourself this quote -- now gone in all Greek suriving texts of Matthew -- appeared over a dozen times in the early church at our page "Baptismal Account."
Hence, in 2 Sam. 7:8-16, God wanted us to know the Messiah would come from David’s “flesh and blood” (verse 13), but he would be called “God’s Son” not David’s son (verse 14). Then even though Jesus is sinless, God’s prophecy told us this “son” would be born entirely human: “when he does wrong, I will punish him....” This prophecy contemplates that there was no divine flesh that would guarantee Jesus the victory over sin. Jesus had to always obey His Father to become at 35 years of life indwelled by the Father at His baptism.
So the question arises, did the original geneology of Jesus end that Mary -- who is never identified as in David's line -- alone begat Jesus or did Joseph who is identified as in the Davidic blood line?
Oldest Textual References to Who Begat Jesus
The virgin birth account only is mentioned in the entire New Testament in four sentences in Matthew and one in Luke besides the final begetting in each where Mary alone is spoken as siring Jesus. Jenkens recently noted this paucity of references in the Gospels:
Two of the gospels, Mark and John, make no reference to a birth story for Jesus.... Nor do early alternative gospels like Thomas. Even in Matthew and Luke, the virgin birth idea NEVER reappears after the initial chapters: it is not mentioned in Luke’s sequel to his gospel, the book of Acts. (Philip Jenkens, Jesus Wars (N.Y.: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010, at 44).
So were these five lines and two begats from Mary alone originally present?
The answer is clearly NO!
First, Justin (103-164 AD) in both his Dialogue with Trypho and First Apology records how the passage read in his era: “Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called the Christ. And Joseph begat Jesus who is called the Christ.” (Charles Harris, Pro fide: a Defence of Natural and Revealed Religion (J. Murray, 1905) at 507. See also Rhys: 100; Throckmorton:2n.) See also Dialogue with Trypho.
Second, “Joseph beget Jesus” appears in Dialogue of Timothy and Aquila (circa. 200s)(Charles Lewis Slattery, The Master of the World: A Study of Christ (Longmans: 1906) at 48.)
Third and lastly, the same variant appears in the oldest complete NT text circa 340 AD -- the Syriac Sinaiticus -- which reads: “Jacob begat Joseph. Joseph to whom was espoused the virgin Mary, begat Jesus who is called the Christ.” (Charles Harris, id., at 507.)
On the Syriac Sinaiticus variant “Joseph...begat Jesus,” see also the full original text in parallel translation in Evangelion Da-Mepharreshe (1904)(Ed. Francis Burkitt) at 5 fn. 16. (You may have to download the free PDF to see). Burkitt in this footnote to the Old Syriac (Curetonian) provides the Syriac Sinaiticus parallel -- "Joseph, to whom was betrothed Mary the virgin, begat Jesus that is called the Messiah."
Hastings explains the surrounding variants in the Syriac Sinaiticus of 340 AD—the oldest extent complete version of Matthew—also mismatch a virgin birth as follows:
“[T]he fact of the miraculous birth of the Saviour is distinctly discredited for this Syriac codex says Matt. 1:16, ‘Joseph, to whom Mary the virgin was betrothed, begat Jesus who is called Christ,’ and in verse 21 it reads “she shall bear thee a son and in verse 25, it omits the words, ‘And knew her not till’ but says, ‘And he married his betrothed wife, and she bare him a son, and he called his name Jesus.” (Horace L. Hastings, “The Sinaitic Syriac Gospels,” The Syriac New Testament (trans. James Murdock, S.T.D.)(9th. Edition)(Horace Hastings, 1896) at xxxviii)(discussing Syriac Sinaiticus found in 1842 at the Monastery of St. Mary Deipara).)
For confirmation of omission of "before having relations" at verse 25, see Burkitt's Evangelion at page 7 fn. 23.
The Syriac Sinaiticus is thus in total comformance with what was previously quoted in the 100s and 200s as the begetting of Jesus by Joseph. All earlier manuscripts of the NT, including Matthew were lost or perhaps deliberately destroyed. On the dating of Matthean manuscripts, see our page "Dates of MSS."
How do defenders of the virgin birth account handle the fact of these provable earlier contrary "begat" accounts? Listen!
Harris, a defender of the virgin birth story, admits this earlier text tradition shows that Joseph was originally regarded as the father who begat Jesus. However, he answers that this would simply mean: “these genealogies were compiled before the Virgin Birth became known....” (Charles Harris, Pro fide: a defence of natural and revealed religion (J. Murray, 1905) at 507 et seq.) Precisely! Which points to a textual corruption after the Gospels were first written.
The one most important fact staring us in the face is the line of the geneaology itself. Both Matthew and Luke are spending verse after verse tracing Joseph's lineage, only to have one line at the end stop short of Joseph begetting Jesus. This makes utterly no sense. Friedrich Delitzsch in 1908, a theologian, rhetorically asks 'why did Matthew or Luke bother to trace as they did if it originally ended with Mary as the sole human procreator of Jesus?' He wrote:
Common sense teaches us that these genealogies, whose sole aim is to prove that Jesus is the son and descendent of David through Joseph, the son and descendent of David, would be absolutely meaningless and useless if Joseph had not been the father of Jesus according to the flesh, if his fatherhood were only in appearance and Jesus were [only] a son of Mary. (F. Delitzsch, Whose Son is Christ?: Two Lectures on Progress in Religion (1908) at 35.)
In Luke's account it is even more obvious that the virgin birth is not original. First, just as in Matthew, the 'begat' verse is out of place with the line of descent which Luke presents for Joseph, not Mary. Also, the virgin birth account appears elsewhere mentioned in just one verse in Luke's gospel. So if you removed the genealogy ending and that single verse, you would have no idea that Luke believed in a virgin birth of Jesus. Finally, what makes it more obvious an editor added the virgin birth account to Luke’s Gospel is the presence of the story in Luke 8:19-21.
This later passage in Luke which surely is authentic makes it extraordinarily hard to believe Mary experienced a miraculous virgin birth as recorded in Luke 1:35. For in Luke 8:19-21, it is clear that Jesus’ family regards that Jesus has gone over the deep-end and do not believe in Him. In fact, Mary is among those outside who are understood to fit in this category. The same is self-evident in Mark 3:31 where the same scene is depicted -- Jesus' mother and siblings come to get him, and Jesus' spurns them because He prefers the ground who fit the criteria of his true family in Mark 3:34-35 which in their hearing was:
And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother. Cf. Luke 8:21.
If Mary had really experienced a divine birth of Jesus, why would Mary be apart from Jesus’ ministry? Be thinking He was a bit touched? Why would Jesus spurn his own mother, and call members of a crowd more a mother to him than his own birth mother?
Thus, we know the single line added to Luke to mention a virgin birth was a later editor’s hand. It was not skillful enough to think to erase Luke 8:19-21 which was at direct odds with the single-line addition.
In fact, here is Tertullian in the 200s unwittingly proving this point in his discussion of Luke 8:19-21. Tertullian is not comparing this passage to the virgin birth story to show how paradoxically it tells us that Mary was a nonbeliever. However, we can borrow Tertullian’s point to see Luke would not have recorded a virgin birth account and tell this story in Luke 8:19-21. They 100% do not fit together. Tertullian from the early 200s AD begins his comment on this passage by reasoning that the Gospel portrays a very realistic situation that can happen in any family where no one respects you. Tertullian explained:
“The Lord’s brethren had not yet believed in Him.” [Quoting Luke.] So is it contained in the Gospel which was published before Marcion’s time; whilst there is at the same time a want of evidence of His mother’s adherence to Him, although the Marthas and the other Marys were in constant attendance on Him. In this very passage indeed, their unbelief is evident. Jesus was teaching the way of life, preaching the kingdom of God and actively engaged in healing infirmities of body and soul; but all the while, whilst strangers were intent on Him, His very nearest relatives were absent. (Tertullian, The Flesh of Christ, ch. 5.)
Hence, we can take Tertullian’s analysis and use it to question the presence of the virgin birth story in Luke’s original Gospel. How can Mary, if she truly experienced a virgin birth and the angel-explanation have been a non-believer, as Luke records? Also, wouldn’t Mary have told Jesus’ brothers and sisters of this miraculous birth so as to have them acknowledge Jesus as Messiah? But they too are described as non-believers—as if no miraculous birth ever touched this family. Thus, is it so hard to realize that if you remove just one verse from Luke (besides the last ‘begat’ from Mary alone), the virgin birth account entirely disappears. Because the presence of the virgin birth story is so incongruous with Luke 8:19-21, it appears the virgin birth account was a one-line addition to Luke’s Gospel. It was an inauthentic editorial change. Both it and the genealogy in Luke are not original.
And if we regard the Ebionites as the custodians of the earliest Matthew in Hebrew, prior to the Greek translation, then the recording in 180, 236 and 316 AD of having the view Joseph begat Jesus is just one more proof of how the Gospel of Matthew originally read. For the Ebionites' View on the Birth of Jesus, see our article "Ebionites."
Scholar Affirms That Later Editor Deliberately Corrupted Text to Add Virgin Birth
This is agreed upon by J.R. Wilkinson - a renown Christian scholar of his day -- in his article "Mr. Conybeare's Textual Theories, Hibbert Journal, October 1902, p. 96," Hibbert' Journal (1904) at 354 et seq. We read at page 358 (link) the following text:
The reading of Syrus Sinaiticus Joseph to whom was betrothed Mary the Virgin begat Jesus who was called the Christ is clearly due to a mixture of the Western text with the reading of the original genealogy. [Note: the Western text has the virgin birth.] It carries us back to the early days when the canonical gospel was competing with the source or sources from which it was derived. We have here perhaps a conscious corruption of the canonical text for we find that in Syriac Sinaiticus agrees with the famous Old Latin manuscript in omitting the words mix é y vwo xev a1i ri1v Ewg [MY NOTE: verse 25, 'before they came together, found with child" omitted in Old Latin and Syriac SinaitICUs thus proving the Older manuscripts did not have virgin birth.] The reading of Syriac Sinaiticus [of 1:25] here is he took his wife and she bore to him a son and he called his name Jesus. The reading of Timothy and Aquila is as Schmiedel says a confluence from the Textus Receptus [i.e., Virgin Birth] and the original genealogy [i.e., "Joseph begat Jesus."]
The article continues and weighs the possibility that the "canonical evangelist" (not Matthew) may have not been sure which way to go, and left traces of the original version -- Joseph begat Mary, while trying to conform to the newer virgin birth account. He calls the "Davidic Messiahship" idea was the "old Davidic idea" which was gradually being displaced by the newer "supernatural birth idea" in the mind of the "canonical evangelist" himself. The article ends suggesting that the "canonical evangelist" was not the original compiler of the sayings in Matthew, and that he used a version of Matthew "much in favor in the church" which had the older text, and then would "corrupt by mixture the old text," i.e., mixing mention of the "virgin Mary" in 1:16 with "Joseph begat Jesus." So now it reads in Syr Sinaiticus 1:16 partly in favor of a virgin birth and partly negating it.
The scholar Wilkinson earlier had agreed on why we are compelled to believe both Matthew and Luke had to have something like "Joseph begat Jesus." Otherwise, the point of the geneologies is lost:
 The text of Syrus Sinaiticus alone seems to postulate such a clause [i.e., Joseph begat Jesus]; and is it possible to believe anyone would have taken the trouble to construct the long line of natural descent if at the last step natural descent were to play no part? This inconsistency is best seen in the geneaology of St. Luke, where as Holtzmann [Ham-Kommentatur Zum N.T.] justly remarks, it is absurd to assume an evangelist would take the trouble to construct the long geneaology of our Lord through Joseph, and then as it were, spoil all that he had done by adding that Jesus was only "accounted" or supposed to the son of Joseph. The construction of such genealogies presupposes natural descent throughout. It is evident that in both St. Matthew and Luke correction has taken place  (in the case of St. Luke a very clumsy correction), so as to render these genealogies consistent with a virgin birth.
Is The Virgin Birth Account Valid?
Invalidates Jesus As Messiah
The first problem with the virgin birth account is that it makes it impossible for Jesus to be Messiah. He must come from David's flesh and blood. Jewish critics correctly say:
The Messiah must be descended on his father’s side from King David (see Genesis 49:10 and Isaiah 11:1). According to the Christian claim that Jesus was the product of a virgin birth, he had no father— and thus could not have possibly fulfilled the messianic requirement of being descended on his father’s side from King David! (Rabbi Simmons, “Jesus as the Messiah,” http://judaism.about.com/library/3_askrabbi_o/bl_simmons_messiah3.htm (August 14, 2011). See also About.Com Judaism, "The Jewish View of Jesus.")
Jerome knew an adoption by Joseph does not satisfy the prophecies in Samuel, Isaiah and Jeremiah that Messiah must be in the blood line of David. So he made up a claim that it is IMPLIED that Mary is of the Davidic line -- a completely unfounded claim. Yet, this proves that Jerome knew something is missing -- fatally -- due to the virgin birth account. First, Wikipedia mentions: “The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) states [there is]... a general implication of her Davidic origin.....’ (“Genealogy of Jesus,” Wikipedia.) Finally, Jerome's words from the 380s in his Commentary on Matthew 1:18 say:
“Since Joseph is not the father of the Lord and Savior, how does the sequence of the genealogy descending to Joseph pertain to the Lord? Our first response to this is that it is not the custom of Scripture to trace out genealogies of women; secondly, Mary and Joseph came from the same tribe. This is why he was compelled by law to marry her, since she was a close relative. Also the fact they are both counted together [in the census] at Bethlehem clearly shows they were descended from the same stock.”
This is utterly bogus. The accounts of the lineage in both Matthew and Luke are of Joseph's line, not Mary's. They are said to be taken in a census in Bethlehem because Joseph (not Mary) is in the Davidic line. In Luke 2:4, Luke says that Joseph in going to Judaea went “unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David.”
But Jerome's bogus claim proves one thing: even Jerome knew an adoption by Joseph does not fulfill the prophecies of a Davidic Messiah. He and the Catholic Church desperately seek the answer in the nonsensical notion that Mary was supposedly in the Davidic line.
Hence, because the virgin birth makes it impossible to believe Jesus was of the Davidic bloodline, we must examine the evidence to the contrary which lifts this burden off of Jesus' shoulders.. Certainly, adoption by Joseph is clearly not what the prophecy in Samuel had in mind. Thus, the virgin birth story is fatal to Jesus' validity as Messiah, thus dictating we must examine the compelling evidence that the virgin birth account was not originally present.
Jesus Cannot Be A Sacrifice For Sin / Docetism
The second problem is the virgin birth account is docetic -- Jesus' flesh would not truly be human 100%. This kind of message is what Apostle John identified as a "docetic" message (Jesus appeared to be human flesh but was not a true human) from the Anti-Christ. The reason, as we will explain, is that then Jesus' sacrifice would not qualify for atonement under the rules in Leviticus that Jesus has to be a true flesh-and-blood being to be a sacrifice.
Apostle John explained this most dangerous of all heresies:
“Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in human flesh [Greek, sarx, human flesh], have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (2 John 1:7.)
The virgin birth belief leads to docetism condemned as an anti-Christian doctrine. As proof, we can cite that Roman Catholicism later said the virgin birth means Jesus' flesh only appeared human, but he did not suffer because of the virgin birth story.
For example, Hilary of Poitiers (300-368 AD) in his work On The Trinity said in reliance upon the virgin birth account: “No more in the passion did the flesh of Christ feel pain than if you were to wound fire or water with a sword.” (Hilary, De Trinitate Bk. 9:56 and Bk.10:23.)
Similarly, Jerome from the 400s commented on Matthew 26 that it was ridiculous to think Jesus “was afraid of death” or “spoke in terror about the passion.” (Jerome, In Matthaeum Bk. IV ch. 26:39.)
Finally, Aquinas in the 1200s persisted with this notion that Jesus’ flesh was not truly human, relying upon the virgin birth account as proof:
But the flesh of Christ was...conceived...of the Holy Ghost in the Virgin’s womb. Therefore, it lay under no necessity of suffering pain. (Aquinas, Summa Theologia (2007) Vol. IV at 2102.)
Why does this docetism -- that Jesus only appeared to be human but had no true human flesh (and instead was deity from Birth) -- pose such danger that John said that this was the message of Anti-Christ?
We will see the answer in what Christian scholar Wayne Grudem defends as the reason Jesus had to be deity from birth. It is a silly and heretical argument that denies Jesus was human and insists Jesus had to be God from birth. Unless Jesus was God from birth, Grudem says Jesus supposedly could not pay for atonement. (The opposite is true, as we shall see.) Grudem argues:
"If Jesus is merely a created being, and not fully God, then it is hard to see how he, a creature, could bear the full wrath of God against all our sins. Could any creature, no matter how great, really save us....Could we really depend on any creature fully for our salvation." (Wayne A. Grudem, Jeff Purswell, Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith (Zondervan, 1999) at 115.)
What is wrong with that analysis? Why is it also extraordinarily heretical?
First, notice there is no biblical analysis by Grudem.
Second, in the Bible, atonement is always by the blood of a living creature, whether a lamb or other living creature. It never says anything but blood can atone. In Leviticus 17:11 it clearly states:
For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life.
But Grudem above says this is impossible. No creature supposedly can atone. But the Bible says the opposite.
The truth is Jesus was a man indwelled by God, as Jesus Himself says. Then His blood can fulfill the atonement. His act of sacrifice saves us by means of God's operative principle that an innocent lamb can pay for sins. Hence, Jesus is our Savior while God indwelling Him saves us and makes God our ultimate Savior by the agency of Jesus.
Thus Grudem's argument is highly unbiblical. In fact it clearly contradicts the Bible.
The way Grudem reformulates Jesus' work on the cross, Grudem unwittingly refutes Jesus paid for sin. Because if Grudem is correct no creature's fleshly experience played any role in our salvation on the cross, then Jesus' death could not pay for sin. If Jesus were truly simply deity, as Grudem contends, and not a man indwelled by deity (as Jesus contended in John 14:10), then the blood of Jesus that spilled did not atone. Leviticus proves that. Hence, docetism is the message of Anti-Christ, as Apostle John says.
Source of Virgin Birth Story
The key proof that the virgin birth account is not original is that the virgin birth notion comes from the Septuagint Greek translation of Isaiah 7:14. But Matthew in his original used the Hebrew Bible, not the Septuagint all the time. Jerome observed this, looking at the Hebrew original kept at Caesarea. The 'virgin' birth prophecy only appears in the Septuagint's wording of Isaiah 7:14, but in Hebrew at the time of Christ it is simply about a 'young woman.' No one would think that there is a virgin birth prophesied there looking at the original Hebrew OT of Isaiah 7:14.
Specifically, Symmachus, a translator of the Jews in the 2d century, insisted the original word in Isaiah 7:14 was almah, which meant "young maiden." It was not the word for virgin, which Symmachus said would be "bethulah." Symmachus used this translation error to criticize the Greek translation of Matthew in the 2d century. (We believe the Hebrew Matthew of Shem-Tob reflects the original Hebrew version of Matthew, and it has almah.) However, the Septuagint in 257 BC translated this word into the Greek word for "virgin," which was parthenos. This evidently influenced the Greek translator of the Hebrew Matthew to insert lines to make come true what the translator thought was a virgin-birth prophecy even though it was not truly present.
Jerome in the 380s AD mentioned this contention was still maintained by Jewish authorities that almah in Isaiah 7:14 meant "young maiden," not virgin. See Jerome, “The Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Mary,” Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (ed. Philip Schaff)(reprint 2007) Vol. VI, 334, 336.
Original Meaning and Language of Isaiah 7:14
What is the original of Isaiah 7:14? Virgin or young maiden?
The Dead Sea Scroll Bible -- from at least 125 BCE -- printed by Abegg, Flint, etc., in 1996 --- has "halmah," young maiden, and so does the Masoretic text. Some Christians unaware of this true meaning cite "halmah" as virgin in the Dead Sea Scrolls (see link, with plate), but this is an error. It simply means a "young maiden." Symmachus set this straight in the 2d century, and Jerome and others never disagreed. The Christian response in the late 200s was simply to say that the Septuagint is just as authoritative, and it used a Greek word for virgin.
So how did the virgin birth account arise?
Evidently, the Greek translator of Matthew rendered Matthew's Hebrew quotation of Isaiah by a Greek equivalent. Rather than do a fresh translation, he borrowed the Septuagint. It mistranslated ALMAH as virgin in Greek -- parthenos. Then he evidently felt pressure to insert into the story that Mary gave a virgin birth to make it appear a fulfillment of what the translator thought was Matthew’s intention in quoting Isaiah 7:14. Hence, the Septuagint’s translation error into Greek in 257 BC is what likely led to the virgin birth account by a well-meaning but unwise effort by a Greek translator of Matthew. He exceeded the scope of his role. But a virgin birth heretically destroys the fulfillment of 2 Samuel 7:8-16 that Jesus would be of the “loins” and “flesh” of David.
Late Appearance of Virgin Birth Account in Records
To prove the validity of the early variants that “Joseph begat Jesus,” it helps to study what was the first mention of the virgin birth story in the early church. It turns out it was first mentioned by the early commentators only after 150 A.D. It played absolutely no part in any letter from Paul. It cannot be found in anything said by James, Jude, Peter or John. And the virgin birth account has no mention in the Gospels of John or Mark.
Even in Luke, the virgin birth account hinges on the presence of just one verse—Luke 1:35—other than the begetting verse. Without it, there is no mention otherwise of a virgin birth anywhere else in Luke. Similarly, in the canonical Greek Matthew, the virgin birth story is present only in verses 18-24 of chapter one. Thereafter, it is never mentioned or alluded to again in Matthew.
Most significantly, the virgin birth account does not appear in the Didache, otherwise known as the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. The Didache may be the oldest surviving document of Christianity—predating any manuscripts we have of any Gospel. The Didache was a summary of teachings—clearly derived from Jesus in Matthew and perhaps John. The Didache was part of the canon of the Syrian Christian church. Its language reveals it was written between 50 AD and 200 AD. Most scholars say it was written “before rather than after 100 AD.” (Camden McCormack Cobern, The New Archeological Discoveries and Their Bearing upon the New Testament (Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1917) at 261.)
When discovered in 1875 by Bishop Bryennio at the Jerusalem Monastery of the Most Holy Sepulcher, scholars concurred it was “undoubtedly genuine and was dated by all scholars as the oldest church manual in existence.” Given its place in history, how could this collection of sayings taken from the gospels then omit this important detail about the virgin birth story if such an account were truly in the gospels?
Thus, in the earliest church the attachment of any importance to a virgin birth story appears to be unknown.
Divinity of Christ Is Unaffected
God came to dwell in Jesus at His baptism. Jesus was not born with divine flesh. This is how Matthew and Luke originally read, with the dove coming down and physically entering Jesus, whereafter God says to Jesus: "This day I have begotten thee." See our article "Baptismal Account." This passage was quoted over 12 times by the early church from the 90s to the 300s. It was erased in the mid to late 300s to make room for a different view: that Jesus was born with divine flesh rather than God came to indwell flesh at Jesus' baptism. As Rys notes:
“Eventually the text was altered in order to conform, as far as possible, with the Virgin Birth story. ‘This day have I begotten thee’ became ‘In thee I am well pleased.’” (Jocelyn Rhys, Shaken Creeds: The Virgin Birth Doctrine. A Study of Its Origin (1922) at 97.)
Thus, God truly came to enter Jesus at His Baptism and said: "This day I have begotten thee."
That Jesus was simply indwelled is obvious from what Jesus says. Jesus repeatedly said the heavenly “Father dwells in me.” (John 14:10.) Apostle John in John 1:1,14 says the “Logos became flesh” and “dwelled” among us. Note John does not say this transformation took place at Jesus’ birth. It is just as possible this took place at Jesus’ baptism. (Incidentally, Apostle John never mentions a virgin birth.) Jesus likewise talks as if this LOGOS is completely apart from his personal identity yet dwells in Himself. In John 14:24, Jesus says the “Logos is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me.” Also, Jesus in Matthew says where “two or more gather in my name, I am there in their midst.” (Matthew 18:20.) At other times, Jesus speaks with the Mind of God dwelling in Himself in Matthew:
How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and you would not! (Matt 23:37 KJV.)
Jesus spoke likewise with the voice of God when He says: “Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58.) Jesus explained to us how He could talk this way: God-the-Father directly dwelled in Jesus (John 14:10). Thus, the Father directly spoke through Him on more than one occasion, including Matthew 23:37 and John 8:58.
This Christology perfectly makes sense of Jesus’ various descriptions of His interpersonal relationship to the Father:
The Father is greater than I. (John 14:28.)
I can do nothing by myself. (John 5:19.)
I can of my own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father who has sent me. (John 5:30.)
The Father and I are one. (John 10:30.)
The Logos / Word is not mine but the Father’s. (John 14:24.)
Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:...Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. (John 17:1, 3.)
I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God. (John 20:17)
What then did Jesus and John intend us to understand about Jesus’ nature in relation to God?
In Hebrew, the term for divinity (i.e., the presence of God)—skekhinah—was the word that literally meant dwelling. God’s dwelling stayed with the Israelites in their camp in the wilderness and then at the Temple later. Hence, Jesus had the unique shekhinah presence of God dwelling in Himself. Hence, all our remarks about Jesus as our divine Lord are accurate even if the virgin birth did not happen. Jesus’ divinity is not tied to the virgin birth account.
The confirmation that this is the correct interpretation of Jesus’s divinity comes from Daniel 7:13. It speaks of the “Son of Man”—which means a true human—coming on clouds of glory—the same depiction of God’s presence when God was in the camp with the Israelites. This Son of Man uniquely has the shekhinah “glory” or presence of God with Himself as referenced in Daniel 7:13.
Adam Clarke (1760-1832), the British Methodist scholar, concurs. He says that Jesus’ human heart was a place “for the Divine Majesty to dwell in, and that it be the holy of holies.” (Adam Clarke, Commentary, Ex. 25:22.) If so, it would be proper to call Jesus Divine.
Clarke in his famous Commentary wrote about John 1:14 that the “Word dwelt among us” and explains John wants us to understand this “dwelling” was a reference to Jesus’ “human nature...being as the temple in which...deity condescended to dwell,” and “the Word is probably an allusion to the divine Shechinah in the Jewish Temple.”(Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible (1825) Vol. 5 at 486.)
Thus, Clarke says the Gospel dispensation was foreshadowed by the Temple Shekhinah. It was God’s way to prepare us to understand “this manifestation of God in the flesh” of Jesus. (Id.)
Hence, it is proper to say Jesus is our Divine Lord. It means He is indwelled by the Father. That is not the same as saying He had divine flesh from birth or Jesus Himself is God-the-Son apart from God-the-Father.
Valentinus, Docetic Heretic, Promoted Virgin Birth Earliest in Church
We believe a heretic was among those who first translated the Hebrew Matthew into Greek. He relished adding a virgin birth account which was first mentioned in 150 AD by Irenaeus. The responsible heretic was likely Valentinus -- who lived from 100-160 AD. (See "Valentinus," Wikipedia.) He was aware of the dove entering into Jesus at His baptism, and tried to mesh this with the virgin birth account. He claimed that after a virgin birth the "Savior" entered Jesus at the baptism, but otherwise Jesus, as a pre-existing Deity, had no true contact with the flesh. Valentinus was imbued with Pauline soteriology at this time, as will be evident in the quote below.
Here is a summary of these facts in a work of 1709 by a Protestant editor to The Commonitory of Vincentius Lirinensis Concerning the Rule of Faith In Opposition to All Heretical Innovations from 434 AD.
[Page 277] The Heretick Valentinus lived in the Days of Polycarp came to Rome in the Pontificat of Hyginus and flourished in the Reign of Antoninus Pius and continued to the time of Anicetus. See Euseb. Hist. Eccles L. 4, C. 11. As to his Doctrines beside his unintelligible Jargon about the monstrous Generation of his Æons he maintained that Christ took not upon him our Flesh but brought with him a certain spiritual Body from Heaven and passed through the Virgin as Water through a Pipe without the least Participation of her Substance and that the Soter or Saviour flew down upon him at his Baptism in the Shape of a Dove. See Tertul de Praescr. Chapter 49 and Adv Valent chapter 27. He maintained likewise that the World was made by the Offspring of the Devil and therefore made all the Wickedness in it owing to the Maker of the World [Page 278] and not to the Will of Man. He denied the Resurrection of the Flesh and affirmed the Soul and Spirit [are] only to be saved by Christ. See August. Heresies I I. The Valentinens, says Irenaus, all themselves are the Spiritual, and the Orthodox Pyhsicos, [while] the animal Men [are] these Animals [who] know not the Truth and for that reason must be beholden to Faith and good Works for their Salvation but for themselves they stand in need of no such Things because they are naturally Spiritual and cannot lose their Spirituaiity and therefore though Sin may damn the Churchmen yet it can not hurt the Saints. See Irenaeus Adv Valent.
(The Apologies of Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Minutius Felix in Defense of the Christian Religion (W.B. for A. and J. Churchill, 1709) Vol. 2 at 277.)
Incongruities in Luke
Who did Mary say was the earthly father of Jesus?
Luke: "When he remained behind in Jerusalem, and they found him in the temple, "his mother said unto him, son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold thy father [Joseph] and I have sought thee sorrowing" (2:48).
So which is the greater heresy? To deny Jesus was of David’s lineage, and thus deny Him a critical proof He was Messiah, as some Jews use the virgin birth to disprove His Messiahship? Or is it a greater heresy to deny Jesus had a virgin birth? It is obviously more heretical to insist upon the virgin birth, and thus deprive Jesus of a Davidic heritage, than to accept Matthew once read “Joseph begat Jesus.” It is long overdue to purge this textual corruption from our Bibles.
How Geneology Reads in Sinai-Syriac
In the earliest quotes of the Aramaic gospel and Greek gospel of Matthew, we learn it ends as follows:
"Joseph begat Jesus." (Harris, Pro Fides (1905) at 507.)
Justin also was familiar with the earliest version of Jesus' baptism where we once could read: "This day I have begotten thee." Dialogue with Trypho
Philip Jenkins, in his book Jesus Wars, notes how few other places than in just a few verses in Matthew and Luke the virgin birth account appears, raising doubts it was original:
"The idea of the virgin birth is unquestionably present in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, but elsewhere in the New Testament the idea LEAVES NOT A TRACE. Among Paul's epistles, Galatians speaks of God sending his Son, 'born of a woman,' but neither here nor elsewhere does Paul suggest anything unusual about Jesus' conception or birth. Although Paul could have written explicitly 'of a virgin,' instead he uses the word FOR WOMAN, gyne/gynaikos. Two of the gospels, Mark and John, make no reference to a birth story for Jesus, and neither did the hypothetical lost gospel Q. Nor do early alternative gospels like Thomas. Even in Matthew and Luke, the virgin birth idea NEVER reappears after the initial chapters: it is not mentioned in Luke's sequel to his gospel, the book of Acts" (HarperCollins Publishers, New York. 2010, page 44).
Syriac-Sinaiticus Variants on Virgin Birth
See The Syriac New Testament at xxxviii
Alterations in Manuscripts
This is from New Testament Alterations at essene.net:
Early Essene Nasarene followers of Yeshua believed that their Messiah had become the Son of Amen, or God, by growing from grace to grace within the Essene Way. The orthodox Christians maintained that Jesus was the Son of God from conception and a miracle birth. The Nasarenes, and all the original disciples, believed in a special, pure, and immaculate birth, but a birth where Joseph was the natural father and Mariam was the pure, but not virgin, mother.
Even the writings of Paul; reflect this, as in Romans 1:4 where it says that "(Jesus was) designated Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead", which seems to imply that even Paul was not unsympathetic to this view.
The orthodox said, in opposition to those they called "Jewish Christians", that Joseph was not really Jesus' biological father. So some of them simply tried to eliminate those places which said that Joseph was the father of Jesus. For example, Luke 2:33 says that Jesus' "father and mother began to marvel". Many Greek manuscripts changed the text to read "Joseph and his mother began to marvel". Luke 2:48 says "Look, your father and I have been grieved". Some manuscripts were altered to read "Your relatives and I..." or "We have been grieved". In Luke 2:43 "his parents" was often changed to "Joseph and his mother".
The original Nasarene doctrine of evolving perfection leaves the door open to all of us to "follow Yeshua" into exaltation. This, of course, is not possible without a natural Essene life of strict spiritual discipline and wholehearted concentration on the world to come. Orthodox Christians, wishing an easier and more worldly path, felt comfortable altering the original doctrines so that they could comfortably pursue a normal life without any concern for perfecting themselves.
John's References to Jesus as Son of Joseph
John twice repeats others stating that Jesus is the son of Joseph. He records one of Jesus' disciples saying:
"Philip findeth Nathanael and saith unto him: we have found him of whom Moses in the Law and prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (John, 1 : 45).
"And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know . . . .? " (John, 6 : 42).
John presumably would not have recorded these incidents without clarifying the role of the virgin alone to make clear to the reader he is in favor of a virgin birth.
"Evidence that Demands a Verdict" - excerpt on Virgin Birth at this link.
Jerome, On the Perpetual Virginity of Mary -- arguments against Isaiah 7:14 and against Jesus being born of virgin because Luke speaks inconsistently. See this link