One of the most frequent challenges to traditional Christian doctrine is over the “virgin” conception and birth of Jesus in Mary.
Some people argue that miracles never happen (a philosophical assumption, rather than an empirical fact), and therefore the virgin birth of Jesus could not be true.
Others argue that the virgin birth was a mythological addition to the story of Jesus’ life, and was originally derived from other ancient “virgin birth myths,” and so it is not true.
This last one is particularly popular these days, and The Apologetics Guy has put together a concise response to the myth objection. His key points are these:
“The Virgin Birth wasn’t Copied from Myths”, either Horus, Mithra or Caesar Augustus.
By the way, LutheranSatire has put together a very clever video refuting (and yes, mocking) the myth-copying hypothesis:
Apologetics Guy then addresses the accusation that the virgin birth was made up later on, arguing that
“Making up a fake story about Jesus’ virgin birth wouldn’t make Christianity more attractive to the Jews. It would actually make people suspicious about Jesus…The Virgin Birth Wasn’t Emphasized…[and] The Virgin Birth is Different from Myths” in important ways.
One of the most important differences is that the Christian tradition of the virgin birth occurs prior to the other myths commonly cited, as Catholic.com notes,
“The parallel between the birth of Jesus and the pagan god exists, but the Christian tradition antedates the pagan mythology…and none were ever believed to be historical figures like Jesus.”
Finally, The Apologetics Guy doesn’t address a more text-critical view–that the gospel writers had to contrive Jesus’ conception by a virgin because they misread an Old Testament messianic prophecy from Isaiah 7:14:
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. (NAS)
Evidence Unseen addresses several of the anti-virgin conception claims, one of which is the claim that the Hebrew word alluding to the messiah’s birth (almah) doesn’t really mean virgin, but instead is a general term referring to an adolescent young woman. After discussing the language issues, they conclude,
“while the term almah does not exclusively mean virgin, it is certainly compatible with virginity –especially when we see that there was no other Hebrew term to use that would be any better.”
In short, Christians can continue to be confident in the integrity of the doctrine of Jesus’ virgin birth. It was clearly not copied from other pagan myths, it was not made up by the later church, and Matthew did not misinterpret the Old Testament prophecy.