Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible
Why did Mary have to be a virgin?
Dear Father Paul: A friend and I were discussing Christmas and the birth of Jesus. He said that “the virgin birth of Jesus is essential to Christianity.” Why? — Richard.
Dear Richard: I was hoping I’d get a “Christmas Question” in time for this column which will publish just a few days before Christmas. Thank you.
Belief in the virgin birth of Jesus is not considered an “option” for Christians, but rather is an “essential belief” as your friend stated. Both the Nicene and the Apostles Creeds, the brief centuries-old statements of the essentials of what Christians believe, contain these words about Jesus’ virgin birth (respectively) … “He (Jesus) became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,” … and, “I believe in Jesus Christ, his (God’s) only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, …” Both of these statements of essential Christian beliefs were instituted in the earliest days of the Church before the year 350 A.D.
“Wait a minute,” many skeptics will exclaim. “For a virgin to give birth to a baby is scientifically impossible. Conception requires the union of a female egg and a male sperm.”
Mary evidently agreed. When the angel Gabriel visited her and announced in Luke, chapter one, that she would become the mother of the long expected Messiah, she quite naturally replied (New Living Translation) “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” Gabriel took no offense at her perfectly reasonable question, but instead explained, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. The baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.”
So how is it possible for a virgin to conceive? It’s possible because God is not “natural.” He is “supernatural.” That is, he is not bound, as we are, by natural laws … because, as the creator of the universe and all that is in it, he himself established all natural laws and thus can from time to time change them when it suits his purposes. We call these supernatural events by God “miracles” and many reading these lines will understand because they themselves have experienced events that could not be explained scientifically or “naturally.” They would instead say, “God somehow saw fit to intervene in a way I can’t explain.”
“Well then,” many will ask, “Why did God have to use a ‘virgin’ for Jesus’s birth? Couldn’t he have used any young woman of child bearing age?”
Actually, no he couldn’t. Not and follow his own laws and keep his own eternal plan intact.
You see God’s plan was for Jesus to go from a baby in a manger to become God’s ‘sacrificial lamb’ for all mankind. In essence, Jesus was born to die! And he did just that 33 years after the first Christmas.
He, Jesus, who was (is) God incarnate in a human body, willingly and lovingly allowed himself to be mocked, tortured, beaten and nailed to a cross to atone (pay the price due) for all the sins of all mankind. Further, (this is important) under the laws God himself had established, Jesus had to be a “perfect sacrifice” without any spot or blemish … or sin … in order for his death sacrifice to be acceptable as “full payment” for every single sin … past, present and future of every man, woman, boy and girl.
So, Jesus had to be (from birth) and had to remain, for his entire life, sinless … which meant (this is important) he could not have an earthly/“natural” father! Why? Because the Jewish people, into which Jesus was born, believed that the stain and guilt of sin was passed down from the first man who sinned, Adam, to all children only through their fathers … not through their mothers. Romans 5:12 and Hebrews 4:15 explain this Biblical principle.
Because of this, to do what he was sent to earth to do, Jesus could not have a natural, earthly father, because a human father would have passed along to him … the stain and guilt of sin, and Jesus’s death later on the cross would have been totally meaningless. Thus, Mary had to be, and was, a virgin.
Our God is a miracle working God!
Merry Christmas and a Happy and Blessed New Year to you Richard … and to all of my readers.
Do you have a question? Email your question to me at email@example.com and I will try to answer your question in the paper.
Father Paul Massey is pastor emeritus of Church of the Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Georgia. Visit www.holycrosschurch.wordpress.com for more information, service times and directions.