Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Matthean Virgin Birth

It is sometimes asserted that Mary’s miraculous conception is little more than a reflection of popular ideas and myths about gods impregnating mortal women…It is not likely, however, that early Jewish Christians, including the evangelist Matthew, would present Jesus in pagan garb. Jewish teachers were highly critical of pagan morals and myths. The idea of gods and goddesses having sexual relations with mortals was repugnant. To compare, even if only implicitly, the God of Abraham to a pagan deity like Zeus and to imagine him as somehow impregnating Mary would have been viewed as idolatrous and quite scandalous. Moreover, there was no expectation of a virgin birth in Jewish messianism.
No, it is much more likely that Mary’s miraculous conception would have been understood very much in terms of the powerful working of God’s Spirit, as seen in every conception (as in Philo), and especially seen in the examples in the Old Testament in which elderly or otherwise barren women conceive. Mary’s virginal conception tops them all, for her child is none other than Israel’s awaited Messiah and God’s Son.

C. A. Evans, Matthew (Cambridge 2012), 41-42.

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