Sunday, December 9, 2007

Pagan Virgin Births

Pagan parallels
Skeptics will sometimes claim that the existence of virgin birth stories in ancient pagan religions shows that Jesus’ virgin birth was fabricated by the early Christians.

There were apparently virgin birth stories for a number of figures in pagan religions and also some prominent historical figures. It may have been a mark of your importance, or maybe it was just a cool was to start a biography. At any rate, the stories were out there. Does that necessarily mean that Christ’s virgin birth was fictitious?

Is a virgin birth possible?
If you start with the idea of a God who can create a universe from scratch no other miracle is impossible. Can a virgin get pregnant naturally? No. Can God supply the necessary missing genetic material to create a baby? Of course. He made Adam’s DNA from scratch, so making half of Jesus’ shouldn’t be any trouble. (Actually, from the wording of the text, I wonder if Mary’s DNA was used at all. A question for another time.)

Why doubt?
If a virgin birth is at least theoretically possible, is there any reason to doubt the claim that Jesus was conceived without the help of a human male? If you remove the anti-supernatural bias, I can see no reason we shouldn't believe the story, especially given how many other miraculous things occurred in Christ's life.

Why the pagan parallels?
Some have suggested that the ancient religions around Jesus’ time whetted the appetite for the gospel. I wonder if this might be a similar situation.

Instead of asking why Christ had to have a virgin birth, perhaps we should ask why the pagans had them. Could they have been there so that the pagans would see virgin births as pointing to someone important, someone worth listening to?* It’s worth thinking about.

* A careful, reasoned apologetic this is not. It's really just an interesting idea to consider. Maybe someone will be able to develop it some day.


Anonymous said...

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OK, I don't know how this comment can be constructive with respect to the article I am commenting on.

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God bless, and Shalom!


Jon said...

Nice post. I would also say that not many Christians are aware that certain other ancient pagan religions had such stories. I prefer your idea that perhaps they were pointing the way to Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

The virgin birth was not the only area where Bible writers were influenced by much older religions. There were also plenty of stories of pagan god-men who were killed and then rose from the dead. These god-men were worshipped by many back then, just as you worship your god-man now. Down through the ages, various cultures have invented and embraced their own unique imaginary friends. Why should we be any different?

jl said...

>>The virgin birth was not the only area where Bible writers were influenced by much older religions. There were also plenty of stories of pagan god-men who were killed and then rose from the dead.

Can broruss provide some more information here? This type of statement causes me to wonder what would be his information source

ChrisB said...

I'm not sure what he had in mind, but borrowing has been alleged for the whole notion of a dying/rising savior/god, baptism, communion, and the cross symbol. All of them stand on pretty shaky ground, some more than others:

There is debate as to whether the elements "borrowed" from other religions actually appeared in those religions after Christianity (meaning the borrowing went the other way).

Also, similarity does not prove borrowing. It could be coincidental. It could be supernatural due to either side of the battle -- God could plant ideas to prepare humans for the coming Christ or demons could plant ideas to innoculate humans to the same thing.

Anonymous said...

In many pagan traditions virgin birth was a common euphemism for the child of a priestess. The phrase was not to be taken literally. Sometimes as a result of a ritual or other temple duty, a priestess would become pregnant. That child would have been raised in the temple as a saint, and said to be "a child of the goddess", or "born of the virgin" referring to Isis. I can not comment on how this affects Christian mythology, but since you raised the point, I thought I would shed a little light on the pagan context.

Anonymous said...

The most obvious problem with a supernatural birth, is that Yahweh Himself destroyed the world with a flood because, according to Genesis 6 (and the book of Enoch), the 'sons of god' were breeding with 'daughters of men'. Now if Yahweh destroyed these 'sons of god', even their descendants, indeed the whole world, for doing this, would He them turn around and Himself do the same? Of course not. Furthure more, in Genesis, these children of 'sons of god' and 'daughters of men' were born GIANTS. Why wasn't Jesus born a giant? Another thing, Matthew gives the geneology of Jesus as coming from Mary, while Luke gives it as from Joseph. Why did he give it as Joseph, if Joseph is not the geneology? And why does Matthew 1:17 not add up to 14 generations in verses 12-16? It's only 13 generations. The answers can be found in Rome as well as in Revelations 12:9.

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Tidbits of Torah said...

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