The Virginal Consensus

Question from Kaitlyn:
I need some help with a question that is really confusing me. I just watched a video regarding Jesus in the Bible. It said that Matthew and Luke wrote about how Jesus was born, his miracles, and his resurrection. It also was said that they may have not known each other. How were they able to write about the same thing, for example that Jesus came from a virgin? Even though they don’t have the exact same story, how could they both all of a sudden think he came from a virgin? I am an atheist, but I question all theories because I would rather be 100 percent about everything before completely crashing it down. This question is one I can’t find myself to answer on my own, and is really making me question what to believe. Please, some help would be awesome! Thanks.

Answer by SmartLX:
There’s quite a lot going on here. Your question touches on several different issues of Biblical authorship, so I’ll address them separately.

If the Gospels according to Matthew and Luke were in fact written by the apostles Matthew and Luke who knew and followed Jesus, then of course they knew each other and could collaborate on their accounts. As you probably know, though, these gospels were written years or even decades after the given timeframe of Jesus’ crucifixion, and very possibly by other people.

Though the authors might not have known each other, they could have had access to the same accounts from earlier on. As it happens, a popular hypothesis is that the authors of Matthew and Luke shared two principal sources, which explains much of the overlap: the Gospel according to Mark, and an as-yet-undiscovered and therefore hypothetical second document known as the Q source. To summarise, there are credible alternative explanations for the claims made by Matthew and Luke ‘independently’ to the false dilemma of pure coincidence or divine advice.

When the Book of Isaiah, which contains the prophecy relating to the Messiah’s birth, was translated from Hebrew to Greek, the word almah regarding the mother was translated to parthenos. The easiest way to explain the significance of this is that the equivalent of the word maiden, which might mean ‘virgin’ in some circumstances but otherwise just means ‘young woman’, was changed to the word virgin and all ambiguity was eliminated. (The literal Hebrew word for ‘virgin’ is betulah, which wasn’t used.) The Greek translation was made around 200 BC(E) and was therefore available to all the authors of the Gospels if they did basic research. Even if the above hypothesis is wrong and ‘Matthew’ and ‘Luke’ had no common direct sources for the life of Jesus, they both knew that the Messiah’s life had damn well better match the centuries-old prophecy’s call for a virgin mother.

5 thoughts on “The Virginal Consensus”

  1. To add to what was written, the general consensus among most theist scholars, as well as secular ones, is that most books of the Bible were written after they claim to be and by mostly person unknown. The gospel of Thomas for example appears to be written around 140 AD, well after Thomas supposedly lived. Not to mention that there isn’t any actual evidence that Thomas was a real person. For Luke, the author isn’t ever named, but tradition has it that Luke was the author. Luke is usually dated to around 80 AD at the earliest, and he might have been a Greek non-Jew. Most importantly, Luke seems to be based off Mark in part, so it’s little wonder they would have the same details.

    The thing you need to remember, at least in my opinion, is that claims like the one you mention above are easy to make because there is so much we don’t know about those writings. There is indisputable evidence that the Bible has been edited and changed in many places over time, so it should be no surprise that a virgin birth is mentioned in both books. It’s kind of a surprise that there are so many things that conflict with each other given the chance that editors had to get it right.

    Although believers would disagree, the Bible is not a history and infallible, and using it to prove things about Christianity is futile when objectively looking at the source material and the history behind it…

  2. SmartLX, having a question about the real meaning of a verse or a word from the Bible means not that you go to what someone else believes or has said about what they have heard or found out from some out side source. There is a text found in Isaiah 8:20 from the Bible. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Because Christians believe that the entire Bible is God’s inspired word than we use it as the bedrock of all truth.
    Now there is a question about the word virgin. The question is what did the writer wanting to say. We do not have to guess or surmise about this because reading further on in the chapters of the same book we see that Mary’s husband Joseph, was going to put Mary away in secret, meaning for some reason, Joseph had become distrustful of Mary. So in other words Joseph was going to divorce Mary. In biblical times the Jewish marriage ceremony started with the Wife being separated from others to see if she really was a virgin. Although betrothed, unfaithfulness was the only reason that one could divorce the other. So, when Mary was found to be pregnant, Joseph didn’t want to continue with the marriage, but he also didn’t want all to know about Mary’s unfaithfulness because it may have led to her stoning. But as you may know, the Bible says that God sent an angel, the angel Gabriel, to calm the doubts of Joseph, saying that the child that Mary was carrying was indeed the promised Christ child. So from these accounts we can be assured that the word used for virgin was indeed the correct word used.
    It is quite amazing that there are few if any contradictions in all the Bible. Although written over years, with very little or no interactions between the authors, it is said that the Bible is indeed a miracle book. Because of time between the writings of the books and that each author did not have available the works of the authors to use as a foundation to write, yet there remains a common theme all through the Bible. Even more, there is no other ancient document that has as many copies available to use as a basis for the translation of the Bible. And when you think about the many who have been determined to trash the Bible, saying that it is made up, yet, the Bible has stood the test of time. From the time when the disciples of Christ coward together, fearing that they would be next to suffer the fate of their Messiah, but all of sadden they became fearless, and went out to spread Christianity, around the world. There have been others who claimed to be the Messiah, but history records show those to have died and their movement to be extinguished. But Christianity, pulses through out the hearts of millions around the world. Even many an Atheist, who said that there was no God, did so until they themselves had an encounter with the crucified and risen Savior of the world.
    You know, Christ, gave an invitation to all. He said, in Matthew 11:28 “28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. And in Revelation 3:20 He says “20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
    I have some one say that ” a stranger was just a friend you haven’t met yet.” Well, I would like to say that the reason why many have doubts that God exists is because they have not yet answered that door knock. Christ promised that if any came to Him, He would never cast them away. Why have so many, testified that they have had an experience with the Christ. Sure there are many who, have given false testimony. The used for their own gain the name of Christ, many who abused the authority that comes from saying they knew Him but then abused the trust that came with that claim. They will be punished, in time. But there are many, many others who, give a valid reason, to those who have yet to know personally the real God of this universe, and He waits to be their God, their Savior. Your, God and your Savior. All you need to do is simply ask Him yourself, to introduce Himself to you. He will always answer that request. That is all He is waiting for. Because it is up to you to decide to know, Him. He will not push, His way in. That is why He stands knocking out side the door of your heart, waiting for you to open it and invite Him in. If anyone would like to know more, email me at rtmcdge@gmail.com. I’ll be waiting too.

    1. So Mary was a virgin because the baby was God’s? That says nothing about how the baby got there. Many Christians (87% of United Church members, for instance) think that he was conceived naturally and still the son of God. Other Christians react quite strongly to that of course, but the idea that God acted upon the baby doesn’t preclude sex in the narrative by itself. Mary herself was a previous object of manipulation according to Catholics and many before Catholicism, being of “immaculate conception” and free from Original Sin.

      I’ve addressed elsewhere the claims of the Bible’s divine origins on the basis of its internal consistency and textual stasis over time. As shown by the many Christian responses to contradictions highlighted in the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, things often only cohere if a particular interpretation is used, and there is usually no good reason to use these particular interpretations except if you first assume that it’s all consistent so the interpretation intended by the authors MUST be the one that resolves the inconsistency. Assuming consistency as a premise is no way to establish consistency as a conclusion. As for standing the test of time, believers thought the text was sacred so they fought to keep it intact, and that’s that.

      I was wondering when all this would segue into straight-up preaching. I can only tell you that I’ve called out to God many times since starting this website, on the urging of Christians who write in and in the ways that they prescribe. I’ve done my level best each time and not once has He responded in any way. You’re free to rationalise why it hasn’t worked to your heart’s content, but try to recognise if the reason you come up with amounts to me not already believing it will work. That’s a red flag right there.

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