The virgin birth of Jesus—more accurately, his virginal conception—is one of two pivotal features of his earthly life.
If Jesus was not virginally conceived, then he was the natural child of either Mary’s marriage to Joseph or her infidelity.
If either alternative is true, then Jesus was born with a sinful nature. If he was inherently sinful, then he was not God incarnate.
If Jesus was not God incarnate, then his claims of deity were lies, and he is not our Savior.
The Bible does not describe precisely how Mary became pregnant. We only have the description she gave to Luke, the Gospel writer. Here is a summary of her narrative.
God sent the angel Gabriel to visit Mary. He said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.”
Mary responded by asking, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” Gabriel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Mary answered, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then Gabriel left her.
Can the virginal conception of Jesus be explained scientifically? Maybe in part, but not completely. It was a miraculous event that fulfilled a prophecy recorded seven hundred years earlier in Isaiah 7:14.
Some people speculate that Jesus was conceived through parthenogenesis, a relatively common reproduction method in certain plant and animal species that does not require the ovum to be fertilized.
This theory crumbles when we consider the moral perfection of Jesus. He was born without sin.
Parthenogenesis would have utilized an egg from Mary. For Jesus to be born sinless through this process would have required Mary to also be sinless. Otherwise, he would have inherited a sinful nature through her.
The Bible never indicates that Mary was born sinless or that God purified her at the conception of Jesus. Instead, it says everyone is born with a sinful nature that we never lose until we enter heaven.
A theologically tenable, but nonetheless speculative, explanation for the virginal conception of Jesus is that Mary was his surrogate mother, not his biological mother.
Upon leaving heaven, Jesus physically transformed himself into a zygote, the single cell that becomes an embryo. The Holy Spirit then implanted this cell in Mary’s womb.
This possibility concurrently accounts for Mary’s pregnancy while preserving her virginity and the divinity of Jesus.
But it does not diminish her exceptionality.
Mary was uniquely chosen by God to raise Jesus to adulthood. He singled her out for honor while hanging on the cross.
This surrogacy explanation is loosely based on precedent. Jesus physically transformed himself multiple times before and after his earthly birth.
The Old Testament records that he left heaven on several occasions to converse directly with Abraham, Jacob, Gideon, Hagar, Moses, Joshua, and Daniel.
Sometimes he appeared in human form. Other times he appeared in the form of a cloud or fire. When he joined Daniel in the furnace, he was fire-resistant.
The New Testament records that Jesus transfigured into a radiant version of himself in the presence of Peter, James, and John. After his resurrection, he instantly appeared and disappeared in front of many others.
Each of these instances involved a physical transformation. And while they do not prove the virginal conception of Jesus, they indirectly lend credence to the possibility of Mary’s surrogacy.
The resurrection of Jesus, which fulfilled a prophecy recorded in Psalm 16:10 a thousand years before his birth, is the second pivotal feature in his earthly life.
Looking back on this event, we can infer theologically that the conception of Jesus was virginal.
Jesus was sinless when he lived in heaven before his incarnation. He had to remain holy while on earth, otherwise, he would have lost his divinity.
Had Jesus lost his divinity, he would not have risen from the grave. He would not have ascended to heaven. Indeed, he would have been unworthy to return there according to God’s calculus.
There is ample evidence supporting the resurrection of Jesus. Multiple eyewitnesses watched his ascension. Therefore, we know he remained sinless during his earthly tenure and retained his divinity.
This means his conception must have been virginal.
God Is Limitless
The validity of the virginal conception of Jesus does not depend on a viable human explanation.
God could have easily made it happen by doing something beyond our comprehension. He is not constrained by our knowledge or imagination.
It will be fascinating to hear God explain this miracle when we get to heaven.
Read More About Jesus
Jesus is the second person in the Trinity. His attributes are described throughout the Bible. Jesus is unique among the founders of the other major religions. The evidence for his resurrection confirms his deity.