Theology: CHRISTOLOGY – THE BIRTH OF CHRIST

I did not include this section in my prior teaching on the Doctrine of Christ due to the fact that few of the writers really concentrate on the topic.

They mention the subject in passing, but not as a specific study.

 

There has in recent days come to my knowledge some error in the area of the conception and birth of the Lord, so I have decided to include a more specific look at the subject.

 

It should also be realized that there have been no writers that I have found that even speak to the thought of the conception of the Lord.

 

We have this situation today due to the fact that it has never been an issue before. In our day the “Virgin Birth” and the “Virgin Conception” may well become very important, as we are deluged with the modern scientific breakthroughs that were not in place when most of the Theologians were writing.

 

We have only begun to deal with the ramifications of surrogate motherhood which could well reflect upon the thinking of people as they view the virgin birth. (a surrogate mother is one where an egg of some woman is fertilized with the sperm of a man and placed into the body of a third party for gestation.) More on this later.

 

We need to look at a few items of interest before we begin. The Roman Catholic church follows our thinking to a certain point, but then their theology takes a drastic turn, and we find that it teaches a completely different idea concerning the conception and birth of the Lord than does Protestantism.

 

We want to look at this thought as we begin. Though the Catholics would agree with us that the Lord was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, the Roman church submits the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception to explain the part of Mary in the process. The immaculate part relates to Mary. God in His omnipotence made her pure so that she could be the mother of God.

 

 

Louis Matthews Sweet in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, takes exception to the immaculate conception: “‘Immaculate conception’ is of course manifestly a blunder due to the confusion of one idea with another.”2

 

Mary is over the United States due to the fact that Mary was made the patroness of the United States. The many statues of Mary are due to her worship in this country.

 

The Roman church believes that Christ was born of the virgin Mary and that He had a human body and soul. They further hold that His human nature was derived from only His mother.

 

This will come into play in a few moments when we discuss the conception of the Lord. They will be found to be in line with most Protestants on the point that his humanity came from Mary.

 

Let me quote to show their position: “The Blessed Virgin was Christ’s mother as man, but not as God.” “Christ had no human father.” They add a point that we would differ on, “The Blessed Virgin remained a virgin all her life.”4

 

Walvoord mentions of the birth of Christ, “In the Incarnation Jesus Christ was perfect God and became perfect man being all that God is in His deity and all that man is apart from sin.”5

 

This does not speak to the birth of the Lord, but sets for us the requirements of the outcome of that birth that was unique to Christianity. All other founders of religions write of their finding the divine, while Christ is the divine coming to find man.

 

Walvoord goes on with a paragraph that is a good summation of the person of Christ. “Christ was born into the human family and possessed His own identifiable body, soul, and spirit. He was not simply a man indwelt by God, but God who took on a human nature as a part of His person.”6

 

I would restate that last phrase a bit differently for effect. He was not simply a man indwelt by God, but God that dwelled with man as man.

 

Let us look at some information in outline form. It is self explanatory.

 

 

I. THE EVENT PROPHESIED

 

A. HE WAS BORN OF A VIRGIN

 

Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23; Luke 1:35

 

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

 

B. HE WAS DESCENDED FROM DAVID

 

Isaiah 11:1; Luke 1:32

 

C. HE WAS BORN IN BETHLEHEM

 

Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:4-6

 

D. HIS BIRTH WAS CONNECTED TO THE SLAUGHTER OF CHILDREN

 

Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16-18

 

E. HE WAS TAKEN TO EGYPT AND RETURNED

 

Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15

 

II. THE EVENT DETAILED

 

Matthew 1:18 gives clear declaration that there was no human father involved.

 

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise:

When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”

 

Just what is meant by “she was found with child of the Holy Ghost?” This is what we want to think about in this section. Let’s take a few moments to view the theories of the conception.

 

 

A. THE WHOLE THING THEORY

 

There are some that suggest God formed and placed the entire fetus within Mary’s body. This would be the first reference in Scripture to Surrogate motherhood. This view would see a complete fertilized egg being prepared in heaven and being placed within Mary for the growth and birth process. This allows nothing of Mary to be imparted to Jesus, except the physical food and water nourishment that is normal in the pregnancy process.

 

PROBLEMS

 

1. This does not make Christ a descendant of David. He has no descendency. He is totally of God, and even if He were human in form there would be a lacking of the reality of the son of Mary.

 

2. This requires God to go back into the creation business to create this totally new man. Does this allow for the Lord being man as we? Does this allow for the Lord being our brother? Etc. I don’t think so.

 

3. This could just as well have been a total creation of Jesus as an adult and eliminated the growing and maturing years.

 

4. There is no indication that this is the case in the Word, on the contrary the Gospels seem quite specific that there was a union of the Holy Spirit and Mary in the process. What that union, or overshadowing was is a question that we will probably not explain, yet both parties seem to be a part of the God-man Jesus.

 

B. THE MIRACLE THEORY

 

I ran into a self styled theologian that explained it this way. Mary and a man had relations. He did not get into the details of the father which was a bit of a problem to me. A Savior born of a fornicator. Not to appropriate. At any rate, he suggested to that conception, God added or changed something to keep the sin nature from being passed on to Jesus.

 

PROBLEMS

 

1. So how does deity enter the picture? By ZAP, or by osmosis?

 

2. So how do you answer the fornication question?

 

 

3. So why was Jesus special enough to die for our sins?

 

4. So, is that a proper sacrifice according to the Scriptures? NO.

 

C. THE PARTIAL THEORY

 

This would be where most of Protestantism is, I think. Mary was an integrated part of the conception, supplying to the unique person of Christ His manhood, while the Lord supplied, or moved in such a way as to supply the divine part of this person Jesus.

 

How did that happen? We will discuss the conception later.

 

PROBLEMS

 

1. Most suggested problems arise from a rejection of the Scriptural account of the virgin birth and usually a rejection of the Word of God, both of which are based on a lack of belief and faith in the Word of God. To this unbelief and lack of faith we have no answer, short of the Holy Spirit working in the heart of that person that rejects God and His revealed

Word.

 

2. The position has no scientific, moral, or historical proof. Moral proof is lacking however the position is more moral than the thought of God creating everything and implanting it, or as the other position suggests that Jesus is the offspring of fornication. Historical proof is abundant. The church fathers held to the virgin birth with no attempt to explain it away through theories of creation and/or illicit sex.

 

We should remember that the conception as well as the birth were involving a virgin. The virgin conception requires only the mother to be involved. Indeed, the virgin conception is the key to the discussion.

 

III. THE EVENT ANNOUNCED

 

We won’t go into these passages, but both Matthew and Luke detail the account for us. They both deal with the genealogies and there is an abundance of writing on the genealogies so we won’t tackle that question today.

 

 

IV. THE EVENT PROCLAIMED

 

Again this is given much coverage in the gospels in that the Magi and the shepherds were told of the birth of the Lord.

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

1. Can you imagine a bit of the mental activity in Mary’s brain after the announcement of the angel? Conceive without a husband? What will I tell people? How? Is this for real? An angel? Me? Is this what Isaiah 7:14 talks about? Am I the one that will give Israel her king? Just To Name A Few Possible Thoughts. I suspect that she had a little food for thought for a few days.

 

2. Do not mistake my attempts to make Jesus as much man as I can, nor to make Him as much like us as I can for if He were truly man as we preach, He must be like us.

 

It is not an attempt to lower our view of Christ, rather to increase our view of Christ. He is totally God, and totally like us, except for sin, which He suffered for, on the cross.

 

We must know how human He was to appreciate all that He did for us. He was not some super man of deity that suffered and died on the cross. He was a man as you and I and He allowed Himself to be crucified for us. He suffered as we would suffer plus a little due to carrying the burden of sin.

 

He had the same mental anguish over the loss of His life as we do. He suffered more due to the fact that He knew many misunderstood Him, and His life. Many would, and were rejecting what He was doing on the cross. He hurt as we would hurt.

 

3. A few thoughts on the virgin birth and those that reject it.

 

a. Christ in Luke 2:49 was about His father’s business. He was in the temple not in the carpenter shop.

 

b. Christ did not refer to Joseph as His father yet referred to God as His father many times.

 

 

c. The angel announced John The Baptist’s coming birth to the father, yet announced Christ’s birth to the mother. That should indicate something.

 

d. Peter viewed Christ as the Son of God which not only indicates deity, but indicates Fatherhood of God. Christ mentioned to Peter that God had revealed this to Peter. If Christ was the son of Joseph, why would God have to reveal anything to Peter?

 

e. Paul showed his belief in the virgin birth in Galatians 4:4 when he stated,

 

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the Law,”

 

f. The person that rejects the virgin birth is left with many problems.

 

1.) How did the union of God and man come about if both man and woman were involved. How was the sin nature eliminated from the offspring?

 

2.) How do you explain the Scriptural references to the virgin birth, or how do you explain the fact that Mary conceived before she and Joseph had come together as man and wife?

 

3.) How do you explain the problem of Joseph’s family line being broken? To have the requirements of the Messiah fulfilled there was only one way with Mary and Joseph being involved and that is a virgin birth without the father Joseph. (If you go back into the Old

Testament God cut off the direct line of Joseph). Scroogie mentions: “In Jeremiah 22:24-30, it is predicted that Coniah (Jehoiachin) would be childless, therefore he could not have been the father of Salathiel, but it is possible and probable that he adopted the seven sons of Neri, the twentieth from David in the line of Nathan.”7 This would make the Matthew genealogy a legal line of Christ, while the Luke genealogy a blood line of Christ. With a break in the direct line there is no blood connection, but by adoption there would be the legal connection. This

is another reason for the virgin birth. 4.) Why has the Christian church, as well as the Roman church for that matter, held to this doctrine for so many generations if it has no validity?

 

 

For a good discussion of the Virgin birth see Machen’s book “The Virgin Birth Of Christ.”

 

4. The fact of the virgin birth should be only an introduction to the real person of Jesus Christ our Lord. He is not only the God-man, He is the unique man of all time. He came into being uniquely and is uniquely man.

 

THE CONCEPTION

 

According to the Encyclopedia Americana “conception” is: “in biology the beginning of pregnancy.”8

 

That occasion upon which a new life is formed even if the abortion advocates deny the fact.

 

We might think of why the conception of Jesus is not discussed. For one, for a virgin to give birth in the day of the Bible, required a virgin conception. We today hear often of the artificial insemination, the surrogate mothers, the advances of technology that might well bring about a virgin giving birth without a miraculous intervention by God.

 

In recent years some have researched other cultures, religions and myths to suggest that there is a basis for the Christian “story” of a virgin birth in history. These accounts comment on the extraordinary conceptions of women via the gods. There are numerous accounts of the god’s having relations with women that they loved or lusted after, yet the conception of Christ was completely different.

 

The basis of this conception is not sexual, lustful, or based on any human emotion, but rather the simple yet profound desire of God to become man for the purpose of saving mankind. The accounts of the god’s picture them as acting as humans in their sexual activity and the offspring are never portrayed as being the offspring of a virgin conception and birth.

 

The purpose sets this conception apart from all accounts, stories and myths that might well be quoted.

 

MECHANICS OF THE CONCEPTION

 

1. Strong mentions a professor Loeb and an interesting concept. “Professor Loeb has found that the unfertilized egg of the sea-urchin may be made by chemical treatment to produce thrifty young, and he thinks it probable that the same effect may be produced among the mammalia.”9

 

I am not holding to this position, but there are some possibilities to it. God could know the secret formula, chemically, for the fertilization of the egg. The one problem that I might suggest is the need for DNA from the father to pass on traits, etc. Doctors are just beginning to understand the fertilization process in the human being. Indeed they admit much

ignorance.

 

2. God may have created the sperm that was needed, or is some manner created the life that was within Mary. (The sperm or fertilization is all that would be required.) This gives problems of “creation” after creation has ceased. We as fundamentalists tend to try to keep away from that possibility. (For example, in where the soul and spirit of the offspring comes from.)

 

Evans submits that God did create in this instance: “By a creative act God broke through the chain of human generation and brought into the world a supernatural bring.”10

 

Barnes suggests a similar position when he comments on Luke one: “this evidently means that the body of Jesus would be created by the direct power of God.”11

 

3. You suggest a good possibility. This one we are really in the dark about. A line of research might tune into the Old Testament ideas of the Lord knowing and separating different ones while they were still in the womb.

 

I would imagine that if, and when we find out the details of all this that we will find that it was some perfectly natural process. The details of the process were worked out, I assume, with the plan of redemption before the foundations of the world.

 

That to me is quite comforting, to know that even those little details of redemption were set before the need of redemption was in existence.

 

It might be well in your thinking to see that the virgin birth not only includes the birth, but also the conception. We often talk only of the birth, while the more important thought may well be the conception.

 

 

Most of the writers do not mention the conception in any manner, only state and prove the virgin birth.

 

Ryrie ventures into the area only slightly when he states, “…the Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you (Luke 1:35). The statement emphasizes more the fact of divine generation of the Child, than the method.”12

 

Pulpit commentary follows this line of thought as well: “But by the singular, powerful, invisible, immediate operation of the Holy Ghost, whereby a virgin was, beyond the law of nature, enabled to conceive….”13

 

 

 

 

 

Luke 1:35,

WORD STUDY

 

 

“And the angel answered and said unto her, the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

 

Word One: “come upon thee” is Strong’s 1904 — “eperkomae” The term is used in:

Luke 1:35

 

“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

 

Luke 11:22

 

“But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.”

 

This seems to have the idea of attach, or attempt the taking of control at the very least, with the thought in the verse of controlling.

 

Luke 21:26

 

 

“Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”

 

This seems to be something that is coming and its coming is sure. Luke 21:35

“For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.”

 

Seems to be the coming things that WILL come to pass.

 

Acts 1:8

 

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

 

This views the coming of the Holy Spirit to the believers on the day of Pentecost. He overwhelmed or filled them completely.

 

Acts 8:24

 

“Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.”

 

Something that will come to be a part of his life.
Acts 13:40

 

 

 

 

 

Acts 14:19

“Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;”

 

 

“And there came thither [certain] Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew [him] out of the city, supposing he had been dead.”

 

Again something that came from someplace to enter into the situation. Ephesians 2:7

 

 

“That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”

 

The thought of something coming, again is seen. James 5:1

“Go to now, [ye] rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon [you].”

 

Something coming again.

 

It would seem that the thought of this word is simply something that is coming upon, toward etc., a simple statement of the fact that the Holy Spirit would come upon her in some manner for the purpose of causing the conception of Jesus.

 

Word Two: “overshadowing” is Strong’s 1982 — “episkiazo” The term is used in:

Matthew 17:5

 

“While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.”

 

The covering of a cloud — the blocking of direct sunlight from them.

 

Mark 9:7

 

“And there was a cloud that overshadowed them and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son hear him.”

 

Luke 1:35

 

“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

 

Luke 9:34

 

 

“While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.”

 

Acts 5:15

 

“Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid [them] on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.”

 

In this text it is not sunlight that is being blocked by a cloud, but rather by a person coming between the beds and the sun.

 

Vine suggests: “to throw a shadow upon.” The Interlinear Greek New Testament translates the word, “will overshadow.”

 

So what can we draw from the words themselves about the conception?

 

a. The Holy Spirit was to come, and to overshadow Mary.

 

b. Not much else can be known. It is assumed that the overshadowing had something to do with the conception, but little else can be drawn from the Scriptures on this subject. The action of the verbs indicate that the Holy Spirit is doing all of the action as opposed to a mutual participation.

 

This would be very true in the thought of the normal procedure of conception. The woman’s body naturally provides an egg each month to be presented for fertilization. There is no need for action on the part of Mary.

 

The idea of the child being born is structured in a way so that the birth is an action that is placed upon Mary from without. This could be construed as only the birth process ending as nature would have it end, yet in the context of the verse the conception is in view and the idea could well extend to the fact that the conception and birth were actions from without.

 

The Holy Spirit accomplished whatever was needed to fulfill the conception of Jesus.

 

The term conception originally, way back meant “beginning,” thus we might state that the Holy Spirit moved upon Mary in such a way as to guarantee the beginning of the fetus, Jesus.

 

 

SOME FINAL OBSERVATIONS

 

a. There is nothing in the birth of Isaac nor John the Baptist that relate, for these were barren women made fertile by an act of God. Mary was not barren as far as the record shows, so we should assume that she was a fertile young woman.

 

b. Luke 1:31 cf. 1:24 show the coming conception of Mary was of the same nature as the conception of Elizabeth. Indeed the same Greek word is used in both cases.

 

This is Strong’s 4815 — “sullambano.” The word is of interest in that it is either translated: conceive; some form of “to take” as in taking someone, (Mat 26:55; Acts 1:16); or “help” as in helping someone, (Philippians 4:3 where Paul asks them to help women that had labored with him.); or to gather as in grapes (Matthew 7:16).

 

I think in looking through the references it may be that the term means the “coming together of.” Coming together of grapes and the gatherer, coming together of the captor and the captive etc. In the idea of conception it would have the idea of coming together of the egg and the sperm.

 

It is used of lust conceiving in James 1:15 as well. Vine defines it as “to take together” which would be in line with our observations.

 

c. The term conceive demands more than a creative act. Mary was to conceive. She was involved in the process not just a warm oven to raise the fetus in.

 

d. In all that we have seen it should be evident that it was a normal, natural conception and birth with the exception of the presence of a human father for fertilization.

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

1. So how do we apply this one folks? He Was Man, Via Mary And God, Via The Holy Spirit. This is proof of all that we have stated of his humanity and deity, to say the least.

 

2. There is nothing terribly mysterious about the virgin birth — just something to be understood as we can understand it and accept by faith.

 

 

END NOTES

 

1. Robert C. Broderick, “The Catholic Encyclopedia,” New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1976, p 285

 

2. James Orr, General Editor, “The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1939, p 3052

 

3. Catholic Encyclopedia, p 285

 

4. Louis Laravoire Morrow, Most Reverend, S.T.D., “My Catholic Faith,” Kenosha, Wisconsin: My Mission House, 1955, p 61

 

5. Reprinted by permission: John F. Walvoord, Editor, “Lewis Sperry Chafer Systematic Theology,” USA: Victor Books, 1988, p 221

 

6. Reprinted by permission: John F. Walvoord, Editor, “Lewis Sperry Chafer Systematic Theology,” USA: Victor Books, 1988, pp 222-223

 

7. W. Graham Scroggie, D.D., “A Guide To The Gospels,” Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co., p 508

 

8. Encyclopedia Americana, New York: Americana Corp., 1961, Vol. 7, p 459

 

9. Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology, Valley Forge, PA: The Judson Press, 1907, p 676

 

10. Taken from: “The Great Doctrines Of The Bible”; Evans, William; Copyright 1974, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago; Moody Press. Used by permission. p 54

 

11. Albert Barnes, “Notes On The New Testament,” Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, Luke John, p 8

 

12. Reprinted by permission: Ryrie, Charles C.; “Basic Theology”; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1986, p 242

 

13. H.D.M. Spence, Very Rev, “Pulpit Commentary,” New York: Funk and Wagnalls, Vol. 37, p 8

 

 

HANDOUT

 

THE BIRTH OF CHRIST

 

THE ROMAN CHURCH BELIEVES

 

I. THE EVENT PROPHESIED

 

A. Born of a virgin: Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23; Luke 1:35

 

B. Descended from David: Isaiah 11:1; Luke 1:32

 

C. Born in Bethlehem: Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:4-6

 

D. Birth was connected to slaughter of children: Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16-18

 

E. Taken to Egypt and returned: Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15

 

II. THE EVENT DETAILED

 

A. The Whole Thing Theory:

 

B. The Miracle Theory:

 

C. The Partial Theory:

 

III. THE EVENT ANNOUNCED

 

IV. THE EVENT PROCLAIMED CONCLUSIONS

THE CONCEPTION MECHANICS OF THE CONCEPTION[1]

 


[1] Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. B.A. (n.d.). DERICKSON’S NOTES ON THEOLOGY: A STUDY BOOK IN THEOLOGY.

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