Why is the virgin birth of Christ such an important doctrine for Christianity? The desire to question, ignore, and reject this doctrine as important is primarily due to a lack of understanding to the significance of the claim. A review the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John will be informative when we see how each author approached the topic.
Both Matthew and Luke deal with the traditional birth narrative and they both explicitly tell the reader that Mary is a virgin at the birth and conception. It is clear from the text that the audience, the writer, Mary, and Joseph all understand that a virgin birth is not possible and would bring shame to the Mary and Joseph because people would not believe that Mary conceived by way of a supernatural act of God.
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:30-34 ESV
Matthew quotes directly from Isaiah 7:14 about God’s promise of a virgin giving birth.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:22-25 ESV
A virgin birth as odd as that might seem is clearly there in those two gospels and everyone clearly understood what was meant by saying a virgin will give birth to a son. To help clear up the “why” we should look at this from God’s perspective. The answer can be found in the birth narratives of Mark and John because those two texts do not give the physical birth of a baby boy type of story. These two gospels provide the history of Jesus not from man’s perspective but from God our Creator’s perspective. These two Gospels highlight the other side of the story that God wants humanity to know about Jesus and these two narratives are the key to understanding the significance of the virgin birth.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9-11 ESV
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 ESV
Jesus in Matthew and Luke is a baby born from Mary. God through the Holy Spirit intervening in the curse that humanity lives under. Jesus in Mark and John is the son of God who existed as God from the very beginning.
Jesus is heir to God’s Kingdom and because of the virgin birth he does not have a biological birth father in the same way as the descendants of Adam (you and me). By not having a biological earthly father Jesus is able to break the curse of the sin nature.
For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 ESV
Together these four gospels complete the truth of the origin of Jesus, Immanuel “God with us”, who is fully man and fully God. The virgin birth allows Jesus to be both man and God at the same time and furthers the claim that Jesus is God. Not just God, but also the Creator God. Without the virgin birth Jesus would not be God and could not have saved anyone from sin.
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Hebrews 1:3 ESV
Revised and Edited Originally published to Human Effort Sept 2013