And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth”
At Christmastime many of us take time to reflect on the birth of Christ and the miracle of His incarnation; but His birth was not a miracle. Jesus came into this world like billions of babies before Him and like billions of babies after Him. Yes, the angels announced His birth to humble “shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8), and some magi saw “His star in the east” and came “to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2); but His birth, as special as it was, was no miracle. A line in a favorite Christmas carol says, “The cattle are lowing, the dear baby wakes; but little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.” That is a sweet sentiment, but it is completely false. Jesus cried at His birth just like any other baby. He wet and soiled his diapers, just like any other baby. He took nourishment from Mary’s breasts as any baby would from its mother. There was nothing miraculous in any of that.
The miracle was not in His birth, but in His incarnation as a zygote in a virgin’s womb. Skeptics challenge this on the impossibility of a virgin conceiving without the natural function of a man, but the impossibility of such a thing is what qualifies it as a “miracle.” Mary expressed the same concerns when the angel relayed the news of her impending pregnancy. The angel assured her that “with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). This was in keeping with and in the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy saying “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). Critics will point out that the Hebrew word translated “virgin” here is ‘almā, which strictly translated means “young woman.” However, the translators of the Septuagint translated the same Hebrew word into the Greek parthenos, which has no other meaning than “virgin.” This is the same Greek word that Matthew uses when he points to the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “Behold, a virgin [parthenos] shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
Another problem arises with Jesus’ lineage. He was prophesied to be in the line of David the king (2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16). This promise was confirmed to Mary by the angel Gabriel: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32). Matthew presents an ancestral line (Matthew 1:1-17) that disagrees with the ancestral line presented by Luke (Luke 3:23-38). Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph, His adoptive father. This line is the “legal” line to the throne of David; however, this line had been cursed by God at the time of Jehoiachin (Coniah) shortly before Judah fell to the Babylonian empire. Jeremiah records: “Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man [Coniah] childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah” (Jeremiah 22:30). Luke, on the other hand, records Jesus’ genealogy through Mary who takes a branch through Nathan, another son of David. This line escaped the curse.
That resolves the legality issue of Jesus’ right to David’s throne, but now we have another problem. Since the conception was “parthenogenetic,” that would imply that Jesus received at least part of His genes (His DNA) from Mary. Mary, being human, is under the curse of original sin, as we all are. That being the case, Jesus could not be the sinless sacrifice required to atone for our sin. The Roman Catholic Church recognized this dilemma early on and attempted to resolve the problem by proclaiming Mary sinless. To achieve this status, they further proclaimed that she was immaculately conceived, i.e., she too was virgin-born. That begs the question then, how was Mary immaculately conceived, if her mother had a sin nature? And what about her grandmother, and her great-grandmother, etc. If one follows that line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, one comes to Eve in the Garden of Eden, and it is generally accepted that Eve sinned. The solution cannot be in Mary’s sinless nature, for she, herself, was in need of a Savior. “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:46-47).
The truth is, that if one of Mary’s ova was used in the conception, Jesus would have inherited our sin nature. Even half of a sin nature is full of sin for “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). In his book, The Chemistry of the Blood (Zondervan, 1943), Dr. M. R. DeHann attempted to resolve this problem based on the idea that it is the blood that makes atonement for sin (Hebrews 9:22). He concluded that since the embryo develops its own blood, and since there is no blood exchanged between the embryo and its mother, therefore Jesus’ blood was sinless. At first sight, this may look like a good solution, however, the embryo develops its own blood based on the genes that it gets from its parents. There is no DNA in red blood cells, but there is DNA in an ovum, and Mary’s ova were contaminated.
The only reasonable solution that remains is that Jesus’ earthly body was a wholly (and yes, “holy”) and unique creation without the inherited sin nature of any human parent. Understandably, the objection immediately arises that He, therefore, could not really be considered fully human. To answer that objection, we must recall the creation of the “first Adam” (Genesis 1:27; 2:7). God created man from the dust of the ground, including his DNA. There was no human agent required for this process. It should not be a stretch, therefore, to accept that God created an entirely new body for the “Second Adam.” It should also not stretch the imagination, in our technological age, to understand that this new creation was implanted into Mary’s womb to be carried to term. Mary was the “surrogate” mother of Jesus. She contributed none of her DNA to give Him life, and therefore she contributed none of her sin nature. Mary’s little lamb was truly “without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19). Conceived in this way He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26), and because He developed in the womb from a zygote, He was “made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). Jesus understood this. Once …
While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother (Matthew 12:46-50)
There is substantial scriptural support for the argument that Jesus’ body was an entirely new creation. He “was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). Before His condescension, in conversation with His Father “he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me” (Hebrews 10:5). It was the Divine plan from the beginning that the Savior “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20) would come to be the ransom for our sin. Paul tells us that “The first man [Adam] is of the earth, earthy: the second man [Jesus] is the Lord from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:47). John tells us that “The Word was made flesh” (John 1:14). This is as it should be “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
The miracle was the incarnation, not the birth. It is an awesome thing to consider that the Creator of heaven and earth, would prepare for Himself a body of the same kind as His creation, begin life as a single human cell, go through the process of development in the womb of a virgin girl, pass through the birth canal, gasp for His first breath, grow up as a child and experience all the bumps and bruises of growing up, grow into manhood, only to give His life in the place of His fallen creation, so that we might experience life eternal with Him. Who could conceive such a plan except a loving God! It is too marvelous for words.
*NOTE: This article was inspired by my Sunday school teacher and friend, Henry M. Morris III, D.Min., in a lesson he presented to our class on December 16, 2012. Dr. Morris is CEO of the Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, Texas.