Talk:Virgin birth of Jesus/Archive 4

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Very Biased

I have to say, this is one of the most biased articles I've ever seen on Wikipedia, if not the most. Just in an hour I pointed out a lot of things from the Christian view and gave alternative links, but this page continually says Christian apologists say some things without ever actually presenting the Christian view. All over the place it says generalities about Christians and what they believe along with other things without ever citing sources. I've marked those spots but obviously this is all pretty badly researched. There's not nearly enough sources here, and I'll try to add more with time.

--Jzyehoshua 15:19, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

I find it biased that a search for "vrigin birth" redirects to the virgin birth of jesus. This article includes a small section about other historical characters attributed with a virgin birth at the bottom but I find it biased that their virgin birth doesn't get it's own article while jesus's does.--Matt D (talk) 21:34, 25 November 2007 (UTC)

You could help to create an article on virgin birth in general, if you think there is enough material. This article has always been mainly about the conception and birth of Jesus, which a lot has been written about. I suggested it should be renamed with its present name, as more accurate. There is also an article on miraculous birth, which is not in a very good state. Perhaps you might like to improve that. Itsmejudith (talk) 21:59, 25 November 2007 (UTC)
certainly I have no problem with this articles existance, just with the redirect. I'll add this to my to do list. Thanx--Matt D (talk) 23:23, 25 November 2007 (UTC)
I whipped up a disambig page at virgin birth. I think it's my first disambig page, so someone might want to check me. Leadwind (talk) 04:41, 26 November 2007 (UTC)
That should do the job. Thanks.--Matt D 23:32, 2 December 2007 (UTC)
The one problem with this is how you translate Roman 1:1-4 (περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυεὶδ κατὰ σάρκα) The word "σπέρματος" is more correctly translated 'seed' (as it is in the KJV) and in the 1st century CE a woman was regarded as the 'soil' into which a man planted his seed. In fact, if you put in σπέρματος into yahoo bablefish it will produce 'sperm' as the English translation and if you put the raw word in you not only get a reference to Romans 1:1-4 but several health articles regarding semen. The Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church states as far as Paul is concerned there is "No divine origin here, no miraculous birth, no virgin mother." The Religious Tolerance points out there were several places Paul could have been clear regarding a virgin birth and yet was not. Are the translators here being honest with us or they trying to shove preset views on the translations?--BruceGrubb (talk) 21:35, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

The Paul of Tarsus Section

In my one paragraph I pointed out something that contradicts the rest of what was already there, that Galatians 4:4 does in fact support the Virgin birth through Paul's writings. And in that one paragraph, I gave more sources then the rest of that section combined. Unless some sources are given showing critics actually believe this stuff, I will simply delete a lot of what is in that section.

There's no excuse for not having sources there on something so controversial. As it is, it looks like one person's reasoning and attempt at attacking a Christian doctrine. I expect to see some sources for the section soon.

Deleting Double Attestation Section

I am deleting this from the Double Attestation section:


The Virgin conception and birth is a tradition that fits within the criterion of multiple attestation, that is, the same event appears in two independent traditions (most scholars argue that the authors of Matthew and Luke worked independent of one another). For many historians, independent testimony is a significant evidence for the historical validity of a said event. Matthew and Luke are testifying to an event, the birth, about which there was a tradition, namely, that it resulted from a miraculous conception. That the conception itself was indeed miraculous appears to rest on a "single attestation", that of the Virgin Mary. The attestation of the angel to St Joseph on the miraculous nature of the conception would not be accepted by many scholars as historiographically valid.

Critics of the "double attestation" argument cite many "inconsistencies" between the accounts of Matthew and Luke regarding Jesus' birth[citation needed]. According to Matthew, Joseph was forewarned of the virgin birth by an unnamed angel; in Luke it is Mary who is notified of this by the angel Gabriel. Matthew tells us that Joseph and Mary were residents of Bethlehem who moved to Nazareth after Jesus' birth in order to avoid living under Archelaus: according to the better-known story in Luke the couple lived in Nazareth and only traveled to Bethlehem in order to comply with a Roman census. Luke mentions that Mary was the relative (cousin) of Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, has the new-born Jesus visited by shepherds, and mentions several long hymns uttered by various characters, such as Mary's Magnificat. None of this is mentioned by Matthew, who instead tells us of the visit of the Magi, the massacre of the innocents by Herod, and the flight into Egypt.

There are thus two rival explanations[citation needed] for the "double attestation" of Matthew and Luke regarding the virgin birth of Jesus:

The virgin birth was a historical event, and the stories of Matthew and Luke are based on different aspects and witnesses' accounts of it. Matthew and Luke both wanted to make Jesus fit prophecies from Hebrew scripture. Both authors were aware of the prophecies concerning virgin birth and Bethlehem, and therefore these elements of their stories match. But each author wove these prophecies into the overall narrative in a different way. For example, both authors had to explain how Jesus was born in Bethlehem when he was known to be from Nazareth (as mentioned in Mark's gospel) -- and each came up with a totally different explanation.


Here is the reasoning:

First of all, independent testimony by the "wise men" (and there is no reason to think it was three from a Biblical standpoint, it could have been any number including servants and others needed for the journey) as well as the shepherds (again of an unknown number) is involved here with the angel, making for a much larger "cloud of witnesses".

Secondly, the "inconsistencies" reveal themselves invalid. There is no reason to think the angel did not tell both Mary and Joseph. There is no reason to think both authors simply did not mention different parts of the story, a story which does not conflict. I.e. Joseph and Mary originally lived in Nazareth (said in Luke, Matthew does not say the location), moved to Bethlehem for the census (said in Luke, Matthew omits this detail), moved to Egypt to avoid Herod's historically evil reign as predicted in the Old Testament (said in Matthew, Luke simply sums this period up as "when they had performed all things according to the Law of the Lord" - Luke 2:49), and afterwards returned to Galilee and then to Nazareth (both Gospels attest to this, Matthew 2:22-23; Luke 2:49).

Also, I noticed the bulk of what is written here is found on another site:

Whichever one copies from the other, or whether the original author is the same, I don't know. It certainly seems suspicious though.

anon's comment

first of all, who is to say that she was actually a virgin? just because a book written 2007 years ago, the alleged "holy book" of all time, says it does? Who wrote the bible? corrupt men with bias opinions about the whole jesus incident. and who is holy enough to edit out all testements, paganists or christains? how do we know that the whole idea of religion is not some form of control set up by a group of wise men in order to create a standard of living for all beings? how do we know that the ruling church was not created and actually has no power on earth except what power the people feed it? religion is an idea, a utopia, much like heaven and hell. why do you think that everything has an equal and opposite? because god wanted it to be that way? absolutely not.. it is mother nature's way of balancing things out, making sure that no one thing would take over another. man created god as a gateway to create a rule over earth, a way to make everyone behave in the fear of god.—The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 22:27, 17 May 2007.

What you have written here is called an opinion. If you are critical of the subject of a virgin birth, as a whole, then you should have addressed it. Instead, you express an opinion about God. You explain the concept of God as a supream being, as is the view of the majority of the human race, with your opinion that God was created by man as a way to keep other men in line? Interesting hypothesis. Yet, you list nothing in the way of facts or links to those facts. For that matter, you did not sign your opinion so as to make your self available to defend your opinion?

Your "opinion" as well as my opinion of your opinion don't have any place in this argument. But then that's why they are called opinions. S.Lefebvre

don't feed the trolls... it reads like a drunk post. you only have to get 2 sentences into it, to realize that it was not a well thought argument. ie, the bible being written 2007 years ago. 01:45, 10 August 2007 (UTC)

Bad Virgin Definition

This article defines the word "virgin" as "without the participation of a human father" which broadens the definition of the word "virgin" beyond its usual definition. At least the strained definition of the word "virgin" merits mention of its strained usage so that readers would be alerted to the fact that they are being misled by the language.

The dictionary defines "virgin" as "4 a: a person who has not had sexual intercourse" or "5: a female animal that has never copulated" and using techniques gained from artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilization, it is certainly possible to create a pregnancy in a human female without her engaging in sexual intercourse or copulation. But there must still be at least a sperm donor (or an embryo donor). What does the word "virgin" come to mean if a woman becomes pregnant under such circumstances as these, without any touching of her genital regions (through laproscopy, for instance)?

As a result of the above, I take strong exception to the phrase "Modern biology has long ruled out the possibility of a virgin birth," which stands on two unjustified premises; one, the strained definition of "virgin" discussed above; and two, the unjustified assertion that parthenogenesis is impossible in humans. This is really interesting given that the first line of the article refers to that phenomena: "For the biological phenomenon of female-only reproduction, see Parthenogenesis" with the appropriate link:

I have fact-tagged the statement; given the recent discovery of parthenogenesis in sharks, the biological impossibility of it occuring in humans is questionable. Hgilbert 11:31, 23 May 2007 (UTC)
As I understand it, even if a virgin birth was possible in humans it would result in a female- since the mother could not create the neccesary Y chromosone needed for a male. This means that either Jesus was female, or he wasn't born by a natural virgin birth. I'm not sure why this matters though- the same story talks about visiting angels after all, and the whole thing was prophesised (according to the Bible), both of which are unknown in modern science. As such, it surely doesn't matter whether a virgin birth in humans is really possible- it was supposed to be an intervention by God. It is also worth noting that our modern definition of virgin is not necessarily the same as that of the authors- according to Geza Vermes book 'The Nativity', virgin could also meant 'a female who has not menstruated'. Since women at the time were often married before 1st menstruation, it would be possible to become pregnant without actually menstruating and so while still a 'virgin'. Fropome 14:58, 30 July 2007 (UTC)

If I have understood the human female reproductive system correctly, the onset of menstruation is a sign that the female body in question has started ovulating. Until ovulation commences, and thus also menstruation, it is quite simply not possible for a female child to become pregnant. However, this is all really quite irrelevant, since this entire article is based on the fallacy of FAITH and religious BELIEF, and any attempt to put forward a different point of view is quite simply erased by someone else. Tell me, if Jesus was the "seed of David" in direct patrilinear descent, through Joseph, how can his "real" father be the "Holy Ghost"? Either the biological father of Jesus was Joseph, in which case it is possible that Jesus was a direct descendant of David, or the father of Jesus was a supernatural entity, in which case Jesus was NOT the "seed of David", as he, Jesus, was not the biological son of Joseph. You cannot have it both ways! There is a glaring contradiction here in certain people´s reasoning. The real problem, of course, is that FAITH is one thing, and actual, verifiable PROOF is another thing altogether; the two are irreconcilable, as they exist, as it were, in two entirely different spheres. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Borsey379 (talkcontribs) 23:45, 20 September 2007 (UTC) Sorry. I forgot to sign my contribution, so here is my signature: Borsey379 16:03, 21 September 2007 (UTC)

regarding what Fropome said about a virgin being "someone who hasn't menstruated" (the supposed definition of virgin in those days), well... it doesn't just say that she's a virgin in Luke, according to that gospel, Mary herself says, "How can this be, seeing I know not a man?", knowing a man being a general term in those days for having been sexually active... so, Fropome's argument really doesn't work in this case, since the gospel that is being refuted, has the main character say that she "hasn't known a man", making her a virgin in the sense that we understand virgin today...
If you're going to go into that much detail, then I should point out that the relevant bit of Luke doesn't make narrative sense. Think about it- Mary is pledged to be married. An angel appears and says she's going to have a child who will be "great" etc- why does she ask "how will this be"? Wouldn't she assume that it will be Joseph's child? If the passage isn't word-for-word what was said then you have to accept that her phrase 'since I know not a man' could originally have been 'since I am a virgin'- some translations give it as such (e.g. New International). As I say though, I don't see how any of this is relevant since the event is presented as a miracle- why should it be scientifically plausable? Why can't God have just made it happen? Fropome 14:38, 13 November 2007 (UTC)
Borsey 379... firstly, a woman-child can get pregnant... ... and, the thing about Jesus being "son of David" and "Son of God" can still be reconciled in a variety of ways... Mary could've been related to Joseph somehow, also, in those days ancestry was done completely through the side of the legal father (Joseph being the legal father of Jesus, but not the biological father)... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:05, 18 October 2007 (UTC)

Virgin Birth

The concept of a "Virgin Birth" is found throughout the religions of the world, and is not an exclusive Christian doctrine; to present it as such serves as a great disservice to our readers. —Viriditas | Talk 02:19, 25 May 2007 (UTC)

The context of Jesus is also rather biased - it is said that there is no Hebrew tradition of virgin birth in stories, making Jesus unique. However there is a long tradition of Roman Emperors being given Virgin Births (without negating their inheritance of the title of Emperor from their father, oddly enough), and since Christianity began under Roman rule, the story of Jesus actually did begin in a culture where any great leader was given the status of Virgin birth. Sad mouse 04:35, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Very interesting. Do you have a source for these ideas? Itsmejudith 08:52, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
These are no ideas, these are facts. Virgin birth is a common religious myth and there are hundreds if not thousands accounts of it worldwide. The only places this myth does not appear are Judaism and in Japan. Totally horrible article, but no use editing against such bigotry as a "Series about Jesus" Viandehachée 19:35, 15 July 2007 (UTC)
If you don't like the article, please improve it with sourced material. If there are hundreds of thousands of accounts - we only need a few! Itsmejudith 21:28, 15 July 2007 (UTC)
See, you are such a bigoted religious believer that you manage to grotesquely misquote what I said right in the next sentence! You could simply check the other language editions of WP, the Germans for ex. have at least a concise summary of global "virgin birth" myths. I also believe that a "Series about Jesus" is a gross violation of WP policy, so I don't see a reason to support this kind of religious propaganda / proselytizing at all. Viande hachée 15:16, 17 July 2007 (UTC)
Bigoted religious believer, no mate, not me mate. I was only trying to be encouraging. Sorry for trying. No, because I assume good faith, I'll carry on. I don't read German well enough to do what you ask, but no problem. You can ask the translation service to translate the German bit for us. And what policy is a series about Jesus a violation of? There's a series about Muhammad, a series about Marxism. The point is to inform people, whatever their point of view or ours. By the way, I was the editor who moved the mention of non-Christian accounts into the lead. Itsmejudith 17:23, 17 July 2007 (UTC)
      • There is a very real problem with a series about Jesus and Christianity, as opposed to, say, a series about Karl Marx and Marxism, or Muhammed and Islam. It is indisputable fact that Marx was a real, historical person, and moreover, he published numerous writings about his views on capitalism, the social hierarchy and the plight of the working classes in an industrialized society. It appears also to be the case that Muhammed was an actual, historical person who wrote down his many "visions" and alleged messages from Allah. With respect to Jesus, however, there is serious doubt that the person Jesus described in the gospels was an actual, historical person. There are a great many contradictions in the gospels and also actual, verifiable factual flaws, e.g. the story of the nativity features at least three serious errors. The so-called "Star of Bethlehem" was, according to the British physicist/astronomer David Hughes, a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the sign of Pisces, which occurred seven years B.C.(i.e. prior to the year when Jesus was allegedly born). Hughes also cites a Roman inscription in present-day Turkey, according to which the tax census which, it is claimed, occurred at the time of the birth of Jesus, in actual fact was held seven years B.C. (ref. "The Star of Bethlehem Mystery" by David Hughes, 1979) Another problem with respect to the so-called Star of Bethlehem, is that there is ONLY the one, single, solitary mention of this astronomical phenomenon, and that is in the gospels. There are NO other written records of any such astronomical manifestation taking place at, or around, that time in history, according to the eminent British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore. (ref.

One would have thought that such a spectacular heavenly display would have been commented upon, in writing, by other people alive at the time, e.g. by Arab astronomers. Moreover, King Herod, who was an actual, historical person, during whose reign Jesus is said to have been born, in point of fact died four years B.C.(ref. "Herod the Great", article on Wikipedia, states "The scholarly consensus, based on Josephus´ ´Antiquities of the Jews´ is that Herod died ... 4BC.") Thus, Jesus cannot have been born in the year one. Furthermore, either Jesus was the "seed of David", and the biological son of Joseph, in which case Jesus is NOT the son of God, ORItalic text Jesus was the son of a supernatural entity called the "Holy Ghost", in which case Jesus is not the biological son of Joseph and thus NOT the "seed of David". He CANNOTBold text be both, simultaneously. There is also the fact that there are contradictions between Matthew´s version of the nativity story and Luke´s version of the same. The REAL, MAIN problem with this series is, that faith and religious belief on the one hand, and actual, verifiable fact on the other hand, are irreconcilable. The two exist in separate dimensions, as it were. I wish to point out here, that I do not object to faith, to religious belief per se, but a religious faith cannot, by definition, be presented as factual and verifiable. Yet another problem with a series about Jesus is, that there is a noticeable tendency for contributors who are Christians themselves to back up their arguments by quoting the Bible. I am afraid, that this quite simply will not do. You CANNOT defend an argument by quoting the very text, and the very argument, that you are trying to defend. In order for something to be verifiably true, it has to be proven to be true OUTSIDE the system itself! Borsey379 15:57, 21 September 2007 (UTC) 20:53, 22 September 2007 (UTC)Borsey379 21:06, 22 September 2007 (UTC)

In "Good News Bible", the last lines in 'Outlining History' are " The present era was calculated to begin with the birth of Jesus Christ, that is, in A.D. 1 . However, the original calculation was later found to be wrong by a few years, so that in fact the birth of Jesus Christ took place about six years "before Christ" . So it was not the error in bible but it was error by historians in calculating the exact year. Anyway the things which were happened at the time of birth of Jesus Christ are sequentially correct but whole events are shifted by some 6 or 7 years. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:35, 28 May 2008 (UTC)

LATER: Indeed, there is NO mention of the actual number of wise men in the gospel section that deals with the nativity. In the authorized version of the Bible, in the gospel according to Matthew, it simply says "behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,", and whenever the subject is mentioned in subsequent verses, they are simply referred to as "the wise men" without any reference to the actual number. 20:53, 22 September 2007 (UTC) Borsey379 21:06, 22 September 2007 (UTC)

Oh, please. This is not the place for discussions about whether the Christian beliefs are true or not. All we need to do is describe what the concept of the virgin birth is. No-one is interested in whether you, Borsey, are convinced or not. Itsmejudith 22:20, 22 September 2007 (UTC)
Just wanted to point out that the phrase ".Behold, a virgin shall conceive,..." could simply mean that the woman in question WAS a virgin, right up until copulation and conception. Just a thought. (Ohnhai, 11:59pm 6/10/2007) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:01, 6 October 2007 (UTC)
Up until conception? In any case, interpretation of Is 7:14 is secondary in relation to what is stated in Mt and Lk. Lima 14:31, 6 October 2007 (UTC)
Hmmmmmmmm... the Virgin Birth story does too appear in Japan ^__^ Buddha's mommy, Maya, is a Virgin :D (of course, there's some debate about this among us Buddhists, but I was raised to think that)... and, about the above comment regarding regular intercourse with a virgin resulting in conception, I don't see what kind of a "sign" that would be... popping a girl's cherry and her consequent pregnancy isn't really a sign at all... lol... it might've happened to my mom! that wouldn't make her special or make my older sister a "sign" :D... i also don't get how a young woman conceiving (especially in that time period!) would be a sign... just my own thoughts on this controversial subject ^__^ —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:54, 13 October 2007 (UTC)

Unsourced, Double attestation

The "Double attestation" section is completely unsourced and sounds like original research. I'd propose a complete rewrite. John P. Meier covers the virgin birth from a historical perspective, and mentions the criterion of multiple attestation, so I wouldn't mind writing a paragraph or two summarizing Meier (I have a few other books to use as sources as well). I'd also propose renaming the section to something like "Historicity". Before I'm BOLD, what do others think?-Andrew c [talk] 16:01, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

I think you should go ahead. User:Kushal_one -- 02:54, 20 August 2007 (UTC)

This section is without merit. The material contrasting the two accounts represents valuable work, but it's out of context. A table summarizing how the accounts tally and differ (not just differ) would be a nice way to present useful information. I'm going to comment out the section but not delete it because there's still good information there. Leadwind (talk) 05:08, 26 November 2007 (UTC)
If you follow the link to Criterion of multiple attestation you will see Andrew's (and others') recently created summary of Meier (and others). Double attestation is a POV and far too specific heading. I agree with Andrew that Historicity is a short, sweet, simple heading, that allows for the current content, while inviting the POV of critics (which is, in fact, already briefly mentioned). I note also that Historicity presumes the fundamental criticism "did X actually happen?"
I agree that both the current section and the other article can be improved in many ways. However, unless we are to exclude criticism of the Christian view, we cannot exclude Christian response. It's not as though the debate contains endless permutations as in some other issues, there's space for both. Literary arguments for independence of sources are certainly complex and ultimately indecisive, so I think it is smart to move the complexity to an article on the general principle, while retaining a summary here.
I'm a Christian who believes the VB happened, but I find the multiple attestation argument personally unpersuasive. I also think it sounds pathetic and weak in many public contexts. I'd love for it to be censored from the article. However, I have to face the fact that people have argued and published a coherent set of possible explanations. I can respect that, and I can respect the people for whom such details are important questions.
I particularly appreciate your approach to dealing with the section ... using comment rather than delete. However, the two are pretty similar. Deletions can be recovered from the history, and comments don't display. Broadly speaking, the text that stands is in various books, it's a matter of pointing to some of the best ones (citations are needed), and presenting a logical summary of the whole point (it's too lopsided, there are both similarities and differences). Both these are serious issues I think we all agree on.
Finally, a fun part of issues like the similarity-difference issue is that both are needed by both POVs. Christians need the accounts to be sufficiently different to be independent, but sufficiently similar to be saying the same thing. Critics need the accounts to be sufficiently similar to be refering to the same event, but sufficiently different for the event, rather than the reference to become questionable. I think we need to keep this section in proportion, it's hardly the strongest argument against the VB, nor the strongest for it.
Have I missed your point? Alastair Haines (talk) 07:14, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

Additional information on the science of virgin birth in humans

I am withdrawing the following suggestion for an edit, because I cited the first study incorrectly. It is about chimerization of a parthenote and a normally fertilized zygote, not two parthenotes. Dave c 03:11, 20 September 2007 (UTC)

The following information should be added to this article:

Regarding imprinting: A 1995 study demonstrated that parthenogenetic chimerism, in which two parthenotes merge to form a single blastocyst, can result in viable human offspring. Apparently, the difference in the genetic material between any two parthenotes is sufficient for imprinting, so that genes that allow an embryo to grow are expressed. See Wikipedia article on chimerism and Nature abstract on parthenogenetic chimerism study

Regarding the supposed impossibility of male parthenogenetic offspring: It's possible, although extremely rare, for an apparently normal human male to have no Y-chromosome. A March 2006 Oxford Journals article discusses an XX male who exhibits complete masculinization in the absence of any Y-chromosome-derived genetic material: Oxford Journals article

--Dave c 04:14, 19 September 2007 (UTC)

In any case, the article shouldn't go into any detail of the science, as it is clear from the beginning that it refers to the religious/supernatural concept. Info from relevant research papers can usefully be added to parthenogenesis. Thanks. Itsmejudith 15:57, 20 September 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the advice, Judith. Although I'm not pushing for inclusion of the above, because it's not accurate, I disagree with your premise. The article already includes a definitive statement on the science of parthenogenesis as it relates to the birth of Christ, along with a footnote to an external article, so it opens itself for additional information on that subject within context. If what I was proposing was good information, it should either have been added here, or the existing statement should have been removed, because it would then have been inaccurate. But this is, of course, a moot point. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Dave c (talkcontribs) 01:29, 21 September 2007 (UTC)
It should probably be noted that some religions (maybe most), Christianity among them, claim to deal with facts not legends. When they do so, they do not have special immunity from scrutiny for their truth claims, on the grounds of some kind of religious exemption. I would be very biased to say Muslims "affirm commitment to a shared vocabulary of discourse that involves a human male, traditionally known as Mahommet, receiving wisdom from a purportedly divine being, this wisdom normally being accepted, in the tradition, as being the Arabic form of the text of the Qur'an, in it's current recension, as though transmission of the text had passed without corruption from the presumed 'revelation'." This is probably an accurate description of members of cultures influenced by Islam, who are not, in fact, members of the religion, but rather a closely related culture. It is assuming too much to suppose that ancient Egyptians believed Isis to be a real supernatural power, however, it is also assuming too much to suppose that they did not. In all likelihood some did and some didn't.
Having said all that, I think there's a strong case to say, in popular culture, the virgin birth of Jesus is a reference to a Christian belief, now largely considered legendary within cultures historically influenced by Christianity. References to it are sometimes made during traditional Christmas festivities, which are themselves a legacy of Christian influence in Europe and former European colonies. This is, of course, the majority POV, all the more reason for a VB in popular culture section in this particular article. Cheers. Alastair Haines (talk) 07:41, 26 November 2007 (UTC)
This article should contain something, but almost nothing, on the science of human parthenogenesis. A section with a sentence or two, just enough to point you in the right direction. Leadwind (talk) 15:31, 26 November 2007 (UTC)
Hmm. I'm not convinced it's needed at all. If we were discussing "if Muhammad will not go to the mountain, then the mountain must come to Muhammad", would we need to add a sentence explaining that mountains do not usually displace themselves in response to human requests? Itsmejudith (talk) 15:38, 26 November 2007 (UTC)
Nice one Judith. Peter Singer did some research into it for the sake of examining reproductive ethics. Found that while I was trying to establish some of the basic data. It is possible to have XX males, but I can't remember if parthenogenesis in Homosapiens has been shown to be possible in principle yet. Fascinating if true, but probably, as you say, irrelevant to the discussion.
But it would be sooo refreshing to have the possibility of the argument — "virgin birth is a 1 in 100 billion long shot", if Jesus of Nazareth was born of a virgin, it would explain all the hoo haa, and be the example par excellance of the God of the gaps reflex in human thinking. No wonder he thought he was special, he was, but not impossibly special, an absolute rarity, and probably a genius, but inexplicable without divine intervention? No.
I can imagine the headlines:
  • Christianity explained!
  • Scientists show virgin birth happened.
  • Divine involvement myth busted!
But seriously, I'd like some of the biology, I'm only half joking about the possible relevance of the science. It wouldn't actually prove things either way, but it sure stirs up the thinking. And people don't have to read it if they don't want to. Alastair Haines (talk) 16:04, 26 November 2007 (UTC)
Judith, you're probably right that there's no reason for any scientific material. Here's my proposal: find out what experts say about Jesus' virgin birth and say that. If they talk about biology, talk about biology. If they don't, don't. Short version: until someone cites biological information in a reliable source about Jesus' virgin birth, leave it off the page. Leadwind (talk) 03:33, 27 November 2007 (UTC)

I would have thought that's precisely what Dave c was doing.

Isaiah 7:12 has Ahaz saying "I will not put the Lord to the test". As many expert commentators note, to render 'almah by "young woman" requires no miracle whatever. The miraculous nature of the birth is part of the expert exegesis of the biblical passages relevant to the VB.

Luke 1:34 has, "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" She is answered in v37. "For nothing is impossible with God."

One of the major issues that strikes the editors that see this article as biased in its current revision is that it is dominated minority exegetical view points and the published defeaters of those views. This is undue attention to a detail of the discussion. The vast majority of discussion of the VB is as one of several miraculous claims of the Bible. Yet there is little or no treatment of the literature on that.

Personally, I'm not fussed. My personal interest is in language and exegesis. However, I'm honest enough to admit that this article is currently dominated by this rather narrow area of scholarship that I enjoy immensely.

The topic is not rocket science, though current discussion makes it appear so. We need some good old bread and butter apologetics treatment of the subject, and Dave c is quite right that biology is part of that discussion. Virgins can't have babies, or can they? What does modern science say? Alastair Haines (talk) 04:18, 27 November 2007 (UTC)

OK, find an expert who agrees with you and addresses science as part of a description of Jesus' virgin birth. Lacking such an expert, no biology. Leadwind (talk) 04:41, 27 November 2007 (UTC)

Here are half a million google hits on "virgin+birth+jesus+miracle+science".[1] The first page is full of sites addressing the apologetics questions from for or against positions. In pre-internet days we could argue forever about what other people talk about. Rather wonderfully, now we can get instant feedback on popular culture. Among the half million hits will be plenty of expert opinions pro and con.

You are asking the most important question regarding this article — what particular issues related to it are notable, i.e. covered in sufficient reliable sources that we have material from which to report knowledge. You question whether the biology of parthenogenesis is notable. Good question. Clear answer. The text of the Bible itself engages with it, and the internet still discusses it, probably in the order of millions of references.

I'm a bit confused, I'm humbly following a lot of noise out there, some of it made by experts. Which experts are you following that say biology is not relevant to the interpretation of the Bible on this issue, or to the history of debate regarding it? Alastair Haines (talk) 06:52, 27 November 2007 (UTC)

Nobody is saying that the biology of parthenogenesis is not notable. It is covered in the article parthenogenesis. The question is whether saying anything about the biological facts will shed any light on the Virgin Birth of Jesus. I think it's unlikely that it will. The Virgin Birth of Jesus is a question discussed in Christian theology and to a lesser extent in Islamic theology. We should therefore look for the best books and articles by reputable theologians to inform the content of this article. Itsmejudith (talk) 07:59, 27 November 2007 (UTC)
Alastair, just find a reliable source and ccite it. Looks like a reliable source will be easy to find. I don't care whether the material's on this page; I only care that this page follows the lead of experts. Find an expert that says what you want to say and cite them. Leadwind (talk) 14:45, 27 November 2007 (UTC)

Thanks, for the invitation to provide sourced text. ;) Actually, I've got no particular thing I wish to say in the article. If I get back to it, there are things other than biology I'd give attention to — a history of interpretation of the gospel passages, for example. Additional context from the Old Testament would help. Naturally I'd be providing stuff from my favourite dudes like Augustine and Calvin, I'd also be curious to scout out Jehovah's Witness and Mormon discussion. Then there's the legion of atheists who interpret the Bible extremely well.

Personally, I rarely contribute text unless it's sourced. I don't like wasting my time. If it's not sourced, it'll go. Mind you, my approach irritates people, for precisely the reason that if they don't like what sources I provide say, it's jolly hard to do much about it. Doesn't stop them going for the messenger instead mind you. ;) How I love this system. he he.

On this talk page, all I wanted to do was argue that biology has a place if people want to document reliable sources from the neutral POV. In this case the only contribution I felt moved to make was a talk page comment. I actually agree, biology is not a major feature of the topic, but it is there implicitly and people will ask for it again. I think it helps if there's discussion like the one we've had. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Alastair Haines (talkcontribs) 20:08, 27 November 2007 (UTC)

Agreed that there's plenty to do on this page before anyone finds a reliable source for a scientific angle. The lead, for example, could use some help. Leadwind (talk) 06:06, 30 November 2007 (UTC)

Suggestion: Change Title

I think perhaps this page would be better served if its title were changed to Virgin Birth (Christianity). The single reference to virgin birth outside of Christian Mythology completely devolves into a discussion of whether or not pagans influenced this Christian Myth. If this page isn't going to reflect the virgin birth concept in a fair an unbiased manner, then it should indicate the context of this article clearly, in the title. Cheers. webbj74 23:02, 1 October 2007 (UTC)

Or it could be entitled Virgin Birth of Jesus and then the Islamic belief in this could be noted. Itsmejudith 07:28, 2 October 2007 (UTC)
I support this last suggestion, which would clearly indicate what the article is really about: a specific virgin birth, not virgin birth generically even within one belief system. Lima 08:44, 2 October 2007 (UTC)
Does Virgin Birth of Jesus comply with Wikipedia standards better than, say, Virgin Birth (Jesus of Nazareth)? Thanks for the replies, have people working on the Christianity Portal had a chance to respond yet? webbj74 17:06, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
I think it quite certainly does comply better, especially since the article on Jesus of Nazareth is titled Jesus. Lima 18:06, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
Unless some objection is raised within the next few days, I think it is time to make Itsmejudith's proposed change of title to "Virgin Birth of Jesus". Lima 07:35, 7 October 2007 (UTC)
It's just over a full week since Itsmejudith proposed the change. Nobody has objected. Here goes. Lima 12:04, 9 October 2007 (UTC)

Biological father

I take issue with the phrase "biological father" in that the concept of each parent giving half of their DNA to the offspring is a modern concept. I searched the Qur'an and could not find the word "biological" anywhere in it, so the section on the Qur'an seems improperly translated/worded. If someone could site the portions of the Qur'an that call Jesus "Isa ibn Maryam", that would help readers verify the info, and also help us find a more appropriate wording than "biological father". Also, I removed the sentence about Christians too believe that Jesus had no biological father. because a) the citation Lima give did not use the word "biological" once and b) the sentence is poorly placed, poorly written. Please look at the organization of the lead. It starts off with a one sentence definition. Then describes various myths then focuses in the most common use in Christianity and Islam. It goes on to describe biological aspects of the concept. After that, it describes Christian belief. After that it has a sentence about Muslim belief. It makes no sense to throw in another one sentence paragraph discussing Christian belief again. I believe the paragraph in the lead that focuses on Christian belief should be sufficient. If users feel it needs to be expanded fine, but I would object to reinserting the exact phrase "biological father" without a better citation and some qualification. I think it's fine to say things like "Christians believe Jesus was born from the virgin Mary through a miracle of the Holy Spirit." However, the concept of "biological fatherhood" is not substantiated biblically. -Andrew c [talk] 14:41, 21 October 2007 (UTC)

"Biological father" is a modern term and of course is not found either in the Bible or the Qur'an. (If you want to see what the Qur'an says of Jesus, look up this site.) What it means - and in the past this was expressed in less scientific terms by phrases such as passing on one's blood (blue or otherwise!) to one's children - is not only not substantiated, but is actually excluded by both the Bible and the Qur'an with regard to the relationship between God the Father and Jesus. Without having to use the term, both Scriptures implicitly exclude the idea of "biological father".
Other post-Biblical concepts, such as the Trinity, can also be applied to the relationship between God and Jesus, to see whether they fit or do not fit the Scriptural data.
The article has now unfortunately been returned to seemingly insinuating that Christians do believe that God is the biological father of Jesus. For once again it says that Moslems do not believe God is the biological father of Jesus and that they do not call Jesus the son of God, while at the same time saying that Christians call Jesus the Son of God. Does that not lead readers to suppose (unjustifiedly) that, as Christians disagree with Moslems about the phrase "son of God", they also disagree about the denial that God is the biological father of Jesus?
For Moslems the notion of "son of God" is what we would now call biological, and so they exclude the phrase. For Christians the notion is not biological and so they do use the phrase. Neither faith considers that God is what we now call the biological father of Jesus.
In relation to Jesus, the notion of biological fatherhood should be mentioned as excluded either by both faiths or by neither. It should not be mentioned as excluded by Moslems alone, as if Christians accepted it.
Please fix the article. Lima 16:23, 21 October 2007 (UTC)
To say that Jesus "had no natural human father" does not reflect the idea of Moslems: they want to exclude the idea that even God is the father of Jesus in the common sense of being someone's father; to exclude not only the idea that Jesus had a "natural human father" (your phrase), but also the idea that Jesus had any father, even divine. I can think of no better expression than "in the biological sense" as a way of softening the original "biological father", while keeping the quite valid idea of whoever put the latter phrase in. Perhaps you will find a better expression. Christian tradition too holds that God is not the father of Jesus in the biological sense. We don't have to look for the word "biological father" in the Bible or the Qur'an: we just have to ask ourselves whether God was Jesus' father in what we today call the biological sense.
Your change now leaves hanging the opening "Because ..." clause, since you have added a full stop, turning it into a sentence with no main clause. Lima 16:07, 22 October 2007 (UTC)
Sorry about the fragmented sentence. It was quite a doozy, and hopefully the current version is less verbose. Making any implied assumptions about what the Qur'an says regarding Jesus' father is original research without a citation, so I have removed the reference to Jesus' father. I think it's straight forward to just mention what is in the Qur'an. I have also added a sentence regarding the Christian tradition to the paragraph on the Christian views. Comments?-Andrew c [talk] 16:39, 22 October 2007 (UTC)
The Qur'an itself (112:3) says that God has begotten no son: "Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begetteth not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him." That is in the Qur'an. Quoting it is not Original Research in the specific Wikipedia sense. Lima 16:57, 22 October 2007 (UTC)

This is not a good comparison

Apart from stories of births resulting from sexual intercourse by a god in human or animal form,[3] there were some prior beliefs about virgin birth.[citation needed]

Virgin birth occurs frequently in pre-Christian mysticism,[citation needed] and stories of the impregnation of mortal women by gods are common in pagan mythology, including the then well-known story of Hercules, born to Alkmene by the god Zeus, who took her husband's form to have sexual relations with her.

I understand the obsession these days of trying to link all of Christianity with Pagan beliefs, but comparing Zeus' adultorous activities that led to Hercules with the Virgin birth of Jesus Christ is just ridiculous. If Zeus has "sexual relations" with a woman and even "takes the form of her husband" that implies that there was no virgin birth, duh!!! I do not believe God replicated this. This must be removed as its a contradiction - Zeus' sexual intercourse with a woman is not an example of how a virgin birth comes about!!! Tourskin 20:47, 28 October 2007 (UTC)

The text tries to make two points (I did not write it, I am just explaining it):
  1. there are a few rare examples of myths of virgin births that predate the New Testament [which is actually a fairly recent set of documents]
  2. there are many examples of myths of gods having children with mortal women.
The text is making the point that neither 1. virgin birth nor 2. divine-human coupling were new ideas in the New Testament.
Personally, I believe Jesus was born of a virgin.
Note that anyone who argues that people easily believed myths like virgin births in the 1st century, has the typical arrogant modern view that ancient people were ignorant. The New Testament makes it clear that Joseph thought Mary pregnant in the normal way. Also, John's gospel contains a passage where the pharisees imply Jesus didn't know who his real father was. Despite other mythologies, people in Jesus' day found the virgin birth as hard to believe as modern people do.
Even a casual reading of ancient mythology in comparison with Matthew and Luke shows the latter quote sources to verify that what they are writing is history. Ancient myths are typically poetic, or adopt the "once upon a time" approach.
The point of the virgin birth in Christianity is that Jesus is both Son of God and Son of David, not that it was a great miracle to test our faith, resurrection is plenty good enough for that, and also significant for the point it establishes — with God, death is not final.
The text is true, and does not disprove the New Testament. Alastair Haines 22:29, 28 October 2007 (UTC)
Ok thanks. The text to me is unclear but you explained it so whatever. I also beleive in the virgin birth. Tourskin 20:05, 29 October 2007 (UTC)

Good quote, poor interpretation

The current text of the article is very deficient in its understanding of the excellent quote under Antecedents.

The quote gives the very strong argument that Ugaritic provides evidence that Isaiah's alamah would naturally raise an association with betulah; and if this is so, it would be a point likely known well via oral traditions of interpretation and explain the NT comfort with the rendering parthenos.

The quote provides excellent evidence that those who have claimed that parthenos over-translated alamah, are on slippery ground. Ugaritic is independent confirmation that alamah was considered parallel to betulah in NW Semitic dialects. How do we know it is independent ... because it's older than Genesis claims to be!

How is the age of the Ugaritic relevant to the argument in the quote? By demonstrating independence! What is before cannot depend on what is later. alamah || betulah cannot be a Jewish and or Christian "conspiracy" because this parallel existed before Abraham was born!

The suggestion made in the Wiki commentary, that the propositional content of Old or New Testament is simply passing on a preceding idea is mentioned nowhere in the quote. It is unsourced POV, irrelevant to the quote that introduces it.

It's not surprising the writer makes no such suggestion, because is a very unlikely speculation. The Ugaritic has only one word in common with Isaiah, and one translated word in common with the NT. One word in common does not literary dependence make!

Now, if you want examples of ancient near eastern texts that are incorporated holus bolus (a technical term in secondary school playgrounds, meaning in toto), the final chapters of Proverbs actually cite their non-Israelite sources!

Other places in the Bible quote ancient sources, modify them or allude to them. It's no secret. However, if Wiki wishes to make comparisons between biblical and extra-biblical literature, it needs to be providing sourced analysis of differences as well as similarities, and sourced analysis of the significance of both kinds of relationship. Why is it similar, why is it dissimilar? There is abundant good material arguing contrary positions in some cases, and consensus beyond any religious tradition in others.

I will be removing the uncited commentary shortly, and replacing it with a clear restatement of the source's excellent and important argument. Please step up quickly if anyone has a relibable source that can rescue the current commentary. Alastair Haines 04:29, 29 October 2007 (UTC)

Translation error?

It is my impression that "virgin" translates from "almah," and is really "young woman." From Christopher Hitchens, "God is Not Great, " page 115. Sahansdal 18:53, 29 October 2007 (UTC)

Read the quote from the source in the article.
Point 1: Parthenos means whatever Homer and Plato thought it meant, not what Isaiah thought it meant. Likewise the meanings of almah and betulah can also be traced by reference to literature independent of the Bible.
Point 2: The Bible, like any other users of language, adapt and use it for their own purposes. Context can often tell us how biblical writers understood their words. In the case of parthenos in Matthew, context tells us he intended "virgin". In the case of Isaiah, context is not alone sufficient to determine the question.
Finally, the difference between biblical almah and betulah is not "unmarried women not a virgin" and "unmarried woman who is". Almah means "young woman (who is probably a virgin, but her virginity is not our concern her age is)".
The source quoted in the text goes further than what I say here, suggesting virginity may be more strongly an association of almah, especially in poetry. This is no surprise, Bibliotheca Sacra, where the source was published is a top-notch journal produced by a conservative seminary.
What surprises me is Wiki editorial quoting conservative scholarship, to suggest it implies the bible narrative has literary dependence on prior material. Plenty believe that, but not the source quoted. Alastair Haines 23:38, 29 October 2007 (UTC)


I must say, the bias of this article is actually entertaining. One of the best arguments I know against the reliability of the Bible and hence against Christianity is that the Bible claims something as ridiculously implausible as a virgin birth, and that Christianity swallows that whole. If I was anti-Bible and anti-Christian, I'd stand back and give the other side lots of rope to go ahead and hang themselves by asserting their outlandish views.

Or take another approach, perhaps the POV being put forward here is that Christianity ought to be based on the Bible, but Christians have not understood their own book. That's a position that needs extremely weighty sources, when you have thousands of quality analysts studying that book for two millenia and asserting it claims virgin birth. Christians have a hard enough time maintaining credibility with the resurrection, I can't imagine them twisting things to make it harder for themselves. But let's just stick to the Wiki rules, providing an interpretation of the Bible that differs with the almost unanimous bulk of interpreters is just plain WP:UNDUE.

Ah! But no, someone cries, the Christians are all biased, 99% of sources can be discarded -- they read it that way because they believe it. Oh really? Who says? Sorry, common sense says they believe it because they read it, not vice versa. I say give Wiki readers the source text, the POVs and let them decide for themselves.

Finally, the best possible explanation I can think of for motivating the drift of this essay would be a conservative Jewish position, saying the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled in the life of the prophet or soon after, when a young woman had a child. Perhaps some argue it was fulfilled with the Hasmonean dynasty. Actually, I think there is a lot of credibility in that line of argument, but it is not ultimately inconsistant with Matthew, Luke, Galatians, Church Fathers, Catholics, Orthodox or Reformers. It could have been fulfilled in a literal way, but then again later in a more spectacular way. I'd love names of conservative Jewish scholars who took the first line, though, I'd trust them as reliable sources on other issues as well. I guess I'm going to be looking for some to add to this article. At least it's a coherent POV.

The fun thing about this topic is that no serious Christian doctrine rests on the virgin birth. Had Mary been a thrice widowed woman for example, it would be business-as-usual for Christian theology. Would it have made crucifixion, atonement, resurrection, "love your enemies", or the "great commission and commandment" invalid?

Finally, I apologize if I sound like I'm having a go at anyone, I'm not. Many editors of differing opinions have worked on the article and it doesn't hang together, that's nobody's fault but ours, who see it in a mess and do nothing. There are several fascinating questions about the virgin birth, that are very tricky. They need care. A little respect for Catholicism and Orthodoxy, who have extended dogma regarding Mary, might be in order too. I would think they have rather notable opinions worth documenting fairly. Please, if you're Catholic or Orthodox please cite some of what your great teachers say regarding the virgin birth. It's an important part of the common heritage of human history, and you might even be right! ;) Alastair Haines 16:05, 31 October 2007 (UTC)

When I read the article, I thought it was about what the New Testament writings say. There was also much, too much I thought, about the passage from Isaiah, which not all agree was about the virgin birth of Jesus. But it is clear what Matthew and Luke wrote about. I didn't think the article was about the credibility of Matthew and Luke. Lima 19:05, 31 October 2007 (UTC)
Hi Lima, nice to see you here. I think you've hit the nail on the head with there being too much about Isaiah. Yes, Christianity needs to answer for Matthew's claim that the VB was fulfilment of prophecy. Prophecy, VB (and resurrection) are all supernatural claims. Some answering for the supernatural claim of prophecy is relevant, and obviously prophecy is no argument against the claim that supernatural events like the VB are impossible. You can't defend the supernatural by pointing to another supernatural event that supports it. But there is disproportionate treatment of that line atm. But there's plenty of room in the article. I guess it's our job to provide quality treatment of the core issue.
With regard to prophecy backing VB, that is an argument directed at "Jews who look for miraculous signs". For the discussion to be coherent, I think that needs to be clear. Then a reader not involved with either group can see that a valid Jewish objection to the New Testament would be to claim that it misread the Hebrew of Isaiah, and indeed there are reliable Jewish sources that make just this point. In an attempt to win converts from Judaism, Christians reconstructed Jesus shady paternity as a miraculous sign of Messiahship. Evidence of authoritative peer-review in the day even survives in John, where the religious experts confront Jesus with precisely this fact ... a mamzer, the Messiah, certainly not!
That's not my opinion, just a logical argument I'd expect to find from a reasonable Jewish POV.
I did find the bit about "modern scholars would reject the Devil as explanation for imitations of Christianity because it cannot be disproven" a bit hypocritical. By the same argument, modern scholars should reject a pagan precursor to the VB because that cannot be disproven either. Certainly there's no direct borrowing known so far, but that will always be an argument from silence, it can never be ruled out altogether. In the same way, the Devil is a possible explanation for imitations of Christianity, even if we haven't found his (or her?) diary, with entries documenting this.
But finally, yes, I agree with you, those who believe the VB do so on the basis of the NT not the Old. I personally take the NT claim that Isaiah predicted it seriously, but I note that there are sources that cited that cover most of the issues that I'm aware of.

Alastair Haines 08:51, 1 November 2007 (UTC)

"Justin also made this argument"

Alistair hasn't seen this query of mine within the article, though I signaled its presence twice in edit summaries. So I am moving the query here.

Justin also (i.e. as well as Feinberg and Gordon?) made this argument - what argument? Is it the argument that Matthew's interpretation is supported by "the older Jewish interpretation" (I see no explanation of what Jewish explanation is the older), which in turn is supported by a text of centuries before in a cognate language about a goddess, who is referred to by the equivalents of both Hebrew words in discussion, including the word that means "virgin", and who is to give birth after, it seems, having lost her virginity by sexual intercourse with a god? I do not see in the quotation from Justin that follows anything remotely like this argument, an argument that to my poor mind seems extremely abstuse. Do we really need to mention it in the article? Lima 15:23, 1 November 2007 (UTC)

Very fair comment Lima. I was more ruthless than usual and removed unsouced text that was arguing for the VB as dependent on other traditions. However, I left the sourced bit. I intend to put some brief text regarding traditions similar to Christianity and Christian reaction to them based on Justin.
Although the VB appears to be unique, if defined narrowly enough, there will always be a possibility it is neither unique nor independent. I think those are fair logical criticisms, even though they are not the common scholastic objections. Since a previous editor cared to put these arguments, they deserve treatment, just not in the unsourced, misinterpreted, WP:UNDUE way they existed before.
I think we also need to include something regarding biological objection to VB. Without male seed, human ova can develop, but only into teratoma (this is not uncommon), even were they to produce a well-formed individual (as yet unobserved), this would be female without the SRY gene of the Y chromosome. (At least to our current level of biological knowledge.) In other words, the VB is either a fabrication or supernatural, given our current scientific knowledge.
That, together with discussion of Matthew's reading of Isaiah, would seem to cover the strongest objections to the Christian position on the VB.
On a positive note, I think it would be valuable to cover:
  1. Paul's "Jesus descended from David, this is my gospel";
  2. the four great-grandmothers who are listed in Matthew and are known for their sexual immorality (i.e. Jesus' genealogy is not exclusively about "virginity" and "purity"); and
  3. the "problem" of reconciling Matthew v Luke genealogies (I think the Wiki article on this is quite good).

Seeing as I'm not willing to write these up, I'm happy not to press the point too hard though. ;)

I'll sort out the problem I created with Justin today. Cheers Alastair Haines 23:40, 1 November 2007 (UTC)

"Without male seed, human ova can develop, but only into ..." Don't forget, this is not supposed to have been a natural occurrence. Lima 04:42, 2 November 2007 (UTC)
Yes, that's the point. Some kind critics of the Bible, and some generous Christian interpreters suggest various incidents claimed by the Bible to be miraculous are better understood as scientifically inexplicable at the time of writing, but explicable now. Hence the critics offer an assessment of sincerity to Bible writers, and the generous Christians offer spiritual interpretation rather than concrete evidence as the framework for apologetics.
For the gender-neutral-personoid-in-the-street, however, it's still a matter of did-it-happen-or-didn't-it, I'd think, but I've not performed an ANOVA mulitvariant survey analysis on this recently, to put before a peer-review committee. ;) Alastair Haines 10:11, 2 November 2007 (UTC)
Some extraordinary events have a natural explanation and are not miraculous in the strictest sense. (Extraordinary events that do have a natural explanation can also be considered miraculous because of the context in which they occur.) A person who excludes absolutely the possibility of any miraculous event in the strictest sense believes all extraordinary events must have natural explanations. Others do not consider that a priori judgement decisive in evaluating a concrete case. Lima 11:28, 2 November 2007 (UTC)
Very nicely phrased.
I remember personally realising 17 years ago, aged 24, that if I was to take the logical possibility of God seriously, I had to accept that a virgin birth was also possible. It happened as I started reading Matthew to see if the Bible would actually tell me anything useful about God. (I was actually hoping it wouldn't.) The things Matthew attributed to Jesus' teaching resonated with the issues of human relationships that I'd encountered, and spoke decisively to them, in my opinion. I was convinced of both the logical consistency and practical value of the Bible quite quickly (a couple of hours and only a dozen or so chapters). My non-Christian philosophy lecturers had been very clear about the huge domain of what is logically possible, though they were very bleak regarding the epistemology of metaphysical speculation. I'm still rather fascinated by the way the Bible (imo) bridges the gap. It's all the more fascinating because it's via imperfect ordinary means, like reading and writing, that metaphysical reality is accessible (if the Bible is true). This is not what I'd have expected, had I thought it through in advance.
I think a distressing error that some Bible believers make is overlooking that the Bible claims God clothes flowers and feeds birds, sends rain, in fact is at work in the ordinary things of life. Is it God's fault that his extraordinary miracles distract from his ordinary ones? ;)

[Rhetorical question, of course.] Alastair Haines 15:01, 2 November 2007 (UTC)

Gospel of Philip shows no virgin birth

FWIW: Gospel of Philip:

Some said, "Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit." They are in error. They do not know what they are saying. When did a woman ever conceive by a woman? Mary is the virgin whom no power defiled. She is a great anathema to the Hebrews, who are the apostles and the apostolic men. This virgin whom no power defiled [...] the powers defile themselves. And the Lord would not have said "My Father who is in Heaven" (Mt 16:17), unless he had had another father, but he would have said simply "My father".Sahansdal 05:57, 5 November 2007 (UTC)

That sounds authentically Gnostic, especially in it's implication of a feminine Holy Spirit. There are several local groups (other than Gnostics) that have believed in feminine HS, and they have difficulties with the VB for exactly the issue mentioned here. Why would God the Father interpose a feminine HS in his place to bring conception? It's the most clearly masculine action of the HS and so needs reinterpretation by those committed to feminine HS for other reasons — philosophy for the Gnostics, grammar for the Syrians and feminism for moderns.
Actually, I think a small section on this in the VB article would cover one of the few things about this particular doctrine that has relevance in wider discussions.
There are endless views against the VB. It's an increadibly unlikely event. The trick is presenting the case for the VB first, authentically and sympathetically from the most reliable sources, so anyone who holds that view would be happy it was adequately presented. After that, it's easy to find plenty of lines of attack against it.
I'd particularly appreciate some Gnostic views at this page, because it would help make it clear why it was one of the first Christianity-based world-views to be declared non-Christian by the early church. It was so early that some have claimed various New Testament books actually condemn it directly. If no-one else does it, I'll possibly eventually get around to researching this a bit further. Alastair Haines 08:16, 5 November 2007 (UTC)
The Holy Spirit (the word is grammatically feminine in some Semitic languages, grammatically neuter in Greek, grammatically masculine in Latin, and in I do not know what class in Bantu languages that use more than these three grammatical classes) is a woman! With female reproductive organs and all? One might as well say that German girls (the word "Mädchen" is grammatically neuter) are sexually neuter, and that Irish girls (the word "cailín" is of masculine gender) have male sexual organs! Lima 10:19, 5 November 2007 (UTC)
I completely agree, but ...
... Susan Ashbrook Harvey considers grammatical gender itself to be significant in early Syrian Christianity: "It seems clear that for the Syrians, the cue from grammar — ruah as a feminine noun — was not entirely gratuitous. There was real meaning in calling the Spirit 'She.'" Susan Ashbrook Harvey, 'Feminine Imagery for the Divine: The Holy Spirit, the Odes of Solomon, and Early Syriac Tradition', St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 37 (1993): 111-120.


Why have we lost in the first sentence of the lead "in Christianity"? We launch straight into the two relevant gospels - OK they are linked but a reader should not have to follow a link in the first sentence. This is not good explanation to my mind. We should start off very simply and explain the context of the article's subject. Itsmejudith (talk) 17:22, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

I'm not sure what's going on. I trimmed redundancy from the lead, but made virgin at birth of Jesus bold, so the first sentence included the article title, per Wiki style. My edit doesn't seem to be recoverable. Oh well.
It's tricky to accomodate all style recommendations into the first sentence. There are competing priorities. I tried to avoid passive voice and state things with the minimum number of relevant entities.
I delayed the link to Jesus to a later sentence because he is in bold in the first. We don't need to link to Mary in the first sentence either, if you don't like links there.
Additionally, I'd much prefer to say "The Bible claims Mary was a virgin at Jesus' birth." However, some might complain this was a sneaky way of including Isaiah and a particular reading of Isaiah in the lead. Personally, I think Isaiah is part of the Bible claim, and in fact we deal with it in the article. Since we also discuss New Testament books other than the gospels, Bible is probably a better word for the first sentence. The gospels can be named and linked later in the lead, or defered to the body of the article.
I'm not keen on "in Christianity" for four reasons.
  1. Reference to Jesus makes Christian association clear in first sentence, disambig link also covers other uses.
  2. To be fair it needs to be "in Islam" as well (though this is undue attention in some ways).
  3. Some groups would call themselves Christian but not hold to the VB (some liberal protestant groups).
  4. Other groups would hold the VB but not be considered Christian by other Christian groups (JW, Mormons, etc).

Rather than the messy business of reporting what people think, start with what objective documents say, followed up by the groups that discuss them. That's my thinking in this case. The reverse is needed when dealing with disputed interpretation, i.e. almah etc. But where there is no controversy over text, pointing to texts is immediately sourcing, verifiable and neutral.

But those are just my opinions, and obviously I haven't really thought very carefully about it. Be bold, add "In Christianity" and remove the links to the gospels, I won't agree, but I won't revert. Alastair Haines (talk) 18:27, 28 November 2007 (UTC)
I'm with Judith. Before we launch into the details of gospel accounts, we should address the significance of Jesus' virgin birth to modern-day Christians. Lots of things are recorded in Matthew and Luke. So what? What's the big deal about Jesus' virgin birth? Why should anyone care? Here's why: According to Christians, the virgin birth of Jesus is one of many miracles that identifies him as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, as the promised Messiah, and as the Son of God. That's way more informative (and interesting) than which gospels it's in. Maybe my wording's a little off, but that can be tweaked. Christians are way more likely to care about the significance of his virgin birth than even to know which gospels it's recounted in. The lead should also refer to how Jesus' virgin birth has long been said to have excluded him from original sin, which the rest of us suffer under. Jesus' virgin birth is an important part of his identity. The lead should talk about its significance, not just about what books it's in. Leadwind (talk) 05:52, 30 November 2007 (UTC)
Alastair just deleted reference to other miraculous births from the lead. Defenders of POV often try to exclude information from the lead on the basis that it's covered elsewhere in the article. According to WP:lead, however, the lead should summarize the article. If we have an "Other Miraculous Births" section in the article, then there needs to be at least passing mention of OMB in the lead. The lead should be able to stand alone as a concise summary of the article. Defenders of POV hate this guideline and try to keep information out of the lead, but that's the way it is. I'm not saying that Alastair is defending a POV. Maybe it's a coincidence. But I am saying that I've seen this pattern before (hello, Lima), and I'm suspicious. Leadwind (talk) 06:01, 30 November 2007 (UTC)
Oops. I just reread Judith's statement, slowly this time, and I realize that she wasn't saying what I thought she was saying. Anyway, we should definitely start with a reference to Christianity. Leadwind (talk) 06:03, 30 November 2007 (UTC)
In case someone deletes this information again, here it is: "Other miraculous births appear in Jesus' own Hebrew tradition, as well as in other traditions. Hindu and Zoroastrian accounts of virgin births still involve male seed, while Christian and Muslim accounts of Jesus' virgin birth do not." Leadwind (talk) 06:15, 30 November 2007 (UTC)
I am a conservative Christian who believes in the virgin birth. However, I find no problems in presenting Christianity from the neutral point of view. What I do find, though, is that non-Christians often weasle such material, and Christians often overstate it.
From a Wiki, neutral point of view, Christianity includes liberal Protestants, who do not believe in miracles. It is quite simply POV to exclude writers, who self-identify as Christian, as outside Christianity under Wiki definition. I'm not entirely happy with the Wiki definition, but we have to work with it.
Bear in mind that mainstream Protestants and Catholics each exclude the other from Christianity. Wiki can't take sides, for many things Prot and Cath are essentially the same in representing Chrnty. When distinctions are necessary, specific names can be used. Having accepted Christianity at Wiki is a term that doesn't distinguish fine points of doctrine, liberal Christianity naturally falls into the same basket.
The point of the opening para, as I had it, was that NT says X, creeds say X. These things are verifiable and neutral. They also explain the basis of Christianity.
Alternatively, by all means say Christians believe ... Not only is this a sweeping generalization, but it divorces Christianity from the roots of its tradition and the authorities claimed by the majority for the traditions. Follow up by specifying that John Selby Spong and others say ... and Jehovah's Witnesses say ... and other groups that call themselves Christian say ...
Is your concern that I, or others are trying to censor the word Christian from Wiki? You are certainly wrong in my case. On the other hand, my concern is that you are a liberal trying to give undue attention to minority opinions that cloud genuine clear Christian doctrine.
Rather than get into sticky debates with people who want to claim they are Christian, despite disbelieving the Bible and classic formulations of it like the Creeds, I try to avoid dispute by sticking to objective and verifiable statements like those of the NT and Creeds, which have a massive secondary literature to back their interpretation.
So long as you try to "correct" my edits, on the basis of perceived intentions regarding them, I think the irony is that you remove or hide solid text that presents the facts in a way it is difficult for those with anti-Christian bias to remove.
By refering to Christianity, you ignore the fact that Islam also shares the doctrine. By refering to the source texts, Christianity has a natural, objective precedence, because the Qur'an says what it does about Jesus, while being explicit that it gets the information from the divinely inspired Injil (Arabic for gospel, and, by synechdoche, the NT).
I'd be interested to hear what you think. I'm not having a go at you. Frankly, I have a lot of time for people who protect Christianity from detractors. I am not at all worried about people having low views of what might motivate me, especially when they have no evidence for their conclusions. It is just inconvenient and time consuming.
When you use the word Christianity in a Wiki article, what do you mean by it? Alastair Haines (talk) 06:30, 30 November 2007 (UTC)
My, how reasonable you turn out to be! I've had a lot of bad experiences with people moving information out of leads, and maybe it shows. When I say "Christianity," I mean "Christianity as it exists in the lives of most (not all) believers who call themselves Christian." Now I see why you want to stick to the incontrovertible, such as the gospels and creeds. But a general reader doesn't want to dive straight in to textual support for specific ideas. What is the virgin birth of Jesus about? Generally, it's about Jesus being the fulfillment of prophecy and the Son of God. That's the key point. Are there Christians who don't believe that? Sure, whatever. Are they really Christians? God only knows. The point is that the virgin birth of Jesus (real, unreal, a lie, a legend, a mistranslation, whatever) is big news because it IDs him as the promised one and the Son not of man but of God. Any lead that makes this basic information hard to glean is a bad lead. If we have a lead that allows the naive reader to walk away without getting the main point, we've fallen down in our duty as editors. Surely we can say something bold, interesting, and informative about Jesus' virgin birth that won't rankle the anti-Christian crowd? Leadwind (talk) 06:40, 30 November 2007 (UTC)

[I wrote the PS while Leadwind was responding]

PS, also to be more specific. I've retagged the article as POV. A conservative Christian interpretation of the NT is now the first sentence of the article. It is precisely how I would begin a sermon on the subject in fact.
I've also added a "fact" tag, because many conservative theologians argue that the virgin birth is not foundational to Christianity. The infallibility of scripture is essential to Christianity, but not the virgin birth. Every Christian doctrine (in conservative Christianity) follows from the infallibility of scripture, however, no Christian doctrine follows from the virgin birth. If the Bible said Mary and Joseph had a son Jesus in the normal way, and he went on to do and say all that he did, including the resurrection, not a single Christian doctrine would be changed.
Please cite a source that says the VB is foundational to Christianity. Then I will cite several conservative scholars who point out that this is not the case.
As I stated above, introducing Christianity inappropriately opens too many doors of alternative interpretation. We need to look first at what objective documented material is out there, then we can discuss the debates among Christians as to how relevant it is. Alastair Haines (talk) 06:43, 30 November 2007 (UTC)

[More info given response] PPS Glad to hit the nail on the head here. ;) It's a matter of doing justice to the Bible, broader "Christianity" and to Wiki. The last actually comes first on a Wiki platform. If Wiki did not allow justice to be done to the Bible, we'd be wasting our time here. But, actually, Wiki policy protects Christian opinions, so long as they are expressed that way, and do not silence other views.

I'm sure we can work something out. Alastair Haines (talk) 06:47, 30 November 2007 (UTC)

OK, "fundamental" was too strong a word, obviously. I've deleted the whole sentece. Does that mean you can take off the POV tag? I'd like to find some way to say that the virgin birth is a pretty big deal, if "fundamental" is too strong. I wouldn't like a naive reader to imagine that Jesus' virgin birth and his followers' ability to handle poisonous snakes are on par as equally relevant to Christian belief and practice. I'd be interested to know what you think is the most interesting, valuable, and informative summary of the significance of the virgin birth. How close is the remaining first sentence to being right? Leadwind (talk) 06:53, 30 November 2007 (UTC)
I think the main point is the miraculous nature of the birth. Remember Isaiah reports the original conversation with Ahaz. God said "I'll prove what I can do with an extraordinary miracle -- a virgin will conceive and give birth". Ahaz says, "No, don't give me a miracle, far be it from me to ask God to do something to prove himself." The rest of the Isaiah passage is quite Messianic. So, yes, I'm sure we can find thousands of sources that will explain that Christians understand Jesus' miraculous birth to be fulfilment of a prophecy regarding the Messiah.
In fact, this is even more of the traditional Christian view of the infallibility of scripture -- what God promises will happen. But just how much of this we need in the lead I'm not sure. If we say things that are contested or contestable in the lead, other editors will add contrary views in the lead. I think that will confuse readers.
I guess it's a question of what is realistic at Wiki. If we say as little as possible, and what is objective and cannot be questioned in the lead, then things will stay tidy.
I think the Relevance to Christianity is an excellent idea for the first sub-section. You have worked out exactly what the article lacks. Exactly what makes it biased as it stands. The VB is a well known Christian doctrine. However, all this article does is look at various challenges to it, and at what other religions say that might be comparable. It's fine to have all that, it's up to us to make the major point though, i.e. what most Christians throughout history make of the VB. That's the first thing the article could cover.
Another good approach (I think) is what I attempted, but it got moved. I think looking at Abraham and Sarah having a baby at 100yo and 90yo and other OT miraculous births is a good start. It helps a reader unfamiliar with the Bible to see that the VB is not as surprising in the context of the Bible as it is to people who have never read the Bible. God's promise to Ahaz, fits perfectly with the rest of the Bible (and there are tons of commentators that say this).
Unfortunately, my text was moved so it looked as though it was one of many attempts to say the VB narrative is copied from previous sources, i.e. that it is not a true story, just a legend like many previous legends.
I still think it might be better to look at OT births, before looking at the NT passages, because Mat and Luk assume people are familiar with some basic biblical context.
Anyway, I've got to go now, I look forward to seeing your work next time I log in. I'll remove both tags. (It's funny tagging things as blatant Christian POV, when I'm a very conservative Christian myself.;) Thanks for your open-minded co-operation. :D Alastair Haines (talk) 07:21, 30 November 2007 (UTC)

[another comment written simultaneously] I almost see your point regarding texts. However, to name texts is quite different to quoting them, let alone discussing multiple interpretations. Personally, I do not allow other editors to put me off citing or quoting the Bible. Some argue any mention of the Bible is POV (which is just wrong), others argue any reference to any text is complicated and academic (this too is wrong, and bizarre at Wiki). Certainly, the Bible can be mentioned in POV ways. Certainly, any book and quote can simply complicated things rather than provide additional clarity and verification. However, neither can be assumed a priori, an editor making such a complaint must demonstrate it, and show something that is preferable.

What is wrong with saying, "The Bible says Jesus's mother Mary was a virgin at his birth." That's short and sweet, neutral and names a well known source. Relevant references are found in both Testaments. There is a tiny group of scholars who argue parthenos does not mean virgin. More argue that parthenos was a mistranslation. If we say "The New Testament says ..." we are more precise and safer. I don't really care which. I only put Mat and Luk to be extra safe.

The reason to mention Creeds is because this shows secondary sources backed the NT, especially in interp, and especially regarding relevance to Christians. By saying the creeds are accepted by most Christians today we allay the suspicions of anyone who is worried that we're just pushing Catholic POV or something.

Anyway, there are lots of good ways to do the lead-in. I'm sure we can come up with something. Alastair Haines (talk) 07:02, 30 November 2007 (UTC)

Lead-in to Betulah and Almah discussion

I didn't mean to introduce undue weight but really this whole question does need some sort of lead-in. As it is the whole topic is completely incomprehensible to any reader who is not already an expert on Christian theology. Itsmejudith (talk) 13:35, 19 March 2008 (UTC)

"Son of God" question

I think discussion of Jesus as Son of God is off-topic here, even more so when put in the lead. Whether Jesus was son of God in the senses in which Christians call him that (see article Son of God) or in no sense whatever, as Muslims hold, Mary could have conceived him virginally. In fact, both Christians and Muslims say she did, in spite of their different views on the "Son of God" question, which is therefore irrelevant. Lima (talk) 13:50, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

While I'm at this page, I'll drop a "seconded" here for Lima, with a small qualification.
Let me say first, though, as titled, this article must deal with Orthodox/Catholic doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity. Not only is it relevant (in an appropriate place in the article, at appropriate length, whatever those may be), but it fits the common name for this purported event.
As your phrasing, Lima, has it, like the Creeds (and Protestant terminology), these refer more precisely to virginal conception. In fact, many outside Christianity are curious about the virginal conception alone, and the Old Testament passage interpretation debate is really only about settling the issue of virginity at conception.
I think this article ought to be self-consciously focussed on virginal conception, since that is of broadest interest. It should, however, be titled as is, since that is the most common English denotation. It should significantly, but not unduely, cover significant related doctrine like perpetual virginity (hence virginity at and after birth), but also Son of God, by virtue of text and creeds (arguably?) implying divine fatherhood by mentioning the involvement of the Holy Spirit at conception.
But back to that seconding, any treatment of Son of God should be about the same as Perpetual Virginity. This means, whatever space (if any) is given to objections to the Son of God doctrine, should also be given to objections to Perpetual Virginity. In my opinion, entering into objections is not generally admissible where the objections are not to the topic of the article, or in defense of it. Objections to Capitalism, for example, should be restricted to that article, not introduced into summaries of capitalism where articles find it expedient to have such summaries. This strikes me as something that ought to be a guideline, rather than ad hoc, but then again, I detest multiplicities of guidelines.
Just some thoughts anyway. Sorry if they are unhelpful, redundant or both. Cheers all! :) Alastair Haines (talk) 08:38, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
In response to the above, I have shortened the disambiguating paragraph on "virginal birth", by referring the reader to the article Perpetual virginity of Mary. It is more difficult to find a suitable place and manner of directing readers to the Son of God article. Lima (talk) 09:32, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

fulfilment of the prophecy

Lima, if you read the paragraph, you will see it is Matthew referring to the prophecy in Isaiah, so I had changed that to quote Isaiah, and the appropriate verse.--mrg3105 (comms) ♠♣ 04:37, 15 April 2008 (UTC)

Thanks. Lima (talk) 04:53, 15 April 2008 (UTC)

Alastair Haines's correction

I agree with Alastair Haines. Is there agreement on the part also of those who insist that anything whatever that some scholarly secondary source says must be accepted uncritically unless a contradictory scholarly secondary source is found? ODCC does say that belief in the Virgin Birth of Christ is implied in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds. Alastair Haines says, I think rightly, that the belief is explicitly stated in those creeds ("born of the virgin Mary"). May we ignore ODCC and remove the reference to it at this point in the article? Or should we keep saying that the belief is only "implied" in the creeds? (By the way, I would rephrase some expressions, such as "extant copies of the original".) Lima (talk) 04:31, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Since I do not have access to the ODCC, I cannot verify the source. Perhaps whoever added the information made a typo? If that is the case, then I would support the change from implied to explicit. However, if the ODCC specifically says implies and explains why the text is not explicit, then Haines' correction would violate WP:NOR. We'd be using a primary source to say that the Oxford scholars are wrong. Alternatively, we could cite another source, but then we'd have to present both POV (Oxford scholars say X, other source says Y). Also, how am I to verify that the 'Extant copies of the originals have "of Mary the virgin"' without a new source. But again, the ODCC could say all of this stuff and Haines could be using the already cited source, so I apologize if that is the case and my calls of WP:OR are too presumptuous. Just trying to consider all possibilities. Would someone with access to the ODCC mind typing up the relevant portion of text for our consideration?-Andrew c [talk] 14:30, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
The ODCC article begins: "The belief that Jesus Christ had no human father, but was conceived by the Blessed Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, is clearly stated in the two narratives of Christ's Infancy recorded in the Gospels (Mt. 1 f. and Lk. 1 f.), and has been a consistent tenet of orthodox Christian theology. It is also implied in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds. ..." Lima (talk) 14:50, 24 April 2008 (UTC) For my part, I think that "implied" is just an infelicitous expression of the ODCC writer, who did not at all intend to deny that the creeds actually state explicitly what they clearly do state explicitly. And I see no reason why we should not use common sense in our reading of such sources whenever no expert knowledge is needed to see that they are inexact on some point or other. I think that the fundamentalist suspension of thought with regard to absolutely everything that such sources say, or at least the suspension of any expression of rational thought that some call for in the name of NOR, is just plain silly. Lima (talk) 15:37, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
The fact that the ODCC used the term "implied" and contrasts it with "clearly stated" doesn't look promising, but if it does not go into any more detail I may be inclined to agree with Lima that it was just an "infelicitous expression". However, the contrast between "implied" and "explicit" seems a little jarring considering the sources. I think it's fine to simply say that the creeds "mention" or "cite" the virgin birth, without any adverbs to describe how. Unless someone can come up with a rational how the creeds only imply or do not mention the virgin birth, I think the current state of the article is satisfactory. Do others agree?-Andrew c [talk] 15:51, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
Do we need to preserve the ODCC statement? May we just drop it, as I suggested this morning? As long as it is kept, there seems to be a good reason to keep also the balancing statement about the mention in the creeds being in reality explicit. Lima (talk) 16:32, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Good work both of you, friends. Ouch! I understand precisely what OR is, and do not do it. Your discussion here covers all the points I can think of very well indeed, and I agree with all of them (both of you).

I think Lima raises precisely a point I think needs wider understanding at Wiki. Secondary sources are not superior to primary sources. I think the Wiki policy on this has the right intention, but is very poorly explained. Perhaps Lima, you and I should nut out a draft ammendment to that policy.

As I understand it, the main point is that any published secondary source is preferable to an "expert" editor, when it comes to interpreting primary sources. That's got to be right.

However, one problem with the policy, simplistically understood, is an almost infinite regress. What source is actually primary? Is it the autograph of a manuscript (few of which exist). Are copyists more reliable than autographs? What about those who compile an editio princeps? Are they tertiary (by this stage), secondary, primary or still sub-primary? Then we may have critical editions, where do these fit in? Now that's just considering the mechanics. What if we have Galen quoting Hippocrates quoting Chrysippus? Must we assume there is not only no "chinese whisper" effect, but to the contrary, the tertiary source is actually more reliable! Methinks Wiki policy on this is not derived from the most reliable sources on methodology.

The other problem with the policy comes by looking at it top-down, rather than bottom-up. Even if we look at the "leaves" on the tree of witnesses to any text -- interpretations of citations of quotes of unavailable documents, editors may still differ over interpreting Britannica 2007! We are unlikely to have yet another layer of published interpretation to resolve our differences, in other words, at some point, for editors to agree on what should stand in an article, they must make a judgement of interpretation. Lower level sources will always provide context for such judgements. We are deceiving ourselves if we claim we do not do this.

The problem is that Wiki editors do not seem to have been able to articulate to themselves clearly yet, the nature of the editorial judgements that we do, in fact, make. I'm not sure I can do that yet either, but I'm willing to admit it, take responsibility for it, and participate in methods designed to safeguard its reliability in fact and objectivity.

Anyway, enough philosophy for now, with this entry, I was simply bold. Like Lima, I don't think the ODCC was trying to deny the explicitness of the creeds, in fact, quite the reverse. Implies is actually true. If something is said explicitly, it is certainly implied as well. The ODCC is using implies in a strong or "success" usage (see David Stove), not in contrast with explicit. I didn't actually consult the source, but nor did I remove the quote, I simply consigned it to a note.

Out of context, the ODCC could be perceived as denying the explicitness of the creeds, whereas, it is actually asserting that the virgin birth is certainly a logical inference about Christian belief as articulated in the creeds. Actually, if I pick Lima correctly, both he and I would be much more careful with what we said. One creed is a little oblique, I (and probably Lima) would prefer to say it clearly articulates belief in the Virgin birth, without being drawn into the detailed logic or semantics of that.

I had several concerns in my edit. Firstly, a truncated quote out of context that smelled like a weasle. Secondly, leaving a trace to the primary sources, since they are uncontroversial and documented at Wiki, and explained my motivation. And thirdly, that I remove as little information as possible -- a quote out of context is still info, misleading as it may be.

And to conclude this essay (my apologies, friends). I really, really like your last edit Lima (though it's sad to see the Greek go). It says, without fear or favour, what is well documented, in a clear and concise fashion. I also really, really like Andrew's blend of open-mindedness with clear articulation of the reason policy is how it is. He asks precisely what the most discerning reader would ask.

I think Andrew's questions were spot on, and so were the answers -- Wiki at its best! :) Alastair Haines (talk) 08:03, 25 April 2008 (UTC)


I must say, this article is looking a lot better than how I remember it, some months ago. Given the subject matter, I can imagine getting from there to here has not been easy. Knowing the quality of editors like Andrew and Lima, I can't say I'm surprised things have gone forwards.

I can unreservedly say that there is a wealth of depth and breadth of content, the breadth is particularly noteworthy. Sticking my neck out a bit, I will add that I think there was distinct bias against Christianity before. I did not get that impression with a quick run through today.

Because I am a Christian, I tend to be more worried about articles that do not set off alarm bells than those that do. Have we silenced an important current of challenges? Have we been fair to those that are represented? It looks pretty right to me, but I don't trust my judgement so well in that assessment. Given what we had before, though, and the fact that most content remains, just minus the "we got you here" tone, I think the editors here have forged something quite special. Rarely do projects have to assimilate the kind of diversity that Wiki sometimes generates. When Wiki manages situations like this well, the text that comes out of it has, to my reading, an exciting freshness.

I want to say again, though, Lima and Andrew are outstanding editors. Lima's economy of expression delights me (it's something I just don't seem to be able to get myself). His depth of knowledge and experience is something I can only guess at, but evidence of it is everywhere he works. Andrew's extraordinary productivity and perceptive interaction with other editors leaves a trail of progress all over Wiki.

I hope you two can take compliments better than I can. Sorry if I embarass you. But what I say is actually verifiable! ;)

Apologies to others at work here, who I haven't acknowledged.

Is it worth suggesting adding some artwork? (I hope I'm not suggesting breaking the second commandment here.) As titled, it must be one of the most depicted scenes in history (even if it is not historical). I suggest this, because it would fit with Good Article status, which this article is very, very close to. Alastair Haines (talk) 13:33, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

For artwork, what about something like what's shown at If that one isn't usable for copyright reasons, I'm sure something similar could be found that's permissable. I like it because it includes depictions of several different parts of the nativity story. Wesley (talk) 04:48, 3 May 2008 (UTC)
By "Virgin birth of Jesus" is usually understood not his birth but his conception, which is usually believed to have occurred when, according to the Gospel of Luke, the angel announced it to Mary and she accepted. There are many images of that Annunciation. The problem is which to choose. Lima (talk) 11:35, 3 May 2008 (UTC)


Speculation that "Holy Spirit" was a euphemism used by Mary is at best original research. It is not even supported by the (not very authoritative) article cited. In any case, it would be out of place at this point, which is a subsection of the discussion on the Gospels, and there is no suggestion that Matthew and Luke were using a euphemism.

The question of the possibility a natural parthenogenic explanation is dealt with earlier in the article. There is no need to mention it again and in such an unencyclopedic manner. Matthew and Luke - remember, that is what is discussed in this section - did not think there was any natural explanation, much less of the starfish kind, for what they presented as fact. Lima (talk) 14:52, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Actually this section is a litany of explanations, and euphemism is just one of many. I would not hasten to know what either Matthew or Luke "think". All we have is their writings, we can not ask them what they thought at the time. Euphemism, however, is a much more modern concept, the word did not exist until 1650–60. However, for 300 years now it has been a popular belief that it was a euphemism and not an actual occurrence. Euphemism has become particularly popular in recent years and has even spawned the more modern term, doublespeak, which originated in 1950–55, and has become very common recently. It would however be too derogatory a word to use for the virgin birth of Jesus. 2ndAmendment (talk) 15:18, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
"All we have is the writings of Matthew and Luke"; yes, and these present the virginal conception of Jesus as fact. It is hard to imagine that they thought of Mary as a starfish; and I don't suppose they knew anything about parthenogenic sharks. I don't think 2ndAmendment's talk about the origin of the words "euphemism" and "doublespeak" is relevant to defending the supposed relevance of his additions to the article. Do others find it relevant? Lima (talk) 19:20, 31 May 2008 (UTC)