Why early Christians wouldn’t have found the Christmas story’s virgin birth so surprising

Every year on Christmas, Christians celebrate the birth of their religion’s founder, Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee. Part of this celebration includes the claim that Jesus was born from a virgin mother named Mary, which is fundamental to the Christian understanding that Jesus is the divine son of God.

The virgin birth may seem strange to a modern audience – and not just because it runs counter to the science of reproduction. Even in the Bible itself, the idea is rarely mentioned.

As a scholar of the New Testament, however, I argue that this story’s original audiences would not have been put off by the supposed “strangeness” of the virgin birth story. The story would have felt much more familiar to listeners at that time, when the ancient Mediterranean was full of tales of legendary men born of gods – and when early Christians were paying close attention to the Hebrew Bible’s prophecies.

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Author: Rodolfo Galvan Estrada III, Assistant Professor of the New Testament

Published in theconversation.com on December 15.