Was Mary Really a Virgin? Part 1

For a long time now (well, a couple of months, anyway), I’ve wanted to take a hard look at the biblical accounts of Christ’s birth and whether they can withstand the scrutiny.

I think there’s a resistance to doing so among most Christians, even ones who would not argue for a strictly literal interpretation of the Bible, because the virgin birth is such a central part of our belief about who Jesus was. Some of this is theological – his being conceived by the Holy Spirit gives us a peg on which to claim that Christ was fully divine – but some of it is cultural, as well. The Christmas story is the first story we’re taught as children, and it’s the ostensible purpose for our biggest holiday of the year. Finally, some of it is convenient. Jesus was the Son of God, and it just makes a lot more sense for him to have been conceived miraculously.

So a lot of people get defensive when someone comes along and says, “Yeah, not so sure about that.” I totally understand that. So in that spirit, let’s try to start with some points on which I think everyone would agree:

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