Is Tabor right? Did Paul know/invent the Virgin Birth?

These legendary stories from Greco-Roman culture may well have contributed to accounts of Jesus’ miraculous birth in Matthew and Luke but I would suggest an alternative. I am convinced that the idea of Jesus’ birth from a virgin–without a human father–implicitly goes back to the apostle Paul. Paul’s letters date several decades before our New Testament gospels and it is Paul’s understanding of Jesus as the pre-existent, divine, Son of God, that lays the conceptual groundwork for our Christmas stories.

via James D. Tabor: Did Paul Invent the Virgin Birth?.

I’m not completely convinced Paul believed in a pre-existent son in the Platonic sense, although I think he would have in the ideal sense — the Jewish sense as expressed in the Psalms of Solomon.

There is not much I over all disagree with, don’t get me wrong, with the article, except for Paul’s pre-existent son and his invention of the virgin birth. It is possible that such a tradition existed early on, although we find nothing of it in the Gospel of Mark, nor do we find it in Mark’s literary sequel, John.

Anyway, read the article. Good stuff.

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8 Replies to “Is Tabor right? Did Paul know/invent the Virgin Birth?”

    1. I’ve heard the theory, but I don’t think that does Mark’s style justice.

      Warning… book plug just ahead

      This is something I cover in my upcoming book.

  1. Saying you cant find them in Mark/John is a bit like saying you cant find justification by faith not works in James..

    James is concerned with what happens AFTER salvation, not before.. John/Mark start their stories from John the baptist for their own purposes..

  2. I’m not sure that the fourth and last Gospel lacks all hint of the virgin birth tale, there’s perhaps an echo of it in lines like these:

    John 1:12
    Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—
    John 1:13
    children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
    John 12:36
    Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.

    And interestingly, Paul mentions:

    Gal 4:28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit.

    Note that Paul’s line in Galatians could also provide a link to the idea of being “born again–born of God–born of the spirit” found in John.

    And there’s OT tales about God closing and opening wombs, blessing people by giving them babies, or God raising prophets from the womb, including Abraham’s wife, Samson’s mother, Jeremiah,and the tale in Isaiah about the young woman who conceives and a prophetess as well who gives birth and the special signs those children were to become to Israel.

    I suppose in the Hellenistic matrix though, “virgin birth” was something one could not avoid adding to the tale of someone whom you wanted others to take notice of, since the Emperor Augustus was also spoken of as having been born of a virgin.

      1. Joel, could you fill me in on the Noah story from Qumran? I am not familiar with this one and I am always interested in knowing more…



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