Was the idea of Jesus’ virgin birth copied from pagan sources?

Matthew, a follower of Jesus, and Luke, who “carefully investigated everything” about Jesus, both reported that Jesus was born to a virgin. Indeed, the virgin birth was foretold hundreds of years in advance in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

The evidence fails to support accusations that the virgin birth story was stolen from pagan religions. “Some of those [myths] that are often cited—like Zeus—are anthropomorphic gods who lust after human women, which is decidedly different from Jesus’ story,” historian Edwin Yamauchi explained to me.

“The mythological offspring are half gods and half men and their lives begin at conception, as opposed to Jesus, who is fully God and fully man and who is eternal but came into this world through the incarnation,” Yamauchi continued. “Also, the Gospels put Jesus in a historical context, unlike the mythological gods.”

Even theologically liberal professor Thomas Boslooper, who wrote a book about the virgin birth, scoffed at the suggestion that the claim was derived from pagan myths:

The literature . . . which produced this conclusion and which has become the authority for contemporary scholars who wish to perpetrate the notion that the virgin birth in the New Testament has a non-Christian source, is characterized by brief word, phrase, and sentence quotations that have been lifted out of context or incorrectly translated and used to support preconceived theories. Sweeping generalizations based on questionable evidence have become dogmatic conclusions that cannot be substantiated on the basis of careful investigation.

So allegations that Christianity stole its belief about the virgin birth from pagan sources fare no better than the disproven claims that Christianity copied Jesus’ resurrection from myths of dying and rising gods.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

Matthew 1:22–23

Copyright © 2014 by Lee Strobel.


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