If this year is anything like previous years, there will be a plethora of PBS specials and investigative news reports all discussing one thing: the Virgin Birth of Jesus.
The common thread of these programs will be something along these lines. Mark is written earliest and has no record of the birth. Matthew and Luke are written much later and are trying to craft an image of Jesus so they invent this preposterous story about a miraculous birth. Somewhere in these programs will be an appeal to a mysterious Q document that, if we could get our hands on it, would prove once and for all there was no virgin birth.
Let's look at some facts. According to the best evidence, Mark is written somewhere between 55 to 65 AD. Matthew is composed somewhere between 60 to 65 AD. Luke is written in 60 AD. Even though Mark is written in 55 and Matthew in 65, the time difference is a mere 10 years not the decades that those who deny the virgin birth hint must exist between these authors.
Since the accounts of Jesus' birth are confined to Matthew and Luke, our first question must be how reliable are these writers? Do we have any information from archaeology that can give us a bearing on the reliability of the Gospels? The answer to those questions is yes.
According to archaeologist Dr. John McRay, archaeological discoveries have greatly enhanced the credibility of the New Testament. While we certainly can't dig up the spiritual claims of the Bible, we can dig up the factual claims, that is historical sites and details of those sites.
What we find is that in every case where there have been some question about the accuracy of some facts claimed by the biblical writers, claims where modern critics have questioned, in every case, archaeology has proven to be a friend to the Bible and a foe to the critics.
On the television special "The Mystery of Christmas," Michael White and John D. Crossan both claim that Luke was more of a creative writer than he was an accurate historian.
But read the claim of this Gospel writer: "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught" (Luke 1:1-4).
That doesn't sound like a writer of novels but rather like a careful investigative reporter. In fact, Dr. John McRay, in the book "The Case for Christmas," by Lee Strobel, says of Luke, "He's erudite, he's eloquent, his Greek approaches classical quality, he writes like an educated man, and archaeological discoveries are showing over and over again that Luke is accurate in what he has to say." (Strobel: The Case for Christmas).
So accurate is Luke, in fact, that many believe him to be one of the most reliable historians of the first century. Why in the world would a reliable historian drift into fantasy over the birth of Jesus?
The fact of the matter is, even if he had, there are still plenty of eyewitnesses around that could have refuted his claims. We see none of that. Even the Jewish leaders who make innuendos regarding his parentage (see John 8:41) never come out and deny what Matthew or Luke have written.
Regarding the mystic Q document, Dr. Craig Bloomberg reminds us that "Q is nothing more than a hypothesis," in "The Case for Christmas." Bottom line, the mystery document only exists as a possibility, not in actuality.
There is so much more I can say, but once again, I am out of space.
Let me say in conclusion, that in my opinion, given the evidence we have, it is a greater leap of faith to deny the virgin birth than it is to accept it.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington, GA.. For more information visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.