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I recently saw Bill Maher's documentary and he mentions that the virgin birth is only mentioned in two of the gospels. He goes on to bug Christian people several times by asking questions such as "How can you believe in the virgin birth if it's only mentioned in two of the gospels?". I know for a fact that the virgin birth is mentioned in the gospels of Matthew (1:18) and Luke (1:26-35), however, it is mentioned in neither Mark nor John. In spite of that, millions of Christians world-wide take the virgin birth for granted. My question is, as stated above, why isn't the virgin birth of Jesus mentioned in all four gospels?

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My guess also is that if it had appeared in each gospel that Maher would be contending that this is evidence of excessive corroboration between the gospel writers. I haven't seen the documentary? What's his point, that it must have been added after the fact since it is in neither Mark nor John? –  San Jacinto Mar 29 '12 at 20:53
It's a popular red herring to say that something "isn't mentioned in all the gospels", and doesn't have much weight as a criticism. For example I've seen several of Bill Maher's shows, and he doesn't say that he thinks Christians are wrong in all of them. Does this mean he doesn't really believe it? –  DJClayworth May 24 '12 at 20:03
So, Bill of Maher makes an argument from silence...and we need to refute that for some reason? The OT was clear that two witnesses are all that is necessary to confirm a matter. In any case, an argument from silence is no argument at all. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Mar 30 '13 at 21:06

4 Answers 4

up vote 27 down vote accepted

The birth of Jesus is also only mentioned at all in Matthew and Luke. Following the logic, since only half of the Gospels mention that means we should discard the theory that he was ever born at all.

In 100% of the cases where a birth narrative is present, the miracle of God becoming man is mentioned. Indeed, in John, even where the birth narrative isn't present, the incarnation - that God became man - is explicit.

Neither John nor Mark say anything about the birth of Jesus at all, so it is not surprising at all that there is nothing about the virgin birth.

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Great! Some people can think and write about complex issues but sometime fail to understand a simple logic. –  Seek forgiveness Mar 31 '13 at 13:15

The underlying assumption is that if something is true, it has to appear in all four Gospels. However, if it appeared in all four gospels, some would ask why doesn't it appear in every epistle as well.

It's interesting that people attack the Bible for having four versions of the same story in the Gospels and other people attack the Bible for not having four exact copies of the same story in the Gospels. Some people will find fault no matter what the Bible teaches.

A good answer to bill maher's question would be to ask him if he believes that Jesus died and rose again from the dead, since that is, in fact, recorded in all four gospels. Of course he would say he does not, because he doesn't believe the Bible. By the same token, those who believe that Jesus did die and rise again are well prepared to believe that Jesus is also virgin born, even though only two gospel accounts record that. One witness would have been sufficient--two is more than enough.

Mark and John, as Affable Geek noted, do not even record Jesus' birth. The books were written to concentrate on different aspects of Jesus life.

So, maher's question was nonsensical at its very root.

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In fact, people already do ask why everything in the Gospels doesn't appear in the epistles as well: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_God_Who_Wasn%27t_There –  Eric Mar 29 '12 at 23:27
I guess everything should be in every book in order to please everyone. Jude would have to be a bit bigger, I guess. –  Narnian Mar 30 '12 at 12:12
Great answer. I particularly like your note that "the books were written to concentrate on different aspects of Jesus' life." –  Jas 3.1 Mar 30 '13 at 19:44
This too is an equally good answer. –  Seek forgiveness Mar 31 '13 at 13:20

why isn't the virgin birth of Jesus mentioned in all four gospels?

Because mentioning it wasn't important to Mark or John.

It's really that simple. The writers of the Gospel accounts & the epistles weren't trying to mention everything that's true. They weren't even trying to mention everything that matters.

Maher's attempt to turn this into any kind of argument is pretty silly. (Affable Geek and Narnian say more about that.) I'm afraid I can't understand how anyone can see his question "How can you believe in the virgin birth if it's only mentioned in two of the gospels?" as anything but an obvious non sequitur. It's reaching & empty rhetoric, not rational skepticism.

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"The writers ... weren't trying to mention everything that's true." Indeed. John's Gospel even includes as its last verse an explicit disclaimer to this effect. –  Ben Dunlap May 25 '12 at 16:49

The virgin birth story originated with the interpretation that the Greeks gave to the writings which we now know as the New Testament.

With the missionary activities of Paul and others, the passing of the original followers of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem, the NT soon fell into the hands of the Greeks. They interpreted the Hebrew Scriptures through the prism of their own culture, and gave meanings to words and phrases never intended by the NT authors.

For example the Holy Spirit coming “upon” Mary is read as a virginal conception. However there are dozens of instances in the Bible where the Holy Spirit came “upon” individuals, usually men, but only in Mary’s case is it read as God impregnating someone.

Also these gentile custodians of the NT gave a ridiculous interpretation of Mary’s question to the angel (Lk 1:34). They have her saying that she does not know how she could get pregnant in the future because currently she is a virgin!

And supposedly Matthew misquoted Isaiah’s prophecy and therefore has Jesus fulfilling a prophecy that never was.

I could go on, but to cut a long story short, Matthew and Luke said nothing about a virgin birth. What they did say was that Joseph was not Jesus’ father. Luke 3:23, when translated as Erasmus did names Heli as the father of Jesus.

For those interested in looking at these points discussed in more depth, might I suggest - http://www.wallsofjericho.info/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14&Itemid=26

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Your claim about Isaiah's prophecy is not true - the original Hebrew version has 'almah which can mean both virgin and young woman, but in Septuagint there's virgin. Septuagint was translated by Greek speaking Jews, it's no gentile misunderstanding. There are some objections to your other claims too, but I'd have to research a bit for them and there's no room for a complete list anyway (ask a question about it if you want). Anyway, welcome here! –  Pavel Apr 20 '13 at 7:43

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