This haunting question came to me after seeing a documentary regarding the gospels and how John is not considered synoptic. It seems that scholars hold the belief that Mark was the first gospel ever written making it not so far from the time of the resurrection and so I personally think that Mark must be the most reliable.

Looking into why Mark doesn't contain the virgin conception, I stumbled across scholar findings regarding other sources other than Mark that were responsible for both Matthew and Luke. For example, the Q-source and the M and L source. I don't know if I believe these theories but since Mark is the earliest, it sure does make sense.

But my question still stands why didn't Mark contain the virgin birth given that it was the very first gospel?

Why didn't any of the disciples have a more detailed account of the life of Jesus for that matter, I mean I think I would have given up everything to have wrote everything with every detail as possible if I was one of the disciples, wouldn't you?

One part that makes me think about this, is when Jesus told his disciples who He was but didn't want them to let any one know until it was all done, if this was the case why didn't they mention each and everything once everything was done.

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    Mark is very short and focused on the final week leading up to the crucifixion, which takes up half the book. Each Gospel's author had a purpose, and none of their purposes was to write a fully comprehensive biography of the entirety of Jesus's life. Mark jumps in to when the action is happening.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Apr 15 at 3:08
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    Start from books I mentioned in some of my answers like some Steven Mackenzie How to read the Bible. But he also minimise the literary nature of the Bible by ignoring the mythological elements like most authors. Read books on literary criticism about bible and general literary introduction books (introduction to Narrative by Cambridge press) bec literary narrative is the key to understand ancient literature. I myself wanna seek into the best authors and books on these.
    – Michael16
    Commented Apr 15 at 6:09
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    @Michael16 Thank you so much. You have been nothing but helpful all the time. God bless. Although, I must say I might go into a rabbit hole of researching literary criticism and you are to blame.
    – How why e
    Commented Apr 15 at 6:20
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    @Howwhye Rather than focusing on what the Gospel's don't focus on, I'd recommend it's much more important to try to learn from the authors (both human and divine) what they were trying to communicate in the inspired scriptures. Sure we might be curious about Jesus's childhood or early adulthood, but just because we're curious doesn't mean it is important. Each Gospel has its own unique meaning and purpose, and we wouldn't want to obscure those by trying to flatten all the Gospels into one generic biography of Jesus.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Apr 15 at 7:16
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    @SoFewAgainstSoMany Yes ,but inconsistencies should not happen especially when Mark is the earliest book written historically. To be honest, I have heard that the two genealogies are actually different because one is the genealogy through Mary and the other through Joseph
    – How why e
    Commented Apr 15 at 19:31

2 Answers 2


There were good reasons for Matthew and Luke to write about the young Jesus.

Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience, and presented Jesus as King and Messiah. His Gospel is filled with prophetic references from the Hebrew scriptures, which his readers would have been very familiar with.

This is but one example of how Jesus's history matches prophecy:

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
— Matthew 12:23–24

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
— Isaiah 7:14

(It could be argued that Matthew's gospel had to be the first written, as it was essential to build a substantial following among the Jewish community before the message could be spread to other nations.)

Luke wrote to a Greek audience, who loved to hear human interest stories and supernatural events. All 86 verses of his first chapter and 52 verses of the second chapter are about the young Jesus. This history contains relatively little of doctrinal value, but presenting Jesus as a human is essential for generating interest for the Greek audience.

On the other hand, Mark wrote to a Roman audience, which, despite its name, wasn't so romantic as it was efficient. The people wanted to hear the details, not the background. By the end of the first chapter, Jesus has already chosen Disciples, exorcised evil spirits, performed miracles, and become famous throughout the land. Jesus is presented as someone with a job to do.

And John, who wrote later than the other Gospel writers, provides a chronological summary intended for all audiences, complementing the facts provided by other three Gospels and presenting Jesus as God himself, a message that his audience was now prepared to hear.

The simple answer is that there was no need for Mark and John to talk about Jesus's early life. Such details were irrelevant for their purposes, and would have been inappropriate for their audiences.


The evangelists or apostles were not interested in the inessential historical details, but the theological truths about his identity were more important to them; many of which have been narrated as subjective theological midrashic stories. The purpose of the gospels was to convert and save people through theological beliefs, the actual historical insignificant details of his life were irrelevant. They were "written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name" (Jn 20:31). Thus, when Christ himself did not recognise his mother (Matt 12:46-48), and conversion in Judaism means denouncing all earthly relations to be born again, I doubt that his disciples were remotely interested in Jesus' birth parents more than necessary.

Why did no other NT writer mention one particular story does not should not matter as a cause of confusion, as if all authors were organized in their beliefs? We should take into account the literary conventions, especially the mythological metaphors. Even if Luke and Matthew may have written a certain controversial appearing story in their infancy narrative, it doesn't necessarily mean that they actually believe it to be historically true.

A Critical Introduction to the New Testament Interpreting the Message and Meaning of Jesus Christ, By Carl R. Holladay · 2011

History or Theology? For a long time, it was assumed that John was the most explicitly theological Gospel, and thus virtually devoid of any historically reliable content. The discourses that were attributed to Jesus and many of his conversations with different characters were read as highly impressionistic, literary creations, even homilies, that were never intended to be read with photographic realism. Compared with the Synoptic Gospels’ portrait of Jesus, John’s account was read as much more theologically creative and much less historically realistic.
But the last two centuries have shown how theologically weighted the Synoptic Gospels are. No longer can we read any of the Synoptics, including Mark, as straight- forward, realistic history. They are all written “on the slant.” Nor can we assume that John’s Gospel, merely because it departs so radically from the Synoptics, is less reliable historically.
In some respects, John’s Passion Narrative presents a more probable account than what we find in the Synoptic Gospels. It is not at all certain that the synoptic presentation of a year-long Galilean ministry followed by a final week in Jerusalem is inherently more probable than John’s picture of a longer ministry that oscillated between Judea and Galilee and culminated in a six-month ministry in Jerusalem.
The presence or absence of miraculous or mythological elements does not necessarily provide a reliable gauge for determining historicity.

Mark as Story An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel, By David M. Rhoads, Joanna Dewey, Donald Michie · 2012

First, as we have suggested, read Mark as story rather than as history. For if we look through Mark as a window into history. we will think first of the historical figure Jesus rather than of Mark's portrayal of Jesus. If we look through the story, then, if there is something we do not understand, we may think that Mark omitted something about Jesus from his narrative, and we will go looking to other sources to find the answer. By contrast, if we look at Mark as a portrayal of characters, settings, and events as they are presented to us in the narrative, then, if there is something we do not understand, we will reread Mark carefully to find within the story itself the basis for clarity.

Second, read Mark independently from the other Gospels. In narrative study, we cannot legitimately use the other Gospels to “fill out” or to “fill in"—as a way to explain or elaborate Mark's story. For example, if we read Mark's story in light of the birth narratives from Matthew or Luke, we have already significantly changed Mark's story, because Mark does not contain these events. Or if we read an episode in Mark in light of details given about the same episode in one of the other Gospels, we will have changed Mark's story. Mark's story is complete in itself apart from the other Gospels—which are themselves also, in the same sense, self-contained stories about Jesus. Consider, for a time, treating Mark's Gospel as if it were the only story we know about Jesus.

We learn that respecting an author's work or personal narrative is crucial, it is disastrous to read one author while superimposing another. Bart Ehrman explains this problem in an article about Gospel harmonizing for the contradictions.

For an important basic level, the recommended book is "How to Read the Bible" by Steven L. McKenzie, which is a guide for modern readers to understand the different genres of the Bible and their significance. McKenzie sets out to write an objective, factual biography of the biblical king, using the Bible sceptically and looking for correlations with other historical sources

These books do not directly address the mythological elements in theology though, for controversial reasons, and perhaps they cannot afford to venture there. The best and direct reference that I found on the ancient miraculous conceptions was Luke and Jesus’ Conception: A Case of Double Paternity? Andrew Lincoln, 2013, Journal of Biblical Literature. This one is the most convincing and scholarly.

Also see certain contemporary Messianic expectations, understanding the Midrashic approach of interpretation is the key to understand the Gospels.

It’s important to understand that the belief that the Messiah, the Son of God, wouldn’t have a biological father was also held by the Sages. Midrash Genesis Rabbah 35: “The redeemer whom I shall raise up from among you will have no father, as it is written, ‘Behold the man whose name is Zemach [branch], and he shall branch up out of his place’; and he also says, ‘For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground.’”
The same idea can also be found in Midrash Genesis Rabbah 37: “The Holy One said to Israel, you have spoken before me, saying, we are orphans and have no father. The redeemer whom I shall raise up out of your midst will have no father also, as it is said, ‘Behold the man whose name is the Branch, and he shall branch up out of his place.”

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