A lot of emphasis seems to be placed on the virginity of Mary. (For discussion on that, see this question)

Is there a theological reason why Jesus's birth had to be a virgin birth? Obviously God could have chosen a non-virgin to be the mother of Christ, so why did God choose a virgin?

3 Answers 3

  • It fulfilled prophecy

    From the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 (NIV)

    Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

  • It provided us a sign so that we will know the Messiah

    The Isaiah verse above illustrates that God gave us this gift of a virgin birth as a sign that Jesus was the Messiah.

  • It illuminates his sinless nature

    Jesus is pure without sin. The virgin birth illuminates this sinless nature. Had he been born of a man, he would have been born fallen, like the rest of humanity, therefore carrying sin.

  • It allows for the Trinity

    If Jesus had been born of a man, how could he be the "Son of God"? He could be in the same sense that we all are "sons of God". However, the virgin birth allows for the understanding that God himself came down to Earth to be the perfect sacrifice.

    This opens up a whole realm of doctrine. If he was just a man, how could his sacrifice been an atonement for everyone's sin?

  • +1 for the ease-of-recognition idea. Was His being born of a virgin widely publicized during His lifetime? It's useful for us to recognize Him as the Messiah, but is there any indication that it was something his contemporaries used as well? Sep 8, 2011 at 20:42
  • Well, it's in the gospels. The gospels were documents passed around to spread "the good news" of Jesus. So it was used as a point to illustrate that he was the Messiah from the very earliest records. Whether that was common knowledge "during his lifetime" (meaning prior to crucifixion) is hard to say. However, I feel compelled to mention that he overcame death and is still alive today; so we're still "in his lifetime".
    – Richard
    Sep 8, 2011 at 20:46
  • 1
    The actual word in Isaiah actually means young girl. Not virgin.
    – user4951
    Oct 31, 2011 at 6:38
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    Actually @JimThio the word almah can mean both virgin or young girl. Genesis 24:43 is an example of it being used for a virgin. There's been quite a bit of debate over this translation, but the quotation in Matthew 1:23 of this verse and the history of it being translated as virgin, solidifies the translation here.
    – Richard
    Oct 31, 2011 at 14:23

It seems as if my answer on this post would also answer your question here.

Is Mary's virginity evidence that sex is always sinful?

I believe that Mary's virgin Birth was a testification to the Truth of Christ. Could you imagine what the Catholic church would have done with the Husband? "Father of God" I'm sure that would have been completely chaotic. Who's really the father of God?

Well, we know through the virgin birth that only God the Father is the Father of Jesus Christ.


Basically the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception Proclaimed infallibly by Pope Pius IX in 1854 sums up the theological reasoning.

"in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."

Not only was it necessary for Mary to be a virgin, it was necessary for her to be free from the stain of original sin. If she was not a virgin, she would have sinned in some way on account of the fact that she was espoused to Joseph, but had not yet known him. She didn't 'know' him for a reason. It's reasonable to suppose that they were in some sort of period of betrothal before an official marriage, when sexual relations would have been an occasion of sin.

This is why we know she was sinless:

  1. She is often referred to as the new Eve by the early church fathers. Eve was made free from original sin and it was through her and Adam that sin entered the world. Mary likewise would have to be free from original sin to be the Mother of God in order for redemption to enter the world.
  2. She is a living tabernacle, the holy of holies, when Jesus was within her. Nothing impure could contain Him and live.
  3. She is told she is 'full of grace' by an angelic witness who would not lie or mince words before the Incarnation of Jesus.

More info

  • I don't see how your statement about Mary follows from the one you quote from Pope Pius IX. His statement indicates that Jesus was free from the stain of original sin. This I can agree with. Your statement goes on to say that therefore Mary had to be free from said stain as well. If you follow that line of reasoning wouldn't you need an entire family tree from Adam and Eve to Mary that was free from sin?
    – Caleb
    Sep 13, 2011 at 11:29
  • @Caleb, Pope Pius IX proclamation doesn't say that Jesus was free from the stain of original sin, it says Mary is (although it does use a tad too many commas). The Catholic reasoning is, Mary was 'saved' before she was born, literally conceived without sin. This was done for her alone in order to renew the covenant, if the entire family tree were free from sin, then there wouldn't be much need for a new Eve since the old one was sufficient.
    – Peter Turner
    Sep 13, 2011 at 13:26
  • Ok I see how the grammar goes now ... but my question still applies. Why could the covenant not be renewed with Jesus himself by conceiving him without sin? Why go a generation up? And if you do have to go a generation up, why don't you have to go all the way back to Adam?
    – Caleb
    Sep 13, 2011 at 13:32
  • @Caleb, why not wash your hands and face too? Maybe it's enough that the handmaid is pure? Also, if your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, whose body was more a temple of the Holy Spirit than Mary's? Not St. Anne's not Rahab's, not Ruth's, not Eve's - just Mary's. In one way the doctrine says, yes your body is important and sacred as Mary's was as the house of the soul. An important distinction to combat heresies which like to separate the soul from the body prematurely.
    – Peter Turner
    Sep 13, 2011 at 13:43

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