:::Ask the Alliance Question #4:::
In September, Peter submitted questions concerning the nature of the conception of Christ in the broader context of the true nature of Christ. The Alliance has tried to avoid the major pitfalls associated with this topic.
Why the Complicated Virgin Birth Process?
In the case of Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, and Elizabeth, God intervened on the mother’s side to bring forth a son though these ladies had been barren.
Why then did God use a more complicated process on the dad’s side to bring forth Christ?
Jesus had to be fully human and fully Divine in order to accomplish atonement. This duality of natures is the Hypostatic Union. For a bit on that, see our article Is the Incarnation Incoherent?
Due to our corruption, only God could redeem us, yet the redemption had to be simultaneously in human form co-existing with God . God redeemed our own image through Jesus Christ (the very image of the Father). Furthermore, people saw Jesus’ miracles as a witness to God (e.g., John 3:2), therefore believing that He was also God.
B. T. Samuel mentioned that the miraculous virgin birth “kept Jesus’ body undefiled with the Word dwelling in it”. The indwelling Word was to fulfill the message of salvation, die for our sins, and in resurrection overcome death––actions only the Divine can perform. And so, “the Word, since he was not able to die… took to Himself a body able to die, that He might offer it as His own on behalf of all” .
Too Much Information?
Would not the Father’s provided genetic info make the conceived Being “the Son of God”? But if info was already in Jesus, and God the Father had additional info to add to Mary’s info, then would there not be too many info sources for a human embryo? After all, Jesus took on him the seed (genetic info) derived from Abraham (Hebrews 2:16). So then how could Luke speak of a conception?
Luke’s Choice of Words
Conception, which for humans involves uniting a human sperm and egg cell with their genetic information, results in a new human being.
In Luke 1:31, the writer Luke uses the Greek verb sullēpsē (συλληψη), which can refer to conception and occurs in other forms in many places in the New Testament (e.g., Luke 1:36 and James 1:15). In Luke 1:36, Luke uses the same verb to refer to Elizabeth’s conception as the mother of John the Baptist.
Does Luke then really use the verb with one meaning with Elizabeth and another meaning with Mary?
As Prem Isaac in the Alliance noted, God is the DNA info source of Mary as much as of the human Jesus; by itself, neither that nor the Holy Spirit’s influence gives us enough info to know with absolute certainty how God made Mary conceive. Indeed, some people would question whether God must act simply within a human framework.
However, Luke as a physician ought to have known what he was talking about when he referred to conception. After all, Jesus was human. Because Jesus was human, Mary’s pregnancy included a conception.
One Theoretical Solution:
Assuming Scripture’s record and the presence of a Y chromosome to make Jesus male, Z. E. Kendall proposed that Jesus could have originated as a sperm in Mary’s womb (as opposed to originating as a fetus).
Under this view, taking the reference to the Holy Spirit’s overshadowing (Luke 1:35) a bit figuratively, Christ as a human male sperm could have been Divinely placed into Mary’s womb.
This view has the implication that Christ yielded His life as a sperm even at the point of conception of His physical human body (c.f., 1st Cor. 15:38). By so yielding His life, Christ could claim that He was obedient to Yahweh even from His mother’s womb. By extension therefore, Yahweh was Christ’s God even then (Psalm 22:10).
Thus, conception would still have occurred the same way with Mary as it did with Elizabeth, since there would be a bit of time between the placement of the sperm cell and the uniting of sperm with egg.
However, Christ as God–at that point of taking on the form of a fully human, male sperm–would have taken on a human form as an additional facet.
We ought to distinguish between the human body of Jesus and the (Divine, Spiritual) Soul of Jesus. This is not to say, however, that Christ had two souls or was two Persons.
Thus also, Jesus is not to be viewed as a demi-god (i.e., half-man and half-God). After all, the DNA of Christ would have been fully human, not a human-Divine mix. Therefore, Jesus could feel what humans feel (Heb. 4:15).
Under this view, an entity can have half-parental human DNA and yet still be both fully God and fully human. One’s humanity does not detract from one’s Divinity, if One is Divine.
Some people might like to think of Jesus as having His Heavenly Father’s DNA, but if this is so, then it is probably spiritual DNA. After all, there is both a physical body and a spiritual body (1st. Cor. 15:44). It is thus conceivable that Christ’s Spiritual Body would hold His Divinity and Soul, while His physical body would hold His Humanity.
Did Jesus Become God or Become Man?
The common Christian view is that, for salvation to be available, God had to become manlike. But could Scripture suggest that spiritual salvation would be made available by a man becoming Godlike, and that Jesus is the first man to complete this process?
Christianity does not teach such a doctrine.
As Prem Isaac noted, Jesus always had, has, and will have His “Divine Nature.” Thus, the womb-conception of Jesus did not cause Jesus to become the Son of God. Rather, we as mere mortals understood the empirical basis for believing and declaring that He is indeed the Son of God (Rom. 1:4). It added nothing special to make his human nature “special”. The Epistle of Hebrews deals with this extensively. Christ had to be like us in order to become the captain of our salvation. He experienced pain, hunger, and temptation. “These are not God-like attributes.”
Moreover, as Chris Lee noted, Scripture supports the notion that Jesus was and is more than human. What other baby does Scripture record as receiving the accolade of angels (Luke 2:8-14)? Should not we think there is something special, especially when they say the baby is Savior and Lord (Luke 2:11)? Simeon referred to Jesus as God’s source of salvation for us (Luke 2:30). If Jesus were merely human, do these statements have a reasonable explanation?
Furthermore, the writer Luke shows Jesus’ Divine ability and identity prior to the Cross (e.g., Luke 4:34 [Jesus addressed as Holy One of God], Luke 4:41 [Jesus being addressed as the Son of God], Luke 5:4-8 [Jesus having special knowledge of fish], Luke 5:20 [Jesus forgiving a man of his sin], Luke 6:5 [Jesus’ claim of being Lord of the Sabbath], Luke 8:23-25 [Jesus controlling nature], Luke 8:26-36 [removal of demons], Luke 9:35 [Yahweh declares Jesus to be His authoritative Son], Luke 17:12-19 [Jesus curing ten lepers], Luke 18:40-43 [healing of blind man], and Luke 22:66-71 [Jesus applying Daniel 7:13-15 to himself; his enemies indicating he has blasphemed]).
“In Semitic thought a son was a ‘carbon copy’ of his father, and the phrase ‘son of’ was often used to refer to one who possessed his ‘father’s’ qualities (e.g., the Heb. trans. ‘son of wickedness’ in Ps. 89:22 means a wicked person).” 
B. T. Samuel also noted that Jesus “was not a created son” but rather “always coequal and coeternal with the Father” in the Trinity. For more, see our article The Trinity Defended. John 1:1-3 supports the notion that Jesus originated “in the beginning” with the Father and Holy Spirit. Thus, He cannot Scripturally be a “created being”.
Second/Final Adam Made Spiritually Complete?
But could not Jesus be considered to have learned and suffered and thus been made perfect (Heb. 5:8-9)? In that sense, could Jesus be the Second Adam?
As Z. E. Kendall in the alliance noted, we can view Jesus as the Second Adam in typological terms. In the human sense, Jesus was the Second man who originated without sin in the world. While the First Adam did not remain sinless, the Second Adam did remain sinless and thus could qualify as the Sacrificial Lamb of God (John 1:36). But Jesus also had another thing in common with the First Adam: a lack of a physical biological father.
Jesus as the “firstborn from the dead”.
Annotated External References:
1. St. Athanasius. “On the Incarnation.” The Orthodox Study Bible.
2. Martin, John A. “Luke.” In Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, p. 205; Edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck. Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1983.
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