Matthew and Luke in their gospels plainly state that Jesus was divinely conceived by the Holy Spirit For those who believe in the inerrancy of the New Testament, no further support for the virgin birth is needed. But others, such as American founding father Thomas Paine, observed that just because Matthew relates that Joseph said that an angel told him that Mary “was with child without any cohabitation with a man” was no proof at all. “It is hearsay upon hearsay,” declared Paine, “and I do not choose to rest my belief upon such evidence.” Perhaps neither position addresses the complexities of the Bible’s virgin birth stories says J. Edward Barrett in “Can Scholars Take the Virgin Birth of Jesus Seriously?”
Probing the virgin birth stories, Barrett discusses problems of Hebrew/Greek translation, the contexts of the famous prophecies in the Book of Isaiah, and father-son relationships in the Jewish and Hellenistic worlds in Bible times.
Professor of religion at Muskingum College, New Concord, Ohio, Barrett describes himself as having one foot in the ancient world (he teaches biblical archaeology and classical mythology) and one in the modern world (he also teaches modern Christian thought and global issues and values). Barrett wrote “Piety and Patriotism” BAR 07:01.