Jesus Was Not a Product of Parthenogenesis
Secular scientists are free to disbelieve in the Virgin Birth, but should at least try to understand what they are denying.
Current Biology published a blooper. In a Dispatch on the subject of Parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction by unfertilized eggs), Casper J. van der Kooi and Tanja Schwander from the University of Lausanne did fine discussing fish, moths and reptiles. But they really should have stayed out of theology and Biblical interpretation. Here’s the opening:
The phenomenon of virgin birth has long fascinated scientists and laymen alike. The first account of parthenogenesis in the literature is the prophecy of Jesus Christ’s birth in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel”. This reference to parthenogenesis is unusual in two ways: first, it is the only account of ‘natural parthenogenesis’ in a mammal. Mammals are believed to be completely unable to reproduce via parthenogenesis because of a number of developmental and genetic constraints. Second, while the “Blessed Virgin Mary” might have been able to conceive a daughter via parthenogenesis, the conception of a son is highly unlikely. As male sex in humans is determined by genes on the Y chromosome, Mary, as a woman, could not have transmitted any Y chromosomes to her offspring.
This is a set-up for a put-down. van der Kooi and Schwander clearly misrepresent the nature of Christ’s birth. Luke 1:31-35 states clearly that Mary’s human egg was miraculously completed by God the Holy Spirit:
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.“
This is important for Jesus Christ to be known as the God-man—fully God yet fully man. Parthenogenesis, involving an incomplete complement of DNA, would deny Christ’s sonship from the Father. Clearly this was a one-time, unique miracle, but why should that be surprising? If God invented sex, He surely knows how to create the appropriate DNA for His redemptive purposes. And Luke, a doctor and careful researcher, certainly knew the miraculous nature of virgin birth for a human being.
Luke went out of his way to describe how unique and special Mary’s child would be, probably having gotten his account from Mary herself. Otherwise, why wouldn’t he simply say Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary? He was aware of the rumors of those who couldn’t accept His supernatural birth (including Pharisees who slandered Him as being illegitimate), so in his genealogy, Luke wrote, “Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph….” (Luke 3:23). Legally, Jesus was a son in Joseph’s household, but Luke had explained in detail what had happened with the angel’s visit.
So it wasn’t parthenogenesis. This mistake undermines their whole argument. But then, the biologists make another mistake at the end of their article:
So, could accidental parthenogenesis in humans ever give rise to a new parthenogenetic lineage? Probably not, as the developmental and genetic constraints in humans and other mammals would most likely prevent the emergence of adaptive parthenogenesis in natural populations. As it turns out, even the most famous speculation about parthenogenesis, Jesus Christ’s birth, owes its existence not to a miracle but to a human error during the translation of Isaiah 7:14 from Hebrew to Greek: The Hebrew word almah can refer to a young woman of marriageable age, whether married or not. The ‘young woman’ became a ‘virgin’ in the gospel according to Matthew, where almah was translated as the Greek parthenos.
Here, van der Kooi and Schwander err in their Biblical interpretation. For one, just because almah “can” refer to a woman of marriageable age, it doesn’t mean it does; the context has to be understood. Even if Isaiah’s prophecy had a short-term fulfillment before its ultimate fulfillment, the prophesy of a married woman having a baby would hardly be a “sign”—that happens every day. Even naming it “Immanuel” would not be surprising. A sign had to point to something special and unique. Second, they ignore the Luke passages quoted above. Third, they ignore other passages that refer to Christ’s unique sonship, such as Galatians 4:4-5:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as the Son of God as well as Son of Man. As the God-man, Jesus was uniquely in a position to be the great High Priest of salvation by offering Himself as the sacrifice for sin. If He was a product of parthenogenesis, or a normal son of human parents, He would not be able to fulfill that role. Only because Jesus was God incarnate was He able to suffer for the sins of all humanity. This is why the Virgin Birth is central to Christianity, and why Isaiah, Matthew and Luke make it explicit, and many other Bible verses make it implicit.
If secular biologists demand theologians stay out of science, then they should keep their materialist hands out of theology and exegesis.
Do you see the hiss of worldview between their words? Scientism, materialism, and anti-Christianity are clearly apparent. If these biologists want to be ethical scientists, let them face peer review. Let them present their paper to the Evangelical Theological Society or some appropriate venue where scholars who understand these matters can set them straight on their facts before they embarrass themselves in print.