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Author Topic: Must we believe in the Virgin Birth?  (Read 2341 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: December 29, 2010, 10:20:15 AM »

Does Orthodoxy hold that belief in the Virgin Birth is as important as many evangelicals believe?

Albert Mohler, Southern Baptist:

"Even if the Virgin Birth was taught by only one biblical passage, that would be sufficient to obligate all Christians to the belief. We have no right to weigh the relative truthfulness of biblical teachings by their repetition in Scripture. We cannot claim to believe that the Bible is the Word of God and then turn around and cast suspicion on its teaching.

Millard Erickson states this well: “If we do not hold to the virgin birth despite the fact that the Bible asserts it, then we have compromised the authority of the Bible and there is in principle no reason why we should hold to its other teachings. Thus, rejecting the virgin birth has implications reaching far beyond the doctrine itself.”

Implications, indeed. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, who was His father? There is no answer that will leave the Gospel intact. The Virgin Birth explains how Christ could be both God and man, how He was without sin, and that the entire work of salvation is God’s gracious act. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, He had a human father. If Jesus was not born of a virgin, the Bible teaches a lie.

Carl F. H. Henry, the dean of evangelical theologians, argues that the Virgin Birth is the “essential, historical indication of the Incarnation, bearing not only an analogy to the divine and human natures of the Incarnate, but also bringing out the nature, purpose, and bearing of this work of God to salvation.” Well said, and well believed."

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« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2010, 10:27:25 AM »

The evangelicals are correct here & if only they could accept that the Theotokos is ever virgin.
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« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2010, 10:52:30 AM »

I would say perhaps even moreso, since the dogma of the Virgin birth of Christ is enshrined not only in Scripture, but in the liturgical texts and, I think, also the dogmatic canons and Synodikon of Orthodoxy, as is the ever-virginity of the Theotokos.
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« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2010, 12:22:11 PM »

To the OP: We should.
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« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2010, 12:30:40 PM »

If there is no virgin birth then Christ is the son of somebody else and not the Son of God.
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« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2010, 01:00:04 PM »


Must we believe in the Virgin Birth?  Yes.
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« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2010, 01:04:39 PM »

No Virgin Birth, no Salvation.  Belief in the Virgin Birth is critical to being a Christian.
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« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2010, 01:09:42 PM »

Even Islam teaches the Virgin birth of Jesus, yet strangely fails to infer much from this.  I always thought that odd.

As others have stated, this is a crucial tenet of Christianity.  Without this, it questions many teachings of the church and the religion, including the divinity of Christ.
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« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2010, 02:08:53 PM »

Does Orthodoxy hold that belief in the Virgin Birth is as important as many evangelicals believe?

More than they do, since we accept all the logical implications (the incarnation of the Son of God, a member of the Holy Trinity of the One Godhead, which opened the door of theosis to us, etc.) more than they do.
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« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2010, 02:11:18 PM »

Well, the only other option would be that God entered man at one point (for example, at Jesus' baptism). I know this is a heresy that was condemned a long time ago, but how does this belief affect our salvation?
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« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2010, 05:52:47 PM »

The Virgin birth is important
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« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2010, 06:00:50 PM »

The tenet of the Virgin Birth is fundamental to our faith.

It was declared explicitly in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke whilst implicitly in the Gospel of Mark and John.
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« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2010, 06:11:23 PM »

The Virgin birth is important

A lot of things are important in the Christian faith, but do you think that this dogma is obligatory?

As Fr. George has already said, the logical implications from the virgin birth that are core fundamental dogmas of the Church would make that answer "yes."
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« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2010, 06:29:57 PM »

Yes. I am surprised that the question would even be posed to us as Orthodox Christians.
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« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2010, 07:49:46 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Does Orthodoxy hold that belief in the Virgin Birth is as important as many evangelicals believe?

Albert Mohler, Southern Baptist:



Albert Mohler aside, from my experience I'm not quite sure the Virgin Birth is really that fundamental or important in Protestant/Pentecostal/Baptist theology.  In their vitriolic fear of anything even remotely Popish or Mariolatry, these tend to under-emphasize any significance of Our Lady, even in the context and discussions of the Virgin Birth.  When you discuss it, most Baptists especially will go out of their way to make note of the insignificance of Our Lady in this regard, it is heavy on their collective conscience.  Essentially, many will outright say that while Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, that after this miraculous birth She became irrelevant and even unnecessary and almost discarded.  When we discuss the infinity of this Virgin Birth, and that in the divine miraculousness of our God, Jesus Christ was not born only once of a Virgin, but in all His Manifestations is perpetually being born of a Virgin, and that in all His revelations to us the Virgin Birth is continually dawning on the darkness of our confusion, they quickly discredit this concept.  Remember, Christ has been largely relegated to symbolism in the Protestant churches.

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Thou art the golden
candlestick and dost hold
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Essentially, the Protestant mind-set can't cope with or understand the concept of Our Lady being (in the present and future tense) called "thou ART the candlestick" where as they concede perhaps that She WAS the candlestick.  We understand in Orthodox theology that Our Lady remains forever the candlestick which holds the Illuminating Light of Jesus Christ, She did not just hold Him once for a short time in the past, but theologically, metaphysically and cosmologically is always holding Him up in such  a way, in absolute perpetuity, which is why we ascribe Honor and Blessings upon Her.

This is not to limit or deny the sincerity of Protestants and their some-what affection for Her, many do in fact enjoy the idea of Our Lady cradling the Infant Christ, but they limit themselves in embracing the concept of Our Lady being Jesus' eternal mother, rather than simply temporary.  We in Orthodox, always embrace Our Lady as the present-tense, not just the past.



stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2010, 09:44:21 PM »

If we don't believe in the Virgin birth, then our faith is a farce.
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« Reply #16 on: December 29, 2010, 10:54:54 PM »

What about the argument that St. Paul never mentioned the Virgin Birth?
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« Reply #17 on: December 29, 2010, 11:06:44 PM »

What about the argument that St. Paul never mentioned the Virgin Birth?

So what?  We're not Protestants.
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« Reply #18 on: December 29, 2010, 11:15:47 PM »

What about the argument that St. Paul never mentioned the Virgin Birth?

St Luke mentioned it and he was close to St Paul. They both mention each other in their writings that have been preserved in Scripture. I doubt that St Paul was ignorant of the virgin birth, only emphasized Christ's death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit living in us as a result, the practical implications of that in our lives, and the hope that we have in the future because of this.
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« Reply #19 on: December 29, 2010, 11:17:46 PM »

What about the argument that St. Paul never mentioned the Virgin Birth?

So what?  We're not Protestants.

I've never heard a protestant use that argument, just about every protestant that I know holds firmly to the virgin birth. It's usually non-Christians that use that argument.
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« Reply #20 on: December 29, 2010, 11:39:27 PM »

What about the argument that St. Paul never mentioned the Virgin Birth?

St. Paul never mentioned a lot of things that are in the Gospels. 
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« Reply #21 on: December 29, 2010, 11:39:50 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
What about the argument that St. Paul never mentioned the Virgin Birth?

So what?  We're not Protestants.

I've never heard a protestant use that argument, just about every protestant that I know holds firmly to the virgin birth. It's usually non-Christians that use that argument.

I do believe the intention of that first comment was to imply that Orthodox are not Scripturalists, and that we do not rely solely on the Bible as Protestants tend to.  For most Protestants, if it is not in the Bible it is not true, real, or Divine, which is why in ignorance they largely reject the Apostolic and Holy Traditions, even though most of the Tradition is in fact widely mentioned in the Scriptures, including the veneration of Saints, Liturgical worship, the Real Presence, and the Heirarchy of priests, all which are openly and defiantly rejected according to most Protestant theology.

Even Islam teaches the Virgin birth of Jesus, yet strangely fails to infer much from this.  I always thought that odd.

As others have stated, this is a crucial tenet of Christianity.  Without this, it questions many teachings of the church and the religion, including the divinity of Christ.

Quote
Although there is this common ground, notice that Islam attaches no theological significance to the Virgin birth; Surah 3:59 states: "Lo! the likeness of Jesus with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, then He said unto him: Be! and he is." Muslims often state that Adam's creation was a greater miracle, since he had no parents at all! Moreover, there does not seem to be any compelling reason for the virgin birth in the Qur'an, since Islam denies original sin; the miracle is merely an arbitrary act of God's will, an expression of His power. However, one interesting point in the Hadith, the narrations of Muhammad (the second source of authority for Muslims), indicates the uniqueness of Christ's birth: Narrated by Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "When any human being is born, Satan touches him at both sides of the body with his two fingers, except Jesus, the son of Mary, whom Satan tried to touch but failed, for he touched the placenta-cover instead." (Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 4.506)
http://www.pneumafoundation.org/article.jsp?article=/article_0053.xml

Quote
"How can I give birth to a son if no man has touched me?"; receiving the answer; "Just so! God creates what he wants: when he decides something, it is enough that he should say: let it be! and it is" (III, 147; XIX, 203). A version that confirms the typically Islamic sense of the absolute authority and power of God, and the complete submission of man to his will.

The Koran gives no details about the birth of Jesus. It at once presents Mary who, returning among her people and showing them the Child, becomes the object of terrible slanders. The episode, brief but dramatic, is suddenly solved when the Infant, speaking unexpectedly from the cradle, takes his Mother's defence and exonerates her from all blame (XIX, 30-33). This miracle, to which the Koran refers more than once (e.g. III, 46; V, 113), is among those that have made most impression on the imagination of Moslem believers and that are still alive in their conscience. The episode, however, has also a kerigmatic importance for Islamic theology , since the fact that the Child speaks from the cradle is a violation of natural laws and therefore bears witness to the greatness of the Spirit that is in him.

The Koran does not give us any other information on the Virgin's life, while tradition recalls various and partly conflicting versions of the last years of her earthly presence and of her ascension to heaven. But neither the Koran nor tradition give the story of the Transitus Mariae.
Those who do not know the Islamic religion may be surprised to learn that Mahomet defended Mary's virginity, or that he recognized her as the woman chosen by God for a function that was to be unique in history. Mahomet's commitment to defend her and exalt her, also explains his harsh condemnation of the Jews (e.g. V, 156), guilty of persisting in the slander and in refusing to admit Mary's unique role. It is necessary to clarify, however, that, also for Mahomet, Mary is unimaginable if dissociated from her Son: the divine election and the purity of the Mother are directly proportioned to the qualities of the Son; the moment of their interdependence is greatly felt, therefore, since the historical greatness of Mary is conditioned by that of her Son, and the Son in his turn depends on his Mother, who constitutes the indispensable promise for his presence on earth. In the Koran Christ is called repeatedly Issa ibn Maryam—"Jesus son of Mary" (V, 19, 75, 81, 113; XIX, 34)—a name which if it will become perhaps the best known one in the Islamic world, will also be the one that characterizes most the figure of Christ. This correlation, which has led Moslem religious thought to affirm the indissolubility of the dual concept Mary-Jesus and to base its refutation of Christian doctrine on it, seems to have its foundation in the principle of necessity. The negation of Christ's divinity finds its reason, in fact, precisely in Mary's human nature; that is, in the genetic relationship which, entailing the transmission of properties, would exclude a leap of quality from Mother to Son.

This conception, in which there is also inherent the idea of the primacy of the female line over the male line (in the Koran narration of Mary's life, while the person of Zacharias, the Virgin's uncle and guardian, is thwarted by the constant presence of the Angel of the Lord, that of Joseph is completely ignored), is due, in our opinion, more than to the influence of the apocrypha, to an ancient way of feeling that is characteristic of the Semites of Arabia. It is a way of feeling which, is also alive in Mahomet and which leads to mental operations of the analogical type, to a thought geared less to speculation than to the pursuit of parallelisms, to the concordance of diverse but congruent elements, and therefore to the vision of a firm reality, because it is founded on perfect and therefore immutable relationships, which seem to exclude the possibility of gradual evolution. What Mahomet and his commentators failed to grasp intellectually, is the concept that the presence of God can come about in different ways, realizing itself as a circumstantial and determined presence, without causing for this reason any alternation in God himself. This presence, furthermore, may have the character of a gradual and growing manifestation; and may mark a new temporal effect at the very moment in which God sets up a new relationship with his creatures. That Islamic theology should find it so difficult to grasp this concept, seems almost incomprehensible when it is remembered that Mahomet himself, in addition to affirming with unusual forcefulness the omnipotence of God, also perceived a certain development God's manifestation of himself through his "messengers", and recognized Moses, and particularly Jesus and himself, as having a role which, though not well defined theoretically, seems superior to that of the other prophets.
http://www.ewtn.com/library/mary/marykran.htm

In Islam the Virgin Birth is essential as a function of a true miracle, to demonstrate the power of God, just as Moses was found in the basket.  For Islam, tangible, extraordinary miracles are signs of God's activity, and a confirmation of faith.  However, since Islam rejects the divinity of Jesus Christ, rather embracing the Prophet Issa as indeed the Biblical Messiah, but defining such in more Judaic concepts rather then Christian.  Interestingly, as the article points out above, Islam theology, much like in the Orthodox, in fact defines the fully Human Nature of Jesus Christ in context of His birth from the purely human Virgin Mary, and as such reject any divinity of Jesus Christ precisely because of His human ancestry through the Virgin Mary.
We should note that Mohammad was heavily influenced by his experience with early Christians, both in positive and negative ways.  He admired our fasting culture, our ritualized prayer routines, and tendency towards pilgrimages, and as such made these exact practices fundamental pillars of Islam, and he openly explained the Christian influence.  In the negative, Islam became so antagonistically iconoclastic in a cultural reaction to the Iconography of Christianity. A particular colloquial story tells of Mohammad giving the riot act to Ethiopian Christians he stayed a decade with while in exile in Ethiopia over the abundance of Icons and religious imagery which was a crucial part of Ethiopian public and private devotion and worship.  Further, as the article above mentioned, Mohammed was also influenced by the various "heretical" and sectarian branches of Christians from the region, and also specifically favored a lot of Christian influence to counter the Jews who in Arabian peninsula and North/East Africa were a potent political and economic powerhouse who fought many wars in 5th-9th centuries until Christians and Muslims came to dominate politics.
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« Reply #22 on: December 30, 2010, 12:56:59 AM »

What about the argument that St. Paul never mentioned the Virgin Birth?
Arguments from silence very seldom have validity in a debate.
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« Reply #23 on: December 30, 2010, 01:29:26 AM »

This is somewhat of a personal contemplation, but I feel that St. Paul does show some knowledge of the virgin birth, although this is not all that clear from the follow chapter:

From Galatians 4:
Quote
21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.
 24 These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written:

   “Be glad, barren woman,
   you who never bore a child;
shout for joy and cry aloud,
   you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
   than of her who has a husband.”

 28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” 31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

I wonder if that free woman is the Theotokos.  I wonder if she's the "desolate woman" who now has more children "than of her who has a husband."  I wonder if by this, this shows a new birth, a new creation, and a new form of pro-creation, where one does not have to be married to have children, since we have godmothers, godfathers, spiritual mothers and church "fathers".  St. Paul had children too, not biologically, but spiritually, and continues to bear them today.  For St. Paul teaches we are heirs to Abraham's promise through Christ.  Does not this mean we are also children of the Theotokos, the true free woman?
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« Reply #24 on: December 30, 2010, 01:38:40 AM »

Why not?
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« Reply #25 on: December 30, 2010, 03:28:15 AM »

As for St. Paul's not mentioning the Virgin Birth in his epistles, he does not talk about John the Baptist either.

However, in his letter to the Galatians St. Paul overtly referred to Christ's incarnation when he said that the Son of God was born of a woman under the Law when the appointed time came. This implicitly points at the virgin birth.

More to the point, St. Luke highlighted the amazing parallelisms between Christ's baptism and His birth. For instance, Jesus started His prophetic ministry when He was baptized by John and the Holy Spirit came upon Him whilst He started His human life when He was born of a virgin upon whom the Holy Spirit came.

Luke even inserted Jesus' genealogy into his Gospel after the account of Jesus' baptism unlike Matthew, who placed Jesus' genealogy in the account of His nativity and infancy.

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« Reply #26 on: January 01, 2011, 08:44:12 AM »

Is the making of Eve from Adam's rib, a reversed 'foretelling' of the virigin birth? In both instances, we have non-sexual reproduction, one gender producing - miraculously - a person of the opposite gender.
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« Reply #27 on: January 01, 2011, 01:29:39 PM »

Is the making of Eve from Adam's rib, a reversed 'foretelling' of the virigin birth? In both instances, we have non-sexual reproduction, one gender producing - miraculously - a person of the opposite gender.

Several Fathers teach that man would have reproduced asexually were it not for the Fall, and the Virgin Birth is, in part, a restoration of this reality (I say "in part" because only Mary gives birth to the God-Man).
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« Reply #28 on: January 01, 2011, 01:34:06 PM »

Is the making of Eve from Adam's rib, a reversed 'foretelling' of the virigin birth? In both instances, we have non-sexual reproduction, one gender producing - miraculously - a person of the opposite gender.

Although I've never heard this from any theologian, it would make sense. Christ is the new Adam, the Theotokos is the New Eve. Through Adam and Eve the relationship with God was damaged (I won't say destroyed, as God never forsook His creation), and through Christ and the Theotokos it is restored.

God told Moses of His promises for Jews through the burning bush; through the Theotokos, the "new" burning bush, that which contained the uncontainable, the promise for Israel was fulfilled.
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« Reply #29 on: January 03, 2011, 06:16:58 AM »

Is the making of Eve from Adam's rib, a reversed 'foretelling' of the virigin birth? In both instances, we have non-sexual reproduction, one gender producing - miraculously - a person of the opposite gender.

This is a traditional Islamic teaching on Christ's miraculous birth.
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« Reply #30 on: January 03, 2011, 04:26:39 PM »

Is the making of Eve from Adam's rib, a reversed 'foretelling' of the virigin birth? In both instances, we have non-sexual reproduction, one gender producing - miraculously - a person of the opposite gender.

This is a traditional Islamic teaching on Christ's miraculous birth.

No reason why we can't share this interpretation...thanks Muhammad! Wink
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« Reply #31 on: January 04, 2011, 03:45:14 AM »

Is the making of Eve from Adam's rib, a reversed 'foretelling' of the virigin birth? In both instances, we have non-sexual reproduction, one gender producing - miraculously - a person of the opposite gender.

This is a traditional Islamic teaching on Christ's miraculous birth.

No reason why we can't share this interpretation...thanks Muhammad! Wink

Muhammad referred to Adam's direct creation to deny that Christ's miraculous birth pointed at His divine personality. He also taught in the Qur'an that Jesus was similar to Adam in terms of direct creation and claimed that Adam's creation without a father and mother was far superior to Jesus' creation without a father only. Can you thank him for these teachings as well?  Roll Eyes

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« Reply #32 on: January 04, 2011, 03:51:51 AM »

Is the making of Eve from Adam's rib, a reversed 'foretelling' of the virigin birth? In both instances, we have non-sexual reproduction, one gender producing - miraculously - a person of the opposite gender.

This is a traditional Islamic teaching on Christ's miraculous birth.

No reason why we can't share this interpretation...thanks Muhammad! Wink

Muhammad referred to Adam's direct creation to deny that Christ's miraculous birth pointed at His divine personality. He also taught in the Qur'an that Jesus was similar to Adam in terms of direct creation and claimed that Adam's creation without a father and mother was far superior to Jesus' creation without a father only. Can you thank him for these teachings as well?  Roll Eyes



Well no, but can we not still consider it as a reverse fore-shadowing, as Jetavan says, without twisting it to depricate the virgin birth as Muhammad did?
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« Reply #33 on: January 04, 2011, 04:04:23 AM »


Well no, but can we not still consider it as a reverse fore-shadowing, as Jetavan says, without twisting it to depricate the virgin birth as Muhammad did?

IMHO, no. Eve was not literally born of Adam. There was no pregnancy. In Jesus' case, however, we have a regular course of an irregular pregnancy.
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