The Jesus Seminar, a group of assorted liberal biblical scholars, made headlines recently by denying the New Testament account of Jesus' miraculous conception and birth.

Voting with multi-colored pebbles, these pundits decided that Mary must have had sexual intercourse, either with Joseph or some unknown interloper, before she became pregnant with Jesus. They also decreed the visit of the wise men a fabrication, the slaughter of the innocents a fiction, and the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt a fanciful allegory drawn from the Moses story in Exodus.

Ostensibly based on "factual, empirical evidence" (how does one research a first-century woman's virginity anyway?), the conclusions of the Jesus Seminar are really a rehash of old canards long since dealt with by responsible scholars of Christian origins.

THEOLOGY AT WORK?

Behind these new denials, a theology is at work, a theology threatened by the central truth to which the Virgin Birth points as a validating sign: a theology that would conjure away both the miracle and the mystery of that angel-whispered name: Immanuel.

Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary - these ancient words of the Apostles' Creed point to the fundamental fact of the Christian faith: In Jesus Christ, God became one of us. The New Testament narrative of the Virgin Birth declares that this really happened in space and time. Luke, who goes into greatest detail about this event, clearly states that he is presenting an orderly account of things that had taken place in the external world: "in the time of Herod king of Judea … in the days of Caesar Augustus … in the sixth month."

If secular historians wince at the supernatural and relegate the virgin's womb, no less than the empty ...

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