On the Virgin Birth: Ignatius of Antioch

§2. Ignatius of Antioch

The Epistle to the Ephesians
There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible,—even Jesus Christ our Lord. … But our Physician is the only true God, the unbegotten and unapproachable, the Lord of all, the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son. We have also as a Physician the Lord our God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin. For “the Word was made flesh.” Being incorporeal, He was in the body; being impassible, He was in a passible body; being immortal, He was in a mortal body; being life, He became subject to corruption, that He might free our souls from death and corruption, and heal them, and might restore them to health, when they were diseased with ungodliness and wicked lusts. (Ch. 7)

… For the Son of God, who was begotten before time began, and established all things according to the will of the Father, He was conceived in the womb of Mary, according to the appointment of God, of the seed of David, and by the Holy Ghost. (Ch. 18)

… Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown, which were wrought in silence, but have been revealed to us. (Ch. 19)

The Epistle to the Magnesians
I desire to guard you beforehand, that ye fall not upon the hooks of vain doctrine, but that you may rather attain to a full assurance in Christ, who was begotten by the Father before all ages, but was afterwards born of the Virgin Mary without any intercourse with man. (Ch. 11)

The Epistle to the Trallians
Stop your ears, therefore, when any one speaks to you at variance with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was descended from David, and was also of Mary; who was truly begotten of God and of the Virgin, but not after the same manner. For indeed God and man are not the same. He truly assumed a body; for “the Word was made flesh,” and lived upon earth without sin. For says He, “Which of you convicteth me of sin?” He did in reality both eat and drink. He was crucified and died under Pontius Pilate. He really, and not merely in appearance, was crucified, and died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. (Ch. 9)

I do not place my hopes in one who died for me in appearance, but in reality. For that which is false is quite abhorrent to the truth. Mary then did truly conceive a body which had God inhabiting it. And God the Word was truly born of the Virgin, having clothed Himself with a body of like passions with our own. He who forms all men in the womb, was Himself really in the womb, and made for Himself a body of the seed of the Virgin, but without any intercourse of man. He was carried in the womb, even as we are, for the usual period of time; and was really born, as we also are; and was in reality nourished with milk, and partook of common meat and drink, even as we do. And when He had lived among men for thirty years, He was baptized by John, really and not in appearance; and when He had preached the Gospel three years, and done signs and wonders, He who was Himself the Judge was judged by the Jews, falsely so called, and by Pilate the governor; was scourged, was smitten on the cheek, was spit upon; He wore a crown of thorns and a purple robe; He was condemned: He was crucified in reality, and not in appearance, not in imagination, not in deceit. He really died, and was buried, and rose from the dead, even as He prayed in a certain place, saying, “But do Thou, O Lord, raise me up again, and I shall recompense them.” And the Father, who always hears Him, answered and said, “Arise, O God, and judge the earth; for Thou shall receive all the heathen for Thine inheritance.” The Father, therefore, who raised Him up, will also raise us up through Him, apart from whom no one will attain to true life. For says He, “I am the life; he that believeth in me, even though he die, shall live: and every one that liveth and believeth in me, even though he die, shall live for ever.” (Ch. 10)

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Anonymous said…
Hi David.

Primary materials - always a good idea. It'll be great to see where it all takes your sharp, honest, and tradition-respectful but not -obsequious mind.

Just when I broke into blogging a little over a year ago, I did a piece at Connexions entitled "Revisiting Traditon - Test Case: the Virgin Birth". It does not examine the kind of material that you are putting before us, but I think it deals with at least some of the questions thinking folk need to consider (even if I would have written something different a year on!).

As an IT ignoramus, I don't know how to link with the piece, but it's at Connexions, 29th November 2005. If it sucks, sorry for bothering you!

Have a cool Yule.
Thanks, Kim! For those who wish to read Kim's excellent post on the subject, click here.
Anonymous said…

I suggest that the 'Miraculous Incarnation' is not based on the New Testament but on the worldview of the Graeco-Roman fathers whose minds were set in the key of a structure different to that of the Hebrew apostles.

Because of Dead Sea Isaiah Scroll we know that no Hebrew prophet predicted a 'virgin birth'.We also know that it was never preached by any of the apostles.

There is no conflict between the two genealogies. One is the genealogy of his supposed father, the other is the genealogy of his biological father. Matthew, for a compelling reason that had nothing to do with 'virgin birth,' recorded that Jesus was not the son of Joseph while Luke recorded the name of the biological father of Jesus to demonstrate that he was entitled to sit upon the throne of David.

Conflict and confusion were introduced by the later introduction of the idea of 'virgin-birth' by Ignatius.

This supposed conflict between the genealogies is one of the tools used by some to cast doubt on the veracity of Scripture. Why persist with this unscriptural doctrine?