Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


Biological Interpretations of the Virgin Birth
Harold H. Bowerman, MD
7 Clayton Terrace
St. Louis, MO 63131

From: JASA 36 (
March 1984): 63-64.

I am glad That Dr. Kessel accepts as true the biblical record of the virgin conception of our Lord. However, I question the propriety of explaining it. For nineteen centuries the Christian Church believed this doctrine, accepting it as a matter of fact. Then in the twentieth century in our so-called enlightened age two Christian believers attempted to explain it.

The First explanation was the DeHaan hypothesis. According to this idea, sinful nature is inherited through male parentage, and Jesus avoided having a sinful nature by not having a human father. The joker to this theory is that chromosomes with genes are transmitted by the mother as well as by a father and that through Mary, Jesus had male ancestry. Also, God does not need protection from sin, and since Jesus is God Incarnate, as the Gospels tell us, the God Christ needs no protection.

A later writer, Henry M. Morris, presumed to protect God from inherited human depravity by another theory, according to which God created an embryo independently of the germ cells of Mary, and implanted the fetus within Mary's virgin womb. Thus, Jesus had no genetic relation to Mary, his theoretically surrogate mother. In this theory Jesus might be a human being by special creation, but he was not a member of our human race; he would not be a Son of Man, which was the title to describe Himself which Jesus used most often. This theory is anti-biblical and should be rejected by all thinking Bible believers.

The Kessel theory is as objectionable as the two previous theories. God can do as many miracles as He wants to in order to accomplish His purposes. Parthenogenesis (by miracle) seems to be a logical description of the origin of the body of Jesus. A second miracle is necessary to produce a male body, for simple parthenogenesis would have produced a clone of Mary. The clone, as Dr. Kessel notes, would have two X chromosomes and no Y chromosome. Dr. Kessel postulates somatic sex-reversal through some inter-chromosomal transference of a gene in Mary's father. Thus, before Mary's actual existence it was pre-determined that a certain future virgin would be the mother of Christ; but it seems that Mary was given the privilege of accepting or rejecting her high honor, (Luke 1:38). Mary believed the angel Gabriel and said, "Be it done to me according to your word."

We wonder what quantity of male hormone, testosterone, would have been needed to accomplish complete sex-reversal to produce "the androgynous Christ." In our human race there have been a number of pseudo-hermaphrodites but no complete hermaphrodites. The second miracle may as well have been the removal of one X chromosome and the creation of a Y chromosome.

One serious objection to Dr. Kessel's proposal is the assumption that there have been other virgin births in the family of Homo sapiens, the case of Mary and Jesus not being unique, whereas the Gospel accounts and the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:22 suggest something unique. If we accept the Kessel hypothesis we must say that the virgin conception of Jesus Christ was true, but not a miracle, and that the ancients just thought it was a miracle.

Should we not simply believe the Word of God, accept as true the fact of the virgin conception that occurred only one time in human history and admit that we cannot explain it? We must admit that there are some things we don't know and cannot know. God is not dependent on things we discovered in this century and is not accountable to us.

Statement No. 6 in the summary is not a necessary conclusion from Dr. Kessel's biological interpretation of the virgin birth. There is no relation between ideas of the government of the church and whether Christ was a man, a woman, or both. No one needs to argue against the ordination of women in the church on the grounds that Christ was a man; the argument is based on Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus.