Orthodox Christian belief in the virginal (or immaculate) conception of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the Virgin Mary. Roman Catholic dogma also asserts the perpetual virginity of Mary, teaching that she bore Jesus in a miraculous way so that she remained a virgin and subsequently had no other children; the brothers and sisters of Jesus, mentioned in the Gospels, are assumed to be Joseph's by a previous marriage.
The virginal conception of Jesus is described in the Gospels of St Matthew and St Luke. However, the description of his birth in the Gospels of St John and the writings of St Paul make no mention of Mary's virginity, and the form of Jesus' conception has raised much debate between liberal and conservative Christian groups.
Conservative Christians, including fundamentalist and evangelical denominations, interpret the Gospels of St Matthew and St Luke literally, as they hold that the Bible, being inspired by God, is free of error. The fact that Mary's virginity is not mentioned by St John and St Paul is viewed as a simple omission.
Some liberal Christians do not believe in the doctrine of the Virgin Birth. They regard the New Testament as written by creative writers, who promoted their own or their particular Christian group's beliefs. Liberal Christians study the Bible in its historical context, using non-biblical sources and looking at the cultural practices and superstitious beliefs of the time, as well as the development of the different Christian movements. They point out that it was customary practice in Galilee in this period for a couple to live together out of marriage, until a child was conceived or born, and hold that Jesus was the first of Mary and Joseph's many children conceived through sexual intercourse.
The Birth of Jesus
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