In what remains a widely discussed issue in contemporary theology, J. Gresham Machen’s The Virgin Birth of Christ acts as both an introduction to the subject, and a window into American ‘Princeton’ theology in the early twentieth century. Machen undertakes an encyclopaedic study of the different perspectives on the virgin birth. He begins with a close reading of the scriptural accounts, comparing and contrasting the stories of Jesus’ birth told in Luke and Matthew. Secular historical accounts are then considered, as well as possible alternative theories, including the likelihood of the story being of early Jewish or Pagan origin.
Machen’s study was the definitive work on the virgin birth for the majority of the twentieth century, and remains an invaluable resource, both as an apologetic work and as a time capsule of theological progress.
About the Author
John Gresham Machen (1881-1937) was an American Presbyterian New Testament scholar and educator. Born in Maryland, Machen gained his undergraduate degree from John Hopkins University. He studied theology at Princeton Seminary whilst simultaneously achieving a Master’s degree in Philosophy from Princeton University. In 1906 he became Professor of New Testament at Princeton Seminary and founded the Westminster Theological Seminary in 1929. Machen is often considered one of the last pioneers of ‘Princeton’ theology, a distinctive Calvinist tradition within Evangelical Christianity.
Preface to the First Edition
Preface to the Second Edition
1. The Virgin Birth in the Second Century
2. The Birth Narrative an Original Part of the Third Gospel
3. Characteristics of the Lucan Narrative
4. The Hymns of the First Chapter of Luke
5. The Origin and Transmission of the Lucan Narrative
6. The Integrity of the Lucan Narrative
7. The Narrative in Matthew
8. The Relation between the Narratives
9. The Inherent Credibility of the Narratives
10. The Birth Narratives and Secular History
11. The Birth Narratives and the Rest of the New Testament
12. Alternative Th eories: Preliminary Considerations
13. The Theory of Jewish Derivation
14. The Theory of Pagan Derivation
15. Conclusion and Consequences
Endorsements and Reviews
This volume sustains, and more than sustains, Dr. Machen’s reputation as not only one of the world’s foremost New Testament scholars but as one of the ablest defenders of historic Christianity.
Samuel Craig, in Christianity Today, May 1930
Professor Machen has written a book on the Virgin Birth which is certain to gain the attention of all, friends or foes, who have an interest in this perplexing subject. His work is genuinely learned; it displays a thorough mastery of relevant literature, even when rather out of the way, and is surrounded by a wider zone of scholarship than discussion of this special subject might seem to require, but one which testifies the more to the writer’s extreme carefulness.
Professor H.R. Mackintosh, in British Weekly
Professor Machen’s work is elaborate, learned and full. The writer possesses an acute mind and a competent knowledge of modern critical literature.
It is no doubt the most extensive book on the subject that has hitherto appeared, an impressive volume. But it is … also so earnest, so circumspect, so intelligent in its discussions, that it must be recognized unqualifiedly as an important achievement.
Theologische Studien und Kritiken
Dr Machen’s learning is so great and his reading exceedingly wide, so that his book will long be a repertory of information as to all angles of its subject.
The Churchman (USA)