3.4.8.1 The conception and birth of Jesus

The gospels of Matthew and Luke describe the birth of Jesus. Jesus was born at the time when Herod ruled as king over Judea, when Augustus was Caesar in Rome, and when Quirinius was his governor in Syria. These precise details point to the real historical existence of Jesus and refute all attempts to consign the story of Jesus of Nazareth to the domain of myth or legend.

The uniqueness of the Man Jesus is emphasised on account of the virgin birth, which is related in the gospel of Luke. The angel Gabriel brought the virgin Mary the message: "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1: 31-33). He also explained to Mary how she would conceive: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1: 35).

The statement in the Second Article of Faith that Jesus was "conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary" describes the incarnation of Jesus as an exception to the normal course of natural events. Jesus of Nazareth is true Man, however, His physicality and humanity are inseparably linked with God's will to save: His conception and birth are acts of salvation and thus part of the history of salvation. This is underlined by symbolic phenomena that accompanied His birth:

  • Angels appeared and proclaimed the glad tidings to the shepherds in the fields: "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2: 11; cf. Micah 5: 2).

  • A star announced the birth of the newborn King. Wise men from the Orient followed the star and were led to Bethlehem, where they worshipped the Child (Matthew 2: 1-11).

See also