The Apostle’s Creed: Born of the Virgin Mary

“Born of the Virgin Mary” does indicate that Jesus’ humanity is made of the same stuff as Mary, and that he is the same kind of creature as she – and as you and I!

Mary’s humanity was the material for the Spirit’s creation. We share the same humanity with Jesus and Mary, only newly created in Jesus as a kind of second humanity. Both sources (maker and material) rule out sexual union. His humanity is “conceived by the Holy Spirit,” rather than by the ordinary means, and “born of the Virgin,” again excluding a sexual origin.

 

December 25 is indelibly linked in most minds with celebrations of Jesus’ birth. What about March 25 (exactly nine months earlier)? That day has traditionally been associated with “the Annunciation”, the angel Gabriel’s announcement to a young Jewish woman that she would be the mother of her Lord. Both events are captured in the words of the Apostle’s Creed, “Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.” Having affirmed Jesus’ Divinity by calling him God’s “only Son”, the Creed goes on to assert his humanity.

Like his ancestor Isaac before him (Gen 18:10), Jesus’ conception and birth were divinely foretold to his mother. However, Mary’s shock at Gabriel’s message was not about age, but the fact she was a virgin (a young woman who had never been with a man). Gabriel answers her in Luke 1:35, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.”[i]

He borrows the language of creation in Genesis 1:2 (emphasis added): “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” The outcome of the Spirit’s hovering over a shapeless and empty original creation is displayed in the rest of the Bible’s first chapter as sky and water separate, earth emerges from water, and sea, land, and sky teem with creatures. So by the creative power of God’s Spirit, in the pitch-black emptiness of Mary’s virgin womb, the words of Psalm 139 came to pass: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (13-14a)

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