What are we to make of the virgin birth in Luke? I’ve been pondering this quite a bit as I’ve wrestled with the question of the Gospels’ Christology. How do they understand the identity of Jesus, and what do these stories add?
For many of us, the text at first blush seems to obviously point toward some sort of divinity Christology: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you, therefore also that holy begotten one shall be called ‘son of God.”
There are numerous points of contact with other texts in Luke’s Gospel. One of those has to do with Jesus’ own later prediction of the coming Holy Spirit: “Stay in Jerusalem, until you are clothed with power from on high.” There’s a coming of the Spirit upon people that Mary seems to be the first-fruit of.
There is a connection between possession of the Spirit and being a Son of God. And here my mind is drawn back to the narratives of Saul and David. Being king meant having the Spirit as an abiding presence, “Which I will not take away from you as I took away from Saul.” The Spirit signified Davidic kinship.
Later in Luke, especially at Jesus’ trial, we see the connection made explicit: Christ and Messiah are equivalent to son of God.
But might there be more here as well? I do think so.
When Luke gives his genealogy, he is concerned not merely with the story of Israel, but with the story of Israel as it is the story of humanity as a whole. He takes Jesus’ genealogy back to Adam, “the son of God.”
Adam was created in “the image and likeness of God,” we’re told in Genesis 1 and Genesis 5. Luke seems to read this as “sonship” language, perhaps because Genesis 5 also tells us that Adam had Seth in his own image and likeness. Adam was the first son of God–and if Genesis 1 and 2 are any indications, it may be that the spirit-breath of God is the signifier of this connection.
Jesus, as son of God, is Davidic king and new Adam. What was in the beginning is newly being restored. The disorder of the world with its tyrants in place is being undone by the imposition not only of a new David, but a second Adam, who will, as the first, rule the world on God’s behalf.
The virgin conceives, and from the womb there is one anointed by the Spirit for a task–he must fulfill the role of humanity, must be The Man that Adam, David, and Israel were to have been. Salvation is come for the ends of the earth.