Bible Question:

Did Jesus have Mary's DNA or was Mary Jesus’ surrogate mother?

Bible Answer:

The virgin birth of Jesus Christ is a mystery. While it is true that Scripture prophesied  Jesus Christ would be virgin born in Isaiah 7:14 and was fulfilled according to Matthew 1:22-23, we do not know how this was accomplished. What follows explains what Scripture reveals and what conclusions can be reached. We answer the questions, “Did Jesus have Mary’s DNA?” and “Was Mary Jesus’ surrogate mother?

 

Did Jesus Have Mary's DNA

Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ

Genesis 3:15 is the first passage in the Bible that hints the Messiah, or Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1), would be born of a virgin. Another passage that gives us a stronger indication that Jesus Christ would be virgin born is Micah 5:2-3a,

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.”
Therefore He will give them up until the time
When she who is in labor has borne a child.
Micah 5:2-3a (NASB)

This passage is important since it reveals that “One” will be ruler in Israel and “His goings are from long ago and from the days of eternity.” The Hebrew word for “long ago” means “antiquity” and “eternity.”  It also has the sense of “forever.” Only God qualifies as someone who has always existed. Humans have difficulty living to one hundred years. This reveals that the one who would be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah in fulfillment of this prophecy would be God in human flesh. This is another hint at the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.

But the most obvious and direct prophecy about the virgin birth of Jesus Christ is given in Isaiah 7:14. It says,

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 (NASB)

The statement is clear. A child would be virgin born and He would be God in human flesh. Now some claim that the Hebrew word for virgin means young woman. But if that were true, then the prophecy is meaningless. For women usually give birth when they are young. Such a birth would not be a sign but simply an ordinary event. But if a virgin gives birth, that is a sign. Matthew 1:22-23 also translates Isaiah 7:14 for us. It says,

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” Matthew 1:22-23 (NASB)

The Greek word for “virgin” is the normal word used for a virgin.

Mary herself reveals that Jesus was virgin born. Listen to her words in Luke 1:34.

. . . but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. Matthew 1:25 (NASB)

Matthew 1:25 echoes the truth that Mary was a virgin while she was pregnant. The verse says that Joseph kept her a virgin until she gave birth. The literal Greek for the phrase “kept her a virgin” is “not know her.” That is, he did not have sexual intercourse with her.

Son of God Took On Human Flesh

Galatians 4:4 summarizes the fulfillment of the prophecies and states that the second person of the trinity, the Son of God, became a man at the correct time.

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman . . . Galatians 4:4 (NASB)

But  perhaps the most revealing passage in Scripture about the birth of Jesus Christ is Matthew 1:18.

 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18 (NASB)

The key to understanding this verse, is the Greek word for “birth,” which is genesis. The word means “origin.” That is, the second person of the trinity had a new beginning. Both John 1:14 and Hebrews 2:14 summarize this new beginning as the point in time when He took on human flesh. Here is Hebrews 2;14.

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil . . . Hebrews 2:14

Philippians 2:5-8 provides a more detailed explanation of God becoming a man. For more information, visit “What does Philippians 2:5-8 mean? — Jesus was God and man.

Yet, that passage does not explain if Jesus had Mary’s DNA? How did He take on human flesh?

Did Jesus Have Mary’s DNA?

How did Jesus Christ take on human flesh? Several verses in the Gospels offer this explanation. Matthew 1:20 tells us that Mary conceived the Child by the Holy Spirit.

But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:20 (NASB)

The Greek word for “conceived” is gennao.  While the word means to be “born,” it actually has the sense of the father’s role in the birth process. It describes the Holy Spirit’s function in some sense. Luke 1:31 uses a different word for “conceived.”

 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.” Luke 1:31 (NASB)

Here the Greek for “conceive” is syllambano, which means “become pregnant.” Literally, the word means “take” plus “together.” Then in Luke 1:35 we are told the Holy Spirit would come upon Mary and the conception would occur.

The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35 (NASB)

Now what does this mean? The simple answer is that only God ultimately knows how the Holy Spirit caused Mary to become pregnant and to give birth to Jesus Christ. It is clear from the proceeding verses that Joseph did not have sexual intercourse with her, resulting in the pregnancy. Since Scripture does not provide any further explanation, we do not know how the conception actually occurred inside her womb. Further, speculation will not provide the answer either because Scripture does not give us an answer.

Therefore, we can only speculate about what happened inside her womb. Recent biological studies reveal the mother’s mitochondrial DNA is absolutely essential for a child to have life. But that is not true of the father’s mitochondrial DNA. It is not essential for a child to have life. Here are two medical authorities on the topic.

All other DNA in our cells is gathered in the cell nucleus, but mitochondria, with their accompanying DNA, are found in the cell cytoplasm – that is, the space outside the nucleus. Half of our core DNA comes from the father’s sperm, half from the mother’s egg. But we inherit our entire mitochondrial DNA from the mother, since our very first mitochondrial DNA was present in the egg cytoplasm.[1]

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is genetic material found in mitochondria. It is passed down from mothers to sons and daughters. Sons cannot pass along their mothers’ mtDNA to their children. This happens because mtDNA is transmitted through the female egg.[2]

So, did the Holy Spirit cause Mary’s egg to begin the creative process? Her mitochondrial DNA would have been all that Jesus needed. This would be consistent with the prophecy in Genesis 3:15 which refers to her seed. Also, Galatians 3:16 states that the  “seed” in Genesis 22:12-18 refers to Jesus Christ. This would strongly suggest that Jesus did have Mary’s DNA. The Holy Spirit simply causes the creative process to begin and cell division follows. Yet, we do not know what actually happened because Scripture is silent. We can only speculate how it might have happened.

Was Mary Jesus’ surrogate mother?

Does this mean that Mary was simply the surrogate mother for Jesus? That is, was Christ’s body  created by God in Mary’s womb, without her DNA (Hebrews 10:5; John 1:14; Psalm 8:5; Hebrews 2:9)? The correct answer seems to be no, because then Jesus would not then have been of her seed.

Conclusion:

Therefore, we conclude that Scripture does not give us enough information to answer the questions, “Did Jesus have Mary’s DNA?” and “Was Mary Jesus’ surrogate mother?” It is then best to not be dogmatic about the answer to either question but to follow Paul’s advice in 2 Timothy 2:23.

But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. 2 Timothy 2:23 (NASB)

The point is that believers are not to argue about a speculative point.

 

 

References:

1. Lisa Kirsebom. “A new research field opens up – mitochondrial reproduction”. Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. 2018.
2. “Compare and Contrast: Chloroplasts and Mitochondria.” owlcation.com. October 24, 2018.

Suggested Links:

What does Philippians 2:5-8 mean? — Jesus was God and man
Was a Christophany and the incarnation of Christ different?
The Gift – The Virgin Birth of Christ
Is Isaiah 7:14-16 a prophecy about Jesus Christ?
Gabriel Visits Mary
Jesus Is Born In Bethlehem
Joseph’s Dream
Prophecies About Jesus’ Birth
When did the belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity start?