Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way: When his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit.
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4. Having then mentioned all His forefathers, and ending with Joseph, he did not stop at this, but added, Joseph the husband of Mary; intimating that it was for her sake he traced his genealogy also. Then, lest when you have heard of the husband of Mary, you should suppose that Christ was born after the common law of nature, mark, how he sets it right by that which follows. You have heard, says he, of an husband, you have heard of a mother, you have heard a name assigned to the child, therefore hear the manner too of the birth. The birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise. Matthew 1:18 Of what kind of birth are you telling me, I pray you, since you have already mentioned His ancestors? I still wish to tell you the manner also of His birth. Do you see, how he wakens up the hearer? For as though he were about to speak of something unusual, he promises to tell also the manner thereof.
And observe a most admirable order in the things he has mentioned. For he did not proceed directly to the birth, but puts us in mind first, how many generations he was from Abraham, how many from David, and from the captivity of Babylon; and thus he sets the careful hearer upon considering the times, to show that this is the Christ who was preached by the prophets. For when you have numbered the generations, and hast learned by the time that this is He, you will readily receive likewise the miracle which took place in His birth. Thus, being about to tell of a certain great thing, His birth of a virgin, he first shadows over the statement, until he has numbered the generations, by speaking of an husband of Mary; or rather he does even put in short space the narration of the birth itself, and then proceeds to number also the years, reminding the hearer, that this is He, of whom the patriarch Jacob had said, He should then at length come, when the Jewish rulers had come to an end; of whom the prophet Daniel had proclaimed beforehand, that He should come after those many weeks. And if any one, counting the years spoken of to Daniel by the angel in a number of weeks, would trace down the time from the building of the city to His birth, by reckoning he will perceive the one to agree with the other.
5. How then was He born, I pray you? When as His mother Mary was espoused: Matthew 1:18 He says not virgin, but merely mother; so that his account is easy to be received. And so having beforehand prepared the hearer to look for some ordinary piece of information, and by this laying hold of him, after all he amazes him by adding the marvellous fact, saying, Before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. He says not, before she was brought to the bridegroom's house; for indeed she was therein. It being the way of the ancients for the most part to keep their espoused wives in their house: Genesis 19:8, 14 in those parts, at least, where one may see the same practised even now. Thus also Lot's sons-in-law were in his house with him. Mary then herself likewise was in the house with Joseph.
And wherefore did she not conceive before her espousal? It was, as I said at first, that what had been done might be concealed awhile, and that the Virgin might escape every evil suspicion. For when he, who had most right of all to feel jealousy, so far from making her a show, or degrading her, is found even receiving and cherishing her after her conception; it was quite clear that, unless he had fully persuaded himself that what was done was of the operation of the Holy Spirit, he would not have kept her with him, and ministered to her in all other things. And most properly has he said, that she was 'found' with child, the sort of expression that is wont to be used with respect to things strange, and such as happen beyond all expectation, and are unlooked for.
Proceed therefore no further, neither require anything more than what has been said; neither say thou, But how was it that the Spirit wrought this of a virgin? For if, when nature is at work, it is impossible to explain the manner of the formation; how, when the Spirit is working miracles, shall we be able to express these? And lest you should weary the evangelist, or disturb him by continually asking these things, he has said who it was that wrought the miracle, and so withdrawn himself. For I know, says he, nothing more, but that what was done was the work of the Holy Ghost.
6. Shame on them who busy themselves touching the generation on high. For if this birth, which has witnesses without number, and had been proclaimed so long a time before, and was manifested and handled with hands, can by no man be explained; of what excess of madness do they come short who make themselves busy and curious touching that unutterable generation? For neither Gabriel nor Matthew was able to say anything more, but only that it was of the Spirit; but how, of the Spirit, or in what manner, neither of them has explained; for neither was it possible.
Nor think that you have learned all, by hearing of the Spirit; nay, for we are ignorant of many things, even when we have learned this; as, for instance, how the Infinite is in a womb, how He that contains all things is carried, as unborn, by a woman; how the Virgin bears, and continues a virgin. How, I pray you, did the Spirit frame that Temple? How did He take not all the flesh from the womb, but a part thereof, and increased it, and fashioned it? For that He did come forth of the Virgin's flesh, He has declared by speaking of that which was conceived in her; Galatians 4:4 and Paul, by saying, made of a woman; whereby he stops the mouths of them that say, Christ came among us as through some conduit. For, if this were so, what need of the womb? If this were so, He has nothing in common with us, but that flesh is of some other kind, and not of the mass which belongs to us. How then was He of the root of Jesse? How was He a rod? How Son of man? How was Mary His mother? How was He of David's seed? How did he take the form of a servant? Philippians 2:7 how was the Word made flesh? John 1:14 and how says Paul to the Romans, Of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is God over all? Romans 9:5 Therefore that He was of us, and of our substance, and of the Virgin's womb, is manifest from these things, and from others beside; but how, is not also manifest. Do not either thou then inquire; but receive what is revealed, and be not curious about what is kept secret.