The work from 1907 consists of the transcript s of “Lectures Delivered Under the Auspices of the Bible Teachers’ Training School New York, April 1907.” Dr. Orr was a theology professor in Scotland and was a leading member in the production of The Fundamentals.
In these lectures, Dr. Orr addresses the question of whether the Bible truly does support the idea of Jesus being born of a virgin. The question of the Virgin Birth was becoming quite common in center theological circles at the time. Orr first sets forth the case against the doctrine in a fair (even compelling) summary:
The narratives of the miraculous birth, we are told, are found only in the introductory chapters of two of our Gospels— Matthew and Luke— and are evidently there of a secondary character. The rest of the New Testament is absolutely silent on the subject. Mark, the oldest Gospel, and John, the latest, know nothing of it. Matthew and Luke themselves contain no further reference to the mysterious fact related in their commencement, but mention circumstances which seem irreconcilable with it. Their own narratives are contradictory, and, in their miraculous traits, bear clear marks of legendary origin. All the Gospels speak freely of Jesus as the son of Joseph and Mary. The Virgin Birth formed no part of the oldest Apostolic tradition, and had no place in the earliest Christian preaching,as exhibited in the Book of Acts. The Epistles show a like ignorance of this profound mystery. Paul shows no acquaintance with it, and uses language which seems to exclude it, as when he speaks of Jesus as”of the seed of David.”1 Peter,John,theEpistle to the Hebrews, the Book of Revelation, all ignore it. If thousands were brought to faith in Jesus as the divine Redeemer in this earliest period, it was without reference to this belief. There is no proof that the belief in general in the Christian Church before the second century. (pages 7-8).
These series of seemingly confirmed “facts” set the agenda for the remainder of the book. Orr asks, “Suppose, then, it can be shown that the evidence is not what is alleged in the statements above given, but that in many respects the truth is early the reverse” (p. 10).
Orr then proceed to explain what he will argue. First, he will not take time to prove that a miracle can happen (after all, that is the point of a miracle!): “H o w great the intellectual confidence of any man who undertakes a priori to define what are and are not possibilities to such a Being in His relations to the universe He has made!” (p. 13).
Second, since Orr is confronting professing Christians in this work (this is not an apologetic to unbelievers), “It would be folly to argue for the supernatural birth of Christ with those who take naturalistic view; for, to minds that can reject all other evidence in the Gospel for Christ’s supernatural claims, such reasonings would be of no avail.” (p. 15).
What he will deal with are those who claim that the Virgin Birth of Christ can be rejected without rejecting the remainder of Christianity (or at least being in conflict with oneself):
It is here that the position of those who accept the fact of the Virgin Birth, but deny its essential connection with the other truths about our Lord’s Person appears to me illogical and untenable. The one thing certain is:either our Lord was born of a Virgin,or He was not. If He was not, as I say, the question falls: there is an end of it. But if He was— and I deal at present with those who profess this as their own belief— if this was the way in which God did bring the Only-Begotten into the world— then it cannot but be that it has a vital con nection with the Incarnation as it actually happened, and we cannot doubt, in that event, that it is a fact of great importance for us to know. In any case,we are not at liberty summarily to dismiss the testimony of the Gospels, or relegate the fact they attest to the class of ” open questions,” simply because we do not happen to think it is important.(p. 23)