Many essential doctrines of Scripture hinge on the virgin birth of Christ. To fulfill prophecy, the Messiah had to be both man and God, without genetic or personal defect, and be the rightful King of Israel in the line of David. Only such a One could fully atone for the sins of all mankind and assume the universe’s throne for all eternity.
As far as science knows, there has never been a virgin birth of a man or a mammal under natural circumstances. Such life comes only from the union of a male and female. But now cloning technology seemingly provides an alternate explanation for Christ's miraculous conception. For the first time it is scientifically possible for Mary to have borne a child without a man. Is spontaneous cloning behind the story of the virgin birth?
Reproduction without sexual union has been observed in some fish, amphibians, birds, and reptiles. In recent years, cloning in laboratories has even been successful with several mammals, although great care and advanced technology is required. Progress is being made, and we can expect cloning to become mainstream practice before long. Even human cloning, while discouraged by many governments, is being aggressively explored by several labs. (I suspect the strident insistence for embryonic stem cell research has human cloning as an unstated goal.) Unless God intervenes, advances in cloning technology may lead to a brave new world of human clones, with Pandora's Box opened wide.
But is this the same thing as the virgin birth? Would human cloning equate to the fulfillment of the biblical prophecy "a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son" (Isaiah 7:14)?
No, it would not. In humans, the DNA in each egg's nucleus contains 23 chromosomes, with the remaining 23 usually supplied by the father. In cloning, the original 23 chromosomes are stripped from an unfertilized egg, and a full complement of 46 from a donor is inserted. The child would possess identical DNA to the donor, with a minor exception--a small segment of DNA present in the cells' mitochondria is passed from mother to child, undiluted by the father.
Is cloning a possible explanation of Christ's birth? If Mary's nuclear DNA was used, the resulting child would have been female. If another source was used, the offspring would have carried Mary's imperfect mitochondrial DNA, mutated over the generations since Adam, and thus could not have been the perfect "lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:19).
Cloning is not the answer. While much remains a mystery, the birth of Christ was a miracle in every regard. He said of God the Father, "...a body hast thou prepared |for| Me" (Hebrews 10:5), free from any genetic defect and thus qualified to be a perfect sacrifice. And then, "when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman...to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Galatians 4: 4-5).
At this Christmas season we have so much for which to give thanks, especially that God "gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Our thankfulness will continue throughout all eternity.
* Dr. Morris is President of the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Morris, J. 2007. Cloning and the Virgin Birth. Acts & Facts. 36 (12): 3.