Here's Bishop John Shelby Spong, from "Why Christianity Must Change Or Die", Chapter five:
"We need to be prepared....to discover that there is an enormous gap between the theological claims that have been made for Jesus in the life of institutional Christianity and the record that was actually contained in the Gospels....Most believers....do not learn in church that the virgin birth accounts were not original to Christianity, and did not appear in Christian history until the ninth decade."
Then came the Gospel of Mark.
Matthew was next.
Got it? Paul, Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. You can argue the fine points, but even some of the most fundamentalist of Biblical scholars agree with that timeline. The Apostle Paul was blogging away long before the first Gospel accounts of Jesus' life were written.
Paul writes as if Jesus didn't perform any miracles during his lifetime. Not once does Paul mention a virgin birth. Paul says that Jesus was designated a "son of God", but God did all the designating. There's no sense of divine equality between God and Jesus. You can search Paul's writings (and the rest of the Bible) in vain for the word "Trinity".
Paul claimed that the designation of Jesus as God's divine son took place by his "resurrection from the dead." You could make the case that Paul believed Jesus wasn't thought of as God's son until Jesus experienced a spiritual resurrection, something totally different from the heroic "Jeff Bridges In White" moment shown below.
About ten or fifteen years after Paul, someone wrote the Gospel of Mark. Like Paul, the author of Mark doesn't seem to know anything about virgin births, Mary being visited by angels, or even any post-resurrection appearances. (Note how the oldest copies of Mark end at Chapter 16, verse 8. Someone got creative with Mark about 100 years after the first draft.)
The author of Mark wasn't content with Paul's theory that "God designated Jesus as 'God's Son' at the time of the resurrection". Some one-upmanship was in order.... Mark took Paul's words and put them in the voice of God during Jesus' baptism. When Jesus is lifted out of the water, the voice of God says "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased". But read the text in Mark 1:9-11, and you get the idea that no one saw the heavens splitting open or heard God's voice except Jesus.
Yeah, right. Good job there, Mark.
Anyway, Mark moved the moment of Jesus' divinity forward about three years, from the resurrection to the baptism.
Then, about 50-55 years after the time of Jesus, came the book of Matthew. Spong writes that "It was for Matthew an intolerable idea that Jesus became something either at his baptism or his resurrection that he was not already,"
So an unnamed angel appears to Joseph (only in a dream) and tells him that Mary's child is from the Holy Spirit. "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."
Matthew trumped Mark and Paul nicely, giving Jesus a divine pedigree at the moment of his conception.
Just a few years later, Luke used the same storyline, but firmed it up a bit. The angel was given a name (Gabriel), and appeared in person to Mary, not Joseph. Gabriel tells Mary that she's to be the mother of "the Son of God", the "Son of the Highest", and that "The Holy Spirit will come upon you".
So Luke is sitting back, in the words of Mark Twain, with "the calm confidence of a Christian holding four aces". Nobody would EVER be able to improve on that. Conception is the earliest point in our existence, right?
Here's Bishop Spong again: "Jesus' identity with God had become so complete by the tenth decade of the common era that he was said to have shared in that identity prior even to his conception and birth. So pre-existence became a category of which Christians began to talk."
Near the end of the first century someone composed the Gospel of John. Chapter one of John begins like this: " 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made..... 9 And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us."
And there, ladies and gentlemen, is your proof that plants and animals aren't they only thing to evolve.
Gods do it too.
Pictures from here and here and here and here and here.