Re Frank Tipler’s suggestion for the mechanics of the virginal conception of Jesus, which was taken up by Maria Hsia Chang, in an article for New Oxford Review titled, “The Virgin Birth: Where Science Meets Scripture,” I should point out some useful links:
Jesus, the XX male on the Shroud of Turin blog - scroll down to the final comment by Angel, who suggests that Jesus may have had Klinefelter syndrome (KS) also known as 47,XXY. From Wikipedia:
The primary features are sterility and small testicles. Often, symptoms may be subtle and many people do not realize they are affected. Sometimes, symptoms are more prominent and may include weaker muscles, greater height, poor coordination, less body hair, breast growth, and less interest in sex. Often it is only at puberty that these symptoms are noticed. Intelligence is usually normal; however, reading difficulties and problems with speech are more common.
To me it seems theologically inappropriate to suggest that Jesus was conceived with a genetic disease.
And see here for a letter to New Oxford Review criticizing Maria Hsia Chang’s article (scroll down to the letter by Donald Lospinuso titled, “Indefensible assertions”). Money quote:
Tipler and Chang think the XX male resulting from a virgin birth would have only the sex chromosomes of the mother because the mother is the only source of the child’s genome. If this were the case, whence came the SRY, which they know could only come from a male? If both X chromosomes came from the mother, including the one with the SRY, would she herself not be an XX male? This leads to a further gross error: If any offspring has the same genetic makeup as its progenitor, the offspring would be a clone (an exact copy), not truly the offspring of two parents…
So Tipler and Chang are left unable to account for the origin of the SRY and all the other chromosomes to complement the mother’s in their “virgin birth.” They can only say the offspring would be a clone of the progenitor, which is impossible by their own premise that a female gave birth to a male.
One academic has a theory as to how a female could have given birth to a male, parthenogenetically:
… One possibility, according to Prof Berry, is that Mary may have had a condition called testicular feminisation. Women with this condition have an X and a Y chromosome like a man, but their X chromosome carries a mutation that makes their bodies insensitive to testosterone. This leads to their developing as a female.
Genetically male, and probably sporting ambiguous genitals, Mary would have been sterile. But had she become pregnant spontaneously, her child could have inherited an intact Y chromosome.
To stop him developing as a female, like his mother, Jesus would have needed what geneticists call a “back mutation” – a highly unlikely reverse of the X chromosome glitch that caused the testicular feminisation in the first place. Other possibilities to explain the virgin birth include Mary being a genetic mosaic, formed from twins that fused into one body while maintaining chromosomes from both, Y and all.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the scientific possibilities are no more plausible than a miracle…
Some writers have suggested that the DNA evidence from the Shroud of Turin suggests that Jesus was a XX male. However, the DNA on the Shroud of Turin bears evidence of contamination, and is therefore not likely to be a reliable source of information about Jesus’ DNA.
Re the mechanics of the virgin birth, here’s my own take. The data from Scripture and tradition indicates clearly that Jesus took flesh from the Virgin Mary, so we might suppose that God somehow interposed to convert one of the Virgin Mary’s X chromosomes into a Y, after the chromosomes divided.
God would have also had to modify Jesus’ DNA to make sure that He did not get a double copy of any defective genes His mother may have possessed, and to initiate genomic imprinting, which requires genetic input from both parents in the ordinary course of events. These modifications would not have presented any problem to the Divine Author of Nature. My two cents.