Did Luke originally have the story of Jesus’ virgin birth?
In my previous post I gave reasons for suspecting that Luke did not originally have chs. 1-2 (the birth narratives), but that it started (after what is now the preface in 1:1-4) with what is now 3:1.
One of the reasons it is hard to know for certain is because we simply don’t have much hard evidence. Our two earliest two manuscripts of Luke, P75 and P45, are lacking portions of Luke, including the first two chapters. We can’t say whether they originally had them or not. Our first manuscript with portions of the opening chapters is the third century P4. But our earliest patristic witness is over a century earlier. As it turns out, the witness is the heresiarch Marcion, and as is well known he didn’t have the first two chapters!
As early as Irenaeus’s Adversus Haereses (1. 27. 2) Marcion was accused of excising the first two chapters of his Gospel because they did not coincide with his view that Jesus appeared from heaven in the form of an adult man in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar – that is that he was not actually born into the world. But who is to say that Irenaeus, Tertullian, and their successors were right, that these are chapters that Marcion excised from his account?