“The answer to that question would explain history for me.” – Atheist Larry King on his show’s 25th anniversary (June 5, 2010), on whether Jesus was born of a virgin.
The Washington Post is stirring things up on this theme by asking the question “Did Isaiah really predict the Virgin birth?”
It may be shocking to some of us who hold to the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture that there are some Christians who may not believe that Jesus was born of a virgin Mary.
To add fuel to this controversy there have been translations of the Bible which omit the word “virgin” from the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy. Examples:
“Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” NRSV
“Look this young woman is about to conceive and will give birth to a son. You, young woman will name him Immanuel.” NET
The word in question here is the Hebrew word “almâ” which should be translated “virgin.” Strong’s dictionary which translates and annotates every word in the Bible (even provides detailed translation notes) gives the following commentary on “almâ:”
“There is no instance where it can be proved that this word designates a young woman who is not a virgin.”
Therefore, because of the paramount importance of the virgin birth, the word “virgin” absolutely belongs in Isaiah 7:14.
Without the virgin birth, Christians do not have a living faith; in fact, they do not have any faith at all. Why? Comparative religion scholar John Weldon gives us the answer:
“If Jesus Christ was not virgin born, then by definition he was produced by normal human procreation. If so, this makes him a normal human being just like every other person. The implications of this for all of Christology and biblical theology are devastating. If Christ was not virgin born, then he was not sinless, but a sinner like all other humans. If he were a sinner, he would require salvation from sin. If he was a sinner, he could not be God incarnate. If he was not God incarnate, he could not be the atoning Savior for sin. If he was not the atoning Savior for sin, we are still in our sins and the whole edifice of Christian theology crumbles. If we are still our sins, we are without hope.”
This is not only about the inerrancy of the Bible. This is about reducing and trying to fit God into human terms and human experience. The minute we are successful at boxing God into human parameters, that god is no longer the great “I am” revealed in the Bible.
This is why theologically liberal “Christians” must first of all come to the cross and receive the gift of faith for their salvation, and then they must use their faith to believe that Jesus was indeed conceived by the Holy Spirit in a supernatural way and born by virgin birth.
If one does not believe in the virgin birth why would they believe in anything else supernatural written in the bible?
I believe that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit supernaturally, and I also think that the Antichrist will be a Clone!!!!
Exactly… the virgin birth as everything else in the Bible is an “all or nothing” phenomenon. You either believe all, or not believe any!
Antichrist… a clone… huh?
Different people chip away at different biblical facts, for their own personal reasons. What is baffling is that when someone moves away from believing, why are they so insistent to make sure everyone else changes their belief system as well, in conformity to theirs? I can understand people losing their faith in order to live the life they want to live, and they don’t want to feel guilt for what they are doing. But, if they are so assured they are right in walking away from their faith, then why are they so anxious that everybody else also abandon their faith? I think, maybe, that deep down, they know indeed their reasons for walking away, and it has more to do with a lifestyle, than a lack of faith. They’d rather deny truth, because in God’s truth, the inborn guilt that accompanies sin is overbearing. Maybe this is an example of what the searing of a conscience is.
Rodi, your comment makes me think about the Romans 1 category of people, the ones who live sinful alternative lifestyles. What is absolutely interesting is that these people try so hard to earn our approval, they try so hard to get us on their side… For exactly the same reason. Once you disagree with them they will turn vile. Deep down they know the truth but are suppressing it. So they try to even find Scripture to excuse their sin. Same with those Christians denying the virgin birth… they try to excuse the guilt in their conscience…
that’s what is so baffling to me. If I did not have peace of mind, I don’t care how many people would assure me otherwise, I would not be able to lie to my own conscience. But, maybe we are not taking into consideration that the same Holy Spirit who convicted us when we accepted Christ as our Savior is present in our hearts and minds and continually convicts us when we are tempted. Praise God for his wonderful plan of salvation, and of sending the Holy Spirit when Jesus ascended to heaven, because without God’s continual presence through the Holy Spirit’s leading us, we would be no different.
1. It’s baffling how a “Christian” denies Jesus’ virgin birth
2. The prophecy of Isaiah should be contextualized before we conclude what “virgin” means in the OT prophecy. In the NT, it definitely means what we think it means. But, in the OT, here’s why solid Christians disagree with strongs Commentary as posted by Chris.
CONTEXT OF THE PROPHECY:
Remember that by the time Isaiah gives this prophecy of “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” ISRAEL is divided in two kingdoms. Beginning way back after Solomon’s death, Israel had, you can call it a civil war, and the kingdom split in two.
Northern Israel retained its name “Israel” and Southern Israel was “Judah”. The two despised each other.
By the time of Isaiah, Northern Israel planned to attack Judah but could not. So more nations conspired against Judah.
The king of Judah, Ahaz was frightened, to say the least. God, in keeping with his promise that Messiah will come from Judah, promised Isaiah that he would protect Judah and ordered Isaiah to tell King Ahaz not to worry.
To prove that God will literally protect Judah, God tells the King, “Ask me for a sign” (Isaiah 7:11). The king of Judah refuses.
Side note: astonishing isn’t it? Here, God demands the king to ask for a sign, and the king refuses. Historically, this king was very wicked!! But, in keeping true to His messianic promise, God vows to protect Judah.
Isaiah (like myself) can’t believe the King just refuses God’s command to ask for a sign. Isaiah essentially says, “you’ve tried my patience, king, and now will you try the patience of God also?” (Isaiah 7:13).
Isaiah’s had enough. So he decides to just give the king a sign that God will indeed protect Judah. Here’s the sign:
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
THIS SIGN HAS A DUAL SIGNIFICANCE.
Who is this child? Who is this “virgin”. God tells us in the very next chapter.
1. The child is going to be Isaiah’s son. His name will be “Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz” (say that 5 times).
This son, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, was to be the sign that God would be with Judah and will not be harmed. (Isaiah 8).
2. The virgin is the prophetess, Isaiah’s wife. There’s two ways to look at her:
A. At the time of the prophecy, perhaps she was a virgin
Or… Contrary to Strong’s commentary
B. “virgin” here does mean young woman as the word is also used in Proverbs 30:18-20 meaning young woman. (This is the one my commentaries hold to)
HERE’S THE MAIN POINT:
Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz was the immediate fulfillment to Isaiah’s prophecy. But Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz was just a shadow of a better Immanuel. Matthew picks up on this in telling the birth of Christ. The angels announce the birth of Christ, and Matthew gives a commentary that essentially says, “This Jesus is the better Immanuel that was prophesied in Isaiah.”
Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz was a sign of Judah’s temporal salvation. Jesus is the better Immanuel because he came to save us from our sins. Not just a temporal sign of salvation, but everlasting salvation!
Jesus was born of a literal virgin. Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz was just a shadow.
Jesus after his resurrection, meets Cleopas and his buddy, and Jesus notices they are sad. The account reveals to us that the men are sad because of Jesus’ death (they had not realized Jesus was the man walking beside them). After listening to their retelling of his death with with broken hearts, Jesus decides to point out how all the OT Scriptures were about Him.
Luke 24:27 “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself”
Isaiah’s prophecy had two fulfillments. The shadow, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, and the better Immanuel, Jesus Christ.
Was the prophetess a virgin? That’s the debate amongst solid Christians.
Was Mary a virgin? Absolutely! That should not be a debate amongst solid Christians.
Jesus is the better Immanuel who is God himself, and came as Savior to save us from our sins!
Hope that clarifies. (Sorry for the spelling errors. Typing off an iPhone)
Merry Christmas 😉
Josh, welcome to the blog and God bless you.
Thank you for taking the time to write up the other side of the argument. Excellent notes, and nicely documented.
It is very interesting how the word “almah” is translated in Proverbs 30:18 by the different versions:
The reason why orthodox Christianity (not only the eastern orthodox church 🙂 ), myself included, hold strongly to the “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 is because in Matthew 1:22-23 it says,
“Now all of this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, (Matthew now quotes Isaiah 7:14). “Behold, a VIRGIN shall be with child,”
The Greek word for virgin is PARTHENOS, and means “a virgin, and nothing but a virgin.” The Greek word for young woman is NEOS in the femenine gender. So even though the Hebrew can be interpreted to be a “young woman,” God clarified this issue when He had the New Testment written in Greek, a language that is far superior than the Hebrew when it comes to clarifying issues.
We should also note that when the Jewish scholars translated the Old Testament Hebrew into Greek about 200 years before the birth of Jesus (the Greek Old Testament is known as the Septuagint) they used the Greek word PARTHENOS to translate the Hebrew word ALMAH. This tells us that the ancient Jewish scholars knew and understood that the Messiah would be virgin born and that is why they used PATHERNOS for Isaiah 7:14.
Definitely a great discussion!