June 27, 2011

Virgin Birth of The Messiah

The view among modern critics is that the Virgin Birth has no historical basis. They say that the early believers invented the Virgin Birth to first, prove that Jesus was the Christ of prophecy, and, second, to prove that Jesus was God, on the assumption that it was more reasonable to view Him as the Son of God if He was not the son of a human father. Five (5) lines of argument clearly set this view in the trashbin of academia.

There Were/Are Corroborating Circumstances

Things that back-up the claim. If anyone today said that he was conceived in a woman before she ever knew a man, and that his conception was, in this respect, a unique phenomenon, his pretense would probably soon collapse.

Contrary evidence would be forthcoming if he had at least one older sibling by the same mother. Jesus was indisputably the eldest in His family, which, like most families in that day, was rather large. He had at least six brothers and sisters (Mark 6:3).

It also so happened that no one could show that His parents were married at least nine months before His birth.

The Gospel of Luke reports that His conception occurred more than three months before Joseph took Mary as his wife (Luke 1:38-39, 56).

The teaching of the Virgin Birth was not silenced by opposition from Jesus' family. Since His family was prominent in the early church (1 Cor. 9:5), this story must have had their approval.

The Credibility of the Apostles

It is preposterous to imagine that a new doctrine could have been introduced in the late first century without encountering stiff opposition. There is no record of any early disputes or schisms concerning the Virgin Birth. If the doctrine did not emerge in the last fifty years of the first century, it must have originated when the church was still dominated by the apostles and Jesus' family. Any presumption that these people were liars clashes with the abundant evidence of their earnestness and high character.

Jesus' Two Allusions to the Virgin Birth

Statements from Jesus show that He regarded His birth as a fulfillment of Genesis 3:15

Wedding at Cana:Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come” John 2:4. So what does He mean? Why does He announce that His mother is "woman"?

There is a high probability that He means that she is the woman prophesied in Genesis 3:15

Therefore, He is the woman's seed—the virgin-born

Paul's Allusion to the Virgin Birth

Nearly all Bible scholars today, liberal as well as conservative, agree that Paul's epistle to the Galatians is an authentic work written no later than A.D. 65. Paul’s words in Galatians 4:4 "made of a woman" is peculiar. The meaning of "made" is not "born," but "cause to be" or "begotten."

If Paul were speaking of any ordinary man, we would expect him to say, "born of a woman," the expression that Jesus used with reference to John the Baptist (Matt. 11:11).

The Accusation that Jesus Was Illegitimate Right Within the Text

Primarily: The exchange in John 8

Earlier in the same exchange, when Jesus said that His Father stood behind His claims, the Jews responded by asking, "Where is thy father?" (Matthew 8:19).

When Jesus, in reply, said of Himself that He was not of this world (John8:23)

…and that they did not know Him because His Father was not theirs (v. 38)

They taunted Him by saying, "We be not born of fornication" (v. 41)

The cutting edge of the jibe is the implied accusation that although they were legitimate, Jesus was illegitimate.

As their anger mounted, they cast subtlety aside and jeered that He was the offspring not of His legal Jewish father, a well-respected carpenter in Nazareth, but of some unknown Samaritan.

This is probably based in a rumor of Mary's pregnancy out of wedlock.  

A pregnancy must have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to conceal from gossiping tongues.

Motivated to stop His ministry and also political to undermine His claim to the throne.

If your trying to claim that a person is not virgin born would you lend credence to the fact that the person you are accusing was potentially illegitimate thereby bolstering their claim?

The idea of a Messiah, a Priest for eternity coming on behalf of humans as human in the form of an infant through a virgin is brilliant. It brings a tear to my eye in its simplicity and profoundness. The innocent sinless God man that takes on the our transgression comes as a cute defenseless newborn.



Philsthrills said...

Part of the problem, I believe, is also that Israel did not believe that the Messiah was going to be born of a virgin. To the best of my understanding, that was one of those light bulbs that came on in hindsight. After all, the prophecy in Isaiah 7 had already been fulfilled in the way they expected. In the time it took for the young maiden to become pregnant, give birth, and to the time that the child was old enough to eat curds and honey, as well as know right from wrong, the land of the two kings was laid waste.
Since that prophecy was already fulfilled, they may not really have seen it as messianic prophecy. Once Jesus showed up, it brought new beauty to the passage.

So, if they were not even expecting a virgin-born Messiah, then it would have been a silly story to concoct.

My $0.02

Andy Pierson said...

Isaiah is appending to Genesis 3:15the information that a virgin born conqueror of Satan would be God Himself in the flesh.

The real controversy that rages over this is what Isaiah meant by "virgin" in the KJV of Isaiah7:14. The contention of many critics who disbelieve prophecy is that Isaiah in this verse is referring exclusively to his own wife. She had already given birth to Shear-jashub. Later, she will give birth to Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Therefore, say these critics, Isaiah's only announcement here, in Isaiah 7:14, is that his wife will give (or has given) birth to another son with a prophetically meaningful name. To defend their identification of Immanuel as a son of Isaiah, the critics assert that the prophet himself, within his human limitations, could not have intended any other meaning.

Yet, it is clearly understood from a supernatural point of view that the prophets of old were merely obedient mouthpieces for the Holy Spirit of God (2 Pet. 1:21). In that role, they left us intimations of the Messiah which they themselves did not fully understand (1 Pet. 1:10-12).

The view that Isaiah 7:14 must refer to Isaiah's own family betrays a liberal antisupernatural bias.

So no I do not believe that anyone except recent 19th and 20th century liberal scholars believe this was fulfilled in Isaiah's lifetime.

It is my opinion that the word translated "virgin" in the KJV is "almah" in Hebrew. This term in either its feminine form (almah) or masculine form (elem) occurs nine times in the Old Testament (Gen. 24:43; Ex. 2:8 & Isa. 7:14 to name 3 of them).

As far as I can judge from the contexts, the term never refers to a married person or even to an adult. In some instances, the term obviously refers to someone young and unmarried. For example, Moses' sister Miriam was an almah when she hid him in the bulrushes (Ex. 2:8).

According to A. Edersheim, the Jews recognized eight stages of growth. He said that the word almah pertains to the sixth stage, which is between dependent childhood and independent youth. Which means an almah was a girl about twelve to fourteen years old. The closest English equivalent to almah is "maiden". "Young woman," although passable as a translation, stretches the concept too far into adulthood.

Rabbis in that culture taught that a father should betroth his daughter to his slave rather than keep her unbetrothed beyond puberty. A girl was normally married before she passed much beyond fourteen.

So....since almah specifically denotes a girl at the stage of growth just before marriage, the term apparently came to signify "unmarried girl of marriageable age." And since nearly all unmarried girls in ancient Hebrew culture were chaste (not Isaiah's wife), the term seems to have the further meaning "virgin." (again, clearly not Isaiah's wife...therefore not fulfilled by her either.

Philsthrills said...

From the direction that you took your response, I think you missed my point - I may not have been clear. You and I have talked about the virgin part of this before. We agree on what it means. The word does not mean "virgin" but it IS implied. Those who say that it does not specifically mean "virgin" have a point. If they deny that it is implied, they are missing another point. Those who insist that the word means "virgin" are also missing the point. When Matthew 1 quotes the verse, it is most likely from the Septuagint, where it was translated as "virgin". If "virgin" was an unfaithful translation, people in the first century BCE and CE would not have accepted it. From what we can tell, it was an accepted translation, if not totally accurate. Maybe it was more of a dynamic equivalence instead of a functional equivalence. It is hard to say and many people who are not "liberals" (as you put it) still debate all of this.

On another note, the Orthodox church recognized this discrepancy long before it was a debate in popular culture. Their position was that any discrepancy in the translation of the Septuagint would have been led by the Spirit and was therefore perfectly acceptable. That is the beauty of the Orthodox church. They can appreciate mystery and do not need to explain everything like Westerners.

My point was that, from what I understand, a second temple Jew in the first century did not see Isaiah 7 as Messianic prophecy. So when Matthew 1 quotes this verse, it is somewhat of a new idea - a revelation.
If that is the case, how can anyone argue that it was invented to make Jesus look like the Messiah? If people at the time did not expect the Messiah to be born of a virgin, concocting the story would be useless. As it stands, realizing that the Messiah was born of a virgin gave extra credibility only in light of how the events unfolded.

I think the same thing is going to happen when Christ returns. There will be many scriptures that we did not see as pertinent to His return. Afterward, the light bulb will come on, just as it did for those in the first century.

Andy Pierson said...

Prophecy is a funny thing Phil. That point you and I both get. How to and when to do certain things with it is...well...sometimes its spiritual. It is indicative of how well you or I let the Spirit lead us in interpreting it. If not for the Spirit we wouldn't have a clue where this wordage was leading us (Romans 8). That being said, the Spirit is pointing me or convicting me to end this response :)

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