“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14, NKJV). [About 8 centuries before Christ]
“‘Round yon virgin, so tender and mild…”
Some theological Grinches are out to steal not only Christmas, but even the virgin birth. They argue that Isaiah’s prophecy of a virgin birth was mistranslated. The Hebrew term almah, they say, means young woman or maiden, not virgin. In fact, numerous Bibles translate it that way.
Perhaps you’ve had some cold water thrown on your Christmas joy by this assertion, so I’d like to address it today.
Setting aside Isaiah’s prophecy for a moment, let me first point out that it’s not the only Scripture that teaches the virgin birth:
- Isa 7:14* “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
- Mt 1:18* Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
- Mt 1:25* and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.
- Lu 1:34* Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
- Lu 1:35* And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
- Lu 1:27* to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
- Ge 3:15* And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”
- Ga 4:4* But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
- Heb 7:26* For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens…
My point is simply this: the case for the virgin birth of Christ rests on many passages of Scripture. It was not an isolated teaching from one obscure, Old Testament passage. You’ll have to explain away a lot more verses than Isaiah 7:14 to uproot the virgin birth from God’s Word.
“Behold, the virgin [parthenos] shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23, NKJV).
That doesn’t stop some Grinches from accusing Matthew of getting the erroneous ball rolling by MISTRANSLATING Isaiah 7:14 as virgin. Whereas, it is argued, almah in Hebrew means young woman, parthenos in Greek means virgin… and Matthew took liberties when he translated almah (Hebrew) into parthenos (Greek), thus reinventing Mary as a virgin.
IN other words, the claim is that Matthew and others covered up an illegitimate birth with a miracle story, thus a) saving Mary’s hide, b) notching up Jesus’ stock value, and c) … uh… that’s all I’ve got.
To which, I reply:
- Matthew’s not that stupid. a) because only the Jews would have cared about an illegitimate birth, so he has no motive to cover up one with regards to gentiles… and, b) if he’s aiming at the Jews, (which most scholars agree Matthew’s gospel is doing), then his trick will surely backfire, because what good is it to MISQUOTE their own Bible at them to make his case for the virgin birth? They know the true meaning of Isa 7:14, they memorized it in Hebrew, for Christ’s sake. (I’m not cursing). There’s no way he could pull a successful switcheroo on them, and he knows it.The cover-up argument renders Matthew either incredibly stupid or incredibly stupid.
- Matthew didn’t misquote Isaiah. Because, centuries before Jesus was born, Jewish scholars translated the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek. That translation was called the Septuagint. Its abbreviation is LXX. New Testament authors routinely quote the Greek translation, the LXX, instead of doing fresh translations from Hebrew.And, guess what… In Isaiah 7:14, where it says, “behold an ALMAH shall conceive…” the LXX translators (centuries before Christ) translated ALMAH (Hebrew) with the Greek word PARTHENOS (uncontestedly “virgin”).If anybody made up a virgin birth, the making up happened centuries before Christ. ‘Splain that, you Grinches. But it gets worse for them…
- There is no place in the whole Old Testament where the Hebrew word almah conclusively means anything other than a virgin. And the Jewish scholars who translated it PARTHENOS knew it, and Isaiah knew it too. In other words, Isaiah’s original prophecy indeed promised a virgin would conceive. Mary was that virgin. And Matthew and the other authors of Scripture had it factually and historically right.I won’t go into the details on this point, except to suggest: here and an excellent 1959 article here.
- Plus, if the premise is that the disciples conspired to cover up a scandal in the life of Jesus, then I have to laugh. Since when did the disciples worry about scandal in the life of one who befriended tax collectors and prostitutes, who ate with unwashed hands, who picked grain on Sabbath, and who claimed to have pre-existed Father Abraham (2000 b.c.)? His whole life was scandalous, why worry about his birth only?
The real motive behind erasing the virgin birth is the simple anti-supernatural premise of its opponents. No miracles. No God who intervenes in human affairs. No Savior. No miracles. No virgin birth.
No salvation. Ouch!
The wonder of Christmas remains: A virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall call his name Immanuel… God with us.