Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Jesus’ Virgin Birth Review

The Angel Gabriel Visits Mary

Do the Christian Scriptures provide a unanimous voice on Jesus’ virgin birth? Is the virgin birth based on a mistranslation from the Greek Septuagint (LXX)? Direct answers may be given to these serious questions, and the relevant scriptures are presented below from the NET Bible.

First, here are the scriptures that are either virgin birth proof-texts or favorable to the virgin birth.

Matthew 1:18, 22-25
Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way. While his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. ... This all happened so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: “Look! The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.”… He took his wife, but did not have marital relations with her until she gave birth to a son, whom he named Jesus.

This proof-text famously employs a quotation from Isaiah 7:14. The Hebrew text of Isaiah 7:14 has the word almah, which may mean “virgin” but literally means “young woman.” However it was later translated into Greek in the LXX using the word parthenos, which technically means “virgin.” Thus, it was not a mistranslation to use parthenos, as almah can mean that. This dual meaning of almah was then used messianically as seen in Matthew 1:23.

Luke 1:26, 27, 34, 35
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. … Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I have not had sexual relations with a man?” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God.

It must be remembered that Luke was a physician. (Colossians 4:14) It also appears that he had direct contact with Mary and recorded her emotions and expressions, including her hymn of praise in Luke 1:46-55. Thus he had very personal insight into Mary as he researched “all things carefully from the beginning.” (Luke 1:3)

Romans 8:3
For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,

This indicates that Jesus’ birth was unique, for natural births produce sinful flesh, but Jesus’ birth did not, being only in its “likeness.”

1 Corinthians 15:45
So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living person”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

This may also indicate that Jesus had a unique birth, as did the first Adam.

Hebrews 10:5
So when he came into the world, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.”

This quotation from Psalm 40:6 LXX also indicates a unique birth, for in the virgin birth scenario, it was indeed God who instigated the pregnancy process, forming an embryo. This is perhaps the closest thing to a “proof-text” outside of the Matthean and Lukan accounts.

Now scriptures that are seemingly incongruent with the virgin birth will be considered. The first come from Mark and John:

Mark 3:21
When his family heard this they went out to restrain him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

John 7:5
(For not even his own brothers believed in him.)

If Mary was a virgin while pregnant with Jesus, then she and her husband Joseph would have naturally explained this to their families and children. We would think then that it would follow that they would be inclined to hold Jesus in high regard with a miraculous status, and respect him when he started his ministry. But as reported by Mark and John, this was not the case. It could be that they concluded in their hearts that Mary was raped while unconscious, or something similar.[1] This hypothetical conclusion though would be cynical, and contradict Doctor Luke’s assessment of her virgin status. Therefore, their disbelief in Jesus would not necessarily contradict the virgin birth.

John 8:41
Then they said to Jesus, “We were not born as a result of immorality!”

Here, in the Temple’s Court of Women, Jesus’ enemies subtly implied that Jesus’ virgin birth was a sham, and that he was born from premarital sex. Both pagan and Jewish opposers of Christianity continued to play this card, even identifying a Roman soldier as the fornicator with Mary, giving Jesus Gentile blood.[2] Interestingly, this charge may not have been this developed in John, with a named Roman soldier, for then Jesus’ opposers could have additionally charged him with being a violator of the Temple’s Soreg wall, which forbade under the penalty of death Gentiles entering the Temple courtyards.

Romans 1:3
concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with reference to the flesh

Here the footnote for “was a descendant” points out that the Greek literally says “born of the seed,” which it identifies as “an idiom.” It would not necessarily discount belief in the virgin birth. The point is that Jesus’ parents were Davidic descendants and so was Jesus through Mary. Furthermore, the footnote for “reference to the flesh” says that “this phrase implies that Jesus was more than human.” That is, he had a prehumen existence in the spirit realm and therefore had a remarkable birth. Thus this scripture ironically may be used to support Jesus’ virgin birth.

Galatians 4:4
But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,

Here no mention is made of Jesus’ virgin birth, but such a specific detail was unnecessary to the main point. The point was that he was not a materialization or an incarnation, but was born from a Jewish woman, and thus under the Mosaic Law. Thus, the Pauline epistles categorically identify Jesus as a Jew with a unique birth.

Mythological connections?
Pagan myth does not have anything exactly like what Matthew and Luke report. Gods having sexual intercourse with women and producing demigods is not the same thing. If anything, this sounds more like the Nephilim legends derived from Genesis 6:2, 4.

It has been demonstrated that there is no clear contradiction of the virgin birth in the Christian Scriptures. The only exception is with Jesus’ enemies and others who lacked faith in him. Additionally, as all these scriptures were penned in the first century CE, the virgin birth teaching was not introduced later. In fact, one indication that Matthew and Luke may even pre-date the Temple’s destruction in 70 C.E. is that they include genealogies which went up in flames with Jerusalem and the Temple.

Soteriological considerations?
If Jesus was not born of a virgin, then he was the total product of a Jewish couple. However, Jesus was said to be the “last Adam.” That is, he was hailed as what Adam was before his sin, as there was no inherited sin in Jesus. (Hebrews 4:15 and 1 Peter 2:22) Therefore, if we lose the virgin birth, we also loose Jesus as a savior, for he was then born into inherited sin and needed a savior himself—falling under the condemnation of Romans 5:12 like the rest of us as Psalm 49:7, 8 clearly communicates. To put it plainly, rejecting the virgin birth is the same as rejecting Christ.[3] (1/17/2017)

[1] In accordance with Deuteronomy 22:23-29, if she was unconscious then she was innocent and her community standing remained untarnished.

[2] For instance, the Pharisees’ descendants in the Middle Ages authored an “anti-Gospel” called the Toledot Yeshu, which accuses Jesus of illegitimate birth as the son of Pandera. This was stated earlier in the 2nd century by the anti-Christian pagan Greek philosopher Celsus, who charged that Mary, while engaged, had a child by a certain Roman soldier named Panthera. (Note that Pandera=Panthera=Pantera.) Celsus’ accusation doubtlessly originated with Jewish opposers of Christianity as later seen in the Toledot Yeshu.

[3] For a more in-depth explanation of scriptural soteriology, see: Comparing Saving Schemes http://jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2014/06/comparing-saving-schemes-what-must-i-do.html

Introductory picture from Imitate Their Faith, chapter 17 “Look! Jehovah’s Slave Girl!” www.jw.org/en/publications/books/true-faith/the-angel-gabriel-visits-mary

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