Virgin Birth

Along with the concept of a “Trinity” of God, and the Resurrection, comes an equally difficult principle of Jesus, that is necessary in understanding who He is.

If Jesus was truly born of a virgin; this would set Him apart from every other person in the world. For this reason, Jesus virgin birth has been attacked repeatedly by critics and adversaries of God and the Bible.

Before Jesus is described as born of a virgin in the New Testament gospels, the prophets of the Old Testament recorded this fact, nearly seven hundred years before Jesus was born. Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 7:14a, is one of the most hotly contested verses in the Bible. This is again, due to the nature of this verse. If Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and not by Joseph or any other man, then His claim to be the Messiah, the Living God, dwelling in the body of a man, is greatly supported.

Isaiah 7:14a Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin (Almah) shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

New Testament Fulfillment:

Matthew 1:18-23 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. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Luke 1:30-35 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 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.”

A Note to the reader: The principle of a virgin birth, is so important to the story of Jesus Christ that you will find detailed information about this subject in many places, throughout this book. A detailed section on the manner in which Jesus was born, is also found in the chapter: The Savior. This chapter contains a few of the points that were previously made, adding new and detailed information for this essential doctrine.

Origins

The Hebrew word used in Isaiah 7:14 for virgin is almah. Most commonly, the translation is a young woman, but specifically it refers to a maiden who is unmarried and has never experienced physical intimacy with a man. This is where the term virgin came from.

Isaiah 7:14 speaks of a sign that would be given. It would be no sign if a young woman were to become pregnant and bear a child. It would, however, be an incredible sign if a young woman who is also a virgin should conceive and bear a son. It is clear by the context of Isaiah’s prophecy that he was speaking of something truly incredible and miraculous which would be understood as a genuine sign from God.

A similar place where almah is used is found in Genesis 24:16, where Isaac first meets Rebekah.

Genesis 24:16 Now the young woman (almah) was very beautiful to behold, a virgin; no man had known her. And she went down to the well, filled her pitcher, and came up.

In this case, it is clear that the text is referring to a young unmarried woman who is a virgin. This is the same Hebrew word used in Isaiah 7:14 to describe the birth of the Messiah: His conception would be through a supernatural process, whereby the Holy Spirit would initiate the child in Mary’s womb; not as a result of the efforts of man.

An important fact worth repeating

The argument that almah, translated here as virgin, could be any unmarried young woman is not supported anywhere else in the Bible. It would make no sense for Isaiah to prophesy that a young woman would have a son. A young woman giving birth to a son would not be significant. A young woman who is a virgin, giving birth to a Son who is Immanuel (God with us), would be the most important event in the history of the world. This Son will be God dwelling within the body of a man. This is the clear meaning of Isaiah’s prophecy and the defining result of a young woman who is a virgin, giving birth to a child who has the Living God dwelling within. Those who see this sign will know that He is the Messiah spoken of in Isaiah’s prophecy.

Another objection by critics who do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah is in the term, God with us, which they do not interpret as, God dwelling within the body of a man. Their view is that Isaiah is simply speaking of God being “with us” is the way that God is on our side. This interpretation is invalidated by Matthew’s testimony, that Jesus birth, was a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy which we are examining here—that “the virgin,” would conceive and bear the Messiah. This child would be no conventional man, but God, living within a human body, sent to redeem the world.

Matthew 1:22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

More than 200 years before Jesus was born, a distinguished group of 70 Hebrew scholars, translated the Hebrew scriptures into the Greek language, called The Septuagint. In translating Isaiah 7:14 where almah is found, these scholars used the Greek word Parthenos, which is clearly defined as virgin in the Greek language. It is certain that those who were translating this verse from Hebrew to Greek, interpreted the meaning of almah, in Isaiah 7:14, as a child born to a virgin. This is the reason that the Greek translators used the word Parthenos.

Some critics of the text from Isaiah 7:14, state that this scripture was only written for the time period in which Isaiah described. These pundits claim that the immediate purpose of Isaiah’s prophecy was written to King Ahaz and was given to assure him of a future protection by God, in David’s line of descendants, as time moved towards the coming of the future Messiah.

This is assertion is impossible since there has never been another person in the history of the world who was born of a virgin; neither in King Ahaz’s lifetime, nor Isaiah’s. This prophecy is specifically looking forward to the time when the Messiah would arrive, through a virgin, who would bring this Savior into the world.

In several Old Testament scriptures which describe the Messiah, very often we see an earlier and later fulfillment of the same prophecy. In this particular case, there was no earlier fulfillment in the history of Ahaz, therefore—this prophecy is specifically applicable only to the time when the Messiah would arrive in Bethlehem, as described by the angel, in Matthew 1:22, above.

The first prophecy of the Bible, specifically predicts a Savior by virgin birth.

Soon after Adam’s sin, in Genesis Chapter 3, God promises a redeemer who will come in the future, described as The Seed of a Woman. The unique language of this promise is unmistakably directed at a future woman who will conceive a child without the aid of a human father. We understand today that Isaiah’s prophecy of a young virgin who will conceive and bear the Savior of the world is the object of this first prophecy found in Genesis 3:15. We are certain of this fact because of what the angel told Joseph:

1. His wife Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit.
2. Her conception was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that “the virgin” will bear a son, who will be God with us.

Matthew 1:20-23 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for 1. that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 2. So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

The term “the virgin,” is repeated by the angel who announced the birth of Jesus—in direct context to Genesis 3:15, where Eve is told that a specific woman in history (her Seed), will bear the Messiah—by a supernatural conception—apart from the seed of a man.

The dispute over whether Isaiah was describing a young woman (almah), or a virgin, is settled by the text of Matthew 1:20-23. The angel confirms Jesus birth was a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14:

all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us. —Matthew 2:22-23

Why the virgin birth is so important:

If Jesus Christ was not born of a virgin, He could not be the Savior of the world. In order for anyone to be the Savior of all other men, that person would, by necessity, have to be without sin himself. Unless a person was born without the aid of a human father, he would be born with a sin nature and be disqualified. Early church Theologian and Philosopher, Augustine, wrote that sin passed to a baby through the father.[1]

Today, Medical Science confirms that a Fetus does not receive its blood supply from the mother but from the father. An Ovum begins to produce its own blood supply immediately after the father’s sperm penetrates the egg—held in the body of the woman. An unfertilized ovum can never develop blood since the egg of the female does not contain the elements which are necessary for the production of blood.[2]

This process is illustrated by the following photo in which a newly fertilized egg from a chicken shows a single spot of blood. At the moment of fertilization, the egg receives its blood supply.

All of the nutrients which a baby receives from its mother, comes through the placenta. Proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, salts and antibodies, pass between the mother and the baby by way of the placenta. However, no part of the mother’s blood supply ever passes to her baby. The Fetal blood vessels and the epithelial layers of the chorionic villae act to separate the mother’s blood from her baby.[3] The baby’s entire blood supply is originated by the father at conception. After conception, the blood of the baby is continually produced within the body of the child, for the rest of its life.

It is the blood that acts as the method of transmittal for our sin nature. For this reason, it was Jesus blood that was shed for us at the cross. It is the Blood of the perfect Lamb of God that takes away our sins and cleanses us from all our unrighteousness.

The nature to sin comes from our parents. They received their tendency to sin from their parents, and so on—all the way back to Adam who became a sinner by his disobedience to God.

According to the Bible, sin is transferred to the child through the father, not the mother.

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man (Adam) sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—

This does not mean that a female human being is not a sinner; only that she does not have the ability to transfer the sin nature to her child; this comes from the father. Mary had a sin nature, but she could not transfer that nature to Jesus; it would come from an earthly father. Since Jesus was not conceived by an earthly father, but instead conceived by the Holy Spirit, He was born without the defect of a sin nature.

From these facts, we understand why the virgin birth is so important to Jesus’ story. If He had been conceived by the union of Mary and Joseph, or any other man, Jesus could not be the Messiah. According to the law of God, the Messiah must be without spot or blemish. In other words, He must be without sin. Unless Jesus was born of a virgin, He would have inherited, by blood, Adam’s sin nature. Because Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, His blood did not come from a human source; it came from God. Therefore, Jesus was born without the sin nature that we all posses.

The Savior must be without sin and possess a life of infinite value:

• Only a spotless Savior could offer His life in exchange for ours. An ordinary man is born with the stain of sin, receiving this defect through the blood of Adam—the imperfection that all men posses.
• In order to pay for the sins of every person, for all time, the value of the life offered, must be infinite. Because Jesus is the eternal God, dwelling within the body of a man, His life is of infinite value and sufficient to pay the cost of redemption for all people, for all time.
• The Savior would have to live His entire life without sin. If, at any time, He should sin—in any way, He would be disqualified as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.

The importance of the virgin birth and the absence of a sin nature, is understood by Isaiah’s prophecy.

This is the reason that there is no other person in the history of the world who could rightly claim that they are the way to heaven. Only Jesus Christ, who has the undeniable testimony that He was without sin, is qualified to bear the name “Messiah,” the Savior of the world.

Do you know anyone who has not sinned?

Think of any person whom you have known for an extended period of time. Within just a few days, it is very easy to observe the sins of a person. To know someone, live in close proximity to them, watch them rise every morning and go to sleep every night, and yet proclaim with absolute certainty: they have never sinned, is truly incredible. This is the testimony of the men who knew Jesus more intimately than any other person. The disciples had walked with Jesus and lived in close proximity to Him for more than three years. Every person who knew Jesus said that He was without sin.

By these facts, we understand why Isaiah’s prophecy is of the utmost importance.

The Savior must be born of a Virgin. This is perhaps the most significant and primary prediction of the coming Messiah. The virgin birth is what separates Jesus from all other human beings who have been born with the nature to sin.

The Passover Lamb had to be free of defects to be acceptable for a sacrifice.

Exodus 12:5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year.

Paul wrote that Jesus is without sin:

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Peter testified that Jesus was without sin:

1 Peter 1:18-19 “…knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

Jesus claimed to be without sin:

John 8:46 Which of you convicts Me of sin?

This is why only Jesus is qualified to be the Savior of the world.

Every other person who has claimed to be “the way to Heaven” was a sinner. According to the Bible, no sinner can ever be the Savior. That is why we worship and serve Jesus because only He is without sin.

There is a hint by the Book of Genesis, in the very first prophecy in the Bible, that the coming Savior would be born by a Virgin.

Genesis 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.

As the Lord pronounces His judgment for Adam’s disobedience, He also promises that He would provide a Savior. Notice that this Savior will come from the Seed of a Woman.

A woman does not have the Seed; she has the egg. The seed comes from the man. Here, the Lord is declaring that He will supply the Seed which will make the woman bring forth the Savior, by a virgin birth. When the Lord told Eve that she would have a future Seed, He was telling her that a woman, who is a virgin, would conceive the Messiah.

Luke 1:35 And the angel answered and said to Mary, “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.”

Mary conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit; this is why Jesus was born without sin and qualified to be our Savior.

The doctrine of the Virgin birth is so important—that if Jesus had not been born of the Holy Spirit, He could not be our Savior.

Larry King, the famous CNN talk show host, who has perhaps interviewed more people than anyone else in history, was once asked who he would most like to interview if he could choose anyone from all of history. He said, ‘Jesus Christ.’ The questioner said, ‘And what would you like to ask Him?’ King replied, ‘I would like to ask Him if He was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me.’”

Mr King, Isaiah the prophet said that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. Jesus was born of a virgin, and the testimony of His life from those who knew Him is that He was without sin.

*******

The Prophet Jeremiah, reveals an equally compelling prophecy of the Messiah’s virgin birth in chapter 31, verse 22.

Jeremiah 31:22 How long will you gad about, O you backsliding daughter? For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth—A woman shall encompass a man.

New Testament Fulfillment:

Matthew 1:18-20 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. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”

Jeremiah’s prophecy is a difficult Old Testament verse to be sure. Many scholars and Bible commentators are not really sure what Jeremiah 31:22 is actually indicating. There are a few ancient commentaries on this verse that indicate that Jewish scholars living closer to the time of Jesus, believed that the certain meaning of this verse is its description of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.[4]

Concerning Jeremiah 31:22, Zohar in Gen. tom. 13.4 states:

“This shall be in the time of the Messiah, which will be on the sixth day;” that is, the six thousandth year. Also”: a woman shall compass a man.”[5]

In commentary of Jeremiah 31:22, R. Joshua ben Levi writes:

“He, that is, God, heals with the same he wounds; so will you find in Israel, they sinned by a virgin, and were punished in virgins, Ezekiel 23:1; so he comforts them by a virgin, according to Jeremiah 31:21-22; “turn again, O virgin of Israel”, & c. “a woman shall compass a man”

The word “Encompass” means to surround, to have or hold, to cause something to take place.[6] This definition certainly allows for the possibility that this “new thing” the Lord is creating is something spectacular; specifically, the Lord will cause a woman who has never known a man, to give birth to the Messiah. When the Bible speaks of the Lord creating “a new thing,” it is most often something that has never taken place before. It is a fact that there is no record of any woman, other than Mary, who had never had sexual contact with a man, who conceived and bore a child. This event was, by its very nature, an amazing miracle.

Another consideration for a correct understanding in the context of this verse of scripture, is Jeremiah’s description of the “backsliding” of Israel—together with the certainty that God, in response to this backsliding, will do a “new thing.” Specifically, He will cause a virgin to conceive and bear the Messiah, who will save all Israel and the whole world from their sins. Many scholars believe that because Jeremiah describes this event as a “new thing,” this language requires a supernatural event of God, such as a virgin birth to bring a Savior to redeem “backsliding” Israel.[7]

In this regard, the woman shall encompass a man in a way that is not possible outside of the Holy Spirit of God.

Certainly, the ancient Hebrew commentaries from Zohar, as well as early church historians, felt that the term “new thing” was speaking of something that God would do that was unprecedented in the history of the world—a virgin birth. We should acknowledge that the scholars who interpreted this verse from Jeremiah, as a virgin, were in a much better position to know this, since they are writing much closer to the time when this event was originally recorded. Scholars who write today that Jeremiah was not speaking of a virgin, often record their words as if they know more than those who wrote hundreds of years before. This is of course, not true.

It is my opinion that this verse from Jeremiah is speaking of the Messiah coming forth from a virgin; and for this reason, I have included Jeremiah’s prophecy in this book. The reader will have to make up their own mind.

The significance of the virgin birth is understood when we consider that had Jesus not been born of a virgin, He could not be the Savior of the world. This fact being true, it is expected that the prophets who recorded His future arrival, would also know that He would come in this manner.

In order for anyone to be the Savior of all man’s sin, that person would need to be without sin. Only a spotless Savior could offer His life for all mankind. The value of the sacrifice that would be required to pay for all of the sins of every person, for all time, is beyond comprehension. An ordinary man who has sinned himself, could not possibly bear the sins of another person, since he would also need a Savior.

It would take a sacrifice of eternal value to redeem the lives of all people, for all time. This sacrifice would have to be so costly, that it could satisfy the requirement of God’s law in punishing and removing the sins of the whole world—from the time of Adam—to the end of the age.

The one making the sacrifice would, therefore, have to be perfect in every way. By one perfect sacrifice; He could pay for the sins of the whole world.

Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

Hebrews 10:12 But this Man Jesus, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God…

This is why Isaiah and Jeremiah wrote that when the Messiah came, He would be perfect—beginning with His virgin birth and continuing with a perfect life.

It is for these reasons that there is no other person in the history of the world who could make a valid claim that he is the only way to heaven. Since all men are born sinners, no man could be the savior of any other man. Only Jesus Christ, who has the undeniable testimony that He was “without sin,” is qualified to be the Savior of all people.

In this, Jesus has accomplished and fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:22, that God has done a truly remarkable new thing, that a virgin should encompass the Savior of the world in her womb and bring Him to us so that all who will believe can be saved.


[1] Saint Augustine of Hippo, (De civitate Dei, XIV, 16; CCL 48, 438-439 [1-10]). See also: Schmitt, É. (1983). Le mariage chrétien dans l’oeuvre de Saint Augustin. Une théologie baptismale de la vie conjugale. Études Augustiniennes. Paris. p. 97.. See also Augustine’s: De continentia, 8.21; PL 40, 363; Contra Iulianum VI, 19.60; PL 44, 859; ibid. IV, 14.65, z.2, s. 62; PL 44, 770; De Trinitate, XII, 9. 14; CCL 50, 368 [verse: IX 1-8]; De Genesi contra Manicheos, II, 9.12, s. 60 ; CSEL 91, 133 [v.31-35])
[2] Howell’s Textbook of Physiology, Second Edition, pages 885 and 886
[3] Williams’ Practice of Obstetrics, Third Edition, page 133
[4] The Jewish scholars acknowledged that the Messiah is the intended meaning of this verse. In Zohar in Gen. tom. 13. 4., describes their commentary as follows: “This shall be in the time of the Messiah, which will be on the sixth day;” that is, the six thousandth year. Also”: a woman shall compass a man”; says R. Hona, in the name of R. Ame, this is the King Messiah. So says R. Joshua ben Levi. “He, that is, God, heals with the same he wounds; so will you find in Israel, they sinned by a virgin, and were punished in virgins, Ezekiel 23:1; so he comforts them by a virgin, according to Jeremiah 31:21; “turn again, O virgin of Israel”, &c. “a woman shall compass a man”. R Huna, in the name of R. Idi and R. Joshua, said, that this man is the King Messiah, of whom it is said, Psalm 2:7, “this day have I begotten thee”
[5] Ibid.
[6] Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2012
[7] Says R. Hona, in the name of R. Ame, this is the King Messiah. So says R. Joshua ben Levi. “He, that is, God, heals with the same he wounds; so will you find in Israel, they sinned by a virgin, and were punished in virgins, Ezekiel 23:1; so he comforts them by a virgin, according to Jeremiah 31:21; “turn again, O virgin of Israel”, &c. “a woman shall compass a man”.