The Virgin Birth
By the late R.H. Judd
Who is this of whom the scriptures say that he was “declared to be the Son of God with power” (Rom. 1:4)? The Greek word here translated “declared” means more than the bare announcement of some current happening, for it carries the sense that the person spoken of was “marked out” beforehand, predetermined for the high position chosen for him. It is the same word occurring in Acts 17:26, “determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” Verily, Jesus the Christ did not just happen in history! The great part he would take in the affairs of men is given in Genesis 3:15, when the promise was made that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. It is, however, no more than an intimation. Like all Bible prophecies, precision of detail is added from time to time as events and time progress toward the goal. Further prophecies occur in Genesis 12: 7 (referred to by Paul in Gal. 3: 16), Deuteronomy 18: 15, and 2 Samuel 7:12-29. Each of these, in contrast to heathen legends, assigns his origin to human gene-alogies and relationships, instead of to mythical dei-ties and problematical human personalities. The prophecy of Moses (Deut. 18:15) could hardly be more specific in this respect.
“A Virgin Shall Conceive”
Again we ask, “Who was this man, this foreordained, “marked out” personality?” Not some preexisting deity, as was the custom in heathen lands, but one who, in vision, was already “despised and rejected” (Isa. 53:3) of man, that the power of God might be made manifest. Two Messianic verses in scripture make this abundantly clear. The first is Isaiah 7:14, saying: “Behold, a virgin [R.V. marg., maiden] shall conceive, and bear a son, and thou shalt call his name Immanuel; which being interpreted is God with us.” (Cp. Matt. 1:23.) This verse has never been successfully denied as having reference to the Messiah; yet from the human standpoint, no person in Israel was more “despised and rejected” than the person, whoever he might be, who was born out of wedlock. Upon no other, except those condemned to death, was the law in Israel so terrible in its process. Note the following from Deuteronomy 23:2, “A bastard shall not enter into the assembly of Jehovah; even to the tenth generation shall none of his enter into the assembly of Jehovah” (R.V.). Here surely, in the plainest of language, is shown God’s hatred of the sin of misusing the gift of life committed to man.
That Joseph was not the father of Jesus is proved by his intention to divorce his wife, for such she was in the eyes of the law. (Matt. 1:20.) Let us seek further, for if the story of the virgin birth of Jesus is not true, then a stain is laid upon Mary that can never be purged, for some other man must have been the father of her son. Who, then, was this other man? Neither history, legend, nor suspicion has ever yet throughout the centuries given voice to his name. What, then, are the resulting issues, if the virgin birth is untrue? They are beyond computation, for if the one who is proclaimed as the Saviour of men (Matt. 1 :21) is himself the son of an unknown father, he is already condemned to be shut out of the assembly of the Lord, as conceived in sin and born in sin. Deny the virgin birth, and the very foundations of Christianity collapse, and there is left in the hands of the unbeliever one of the most cogent weapon –ridicule and slander –that this world has ever known and used.
A New Thing
Jeremiah 31:22 is not so generally quoted as having reference to the virgin birth, but, when closely studied, it will be found to be equally as emphatic as Isaiah 7: 14. It reads, “The LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass [R.V., encompass] a man.” If it means only that a woman shall be a prospective mother and give birth to a son, there is nothing new in the fact. If it means what Leeser’s Version and The Complete Bible (S.&G.) make it mean, namely, merely a change of custom, that instead of the man seeking the wife, the woman will woo the husband, then again we say there is nothing new on the earth. These things have happened, still happen, and will happen again.
What, then, is the new thing to which the Lord points? Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Was Jehovah mistaken? Indeed no! Let us see. The Hebrew word translated “woman” in this verse is neqebah (a female), the same word as is used in Leviticus 12:5 and translated “a maid child.” Thus, the woman in this verse is a virgin. One serious part of the inquiry is that it leads to the conclusion that both the translators referred to, failing to understand the real import of the passage, have, perhaps unintentionally, left the path of the translator for that of the interpreter, and have substituted the words “woo” and “seek for” in place of the word “encompass” which is the rendering of the Authorized Version, the Revised Version, the American Re-vised Version, and Young’s Analytical Concordance. Further, Leeser’s Translation gives the word “husband” where all other translations, that we know, correctly give the word “man.” The Hebrew word geber is never translated “husband” in scripture. Young’s Concordance gives the meaning as “a (mighty) man.”
Putting all these facts together, it becomes clear that in the main, the sense of the verse is the same as that of Isaiah 7:14, namely, that a maiden, or vir-gin, shall bear a son, and that son shall be a mighty man in the earth. Surely, the prophecy has been abundantly fulfilled, for no name on earth has equaled the name of Jesus the Christ. It is also in agreement with Isaiah 9:6, where the phrase “mighty God” in the common translation may be, according to Gesenius, quite properly rendered ”strength of God.” It agrees with Paul’s words, “Christ the pow-er … and … wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24).
It is sometimes said that while the story of the virgin birth is contained in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, it is not mentioned in the gospels of Mark and John. The objectors, however, have overlooked two remarkable features: 1) that Matthew wrote for the Jews, and, therefore, because of their strong Mosaic objection to anything irregular in marital relations, he would be exceedingly reticent to disclose the story unless strongly convinced of its veracity; and 2) Luke, being a physician (probably of note), would be in similar position from a professional point of view.
There is, moreover, reasonable evidence that both Mark and John make unmistakable reference to such an event. Mark starts out with the bold assertion: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” In the italicized words there is certainly an allusion to a manner of entrance into life that is not normal, for, had Mark been writing of the birth of any other person, no such expression would have been made.
Virgin Birth in John’s Gospel
Now, let us consider John’s Gospel. Coming to John 1:13, we have at least two remarkable facts. Quoting from the commonly received King James Version, we read, “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Reference to the margin (R.V.) reveals that “blood” should be stated in the plural, as it is in the Greek, for Christ was not born of “bloods,” namely of both parents, but of one only. We are informed that some “early writers used the expression the double blood, believing that the blood of both parents was necessary for natural birth.” The Authorized Version makes verse 13 to have reference to those who believe on his name. There are, however, strong rea-sons for believing that the verse should read: “Who was born, not of bloods”; namely, the one on whom they believed was so born. This rendering of the verse is preferred by Griesbach, Zahn, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and the Codex Veronicus, and is called attention to by the Emphatic Diaglott. Thus rendered, John made very definite reference to the virgin birth. It is of further interest to note that the negative aspect is repeated three or four times in the verse, as though John desired to dispel all doubt on the matter.
Yet another interesting fact is that the word for man in verse 13 is different from that of verse 9, but is the same as in 1 Corinthians 7:10; Ephesians 5:24; 25; and 1 Timothy 3:2. The word in verse 9 is anthropos, “a man, a human being”; that of verse 13 is aner, “a man, a husband.” The use of these two differentiating Greek words by John in the same chapter is equivalent to specific denial by John that Jesus the Christ was born of a human father. (See Weymouth.)
Other Virgin Births?
With reference to claims made that other religions had (supposedly) virgin births, and that Christianity has probably borrowed from them, we assert that no such parallel exists. The claim has been made that Krishna was born of a chaste virgin named Devaki. What are the facts? Krishna was the eighth son of his mother. Dr. Tisdale, noted orientalist, is authority for the information. Buddha is next brought forward as an instance of virgin birth. Again we quote from Dr. Tisdale: “The writings which deal with the miraculous incarnation of Buddha are of late date, and belong to several hundred years after the introduction of Christianity.” That surely disposes of the false claims made that Christianity borrowed from Buddhism. The same authority says, “As the mother of Buddha was married at the latest when about twelve years of age, and had (when Buddha was born) been living with her husband some thirty-three years, it is hardly necessary to consider the question of Buddha’s virgin birth any longer.”
We call attention to just one more instance. The Egyptian god Horus, born of Isis, is frequently quot-ed with the objective of discrediting Christianity. Osiris and Isis were brother and sister, and, according to ancient Egyptian practice, they were also husband and wife. Osiris was put to death, and his members scattered. When the parts became united, he be-came united to Isis, and Horus was born. So, it is after this manner that the heathen legends of virgin birth have come to be.
The Writer’s Testimony
The present writer believes in the virgin birth of Jesus the Christ. All the evangelists tell the story simply without dissimulation. As previously called to attention, such precise details of the language they employed could not have been the result of collusion, for these often hang upon the special use of a particular Greek word. These are of such a nature that nothing but inspiration can account for the phenomena.
Thus, a new mode of existence required a new foundation. The scriptures bear testimony that a new mode of existence was predicted for the sons of God in Christ Jesus, and that it was provided for in the prophecy and the promise contained in Jeremiah 31:22. The scriptures also inform us that “other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11).
In the East, it is generally the father of the newborn child who gives voice to rejoicing, and on occasion will even burst into song. In this instance, however, it is Zacharias who sings, while Joseph is silent, and Mary does the rejoicing. Had Joseph been the actual father of the child, he too would have sung, specially in the case of the firstborn. (Matt. 1:25; Luke 2:7.)
In Matthew 1:23 it reads: “A virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son.” But in Luke, when recording the birth of John the Baptist, it is said, “Thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son,” which is in accord with custom to attribute the birth to the father. The word “thee” is omitted in the case of Joseph, which is circumstantial proof that Joseph did not have the relationship of being the actual father.
Now, just a word to those who lean upon “science” as they lean upon a staff! Most objections to the Bible story of the virgin birth are founded on the supposed supernatural impossibility of such an event; in other words, that it is a “scientific impossibility.”
Speaking for himself, the writer believes in the virgin birth of Jesus the Christ as an absolute necessity. He believes that it was long predicted, a fact which is in itself miraculous and unique in history. There have been, on the other hand, men of learning such as Professor Huxley and Professor Romanes who affirmed that so far as “science” is concerned, parthenogenesis is not impossible. The latter professor says, “Even if a virgin has ever conceived and borne a son, and if such a fact in the human species has been unique, it would not betoken any breach of physiological continuity.” It would thus appear that the Almighty has brought about the true virgin birth, not only for the purposes to which we have already called attention, but to show by contrast the utter falseness of the claims of heathen mythology, and of those who seek to oppose his Word.
Excerpt from The Restitution Herald & Progress Journal, Oct-Dec 2019