The Virgin Birth

 

The Doctrine of Christ - Lesson # 2

 

    I. The virgin birth in the New Testament

       A. Matthew 1:18-25

            1.  What did the custom of betrothal entail?

            2.  What does verse 25 imply concerning the "perpetual virginity" of Mary?

       B. Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-7

  II. Isaiah and the virgin birth

       A. Read all of Isaiah 7

       B. Identify the major characters: Tiglathpilesar, the King of Assyria; Pekah, the King of Israel; Rezin, the King of Syria; and Ahaz, the King of Judah.

       C. Ahaz is told by Isaiah not to worry about an alliance between Pekah and Rezin (vs. 4). They will not conquer him (vs. 5-6). Within sixty-five years their alliance will be gone, because Israel will be in captivity (vs. 8). God offers Ahaz a sign (vs. 10-11). Ahaz feigned piety refusing the sign (vs. 12). The real reason was that he planned to align himself with Assyria (2 Kings 16:6-7). God says he will give him a sign anyway (vs. 13-14). "The" (definite article in Hebrew and Greek) "young woman" or "virgin" (can mean either in Hebrew) "is" or "will be" (not certain in Hebrew) with child (vs. 13-14). By the time this child knows right from wrong and is weaned and on solid food, the danger from the northern alliance will pass (vs. 15-16). If Ahaz does not trust God, the real problem is going to be Assyria, not Israel and Syria (vs. 17). The oracle was delivered in 735/734 B.C. Damascus fell in 732 B.C. and Pekah was killed. Samaria fell in 722 B.C. People were exiled in coming years up through Esarhaddon's time (681-669 B.C.), thus the crisis was over within sixty-five years (vs. 8). Likewise, the crisis would be over when the child of verse 14 was a few years old, not when Jesus was born 700 years later. The child of Isaiah 7:14 was a child born in Isaiah's day.

       D. Fulfillment in Matthew

            1.  "Fulfillment" in Matthew sometimes included fulfillment of a direct, exact prediction (Mt. 2:5-6), but many other times it was not the fulfillment of a direct, exact prediction but a foreshadowing or prefiguring through types or analogies (Mt. 2:18).

            2.  Study Mt. 2:14-15 as a fulfillment of Hos. 11:1. Hos. 11:1 is not a prediction of Jesus going to Egypt as an infant. However, Jesus going to Egypt is analogous in many ways to the nation of Israel going to Egypt.

                         Israel                                                              Jesus

                      a. God's son                                                     a. God's Son

                      b. Sojourned in Egypt by                                    b. Sojourned in Egypt by

                         God's providence                                              God's providence

                      c. Pharaoh ordered murder                                c. Herod ordered murder

                         of male infants                                                  of male infants

                      d. Moses, giver of old                                        d. Jesus, giver of new

                         law, protected                                                   law, protected

                      e. Resulted in salvation                                      e. Resulted in salvation

                         of Jewish people                                               of the whole world

            3.  "Signs" were not always miraculous (Isa. 8:18), thus, the "sign" in Isaiah 7:14 could refer to a non-miraculous birth of a child (one of Isaiah's children or possibly Ahaz's son, Hezekiah). Later the "sign" could refer to the miraculous birth of Jesus by the virgin Mary. As this child in Isaiah's day was a sign that God was with them and that God was going to save them from their northern neighbors, the baby Jesus is the sign that God is with mankind and is working for the salvation of all people.

III. The authenticity of the virgin birth

       A. It is not the most important doctrine upon which everything else hangs. It is only found in Matthew and Luke. Paul's thirteen epistles with their extensive explanation of the Christian faith never mention the virgin birth.

       B. The virgin birth is not included in the New Testament because the Bible has a negative view of sexuality within the bounds of marriage. The biblical view of sex within marriage is very positive.

       C. The virgin birth is not taught in order to avoid attributing original sin to Jesus.

            1.  Original sin is a post-biblical doctrine.

            2.  If original sin were passed on genetically from one generation to the next, Jesus would have received it from Mary.

            3.  Study how Roman Catholicism takes this one step further with their doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary.

       D. The virgin birth is not found in the New Testament merely to give the Messiah a spectacular entrance into the world to equal some pagan deities. The virgin birth doctrine is not really parallel with births in pagan mythology.

       E. The virgin birth is not included in the New Testament primarily to prove that Jesus is the Son of God. Again, the doctrine is found only in Matthew and Luke. Paul, Peter, John and others could build their theology of the deity of Christ without this truth. The resurrection was proof enough (Rom. 1:4).

       F. The virgin birth was not included in the New Testament to make Jesus fit the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy and to fulfill Jewish expectations of a virgin born Messiah. The Jews were not looking for a virgin born Messiah based on Isaiah 7:14.

       G. The virgin birth was not included to explain the origin of Jesus' name of "Immanuel," because he was not known by that name. He was known as "Jesus." "Immanuel" became a religious name/term which manifested a truth about who Jesus was.

       H. With all other options exhausted as to why Matthew and Luke might have included the story of the virgin birth, we are left with one other possible answer which is the most rational explanation—it really happened. Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, thus Matthew and Luke gave us this bit of history.

IV. Discussion

       A. While "virgin birth" is the usual term, in what ways is "virginal conception" a more accurate expression?

       B. A century ago Christian apologetics often defended the virgin birth as the most important doctrine of all. In light of the paucity of information about it in the New Testament, what else might be a more central tenet of faith?

       C. While the virgin birth is not recounted in the New Testament as the chief argument for the deity of Christ, how is it related to this truth? Lk. 1:35

       D. How does the virgin birth synchronize with the truth of the pre-existence, the incarnation, the deity, and the humanity of Christ?

       E. Can you name a hymn which refers to the virgin birth of Christ?

       F. Memory verse - Mt. 1:23

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