A Brief Review of Arguments Evangelicals Use to Support the Virgin Birth



Christianity Today published an article on December 20, 2017 entitled The Virgin Birth: What's the Problem Exactly? by Mark Galli. In the article, Galli set forth in a very concise form the arguments by those who contend that the Virgin Birth was either not true or not part of the earliest teachings of the church, and the responses to those arguments by those who support the historicity of the Virgin Birth. Since I had never seen the arguments set forth in this fashion before, and since Christianity Today articles drop behind a paid wall after awhile, I wanted to share the summarized arguments on the blog. Galli writes:
For the fundamentalists, the Virgin Birth is a consequence of belief in inerrancy, Christ’s deity, and the belief in the miraculous. This is one large reason why it was singled it out for defense. A lot depended on this doctrine. The main lines of liberal argument against it were:
1. It is not mentioned in the rest of the New Testament; Paul, in particular, doesn’t ever discuss it. Likewise, it is rarely mentioned in the first three centuries of the church’s existence.
2. Matthew and Luke were using a faulty translation (the Septuagint) of Isaiah 7:14, which in the original Hebrew did not predict that a “virgin” would conceive a coming messiah, but only a “young woman” would. Thus they either made up the story or shaped it according to their misunderstanding.
3. It imitates pagan and Jewish myths that credit virginal conception to spiritual heroes.
4. It’s not possible for a human being to be conceived outside of intercourse between a man and a woman, and that’s the only way God providentially designed humans to be fruitful and multiply.
These were easily countered by fundamentalist authors. They replied:
1. It was not discussed by Paul and other New Testament writers, nor by writers in the early church, because it was not controversial. There was no reason to argue for it because no one doubted it. The fact that it emerges in the Nicene Creed without argument or debate suggests this was indeed the case and that it was a core belief for Christians.
2. Biblical prophecies work on many levels, some literally, some metaphorically, and some both. We see the New Testament writers using a great freedom in using such prophecies. Besides, Mary was clearly a “young woman,” which Isaiah foresaw under the inspiration of the Spirit; that she was also a virgin is revealed in the Gospel accounts.
3. That other religions have similar stories has no bearing on whether this particular story is historically true. It just indicates that the idea of virginal conception didn’t seem preposterous in that age.
4. More recent science has shown that parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction) is possible in plants and some animals, if extremely rare (see “Virgin Births Happen all the Time,” by Ted Olsen). The fundamentalist reply of the time would have simply been to say, “Who says God could not or would not do this?”
In fact, the assumptions of 19th-century liberal theologians arose not from indisputable objective starting points but from unprovable assumptions. Most were strict materialists, or close to it, and believed that anything that happened in history had to have a material cause. Fundamentalists countered that the Bible, in fact, has a different starting point: God intervenes in history now and then, and when he does and it defies the laws of nature, it’s called a miracle.
The article continues for a few more paragraphs which are worthwhile to read, but I think that the best part of the article is this quick summary of the arguments countering those who doubt the Virgin Birth. I encourage everyone to read the entire article while it is still available.

Comments

Anonymous said…
To be clear on my own position, I am pretty sure it was made up. With that in mind...

That Paul does not mention it is not relevant; Paul says hardly anything of Jesus' life, and not mentioning the virgin birth is entirely reasonable; there is no obvious place in his letters we would expect it (unlike the empty tomb, which we would expect in 1 Cor 15).

That Mark and John do not mention it is rather more of an issue, and to me, Mark reads as though the author believed Jesus was adopted as the son of God at his baptism, which would certainly contradict the virgin birth, especially given Mark was written earlier.

The absence in John seems harder to explain, as it seems likely the author was aware of the story, and I can only suppose he thought it irrelevant (which allows for it to be true, but seems very unlikely) or dismissed it as nonsense.

The prophecy has clearly been retro-fitted to the supposed event; the original prophecy was that two kingdoms would fall! New Testament authors were indeed imaginative in their use of Old Testment prophecies.

The point about this and the pagan myths is that they explain where the idea came from in the first place. Matthew and Luke were written too late for the authors to have consulted Mary; indeed, they were written at a time when stories about Jesus' birth could be made up because no one was around to say otherwise.

The claim of parthenogenesis is nonsense; Jesus needed a Y chromosome to be a man, Mary would only have Xs. That said, we are talking about a miracle, so the claim that it is not possible seems spurious from the off.

Pix
Joe Hinman said…
4. It’s not possible for a human being to be conceived outside of intercourse between a man and a woman, and that’s the only way God providentially designed humans to be fruitful and multiply.


that is a moot point because all miracles are things that is impossible for nature to pull off unaided by the divine; God was in on this one, like the resurrection . Not possible for a man to come back to life after three days with no medical aid yet God did it when he rose Jesus fro the dead,
Joe Hinman said…
Virginal conception stems from Isaiah 9 it is not a pagan myth.
Anonymous said…
Joe: [i]Virginal conception stems from Isaiah 9 it is not a pagan myth.[/i]

Where does Isaiah 9 mention a virgin?

The virgin is in the mistranslation of Isaiah 7, and that is prophesising the downfall of Syria and Israel, using the birth of the child to give it a time frame. It was God reassuring Ahaz that the nations would fall before this baby had learnt to tell right from wrong, i.e., within just a few years.

That said, I agree that is where the author of Matthew got it from.

The account in Luke is kind of strange.

30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”


Does Mary not know where babies come from? Given what the angel says, it would be entirely reasonable for Mary to be a virgin, then at some point in the future have sex, and then conceive a baby.

Maybe it loses something in translation...

Pix
Joe Hinman said…
The virgin is in the mistranslation of Isaiah 7, and that is prophesising the downfall of Syria and Israel, using the birth of the child to give it a time frame. It was God reassuring Ahaz that the nations would fall before this baby had learnt to tell right from wrong, i.e., within just a few years.

It's not a mistranslated it's a slag term but one we know due to the Talmud. The LXX uses Greek Porthanos,young woman implied virgin
Gary said…
I am currently reviewing New Testament scholar Raymond Brown's two volume masterpiece, "The Death of the Messiah". I welcome any input from Christian apologists:

https://lutherwasnotbornagaincom.wordpress.com/2017/12/22/new-testament-scholar-raymond-brown-the-authorship-and-the-dating-of-the-gospels/
Anonymous said…
Joe: It's not a mistranslated it's a slag term but one we know due to the Talmud. The LXX uses Greek Porthanos,young woman implied virgin

The prophecy is like this conversation:

God: Those two kingdoms are threatening to destroy you. (Isa 7:6)

Ahaz: What should I do?

God: Don't worry, they will soon fall.

Ahaz: How soon?

God: A woman is due to gove birth soon. They will fall before that child can tell right from wrong. (Isa 7:16)

Ahaz: So if we can last a few years, we will be okay. Thanks God. That is reassuring.

There is no virgin, just a young woman who is already pregnant.
Anonymous said…
The word in Hebrew is "almah" or "עַלְמָה", meaning:

noun feminine young woman (ripe sexually; maid or newly married)
http://biblehub.com/hebrew/5959.htm

This is the same word used in Proverbs 30:19, when talking about a couple getting it on:

19 the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a young woman.

Clearly she is not a virgin here!

Pix
Joe Hinman said…
Anonymous said...
The word in Hebrew is "almah" or "עַלְמָה", meaning:

noun feminine young woman (ripe sexually; maid or newly married)
http://biblehub.com/hebrew/5959.htm

This is the same word used in Proverbs 30:19, when talking about a couple getting it on:

19 the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a young woman.

Clearly she is not a virgin here!


you did not listen to what I said, literally Allma means young woman but they understood as a euphemism for virgin, poorf is in the Septuagint where they translate it by Porthonos meaning virigin,
Anonymous said…
So why use the word for virgin in a poem about having sex?!?

Alma would include virgins, and that accounts for the mistake in translation, but clearly was not limited to that. Hmm, maybe that was the case by the time the LXX was written, and that is what led to the error?

I see you are ignoring my comment about the actual prophecy. Why is that? Do you know what was prophesised, Joe? Do you know what the role of the child in the prophecy was?

Pix
Joe Hinman said…
the prophesy was clearly understood by the early church as dealing with a virgin being pregnant. The Bible o the early church was the LXX. That is where they see it translated as virgin.

they unerstood Jesus as uniquely the offsrping of God. they used the term monogenes only begotten. monogenēs (μονογενὴς)

quote"

http://www.bible-researcher.com/only-begotten.html

The Greek word μονογενής is an adjective compounded of μονος “only” and γενος “species, race, family, offspring, kind.” In usage, with few exceptions it refers to an only son or daughter. When used in reference to a son, it cannot mean “one of a kind,” because the parent is also of the same kind. The meaning is, the son is the only offspring of the parent, not the only existing person of his kind. And so in the Greek translation of the book of Tobit, when Raguel praises God for having mercy on δυο μονογενεις (8:17), he does not mean that his daughter Sara and Tobias were two “unique” persons; he means that they were both only-begotten children of their fathers. In Luke’s Gospel, the word is used in reference to an only child in 7:12, 8:42, and 9:38. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, it is said that when Abraham was ready to sacrifice Isaac he was offering up τον μονογενή, “his only-begotten” (11:17), because although Abraham had another son, God had said that only in Isaac shall Abraham’s seed (σπερμα) be named. (Πίστει προσενήνοχεν Ἀβραὰμ τὸν Ἰσαὰκ πειραζόμενος, καὶ τὸν μονογενῆ προσέφερεν ὁ τὰς ἐπαγγελίας ἀναδεξάμενος, πρὸς ὃν ἐλαλήθη ὅτι Ἐν Ἰσαὰκ κληθήσεταί σοι σπέρμα). 1 When the word μονογενής is used in reference to a son or daughter, it always means “only-begotten.”

There are a few places where the word has been understood to mean, “one of a kind” or “incomparable.” For instance, in his article “The One and Only Son” Richard Longenecker calls attention to an occurrence in one early Christian source, an epistle written by Clement of Rome:

Writing about the same time as the fourth evangelist (i.e. A.D. 95-96), Clement of Rome (1 Clement 25) spoke of the Phoenix, that mysterious bird of the East, as monogenes—that is, as “unique” or “the only one of its kind”:

Let us consider the marvelous sign which is seen in the regions of the east, that is, in the regions about Arabia. There is a bird, which is named the Phoenix. This, being the only one of its kind (touto monogenes hyparchon), lives for 500 years; and when it reaches the time of its dissolution that it should die, it makes for itself a coffin of frankincense and myrrh and other spices, into which in the fulness of time it enters and then dies. But as the flesh rots, a certain worm is engendered, which is nurtured from the moisture of the dead creature, and puts forth wings. Then when it has grown lusty, it takes up that coffin where are the bones of its parent, and carrying them, it journeys from the country of Arabia even unto Egypt, to the place called the City of the Sun—and in full daylight and in the sight of all, it flies to the altar of the Sun and lays them on it. And this done, it then returns. So the priests examine the registers of the times, and they find that it has come when the five hundredth year is completed. 2
Joe Hinman said…
This is the same word used in Proverbs 30:19, when talking about a couple getting it on:

19 the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a young woman.

Clearly she is not a virgin here!

Proverbs are from the pre Hellenized period, the early Ehrlich was using the Hellenistic LXX as their bible, Igt;sa different era and different culture,
Joe Hinman said…
Isaiah 9

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

This passage is identified in Edershieim's list of Talmudic passages that are of messianic importance,so the Rabbis of Jesus' era understood this to refer to the Messiah,

In the passage of Is 7 we find double fulfillment the people of Isaiah;s day understood it as you say by the tie the kid is old enough to know right fro wrong certain things will hap en, But the early church understood 7;14 to refer to a virgin birth, they understood this as a midrash.
Anonymous said…
Joe: the prophesy was clearly understood by the early church as dealing with a virgin being pregnant. The Bible o the early church was the LXX. That is where they see it translated as virgin.

they unerstood Jesus as uniquely the offsrping of God. they used the term monogenes only begotten. monogenēs (μονογενὴς)


Sure. By the time Luke and Matthew were written, the early church believed in the virgin birth.

The question is, did anyone believe in it when Mark was written? I think not. I think Mark believed Jesus was the adopted son of God, following the pattern of early Jewish kings.

Joe: Proverbs are from the pre Hellenized period, the early Ehrlich was using the Hellenistic LXX as their bible, Igt;sa different era and different culture,

Agreed. This may be why the LXX got translated in that way. The author of Isaiah meant a young woman, but the usage of he word changed, and when the LXX was written, it was understood to mean virgin.

Joe: Isaiah 9
...
This passage is identified in Edershieim's list of Talmudic passages that are of messianic importance,so the Rabbis of Jesus' era understood this to refer to the Messiah,


Agreed. But why assume this is referring to the same child mentioned in chapter 7? The baby born in the chapter in between is the child of Isaiah and the prophetess, so it seems more than likely that the kids mentioned in chapters 7 and 9 are two different individuals.

In the passage of Is 7 we find double fulfillment the people of Isaiah;s day understood it as you say by the tie the kid is old enough to know right fro wrong certain things will hap en, But the early church understood 7;14 to refer to a virgin birth, they understood this as a midrash.

The Jews certainly had a tradition of twisting ancient prophecies into something else entirely - or midrash as they called it. The author of Matthew was clearly a big fan.

And yes, the early church believed 7:14 to refer to a virgin birth.

But that does not make it true. The most likely explanation is that the early church - sometime between the writing of Mark and Matthew - indulged in midrash, and on the basis of that concluded there had been a virgin birth. It is telling that in Acts the apostles cite scripture to support their claims and Paul does this too. Scripture was considered more reliable than eye witness accounts. Scripture - or at least the mistranslated LXX after applying some imaginative "midrash" - said Jesus was born of a virgin, therefore that is what the early church believed.

Pix
Joe Hinman said…
Anonymous said...
Joe: the prophesy was clearly understood by the early church as dealing with a virgin being pregnant. The Bible o the early church was the LXX. That is where they see it translated as virgin.

they unerstood Jesus as uniquely the offsrping of God. they used the term monogenes only begotten. monogenēs (μονογενὴς)

Sure. By the time Luke and Matthew were written, the early church believed in the virgin birth.

The question is, did anyone believe in it when Mark was written? I think not. I think Mark believed Jesus was the adopted son of God, following the pattern of early Jewish kings.

Most of the Messianic expectations are anticipated at Qumran,I don't know about V birth but I imagine it was as well. There is a Talmudic passage about the seed of Adam and the Messiah the passage in Is 7:14 about the young woman is tagged as messianic in Talmud.


Joe: Proverbs are from the pre Hellenized period, the early Ehrlich was using the Hellenistic LXX as their bible, Igt;sa different era and different culture,

Agreed. This may be why the LXX got translated in that way. The author of Isaiah meant a young woman, but the usage of he word changed, and when the LXX was written, it was understood to mean virgin.

the LXX translates it that way that's from the intertestamental period so that says to me the V birth concept was around a long time before mark

Joe Hinman said…
Joe: Isaiah 9
...
This passage is identified in Edershieim's list of Talmudic passages that are of messianic importance,so the Rabbis of Jesus' era understood this to refer to the Messiah,

Agreed. But why assume this is referring to the same child mentioned in chapter 7? The baby born in the chapter in between is the child of Isaiah and the prophetess, so it seems more than likely that the kids mentioned in chapters 7 and 9 are two different individuals.

NT author are doing midrash


In the passage of Is 7 we find double fulfillment the people of Isaiah;s day understood it as you say by the tie the kid is old enough to know right fro wrong certain things will hap en, But the early church understood 7;14 to refer to a virgin birth, they understood this as a midrash.

The Jews certainly had a tradition of twisting ancient prophecies into something else entirely - or midrash as they called it. The author of Matthew was clearly a big fan.

just the way rabbis thought

And yes, the early church believed 7:14 to refer to a virgin birth.

But that does not make it true. The most likely explanation is that the early church - sometime between the writing of Mark and Matthew - indulged in midrash, and on the basis of that concluded there had been a virgin birth. It is telling that in Acts the apostles cite scripture to support their claims and Paul does this too. Scripture was considered more reliable than eye witness accounts. Scripture - or at least the mistranslated LXX after applying some imaginative "midrash" - said Jesus was born of a virgin, therefore that is what the early church believed.

apparently that view had been around since the LXX translators used the Greek for viri for that passage
Anonymous said…
Joe: Most of the Messianic expectations are anticipated at Qumran,I don't know about V birth but I imagine it was as well. There is a Talmudic passage about the seed of Adam and the Messiah the passage in Is 7:14 about the young woman is tagged as messianic in Talmud.

The Jews of that period scoured the OT for anything they could find that might be about the new king they so desperately sought to overthrow the rule of the Romans (or who was ruling them at the time). That does not imply it was necessarily meant to prophesise a messiah when written (though clearly later writing such as Daniel was).

These messianic expectations are anticipated at Qumran, or "midrash", were still twisting the text to say something it was not, even if it was done 2000 years ago.

Joe: the LXX translates it that way that's from the intertestamental period so that says to me the V birth concept was around a long time before mark

You would have to show that 7:14 was accepted as a messianic prophecy in that period to make that case. It is possible, but at this stage just conjecture.

But even if you do that, you are just providing evidence to explain why the authors of Luke and Matthew would invent? a virgin birth.

Joe: NT author are doing midrash

Just because they twisted OT verses to mean something else a very long time ago and give it a fancy name, it does not mean it is right. Midrash is taking a text that says one thing and pretending it says something else to support your pet theory. It has a long tradition, but that is what it is.

Joe: apparently that view had been around since the LXX translators used the Greek for viri for that passage

You just said you did not know if the virgin birth was part of the messianic expectations that are anticipated at Qumran, and yet now you confidently talk as if we can be sure that is the case!

Pix
Joe Hinman said…
But even if you do that, you are just providing evidence to explain why the authors of Luke and Matthew would invent? a virgin birth.

You are blindly ignoring the fact of fulfillment It was prophesied centuries before Jesus (translation of LXX) and he had no control over it's fulfillment,


Joe: NT author are doing midrash

Just because they twisted OT verses to mean something else a very long time ago and give it a fancy name, it does not mean it is right. Midrash is taking a text that says one thing and pretending it says something else to support your pet theory. It has a long tradition, but that is what it is.

that is not midrash, that's what ignorant people who don;t understand it think neither of us is a rabbi,ask a real Rabbi

.
Joe: apparently that view had been around since the LXX translators used the Greek for viri for that passage

You just said you did not know if the virgin birth was part of the messianic expectations that are anticipated at Qumran, and yet now you confidently talk as if we can be sure that is the case!

Qumran is not the LXX to the only form of Judaism, I don't know how the guys at Qumran saw it but I do know the lXX translators called it :"virgin"
Joe Hinman said…
Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (2 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962)

Greg Rhodeawrites an excellent articke, he makes a strong case agaisnt I 7:14 as referce to virgin but equally strong caase for theidea tahNat didnot akieit up but had extra biblical tradition towork from


"
Did Matthew conceive a virgim"
Journal of Evangelical Theological Society

read this article


quote:
________________
These facts suggest the converse—that Matthew added the fulfillment citations
to existing traditions about the birth of Jesus. Confirmation comes from how
intelligible and seamless Matthew’s narrative is when the fulfillment citations are
removed (leaving Matt 1:18–21, 24–25; 2:1–5a, 7–15a, 16, 19–23a). This leaves “a
coherent, indeed in most cases a more flowing story.”64 More than that, as Down
notes, it leaves a story corroborated at several points by the parallel yet independent
account in Luke’s Gospel—Jesus was born of a virgin, born in Bethlehem, and was
raised in Nazareth.”65
It is also significant to note that the account of Jesus’ virginal conception in
Luke has no explicit reference to Isa 7:14.66 This shows the tradition could be sustained
without a concept of prophetic fulfillment: “At most, reflection on Isa. 7.14
colored the expression of an already existing Christian belief in the virginal conception
of Jesus.”67
2. The fulfillment citations compared with broader usage. Such a practice matches
Matthew’s usage elsewhere, where he adds fulfillment citations to illustrate his
source.68 In 4:12–16 and 21:4–5 we have two examples of Matthew adding citations
to material he received from tradition.69 A parallel situation seems operative in the
infancy narrative.
This practice of finding Scripture to support tradition also fits the early
church’s handling of the OT. Longenecker summarizes:
Comparable in many respects to the hermeneutics of the Dead Sea covenanters
and some of the other Jewish apocalyptic writers of the period, the New Testament
writers used biblical material, in the main, to highlight the theme of fulfillment.
Two distinctive features can be observed in this usage. The first is that
the New Testament writers began in their understanding of fulfillment from a
stance outside the biblical materials themselves and used Scripture mainly to
support that stance—that is, rather than beginning with a biblical text and then
seeking to contemporize it, they began from outside the texts and used those
texts principally to support their extrabiblical stance. Second, they understood
fulfillment in broader terms than just direct prediction and explicit verification—that
is, rather than viewing fulfillment as simply a linguistic or conceptual
64 R. T France, “Scripture, Tradition,
____________

end quote
Joe Hinman said…
Greg Rhodea's point is that Matt was not just trying to fuifill his understanding of a passage Isaiah but had a notion of Jesus as product of virgin birth then sought to justify that by prophesy further more he would not just invent the idea from nothing and then seek to prove it by scripture so he must have had a tradition already formed he did not invent it., Rodea thinks that was the true history of Jesus, V birth is historical.
Anonymous said…
On Greg Rhodea's article...

This is curious, because he says:

The first step in testing this is to see whether Isa 7:14 was even understood in Matthew’s day as predicting a virginal conception.6 If it was not understood this way, much of the argument that early Christians would invent a virginal conception loses its force. Specifically, we must consider whether the Hebrew or LXX text of Isa 7:14 necessitates a miraculous conception, and then see what evidence exists for pre-Christian understanding of this prophecy.

I see it the opposite way around. As far as I know, virgin birth was not a thing in Judaism (in fact, the Jews were specifically expecting a direct male-line descendant of David, as even Matthew notes in 20:30), but it was a thing for the pagans. The most likely scenario is virgin birth was borrowed from pagan mythology, either by the author of Matthew (who wrote in Greek and was thoroughly Hellenised) or by the community and the author recoreded it faithfully. The author then linked the virgin birth to Isaiah 7:14.

Page 65 he spends some time saying the Hebrew word does not necessarily mean virgin (and cites the verse in Proverbs I did earlier), and page 66 goes further to point out she was already pregnant or about to become pregnant when Isaiah made the prophecy. This fits exactly with the prophecy being about the fall of two nations within a couple of years, but not at all with the birth of Jesus centuries later.

Rhodea concludes that Isaiah did not predict a virgin birth, and somehow uses this to infer that Matthew did not make it up! This seems entirely the wrong way around. It would seem more rational to say that there was no prophecy, therefore Matthew did make it up.

These facts suggest the converse—that Matthew added the fulfillment cita-tions to existing traditions about the birth of Jesus

That is possible, but where did the myth come from? Not from Mark, there is no mention of it there (or the Pauline works). Mary was almost certainly dead by this time, and Joseph presumably much much earlier. The most likely source is the pagan myths.

Yet here is the real significance of the situation: while one can resolve both traditions after they exist, the tradition of the Davidic descent would still seem to resist a later creation of the virginal conception if it were not true. One ought to re-member that by skeptical assessment, the virginal conception is a late development. The tradition of Davidic descent in the early church is presumably earlier. If the early church wanted to invent the virginal conception to “fulfill” the rather obscure Isa 7:14, they would at the same time endanger the much more common theme of Davidic expectation.

That Jesus was of the line of David seems something that all the Gospels as well as some of Paul's epistles are keen to emphasise, and this is clearly what was expected of the messiah, not a virgin birth. How does this fit with the virgin birth?

The article agrees with much of what I have been saying, but somehow the author manages to come to the opposite conclusion.

I would suggest stories of a virgin birth started to circulate in the community after the Gospel of Mark, borrowing directly from pagan myths. Luke and Matthew were written after the destruction of Jerusalem, decades after Paul's mission to the gentiles, and Christianity would have been more gentile than Jewish by this time. Clearly the author of Matthew drew heavily on the LXX, but he was recording what people believed about Jesus - and they believed he was a direct descendant of David AND that he was born of a virgin. And that is what we seen in the gospel.

Pix
Joe Hinman said…
It's really absurd to thinj the LXX translators would just orbitatily use the term for vigin out of the blue for no reason.It stands to reasom there was a tradition.

when are you going to wise Up? Mark originated nothing everything he wrote was based upon prior works.
Anonymous said…
Joe: It's really absurd to thinj the LXX translators would just orbitatily use the term for vigin out of the blue for no reason.It stands to reasom there was a tradition.

Whether there was a tradition is not the point. The point is what the author of Isaiah meant. The paper you are citing as an authority agrees with me, that Isaiah refers to a young woman, not a virgin, and indeed one who may already have been pregnant:

In Isa 7:14 we only have the active participle (????), and the timeframe of participles is either action in process or about to begin.29 So the ???? may in fact already be pregnant at the time of the oracle, just as the TNK translation renders it: “Look, the young woman is with child and about to give birth to a son.”30 This is confirmed by examining the usage of ???? elsewhere in direct speech following ????.

Did you not read that bit, Joe?

Joe: when are you going to wise Up? Mark originated nothing everything he wrote was based upon prior works.

And thus we can be pretty sure those prior works did not include the virgin birth. If they had, he would have included it. It is almost certain the virgin birth was invented some time between Mark and Matthew, borrowing from pagan myths, and likely that Matthew subsequently added the supposed prophecy.

Pix
barry said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Weekend Fisher said…
I see I'm late to the discussion, but on the chance it's still going somewhat: I don't think it matters what the human author of Isaiah thought; if the passages in question are prophecies of the future in the sense that Christians or Jews mean that, then the intent we care about is God's rather than the human author's. Which, y'know, we don't have a way of checking that both sides agree on, so my point here is just to get a red herring off the table, the idea that the human author's intent is relevant and that if we rule out that then we're left with a pagan parallel.

It was considered normal (as you all have already mentioned) to take all kinds of Old Testament prophecies as having a double meaning, with the second meaning being about the Messiah. I'll call that "intense Messianic reading of Jewish Scriptures". With that style of interpretation noted, let's see where it gets us.

Let's take a skeptical angle, and ask a question: given the contents of Matthew, is there a stronger case that Matthew is doing "pagan parallel" or doing "intense Messianic reading of the Jewish Scriptures"? Looking at how often we see Matthew doing unmistakable "intense Messianic reading of Jewish Scriptures", I'm not sure there is a case for Matthew doing anything else, though I'd be open to hearing it.

Take care & God bless
WF
Anonymous said…
WF: I don't think it matters what the human author of Isaiah thought; if the passages in question are prophecies of the future in the sense that Christians or Jews mean that, then the intent we care about is God's rather than the human author's.

I am not sure quite what you are arguing for, but if we allow that God could have meant X when the OT verse says Y, then you can claim the OT predicted the wins of the horse race like Wednesday.

WF: It was considered normal (as you all have already mentioned) to take all kinds of Old Testament prophecies as having a double meaning, with the second meaning being about the Messiah. I'll call that "intense Messianic reading of Jewish Scriptures".

This "Midrash" was indeed common, but I see no reason to suppose it was therefore valid. The Jews of the time were desparate for a messiah, and would looks for signs any - no different from today when someone sees Jesus' face in a slice of toast. The author of Matthew was following that tradition, but that does not mean he was right.

WF: given the contents of Matthew, is there a stronger case that Matthew is doing "pagan parallel" or doing "intense Messianic reading of the Jewish Scriptures"?

Seems likely the idea of the virgin birth appeared prior to Matthew and Luke as it appears in both. The authors were obliged to include it in their narratives, despite the author of Matthew going for the "intense Messianic reading of the Jewish Scriptures".

The Messianic reading contradicts the virgin birth, as it requires a direct male-line descendant of David, as all the gospels indicate, as well as Paul.

Pix
Joe Hinman said…
Anonymous said...
WF: I don't think it matters what the human author of Isaiah thought; if the passages in question are prophecies of the future in the sense that Christians or Jews mean that, then the intent we care about is God's rather than the human author's.

I am not sure quite what you are arguing for, but if we allow that God could have meant X when the OT verse says Y, then you can claim the OT predicted the wins of the horse race like Wednesday.

You miss a crucial distinction. She is talking about the author writing something he doesn't understand you are talking about the text saying something different than
God intends. Of course that is silly because we can't know God's intent apart from the text, but he could could misunderstand the contentment,even though getting the words right,


WF: It was considered normal (as you all have already mentioned) to take all kinds of Old Testament prophecies as having a double meaning, with the second meaning being about the Messiah. I'll call that "intense Messianic reading of Jewish Scriptures".

This "Midrash" was indeed common, but I see no reason to suppose it was therefore valid. The Jews of the time were desparate for a messiah, and would looks for signs any - no different from today when someone sees Jesus' face in a slice of toast. The author of Matthew was following that tradition, but that does not mean he was right.

If the V birth really happened it's a miracle that proves God is in the deal why does it does it have to be prophesy? On the other hand if they are already looking for a virgin birth the it;s clearly got to be that interrogation being fulfilled,why did the LXX guys use virin?

WF: given the contents of Matthew, is there a stronger case that Matthew is doing "pagan parallel" or doing "intense Messianic reading of the Jewish Scriptures"?

Seems likely the idea of the virgin birth appeared prior to Matthew and Luke as it appears in both. The authors were obliged to include it in their narratives, despite the author of Matthew going for the "intense Messianic reading of the Jewish Scriptures".

The Messianic reading contradicts the virgin birth, as it requires a direct male-line descendant of David, as all the gospels indicate, as well as Paul.

the translators of the LXX did;t think so
Anonymous said…
Joe: You miss a crucial distinction. She is talking about the author writing something he doesn't understand you are talking about the text saying something different than God intends. Of course that is silly because we can't know God's intent apart from the text, but he could could misunderstand the contentment,even though getting the words right,

I accept that it is possible that the author of Isaiah did not understand what he was writing. However, I think it more likely that the reader of it did not understand it.

Joe: If the V birth really happened it's a miracle that proves God is in the deal why does it does it have to be prophesy? On the other hand if they are already looking for a virgin birth the it;s clearly got to be that interrogation being fulfilled,why did the LXX guys use virin?

So then let us be clear that the so-called prophecy in Isaiah in no way is evidence for the virgin birth. Isaiah was retro-fitted from a mistranslation by the author of Matthew to support the virgin birth, which he believed to have happened. As such, Isaiah gives no indication of whether it actually happened or not.

Joe: the translators of the LXX did;t think so

Can you support that claim, or can we put it down to wishful thinking?

The article you linked to earlier indicated (top of page 69):

It seems that a majority of scholars believe that Isa 7:14 was not considered messianic by Jews and that—even if considered messianic—a virginal conception was not expected. “No other Jewish sources reflect any virginal conception mo-tif.”

Hmm, I am going to put it down to wishful thinking.

Back in the real world, the Jews of the time expected a direct male-line descendant of David. All the gospels reflect that belief, as does Paul. Even the anel that spoke to Mary about it alludes to it!

Pix
F2Andy said…
BK also made a post with a video by Dr John Lennox on the virgin birth. He is not allowing comments there, so I will comment here instead.

Lennox assumes the Bible and Bible traditions are true. He laments that the authority of scripture is being eroded, and takes as fact that Luke was the author of the gospel that bears his name. He says that as Luke starts saying it will give certainty, then what is recorded must be fact.

Incredibly, this guy is a philosopher of science, and yet if a book says it is true, then he will just assume that it is indeed all true!

At least, when that book is in the Bible.

How does he know Luke did not make it all up? He does not say. How can we know Luke investigated every claim to ensure it is true? He does not say. He takes it on faith.

It is EASY to prove Christianity is true if you start from the assumption the Bible is true.

Pix
Anonymous said…
Still with Dr John Lennox, but with regards to the actual virgin birth...

"She had a real moral question. How could she possibly have a child?" asks Lennox. Well, the usual way at that time was to marry your betrothed, and then have sex with him. Was Mary too dim to figure that out? Note that there was no suggestion from the angel at this point that no sex would be involved or that it would happen before she was married, and the angel is talking about conceiving in the future. Mary's role in society was to bear children; why the surprise when the angel says she will do just that?

Bear in mind that to be the Messiah, i.e., the new King of the Jews, Jesus had to be a direct-line descendant of David - and the angel even says of Jesus "his father David"! If the angel was telling her that her son would be the Messiah, she would have even more reason to expect Joseph, who was of the house of David, to be the father.

So why this "real moral question"? It makes no sense! And yet Lennox, clearly a very intelligent man, never questions it. Why not? Faith.

Lennox looks at alternative explanations... but only considers if it was made up around the time of the birth, either by Joseph or Mary. He presents his false dichotomy: "It's either/or ladies and gentlemen. Either there was immorality OR this is the biggest thing that has ever happened in the history of the world". His emphasis. His false dichotomy.

The far more likely explanation is that the virgin birth was made decades later, after both were dead. The virgin birth came from pagan myths, and was notably absent from Mark.

Lennox never considers this possibility; his thinking has been blinkered by his faith.

Pix
Joe Hinman said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Hinman said…
F2Andy said…
It is EASY to prove Christianity is true if you start from the assumption the Bible is true.


belief and proof are two different things. People don't embrace the Christian faith so they can win debates on the internet. People don't belief the bible so they can prove
Christianity they believe it because something convinced the of the truth of the faith to begin with.
Anonymous said…
Joe: belief and proof are two different things. People don't embrace the Christian faith so they can win debates on the internet. People don't belief the bible so they can prove Christianity they believe it because something convinced the of the truth of the faith to begin with.

BK posted that video because "it will be a useful tool for getting people who are agnostic or on the fence about Christian belief to think more deeply about their assumptions". No it will not. It will merely expose the assumptions of Christians.

Lennox in the video claims his argument shows the virgin birth really happened. It really does not, and to me it looks like his faith has blinded him to critical thinking about the Bible.

Really, I am agreeing with you here. People do not become Christians because of the evidence, they become Christians for personal reason (such as personal revelation or just brought up as a Christian). It is only once they are already Christians that they seek evidence to support their faith. That is what Lennox has done. I do not know what his reason is for being a Christian, but I am sure it was not the virgin birth, given his academic background - the evidence is just too weak. Once he had faith, he looked for evidence that supports it, and ignores evidence that refutes it (we see that happening with creationists; it is the same process).

Once he has that evidence, he spouts it as proof that his faith is true, having lost the ability to think about whether it really does.

He assumes the gospels are true, because he is a Christian, and uses that to prove the gospels are true.
Joe Hinman said…
F2Andy said...

How does he know Luke did not make it all up? He does not say. How can we know Luke investigated every claim to ensure it is true? He does not say. He takes it on faith.

we Luke did not make it up because it's mirrored in earlier works,not only Mark and Mat but the pre Mark redaction (not everything of course but the major issues).
Joe Hinman said…
Really, I am agreeing with you here. People do not become Christians because of the evidence, they become Christians for personal reason (such as personal revelation or just brought up as a Christian). It is only once they are already Christians that they seek evidence to support their faith. That is what Lennox has done. I do not know what his reason is for being a Christian, but I am sure it was not the virgin birth, given his academic background - the evidence is just too weak. Once he had faith, he looked for evidence that supports it, and ignores evidence that refutes it (we see that happening with creationists; it is the same process).

I appreciate what you are saying but this whole idea that F2A brings up,which I have seen atheists use many times, he believes just because a book says it is really a variant of the genetic fallacy. It's confusing piety with proof, the proofs people use to back their views are usually not the things that brought them in but bolstering material, But that is irrelevant you still have to answer the evidence,
Joe Hinman said…
ix:

"Lennox in the video claims his argument shows the virgin birth really happened. It really does not, and to me it looks like his faith has blinded him to critical thinking about the Bible."


I agree with you. The only way to prove that is to go back in time in the TARDIS, if the Doctor ever shows up I'll mention it to him, Especially if it's Tom Baker.

bit it could be a good reason to asssume the VB.
Anonymous said…
Joe: we Luke did not make it up because it's mirrored in earlier works,not only Mark and Mat but the pre Mark redaction (not everything of course but the major issues).

Okay, maybe the gospel writers or the community made it up. Lennox assumes that it is true because... faith.

More specifically with regards to the virgin birth, it is not in the ealier works, which gives us more reason to think it was made up, though not necessarily by Luke.

Joe: I appreciate what you are saying but this whole idea that F2A brings up,which I have seen atheists use many times, he believes just because a book says it is really a variant of the genetic fallacy. It's confusing piety with proof, the proofs people use to back their views are usually not the things that brought them in but bolstering material, But that is irrelevant you still have to answer the evidence,

I really hope you mean that Lennox' argument is a variant of the genetic fallacy - it is true because of where it came from.

Joe: I agree with you. The only way to prove that is to go back in time in the TARDIS, if the Doctor ever shows up I'll mention it to him, Especially if it's Tom Baker.
bit it could be a good reason to asssume the VB.


Should we assume Mohammed flew to the moon, given that is written in a holy book? Or do you only advocate assuming the content of your own holy book is true?

As you say, a variant of the genetic fallacy.

Pix
Weekend Fisher said…
Hey Pix

Thanks for taking the time to interact with what I said. I'll start with one of your earlier comments to me above, that you aren't sure what I'm getting at. To be realistic about what can happen in a comment box, I'm aiming at a straightforward point first: that Matthew is far more likely to have gone with an intensely-Messianic reading (since he's got, in round numbers, a jillion of those in his text) rather than a pagan parallel (which is generally only found in his text by people predisposed to read it in; Matthew is a decidedly Jewish writing in a number of ways). And I get it, a comment box isn't going to convince you that a messianic reading is valid; you'd have to believe in some kind of inspiration for that to make sense, that the human author was working one angle and God working however many angles he chose. So, sure, I'm aware that's just the tip of the iceberg on the conversation of whether the virgin birth is historical, but (given where the conversation was headed at that point) it seemed a good enough place to start.

Btw I don't see how the virgin birth invalidates the Messianic prophecy. According to Jesus' great-nephews (at one point they were asked to comment on the genealogy of Matthew v that of Luke) -- they said there was a lot of levirate marriage in that family; none of that seemed to be a problem. And the fact that it was Jews who spread Christianity kinda tells me right there that they didn't see it to be a problem.

I'd agree that the "virgin birth" idea predates Matthew and Luke. If we stick with the New Testament's general "Messianic" approach to interpreting the prophets and to writing the NT text, we can take another example to give some perspective: the soldiers shooting craps for Jesus' clothes at his execution. The prophecies here were seen to fit things that they knew had happened in Jesus' life. I expect that's a possibility you're not willing to consider about the virgin birth, but that's because of presuppositions that it couldn't be true for other reasons outside the scope of discussing the birth narratives.

Long story short: I'm glad to start with the birth narrative but it requires material from a larger context before it could possibly be a productive conversation. I'll use it as a springboard to ante up for the conversation, but whatever your bedrock reasons are for your beliefs, I'm betting "oh there's a virgin birth narrative" probably wasn't the deal-breaker for you.

Take care & God bless
WF

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