I wish a very Merry Christmas to anyone reading this pot. Today I am going to blog about the theological significance of the Virgin Birth. Though I have always believed in it personally, until recently I would have just chalked it up as another miracle that proves the deity of Christ not unlike walking on water. The doctrine of the virgin birth actually goes much deeper than that and is considered foundational to Christianity by scholars around the world. For example, the Nicene Creed reads as follows:
“…For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man….”
That was written close to 325 AD so there is no doubt that this is a very old Christian doctrine.
Born of a Virgin
The first place that the virgin birth is prophesied is at the very beginning in Geneses 3:15
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Gen 3:15 KJV
You will miss it there if you’re not paying attention. Notice three key points:
- First where God is talking about Eve
- Second he mentions HER seed
- Her seed shall bruise the head of the snake
I am no physician, but in the anatomy course that I took it’s not possible for a woman to bear offspring of their own seed without help. However, the one time that this does happen per Gen 3:15 we see someone (Jesus) who crushes the head of the serpent (Satan). This verse is regarded by Christian theologians over the ages to not only be the first messianic prophecy in the Bible, but the first prophecy of the virgin birth. Messianic prophecies are littered throughout all of the Old Testament, some of them referencing a single point, and others going into great detail. We don’t see the virgin birth again though until Isaiah Chapter 7.
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isa 7:14 KJV
This verse is later interpreted in the New Testament where Matthew delves into greater detail:
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Matt 1:23 KJV
So we can see that Moses, Isaiah, and Matthew inspired by the Holy Ghost are all in agreement that the messiah was to be brought forth from a virgin. This is significant because there is some controversy over the word used for Virgin in Isaiah. It is important to remember that these texts were not all originally written in English. Many Jewish scholars today will argue that the word found in Isaiah 7:14 is Almah, which means maiden or young woman, rather than virgin. They argue that if the prophet had intended a virgin he would have used the word “Bethulah” instead.
I am no expert on ancient Hebrew but even without being one it is possible to argue against this with two key points:
- First, Almah is used more consistently to refer to a virgin throughout the Old Testament than Bethulah. See Joel 1:8 and Esther 2:8-17, though the world Almah is used there is no question that a virgin is being referred to by anyone.
- Second, it goes without saying that a young Jewish maiden (Almah) would logically be a virgin. It hasn’t been until the past ten years or so that it is considered normal for 13 year old unmarried boys and girls to be sexually active.
Lineage of Christ
The lineage of Christ is found in two locations in the New Testament. First is Matt 1 and the second is in Luke 3. This is at first troubling for new scholars as they do not read the same. They both cite the lineage of Christ back to David as required by 2 Samuel 7:13
“He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom forever.” 2 Sam 7:13 KJV
They do not however match exactly. For example, Luke 3:23 states the Joseph was the son of Heli and Matt 1:16 states that “Jacob begat Joseph”
“And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,” Luk 3:23 KJV
“And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” Matt 1:16 KJV
When I first caught on to this itconcerned me, however a little bit of research cleared it up. It turns out that the Jerusalem Talmud (Chag. 77,4) refers to Mary as the daughter of Heli. Not only that, but in the language that Luke was writing in there was no word at the time for father in law. It was something you either had to know or derive from the context.
So by putting the pieces together we can see that Jesus Christ was the seed of woman, who was related to David through Nathan. Though Nathan was not the royal line, Jesus Christ still had a blood connection to David through his mother.
Curse of Coniah
Here is where it gets interesting, in Jeremiah 22 we find the following:
“As I live, saith the Lord , though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence; And I will cast thee out, and thy mother that bare thee, into another country, where ye were not born; and there shall ye die. But to the land whereunto they desire to return, thither shall they not return. Thus saith the Lord , Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” Jer 22:24, 26-2, 30 KJV
This man was king right before Jerusalem was sent into captivity in Babylon. Due to his sins and the sins of his fathers (Jer 22:9) the throne was removed from him and his entire line as you can see in the text above. This is referred to by scholars and a “blood curse” on his line. That means that the royal line which the Messiah was supposed to inherit had been cursed by God. Ponder on this for just a moment, it doesn’t mean that he couldn’t have kids, it just means that none of them could inherit the throne promised to David’s line.
You can see other references to this man in the various lineages. He goes by several names but in Jeremiah 22 he is referred to as Coniah. If you follow the lineage of Jesus in Matt 1:11 and following you will see that Joseph follows the royal line through the same. This means he could not be king nor pass it down to his kids.
Now we see why the virgin birth is so foundational to Christian doctrine. Jesus Christ was both blood related to David through his mother, and he was able to inherit the throne of David through his earthly father via adoption. In doing so Jesus Christ was and is the only one who could ever fulfill every role and prophecy concerning the Messiah. Even if one were to be born today claiming lineage to David through Solomon he would still be cursed through Coniah. And if such a man were bold enough to claim a virgin birth he would then have to show the line of his mother to David via another route than Solomon. The odds are too long to be approached when the entirety of Scripture is considered which is why Jesus Christ was and is the Messiah.
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Very good posting and very well researched.
There is also another foundational necessity for Jesus to be born of a virgin. It was necessary for our Savior to be fully human yet without sin himself so that he could offer himself up, on our behalf, in propitiation of our sins. The sin nature (original sin) that every human being has inherited from Adam is passed on through the father. Without an earthly father Jesus was able to inherit a human nature from his mother unstained by Adam’s transgression. This is not to claim that Mary was sinless; she had a sin nature inherited from her earthly father just as we all do. But sin is not passed through woman.
God is faithful and just and his gifts and calling are without repentance. The command came to Adam from God before Eve was created. It was for Adam to not only obey but to also look after the wife God gave him. Instead he was present and silent when Eve was deceived and then he himself disobeyed. Man has always been on the hook. Incidentally, this is the principle underpinning the scriptural prohibition against women instructing men; not because men are better but because that’s precisely where man blew it and God does not change. Through one man sin entered the world. Through one man it has been expiated.
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I’ve heard that theory about original sin being passed through the father before. I’m not committed for or against it myself. Just a question though, how do you reconcile that with children born of three mothers (with no father)? Obviously a lab is involved for that to take place, it’s not something I would support. But people do it.
Never had heard of such a thing before. I did a quick google search and found links to studies and news about 3 parent babies but all the ones I saw involved a birth mother, an egg donor mother, and sperm from either a father or a donor father. I didn’t see any 3 mother deals. From what I understand the technique is used to bypass certain genetic defects that are passed in the mother’s mitochondrial DNA by substituting healthy mitochondria from a donor egg. I believe sperm is still required no matter what.
That being said, I don’t think of original sin in a strict genetic fashion as though gene therapy could theoretically someday expiate or cure. Sin is a spiritual malady and God can reckon it rightly regardless of human ingenuity.
I think the theory has been sometimes called Federal Headship and can be seen in nations being judged because of the actions of Kings. Lampstands being removed because of the wrongness of the “angel” of a church. The husband being the head of the wife, Christ as the head of the man, and God as the head of Christ. Levi paying tithes to Melchizedek while still in Abraham’s loins. The scriptures are replete with the pattern.
In Adam all die. In Christ all shall be made alive.
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I first heard about it on an episode of Wretched with Todd Friel. I don’t know if you had heard of him or not, but generally he is a pretty sound source on things. A good search turned this up, I didn’t pick through it in any great detail but if you’re interested here it is:
I’ll give you a solid “I don’t know” on the theological theory though. I personally prefer to speculate that original sin is passed down by both the mother and the father. I wouldn’t completely spiritualize it either as I think it’s genetic too. That would explain things for example, on why twin studies demonstrate there is a genetic link to people who are born with sinful sexual desires and other ill sinful behavior. Since I don’t philosophically wrestle with free will and all that such notions just aren’t objectionable to me at all.
I would speculate that when Jesus was conceived by God the Holy Spirit the holiness in him overcame whatever was lacking in Mary. So Jesus did have her genes but any original sin in them was blasted out if you don’t mind me putting it that way. I know scripture doesn’t really go into these details I just think that’s the safest speculation because it doesn’t require me to make any other conclusions based on it. So even if I’m wrong, it’s an isolated error.
I would reject the way that Rome tries to resolve this. As I understand they believe that Mary was immaculately conceived free from original sin altogether. I would say that denying original sin like that is a pelagian heresy. But there is also the logical problem of explaining her parents original sin! Were Mary’s parents immaculately conceived too? I realize I’m not even scratching the surface, those are just my thoughts for what they are worth.
I don’t know if you noticed, but I generally wouldn’t blog the stuff I’m talking about here. I usually like more scripture and less philosophy when it comes to a blog post. Nice to chat about it in the comments though.