Liezl, the kids and I went to Cape Town last year. This is The African Madonna by Leon Underwood in St. Georges Cathedral, Cape Town. I found it captivating. Click to enlarge.
“What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births? But what if, as you study the origin of the word ‘virgin’ you discover that the word ‘virgin’ in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word ‘virgin’ could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being ‘born of a virgin’ also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse? What if that spring were seriously questioned? Could a person keep on jumping? Could a person still love God? Could you still be a Christian? Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live? Or does the whole thing fall apart?…If the whole faith falls apart when we reexamine and rethink one spring, then it wasn’t that strong in the first place, was it?”
A while back I read Velvet Elvis. Rob Bell wrote it. He’s popular, very popular. The paragraph above is from page 26. It represents a question. Maybe it’s hyperthetical but it certainly does embody a question our culture has been and still is asking: “What’s so important about the Virgin Birth anyway?”, and “Seriously! A virgin? Maybe you’re reading it wrong!”
“What’s so important about the Virgin Birth anyway?”: Well I believe it’s important because Scripture doesn’t make room for any other interpretation. Remember Mary’s utter confusion in Luke 1:34: “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” followed by Gabriel’s response, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Can you remember how in Matthew 1:20 the angel encourages Joseph, who was thinking of divorcing Mary, by saying: “the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” They never had sex! Check out Matthew 1:18, “before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.”
Isaiah 7:14 reads:
17“…Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”
The Θεοτόκος (Theotokos, Greek word for Virgin Mary, literally meaning “God-bearer or Mother of God” is regarded as the holy protectress of Russia. Click to enlarge.
“Seriously! A virgin? Maybe you’re reading it wrong!”: In the quote at the top Rob highlights that the Hebrew word עלמה (‛almâh) could rightfully be translated as something other than virgin. It could be damsel, maid or virgin. He infers that Mary might not have been a virgin, but rather a young lady having her first child or possibly… well you get the point. Thing is what he didn’t say (and it was left out to make a point I’m sure) was that Matthew, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, was not quoting the Hebrew text at all, but rather the Greek Septuagint*. The Greek word he used was παρθένος (parthenos. Word sound familiar? Athena is the Greek Goddess and virgin patron of Athens who never consorted with a lover, earning her the title Athena Parthenos (“Athena the virgin”). The Parthenon was built to worship her.). It’s a non ambiguous Greek word translated virgin. I love what John MacArthur once preached on this subject:
“Now, the critics can confuse the passage, but they can’t erase the clear commentary of Matthew on it, who used the word parthenos, which means “virgin.” Matthew knew what Isaiah meant, even if the critics don’t.”
I believe that the Virgin Birth is a brick not a spring. It’s not something that can be taken away. The Divinity of Christ, the humanity of Christ and Christ’s lack of a sin nature are all bricks built on top of the foundation of the Virgin Birth.
And so? Was she a young girl in trouble making up a story? Θεοτόκος (for you Steve)? A myth, yarn, story? Does it matter?
- GotQuestions.org has some good answers on this subject. Click here to read the article.
- The conversation about Velvet Elvis started in 2007. Click here to see the Facebook thread.
- More data on the Virgin Birth? Wiki rulz! Click here.
* Septuagint: Greek language became more and more dominant from 330 B.C. on ward, and the Jewish nation adopted this language (kinda like we might have Afrikaans or Zulu as a second language, just more intense because they used it for trade, legal matters and literature). According to Jewish legend, Ptolemy Philadelphus (around 250 B.C.) commissioned 72 scholars, in 72 days, to translate the Old Testament into Greek. The Latin word for 70, “Septuagint” (LXX), was the name given to this translation. The Septuagint was the most widely used Greek translation of the Old Testament.