"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).
A number of years ago, I read the results of a national survey made among preachers of denominations in America. The subject of the survey was the "Inspiration of the Bible." I was both surprised and shocked that a large percentage of these prominent preachers did not believe in the inspiration of the Bible. They did not believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. They rejected the miracles of Jesus and the apostles. In the survey, a question was asked about their belief in a hell. A sizable number of them said they did not believe that the wicked would be punished in hell. In fact, they affirmed that they did not believe there is a hell. A substantial number of them did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. The survey continued with other such questions. One was made to wonder why such men would claim to be Christians and live their entire lives preaching for these various churches.
Some years ago, a friend of mine who was an elder in the church where I preached, occasionally played golf on a Saturday morning with a preacher of a large denominational church. In the course of the game, this preacher asked my friend, "Do you mean to tell me that you believe such miracles of the Bible as Noah and the flood, the cleansing of Naaman the leper, and Jonah and the whale?" Our elder said he certainly did believe in the miracles recorded in the Bible and then asked him, "Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?" The preacher closed the discussion abruptly by saying, "Now you are pressing me."
Some translators of the Bible have rendered the word virgin, in Isaiah 7:14, by the term young woman. And an astonishing number of people, along with these preachers who deny the virgin birth of Christ, have made this a part of their religious belief. "I believe in Christ, and think him to be the greatest teacher of all time" we are told, "but I do not believe in the miracles of the Bible." I was visiting in the home of a man in London many years ago, and during one of the conversations, the man of the house injected this statement into our discussion: "These preachers [in the English church] expect me to believe in the crucifixion of Christ!"
In this lesson, let's look at Bible reasons for believing in the virgin birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and show that the word in Isaiah 7:14 must be translated virgin.
In the first place, the prophet Isaiah states that God will give a sign. Remember the source of this sign is God. God gave it. That makes it authentic in every sense of the word. Furthermore, a sign is something special. What sign would it be for just any maiden, or any young woman, to conceive and bear a son? Multiplied millions of women have conceived and born children through the centuries. The latest statistics in the United States show that more than four million women gave birth to children last year. What is unusual about this? Is the prophet telling us that this had reference to an ordinary, everyday occurrence of the birth of a child whose mother was a young woman?
Let's look at the word "sign" as it is used in Isaiah and also in Matthew 1:23. The Greek word in the Old Testament Septuagint (LXX) is "semeion" and it means, as defined by the Hebrew and Greek scholars: "A sign by which anything is distinguished; proof, pledge, evidence." The definition is continued in these words: "a wonder, remarkable event, wonderful appearance, extraordinary phenomenon, miraculous operation, a wonderful work, a miracle." Does the God-given sign in Isaiah 7:14 refer to just any maiden who bears a child?
Do the mothers who give birth to their children in our hospitals every day in this, or any other, country meet the criterion of this definition? Is it some kind of a miraculous sign, an extraordinary phenomenon, when a young woman bears a child? It makes you wonder what the translators of Isaiah 7:14 were thinking when they rendered the word young woman instead of virgin. Where was their scholarship? Where was their reasoning? The conception and the birth of a child is a remarkable work of God. Only God could cause this to happen; but He now effects it through established natural law which He inaugurated long ago.
Another reason for believing that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a virgin, and is so considered in Isaiah 7:14, is the interchange of the Hebrew and Greek words in that passage. The Hebrew word for virgin in the passage referred to is "galmah," and means an unmarried female. Solomon used the word in Song of Solomon 6:8: "There are sixty queens and eighty concubines, and virgins without number." The Septuagint, our oldest translation, rendered the Hebrew word "galmah" by the Greek term "parthenos" and here is its meaning: "A virgin, a maid, chaste, virginity, Luke 2:36." The Greek translation of Isaiah 7:14 is: "Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; behold a [the] virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Immanuel." Matthew translates this word, virgin, from Isaiah 7:14, and as Isaiah called her the virgin, in the Greek text, so, she is also said to be the virgin in his record of Matthew 1:23.
Thayer, in his lexicon, treats the word virgin, parthenos, in this way: "a virgin, Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; of a young bride; a pure virgin, II Corinthians 11:2; a marriageable daughter." The word is also applicable to men: "a man who has abstained from all uncleanness and whoredom, and so has kept his chastity; one who has never had commerce with women." If this word for virgin applies to a man who has never copulated, or cohabited with a woman, would it not also apply to the woman who has never experienced sexual union with a man?
Arndt & Gingrich give this brief definition by using two examples in which the word is used: "The virgin birth of Christ." "The virgin daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9)." Then they said that it is "used of men who have had no intercourse with women."
R.C.H. Lenski makes a rather lengthy comment on the word: "Critics deny the virgin birth and say that to thus translate the word in Isaiah 7:14 is misleading. These critics declare: 'The Hebrew has no thought of a miraculous birth, for the term rendered maiden simply means an adult woman, still young enough to become a mother, and is by no means confined to virgins.' But this is only a part of the story. The LXX translation of the Hebrew (galmah into the Greek, he parthenos), is virgin. Since the time of Jerome, it has been noted that in all the Old Testament passages where galmah occurs it is always used for virgin. Moreover, the Hebrew text, the LXX and Matthew use the article, the, as already noted. The sign is not that a virgin, some young woman, shall conceive in a natural way, but the virgin, the specific virgin. The article the is definite and specific. It tells of a young woman who is the virgin. The article the is particular and personal, as well as special; but it is also exclusive, limited. It excludes every other virgin who had not conceived a son by the agency of the Holy Spirit. Other virgins become pregnant by means of a human father."
Another important and irrefutable proof that Mary was the virgin of whom the prophet spoke is that she conceived by the Holy Spirit. Let us read the fuller context: "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which was conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins' (Matthew 1:18-21)." Remember that Matthew quoted Isaiah's statement in 7:14. The Bible does not indicate that the birth of Jesus was miraculous, but his conception in His mother's womb was miraculous. As far as we are able to tell from the record in Luke 2:3-7, His birth was natural.
Another truth that strongly establishes that Mary was a virgin in these prophetic passages is her statement to the angel who announced her pregnancy: "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of his father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. Then Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I do not know a man?' And the angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the highest will overpower you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God'(Luke 1:31-35)." How could this be the normal, natural pregnancy of a young woman, or maiden, if she had never known a man? This was unknown, unheard of, even never imagined that a young woman could conceive and bear a child without the instrumentality of a human father! She was the virgin. The angel announced that her child was the Son of God.
Do you think that Matthew made a mistake? Was he a misguided apostle? Had he improperly quoted from the prophet Isaiah? Matthew was inspired. He was one of those who was promised the Holy Spirit to stand by their side: "He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on his own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come" (John 16:13).
In that same lesson, but earlier, Jesus said, "The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:26). For translators of the Bible, or critics of God's word (preachers or otherwise), to contend that the word virgin in Isaiah 7:14 means only a young woman, or a maiden is a defiant, insolent contradiction of God Himself. It is an arrogant rejection of the announcement of the angel of the Lord and a disavowal and a renunciation of the inspired servants of the Lord who made the announcement and wrote the record for all mankind to read and accept through the ages.
This Son born of a virgin was given, by God himself, the name of Immanuel, which means "God-with-us" (Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14). The angel said His name would be called Jesus, "for He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:2 1; Luke 1:3 1). It was also said by this messenger from God that Mary's virgin-born son, "that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).
The question has arisen as to why other statements in this chapter of Isaiah 7 are not also prophetic of Christ, His kingdom and ministry. The answer is quite simple. The setting, the background of these Old Testament prophecies of Christ, not only contain the prophecies of the Messiah, but usually have a present didactic (teaching) purpose. The word itself means teaching, instruction. Let us see what that generation needed in the way of teaching and how it blended in to the prophetic statement of Isaiah 7:14.
King Ahaz of Judah turned from Jehovah and sought help from the king of Assyria. When he was instructed to ask a sign from God, he declined to do so. Was this just a show of devotion, springing from pretended religious dedication, or was it genuine? The context indicates that it was hypocritical on the part of the king. So, Isaiah strongly rebuked Ahaz and told him that God Himself would give him a sign, and that sign was that a virgin girl would conceive and bear a son!
This sign meant to king Ahaz that no helper would arise from the perverted, apostate house of David, as was readily seen in the wicked male descendants of this lineage - that all the following evil, malicious, ungodly generations would perish. This was the didactic, the teaching part, that was then needed, particularly by those iniquitous and criminal leaders that seemed to treat lightly their own offenses. But following this generation of transgressors, that finally from this unnamed virgin, the great divine Teacher, Helper, Immanuel (God-with-us) would be born. The prophet calls attention to the wonder, the importance, of this event by saying, "Behold, God Himself will give you a sign." Note how carefully and beautifully blended the prophetic announcement is with the then-present applicable lesson.
Now to briefly recapitulate the central lesson ... "a virgin will conceive..."
The undeniable, irrefutable and absolute truth that Mary was the virgin, and the words used to express this fact are supported by Greek and Hebrew scholars.
Mary did not know nor had she ever known a man in the sense of being united with a male in the sexual relation of intercourse. Had she done so, she would have been a fornicator and subject to be stoned under the law.
The announcement of the event was by God Himself. Would you accuse Him of making a mistake?
The son born to the virgin is said to be the Son of God. In fact, He is called "the only begotten" (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Hebrews 11:17; 1 John 4:9).
Mary was found with child before she and Joseph came together; before they experienced the consummation of the conjugal act.
The Holy Spirit placed the seed within the womb of Mary.
These Biblical facts should forever silence the doubters of the inspiration of the word of God. Their position, in the light of the Scriptures to which we have referred and the common sense reasoning that follows, should completely refute their unbelief and discredit their position. How could one logically accept any of the gospel message and deny this fundamental truth? Does it make sense that one affirms his belief in Christ as the greatest teacher of all time and the best moral man who ever lived and yet denies the virgin birth and that He was the Son of God?
The apostle John followed the Lord closely for the three and a half years of His ministry, and here is what he said about Him: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). In verse 18 he called Him the only begotten Son.
In consulting the Greek lexicons as to the meaning of "only begotten," here is what they say: "singly existent, sole, only, lone, solitary, alone in respect of circumstances." Thayer gives a half of a large page in his lexicon to the definition and use of the term, monogenesis, and he defines it: "single of its kind, only; to be one's only son or daughter; used of Christ to denote the only Son of God." Arndt & Gingrich also spend a large section of their lexicon in rendering its meaning: "unique in kind, that is the only example of a category, unique and alone."
Christ is the only begotten Son of God or you cannot trust anything He ever said, or any standard He set, or any example He left us to follow. Those who deny this truth, religious or irreligious, have joined the ranks of atheism.