Well it is Christmas time once again! Once again, 2,019 years after the facts, there will still be those debating the account of Jesus’ birth. Understandable. A virgin birth seems to be a contradiction of terms! Yet, both prophet and historians agree that the birth of the Christ-Child was indeed a miraculous birth.
Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah the prophet wrote, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14, NIV).
Those who dispute this prediction want to claim that the Hebrew word translated virgin is really a Hebrew word meaning simply “young woman.” They are partially correct. The Hebrew word “alma” means a young woman of marrying age who is chaste (that is, a virgin). It is used in that sense in every case. The only reason modern scholars want to challenge the concept is because of their own presuppositions that miracles do not happen. When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek (“The Septuagint” or LXX), the Greek word used here is the word for virgin.
Interestingly, Isaiah, perhaps knowing that his prediction would be eventually questioned, does an interesting thing with the word “conceive.” He makes it feminine, removing all doubt of what he meant. By making the Hebrew word “Harrah” feminine translates roughly into English, the pregnant virgin or the virgin who is pregnant. So he uses two words to solidify his claim about the future birth of Immanuel.
Just for background, he gives this “sign,” in the context of telling the king that he could ask God for a sign as high as the heavens or as low as hell! In other words, there were no limitations, so it makes sense when the king refuses the prophet’s offer, that God would then offer a sign that defied explanation!
Then, when we get over to the event, Luke, a physician by vocation and an investigative reporter by avocation reports that when the Angel Gabriel gives the news to Mary, Mary’s response is, “How will this be ... since I am a virgin?”” (Luke 1:34, NIV). Mary knew her physical state, and despite the critics, obviously she was not a clueless girl when it came to the facts surrounding childbirth.
Modern skeptics try to get around Luke’s account by claiming it is very late in history (a fact they cannot sustain since it is written around 60 AD) or that Luke, along with Matthew who talks about the birth of Jesus, were both spinning a tale to cover up an out-of-wedlock birth. The facts speak for themselves. Mary is pregnant out of wedlock, she knows she is a virgin, and Joseph, who was engaged to her, is about to call off the wedding because he knows that Mary is pregnant and not by him! (Check out Matthew 1:18-22 for this.)
For your information, Luke’s account here is written for a Roman official. He is not going to be making stuff up. In fact, by Luke’s own testimony what he records here is the result of careful investigation! Even today Italian scholars hold Luke up as one of the best first century Roman historians around. Christians don’t say, “Close your eyes and believe.” What we do say is “Check it out for yourself; investigate these claims thoroughly because your conclusion about Jesus is a life or death matter.”
So, this Christmas, let me encourage you to think for yourself on this matter. Yes, the claim is incredible, but ask yourself if the man Jesus doesn’t live up to these incredible promises. Think of it: even if you don’t believe that Jesus was God in the flesh (as he himself claimed to be), I don’t believe that there is a person alive who doesn’t recognize in some way the impact He has had on this world.