Behold, a Virgin Shall Conceive

Study No. 126

Virgin or Young Woman?

The New International Version recounts the birth of our Savior: "This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit . . . . All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ — which means, ‘God with us’." Matthew 1:18, 22-23.

This is a direct quote from Isaiah 7:14 (KJV): "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin [Hebrew almah, Strong’s #5959] shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."

Jewish scholars, supported by liberal Christians, have stated that almah cannot mean "virgin" because elsewhere the Hebrew word for virgin is #1330, bethulah. The Jewish Publication Society and Revised Standard Version translations render Isaiah 7:14 as "the young woman shall conceive." When the RSV came out in 1952, Christian Fundamentalists held public RSV burnings because of their view that the mother of Jesus conceived miraculously, without cohabitation with a man. The Jehovah Witnesses’ New World Translation renders Isaiah 7:14 as "the maiden herself will actually become pregnant," while Moffatt renders it "There is a young woman with child, who shall bear a son and call his name ‘Immanuel’ . . . ."

Do Christians need Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23 to support their faith that the Messiah was the divine son of the Heavenly Father? Is faith all we need (John 3:16)? If Jesus of Nazareth was merely a man, born of natural processes, then His death could not atone for the sins of others. Therefore, there is no Savior and "we might as well go home." Liberal theologians will do almost anything to discredit the veracity of the Bible and the Messiahship of Jesus Christ. But our faith is based on evidence. Jesus was crucified because He claimed to be the divine Son of God. The issue of the virgin birth is foundational.

The method of Biblical study employed at all modern Catholic, Protestant and Jewish seminaries is called "Biblical Criticism." Rather than allowing the Bible to interpret the Bible, they start with the assumption that the Bible is the work of men and miracles are not reasonable. Then they force their human interpretations on the Word of God.


What Does the Bible Say?

The "Bible Method" of understanding God’s Word is to be willing to submit and obey what we know, John 7:17, and put the Bible together "line upon line," Isaiah 28:9-11. Only if we are called and have the Holy Spirit can we understand spiritual knowledge, John 6:44, I Corinthians 2:9-14, and properly use the Bible. To find out the correct meaning of almah in Isaiah 7:14 and hence, Matthew 1:23, we can go to original language concordances to see how this word is used and let the Bible interpret the Bible.

Here are all the uses of #5959 almah, from the Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concord-ance, page 943:

Genesis 24:43 gives the account of Abraham’s servant looking for a wife for Isaac. Rebekah was the woman the Eternal appointed for Isaac, certainly a virgin! In Exodus 2:8, almah is used in reference to Miriam, Moses’s sister, a very young virgin. Psalms 68:25 mentions young girls playing timbrels. Song of Solomon 6:8 contrasts virgins with queens and concubines, showing almahs have not had sexual relations; 1:3 also supports this. In Proverbs 30:19, "the way of a man with a maid [almah]" is one of the four things which are amazing and hard to understand. This is referring to courtship between a man and an unmarried maiden.

Elem, #5958, is the masculine form of almah. It is used in I Samuel 17:56 in reference to the young stripling, David, before he had ever had a wife. I Samuel 20:22 uses the word to refer to a young boy arrow fetcher.

The Bible evidence is overwhelming. Almah means "young female virgin of marriageable age." Mary was an almah, a young virgin, probably a teenager. She was found with child when she had not had sexual relations. This is the greatest miracle of all time. The Creator became man so He could die for the sins of all mankind.


A Harlot or a Virgin?

Almah is derived from #5956, alam, which means "secret, hidden, concealed." Almah thus refers to modesty which is characteristic of young, unmarried, or girls behind the veil. Strong’s defines almah as "a lass (veiled or private), damsel, maid, virgin." Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary, article "Veil" says that in ancient times the veil was used only for exceptional purposes: ornamental dress (Song of Solomon 4:1,3; 6:7), by betrothed maidens in the presence of their future husbands, especially at the time of the wedding (Genesis 24:65), or by women of loose character for purposes of concealment (Genesis 38:14).

Jews claim Jesus was born of adultery, calling him "Jesus ben Panthera," an illegitimate bastard of the union of Mary with a soldier named Panthera. Even in Jesus’ day, He was accused of being "born of fornication" by the Pharisees, John 8:41. There would be no point of accusing Him of illegitimate birth unless the claim was being made that His birth was not normal but divine. Jews had strict rules for name-giving. A Jew was named after his father (e.g. Jochanan ben Sakkai) even if his father had died before his birth. He was named after his mother only when the father was unknown. In Mark 6:3, Jesus was referred to as "the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda and Simon."

Throughout the Gospels, the Savior claimed to be the Son of God. If He were born through natural processes, then His claims are false and He was not the Messiah. Jesus was either born of a virgin or a harlot.


Greek Also Proves Virgin Birth

The translators of the Hebrew Bible into the Greek Septuagint (3rd Century before Christ) weren’t perfect, but nevertheless they correctly rendered almah of Isaiah 7:14 to the Greek parthenos. This is the same word, Strong’s #3933, that Matthew and other NT writers used in reference to the virgin birth. There is no argument. Parthenos means chaste virgin, not merely a young women. II Corinthians 11:2 shows that believers are espoused to the Savior as Mary was to Joseph, and we are to be presented as chaste virgins unto Him.

The Hebrew bethulah is one word for "virgin." Almah is another word meaning "young marriageable virgin." Old Testament usage of almah proves this. Hebrew translators of the Septuagint, and New Testament writers agree.

We have a choice. Jesus (Yahshua) of Nazareth claimed to be the divine son of God. These claims are either true or false. If they are false, there are two alternatives: (1) He knew His claims were false and He was a liar, hypocrite and a fool to die for these claims, or (2) He did not know His claims were false and He was a deluded lunatic. If His claims were true, He is our Lord and Master, and there are also two alternatives: (1) You can accept Him or (2) You can reject Him. He was not merely a great moral teacher. He was either a wicked deluded man or the Son of God.


The Seed of the Woman

The virgin birth was prophesied from the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve sinned and ate of the forbidden fruit, the serpent who beguiled them was cursed. Then the Eternal said, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it [he] shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel" Genesis 3:15.

The Messiah, the "seed of the woman," would battle and overcome Satan, but not before Satan "bruised His heel," that is, caused Him to be put to death on the stake. The Messiah, our deliverer from Satan, would not be the seed of a woman and a man. He would not be born through natural processes, but through a miraculous conception from a woman’s seed. The Apostle Paul explains that "when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law." He was not made of a woman and a man, not a Gentile, but of the Holy Spirit and the seed of the woman. Through a woman sin came into the world, and through a woman redemption and deliverance came into the world.


The Only Begotten Son

Often the most familiar Bible passages are the least understood. An example is John 3:16: "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten [monogenes, #3439] Son . . . ." The Savior was saying that He was not begotten of Joseph but was begotten of God. He claimed to be the only one ever born who was so begotten, of God and not by any human father. If these claims are invalid, Jesus was a liar and not our Savior.



Skeptics argue against the virgin birth. But the Bible is clear that God became a man and died for the sins of all mankind. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Almighty has indeed given us a sign for our deliverance from Satan and sin. That sign is that through the seed of the woman, a virgin birth, God came into the world, lived a perfect sinless life, and died for the sins of all mankind. The perfect sacrifice of the Messiah can be applied to cover the sins of all those who repent, are baptized, and live a life of overcoming in obedience to the Eternal.

"Behold, a virgin shall conceive!" should spur us to dedicated action and gratitude for the Father who gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. W


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