Every person’s life began through the same basic process, but Jesus was different. He did not have a biological father but was born by a miraculous move of God’s Spirit upon a young Jewish virgin named Miriam (Mary). From the beginning of human history, the Scriptures declared that the Savior would come in an extraordinary way. Speaking to the serpent (Satan) who had deceived the woman, God says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He shall crush your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). The interesting thing to note in the prophecy are the words her Seed.
Although newer translations will not necessarily reflect the singular human parentage of the promised Redeemer (using terms like “her offspring”), the original Hebrew specifically says her Seed. That is extremely significant from a biological standpoint because the woman’s body doesn’t contain the seed, the man’s does. So here in the very first prophecy of the coming Messiah a hint of the virgin birth is given.
Many years later, Isaiah the prophet spoke these words to Ahaz, king of Judah, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). In Matthew’s account of the birth of Christ, we find the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.
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 is 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.”
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Matthew 1:18–23
Matthew states in no uncertain terms that Jesus was miraculously born of a virgin.
It is amazing to me how some modern theologians deny the reality of the virgin birth. Yet, if you deny the virgin birth, then Jesus must have had a human father. And if Jesus was the son of a man, be it Joseph or someone else, then He certainly could not be the Son of God as the Bible teaches and as Christians have always believed.
Why do some modern theologians deny the virgin birth? Well, generally speaking, it’s because they have a prior commitment to naturalism and a firm disbelief in the miraculous. We live in a scientific age, and to many, the miraculous is part of the superstitious past. Therefore, they reject the plain statements of the Bible and reinterpret them to fit their preconceived ideas.
For example, critics will say, “The Hebrew word for virgin in the Isaiah passage, which is almah, doesn’t necessarily mean a virgin in the sense of a woman who has not had relations with a man, it just means a young maiden.” Well they’re right in a sense, because almah can mean either “a virgin” or “a young maiden,” but usually “a young maiden” implies both. She would be a young girl not yet married, so she would not yet have had relations.
The question then is: Since almah is the word for virgin as well, what was Isaiah seeking to communicate in this passage? Did he want to say “a young maiden” or did he want to say “a virgin”? Matthew solves the problem for us by declaring that the virgin birth of Jesus was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “the virgin shall be with child.”
Additionally, the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek approximately 250 years before Jesus’ birth. In what is known as the Septuagint version of the Bible, the Greek word that’s used for virgin in Isaiah 7:14 is parthenos, which means “virgin” in the sense that we would think of it—a woman who has not had a relationship with a man. So the translators understood Isaiah’s prophecy of a virgin birth to be literal, and accordingly chose the word parthenos.
Jesus Is In A Category All By Himself
Apart from some early Jewish writers, the virgin birth of Christ was never seriously questioned at any time in the long history of the church until the 1700s, when rationalism began to influence church leadership. The rationalists concluded that the virgin birth was not reasonable, so they began to challenge it, not based on any scriptural contradictions, but simply because they couldn’t intellectually conceive of the idea. It seemed impossible to them, and of course, it is impossible. It was a miracle! The miracle of the virgin birth is what sets Jesus in a category all by Himself.