One of the most important factors concerning the verification of Jesus of Nazareth as the
Promised One of Israel was His descending from King David and the great patriarch
Abraham. It was unto these that the promise was made of the Messiah (Genesis 22:18; 2
Samuel 7:12-17). So it was of the utmost importance for Matthew in writing His gospel unto
the Jews to document the lineage of Jesus from these two great figures of the Old Testament.
The lineage of Jesus is her shown through Joseph, the husband of Mary; for, even though
Christ was not out of the loins of Joseph, according to Jewish tradition the genealogy of Jesus
would be reckoned through the head of the house in which He resided.
Only four women are mentioned in the genealogy: Rachab, the wife of Salmon: Thamar, the
wife of Judah; Ruth, the wife of Booz (Boaz); and Bathsheba, the wife of David and mother of
Solomon. Along with Mary, the mother of Jesus, they share a special place in the lineage of
Jesus as outstanding women.
JOSEPH'S REACTION TO MARY'S PREGNANCY
Mary, the mother of Jesus, became pregnant after Joseph and she were betrothed and before
they came together as husband and wife. This, naturally, bothered Joseph. Thus, he was
going to put her away (divorce) privately. He had the right to make a public example out of her
as one who had committed adultery, if she had become pregnant in the traditional fashion.
This would have meant that Mary would have been stoned to death (Deuteronomy 24:1-4;
22:22; Leviticus 20:10). However, Joseph was a merciful man, thus willing to make it a private
The betrothal and engagement of the Jews in the first century was a binding agreement that
could only be broken by a bill of divorcement. It was not uncommon for this period of betrothal
to cover a period of years. Thus, there is nothing that is uncommon in Mary and Joseph being
spoken of as husband and wife even though they had not consumated their marriage.
While Joseph was stil thinking of putting Mary away privately, before he took action, he
received a dream in which an angel of the Lord appeared to him. The angel told Joseph that
he should take Mary as his wife even though she was pregnant with a child that was not his.
Mary had not been unfaithful to him; she had become pregnant though the power of the Holy
Spirit. She would give birth to a son, whose name would be Jesus (meaning Savior) because
"he shall save his people from their sins."
Whether Joseph knew anything concerning the appearance of the angel Gabriel unto Mary
when the angel appeared unto him in a dream, we do not know (Luke 1:26-38). Neither do we
know if Mary had said anything concerning the origin of the child to Joseph. We do know,
however, that Joseph was not disobedient to the heavenly vision which he received. Neither is
there any record of Joseph being hesitant. He heard the revelation of God and reacted in full
faith of its truthfulness. He took Mary as his wife, but did not know here, that is, they did not
come together as husband and wife sexually, until after the birth of her firstborn son, whom
they named Jesus in obedience to the heavenly vision.
Matthew points out that "all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the
Lord by the prophet" in Isaiah 7:14: "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth
a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel [Immanuel]." The birth of Jesus, especially
the manner of his birth, was the matter of the fulfillment of prophecy.
There has been a great deal of controversy concerning the prophecy of Isaiah and the virgin
birth in the past 200 years among "Christians." These are a restatement of the same
arguments that took place between Cristians and infidelic Jews of the first three centuries.
Whereas the controversy for 1800 years was between those who claimed to be believers in
Jesus as the Christ and others who rejected His claim to be the Son of God, the controversy in
the past 200 years has been between those who claim to be believers in Jesus as the Christ
and others who claim to believe the same thing. There are those who claim to be "Christians"
who have joined the unbelievers in their arguments against the birth of Jesus being the
fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah.
The arguments against the prophecy of Isaiah being fulfilled in Jesus are two-fold: (1) Isaiah
was prophecying of the birth of a child in his own day, probably hisown son; and, (2) the
Hebrew word translated in the KJV "Virgin" [almah], should be translated as it is in the original
RSV "young woman" -- thus, it cannot be a prophecy of the virgin birth of Jesus.
There is also what some consider a middle ground to the controversy: a dual-fulfillment of the
prophecy in the birth of Isaiah's son (or some other child in the days of Isaiah) and in the birth
of Jesus of Nazareth in Bethlehem.
First, we shall look at the definition of the word almah. Following are the times in which the
word appears in the Old Testament:
The context of each of the occurances of almah in the Old Testament shows that the word is
used of virgins in every appearance. Martin Luther made the challenge: "If any Jew or
Christian can prove to me that in any passage of scripture almah means a married women, I
will give him one hundred florins, although tthe Lord God alone knows where I may find them."
He never had to make good on his offer. The translation of both the King James Version and
the American Standard Version shows that in the sight of those translators the word meant
"virgin." For those who know Greek, the word used in the Septuagint will as well verify that the
meaning assigned by those Jewish scholars who translated the Hebrew into the Greek
hundreds of years before the birth of Christ is the equivalent to the English word "virgin."
However, the most convincing argument for those who believe in the inspiration of the New
Testament is the testimony of Matthew in quoting the prophecy of Isaiah. Matthew uses the
Greek word parthenos, the purest word in the Greek language for virgin. Thus, we have
inspired commentary upon the meaning of the word as used by Isaiah.
Some even dared to argue that there is no difference between translating almah by virgin or
young woman. However, although every virgin designated by almah is a young woman, every
young woman is not a virgin. There is a very significant difference between virgin and young
woman in the translation.
"Is there substance to the claim that Almah does not necessarily designate a virgin, but may
indeed signify no more than a young woman? So some among us now affirm, allegeing that
'extra-biblical usage,' supports this conclusion. The implication from this is that the word was
used in Isaiah's day in nonbiblical documents merely to signify a 'young woman,' ... Talmudic
usage hundreds of years removed, must not be allowed to oppose an affirmation of
inspiration." [Guy N. Woods; "Isaiah 7:14 and the word 'Virgin'"; The Living Messages of the
Books of the Old Testament; p. 261].
"Dr. Gordon [an informed and competent Jewish scholar, hostile to the claims of Christianity]
declares that the archaeological discoveries he has made at Ugarit in Syria now have settled
the discussion and should bring the controversy to an end. [See The Journal of Bible and
Religion, XXI; April, 1953; p. 106] He has unearthed clay tablets which plainly use the word
almah in the parallel Semitic language as meaning 'virgin.'" [R.C. Foster; Introduction and
The prophecy of Isaiah was given in a period of difficulty for the kingdom of Judah. The twelfth
king of Judah, Ahaz, was upon the throne. Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the king of Israel
joined forces to oppose Assyria, and thought that their chances would be bolstered by
defeating the kingdom of Judah and disposing Ahaz. God sent Isaiah and his son,
Shearjashub, to let Ahaz know that he had nothing to fear from this alliance, for God would be
with him, if he would trust him. In order to confirm this before Ahaz, Isaiah told Ahaz to ask for a
"sign of the Lord thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above." However, Ahaz
refused, saying, "I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord." This met with a rebuke, and the
prophecy of Isaiah 7:14.
The reign of Ahaz is recorded in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28. "Ahaz was twenty years old
when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem but he did not that which
was right in the sight of the Lord, like David his father: for he walked in the ways of the kings of
Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim. Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of
the sono f Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abomination of the heathen
whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. He sacrificed also and burnt incense
in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree." (2 Chronicles 28:1-4) Ahaz
continually rebelled against the God of heaven.
Thus, Isaiah reacts to the pretended piety of Ahaz, giving a sign not of God protecting him, but
of God establishing His promise made unto the house of David. That promise? Of a coming
Messiah. "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive,
and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."
God would give him a sign. There would be no sign in a young woman giving birth to a son;
that is done all the time. A sign indicates something miraculous and out-of-the-ordinary. The
sign would be a virgin conceiving and giving birth to a son. Only one birth in human history fits
that discription, the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the only begotten Son of God Most High.
The prophecy of Isaiah itself precludes the fulfillment of the prophecy in someone of Isaiah's
day. Its impact and implications are for a future fulfillment in the coming Messiah. That is why,
under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Matthew quotes the prophecy as being fulfilled in Jesus
The word fulfill means to fill full. A prophecy is not fulfilled until it is filled full. If Matthew is right
in saying that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy, there could not have been a dual fulfillment. None
other has met the requirements of the prophecy, or Jesus was not the only begotten Son of
THE VIRGIN BIRTH
Some believe it incredible that a babe was born of a virgin. They say it is insulting to the sense
to even suggest that one believe such a thing. But, is anything too hard for He who created
heaven and earth? If God can form man out of the dust of the ground and breath into his
nostrils the breath of life; and, if God can form woman from the rib of man and give her life; is it
really incredible that a woman should conceive and give birth without knowing a man
sexaually? The problem is not in the Biblical account, but in the conception of the infidel.