Subject: Reason #1 for the Bible’s Intellectual Persuasiveness: Isaiah 7:14 and the Virgin Birth
Isaiah 7:14 “The Lord Himself will give you a sign. ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.’”
Most Americans view Christmas as a holiday centered around being with family and friends, giving gifts, and celebrating those things in our lives that we cherish most – each other. But Christmas is actually a 12-day celebration that officially begins on December 25th, with the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child, and ends on January 6th, with the celebration of the Incarnation, when Jesus Christ the Son is given.
In 730BC, Isaiah the prophet recorded in Isaiah 7:14 that the Redeemer who would be born into this world without sexual intercourse. It would be a miraculous, virgin birth. And our New Testament by confirms Isaiah’s prophecy by explaining that Jesus Christ had no biological father.
Dr. Iain D. Campbell, Senior Pastor of Back Free Church of Scotland, explains: “I can’t help wondering what it must have been like for Mary’s father to learn that his beautiful, believing, teenage daughter had fallen pregnant? His world, like hers, changed forever the day her first child was conceived in her womb. She had maintained her virginal purity, but became pregnant nonetheless. She would never, not until her dying day, be free from the stigma of those who were ready to taunt Jesus with the words: ‘We were not born of sexual immorality’ (John 8:41).” You see, part of the evidence for the virgin birth is the reaction of the people around her when her pregnancy was made known. Women only get pregnant with a man.
Matthew 1:18-19 says that when Joseph, who was betrothed to Mary to be her future husband, learned that she was pregnant, he planned to divorce her: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” Joseph’s response makes sense. Women only get pregnant with a man.
Do we just believe Isaiah’s and Matthew’s record of the Virgin Birth by faith? Is there evidence we can examine that makes this miraculous event intellectually persuasive? Besides bringing comfort and hope to millions, the Bible is an intellectual masterpiece that, with dedicated study, transfers knowledge to its students that has the power to completely change how we as students look at, and live out, our lives.
Isaiah 7:14 is one such verse that must be carefully studied to mine its gold. Isaiah, whose name means ‘Salvation of the Lord’, was called by God around 700BC to prophecy to the southern kingdom of Judah. He records at least 30 specific prophecies on the future Messiah and His redemptive work of salvation for the sins of mankind that have been demonstrated to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Isaiah 7:14 is one of them.
The first skeptical challenge is “How do we know Isaiah 7:14 wasn’t added later, after Jesus was born, to embellish the myth that He was virgin born?” In 1947, Bedouin shepherds, searching for a stray goat in the Qumran caves by the Dead Sea, found sealed jars filled with ancient scrolls of our Old Testament. Using paleography (handwriting), Accelerated Mass Spectrometry testing, numismatics (coins) and pottery, experts dated the majority of the scrolls to 125-50 BC (that’s 125 years before Jesus was born).
The real treasure of the find was the IQIsaiaha scroll, dating to 125BC. It is a complete book of Isaiah, made of 17 pieces of leather sewn together into a roll over 24 feet long. This Isaiah Scroll matches our Bible today word-for-word in over 95% of the text (with the 5% being minor variations that are variations in spelling over time). Isaiah 7:14, along with all the other prophecies, are in there, before Jesus was born!
The second skeptical challenge is “The word used in Isaiah for virgin is ‘almah’, which can also mean ‘young married woman’. There are only seven Old Testament verses where ‘almah’ is used, and it always refers to a virgin. In Genesis 24:43, ‘almah’ is applied to Rebekah, the future bride of Isaac. In Exodus 2:8, ‘almah’ is applied to Miriam, the sister of Moses. In Psalm 68:25, it is used for ‘damsels’ playing with timbrels’. In Song of Solomon 1:3 and 6:8, it is used for virgins of the royal court. In Proverbs 30:19, it is used to describe “the way of a man with a virgin”. And in Isaiah 7:14, it is used for the Virgin Birth. You will never find the Hebrew word ‘almah’ referring to anything except a virgin.
As this Christmas season begins on December 25th, I encourage you to study the Virgin Birth. The reason it brings so much comfort and hope in a today’s world is because there is persuasive evidence that it is true.
Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.” He can be reached with your questions through the Lee’s Summit Tribune at Editor@lstribune.net.