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The Virgin Birth, part 1

Aug 03, 2019

From a biblical standpoint, the virgin birth of Christ is primarily based on Matthew 1:18-21,

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.”

It is clear that Matthew was telling us that Jesus was conceived “by the Holy Spirit” and not by Joseph or by any other man. Whether or not others believed this is another issue, of course. It is likely that only a few actually believed that Jesus had been conceived by the Holy Spirit. We can say, however, with reasonable certainty that at his birth, the issue was discussed with the shepherds of Bethlehem and that they believed it.

Three months later, when the magi arrived from the east, this issue was surely discussed, and, if so, they knew it was true as well.

Matthew himself appealed to the prophet Isaiah, saying in Matthew 1:22, 23,

22 Now all this took place to fulfill that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, 23 “Behold, the virgin [parthenos] shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

Here Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14,

14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign; Behold a virgin [almah] will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

This was a prophecy given to King Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah. Hence, it appears that Hezekiah himself was the immediate fulfillment of the sign. Obviously, he did not have a virgin birth, yet he was to be a type of Christ. Under his rule, the revelation of the Remnant was given through Isaiah (2 Kings 19:30; Isaiah 37:31).

Virgin or Young Woman?

Matthew interprets the “virgin” of Isaiah 7:14 to indicate that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and therefore did not have an earthly father. He clearly tells us that Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit and that Joseph was surprised and very disturbed when she became pregnant. However, the prophecy in Isaiah given to Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah, was not specifically that he would be born of a virgin but of a young woman.

All types and shadows are only partial and imperfect copies of their antitype that is fulfilled later. All of the types of Christ throughout the Scriptures were imperfect, yet they did things that prophesied of the Messiah who was to come. A “shadow” gives us a profile but does not give us a clear and complete picture.

So also is it with the prophecy given to Ahaz. In this case, God did not intend for Hezekiah to be born miraculously of a virgin, so he uses the word almah, rather than bethulah. Bethulah has just one meaning (“virgin”), while almah is more general and can mean either a virgin or a young woman in general.

The early rabbis saw the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in the normal birth of Hezekiah alone and saw that the only supernatural factor in this was in predicting Hezekiah’s birth. There was no reason to see anything beyond this until the Virgin Mary became pregnant. So according to historians, there were Jewish Christian sects in the first century that did not believe Matthew’s account of the Virgin Mary being impregnated by the Holy Spirit.

The Septuagint translation of Isaiah 7:14 renders the Hebrew almah into the Greek parthenos. Matthew quotes this and so he uses the term parthenos to describe Mary. This is a Greek word that carries the same broad meaning as almah, “virgin, young woman.” Nonetheless, Matthew defines the term more narrowly as a virgin by telling us that “she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18). He backs this up by the angelic revelation to Joseph himself, “for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).

Therefore, our interpretation of the prophecy really comes down to whether or not we believe Matthew’s account that defines “virgin” more narrowly. His account is backed up by Doctor Luke, who says in Luke 1:26, 27,

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee, called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin [parthenos] engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s [parthenos] name was Mary.

Luke too calls her a parthenos in accordance with the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 7:14. And, like Matthew, he then describes her impregnation as an act of the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:30-34 says,

30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus…. 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.”

In verse 34, Mary tells the angel more literally, “How can this be, since I know not a man?” (The Emphatic Diaglott). In other words, Mary had not had sexual relations with a man, and this defines her not merely as a young woman but as a true virgin. So one cannot point to the word parthenos in verse 27 as proof that she was merely a young woman.

The Constellation Virgo: The Original Prophecy

In the beginning, God named the constellations and individual stars (Psalm 147:4). Job 38:32 KJV refers to the twelve constellations as the Mazzaroth, which is today known as the Zodiac. Each of these twelve constellations was assigned to a tribe in Israel to be used on its banner (flag), and these figure into the prophecies given to them by Jacob and Moses.

The Mazzaroth, when interpreted biblically, foretells the divine plan of Christ from His birth through a virgin (Virgo), His death on the cross (The Southern Cross) as the ram (Aries) in the month of April, and His reign as the Lion (Leo) of the tribe of Judah. The two fish (Pisces) and the two sheepfolds (Ursa Major and Ursa Minor) speak of the church and the smaller group known as the remnant (overcomers). The bondwoman (Andromeda) and the free woman (Cassiopeia) speak of Hagar and Sarah with all of those prophetic implications discussed in Galatians 4.

The point is that the Hebrew name for Virgo was Bethulah, not alma. Professor E. Raymond Capt wrote in his book, The Glory of the Stars, page 33,

“Virgo is pictured as a woman with a branch in her right hand and some ears of corn in her left hand. The name of this sign in Hebrew is ‘Bethulah’, which means ‘a virgin’; in Greek, ‘Parthenos’, the maid of virgin pureness….”

In other words, in the original revelation in the Star Gospel, long before the Scriptures were written, Virgo, the mother of the coming Messiah, was known to be Bethulah, “Virgin.” The main problem was that men of old claimed to fulfill those messianic prophecies, thus usurping the place of Christ, and they formed many ancient religions to ensure that the people worshipped them.

But in the fulness of time, Jesus was born of a genuine virgin and was the true Son of God that is the Heir of all things. All competing religious systems and usurpers will fail in the end.

The constellation Virgo comes with three decans (associated constellations), all of which describe the character of her Son (i.e., Jesus): Coma, Centaurus, and Bootes.

Coma is “The Desired One,” described in Haggai 2:7 KJV as “the desire of all nations.”

Centaurus, “The Despised,” is half man and half horse, picturing the two natures of Christ as the Son of man and the Son of God. Isaiah 53:3 says, “He was despised and forsaken of men.” Though despised, He is also “the desire of all nations.” The problem is that most nations do not realize that He is everything that they desire. They do not realize it, because they think a man having a dual nature is absurd.

Bootes means “The Coming One.” He is pictured with a spear in his right hand and a sickle in his left. He is thus the One pierced by the spear (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34), and He is pictured in Revelation 14:16 as the One reaping the earth with a sickle.

These three decans all support the main constellation of Virgo, focusing upon Jesus Christ in various ways. Unfortunately, the prophecies of Christ in the stars have been misapplied to the gods of Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and many other nations, and the Mazzaroth prophecies have been misused to tell men’s fortunes. But none of these corruptions nullify the original meaning of the Star Gospel, as long as we interpret them in a biblical manner.

Therefore, when Matthew and Luke tell us that Mary was a virgin in whom the Messiah was begotten by the Holy Spirit, we may see this as the fulfillment of the original prophecy of Virgo, whose Hebrew name was Bethulah, “the Virgin.” The fact that Isaiah 7:14 uses the term almah, rather than Bethulah, does not change the actual prophecy. Isaiah had to use almah because Hezekiah’s mother was only a type and shadow of Christ. Her son, Hezekiah, was born by natural means, so it would not have been appropriate to call his mother Bethulah. She was but a shadow that gave us a basic profile of the Virgin Mary who was yet to come.

This is part 1 of a series titled "The Virgin Birth" To view all parts, click the link below.

The Virgin Birth

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Category: Teachings
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones