Skip to comments.THE VIRGIN BIRTH: A MYSTERY TO BE CRIED ALOUD
Posted on 12/08/2012 7:18:22 AM PST by HarleyD
Reprinted by permission of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary's Faith Pulpit, December, 1999.
The virgin birth refers to Mary's miraculous conception of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, without any male participation, so that, though the birth process was not unlike that of other humans, Mary was still a virgin when Jesus was born. This Biblical doctrine should be distinguished from the Roman Catholic tenets of Mary's immaculate conception and her perpetual virginity (Erickson, 179).
The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception
According to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Mary was "preserved free from all stain of original sin" (Ott, 199). Since she was subject to the necessity of original sin, she stood in need of redemption; but since she was redeemed from the moment of conception, she was thereby preserved from original sin. Her redemption, therefore, according to this dogma, was more perfect than that experienced by any other human. The dogma was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854, and a Biblical basis for the belief is argued from texts such as Genesis 3:15 and Luke 1:28, 41. Reading these passages, one is left at a loss as to how such a doctrine could find Biblical support were it not for underlying Marian presuppositions.
The Dogma of the Perpetual Virginity
The Catholic tenet of the perpetual virginity of Mary holds that she was "a Virgin before, during and after the Birth of Jesus Christ" (Ott, 203). Accordingly, Mary was not only a virgin at the conception and birth of Jesus but remained so throughout her life. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church "the deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ's birth "did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it." And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the "Ever-virgin" (CCC, 499). Catholics officially promulgate the idea that "Mary bore her Son without any violation of her virginal integrity" (Ott, 205). A few, the Schoolmen in particular, theorized that Jesus' birth did not pain Mary, nor did it nullify her "physical virginity." For the Schoolmen, then, Jesus was born miraculously in a way analogous to His emergence from the sealed tomb or to His going through the shut doors (i.e., Jesus was born directly through Mary's abdominal wall). The Scriptures, on the other hand, describe Mary as the one who "brought forth" her Son; they say nothing about a miraculous birthing of Jesus.
Magisterial Catholic theologians propound the concept that Mary remained a virgin after Jesus' birth. For Augustine and others, Biblical support for this comes from an inference based on Luke 1:34, where Mary's question is taken as "a resolve of constant virginity on the ground of special Divine enlightenment" (Ott, 207). Others look to John 19:26 and infer that Mary had no other children but Jesus. However, the aggregate voice of Scripture contradicts the dogma of perpetual virginity with the repeated mention of Jesus' siblings: Matthew 12:46, 13:55; Mark 6:3; John 2:12, 7:3-5; Acts 1:14and Galatians 1:19. In addition, Matthew 1:25 could hardly be clearer on this point: Joseph "knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son." The words till (see also 1:18) and firstborn (see also Luke 2:7) provide a double proof against the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary. It is of little wonder that one Catholic catechism reads, "The perpetual virginity of Mary is not revealed truth which can be clearly demonstrated from the New Testament without the light of tradition" (Lawler, 107).
The Biblical Doctrine of the Virgin Birth
Therefore, we reaffirm the Biblical doctrine that Mary conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit apart from the cooperation of man and that Mary was most certainly a virgin when He was born, although Jesus' birth was not unlike that of other humans. Two primary Christmas passages further explain this Biblical doctrine.
The first passage, Matthew 1:18-25 indicates that Mary's pregnancy was due to the activity of the Holy Spirit (1:20). It also indicates that Mary remained a virgin until she gave birth to Jesus (1:25). The other passage, Luke 1:26-38, teaches that Mary was a descendant of King David and that she was a virgin (1:27). After the angel told Mary that she would bear the Son of the Most High, Mary asked a perfectly logical question, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" (1:34). The angel answered, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee;" for this reason, Mary's holy Offspring would be called the Son of God (1:35).
The Modernist Denial of the Virgin Birth
Modernist theologians feel that the doctrine of the virgin birth is not important; they conclude that the doctrine of the virgin birth is a theologoumenon, i.e., a story reflecting the faith of the early church in its attempt to reinforce its Christological myths. Most treacherous are those Modernists who claim to hold the doctrine of the virgin birth, though they actually deny it by redefining the term as a reference to the incarnation, with no affirmation of the biological virginity of Mary. Contrary to the liberals' condescending dismissal of the doctrine, we reaffirm the importance of the doctrine and its integral position in a Biblically-based systematic theology (see EDT, 1143-45).
The Virgin Birth and Scripture
The doctrine of the virgin birth is closely tied to the truthfulness and authority of Scripture. If one denies the virgin birth, then one is denying the straightforward teaching of the Bible. If one denies the virgin birth, then he must conclude that the Bible is not telling the truth and that it lacks authority in this area of doctrine. Machen wisely observed that "if the Bible is regarded as being wrong in what it says about the birth of Christ, then obviously the authority of the Bible, in any high sense, is gone" (Machen, 383).
The Virgin Birth and the Deity of Christ
The doctrine of the virgin birth is also linked with belief in the deity of Christ. Frame writes, "While we cannot say dogmatically that God could enter the world only through the virgin birth, surely the incarnation is a supernatural event if it is anything. To eliminate the supernatural from this event is inevitably to compromise the divine dimension of it" (EDT, 1145; see also Machen, 387-92).
The Virgin Birth and the Humanity of Christ
Similarly, the truth of the virgin birth is connected to the doctrine of the humanity of Christ. The Apostle Paul alluded to this truth when he wrote that Jesus was "born of a woman" (Galatians 4:4). Ignatius, a second-century martyr, argued forcefully against the Docetists, whom he called "certain unbelievers," by stressing that Jesus truly was of the Davidic line, that He was truly nailed to the cross, that He truly suffered, and that He truly rose from the dead. Ignatius was also "fully persuaded" that Jesus Christ was "truly born of a virgin" (AF, 156-157).
The Virgin Birth and the Sinlessness of Christ
Having been born of the virgin Mary, Jesus was human Offspring. Having been conceived of the Holy Spirit and overshadowed by the power of the Most High, Jesus was holy Offspringthe sinless Son of God. Therefore, the doctrine of the virgin birth impacts one's view of the sinlessness of Christ. When Mary "conceived, she passed on her human nature to the theanthropic person, but she was prevented by the Holy Spirit from transmitting a sin nature" (Gromacki, 125).
The Virgin Birth and the Promised Messiah
The doctrine of Jesus as the Christ, or Messiah, also depends upon the virgin birth. The Messiah was promised to come as a descendant of King David (2 Samuel 7:16; 1 Chronicles 17:14; Psalm 89:3-4, 26-37; Isaiah 9:7; Matthew 9:27, 12:23, 20:30, 21:9, 22:41-45; Luke 1:32-33; see also Ezekiel 34:23-24). In fulfillment of these promises, Jesus was born "the son of David" (Matthew 6). The Old Testament, however, not only portrays the Messiah as a descendant of David, but also mentions a curse against all of David's royal seed descending through the line of one of Judah's final kings. This king was Jehoiachin (also known as Coniah), and his wicked reign is described in 2 Kings 24:8-17 and
2 Chronicles 36:9-10. He was so wicked that God pronounced a curse against him: "No man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah" (Jeremiah 22:30). This presents a problem because, though Jesus' lineage traces back to David and Solomon (Matthew 1:6-7), according to Matthew, Jesus' lineage comes through the cursed "Jechonias'" (Matthew 1:11). The virgin birth provides the wonderful solution to this dilemma. Matthew records Jesus' legal genealogy through Joseph, His adopted father (Matthew 1:16), and so Matthew establishes Jesus' legal right to the throne of David. Luke, on the other hand, records Jesus' biological genealogy through Mary. Mary too was a descendant of David, but not through Solomon and Jehoiachin. Instead, her line traces back to a son of David through a different son, Nathan (Luke 3:31). In the sovereign plan of God, the Messiah has the legal right to David's throne without its accompanying curse.
The Virgin Birth and Salvation
The doctrine of the virgin birth is also closely tied with our own salvation. If Jesus had been tainted with sin, then He could not have been our sufficient Sacrifice. On the other hand, if Jesus had not been born of Mary, and so had not been the Man, Christ Jesus, then He could not have died, nor could He have been a suitable sacrificial substitute as a Man for men. Christ became human in a miraculous way. The provision of salvation, therefore, is all of God and none of man.
It is clear, then, not only that the Bible does teach the doctrine of the virgin birth and that this doctrine differs from Catholic teachings, but it is also clear that the doctrine of the virgin birth is an integral element of orthodox theology. The virgin birth touches upon the doctrines of Scripture, Christ, and salvation. For this reason, we reaffirm our belief in this doctrine, we teach it, and we call on others to do the same. It is a doctrine that should be proclaimedespecially during the Christmas season. Ignatius wrote of "the virginity of Mary and her child-bearing and likewise also the death of the Lord" as "three mysteries to be cried aloud" (AF110,141-142). We firmly believe that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. Throughout the year, but especially during this Christmas season, let us cry it aloud!
There is no atonement without the immaculate conception.
The Hebrew language had no word for cousin - those related by blood around the same age were called "brothers."
If God, through the angel Gabriel, were to ask Mary to take on the task of being the Mother of God, surely He would have abided by and would have found a way to satisfy her wish to remain a virgin.
So we are to assume that after Christ’s birth Mary became just an ordinary woman? Not believable. “Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of thy womb”. I believe “blessed” is the important word here.
Shared and taught by Luther.
and her perpetual virginity
Shared and taught by Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, et al.
Most contemporary protestants are unaware of and thus protest the original tenets of the founders of their own denominations.
Why is Matthew then, so concerned with the patrilineal line to Joseph?
The NT is not written in Hebrew. There is no reason to think Christ was speaking in Hebrew - other than when He read from the Scroll in the Temple.
Greek does indeed have a word for "cousin," anepsios, which is used in Colossians 4:10 to describe the relationship between Barnabas and Mark. Paul, who wrote Colossians, and evidently knew the word for "cousin", did not apply it to James, the Lord's "brother", in Galatians 1:19. Matthew and Luke also wrote their gospels in Greek, and they certainly had a word for "cousin" at their disposal. They didn't use it because it was inaccurate: these were Jesus' real brothers.
"There is no need for all this wrangling to support an erroneous theological position concocted in the dark ages by dualistic philosophers that had taken control of the Roman Catholic Church. The Bible says what it means and means what it says: Jesus did indeed have brothers. His mother lost her virginity sometime after He was born. That's why the Bible very clearly states that Joseph kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son... (Matthew 1:25, NASB). That means Joseph didn't keep her a virgin forever, but until some time after she had given birth to Jesus. The fact that Mary indulged in sex with her husband after Jesus was born does not in any way diminish from who she was; but to claim that her having sex diminished her, as Roman Catholicism does, is an insult to Jesus' mother!"
"If God, through the angel Gabriel, were to ask Mary to take on the task of being the Mother of God, surely He would have abided by and would have found a way to satisfy her wish to remain a virgin."
This wish isn't recorded in the Bible. God didn't ask her to take on the task. He told her what would happen.
“Most contemporary protestants are unaware of and thus protest the original tenets of the founders of their own denominations. “
I’m not sure that you realize what a small percent of Christians look to Luther, Calvin or Zwingli as their founders... We are thankful for what they recovered. They are not viewed as infallible. They are simply a part of Church history we learn from.
I can assure you I am aware of their failings! And their insights and am thankful for recovering the Gospel of Grace and promoting the wide spread of the Scriptures in ordinary language.
What earth does that possibly mean?
Do we really need to argue ab out whether Mary was "doing it" before OR after Jesus' birth?
How is arguin amongst ourselve about things we cannot POSSIBLY determine factually progressing faith and hope and charity and goodwill?
Maybe the two sides of this issue can just get in a ring and beat the crap out of each other ontil one admits the other knows all that is right without question?
Or how about we talk about important things like getting everyone to be good to each other and follow Jesus' teaching and let everyone believe how they want to believe?
So as not to waste the valuable time of others, please learn the meaning of terms before attempting to join the conversation.
Later, Mary was interviewed by St. Luke and he recorded her responses. We would have no Nativity narrative nor any eyewitness account of Jesus' hidden years had it not been for His mother.
Scripture tells us about James' parentage: he's the "son of Alphaeus" (Mt 10:3), not Joseph. Some people have invented the notion that "James, the brother of the Lord" and James, son of Alphaeus, were two different people. Neither Scripture nor tradition support this. We know of two apostles named "James," one the son of Zebedee and the other the son of Alphaeus, not three.
Nobody except Jesus is ever described as a son or daughter of Mary by blood in Scripture. If we're going to "be silent where Scripture is silent," we have to be silent there.
It's also trivial to prove from Scripture that Mary had no blood children, other than Jesus, alive by the time of the Crucifixion. On the Cross, Jesus gave Mary to John, who everyone agrees was not a blood relative of either of them. If Jesus had living brothers or sisters, he sinned gravely in almost his last moment of earthly life by absolving them of one of the most important commandments, "Honor thy father and thy mother."
Perhaps but denied by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.
“Nobody except Jesus is ever described as a son or daughter of Mary by blood in Scripture. If we’re going to “be silent where Scripture is silent,” we have to be silent there.”
You choose a silent point to prove a silent point? Yet, Scripture isn’t required to meet your criteria of proof.
Since there are people identified as brothers, and Greek has a word for cousin and a word for brother, and the word for cousin isn’t used, your burden to make it into something else is heavy.
If you want an argument from silence, focus on the notion that Mary stayed a virgin - in violation of Paul’s commandments to couples to only withhold sex for a short time.
These brothers [of the Lord] have been regarded:
(a) by the Orthodox churches as sons of Joseph by a previous marriage (the Epiphanian view)
(b) in Roman Catholic interpretation as Jesus first cousins, the sons of Mary wife of Clopas, who was the Virgins sister (Jn. 19:25; the Hieronymian view)
(c) by Protestant exegetes as Jesus uterine brothers, sons of Joseph and Mary (the Helvidian view). This last view accords best with the natural implications of Mk. 6:3, where the context suggests that the brothers, together with the sisters unspecified by name, were, like Jesus himself, children of Mary.
Constable, T. (2003). Tom Constables Expository Notes on the Bible
I find large agreement with what you penned.
We are thankful for the gift she played a roll in delivering.
Matthew wrote to the Jews so his interest lie with showing Christ’s linage from Joseph. Luke wrote to the Gentiles so his interest lie with showing Christ’s linage from Mary.
Sorry, Mary did not give a decision.
Luk 1:29 And when she saw [him], she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. Luk 1:32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
Luk 1:33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Luk 1:34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
Luk 1:35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Luk 1:36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
Luk 1:37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
Luk 1:38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Luk 1:30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
Luk 1:31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
The lineage from Luke 3:23-38 is also through Joseph in which Mary is not mentioned. Thus again, how is this relevant given her ostensible virginity?
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