Last week we looked at amazing prophecies regarding the timing of the coming of the Messiah. This week will look at another aspect of Jesus’ amazing birth. This week we will examine the amazing prophecy made by Isaiah that the Messiah would be born of a virgin.
Isaiah lived 650 to 750 years before Christ, but his book of prophecy is often times called “The Fifth Gospel” because it includes so much information about the birth, life and death of the coming Messiah roughly 700 years later. In Isaiah 7:14, he writes:
“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]
Matthew and Luke both recount the story of the miraculous conception of Jesus:
“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. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” [Matthew 1:18-25]
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God. [Luke 1:26-35]
Some question whether Mary had an illicit affair that resulted in her pregnancy. In a male centered culture such as the Roman empire, one has to ask why Joseph ever would have kept Mary as his wife absent the biblical account given above.
Many have disparaged this prophecy of Jesus’ miraculous conception. Some argue that the word for virgin is Isaiah actually mean just young woman and not virgin – a prophecy that would be much less miraculous. The New Testament word clearly means virgin. Furthermore, the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint clearly uses the Greek word for version in its translation and not the word for young woman. The Septuagint was translated about 250 years before the birth of Christ. Before Jesus was ever born, the understanding of the Hebrew text was that it referred to a virgin. Efforts today to downplay this miraculous prophecy ignore history!
Image courtesy of Abby Reed