Paul and the Virgin Birth

Paul the Apostle in Prison

“If the virgin birth is so important to Christians then why did the Apostle Paul not mention it any of his epistles?”

The New Testament is comprised of 27 books. Of those books the Apostle Paul wrote at least 13. In those books, he mentioned many of the important doctrines of the Christian faith. In his letter to the Corinthians, he says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

Here we see: 1)Christ dying for our sins, 2)that He was buried, 3)that He raised from the dead. In other books Paul writes about the deity of Jesus (Colossians 2:9, Romans 1:2-5, Philippians 2:6). But he never once mentions the virgin birth. Why?

Some argue that since what may be arguably the greatest evangelist and apologist of the Christian faith didn’t write about the virgin birth of Jesus that either he did not believe it or that he did not know about it. And that he was so knowledgeable it’s highly improbable that the latter is true. So, did Paul just not believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, conceived Him as a virgin?

One thing we must remember is that just because he didn’t mention it doesn’t mean that he didn’t believe it. That’s like the common argument that since Scripture doesnt speak of Jesus preaching against x, then He must not have considered x a sin. But the Bible says that “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” So just because we don’t know something didn’t happen doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Likewise, just because Paul didn’t mention something doesn’t mean that he didn’t believe or that it’s not true.

It’s, in fact, more possible that Paul did know and believe in the virgin birth. The physician, known as Luke, was a companion of Paul during Paul’s second and third missionary journeys. Luke, who wrote the Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles, speaks of being there with Paul when meeting with the Jerusalem church in Acts 21. And while Paul wrote 13 books of the New Testament (14 according to some scholars), Luke’s two books contain more volume than Paul’s.

The reason I mention Luke is because he wrote about the virgin birth. The Gospel of Luke, chapter 1, verses 26-34 reads, “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 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 name Him Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

Here we see that Luke clearly was aware of the virgin birth. Since we know that Luke and Paul were companions for quite a while, I believe it is safe to conclude that Paul also knew of the virgin birth. Also, Paul was no stranger to airing out his disagreements as he did in Galatians 2 about Peter. Luke also writes of Paul’s disagreement with Barnabas in Acts chapter 15. Therefore, I think it would be safe to assume that Paul or Luke would have written about a disagreement on the virgin conception of Jesus.

I also believe that Paul, in a roundabout way did mention the virgin birth. In the epistle to the Romans, Paul says, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures…” Paul, an educated man, knew the Hebrew scriptures, what we call the Old Testament. Paul calls himself a Pharisee in Acts 23:6 and Philippians 3:4-5. It was required of Pharisees to know the Hebrew Scriptures inside and out. Therefore, he knew the Old Testament book of the prophet Isaiah in which the virgin birth was first prophesied. Paul quoted Isaiah dozens of times in his writings so it wouldn’t be unwise to conclude that Paul also believed in that Jesus was conceived without an earthly father.

Therefore, by Paul being a friend of Luke and knowing the prophetic book of Isaiah, I would argue that Paul indeed believed in the virgin birth of Jesus. We need to be careful about not using the logical fallacy of arguing from absence (argumentum ad ignorantiam).

For more on the virgin birth, you can read my blog here.

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

The Virgin Birth

jesus-birth-james-schultz
Jesus’ Birth by James Schultz, 2017

The virgin birth of Jesus is one the main tenets of the Christian faith. This miraculous event is recorded in Scripture. Had Jesus not been born of the virgin Mary, He wouldn’t have been the proper sacrifice for our sins. He would have been born into sin and therefore would have sinned. According to the Old Testament, the sacrifice for sin had to be spotless and without blemish. Regarding Jesus, this doesn’t mean spotless physically. This means that He was without sin. His blood did not carry the sin trait that was borne to the rest of us from Adam.

What about His mother? Wasn’t she human born into sin? The Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary was born without sin in order for her to  conceive a sinless Christ. However, there is no biblical proof of the Immaculate Conception (which begs the question; wouldn’t the same logic require Mary’s mother to have been born without sin to conceive a sinless Mary, and her mother before her, and so on and so forth?). Mary needed saving from her sins like we all do. It was believed in the past that the baby in the womb shared his mother’s blood. What we know today, however, is that the baby when in the womb makes his own blood. His blood is unique to himself. That’s why Jesus’ blood, and Jesus’ blood only, has the power to wash away sins.  “The fetal blood and maternal blood do not mix. In fact, if this were to be the case, there would be such immunological protest from the mother that she would soon make enough antibodies to the baby’s blood to destroy the pregnancy.” (https://www.babble.com/pregnancy/anatomy-fetus-placenta/)

Jesus was unique in that His father was God. Although the Bible calls the nation of Israel the child of God in the Old Testament (Exodus 4:22, Deuteronomy. 14:1) and those that place their faith in Jesus are His children (Romans 8:16-17) under the New Covenant, only Jesus is called the “only begotten”. Jesus is God’s only son in the same way God called Isaac Abraham’s only son (Genesis 22:2) even though Abraham had another son (Ishmael) prior to Isaac. The Greek word for “only begotten” is monogenēs (μονογενής) which literally means “one of a kind” or “the only of its kind.” In the ancient near East, a person’s lineage was based on who their father was, not their mother. Jesus was, therefore, of His father and not of His mother. This also has scientific bearing today. As this article from Discover magazine puts it “You may have inherited your mother’s eyes, but, genetically speaking, you use more DNA passed down from your father.” If Jesus was born of Joseph and Mary, He could not have been the only begotten son.

One of the main arguments against the virgin birth is that the word for virgin in the Book of Isaiah means “young girl” or “maiden”. Thus the prophecy only means that the Messiah would be born to a young girl.

This argument, however, fails to take a few facts into consideration. In Isaiah chapter 7, verse 14, the prophet foretells of the future Messiah being born of a virgin. The Hebrew word for virgin here is עַלְמָה or “almah”. Almah literally means “a virgin, maiden, a young woman of marrying age.” People dismiss that almah can mean virgin and say that it just means a young woman. And that Mary was just a young “betrothed” woman, not a virgin when she conceived Jesus. However, nowhere in the Hebrew scriptures does “almah” denote a young woman who is not a virgin.

An important part of understanding scripture is to understand what other scriptures say concerning the same topic. Let’s just say that we can’t tell whether Isaiah 7:14 is speaking of a virgin or just a young woman. Well we look to see how the authors of the New Testament would have read it. Matthew 1:22 is proof that the Jews of the time knew Isaiah 7:14 was speaking of a literal virgin and Matthew shows that Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy. When the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive a child, she said “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” If she were just a young and married woman, it would not have come as such a surprise to her. Gabriel also would not have had to say that the child would be conceived of the Holy Spirit. No other place in scripture describes a birth in this fashion. The prophet Samuel was a “miracle child” but scriptures plainly tells us that his parents “knew” each other before he was born (1 Samuel 1:19). Samson was a “miracle child” but He was not conceived of the Holy Spirit or born of a virgin. Isaac was a miracle born to Abraham and Sarah, not because Sarah was a virgin, but because she was too old too conceive.

The whole purpose for the virgin birth, the whole purpose for the incarnation, was the cross. Actually, it was love that led to the cross. The cross is of much importance because of Who was hung on the cross. It was God who became a man. Born of a virgin. Laid aside heavenly pleasure for the likes of earthly pain. Only God could do this. Only He could be the sacrifice for our sins.

As C.S Lewis says, “Now if we had not fallen, that would all be plain sailing. But unfortunately we now need God’s help in order to do something which God, in His own nature, never does at all – to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. Nothing in God’s nature corresponds to this process at all. So that the one road for which we now need God’s leadership most of all is a road God, in His own nature, has never walked. God can share only what He has: this thing, in His own nature, He has not.
But supposing God became a man – suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God’s nature in one person – then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God. You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God’s dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God’s dying unless God dies; and he cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.”

Further reading: Hebrews 7:26, Romans 5:12,17,19

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

Isaiah Believed the Earth was Flat?

Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_Bibel_in_Bildern_1860_004
The Fourth Day of Creation (woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld from the 1860 Die Bibel in Bildern)

Isaiah was inspired by God to write the book of Isaiah in the Bible and it is a book that has many prophecies in it, many of which Jesus fulfilled with His life and death which we won’t go into now. Now there are many arguments circulating today that attempt to disprove the Bible. Some have obvious flaws while others may take knowledge about the original language, Biblical history or theology to show their flaws. The Bible claims to be the inspired word of God, written by men which God used to tell us the story of His plan for all mankind. It is without error in its original writings and because of these claims, if they were not true, the Bible would have errors and could be shown to be false. One argument that I have personally come across is that Isaiah believed the earth was flat.

There are at least two verses which have been used to make this claim so lets look at the first verse.

It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.

Isaiah 40:22 (NKJV)

Now the argument used for this verse is that if Isaiah knew the earth was a globe at the time he penned the book of Isaiah, he would have used a word like “globe” or “ball” but he used “circle” which is two dimensional and flat.

Now lets look at the second verse.

He will set up a banner for the nations,
And will assemble the outcasts of Israel,
And gather together the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.
Isaiah 11:12 (NKJV)

The argument used for this verse is that Isaiah didn’t believe the earth was a sphere but that it was a flat square or rectangle with four corners.

For someone to say Isaiah believed the earth was flat based on these verses alone would likely require an eisegesis of the text rather than an exegesis which means the person making the claim is imposing his or her interpretation onto the text instead of drawing out the meaning in accordance with the context.

It is more likely these two arguments are both false and one reason why is that they were both written by Isaiah. Why would the same person write about the earth being a flat square and a flat circle? It is more likely Isaiah didn’t believe the earth was flat at all. When he wrote of the four corners of the earth, Jewish readers would have understood he was speaking about ‘everywhere on the earth’ or ‘from all directions’ which among other things is briefly discussed here http://creation.com/are-biblical-creationists-cornered-a-response-to-dr-jp-moreland.

And the circle of the earth could have meant a sphere. The original word in Hebrew was chuwg which can mean circle, circuit, compass and one translation cites sphere but even if it didn’t, from a distance (like the earth from space) a sphere would be viewed as a circle from all directions so using a word that means circle logically does not negate the earth being a sphere.

So, while there are some seemingly convincing arguments out there that attempt to disprove the Bible, a closer examination will show that the Bible is what it claims to be; the Inspired Word of God!

Also see
http://www.icr.org/article/circle-earth/

Clark Campbell
Theologetics.org