BRISBANE, Australia - 31 May 2020
The ante-Nicene Fathers of the Church were conditioned by their cultural and religious environment to value women who retained their virginal state so, as noted in Part 1, it was no real surprise to find Fathers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyon and Tertullian asserting a Virgin Conception/Birth for Jesus in the Second Century AD. For men such as these, and countless more yet to come, Jesus must have been conceived while Mary was still a virgin because a virginal womb was the only appropriate place to carry a Messiah, to carry a King, to carry God’s son. And, most importantly, only a virginal conception could explain away the “embarrassing” New Testament statements that Jesus was the son of a man other than the man to whom his mother was betrothed. The alternative scenario was unthinkable because God would certainly never choose for such exalted positions an ordinary mortal whose birth would even today be described by some as “illegitimate”. (See Notes)
Nevertheless, it was recognised that some would dare to think the unthinkable and suggest alternative explanations for these statements so a compelling body of evidence must always be on hand to ward off any challenges to their teachings.
Regardless of culture and context, and with confirmation bias the major player on the stage, passages from the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament were chosen to form this compelling body of evidence in the hope that it would prove sufficient to silence all critics. And silence them it did, and still does, because these chosen “proof-texts” have hardly been questioned at all by ecclesiastics, scholars, popes, theologians, and countless millions of true believers who, just like a pandemonium of programmed parrots, have continued to repeat them for well over 1800 years.
Perhaps the most notorious of these “proof-texts” is Isaiah 7:14 so let’s take a closer look at this all-time favourite.
The context of Chapter 7 was the threatened destruction of the House of David (Judah) by the armies of Rezin, King of Syria, and Pekah, King of Israel. Isaiah the prophet gave King Ahaz a sign of deliverance from these enemies. Here are verses 14-16 according to a modern English version of the Hebrew Scriptures (Jewish Publication Society. 1985. Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures)
“Assuredly, my Lord will give you a sign of His own accord! Look, the young woman (𝙖𝙡𝙢𝙖𝙝) is with child (𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙖𝙝) and about to give birth to a son. Let her name him Immanuel. (By the time he learns to reject the bad and choose the good, people will be feeding on curds and honey.) For before the lad knows to reject the bad and choose the good, the ground whose two kings you dread shall be abandoned”.
This sign had absolutely nothing to do with the manner of the child’s conception or birth. It was a sign of deliverance. The child soon to be born would function as a living clock, a growing reminder to the King that by the time the child reached the age of reason, the House of David (Judah) would be delivered from its enemies. Even the child’s name, Immanuel (with us God), would serve as another reminder of their deliverance.
The context is clear and the meaning and form of the Hebrew words 𝙖𝙡𝙢𝙖𝙝 and 𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙖𝙝 are clear (see Lexical entries in Notes). Although these facts are indisputable, many apologists have tried to bury them in endless layers of theological twists and turns which are so transparently designed to shore up the teaching of the Virgin Birth that they lack all independence and therefore any credibility.
Although there are a couple of exceptions, the most widely-read versions of the Bible available today still render Isaiah 7:14 according to doctrinal subservience despite all evidence to the contrary:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (NIV)
Isaiah’s young woman was first transformed into the Virgin Mary by the ante-Nicene Fathers. Countless millions continue to be deceived and misled by their teachings. In future posts we will talk about the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
In the meantime, think about this - if the word 𝙖𝙡𝙢𝙖𝙝 does mean virgin and Isaiah was predicting a Virgin Birth for Jesus, then the context demands that he was also predicting a Virgin Birth for the child born in his own time. So, now we have two alleged Virgin Births! The foolishness of ripping verses out of linguistic and cultural context has created an absolute nightmare for those who preach and repeat this teaching, a predicament that should be greeted with howls of derision since they remain blissfully unaware of it. A “strong delusion” indeed.
The mindset of the Church Fathers is universal and timeless, as I found out when a “Christian” said the following words to me, words which I will never forget: “God would never choose a b*****d for his Messiah”.
We have this type of disgust for human procreation to thank for so much twisted teaching: “You had good reason to be horrified at the thought that another birth might issue from the same virginal womb from which Christ was born according to the flesh. For the Lord Jesus would never have chosen to be born of a virgin if he had ever judged that she would be so incontinent as to contaminate with the seed of human intercourse the birthplace of the Lord’s body, that court of the eternal king”. (Pope Siricius I - Letter to Bishop Anysius, c. 392 A.D - defending perpetual virginity)
According to Brown, Driver and Briggs, the authoritative Hebrew-English Lexicon, the word 𝙖𝙡𝙢𝙖𝙝 means “young woman (ripe sexually, maid or newly married)”. If Isaiah had wished to specify virginity, he would have used the Hebrew word 𝙗𝙚𝙩𝙝𝙪𝙡𝙖𝙝 (virgin), as he did five times elsewhere (23:4, 23:12, 37:22, 47:1, 62:5). The word 𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙖𝙝 (pregnant) is an adjective describing the young woman’s present state.