Did the Bible prophesy that Jesus would be born of a virgin? Does it record that it happened? Did any early Christian leaders teach that?
This brief article will, from the Bible and early writings, answer those questions.
Was the Virgin Birth Prophesied?
It was if you believe what was written by the prophet Isaiah:
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, NKJV throughout).
Does the Bible Teach that Jesus' Birth Fulfilled Isaiah's Writing?
Well, according to Matthew's writings, the answer is yes:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS (Matthew 1:18-25).
Luke also records some of how it would occur:
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then 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 bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give 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." Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her (Luke 1:26-38).
The Da Vinci Code and Gospel of Philip
The popular novel, The Da Vinci Code, as well as other anti-biblical skeptics, discounts the idea of the virgin birth of Christ. Some claim that the virgin birth idea was invented mainly in the third century to deify Christ, who they tend to view as only human.
Part of the point of The Da Vinci Code is that unaccepted gospel accounts, such as the "Gospel of Philip" are somehow proof of some massive church cover-up. And that particular gospel account questions it.
Here is one such passage from it:
Some said, "Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit." They are in error (The Gospel of Philip. Translated by Wesley W. Isenberg. THE GNOSTIC SOCIETY LIBRARY. James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library, revised edition. HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1990, http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/gop.html 5/10/06).
But the Bible does in fact teaches the virgin birth. It is those who deny the biblical record that are in error. The fact that the virgin birth was prophesied in the Old Testament demonstrates that the idea did not originate after New Testament times as a way to deify Christ.
Contrary to the view of The Da Vinci Code, the real reason that the so-called Gospel of Philip was rejected was that the Apostle Philip did not write it, it was not written until the late second or third centuries, and it contradicts the other Gospel accounts. Even Irenaeus noted in his writings that there were only four gospel accounts (please see article on the New Testament Canon), hence there was no reason to accept another one written about one hundred years after the alleged writer died. There is no reason to accept a fraudulent "gospel" account as proof against the biblical record.
(Some may find the article The Da Vinci Code: Some Good and Lots Bad of interest.)
Did Any Early Church Leaders Specifically Teach a Virgin Birth?
Well yes, one of the most prominent of the church leaders in the second century taught the virgin birth.
Melito of Sardis wrote:
65. And indeed there were many other things proclaimed by numerous prophets concerning the mystery of the passover, which is Christ, to whom be the glory forever. Amen.
66. When this one came from heaven to earth for the sake of the one who suffers, and had clothed himself with that very one through the womb of a virgin, and having come forth as man, he accepted the sufferings of the sufferer through his body which was capable of suffering. And he destroyed those human sufferings by his spirit which was incapable of dying. He killed death which had put man to death...
70. This is the one who became human in a virgin, who was hanged on the tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from among the dead, and who raised mankind up out of the grave below to the heights of heaven...
104. This is the one who made the heavens and the earth, and who in the beginning created man, who was proclaimed through the law and prophets, who became human via the virgin, who was hanged upon a tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from the dead, and who ascended to the heights of heaven, who sits at the right hand of the Father, who has authority to judge and to save everything, through whom the Father created everything from the beginning of the world to the end of the age.
105. This is the alpha and the omega. This is the beginning and the end–an indescribable beginning and an incomprehensible end. This is the Christ. This is the king. This is Jesus. This is the general. This is the Lord. This is the one who rose up from the dead. This is the one who sits at the right hand of the Father. He bears the Father and is borne by the Father, to whom be the glory and the power forever. Amen (Melito of Sardis. On the Passover. Translation from Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary, Vol.4,1;May 1989).
Melito also wrote:
This is He who took a bodily form in the Virgin, and was hanged upon the tree, and was buried within the earth (Melito. Translation by Roberts and Donaldson. Fragment V. Online version copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/melito.html 11/18/06).
Virgin Birth Was A Difference Between Some True and Some False Christians in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries
Although he had his own problems, Origen noted that there were two groups that he considered to be “Ebionites” in the early third century, one who believed in the virgin birth (and that would be those who this paper suggests were also known as the Nazarenes) and those who did not:
Let it be admitted, moreover, that there are some who accept Jesus, and who boast on that account of being Christians, and yet would regulate their lives, like the Jewish multitude, in accordance with the Jewish law,—and these are the twofold sect of Ebionites, who either acknowledge with us that Jesus was born of a virgin, or deny this, and maintain that He was begotten like other human beings…(Origen. Contra Celsus, Book V, Chapter 61).
The true Christians in Africa were not those associated with Origen (please see what happened in Alexandria), nor those that denied the virgin birth. The true Christians were those professed Jesus and had practices similar to those of practices Jews (see also Revelation 2:9;3:9).
Both the Old and New Testaments discussed that Christ would be born of a virgin. And this was taught also by Melito of Sardis.
About all non-gnostics I am aware of who profess Christianity accept that Jesus was born of a virgin.
Only those who do not wish to believe what is written in the Bible deny it.
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Thiel B. Ph.D. Virgin Birth: Does the Bible Teach It? www.cogwriter.com (c) 2006/2008/2012 0915