THE VIRGIN BIRTH
A STUDY BY
GARY RAY BRANSCOME
Since the circumstances leading up to Christ’s birth
are basic to our understanding of who He is and why He is unique, God
saw to it that all of the pertinent facts surrounding that birth were
recorded in His Word (Matthew 1, Luke 1&2). From that Word, we
learn that Christ was conceived by the power of God and born while His
mother was still a virgin (Luke 1:34-35). God imparted His own nature
to Christ, through that miraculous birth. And, because of that birth
Christ was conceived in God’s own image (rather than the image of
sinful Adam), and born as the sinless Son of God. [Genesis 5:3,
Ephesians 4:24, Romans 5:12,19, 1 Corinthians 15:45] [Note: God created
the Y chromosome needed for Mary to conceive.]
In the book of Luke we learn:
And in the sixth month the angel
Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a
virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David;
and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and
said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee:
blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at
his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should
be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found
favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and
bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 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: And he shall reign over the
house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then
said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
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. (Luke 1:26-35)
Since Jewish custom required a man to be established
in a trade and able to support a family before he took a wife, Joseph
could have been thirty years of age or more while Mary could have been
as young as twelve (although their ages may have been closer).
Moreover, it was not their custom for a man and woman to date, go
steady, get engaged, or even spend time alone together before marriage.
Instead, the respective families arranged the marriage. Once all of
details pertaining to the marriage contract (such as the amount of the
dowry) had been agreed to, and (to use modern terms) the marriage
contract had been signed by both parties, witnessed, and notarized; the
man and woman were legally man and wife. However, because they had not
spent time together and may not even have met prior to becoming man and
wife, it was customary for a couple to observe a period of espousal,
during which they got to know each other while still living apart and
refraining from sexual intimacy. The espousal ended with a wedding
feast. In other words, they did not begin to date until after they were
legally man and wife.
Because of this custom, Mary and Joseph were
regarded as man and wife even though they were not yet living together
and had never had sexual relations. For that reason, there was never
any shame connected with Christ's entry into the world, and Mary's
pregnancy was never regarded as sinful. Joseph was the only one who was
upset about Mary’s pregnancy, and he was planning to divorce her
privately without making the matter public (Matthew 1:18-19).
But while he thought on these
behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying,
Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife:
for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall
bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall
save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:20-21).
By telling us that Joseph was a “just man,” the
Bible tells us that he was saved, for only those who have placed their
faith in God’s promised messiah are “just” in the sight of God (Matthew
1:19, Romans 3:19-28, Galatians 3:6, 22). Moreover, because Joseph was
aware of his own shortcomings, he had no desire to shame Mary publicly.
When God chose a man to care for His son, He chose a man of faith.
Likewise, through Mary’s own words, “How shall this
be, seeing I know not a man?”, as well as the words, “before they came
together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost, // And [Joseph]
knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son” the Bible
makes it clear that she was a virgin (Luke 1:34, Matthew 1:18, 25).
Those who refuse to accept the historical facts
concerning Christ’s virgin birth, do so, not on the basis of what they
know, but on the basis of what they do not know. In other words, their
opinion is based on ignorance. What they fail to realize is that no man
could possibly know that Mary remained a virgin, apart from Divine
revelation. Even if Mary had been locked in a cell for two years prior
to the birth of Jesus and you were the jailer, you would have no way of
actually knowing she remained a virgin. So here we have one of the
greatest signs that God ever gave to mankind, and no one can even know
that it took place apart from God's Word. How humbling! How revealing!
For that very reason, God could not have been
speaking of another virgin when He told King Ahaz (through Isaiah) that
the virgin birth would be a sign unto him (Isaiah 7:14). Of course, God
tells us in the book of Matthew that He was speaking of Mary when He
moved Isaiah to prophesy, “A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and
shall call his name Immanuel,” and His Word is final (Isaiah 7:14,
Matthew 1:22-23). I personally believe that God used the sign of the
virgin birth to humble Ahaz. He was told of this great sign (a virgin
birth), yet he had no way of knowing who the virgin was, where she
lived, or when the child would be born.
The plain truth is that Christ alone, of all men,
was born of a virgin. The Bible makes it clear that He was born of a
divine miracle without a human father, and the proof of His virgin
birth is to be found in His resurrection from the dead. In other words,
if Christ was not who the Bible claims that He is, then He would never
have been able to triumph over death. Yet, His victory over death is
one of the best-established facts of history. God raised Christ from
the dead because He was without sin, and He was without sin because of
the virgin birth (John 5:39, Isaiah 7:14).
1. Whose image was Christ
2. Who was Joseph a descendent of?
3. How old might Joseph have been at the time of his marriage?
4. Were an espoused couple legally man and wife?
5. Why was Joseph thinking about divorcing Mary?
6. Did the wedding feast come at the beginning or end of the espousal?
7. Could any man know that Mary remained a virgin, apart from divine
8. What does the fact that Joseph was “just” tell us about him?
9. On what basis do some people reject what the Bible says about
Christ's virgin birth?
10. How do we know that Isaiah 7:14 is speaking of Mary?