Tuesday, December 27

Physical and Spiritual Light


During the month of December, particularly in the United States, a joyous spirit seems to fill the air, and in times of great joy, including in Biblical times, times of great joy were also times when gifts were given (Nehemiah 8:10; Esther 9:22). It is the celebratory season of the birth of our Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. The magi (wise men) who came to visit Jesus after He had been born (some believe around two years later, when Joseph and Mary had returned to Nazareth) also brought gifts to present to the young Messiah (Matthew 2:10). Jesus was every bit the same Savior who he would be years later when He gave Himself as a sort of gift to us, payment for our past, present and future sins with His infinite and perfect being, sins which we, being finite and imperfect, could not atone for. Gift giving can be a time of joy, and God the Son was the greatest gift God could give us, because through Him we can have eternal life. Also during the Christmas season, however, people tend to decorate their property with lights. Light itself actually had its origins in the beginning of our universe, and in fact, James (who was the brother of Jesus) declared God the Father as the "Father of lights" (James 1:17, KJV). Light appears in numerous ways throughout Scripture, and are important not only pertaining to the birth of Jesus, but to reality as we understand it. (Photo Credit to: Hubble)

Plato (c. 427-348 BC), whose real name is actually Aristocles, is a well-known influential Greek philosopher. Platonic forms, the Divided Line, the Simile of the Sun and other philosophical ideas and concepts come from Plato. Among the better known philosophical concepts is what we call the Allegory of the Cave. In Book VII of the Republic, Plato addressed the idea of discounting what the vast majority of people say simply because of what one "wise" person may say. His response was the Allegory of the Cave. In it, Plato "compares the level of becoming to living in a save and describes the ordeal necessary for the soul's ascent from shadow illusion to enlightenment - from mere opinion to informed opinion to rationally based knowledge to wisdom."[1] Plato, in the character of Socrates, begins with the allegory, "I want you to go on to picture the enlightenment or ignorance of our human conditions somewhat as follows. Imagine an underground chamber, like a cave with an entrance open to daylight and running a long way underground. In this chamber are men who have been prisoners there since they were children, their legs and necks being so fastened that they can only look straight ahead of them and cannot turn their heads. Behind them and above them a fire is burning, and between the fire and the prisoners runs a road, in front of which a curtain-wall has been built, like the screen at puppet shows between the operators and their audience, above which they show their puppets."[2]

Plato continues, "Imagine further that there are men carrying all sorts of gear along behind the curtain-wall, including figures of men and animals made of wood and stone and other materials, and that some of these men, as is natural, are talking and some are not... do you think our prisoners could see anything of themselves or their fellows except the shadows thrown by the fire on the wall of the cave opposite them? [And]... if they were able to talk to each other, would they not assume that the shows they saw were real things... And if the wall of their prison opposite them reflected sound, don't you think that they would suppose, whenever one of the passers-by on the road spoke, that the voice belonged to the shadow passing before them... And so they would believe that the shadows of the objects we mentioned were in all aspects real."[3] Plato further continues that, if one of the men were to be released from their bond and cured of their delusions, and able to turn his head and look at the fire, and if he was told that what he used to see was a mere illusion and that what he now perceived was reality, he would still likely think that what he used to see was more real than what he is now seeing. 

However, "if... he were forcibly dragged up the steep and rocky ascent and not let go till he had been dragged out into the sunlight... he would need to grow accustomed to the light before he could see things in the world outside the cave... The thing he would be able to do last would be to look directly at the sun, and observe its nature without using reflection in water or any other medium, but just as it is... Later on he would come to the conclusion that it is the sun that produces the changing seasons and years and controls everything in the visible world, and is in a sense responsible for everything that he and his fellow prisoners used to see."[4] Essentially, Plato's allegory is intended to demonstrate that with experience, with learning, when we come out into the light, we become "enlightened," if you will. While likely not the intention of Plato, the allegory is useful in such a way that what we learn can affect our beliefs about truth. Truth itself does not change, but our beliefs about it may. For example, the truth is that the earth is round (or an oblate spheroid, to be precise), yet even today some do not believe that. The belief does not change the truth, but truth can be found and understood. 

This is important to understand as God Himself is described as the "light of the world" (John 8:12), in which God the Son was claiming to be the exclusive source of spiritual light and truth. From a biblical perspective, only in the light of God's Word can understanding about the universe around us become illuminated. At birth, we receive physical light and through it can see the craftsmen ship of God's hand in His creation. In full, John 8:12 declares, "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" Following this light is important. If a light, perhaps a candle, is used in a dark room, as you carry it through the room, darkness will flee, or dispel. However, the light continues to move and continue into another dark room, illuminating the darkness. If we do not follow the light and move with it, the darkness can and will engulf us. It is as St. Paul noted when he spoke at Mars Hill in Athens, quoting the Cretan philosopher Epimenides, "'For in him we live and move and have our being'" (Acts 17:28). In Jesus, we live and move and have our being, and in Him we have eternal life (John 3:16-18).

"Physical light is necessary for physical life. The Earth would certainly change very rapidly if there was no longer any sunlight. A forest full of trees with very thick canopies of foliage high above has very little plant life on the ground except for moss or lichen, which needs little sunlight. Plants will never move away from the light – they are said to be positively phototropic, drawn to the light. In the same way, spiritual light is necessary for spiritual life, and this can be a good test of our standing in Christ. The believer will always tend towards spiritual things; he will always tend towards fellowship, prayer, the Word of God, and so on. The unbeliever always does the opposite (John 1:5, 3:19-20) because light exposes his evil and he hates the light. Indeed, no man can come into the true spiritual light of Jesus Christ, unless He is enabled (John 6:37)."[5] Earth's moon reflects the light of the sun, and in like manner, we reflect the light of Christ, and should carry out the commission to spread the truth to the people of the world, as "Christ's ambassadors" (2nd Corinthians 5:20). We should not attempt to hide the light or be ashamed of Jesus, be spread this light and be prepared to give an answer, or defend our faith (1st Peter 3:15).

According to 1st John 1:5, "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." This is a profound concept. God Himself, the infinite, perfect, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent being is light itself. God created physical light on Day 1 of creation week when He said, "Let there be light" ("hayah 'owr," Genesis 1:3). Genesis 1:3-5 states, "And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light 'day,' and the darkness he called 'night.'" Now, some have noted that in the Genesis narrativethe sun was not created until Day 4 (Genesis 1:14-19). However, light can exist independently from the sun. The day and night cycle was present in each of the three days prior (Genesis 1; Exodus 20:11), and with the knowledge that God is light (1st John 1:5), it can be reasoned that light emanated from God.

Light certainly requires a source, "but this source does not have to be the sun, moon or stars. Other sources are fire, lightning, electric light globes, fluorescent tubes, luminous insects such as glow-worms and fireflies, etc. In the Bible, we also find many examples of light without the sun, but originating from a supernatural source. Most of these are associated with the glory of God, which in the Bible is usually manifested as light, although sometimes as fire. This is not surprising, as the Bible tells us that God is light (1 John 1:5; cf. John 8:12), and also that God is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29)."[6] Light can travel at approximately 186,282.397 miles per second. With this fact in mind, consider what occurs when we turn on a light switch. When the light is turned on, it permeates the area, and darkness must flee. Darkness does not have a choice in the matter. In like manner, writing about God in the flesh, John noted that "In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.... The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world" (John 1:4-5, 9).

As noted earlier, God is called the 'Father of the heavenly lights" (James 1:17), and is light itself (1st John 1:5). "Light came also naturally to typify true religion and the felicity it imparts (Ps. 119:105; Isa. 8:20; Matt. 4:16, etc.), and the glorious inheritance of the redeemed (Col. 1:12; Rev. 21:23-25). God is said to dwell in light inaccessible (1 Tim. 6:16). It frequently signifies instruction (Matt. 5:16; John 5:35). In its highest sense it is applied to Christ as the 'Sun of righteousness' (Mal. 4:2; Luke 2:32; John 1:7-9)... It is used of angels (2 Cor. 11:14), and of John the Baptist, who was a 'burning and a shining light' (John 5:35), and of all true disciples, who are styled 'the light of the world' (Matt. 5:14)."[7]

Subsequently, Jesus taught, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16). As such, we are to "follow God's example" (Ephesians 5:1). Light is present all throughout Scripture, in both the Old and New Testament. For example, Exodus 34:29-30 describes the radiant face of Moses, "When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him." Yet another example is Matthew 17:2, which says, "There [Jesus] was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light" (see also Revelation 1:16). Stars are also mentioned throughout Scripture, one of which is of course our sun.

The book of Job makes a few statements concerning light. When God is speaking out of the storm (Job 38:1), He asks, "What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside?" (38:19). Up until the 17th century, it was generally believed that light is transmitted instantly, whereas now we now that light travels at over 186,000 miles per second. The Hebrew word for "way" is derek, meaning a traveled path or road. In other words, God was questioning Job about light's transmission. Shortly thereafter, in Job 38:24, God asks, "What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed?" By asking this question, it presupposes that light can be "dispersed." Scientifically, we now know that light can be divided. Sir Isaac Newton (c.1642-1727) studied light itself, and made the discovery that white light can actually be divided into seven colors, which can be "dispersed" and then combined again. Physical light and spiritual light are both found in Scripture, and the future significance of the notion that God is light (John 8:12; 1st John 1:5) should not be avoided.

The Pleiades (Job 38:31) Credit: Hubble
When describing the New Jerusalem, which will come down to earth after the Millennial reign of Christ (Revelation 19-20), St. John conveys that on the new earth, "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there" (Revelation 21:23-25). Revelation 22:5 continues, "There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever." From God, light emanates, and this light will be our light in the ages to come. In fact, the fact that God is light is the very reason why, without an infinite being supplying the infinite payment for our sins, we cannot enter God's presence. This is echoed in 1st Timothy 6:16, which notes that God lives "in an unapproachable light." This is also why it was considered death to see God the Father in the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 33:18-23; Judges 13:22).

As a result, only God the Son could appear to man. The appearances of Christ pre-incarnate are known as Christophanies, and was known as the "angel" (messenger) of the Lord in the Hebrew Bible. In fact, it is Jesus who speaks to Moses through the burning bush in Exodus 3. Exodus 3:2 states that the "angel of the LORD" appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and declared Himself to be God (3:5-12), and declared that "I AM WHO I AM" (3:14), a statement echoed by Jesus in the gospels as recorded seven times, most notably in John 8:58, where Jesus claimed to be the great "I AM." The Jewish listeners evidently understood it to be blasphemy to claim to be "I AM," a sin which the prophet Isaiah records that Babylon committed (Isaiah 47:8, 10). In Judges 2:1, the angel (messenger) of the Lord again declares that it was He who led the Israelites out of Egypt. Jesus, claiming to be God in many direct and indirect ways, was evidently indirectly claiming to be the person of the Trinity who spoke through the burning bush to Moses, as the messenger of the Lord appears in the flesh throughout the Hebrew Bible, and it seems as if God the Father and God the Spirit do not physically appear, unless an individual is taken to heaven (cf. Isaiah 6; Daniel 7). Further, some early manuscripts of Jude (written c.AD 70-80) say, "Though you already know this, I want to remind you that Jesus at one time delivered his people out of Egypt" (Jude 5).

Clearly, light is highly important both physically and spiritually. God is called light, God created physical light, Christians are to be the light of the world reflecting Christ, and the Father dwells in an unapproachable light - unapproachable for us due to our sin, which is why the payment of Jesus, the infinite God, is required. Physical light itself is very fascinating, offering us a glimpse into the wonders of God and the enduring mysteries surrounding His glory. Concerning the birth of Jesus, when an angel appeared to the shepherds living out in the fields near Bethlehem tending to their sheep, "the glory of the Lord shone around them" (Luke 2:9) and a special star (or light) led wise men to where Jesus was living (Matthew 2). Jesus Himself was probably born at night, as the first to hear of the Messiah's birth were shepherds watching their flocks "at night" (2:8). As such, the light of the world was, appropriately, born into darkness, for the purpose of bringing the world out of darkness and into the light. John 3:19-21 conveys, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. All those who do evil hate the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But those who live by the truth come into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God."

The Truth Ministries would like to thank you for taking the time to read this article of "The Truth." Feel free to email us at vexx801@yahoo.com or thetruth.ministryweb@gmail.com, visit our facebook page, or visit our ministry website.  It is the mission of this ministry to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2nd Corinthians 10:5). We understand that many will disagree with our position, our claims and our ministry, and we recognize the individual's right to believe what he or she wills, and that some will disagree on our position regarding this particular topic. However, understand that we stand firm upon the Bible as God's Word, which we believe to be historically accurate and reliable, and hold to our conviction that this conclusion was arrived at based on what His Word tells us, and through a Biblical worldview, and hope that if you have not already, will come to faith in Jesus. Take care, and God bless you reader. Troy Hillman 

Sources
[1] Soccio, Douglas J. Archetypes of Wisdom. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2010. 137-139. Print.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] "What did Jesus mean when He said 'I am the Light of the World' (John 8:12)?." Got Questions.org. Got Questions Network, n.d. Web. 26 Dec 2011.
[6] Grigg, Russell. "Light, life and the glory of God." Creation Ministries International. Creation Ministries International, n.d. Web. 26 Dec 2011.

[7] "Light." WebBible Encyclopedia. Christian Answers Network, n.d. Web. 26 Dec 2011.

Thursday, December 22

The Reasons for the Virgin Birth

According to Isaiah 7:14, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (TNIV). Matthew, a tax collector (Matthew 10:3) recorded an angel speaking a man named Joseph. The angel told Joseph that the girl he was pledged to marry would "give birth to a son... Jesus, [who] will save his people from their sins. Matthew goes on to establish that all of this took place to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah. In the previous article, objections to the virgin birth were reviewed. The purpose of this article is to establish the theological reasons why Jesus was born of a virgin, and the examine the relevant passages in Scripture. Our primary sources concerning the conception and birth of Jesus Christ are from the gospel of Matthew and the gospel of Luke. The account of His birth may be briefly referred to elsewhere in the New Testament (secondary sources), but most of the information we have concerning His birth comes from Matthew and Dr. Luke. (Photo credit: Originally from Guido Reni, "The Annunciation," 1621, retrieved from MWW; Originally from Fra Angelico, "La Anunciacion," 1430-32, retrieved from WikiCommons).

Belief in the virgin birth of Jesus is found in the Bible. As aforementioned, the prophet Isaiah wrote about it in his work (c.740-680 BC), as did Matthew in his (AD 40s-60s) and Dr. Luke (AD 37-41 or AD 60-61). It may also be mentioned by St. Paul in Galatians 4:4 (AD 49 or 55 AD), as well as elsewhere in St. Paul's epistles, and Mark's gospel may imply it as may John's, suggesting that the account was known to their audience. But why did Jesus have to be born of a virgin in the first place? Some believe it is because a virgin is a sign of purity in many cultures, others believe it was to show Jesus' divinity and uniqueness as Messiah. Both reasons are good reasons, but could there be other theological reasons that go deeper into God's Word? A good place to begin is in Isaiah's work. Many believe that Isaiah was written later, due to supposed changes in writing style and due to the fact that many of Isaiah's prophecies were fulfilled when the Israelites were captured by the Babylonians and later released by Cyrus, who is mentioned by name in Isaiah's prophecies. As there is a specific prophecy down to the detail of the name, non-Christians - and even some Christians - believe that Isaiah had to have been written after those events were fulfilled.

From Guido Reni (1621)
However, writing style is due to change over time. If an individual took the quality and style of my writing and compared it to articles written at the beginning of my writing career, there would be a noticeable difference in the quality of writing and the overall wording, in all likelihood. As for the detailed prophecies in Isaiah as well as other Hebrew Bible books, if God exists, and if God spoke through men to record His prophecies, we would expect details to arise! For a Christian to deny that God could do such a thing is rather interesting - if the Creator could create ex nihilo, and by simply speaking (Genesis 1:3; Psalm 33:6, 9), then of course there is no problem for the one who has declared "the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come" (Isaiah 45:10) to speak through his prophets to record details about an event that would not occur for another few hundred years. Even if an individual does not accept an earlier dating for the book of Isaiah, the oldest surviving manuscripts of Isaiah have been found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in the mid-1900's. Twenty one copies of the Isaiah scroll were found in Qumran, which date back about a century before Christ.

Given that the prophecies which refer to Jesus are found within the Isaiah scroll, and we have surviving manuscripts dating from before His birth, they ought to be considered and taken seriously. Having discussed the book itself, it follows that the relevant passage should again be reviewed. Isaiah 7:14 says, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel." Immanuel ('Immanuw'el, proper masculine noun) means "God with us," and appears in Isaiah 7:14 and 8:8. It is generally interpreted by Christians as the symbolic and prophetic name for Jesus Christ, considered a prophecy of the virgin birth of Jesus. But some have raised objections to the word used for "virgin." How does Matthew quote the passage? Matthew 1:22-23 says, "All this took place to fulfill what was said through the prophet: 'The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' (which means 'God with us')." Evidently, Matthew quoted it using the virgin form of the word, and intended for the usage to be virgin.

Yet some have claimed that the word used for virgin actually means young woman. In all actuality, yes, the word can mean young woman. This was claimed by the Ebionites and other Gnostic sects, but no body of early Christians are known to have not accepted part of their faith as the virgin birth. Now, the Hebrew word used is 'almah, a feminine noun. The claim is that, since 'almah can also mean young woman, it is therefore not a valid prophecy concerning Jesus' birth. However, while its inherent meaning is young woman, it can also mean virgin, and young unmarried women in the ancient Hebrew society were generally assumed to be virgins. "Again, though, the word does not necessarily imply virginity. 'Almah' occurs seven times in the Hebrew Scriptures (Genesis 24:43; Exodus 2:8; Psalm 68:25; Proverbs 30:19; Song of Solomon 1:3; 6:8; Isaiah 7:14). None of these instances demands the meaning 'virgin,' but neither do they deny the possible meaning of 'virgin.' There is no conclusive argument for 'almah' in Isaiah 7:14 being either 'young woman' or 'virgin.' However, it is interesting to note, that in the 3rd century B.C., when a panel of Hebrew scholars and Jewish rabbis began the process of translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, they used the specific Greek word for virgin, 'parthenos,' not the more generic Greek word for 'young woman.' The Septuagint translators, 200+ years before the birth of Christ, and with no inherent belief in a 'virgin birth,' translated 'almah' in Isaiah 7:14 as 'virgin,' not 'young woman.' This gives evidence that 'virgin' is a possible, even likely, meaning of the term."[1]

Also, as pointed out by R. Laird Harris, "There is no instance where it can be proved that 'alma designates a young woman who is not a virgin. The fact of virginity is obvious in Gen 24:43 where 'alma is used of one who was being sought as a bride for Isaac."[2] Taken in context, however, it is true that Isaiah 7:14 is a prophecy directed at King Ahaz, who was fearful that the Aramites and Israelites would not conquer Jerusalem. Isaiah approached Ahaz with this prophecy, part of a longer prophecy, which meant that within a few years’ time, the two lands would be destroyed (7:15). In that context, it could mean young woman. However, in the context that it is quoted by the apostle Matthew, under the inspiration of God the Spirit, he clearly was referring to the virgin birth of Jesus. In this way, Isaiah 7:14 is understood to be what we call a "double prophecy" - a prophecy referring to two separate situations, one with King Ahaz and the crisis at hand, and the other with the miraculous birth of Jesus to Mary. This is also evident in Dr. Luke's account, which says:

"In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, 'Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.' Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be" (Luke 1:26-29). From Mary's perspective, she was troubled because angels, God's messengers, had not appeared to man for over four centuries. Since the time of Zechariah, God had not spoken, nor had angels appeared, as is recognized in the non-canonical Apocryphal works written during that time known as the inter-testamental period. For Mary, having an angel appear to her, a young female in 1st-century Nazareth in Galilee, clearly she had good reason to be troubled and wonder why the angel had come to her. Dr. Luke's record continues, "But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end" (Luke 1:30-33).

By this point, Mary was likely trembling, having just been told that she, a virgin, would conceive and give birth to a Son, who would be the promised savior of mankind. She had probably heard of this promised Messiah more than once. In those days, while reading would occur in the synagogue, more often than not the accounts recorded in the Hebrew Bible were repeated orally among the Israelites, so they would have been familiar with the Messiah. However, recognizing that for a child to be born, just as we do today, there had to be a male and female engaged in sexual relations, Mary asked the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" (1:34). "The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.' 'I am the Lord's servant,' Mary answered. 'May it be to me according to your word.' Then the angel left her" (Luke 1:35-38).

From Dr. Luke's record of the conversation between Mary and Gabriel, we can glean that Jesus had to come into the world for several reasons, the main reason being that He had to save us from our sins, the infinite being paying for the sins of mankind. As our sins require an infinite payment, and we are finite, imperfect beings, only a perfect, infinite being would be able to pay for all of the past, present and future sins of humanity. This is why Christ came into the world - to save us. As of yet, however, this still does not explain why Jesus had to be born of a virgin. Certainly, the virgin birth came about through a virginal conception. Contrary to the teachings of particular religions, such as Mormonism, Jesus was born of a virgin, and not because Mary had sex with God. In Mormonism, Jesus is just another spirit brother of Satan, and also our spirit brother. Jesus, Satan, and all of mankind are the offspring of God the Father and a Mother goddess, who are themselves offspring of other gods on other planets.[3-13] This is an unbiblical teaching, clearly taught against in Scripture. While certain Mormon doctrine teaches that Jesus' conception and birth, other doctrine clearly teaches that Jesus was born as a result of physical contact between God and Mary. This is not what God's Word says. One way to think of the conception of Jesus is akin to Star Trek's transporter technology. It is as if God the Son simply "beamed down" into Mary's womb.

Jesus was not born in sin. He had no sin nature (Hebrews 7:26). The sin nature is seemingly passed down from generation to generation through the father (Romans 5:12, 17, 19), or so it seems (there is disagreement among Christians) which is one of the purposes that Jesus' conception and birth was through a virgin. Being born of a woman, with no biological male parent, the virgin birth effectively allowed that there was no transmission of sin nature, enabling the infinite being, the eternal God, to become the perfect man to die for our sins. Genes can exist without sin nature, as Adam was sinless before he chose to disobey God, but sin nature is not confined to merely the material, as Satan and his angels also sinned. Regardless, the Bible is clear that Jesus was without sin, which allowed Him, the infinite and perfect being, to become the payment for our sins. Another reason for the virgin conception and birth is due to Jeconiah's actions in the Hebrew Bible.

According to Bodie Hodge, "One of the main reasons Matthew is recording Joseph's lineage is due to Jeconiah (variant spellings: Jechonias, Jehoiakim). He is listed in Matthew 1:11. Because of Jeconiah's actions, a prophecy came down from God that none of his descendants would ever sit on the throne of David. Jesus, who forever sits on this throne, could not have been a physical descendant of Jeconiah (Jeremiah 22:30). A virgin birth would obviously prevent this. This indicates that Matthew's genealogy is Joseph's, and this confirms the significance of the feminine verbiage. When Matthew mentioned Joseph's wife, Mary, at the end of the genealogical list, he used the feminine form of the parent of Jesus. This reveals that Jesus was indeed Mary's son and not Joseph's."[14] Matthew recorded Joseph's lineage, whereas Dr. Luke recorded Mary's lineage, but credited Joseph as being the son of Mary's parents due to the customs of the day. By being born not of Joseph but of Mary, this still enabled Jesus to be born as a descendant of King David as prophesied (2nd Samuel 7:14-16), and at the same time it prevented Him of being born as a descendant of Jeconiah. This is another purpose, or reason, why Jesus had to be born of a virgin.

Another important reason that Jesus was born of a virgin was to fulfill the promise made to Eve a few thousand years before the birth of Jesus. Amidst all of the sadness that Adam and Eve were likely enduring after they disobeyed a direct command of the Creator, God gave Eve a promise. It is found in Genesis 3:15, which mentions the seed of a woman, which Isaiah further speaks about during his life as "the virgin," implying a specific woman. This promised seed was also mentioned in a promise to Abraham. The passage, Genesis 3:15, states, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel" (NIV). The word used for offspring is also translated as seed. The Jewish Targums, which are Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew Bible from the last few centuries before Christ and put in written form approximately AD 500, also interpreted this passage to mean that the seed in this verse is referring to the Messiah.[15] This is where the Talmudic expression of "heels of the Messiah" comes from.[16] It is interesting that this verse refers to the Messiah, who would be Jesus, as the seed of a woman, as opposed to the typical practice of naming the father, instead of the mother of the child (cf. Genesis 5, 11; 1st Chronicles 1-9).

Extracted from La Anunciacion (1430-32)
This passage, called the protevangelion - the first gospel - is the first to convey hope of a Savior in the midst of turmoil. To note, "The pronoun hû’ (he will crush your head (NIV), it shall bruise thy head (KJV)) can be translated 'he', 'it' or 'they'. A feminine pronoun ('she') would have the consonants hî’. The Septuagint (LXX) translated the pronoun hû’ as αὐτὸς (autos), although the antecedent σπέρματος (spermatos) is grammatically neuter. This suggests that the LXX translators had a messianic understanding of the passage. The Latin Vulgate mistranslates hû’ as ipsa ('she'), which is followed by the Roman Catholic Douay-Rheims English translation of the Bible. Some Roman Catholics use this to teach that Mary would crush the serpent’s head. Their main justification is that some Hebrew manuscripts pointed the consonants of hû’ (הוא) to pronounce the word in the feminine way. However, basing dogma on rare vowel-pointing (which is uninspired anyway) is unwise."[17] Grammatically speaking, it appears to be speaking of a Savior. Hence, another reason why Jesus was born of woman (the virgin birth) was the fulfill a promise to Eve, our ancestor. 

Subsequently, in the original Hebrew, Genesis 4:1 contains an interesting statement by following Cain's birth, "I have gotten a man: YHWH", or, as put by Martin Luther, "I have received a man, namely Jehovah."[18] "The Hebrew Christian scholar, Dr Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, supports this interpretation by pointing out that the word YHWH is preceded by the untranslated accusative particle ’et, which marks the object of the verb, in this case 'gotten'. The Jerusalem Targum reads: 'I have gotten a man: the angel of Jehovah', while the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan says: I have gotten for a man the angel of Jehovah'. He believes that Eve’s actual statement shows that she understood that the seed would be both God and man, but she was grossly mistaken in believing that Cain was the seed in question. The Midrash Rabbah also cites Rabbi Akiba admitting that the Hebrew construction would seem to imply that Eve thought she was begetting YHWH, which created interpretive difficulties for them, so the translation 'with the help of the LORD' is required—as the NASB also renders it. Hamilton defends the translation 'I have acquired a man from Yahweh', which is essentially the same as the KJV, and does not appear to support the above alternative translation 'with the help of the LORD.'"[19]

If this is the case, it means that Eve understood that God's original promise meant that the Messiah would be born through her, and Eve actually took it to mean that she would give birth to the child, YHWH. This is also significant, because it implies that Adam and Eve had a vague understanding that they needed God to make a payment for their sins. While the notion that Eve understood God's promise to mean that the Messiah would be born through her in some way (her descendants) is not a reason for the virgin birth, it is nevertheless useful in providing further insight into what Adam and Eve thought of what God said. Clearly, there are numerous reasons for the virginal conception and birth of Jesus, some practical (virginity generally symbolizes purity), some of them prophetic (fulfillment of God's promise to Eve and Isaiah's prophecy), some of them due to the actions of individuals (such as Jeconiah), and some of them theological (sin nature, though debated among Christians). Nevertheless, while there are various reasons for the birth of Jesus, we must not lose focus of why Jesus came in the first place, "taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:7-8). Jesus, who is God, left His heavenly throne, and to save us, "God made him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2nd Corinthians 5:21).

The Truth Ministries would like to thank you for taking the time to read this article of "The Truth." Feel free to email us at vexx801@yahoo.com or thetruth.ministryweb@gmail.com, visit our facebook page, or visit our ministry website.  It is the mission of this ministry to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2nd Corinthians 10:5). We understand that many will disagree with our position, our claims and our ministry, and we recognize the individual's right to believe what he or she wills, and that some will disagree on our position regarding this particular topic. However, understand that we stand firm upon the Bible as God's Word, which we believe to be historically accurate and reliable, and hold to our conviction that this conclusion was arrived at based on what His Word tells us, and through a Biblical worldview, and hope that if you have not already, will come to faith in Jesus. Take care, and God bless you reader. Troy Hillman

Sources:
[1] "Is 'virgin' or 'young woman' the correct translation of Isaiah 7:14?." Got Questions.org. Got Questions Network, n.d. Web. 22 Dec 2011.
[2] R. Laird Harris, et al.. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody Publishers, 2003. 672. Print.
[3] Mormon Doctrine, 192. Print.
[4] Ibid, 163.
[5] Ibid, 321.
[6] Smith, Joseph. Times and Seasons, vol. 5, 613-614. Print.
[7] Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, 345. Print.
[8] Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, 333. Print.
[9] Smith, Joseph. History of the Church, vol. 6, 476. Print.
[10] Kimball, Heber C.. Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, 19. Print.
[11]  Hunter, Milton. First Council of the Seventy, Gospel through the Ages, 104-105. Print.
[12] Talmage, James. Articles of Faith. 443. Print.
[13] Ibid, [3]. 516.
[14] Ham, Ken, and Bodie Hodge. Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions. 2nd ed. 1. Green Forest, Arkansas: Master Books, 2011. 107. Print.
[15] Bruce, F.F.. The Books and the Parchments. Fleming H. Revell Co., 1963. 133. Print.
[16] Fruchtenbaum, A.G. Apologia 2(3):54–58, 1993. Print.
[17] Sarfati, Jonathan. "The Virginal Conception of Christ." Creation Ministries International. Creation Ministries International, 11 April 1994. Web. 22 Dec 2011.
[18] Hamilton, Victor P.. The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1–17. R.K. Harrison, Gen. Ed., New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990. 221. Print.
[19] Ibid, [17].

Monday, December 19

Objections To The Virgin Birth

The word "virgin" is found thirty-three times in the King James Version of the Bible, 41 times in the New International Version, and 50 times in the New American Standard version. In Hebrew, it is translated from the words almah and bethuwlah, in Greek it is translated from the word parthenos. A virgin is defined as "a person who has never had sexual intercourse."[1] Isaiah 23:12 refers to the Zidonites (or Sidonites) figuratively as a "virgin," with Jeremiah 18:13 referring to Israel as a virgin who has gone astray. Perhaps the most controversial usage of this word in biblical terms is when it is applied to the nature of the conception and birth of Jesus of Nazareth, born c.6-4 BC. Objections are raised about the scientific "impossibility" of the virgin birth by Mary, the silence of other New Testament authors on the subject, the alleged borrowing of pagan mythology, as well as objections regarding historical support. This is not intended to be an in-depth examination of every objection made toward the virgin birth of Christ, but is meant to examine said objections in an overview. (Photo credit:Gerard van Honthorst, 1622, "Anbetung der Hirten"; Lorenzo Costa, 1490)

To be clear, the virgin birth is the teaching that Jesus Christ of Nazareth was born to Mary, who had, up to that point, not engaged in sexual intercourse, and was therefore a virgin. The child was supernaturally formed in her womb, and no relations transpired between God the Father and Mary. It is important to distinguish the virgin birth from the immaculate conception held in Catholic tradition, which is the teaching that Mary was born without the macula or labes (Latin for stain) of original sin. This is an extrabiblical teaching, and is not found in Scripture. It is important to recognize that there is a difference between the virginal conception (Jesus being supernaturally conceived) and the virgin birth (Jesus being born in Bethlehem to the virgin Mary). Now, as John Simpson accurately points out, "We are not told about the physiology of the incarnation, but simply that it was through the activity of the Spirit that Mary became pregnant.... [the] virgin birth [cannot] be rejected simply because it is a miracle. The supreme miracle is the incarnation itself, and, if we can accept that miracle, there should be no difficulty accepting the means by which God chose to effect it."[2]

There is a common objection that a virgin birth is scientifically impossible. However, if someone makes this claim, they are not only being intellectually dishonest, but scientifically inaccurate. In fact, "Ever since in vitro fertilization and embryonic transfer came on the scene in 1978 (not to mention artificial insemination), it is quite possible for a woman who has never experienced sexual intercourse to give birth. Of course, the Bible makes it clear that it was Almighty God, not some high-paid gynecologist, who worked the details of Jesus' Divine-Human conception."[3] Also, it has been noted that virginal conception can occur where the male and female do not participate in vaginal intercourse, where the semen can fall, if you will, onto the female and in the process of intercourse, the semen enters through the passage which leads from the opening of the vulva to the cervix of the uterus. In this way, no penetration occurs, but an egg can still form. While this is not virginal conception in Biblical terms, it is nevertheless a conception wherein penetration is not included in the relations.

From Gerard van Honthorst (1622)
According to geneticist R.J. Berry, "Genetics has always seemed to be a barrier to belief in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Even if one of Mary's eggs had developed without fertilization (a process called parthenogenesis which happens regularly in some aphids and bees), the resulting child would have been female like her mother. Somehow Jesus must have got a Y-chromosome or he would not have been a male. However, we now know that there are genetic mechanisms by which this could in theory occur. These do not 'explain away' the virgin birth or make it less of a miracle, but they do help us to understand ways in which God might have worked. We have to recognize that if Christ was going to be fully divine, he must somehow be different. If God is going to bring his Son into the world, he could, as it were, have snapped his fingers and produced a full-blown infant. But Christ was fully human as well as fully God. So, we are told, he had a normal mother but a divine father. I have no problems whatever with the virgin birth. To me, this is a theological necessity."[4]

For some, other objections are raised such as, "the ancients were more gullible than we are, and were more ignorant," or "science has disproved miracles." In all actuality, the "ancients" were well aware that children are produced through sexual intercourse between a male and female. This is why Joseph (Matthew 1:19) and Mary (Luke 1:34) questioned the virginal conception, because they were aware that to have a child, sexual intercourse had to have occurred. Also, there are people in antiquity that did not and would not accept miracles, such as the virgin birth and the resurrection. "Conversely, today, all the evolution-biased newspapers promote astrology (horoscopes), and consider the total acceptance of spontaneous generation among the evolutionary establishment despite being disproved by Louis Pasteur. This speaks volumes about modern man’s gullibility!"[5] As for science disproving miracles, this claim is fallacious. Essentially, it is argued that miracles violate laws of nature (or scientific laws), and laws of nature have no exceptions. However, as Jonathan Sarfati comments, "But we only know that scientific laws are universal if we know in advance that reports of miracles are false. In fact the argument is circular. The argument also has a false view of scientific laws—they are descriptive, not prescriptive. The laws do not cause or forbid anything anymore than the outline of a map causes the shape of the coastline. But if God made the heavens and the earth, a Virginal Conception is no trouble for Him."[6]

David Hume (1711-1776), a famous skeptic, is noted for his anti-miracles work. Hume did not believe that the metaphysical realm existed, and as such, in his view, neither did God, Heaven or Hell, or angels. This also meant that miracles were impossible. In a debate between William Lane Craig, a Christian, and Darwinist Peter Atkins, Atkins challenged Craig with the claim that science could account for everything. Concerning the relevant topic, this would include miracles, and consequently, the virgin conception and birth. Craig denied this claim, going on to say, "I think there are a good number of things that cannot be scientifically proven but we are all rational to accept."[7] Craig then proceeded to cite five examples, as listed in I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist:
  1. "mathematics and logic (science can't prove them because science presupposes them)
  2. metaphysical truths (such as, there are minds that exist other than my own)
  3. ethical judgments (you can't prove by science that the Nazis were evil, because morality is not subject to the scientific method)
  4. aesthetic judgments (the beautiful, like the good, cannot be scientifically proven)
  5. science itself (the belief that the scientific method discovers truth can't be proven by the scientific method itself)"[8]
Indeed, science itself does not actually say anything; it is the scientists who interpret the data. In like manner, as C.S. Lewis has observed, "If a man had no conception of a regular order in nature, then of course he could not notice departures from that order. When the disciples saw Christ walking on the water, they were frightened: they would not have been frightened unless they had known the laws of nature, and known that this was an exception."[9] Miracles are not impossible, but are rare events occurring in time. This is why they are miracles, because they are outside of what we would normally expect to happen. It goes against what we believe we know about the universe, yet in the case of black holes, for example, astronomers have conceded that the way black holes function seems to go against the very laws of nature and somehow appeal to higher laws. Interestingly, in a sample of 1,011 adults, a Harris poll demonstrated that 91% believed that the virgin birth occurred, although the results are over a decade old and have likely changed.[10]

Another objection to the account of the virgin conception and birth is that it is historically unsupported, meaning, outside of Matthew and Luke, no other ancient sources, such as early church fathers, agreed with this doctrine. The claim itself, however, is historically unsupported. In fact, "The doctrine is scriptural and affirmed by early Christians such as Ignatius (d. AD c. 108), Justin Martyr (c. 100 – c. 165), Irenaeus (c. 130 – c. 200), and Tertullian (c. 150 – c. 212)."[11] Also, "The Apostles' Creed, written in the 4th century; the Nicene Creed, adopted at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.; the Athanasian Creed, written about 450 A.D.; the Chalcedon Definition, adopted at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D.; and the Small Catechism of Martin Luther of 1529 A.D. are only a few of the historic creeds that recognize the veracity of the Virgin Birth of Jesus. Only in more modern times have Bible critics begun to try to cast doubt on a doctrinal truth that the Church has long since historically endorsed."[12] It is true, though, that not all early Christians agreed on the doctrine of the virgin conception and birth.

One such teaching is the Virginitas in partu, or the idea that Mary gave birth to Jesus in a way that left her hymen intact and left her free of birth pains. This is derived from the Ascension of Isaiah (late 1st century) and in the late 2nd century work, the Protoevangelium of James.[13] This doctrine was first cited by Clement of Alexandria in the 3rd century, but was rejected by both Tertullian and Origen. Also, this teaching is "inconsistent with Luke’s quotation of 'every male that opens the womb' (2:23). And if the Roman Catholic interpretation of Rev. 12:2 is correct and the woman is Mary, then there are further grounds for rejecting the idea that Mary was free from labour pains."[14] Another variation of the virgin birth doctrine is the idea of Mary's perpetual virginity, or Virginitas post partum. This is not found prior to the Protoevangelium of James. Tertullian also opposed this teaching. In the Catholic tradition, this is motivated by Mary’s statement to Gabriel, 'I know not a man.' (Lk. 1:34). This is interpreted this to mean, 'I have taken a vow never to know a man.' This eisegesis was first suggested by Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 – c. 394), but there are two difficulties here: first, the verb to know (γινώσκω ginōskō) is in the present active indicative, which should not be read as a future intention, and second, she was already betrothed to Joseph (v. 27). Mt. 1:25: '[Joseph] knew her not until she had borne a son' also rules out a sexless marriage—deleting the words after “not” would have been the correct way to teach this."[15]

A third variation of virgin birth is the immaculate conception, mentioned earlier in the article. This refers to Mary's conception, and not Jesus' conception. It is the teaching that Mary was born naturally but was born without sin. This particular teaching was not finalized until 1854 in Rome. However, this contradicts Scripture, in that Mary conceded her need for a Savior (Luke 1:46-47), and also brought a sin offering to the Temple, as evidenced by Luke 2:21-24 (cf. Leviticus 12:6-8 and Romans 3:23). Also, "Smith’s Bible Dictionary points out that there is no trace of this doctrine in the Church Fathers in the first five centuries, and in fact that Mary was criticised by Tertullian, Origen, Basil the Great (329–379) and John Chrysostom (c. 350–407). Some of these criticisms of one who was 'blessed among women' (Lk. 1:42) are very unfair, but the point is that these early Christians clearly did not believe that Mary was sinless. The Roman Catholic scholar Hilda Graef cites critical comments by these fathers, and also points out that Irenaeus taught that she was not free of human faults, and that the great Trinitarian Athanasius (c. 296–373), while not attributing actual sins to her, stated that “bad thoughts” came into her mind. Graef admits that it '… shows that the image of the spotless, perfect, immaculate Virgin had not yet emerged in the minds of the 4th Century fathers'."[16]

In regard to the silence of the New Testament writers apart from Matthew and Dr. Luke's account concerning the miraculous birth of Jesus, there are several plausible answers. The claim goes that St. Paul's epistles and John's gospel do not mention the virgin birth, and therefore, the doctrine was not widely held and is biblically unconvincing. This is an unconvincing argument from the start, as both Paul and John were familiar with the gospel accounts written by Matthew and Dr. Luke , and never refuted or denied what was taught in them. In fact, in one of Paul's letters, Luke 10:7 is quoted, and is called "Scripture" alongside Deuteronomy 25:4 (1st Timothy 5:18). Dr. Luke, a physician (Colossians 4:14), was also a traveling companion of St. Paul's. The second half of Acts, which was also written by Dr. Luke, has been examined by classical scholar and historian Colin Hemer, who identifies over 84 facts in the last 16 chapters, leaving no doubt that Dr. Luke was an eyewitness and faithful historian to these events.[17] If this is the case, why do we expect him to report the birth of Jesus any differently? Put simply, Matthew used the account because it linked to the fulfillment of prophecy (Isaiah 7:14), and Dr. Luke uses it as he showed interest in the life of Mary.

Nevertheless, this does not explain away why the virgin birth is not found elsewhere in the New Testament. St. Paul was "silent" because he saw no reason to correct the narratives. He would have been aware of Dr. Luke's work, as his traveling companion, and as aforementioned, he quotes from Dr. Luke's gospel. There was no reason for Simon Peter, Mark, John, Paul, or others to mention the virgin birth, because it was not relevant to the situational context. By the time the other New Testament documents were written, these teachings were already generally accepted among Christians, so there was no need to rehash the birth narrative. There was a need to continually mention the resurrection, and the events leading up to it as well as the miracles performed by Christ, because as noted by Paul, "if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith" (1st Corinthians 15:14). Paul and other writers were writing more problem-oriented letters, and as such, there was no need to mention something that was not pertinent to the solution. Citing the birth of Christ in an instance where the gifts of the spirit are being mentioned does not aid in the argument, therefore, there was no need to mention the virgin conception and birth. The New Testament was written "in a ‘high context’ setting on which people's background knowledge of events was substantially assumed, as opposed to our ‘low context’ society in which we feel a need to explain everything, every time."[18]

From Lorenzo Costa (1490)
In other words, most early Christians did not cite the virgin birth as evidence for Christianity, as the basic arguments were built upon the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is the same reason we do not find all of Jesus’ miracles referred to time and time again in the New Testament, although there are some miracles mentioned in the gospels that are mentioned more than once. If the virgin birth was cited, it would open more ridicule, and would lead to inevitable comparisons to pagan mythologies, just as we find today. To note, "Paul does use language which implies acceptance of the Virginal Conception. He uses the general Greek verb γίνομαι (ginomai), not γεννάω (gennaō) since ginomai tends to associate the husband in Rom. 1:3, Phil. 2:7, and especially Gal. 4:4, 'God sent forth His Son, coming (γενόμενον genomenon) from a woman.’ By contrast, in 4:23 Ishmael 'was born’ (γεγέννηται gegennētai, from gennaō). Mark has no birth narrative, but he alone of the synoptists quotes objectors saying, 'Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary’ (Mk. 6:3, cf. Mt. 13:55 and Lk. 4:22). Addressing a Jew as his mother’s son was a great insult, implying fornication, so the objectors had probably heard the account of Christ’s conception, and were sceptical. It is also likely from this that Mark was also aware of the account. John also has no birth narrative, but he is aware of rumors of Christ’s illegitimacy when he reports in 8:41 that the Jews declared: ‘We (emphatic pronoun and emphatic position) were not born of fornication.’ This passage as well as Jn. 1:13 and 6:41 f. probably indicate that the evangelist believed in the Virginal Conception."[19]

Yet another popular objection concerning the virgin birth is that it is derived from pagan mythologies. While the notion that events in Jesus' life are borrowed from pagan myths has been examined in articles such as "Is Jesus A Copy Of Pagan Gods?", the idea that Matthew and Dr. Luke borrowed from pagan mythology for the birth narrative is unfounded. Simply because similarities exist does not necessitate borrowing or copying, any more than two similar paintings necessitates that one was copied from the other. The story of "Rhea Silvia, the mother of Romulus and Remus, for example, has her miraculously impregnated by the god Mars. This is a ghastly and crude notion compared to the subtle and miraculous creative power and overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. Most of the alleged source stories similarly have some god assume a human or animal form and impregnate a human woman with some sort of divine seed."[20] In Greek mythology, Zeus (Roman equivalent: Jupiter) fathered Perseus, Herakles (Roman equivalent: Hercules), as well as several other children, and Poseidon fathered Theseus. This idea of pagan mythological borrowing is subject to a number of issues, as pointed out in Sarfati's article, "The Virginal Conception of Christ":

  • "The so-called parallels are not parallels at all! Perseus was not really virginally conceived at all, but was the result of sexual intercourse between the lecherous god Zeus and Danaë. Zeus had previously turned himself into a shower of gold to reach the imprisoned damsel. Zeus also fathered Herakles from Alkmene and Dionysus from Semele. Similarly for attempt to assert that the Resurrection of Christ was plagiarized—the death-rebirth-death cycles in paganism have nothing to do with the once and for all resurrection of Jesus, and the pagan gods didn’t die for our sins. And the Osiris legends have him remaining buried in the ground, while it’s a historical fact that Jesus’ tomb was found empty. Other alleged parallels are just as worthless, so it is pointless for sceptical scholars to multiply examples—zero times a hundred is still zero.
  • The earliest Christians were Jews who abhorred paganism (see Acts 14), so would be the last people to derive Christianity from paganism.
  • The existence of counterfeits does not disprove the real thing. No-one claims that real money can’t exist because there is counterfeit money. In fact, it is only valuable things that are counterfeited— who would want to counterfeit something worthless—so the existence of counterfeits is indirect evidence of the real thing. Of course, Satan wants to counterfeit the Word of God. We should know the real thing (God’s Word, and money too although far less important) so well that we can readily discern counterfeits."[21]
There was an instance in which I debated someone about Jesus having been based off of the Egyptian god Horus. Once it was mentioned that Jesus is a historical figure and that Horus was a mythological figure and not historical, the discussion ended. Unlike the mythical Zeus, Poseidon, Mars and others, Jesus actually existed. It is also important to understand that first century Jews would not simply buy into a Greek or Babylonian myth as a basis for the birth of their long-awaited Messiah. Perhaps a few of these early Christians could have, but certainly not the majority of those who were devout Jews, who changed their views once they understood that Jesus is the Messiah. There are many objections to the virgin birth and conception, which can all be answered to some degree. But it must be recognized that logic and reason can take us only so far, and that there must be a leap of faith involved. The virgin birth of Jesus, a miracle, is an unrepeatable, untestable, and unobservable event to us, and as Christians, some faith is required to accept the New Testament record. This is not blind faith, as we accept the New Testament based on historical, archaeological, textual and other evidence, but it requires faith as the final step. 


Troy Hillman

Sources
[1] "virgin." Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 22 Nov. 2011.
[2] Alexander, David, and Pat Alexander, ed. Zondervan Handbook to the Bible. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1999. 596-597. Print.
[3] Witmer, David E.. "Isn't the virgin birth of Jesus Christ mythological and scientifically impossible?." Christian Answers Network. AIIA Institute, 2001. Web. Nov 2011.
[4] Ibid, [2].
[5] Sarfati, Jonathan. "The Virginal Conception of Christ." Creation Ministries International. Creation Ministries International, 11 April 1994. Web. Nov 2011.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Geisler, Norman L., and Frank Turek. I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. 1st ed. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2004. 126-127. Print.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Witmer, David E.. "Aren’t miracles illogical?." Christian Answers Network. AIIA Institute, 2005. Web. 19 Dec 2011.
[10] Ibid, [3].
[11] Ibid, [5].
[12] Ibid, [3].
[13] Graef, Hilda. Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion 1:34. New York: Sheed and Warde, 1963. Print.
[14] Ibid, [5].
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid, [7], 256-259.
[18] JPH. "Virgin birth: a defense." Tektonics. Tekton Education and Apologetics Ministry, n.d. Web. 19 Dec 2011.
[19] Ibid, [5].
[20] Ibid, [18].
[21] Ibid, [5].