The virgin birth is one of the most attacked miracles regarding Jesus. These attacks generally fall into two categories: they either attack the idea of the virgin birth or the translation of the word “virgin.”
To many people these days, being born of a virgin sounds a little too much like the origin of a superhero. They think of it as nothing more than a legend. But the idea sounded just as bizarre to Mary. According to Luke 1:34 when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God she replied, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?” The fact the Luke calls her a virgin twice in verse 27 helps set the stage for Mary’s skeptical reaction. And Matthew 1:18 tells us the same thing: Mary had not had the kind of relationship that would leave her pregnant.
However, Gabriel’s response to Mary is very telling: “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Lk 1:37). The people who reject the virgin birth do so because they don’t think miracles are possible. To them, Jesus was not God, He was just a good teacher. But the evidence for the resurrection and the arguments for the existence of God give us excellent reasons to think God exists and Jesus was God incarnate. And if there are excellent reasons to think God exists then miracles are possible. To reject the possibility of miracles is simply an anti-supernatural bias.
The other way of attacking the virgin birth is to attack the translation of the word “virgin.” Matthew 1:22 claims the virgin birth took place to fulfill the prophecy found in Isaiah 7:14. And in verse 23, Matthew quotes the prophecy as saying, “…the virgin will become pregnant…” The question is: Did the word Isaiah used mean virgin? Hebrew has a specific word for “virgin,” but Isaiah didn’t use it. Instead he used a word meaning “young woman.” Virginity is often a part of what this word means, but not necessarily. The argument is that Matthew is making Isaiah say something he didn’t mean.
But this argument fails because Matthew is quoting from the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and the word used there specifically means virgin. The Greek translation was made by Jewish scholars about 250 years before Jesus was born. They knew what tradition said Isaiah meant by the term and translated it “virgin.” Matthew’s use of virgin is an accurate translation.
Lastly, the virgin birth provides a way for us to connect some dots. If Jesus came to die for the sins of His people (Mt 1:21), He would have to be sinless. To be a proper sacrifice He would also have to be fully human to fulfill the law perfectly. And to be able to pay for sin he would have to be fully divine. The virgin birth provides a way for a fully divine Jesus to be born fully human but without inheriting a sinful nature from Adam’s fall.
Doug Powell holds a Masters in Apologetics from Biola University. He is the author of the Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics, a contributor to The Apologetics Study Bible, The Apologetics Study Bible for Students, and Modern Reformation magazine. In addition to writing, Doug is a recording artist with nine records to his credit, a speaker on apologetics topics, author of the iPad appResurrection iWitness, and is the Art Director for Apologia. He has appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, CNN, NPR, World Cafe, Prime Time America, The White Horse Inn, and Sound Rezn. His new book, Resurrection iWitness, will be published in March by B&H.
*Article used by permission of B&H Publishing. This article originally appeared in the Apologetics Study Bible for Students.