Biblical Proof — the “Virgin Birth” Is a Sham
Revised: 2018 Mar 14
“A thing that is not what it is purported to be”
The anonymous author of the gospel traditionally attributed to Matthew claims that Mary, the mother of Jesus, conceived her child without the aid of a man:
“18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost… 22Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matt. 1:18, 22-23, KJV throughout unless otherwise noted).
The author refers to a prediction made by Isaiah about 700 years earlier:
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, And shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14).
The foregoing is foundational to Christianity and has been all but universally accepted by Christians.
(For the sake of simplicity, the anonymous gospel writer will hereafter be referred to as Matthew.)
Did Isaiah predict a virgin birth?
Since most Christians presuppose the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit, they accept Matthew’s claim without question. Most probably assume there must be a prophecy back in the book of Isaiah that clearly predicts the Virgin Birth of Jesus. It’s doubtful many ever turn back to the Old Testament to determine whether the text actually supports Matthew’s assertion. The following is a summary of the circumstances leading up to Isaiah’s prediction:
- (1-2): Rezin, the king of Syria, and Pekah, the king of Israel (Ephraim) are allied against Ahaz, king of Judah who is very afraid.
- (3-9): Isaiah explains by means of a prophecy from the Lord that Ahaz need not worry because the alliance will not succeed, and Ephraim will eventually cease to be a nation.
- (10-13): Ahaz is told to ask for a sign regarding this promise. However, he is afraid to test God and refuses to ask for a sign.
- (14-16): God gives him a sign anyway: “14Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, And shall call his name Immanuel. 15Butter and honey shall he eat, That he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. 16For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, The land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.”
Nowhere in this passage is there the slightest indication Isaiah was referring to people 700 years into the future. On the contrary, it’s abundantly clear the mother and child mentioned were Isaiah’s contemporaries. However, Matthew thinks the prediction has some kind of double meaning. Some will argue he had the right to interpret the prophecy this way because he was under inspiration. In the following, however, it will quickly become apparent he could not possibly have been divinely inspired.
Matthew clearly defines Mary — she is a woman who conceived a child without the aid of a man. For the woman in Isa. 7:14 to qualify as the forerunner of Mary, she would logically need to be defined precisely the same way. For Matthew’s parallel to be credible, the woman in Isa. 7:14 must also be “a woman who conceived a child without the aid of a man.” However, this creates an enormous problem. It implies the child of the woman in Isaiah was the “Son of God,” equal to Jesus and predating him by 700 years. There is no room in Christianity for such a position. It would mean Christianity is based on the wrong person. Faced with the unacceptable implication of a supernatural conception in Isaiah 7, a Christian might concede the woman must have conceived naturally, i.e., she was impregnated by a man. However, this creates another insurmountable problem: How could she be the forerunner of Mary if she conceived her child naturally just like every other mother in history? Clearly, she could not. So, either way, virgin or not, Matthew’s comparison of Mary to the woman in Isaiah is totally illegitimate. Consequently, for attempting to draw such an absurd parallel, Matthew has utterly shattered his credibility and along with it, any notion his gospel was inspired by God. The Virgin-Birth doctrine is the foundation upon which the entire Christian religion rests. Without it, Christianity collapses and disintegrates into dust.
One extra-Matthean claim
The only other claim of a supernatural conception is found in Luke 1:31-35. Unlike Matthew, Luke does not attempt to support his claim by referencing the Old Testament. There is no mention of a virgin birth anywhere else in the New Testament — not in Mark, John, nor any of the letters of Paul. Popular beliefs regarding the Virgin Birth come almost exclusively from Matthew.
With Christianity’s hopeless predicament now fully exposed, this article could end here. However, there is much more material relevant to the subject. As we proceed, keep in mind that no matter what one might agree or disagree with in the following, the matter has already been settled — the Virgin-Birth doctrine has been exposed as a sham.
“Immanuel” is not Jesus
In reference to Jesus, a beloved Christmas carol begins with the plaintive prayer, “O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.” Probably, most assume the lyrics are solidly based on scripture. However, no such prayer or anything like it exists anywhere in the Bible. Isaiah clearly did predict the birth of a child named “Immanuel,” but as we have seen, the prediction was made in the time of King Ahaz of Judah seven centuries before Jesus, and the birth of the child was a sign the king would witness. The only way the prophecy could be referring to Jesus would be if one were to arbitrarily give it a double meaning, and this is, evidently, what Matthew has done. There is no indication within the text of Isaiah 7 that it should be taken this way. Jews do not believe the prophecy refers to anyone hundreds of years beyond the time of Isaiah. Some will argue, “‘Emmanuel’ means ‘God with us,’ and since Jesus was God, the name must refer to him.” No, it means God was with the Jews during the reign of Ahaz, which simply means they received help from him to deal with their enemies. It does not refer to God appearing on Earth in human form. It never occurs to the vast majority of Christians that they are stuck with yet another embarrassing problem — the child was to be named “Emmanuel.” The angel, Gabriel, commanded Mary to name her child “Jesus” (Luke 1:31). Who refers to Jesus as “Emmanuel?” Nobody. Incidentally, Isa. 9:6 predicts the Messiah would also be known as the “everlasting Father” and “Prince of Peace.” Christians commonly refer to Jesus as the “Prince of Peace,” but wouldn’t dare call him “everlasting Father.”
Two possible definitions of “virgin” — both destroy Christianity
To understand Isaiah’s prediction “a virgin shall conceive,” the word “virgin” must be clearly defined. Christians assume this word refers to a woman who has never experienced sexual intercourse. (I will refer to such a woman as a literal virgin.) Modern Jewish translations do not regard the woman in Isaiah as a literal virgin. There would be no question the intended meaning was literal virgin if the author of Isaiah had used the Hebrew word betulah. (See Gen. 24:16.) However, according to the Masoretic text of the second half of the first millennium CE, he chose “almah,” which can refer to a young, married woman. (See the Jewish Study Bible and Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon.) This is the way Jews understand the term. They believe Isa. 7:14 refers to a young, married woman who conceived her child naturally.
Some might argue Matthew was quoting the Greek Septuagint which is based on older Hebrew texts, and in the Septuagint, the word parthenos definitely does refer to a literal virgin. However, it still does not necessarily imply the woman would be impregnated without a man. To say, “a virgin shall conceive” might be compared to observing a five-year-old girl lovingly caring for her dolls and an adult predicting, “She will be a good mother.” No one would take that to mean the little girl would become a mother at five years of age. Likewise, it’s doubtful the original author of Isa. 7:14 was implying the virgin he was referring to would become pregnant while still a literal virgin. It was Matthew who placed this meaning upon the text. Those who insist on the literal-virgin definition of parthenos are simply trapped in the same untenable position created by the literal-virgin definition of almah — the woman’s child was a Son of God predating Jesus.
So, the dilemma for Christians is once more made clear: Isa. 7:14 absolutely cannot be referring to a literal virgin becoming pregnant, while at the same time, it absolutely must be referring to a literal virgin becoming pregnant. This impasse is irreconcilable. Matthew’s comparison of the woman in Isaiah to Mary is an utter disaster for Christianity regardless of which definition of “virgin” is preferred. It means there is no support for the Virgin-Birth doctrine in the Old Testament which means there is no support for it anywhere. Put another way, Matthew’s comparison is simply bogus, and without the Virgin-Birth doctrine, Christianity is bogus.
Another translation issue: “shall conceive”
Matthew’s use of the future tense, “shall conceive,” was also based on the Septuagint. Both the Brenton and Logos English translations of the Septuagint concur with this rendering. However, the Masoretic Hebrew text uses the past tense. It describes a woman already pregnant and about to give birth before any prediction is made. This strikes another deathblow to Matthew’s comparison to Mary. Most English translations of Isa. 7:14, although based on the Masoretic text, perpetuate the Septuagint’s future tense. However, at least eight other English versions do not:
Tanakh: “Assuredly, my Lord will give you a sign of His own accord! Look, the young woman is with child and about to give birth to a son. Let her name him Immanuel.”
Common English Bible (CEB): “Therefore, the Lord will give you a sign. The young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel.”
Contemporary English Version (CEV): “But the LORD will still give you proof. A virgin is pregnant; she will have a son and will name him Immanuel.”
Easy-to-Read Version (ERV): “The young woman is pregnant and will give birth to a son. She will name him Immanuel.”
Good News Translation (GNT): “Well then, the Lord himself will give you a sign: a young woman who is pregnant will have a son and will name him ‘Immanuel.’”
Lexham English Bible (LEB): “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look! the virgin is with child and she is about to give birth to a son, and she shall call his name ‘God with us.’”
New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE): “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel.”
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV): “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”
According to these translations, Isa. 7:14 does not predict a pregnancy as Matthew claims. It foresees an already conceived child being born male. The boy’s early childhood would signal the destruction of Judah’s enemies during the reign of King Ahaz.
Matthew’s numerous shams
Matthew’s use of Isa. 7:14 is clearly bogus. However, we should not be surprised because the rest of his desperate attempts to associate Jesus with Old Testament passages are equally baseless. All but one are devoid of any allusion to a messiah. (See Matt. 2:14-15, 17-18, 23; 12:15-21, 13:13-15, 34-35; 27:5-10, 35.) The exception is Matt. 21:1-5. It refers to a prophecy in Zech. 9:9 which is commonly understood by Jews to be referring to a future messiah. However, Matthew bungles even this one. His absurd interpretation of Zech. 9:9 is seriously inconsistent with the other gospels. Mark, Luke and John describe the disciples fetching a single donkey colt on which Jesus rides into Jerusalem. (See Mark 11:1-7; Luke 19:29-36; John 12:14-15.) This is consistent with Zech. 9:9. However, Matthew clearly blunders by misunderstanding or misremembering the passage and claims there were two donkeys, a colt and its mother. He is then forced to conclude Jesus must have ridden both. What did Jesus do, switch mounts halfway through town?
What was Matthew thinking?
We must wonder how Matthew could have believed it was legitimate to retrofit Jesus into Old Testament passages that exhibit no signs of having anything to do with a messiah. Assuming the gospel of Matthew was written by a first-century Jew as is commonly claimed, it appears the author may have been well within the norms for his day. William Barclay explains:
“It was a Jewish belief that all Scripture had four meanings—Peshat, which was the simple meaning which could be seen at the first reading; Remaz, which was the suggested meaning and the truth which the passage suggested to the seeking mind; Derush, which was the meaning when all the resources of investigation, linguistic, historical, literary, archaeological, had been brought to bear upon the passage; Sod, which was the inner and allegorical meaning. The initial letters of these words, P R D S, are the consonants of the word PaRaDiSe, and to enter into these three [sic (four?)] meanings was as if to enter into the bliss of Paradise. Now of all the meanings Sod, the inner, mystical meaning was the most important. The Jews were, therefore, skilled in finding inner meanings in Scripture. It was thus not difficult for them to develop a technique of Old Testament interpretation which discovered Jesus Christ all over the Old Testament.”
Perhaps, the foregoing explains why Matthew may have been so willing to place an unnatural meaning on Isa. 7:14. The first three levels of interpretation seem reasonable enough. However, the fourth, “Sod,” is not a method by which any mainstream Christian theologian would presume to interpret scripture today. Nevertheless, Matthew’s apparent use of the Sod method is never questioned by those who presuppose divine inspiration of the Bible. For them, no matter what scripture says, it must be right. However, your author cannot accept such an “allegorical” and “mystical” technique that randomly discovers Jesus “all over the Old Testament.” Ultimately, one must come to the sobering realization that the Virgin-Birth doctrine is supported by nothing more than a ridiculous “off the wall” interpretation of a passage that has nothing whatsoever to do with the conception of Jesus.
- Isaiah’s prediction in Isa. 7:14 regarding “Immanuel” has nothing to do with anything in the New Testament.
- Every last claim Matthew makes regarding New Testament events fulfilling Old Testament passages is bogus.
- The suggestion Matthew had the right to apply a double meaning to Isaiah 7:14 because he was inspired by the Holy Spirit is unbelievable given the parallel he attempts to draw between the woman in Isaiah and Mary fails based on simple logic. Consequently, there is no basis whatsoever for believing in the Virgin-Birth doctrine.
- Without the Virgin-Birth doctrine, Jesus is not the Son of God, and Christianity is all but irrelevant.
Matthew creates a hopeless dilemma. For there to be a legitimate parallel between the woman in Isaiah and Mary, the nature of their pregnancies would have to be the same. However, if one chooses to believe both were supernaturally impregnated, then the child of the woman in Isa. 7:14 was the Son of God, completely delegitimizing Jesus. On the other hand, if neither was supernaturally impregnated, then neither child was the Son of God. Either way, Jesus is delegitimized.
The matter boils down to one question: Did the woman in Isa. 7:14 conceive without a man, yes or no? Christians have no option but to agree the woman could not have been a literal virgin at the point of conception, and since her natural pregnancy could not be the forerunner of a supernatural pregnancy, Matthew’s reference to her as the forerunner of the “Virgin Mary” must be declared bogus, just as all his other desperate attempts to legitimize Jesus through references to the Old Testament are bogus. It is unbelievable God would have inspired such outrageous nonsense and expected intelligent, thinking people to accept it.
Perhaps, Jesus really was born of a virgin. Maybe, he really is the Son of God. However, your author is not going to believe it based on the information provided in the Bible. Christianity’s survival depends on Christians remaining woefully ignorant or intellectually dishonest regarding the Virgin-Birth doctrine. One can scarcely imagine how differently history might have unfolded had Matthew’s bogus Virgin-Birth claim never been made. Unfortunately, when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus during the Christmas season, most are too preoccupied with materialism and overeating to be concerned with any serious reexamination of their cherished beliefs. Consequently, the Matthean Virgin-Birth sham is on track to endure indefinitely.
 William Barclay, The Making of the Bible (London: Cox & Wyman Ltd., 1961), 45.