After over four milleniums, the first promise given to man is fulfilled, and Jesus was born "the seed of the woman" (Genesis 3:15; Matthew 1:1). Paul was very careful to state that when God sent forth His son that He was "made of a woman" (Galatians 4:4) - not of a man and a woman, but only of a woman. Christ is the only babe the world has ever known who did not have a human father. He was divinely conceived. Now, in this analysis, we won't be concerned with the fact, time or place of Christ's birth, but with the manner of it.
God and man became one Person. Human reason rejects the virgin birth as being impossible and as contrary to the natural order of things. But Job could confess, "I know that Thou canst do everything" (42:2). Mary accepted the angel's announcement that apart from natural generation she was to become the mother of our Lord and said, "With God nothing shall be impossible...Be it...according to Thy Word" (Luke 1:37,38). If we try to explain the virgin birth we lose our reason - If we discredit altogether this initial miracle of Christianity we lose our soul, for no one can be a Christian after the New Testament order who totally rejects Christ's birth of a virgin.
What exactly, is meant by a virgin birth? Let me say this, that it DOES NOT mean immaculate conception such as the Roman Catholic Church teaches when it affirms that Mary, herself, was conceived and born without original sin; thus - they reason - Christ was sinless. Nor does it mean a miraculous birth, for there is no evidence, whatsoever, that the process of Christ's birth itself was in any way exceptional - nor was it a supernatural birth merely, for that was true of Issac and of John the Baptist. By the virgin birth we are to understand that, contrary to the course of nature, Jesus was divinely conceived in the womb of Mary, the Holy Spirit becoming the love-knot between our Lord's two natures. In such a conception, deity and humanity were fused together and Jesus came forth as the God-Man.
The Seed Of The Woman
This oldest of all evangelical promises found in Genesis 3:15 predicts in a wonderful way the virgin birth of our Lord. Please notice the specific language used: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed." Her seed! Such a thought as a woman's seed, as stated here, is not found elsewhere in Scripture. Over a hundred times or more, when we read of the seed and seeds, of Abraham's seed, and so forth, it is always the seed of the man. But the seed of the woman is a unique concept, and can only be interpreted as a foreshadowing of the virgin birth. I submit that if our Lord had not been born of a virgin, it would be Adam who would be addressed, and his that would be referred to (Matthew 1:18)." See also Luke 1:55.
And thus, as the time of fulfillment drew near, there were numerous quiet circles, little godly bands, who nourished their hearts on the promises, e.g. Luke 2:25-38. And it was in these faithful hearts that the stirrings of the prophetic spirits began to make themselves felt anew, preparing for the First Advent of our Lord - Luke 2:27-36.
Coming now to the clearer testimony of the New Testament, we consider, first of all, the witness of the angels, who were the first heralds of our Lord's virgin birth. There are three angelic appearances recorded in Matthew and Luke; or shall we say, three annunciations?
By the historic witness we mean the evidence of the virgin birth as we have it from the lips of those who knew Joseph and Mary. Here we again turn to Matthew and Luke. What do we find here? Well, what we find is there is abundant witness to the genuiness of our Lord's wonderful birth.
How did Matthew and Luke come to know thte facts of Mary's conception and Joseph's perplexity? Such facts were surely sacred and secret, and could only come from Mary and Joseph themselves.
Matthew received the account of the birth from Joseph, and this is why Mattew's gospel gives the birth from Joseph's standpoint.
Luke, on the other hand, received his facts from Mary, and being a beloved physician, who understands the extreme propriety of the question, we are not suprised at the marvelous beauty and accuracy of description as he tells us every small detail that we need to know, and advancing nothing that does not concern us."
The Silence Of Mark and John
As these two disciples were contemporaries of Matthew and Luke, it may be found helpful to add a word under this historical point regarding their silence in connection with the virgin birth. This silence is a great stumbling block to the modern critics, and yet its explanation is very simple.
There is another explanation for the supposed silence of Mark and John, an explanation that critics are often blind to, and that is the bearing in mind of the scope or design of such. Why, it is impossible to study any part of the Bible aright without understanding, first of all, the purpose of the Book before one.
What is the purpose of Mark's gospel? Well, he sets out to relate the events of Christ's public ministry, beginning at the baptism in His thirtieth year. Mark's endeavor is to portray our Lord as "The Servant" - and who is concerned about the birth certificate of a servant, so long as the servant's character is good, and his work of the best? W. Kelly says,
But although Mark does not recount the details regarding Christ's birth, yet he is acquainted with all the facts respecting it. And so taking such for granted he begins his gospel abruptly - "The beginnig of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God!" Why the very title, "The Son of God," proves that Mark knew all about the divinity of our Lord's conception!
The beloved disciple of our Lord's (the Apostle John) also had a definite object in writing his gospel. He sets out to narrate the sublime truth that Christ is God as well as man. To the world at large his messsage is - "Behold your God!" And he goes back to the past eternity, and shows how the Lord existed or was coequal and coexistent with the Father from the beginning. The genealogy is excluded from John because Christ is presented as being without all genealogy.
But although he knew the account of Christ's earthly birth, he does not give any details such as Matthew and Luke do. And yet what can we make of a passage like John 1:14 - "The Word was made (R.V. "became," and please note the different rendering) flesh, and dwelt among us" if there was no such stupendous miracle as the virgin birth?
The apparent silence of the Apostle Paul regarding the virgin birth is sometimes used by the critics to disprove the truth of it. We are told that he did not base his preaching of his gospel upon private, interior matters, such as the virgin birth narratives give, but upon the broad, public facts of Christ's ministry, death and Resurreection. And yet it must be evident to all honest readers that Paul was full acquainted with the mystery of our Lord's birth. For example -
When Jesus left the bosom of the Father, He voluntarily chose the path of humiliation. The sovereign choice of love, as well as man's need of a Savior, led Him to turn His back upon heaven's glory for a cross of shame. Throughout His life there was the conscious restraint of many of His divine powers, that He might be seen as a true "Man of Sorrows." Although rich, for our sakes He became poor, that through His self-imposed poverty we might be rich (II Corinthians 8:9). May grace be ours to emulate the supreme example of humility!
Kelly, Wm., God's Inspiration of Scripture, T. Weston, London.
Dr. Lockyer, Herbert R.S.L., F.R.G.S.; All The Doctrines Of The Bible - A Study and Analysis of Major Bible Doctrines; Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI