Did Jesus Have to be Born of a Virgin?
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Search the Scriptures Daily Program #1403a:
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures Daily, a radio ministry of The Berean Call, featuring Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. It’s good to have you join us! Coming up in this week’s broadcast, in our Understanding the Scriptures segment, Dave and Tom will resume their exploration of the Gospel of John, and “Will We Ever See God?” In Religion in the News, “The Pope Is Pleased with Potter” —we’ll take a look at that story, and examine the question “Is There Anything Miraculous About Rainbows?” We hope you can stay with us.
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Now, this week’s cover article. We continue with our series of discussions based on Dave Hunt’s book from Harvest House, with installment number 86 of In Defense of the Faith, and along with Dave Hunt, here’s T. A. McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.
If you’re a new listener to our program, we’re going through Dave Hunt’s book In Defense of the Faith, and we’re in chapter 11—beginning chapter 11—only a chapter or two left, Dave. I think there’s 12—how many chapters, do you know?
Dave: [chuckling] I don’t know. I can’t remember.
Tom: Dave, how is it? You can’t remember things about your book. How many books have you written now?
Dave: Thirty-some…I can’t even remember the titles of them! When you get as old as I am, Tom, you get forgetful.
Tom: But don’t people expect you to know—they’ve just finished your book and, in a lot of cases, now they know it better than you do!
Dave: That’s right.
Tom: I think that’s kind of amazing. I can’t even remember the last conversation I had with somebody. I think it is the age, Dave.
Dave: Anyway, it contains questions that I have been asked over the years, and that come from my files—some from atheists, some from critics; others from sincere seekers, and we are getting near the end.
Tom: Actually, there is one chapter to go. We are beginning chapter 11, and there are 12 chapters in the book. So, I don’t know where we will go from there, but the Lord knows, and we will just trust Him for that.
Dave: We hope the Rapture will have occurred by then, Tom.
Tom: Dave, I hope it occurs before I finish this sentence because it’s a wonderful thing to be in the presence of the Lord forever.
Tom: That would be fantastic. Okay, here’s our first question: “The best argument I know of to discredit Jesus is His statement ‘I am the way...no man comes to the Father but by me.’ There are billions of people alive now and who have lived in the past who have never heard of Christ and Christianity. Are they all damned?”
Dave: Well, Tom, that’s like saying, “The best argument I know of to discredit mathematics is the claim that two plus two is always four. Now that is so narrow-minded and dogmatic.” If there is such a place as heaven, wouldn’t there be a way to get there? Would every way lead to heaven? Every way that some man makes up? You know, the Bible says “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
Tom: Says it twice in Proverbs—it’s an important verse.
Dave: Right. So, the fact that Jesus says He is the only way—what’s wrong with that? I mean, He is the only way. You can’t escape what Jesus said. You can’t escape who He is. He’s a historical figure; this is historical information—so why not only one way? Why not only one solution to a mathematical problem? Why not only one reaction when you put certain chemicals together in a test tube? I mean, wouldn’t it be horrible if you didn’t know what was going to happen! Sometimes it might explode; sometimes it might not. You take a jump and you’re going to dunk a basketball and instead of—you go sailing right on past the basket and get stuck up on the ceiling of the gym—you never knew what was…then suddenly you dropped down, and you never know what’s going to happen next.
No. So, the argument, first of all, is irrational. The idea that we are all taking different roads to get to the same place, just says you’re thumbing your nose at God. Doesn’t God have some opinions about this? Okay, so the question is, Is what Jesus says true? But it certainly isn’t unreasonable. Now, the Bible indicates that everyone is without excuse. Everybody knows that God exists. Everybody knows from the creation of the universe—Romans, chapter 1, Romans, chapter 2. We know in our conscience that we have violated God’s laws.
Now the question is, How is God going to forgive sinners? He can’t just say, “Well, that’s okay.” It’s like some grandparents, you know, or some parents that I see. They tell their child, “Don’t you dare do that again! There are going to be serious consequences.” But then, nothing happens! So you teach them that there are no rules—they can make up their own rules. Is this the kind of a universe that God created? These are moral laws, and if we break them—what kind of a world would this be if every judge that sits on the bench and every court around the world never really executed any sentences? He just always kept saying, “Well, that’s okay. Try again; be a good boy—be a good girl next time. We’ll give you another chance.” That would be a horrible world, and it wouldn’t work and crime would be rampant.
So, God must have a way of forgiving sinners. How is He going to do it if the penalty hasn’t been paid? So I would ask this person who complains in this way, “Did Buddha pay for your sins? Did Confucius pay for your sins? How about Muhammad, Zoroaster, Krishna?” No, nobody did.
Tom: Joseph Smith?
Dave: Yeah, right. Nobody offered to, no one could; so Jesus has a right to say, “I am the way, the truth, the life.” He is God, who became a man. He didn’t cease to be God; He will never cease to be man—He’s the only God/man, and because of who He is, He was able to pay the penalty for our sins. He took the judgment we deserve. Now do you want that, or do you want to pay for it yourself? You can’t pay for it yourself!
You tell the judge, “You let me off this time, I promise I’ll never, ever break the law again.”
The judge says, “You are only doing what the law requires—you don’t get extra credit.”
Look, I do 90 miles an hour through a school zone with children present. I stand before the judge—now how are we going to solve this problem? There is a penalty for this. The judge is just going to let me off? No, he can’t do that. Well, I promise that from now on I’ll always drive with great care and within the speed limit in school zones. Is that going to do it? That won’t do it. I tell him I’ve driven more times within the law in school zones than I have breaking them? That won’t do it. So, the person that is asking this question, somehow, is failing to understand the problem. We have a righteous, holy God. We have broken His laws. Do you think anything goes? You want to pay for this yourself? You want to negotiate with God? You don’t negotiate with God!
So Tom, it’s irrational to begin with.
Tom: Dave, there’s another part of this that I think about, and I think we all wrestle with, but the answer really is fairly simple, very clear. That is, people think of fairness, “O, this is unfair,” you know. “You’re not being fair to all of these people or all of those people,” and so on. But the scripture says, “Shall not the Judge of this earth do right?” There are many, many scriptures that talk about His justice, and I know one of the things that we have discussed on our programs before is that God has many qualities, attributes, but they all have to be perfect, or they’re not God’s attributes. And one of them is justice, just as you have been saying. We have a sense of fairness. God has to be absolutely fair. God is going to judge rightly. He’s going to judge righteously. And He backs that up by another characteristic that you’ve just been alluding to, and that is His love. Because, what this person is saying is that if you don’t come to Christ, then you’re lost.
Dave: Yeah, he’s saying that there are millions and billions of people who never heard of Jesus Christ, so why should they be lost? But they know, first of all, in their conscience that they are sinners—everybody knows that. They know in their conscience, from the universe, Romans, chapter 1 and Romans, chapter 2 lays this out very clearly and we know it. In our conscience we know this. We know it from our experience! God exists.
Now a person who rejects the witness of creation, and they reject the witness of conscience, and they know that they have sinned—they know that there’s no way you can pacify God. You don’t talk about pacifying God; you don’t talk about appeasing God. It’s a matter of justice, okay?
They reject that—the witness of creation and the witness of their conscience—and they go on their way, regardless. Well, God is not obligated to see that they hear about Jesus Christ because they would reject Jesus Christ. Furthermore, in a sense, it may be better for them that they don’t hear about Jesus Christ because at least they wouldn’t be judged for that. We are judged according to the light that we have.
Then, as you were saying, God is absolutely fair. He loves us. I have the conviction, I am sure, that no matter who it is, anywhere, at any time, any culture, and any time in history, if they are willing, if they would believe, God will get the message to them somehow. Abraham—Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day and was glad.”
Tom: Now his background, for those who maybe are not familiar with Abraham—we’re talking Babylon; we’re talking a pagan to the max! Even when they left, they took some of their idols with them, those who were part of Abraham’s group.
Dave: So, God can get the message to anyone, anywhere, at any time. He sent an angel to Cornelius in Acts, chapter 10. Cornelius was a Roman Centurion, and the angel told him to send someone to Joppa to call Peter to come and tell him the gospel. Well, He can do that with anyone, anywhere, at any time.
So, there is no case of saying, “Well, these people are ignorant, they are innocent.” The Bible says the Word of God has gone out everywhere, and we all know, and we are all without excuse. So, the very basis of the question is that some people are innocent, that they don’t know—that’s not rational and it’s not biblical.
Tom: Dave, let me push this a little further, okay? What must I do to be saved? I’m asking that question in terms of—sometimes we think that there are people who really don’t know and don’t understand or never had a clue, but as you go through the Old Testament, I believe that the Book of Job may be one of the earliest books. He was at the time of, probably Abraham, or maybe even a little before—I’m not positive about that. But my point is, look what he knew; look what he understood! Whether it would have been the oral tradition of it being passed down or things that were practiced—we don’t know how God intervened with prophets, people that God had raised up for the time to continue the message.
My point is that Job understood—what did he say? “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” He had an understanding and an insight that we go, Wow! He didn’t have the New Testament and those teachings.
Dave: How about Melchizedek? Here was a man that—he seems to have known plenty, and he took bread and wine, and Abraham brought tithes to him. And this was a man who, obviously, knew the gospel, who knew the truth. So I think this is an invalid question: “There are people all over who don’t know” —no, they know. Everybody knows.
Tom: Well, the next question deals with a particular doctrine—some would call it a point of orthodoxy. Well, let me read it to you: “The virgin birth of Jesus is presented as one of the cornerstones of Christianity. I don’t see why this is essential. My pastor says that the Bible doesn’t even teach it. The Hebrew word, alma, translated “virgin” in most Christian Bibles, really means, “young woman.” Is he right?
Dave: Well, it means “unmarried woman” — a maiden, and an unmarried woman was a virgin. If she was not, she was stoned. It’s that simple. Now, if you want to go back in time and get an authoritative understanding of it, let’s go back to the Septuagint, the Greek Septuagint. It gets its name from—there were 70 Hebrew scholars who knew the Hebrew and also who knew Greek, and they translated the Old Testament from its original Hebrew into Greek. “Septuagint”—70 of them did it—that’s where the name comes from, that’s what—200-and-something BC.
Tom: Right, so prior to the time of Jesus.
Dave: Right. And they translated it “virgin,” so I would say that’s pretty authoritative. Well, why is this essential? Well, look, if Jesus was just an ordinary man—he had a human father as well as a human mother—then the Bible says, “All have sinned.” He would be a sinner. There would be no way that He could be any different from any of the rest of us. He certainly wouldn’t be divine. He wouldn’t be God in human flesh, in human form. Now, you know as a Catholic—
Tom: Former Catholic.
Dave: Yeah, I should have said, “You knew as a Catholic, and you now know as a former Catholic—yeah, let’s get that straight, Tom, thank you. You know what Catholicism teaches about Immaculate Conception, for example. A lot of people think—probably some Catholics, even, but most Protestants— “Immaculate Conception—that’s talking about the virgin birth of Jesus.” Of course, it isn’t. Their argument is, in order for Mary to give birth to a sinless person, the Son of God, she herself would have had to have an immaculate conception, and she must have been sinless all of her life. Well, of course…
Tom: They don’t take it back any farther than that. That’s a problem.
Dave: That’s right, I mean, it’s absurd. Because by the same argument, for Mary to have been without sin and to have had an immaculate conception, that would mean that her parents must have had immaculate conceptions as well, and all the way back to Adam. And if God could keep…. Certainly, Adam and Eve had immaculate conceptions. They weren’t even conceived—they were created by God, but that didn’t keep them from sinning. So, if God could keep Mary from ever sinning, He could have kept Adam and Eve. He could keep everyone, and what’s all this problem about then? Why do we have sin in this world? Why did God—you just talked about God being just and loving—why would He even allow human beings to have sin? Because we have a free will!
And that brings us back to another problem with Calvinism and with Martin Luther, and so forth. We do have the power of choice. So to say that Mary, then, would never have the power of choice? Somehow, she would be a perfect being, but as a human being, and she would never sin? She had an immaculate conception? It doesn’t make sense, okay?
But this had to be a virgin birth because there could be no human father. God is the Father. The Holy Spirit is the One who brought this about. So, Jesus is verily man through Mary, but He is verily God—He is truly God. He’s not half and half; He’s not some kind of a hybrid—but he is fully God and fully man. And if that were not the case, He couldn’t have lived a sinless life.
Now there we have to pause because there we have an argument from people. They say, “Well, Jesus must have been tempted. The Bible says he was tempted in all points like we are yet without sin. So He must have had the same temptation for pornography or homosexuality or fornication or everything else, and He had to struggle with this and grit His teeth….” Simply not true! The word “tempted” there doesn’t mean tempted in that sense. It means the option was before Him—the possibility—but He was tested. He wasn’t drawn to this. In fact, in John 14, Jesus said, “The Prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in me.” He did no sin, He knew no sin, in Him there was no sin, not in His imagination—not one iota of sin because He is God manifest in the flesh.
Somebody says, “Well then, He couldn’t be a real man.” Yes, He is a real man, but He is the God/Man. I don’t know how to explain it, but He had to be who He is according to the Scriptures: virgin born, Son of God, the only begotten Son of God—no one else like Him—in order to pay the penalty for our sins. Because He had to take the judgment that the righteousness of God demanded upon the whole human race. So, you cannot escape the virgin birth.
Tom: Yeah. Dave, also, our natural inclination, because of our natural conception, is toward sin, and that’s what you are saying. He did not have that inclination because He waswithout sin.
There’s another aspect of this I find fascinating. If you go back to the Old Testament in the Kings of Judah, thinking about Jehoiakim and his son, Jeconiah, or Coniah, there was a curse on that. This lineage came from Solomon, and there was a curse put on Coniah, and it said that his seed would not sit on the throne, and when you go back and look at the genealogies and trace them back—if you go back through Joseph, for example, who, some people said, “Oh no, Joseph is the father of Jesus—Joseph and Mary,” and so on. His seed—they had the right to the throne, but because of God’s curse on that lineage, they could never sit on the throne. But Jesus’ lineage, His genealogy, is traced back through Mary, so you have…
Dave: Through Joseph’s father-in-law, Luke, chapter 2.
Tom: Right, and this goes back to Nathan, son of David—so I just think that’s incredible. God could have, again, if it was a natural childbirth through Joseph and Mary, not only is this impossible for it to be with regard to His sinlessness—the sinlessness of Jesus—but in terms of his being King of kings. It couldn’t come about.
Dave: Right. And this brings us to something called the Trinity, which, again, is a controversial subject. How can Jesus be fully God? Well, then people say, well, Jesus—if He’s God…” —and He had to be God because all through the Old Testament, Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Lord of hosts says, “I am the only Saviour,” Isaiah 9:6 makes it very clear. “Unto us a child is born”—that’s the babe born in Bethlehem; “unto us a Son is given”—eternal Son of God; “his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father,” okay? So the babe born in Bethlehem had to be, as Jesus said, “I and my Father are One.”
“Emmanuel,” Isaiah 7:14, to which you alluded—“God with us,” all right? So, when Jesus dies on the Cross, if He’s God, who is running the universe when He’s dead? Well, of course, death does not mean unconsciousness. Even the ungodly—“the rich man in hell lift up his eyes, being in torment.” He sees Lazarus afar off in Abraham’s bosom, and he talks to him, and so forth.
So, Jesus being dead, would still be conscious. But the Father didn’t die, the Holy Spirit didn’t die—it was the Son of God who died, and He took the penalty for our sins. But it was the Father who laid that penalty upon Him. “It pleased Yahweh, it pleased Jehovah, to bruise him,” and Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me!” So God had to both be the victim and He had to be the one who punished the victim, or we could not possibly be saved, and you cannot have that without the Trinity. “The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world,” the scripture says.
When you study the Word of God—just—God, the concept of God in the Bible: “I am that I am, without beginning, without end,” and so forth—you cannot find a flaw in it. And every other concept of God that people come up with and those who deny the Trinity, or concepts of justice, or try to work your way to heaven, or your good deeds outweighing your bad, as in Islam—it doesn’t work! It will not fit all of the facts and the requirements of justice, of philosophy, of logic, of science. Only the Bible does.
Tom: And particularly, Dave, of love. What other god that men have come up with, that they’ve conjured up, is a loving god like the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
Dave: Loving without compromising His justice.
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