Joshua 10:1-11 – God of the Gaps

Joshua 10:1–2 (ESV) — 1 As soon as Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had captured Ai and had devoted it to destruction, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, 2 he feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were warriors.

Chapter 10 picks up from Joshua 9:1-2.

  • Joshua 9:1–2 (ESV) — 1 As soon as all the kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, heard of this, 2 they gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel.

In our text, we see once again the significance of hearing about the work of Yahweh on Israel’s behalf.
  • King Adoni-zedek (lord of justice) “heard” of Joshua’s capture of Ai.
  • He heard how Joshua had “devoted it to destruction”.
    • The cherem/ban language of God.
  • He heard about the fate of the kings of Ai and Jericho.
  • He heard about the covenant the Gibeonites made with Israel.
    • And how they now “were among them”.

The king, understanding the nature of covenant, understood the Canaanites now had a new problem.
  • Not only was Israel advancing through the hill country with Yahweh’s help.
  • But now the Israelites had joined up with the Gibeonites.
  • The problem with this was that “all its men were warriors”.
  • So for these reasons King Adoni-zedek “feared greatly”.

Joshua 10:3–5 (ESV) — 3 So Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem sent to Hoham king of Hebron, to Piram king of Jarmuth, to Japhia king of Lachish, and to Debir king of Eglon, saying, 4 “Come up to me and help me, and let us strike Gibeon. For it has made peace with Joshua and with the people of Israel.” 5 Then the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon, gathered their forces and went up with all their armies and encamped against Gibeon and made war against it.

Influenced by what he had “heard”, and the fear it induced, Adoni-zedek responded.
  • He allied with other Canaanite kings and conspired to “strike Gibeon”.
  • Together they “went up” to Gibeon and “made war against it”.

The contrast is hard to ignore.
  • The Gibeonites responded to their fear of Yahweh and Israel with a desire to covenant.
  • The king and his allies responded to their fear of Yahweh and Israel with a desire to make war.
  • All we can say for sure is that the presence of God demands a response – there is no neutral ground.

Joshua 10:6 (ESV) — 6 And the men of Gibeon sent to Joshua at the camp in Gilgal, saying, “Do not relax your hand from your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites who dwell in the hill country are gathered against us.”

The Gibeonites take advantage of their covenant relationship with Israel.
  • They remind Joshua that they are Israel’s “servants”.
  • And then make the point that the Amorites “are gathered against us”.
  • Because, to say this is to say they are gathered against the Israelites.

Joshua 10:7–9 (ESV) — 7 So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valor. 8 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.” 9 So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal.

Given the consequences of breaking a covenant made in Yahweh’s name (we discussed last week) –
  • Joshua mustered his troops and “went up” from Gilgal to aid the Gibeonites.
  • Yahweh makes clear to Joshua that, unlike the Amorites, Joshua is not to “fear”.
  • The outcome of the battle is already determined – none of them “shall stand before you”.
  • In fact, it appears a reason for this victory is another ambush-type surprise – “came upon them suddenly”.

God’s reassurance was a repetition of the promise he made to Joshua in Joshua 1:5.
  • “Such is the usual way God has of reassuring his children: not by unveiling to them some new truth previously unknown, but by reaffirming promises already given, which somehow take on special power because of the present pressing need. That is what God’s people usually need—not new truth but old truth freshly applied to their current need” – Dale Davis.

Davis goes on to point out that God’s truth, used rightly, “energizes human response” and “stimulates human ingenuity”.
  • Joshua marched all night through the hill country.
  • He was rewarded with the opportunity to make a devastating surprise attack.

Interestingly, in spite of the deception in which the Gibeonite covenant was formed –
  • In spite of God’s displeasure with Israel for violating his command to not covenant with Canaanites.
  • Yahweh, by His grace, blessed Israel (and the Gibeonites) with victory.
  • Grace in the OT strikes again.

Joshua 10:10–11 (ESV) — 10 And the Lord threw them into a panic before Israel, who struck them with a great blow at Gibeon and chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon and struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11 And as they fled before Israel, while they were going down the ascent of Beth-horon, the Lord threw down large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword.

The author of Joshua pins most of the credit for this victory on “the Lord”.
  • The Lord threw them into a panic” and Israel took advantage of it and “chased them
    • Some scholars say the grammar means that Yahweh “chased them”.
  • The Lord threw down large stones [hailstones] from heaven” which killed more soldiers than “Israel killed with the sword”.

David Howard says –
  • “It may have been that the fighting force with Joshua (v. 7) was actually involved in this—indeed, this probably was the case, in light of the reference in v. 11 to the Israelites’ swords killing people. But, here, the author has chosen to ignore this fact and to focus instead on Yahweh’s direct involvement as Israel’s warrior” – David Howard.
  • In other words, the author is giving credit to the Divine Warrior.


Verses like these are where so many critics and skeptics of the God of the Bible go astray.
  • They see these verses and think this is precisely why God is no longer needed.

First, it wasn’t “the Lord” who threw them into a panic, but the surprise attack that did so.
  • The author simply attributed their good fortune to the work of their God.

Second, it wasn’t “the Lord” that threw down hailstones.
  • Because science has shown us that –
  • “Hail starts out as little chips of ice in large cumulonimbus (thunderstorm) clouds. These ice chips are kept aloft by updrafts or upward movements of air within a thunderstorm. As they are blown through freezing thunderstorm clouds, the ice chips grow larger and freeze solid into hailstones. The updrafts keep the hailstones aloft until they become too heavy to remain in the clouds. The stronger the updraft, the larger the hailstone can grow before falling to Earth” – NOAA.

In fact, there are numerous examples of this very thing happening around the world (source Wikipedia).
  • “9th Century – India – Several hundred pilgrims were killed by a massive hailstorm in Roopkund”.
  • “1888 – India – One of the deadliest hailstorms of all time killed at least 230 people, and over 1600 sheep and goats, in Uttar Pradesh. The hailstones were reportedly as big as oranges, and in some places were as high as 2 feet (60 centimetres.) No warning system existed in 1888 and therefore the death toll of this event was exceptionally high”.
  • “1986 – Bangladesh – At least 92 people were killed in Gopalganj by some of the heaviest hailstones ever recorded, which were the size of grapefruits and weighed around one kilogram (2.2 lbs) each”.
  • “February 1936 – South Africa – Devastating hailstorm with hailstones the size of coconuts, killed ten people and several head of cattle, in addition to nine people killed in flooding. 380 mm of rain fell in 15 minutes. Some reports claim more than 26 killed”.

The conclusion they make, then, is this:
  • Because Israel didn’t know science (where hail comes from).
  • And because they were inclined to attribute to their God things like military victories/failures, famine, etc.
  • They were the victims of their ANE cultural/religious baggage.
  • They thought God was in a control room “pulling levers” and pushing buttons, etc.

Now we know better (or we should, they say).
  • So their conclusion is this –
  • This God is a “God of the Gaps” merely used to fill in the gaps of our knowledge about how nature works.
  • This God is no longer needed.
  • Science has killed him.

In fact, the skeptic says that to think “God did it” is “an incredible copout” and “intellectual laziness” – Lawrence Krauss (24:00).
  • Play Krauss from Unbelievable - 1.01.11 – 1.02.10

What is our response to this line of reasoning and its conclusion?

The “God of the Gaps” is not the God of the Bible.
  • This is a straw man caricature of Yahweh.
  • Of course the Amorites went running because they were surprised.
  • Of course the hailstones came from a bad thunderstorm.
  • Of course God is not in a room pushing buttons – He is Spirit.

The skeptic’s problem is that they have completely ripped the God of the Bible out of context.
  • Yahweh is not a God that Israel happened to choose to explain the world around it.
  • He was not their choice for the chief “button pusher”.
  • They could have kept the god’s from Abram’s native Ur for that.
  • They could have kept the god’s from Egypt for that.

Yahweh did not function as Israel’s “explanation” of nature, as their “gap-filler”.
  • Yahweh was their Sovereign, Creator God who chose them.
  • He chose Abram and called him out of Ur.
  • He chose Israel to be the people through whom He would bless the nations of the world.
  • He chose to provide a means to enter into covenant with Him.
  • He chose to punish with exile.
  • He chose to restore the remnant.
  • He chose to send the Messiah to inaugurate the Kingdom of God and begin the “breaking in” of new creation.
Hailstones, earthquakes, military strategy, invasion, pride, hate, etc., were merely a means for God.
  • His purpose was to work out His covenant faithfulness in His redemptive history, which culminated with Jesus (and ultimately with His 2nd coming).
  • The means are, in many ways, incidental.

So we also reject the one-dimensional, “lever-puller” “God of the Gaps”.
  • The “God of the Gaps” fails to account for the trajectory of 1500+ years of Israelite history.
  • The “God of the Gaps” does not account for the profound differences between Israel’s Yahweh and the god’s of its neighbors.
    • The similarities are insignificant.
    • It is the differences that are mind-blowing (see anything by John Walton).
  • The “God of the Gaps” can’t account for fulfilled prophecy – like Isaiah 53.
  • The “God of the Gaps” can’t account for the massive mutations in Judaism that occurred in first century Palestine.
  • The “God of the Gaps” can’t account for resurrection.
  • The “God of the Gaps” can’t account for the Church.
  • The “God of the Gaps” can’t account for the martyred apostles.
  • And neither can science!

Yahweh, however, is big enough to create a universe that is rationally intelligible (science – laws of nature), and yet at the same time can be sovereignly directed by Him to accomplish His supernatural purposes.
  • And in the case of our the book of Joshua, He did this with:
    • Hailstones and thunderstorms
    • Military strategy
    • An occasional special revelation – Divine Warrior
    • Or by transforming hearts


Oral Tradition and the New Testament - Rafael Rodriguez - a Review

In the Preface, Rodriguez introduces what will likely be a new concept for you (it was for me) - “NT media criticism”. It is “the analysis of the function and dynamics of various media of communication (speech, writing, ritual, etc.), and especially of the significance of shifts from one medium to another (e.g., from oral to written expression).”

The book is intended to be both “an introduction to NT media criticism” and to be his “proposal for the future agenda of NT media criticism”. His handling of “oral tradition” is within these contexts.

In fact, in what came as something as a shock, Rodriguez says in Chapter One, “We simply do not know anything concrete or specific about early Christian oral tradition”. And then says, “For all the talk of oral tradition among NT scholars, we must remember that we are only ever studying and explaining written— not oral— tradition”.

The obvious question to ask is, “So why name the book Oral Tradition and the New Testament?” To make sense of this, one has to know that he is working with two definitions of oral tradition. “We should not think of oral tradition as a source lying behind oral-derived texts [the first definition]. Instead, oral tradition…provides the context in which the oral-derived texts developed and were experienced by their readers and/ or audiences” [second definition].

He elaborates on the second definition as follows – oral tradition “describes the multisensory, multilayered, totalizing social context that enabled the early Christians to interpret and respond to their written texts”. It is “the context that enables an oral-derived text to convey its meaning…”

So when he says we “do not know anything…about early Christian oral tradition” he is referring to the first definition. He is not denying the oral culture of Christianity’s origins.

The meat of the book is Chapters Four and Five. In Chapter Four he describes the “morphological approach to oral tradition and the NT” and the “contextual approach to oral tradition and NT”. The first is the approach to “NT media criticism” with which he disagrees. He sees it as heavily influenced by form criticism.

He describes the morphological approach as having two fatal flaws. The first is its claim that oral transmission produces certain unique “features of linguistic style or certain narrative features” that written transmission does not produce.

The second is its claim that these unique oral “features” survive the process of transformation into written form. In other words, this is the idea that we can tell what parts of the texts are the “oral” parts. And therefore get back to the original “oral” tradition behind the written tradition.

His conclusion, “I do not think the morphological approach to oral tradition and the NT can work”.

He then begins the section on the contextual approach, “If we cannot find oral tradition in the NT, are there other ways that oral traditional research might help us better understand the written texts of the NT?”

Rodriguez says the contextual approach “does not look for the shape of oral tradition in the written texts of the NT. Instead, the contextual approach posits the oral expression of tradition as the context within which the written NT texts developed and were written by authors, recited by lectors (and/ or oral performers), and received by audiences (and/ or readers)”.

To unfold the contextual approach, Rodriguez borrows from scholar John Miles Foley’s concept of “verbal art”. It gets a bit technical at this point – “conferred versus inherent meaning” and “connotative and denotative meaning”, etc. – but he aptly demonstrates their value. He shows how these function as what Foley calls the “silent partner”; the context behind the written text. He also presents Foley’s insightful “model of oral and written traditional verbal art”.

Rodriguez’s contextual approach is put to the test in Chapter Five. Here he offers “some suggestive comments on various texts from the NT to demonstrate the consequence of approaching the NT corpus as a collection of oral-derived texts”. His “various texts” are Mark’s “casting Jesus out into the wilderness”, John’s prologue, Romans 10:5-9, and the throne room scene from Revelation 5.

Throughout his discussion of these texts, he highlights the importance of the “enabling referent” of the written text. He seems to use this phrase as a catchall for the contextual method. It appears to refer to the contextual background (OT, culture, etc.) that informs the reader or hearer’s understanding of the text – perhaps a synonym for “silent partner”.

After his examination of these texts he concludes that his approach “offers us analytical questions and tools” that ultimately serve “to interpret and explain the function of our written texts within their originative contexts, including our texts’ composition, performance, and reception”.

The obvious question here is, “Did he demonstrate this?”

I have two thoughts on this question. The first is that he does introduce “questions” and “tools” that bring a new dimension to our relationship with the Bible. For example, using Foley’s “verbal art” categories, he classifies Paul’s letters as “Voiced Texts”. By this he means, “They were, in a very real sense, ‘incomplete’ until the act of public performance”.

Immediately, one can take such a concept and expand its implications. If this is correct, for example, does this elevate the importance of Phoebe and her role in delivering and presumably reading the text of Romans? If so, how does this add to our understanding of Paul’s view of women? This is just one of the questions that came to my mind as I read his book.

Additionally, his contributions to the texts in Mark, John, Romans and Revelation were very good (I won’t give them away here). And in many cases, I could not find similar views espoused in other resources. This is not definitive evidence of the usefulness of his method, but certainly worth noting.

My second thought is that his “suggestive comments” about Mark, John, Romans and Revelation are supposed to be grounded in his NT media criticism contextual approach. But as I read and re-read them, they seemed to be simply grounded in a thorough and robust use of word studies, OT-NT allusions and parallels, commentaries, and an understanding of 2nd Temple Judaism.

I can certainly take blame for missing something. However, had he been more methodical and transparent in applying his approach to his sample texts his case would have been more compelling. In other words, he shows the tools to build the house. He shows the materials used to build the house. He shows the finished house. But he doesn’t show how he used the tools to assemble the materials to build the house.


The Virgin Birth

The Virgin Birth “Delivers” the Most Important Theophany of All – Jesus

“The faith in the Virgin Birth reflects the way American Christianity is becoming less intellectual and more mystical over time” – Nicholas Kristof (New York Times).
  • “Kristof argues, ‘because most Biblical scholars regard the evidence for the Virgin Birth … as so shaky that it pretty much has to be a leap of faith.’” – Albert Mohler.
  • This sentiment is but one of many that is directed at American evangelicals.

  • Christians believe in things that are clearly not true – the Virgin Birth.
  • This belief is blind; it is not grounded in reality; there is no rational reason for it; it is “mystical”.

Secular culture’s attacks on the Virgin Birth can be more sophisticated than the above name-calling.
  • They leverage (1) basic reproductive science, and (2) engage the relevant Biblical texts.

Reproductive Science:
(1) Virgin births are impossible.
  • A male baby contains both an X and Y-chromosome.
  • Only a man can provide the Y-chromosome.
  • Therefore, a male’s sperm must fertilize a female’s egg to supply the Y-chromosome.

The Biblical Texts:
But the critics just don’t cast dispersions from afar.
  • They engage the text to challenge the orthodox understanding of the Virgin Birth.
  • They generally take (3) approaches – there are certainly more.

(1) The Virgin Birth story is only in two of the four Gospels.
  • And even more striking, Paul never mentions it in any of his letters.
  • They conclude that Matthew and Luke made it up for Christological reasons.

(2) Isaiah 7 is not a prophecy about a coming Jewish Messiah.
  • It is a prophecy directed to King Ahaz to be fulfilled in his lifetime.
  • When it uses the phrase “God with Us”, it is suggesting that victory over Judah’s enemies will come because of the presence of God.

(3) The “ground zero” verse – Isaiah 7:14 – doesn’t contain the Hebrew word for “virgin”.
  • If Isaiah meant “virgin” he would have used the Hebrew word “betulah”.
  • But he didn’t; he used the word “almah”.

So what are we to make of these objections to Jesus’ Virgin Birth?

We need to address them in a couple of ways.
  • First, we will answer the objections head on.
  • Second, we will explore the theological significance of the Virgin Birth.


First Objection:
The first objection was the physical impossibility of the Virgin Birth.
  • We agree that a Y-chromosome had to be provided somehow.

Millard Erickson puts it as follows:
  • “Jesus was not produced after the genetic pattern of Mary alone, for in that case he would in effect have been a clone of her and would necessarily have been female. Rather, a male component was contributed. In other words, a sperm was united with the ovum provided by Mary, but it was specially created for the occasion instead of being supplied by an existent male human.”
  • The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit took care of this – though we don’t know how.
  • So we appeal to the supernatural.

This objection, then, is grounded in the presuppositions that accompany a materialist worldview.
  • Nothing outside the physical exists on this worldview.
  • There is no supernatural being, no spiritual realm, and nothing that transcends our existence.
  • The physical world is “without incursions from outside by souls or spirits, divine or human” – Oxford Companion to Philosophy.

In other words, it is not really an objection but a philosophical assumption.
  • An assumption that says it is the only home for science – scientism.

BTW – One wonders why humans “became scientific”.
  • C.S. Lewis observed, “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver”.
  • The men he refers to were the likes of Galileo, Isaac Newton, Pasteur, Kepler, etc.

The materialist, ironically, rejects the lawgiver but keeps His law – needs His law – to even do science.
  • And then says it is foolish to suppose the lawgiver can “manipulate” the laws to His good pleasure and purpose.
    • More on “miracle” as a violation of the laws of nature later.
    • Not a good definition?

Second Objection:
The second objection was that the Virgin Birth was only in two Gospels and not in Paul.

First, we can say “so what?”
  • NT Scholar Scot McKnight puts this sentiment plainly, “I’ve never understood why the absence of this idea in Paul means Paul didn’t believe it”.
  • “Even if the Virgin Birth was taught by only one biblical passage, that would be sufficient to obligate all Christians to the belief” – Albert Mohler.

The next thing we can say is “not so fast”.
  • It appears that there are indirect references to the Virgin Birth in the other two Gospels and Paul.
  • M. James Sawyer puts it as follows:
  • “If we take the time to look more closely we find the virgin birth, lurking beneath the surface in Mark, John and Paul.”

Some Examples:
Mark 6:3 (ESV) — 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and [Joseph] and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
  • This is a “very non-Jewish way” to refer to a man in Jewish culture – M. James Sawyer.
  • It is certainly possible that Mark was highlighting the Virgin Birth of Jesus.

John 1:13 (ESV) — 13 who were born [gennao], not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
  • Interestingly, some translations phrase verse 13 – “nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (NIV).
  • James Sawyer tells us, “according to normal Greek usage the [NIV] is more accurate, because the term used by John is andros, i.e. male or husband as opposed to anthropos, i.e man(kind), humanity.
  • If so, this could very well be an allusion to the Virgin Birth.

Galatians 4 – gennao vs. ginomai
  • Galatians 4:4 (ESV) — 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born [ginomai] of woman, born [ginomai] under the law,
  • Galatians 4:21–23 (ESV) — 21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born [gennao] according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born [gennao] through promise.

These texts deal with Jesus’, believer’s and Jew’s relationship to the law.
  • James Sawyer points out that Paul deliberately, and on numerous occasions, avoids using gennao when speaking of Jesus’ origins – the normal Greek word for human birth.
    • It literally means “become the parent of”; “to give birth to”
  • Instead, Paul opts for ginomai.
    • As evident in Galatians 4 – Jesus’ was ginomai and Isaac and Ishmael were gennao.

Why is this significant?
  • There are a number of uses of ginomai in the BDAG lexicon.
  • One use can mean “to come into being through the process or birth or natural reproduction”
  • Which on its face doesn’t exclude a Virgin Birth.
    • See John 1:13 we just discussed.

But the other uses can be seen as alluding to the uniqueness of Jesus’ Virgin Birth.
  • “to come into existence”
  • “come into being as an event or phenomenon”
  • “to experience a change in nature and so indicate entry into a new condition”
  • “to make a change of location in space”
  • “to come into a certain state or possess certain characteristics”

And interestingly, Paul uses this word 141 times in 130 verses.
  • Galatians 4:4 is the only time translators use “born”.

“This would appear to be a conscious effort on the part of the Apostle to clearly distinguish the method of Jesus’ origin/birth from that of all other humans born since Adam’s ‘coming into existence’” – James Sawyer.

Third Objection:
Isaiah 7:10–14 (ESV) — 10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

The third objection was that Isaiah 7 is about Ahaz and not a coming Jewish Messiah.
  • Our answer to this is, “Yes, it is about Ahaz”.
  • Even the ESV Study Bible says, “Christian interpretation of this passage requires doing justice to the meaning of Isaiah’s words” with respect to Ahaz.

But, here is the thing.
  • OT prophecies often have a double fulfillment.
  • In the case of Isaiah 7 this means that there is “both an immediate fulfillment in Isaiah’s day and a long-term fulfillment in the birth of the Messiah” – ESV Study Bible.

How do we know OT prophecies can work like this?
  • Because the NT writers tell us they do over an over.

Isaac, the Jews and Jesus:
  • Genesis 12:6–7 (ESV) — 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
  • Galatians 3:16 (ESV) — 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.

David and Jesus:
  • Psalm 16:9–10 (ESV) — 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.
    • David is expressing a hope in something more than Sheol and the dust.
  • Acts 2:31–32 (ESV) — 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.
  • Acts 13:36–37 (ESV) — 36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, 37 but he whom God raised up did not see corruption.

Co-Regent/? and Jesus:
  • Psalm 110:1 (ESV) — 1 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
  • Acts 2:33–35 (ESV) — 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’

Fourth Objection:
The fourth objection was that Isaiah’s prophecy doesn’t even use the Hebrew word for virgin.
  • This is where the critic’s lack of appreciation for nuance and complexity demonstrates that they are “becoming less intellectual”.

It is true that the “almah” used by Isaiah most commonly means “young woman”.
  • And that “the more precise word for virgin is betulah” – Michael Heiser.

So why do we argue that it does mean “virgin”?
  • Or put another way, why does Matthew use the Greek word “parthenos” in his translation?
    • The precise word in Greek for “virgin”.
  • It is not because we are becoming more “mystical”!
  • We will hit on 4 reasons.

(1) Hebrew scholar Michael Heiser says “betulah provides more contextual clues as to sexual inactivity, but does that mean almah never means virgin?”
  • He says “almah” is used 6 other times in the OT.
  • And in all but one, the context gives no clues as to its exact meaning.
  • But in Song of Solomon 6:8 we do have clues and they point to a meaning of “virgin”.
  • Song of Solomon 6:8 (ESV) — 8 There are sixty queens and eighty concubines, and virgins [almah/pl: alamot] without number.

Heiser points out the following:
  • “Queens” are royal wives – this relationship entailed a sexual relationship.
  • “Concubines” were “sexual partner[s] who held certain privileges, but not the level of a wife”.
  • And the “almah” in this context was “a candidate to become either a concubine or a wife” – they were not yet in a sexual relationship.

He says that the “ancient cultural context shows us that every attempt was made to have a supply of virgins for the king”.
  • In Song of Solomon 6:8 this context is played out – the “almah” are that group of virgins.
  • So according to Hebrew scholar Michael Heiser, “It simply is not correct to assert that almah would never have been understood as virgin.”
  • In SOS 6:8, it is referring to a group of young woman set apart as virgins.

(2) The second reason to understand Isaiah’s “almah” as “virgin” is simply this:
  • “In an ancient patriarchal culture, a woman of marriageable age was a female who had at least reached her teen years. Children in such a culture were under close supervision and restraint…Matthew grew up in this culture…so it should be no surprise at all that he saw no incongruity in considering almah to mean virgin” - Michael Heiser.
  • In other words, a young woman not married in ancient Israel was normally a virgin.

(3) The third reason is as good as any of the others.
  • About 200 years before Christ, a community of Greek speaking Jews translated the Old Testament into Greek.
  • This translation is known as the Septuagint or LXX.
  • When these Jews translated Isaiah 7:14 into Greek, they used the Greek word “parthenos”.
  • This means they understood Isaiah’s “almah” to mean specifically a “virgin” and not just a “young woman”.

(4) It was the truth.


So is the Virgin Birth necessary?
  • Or put another way, isn’t the Incarnation really the important thing?

This is my favorite apologetic for the Virgin Birth of the Messiah.
  • In the context of God’s redemptive history, it is yet another piece, of the hundreds of pieces, of a 1500-year-old Gospel puzzle that fits perfectly.
  • And in this context it stands on its own as yet another act of God in history.
  • It is not just “a theory explaining the incarnation” – M. James Sawyer.

Virgin Birth and Christ’s Identity:
It sets apart Jesus, chosen before creation, to be the Son of God and Messiah.
  • He was not chosen and set apart by the Father later, as some claim.
  • His baptism in the Jordan was not where Jesus was invested with a special divine connection.
  • “The virginal conception means Jesus was not simply a holy man…” – Scot McKnight.
  • The Virgin Birth shows He came into this world as God.

Virgin Birth and Grace:
“The virgin birth signals a move from God to man not man to God. Human powers and abilities are not in play. The fact that Mary was a virgin disqualifies her from active participation even in the conception of Jesus. The incarnation is not a cooperative effort between God and man. It is in no sense a product of human activity” – M. James Sawyer.
  • God chose the who, the when, and the where.
  • Mary could only believe and receive.
  • The same thing we must do.

Virgin Birth and New-Creation:
“In a very real sense the virgin birth is related to God’s creative activity of Genesis. By means of his creative act the creator himself has stepped into his creation and is re-creating fallen humanity” – M. James Sawyer.
  • In other words, the Virgin Birth is the breaking in of the “life in the age to come”.
  • It is part of the inauguration of the “Kingdom of God” where all things will be “put right”.
  • “This doctrine speaks to new creation coming into existence in the here and now as a foretaste of what is to come” – Scot McKnight.
  • In a strong parallel to creation out of nothing, “it is a new creative act” that takes place out of the virgin womb – M. James Sawyer.

Virgin Birth and Resurrection:
  • Because of its connection to creation, it is deeply linked to Resurrection.
  • Both the Virgin Birth and Resurrection:
    • Esteem and value creation – the physical.
    • Point to Jesus as the one who will “put right” a fallen and cursed creation.
      • Virgin Birth – God entered “Adam”
      • Resurrection – God defeated “Adam’s Curse”
  • And each share in creation language – the “promised seed” and “first fruits”.

Virgin Birth and Union with Christ:
It demonstrates the “radical identification with the crown of his creation” – M. James Sawyer.
  • God, in Christ, humbled Himself and condescended to become part of His creation in a physical way by being born fully human – 100% God and 100% Human.
  • In so doing, He left the glory He shared in the fellowship of the Trinity – John 17.
  • And He did so that He might provide a way for us to be in Union with Him and thus participate with Him in the fellowship of the Trinity – John 17.

Given all we have seen about the Virgin Birth, we come back to the question raised earlier.
  • Is the Virgin Birth a necessary part of the Gospel?
  • My answer is, “absolutely”.
  • “Why mention so specifically that Christ “suffered under Pontius Pilate” if the bit about “born of the virgin Mary” is a historical make-believe? The Gospels and the early church believed it was important not just that Jesus was born of a virgin, but that it was a virgin birth that really happened in time and history” – Kevin DeYoung.

Some Nuggets:
Christ as the “Divine Warrior” or as the “Angel of the Lord” could not do what “Christ as Jesus” could do.
  • Why?
  • As the “Divine Warrior” and “Angel of the Lord” Christ was not fully human.
  • But the Virgin Birth is unambiguous – the second person of the Trinity has become fully human.
  • In this sense, the Virgin Birth “delivers” the most important “theophany” of all – Jesus.
  • Christ as Jesus could be our representative, sympathetic and sinless priest – Hebrews 4:15 (Douglas Wilson).

Was the Virgin Birth a miracle?
Some scholars – N.T. Wright, e.g. - want to stop using the word miracle.
  • “Miracle” conjures up the idea of a God who shows up only to tweak with the laws of nature and then disappears for a while.
  • His concern with creation is expressed only when He “performs a miracle”.
  • N.T. Wright suggests this is anachronistic and Platonic.
  • Instead, we should refer to God’s/Jesus’ acts in history as “putting right” creation, or the “breaking in” of new creation.
  • This conveys God’s actions in redemptive history in more accurate language.
  • He is always working to “put right” His creation, redeem His “remnant”, and return them from “exile”.
    • The “Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done” kinds of things.

Relationship of Virgin Birth to Incarnation:
  • “It may be admitted, of course, that the Virgin Birth is not flatly identical with the Incarnation, just as the empty tomb is not flatly identical with the Resurrection. The one might be affirmed without the other. Yet the connection is so close, and indeed indispensable, that were the Virgin Birth or the empty tomb denied, it is likely that either the Incarnation or Resurrection would be called in question, or they would be affirmed in a form very different from that which they have in Scripture and historic teaching” – Christianity Today Editorial 1959.