The Birth of Jesus (pt. 1)
October 12, 2018
by Barry Fike
There are some items in the Bible that are thought about so much that the true mystery and mystique concerning them has been lost. Around Christmas time who hasn't seen the manager with Joseph, Mary and animals as part of the scene. But few realize that without the birth of Jesus occurring the way that it did the true mystery of the blood covenant can't be realized. Let's look at this concept for the next few weeks and see if the true mystery about this event can't be understood.
“Now the birth of Jesus was on this wise. When his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be of child with the Holy Spirit.” Was Mary a virgin or was she not? All of this material from Isaiah 7:14 is irrelevant when it says “a young woman shall conceive and bear a son.” It can be pointed out from Hebrew that the word here doesn’t necessarily imply that she is a virgin. It can mean that she is a young woman. What we fail to understand is that in the Hebrew culture the virginity of the young woman was a thing of value which was sold for a price. That price determined the amount of money that the bridegroom was going to have to pay the father of the bride for the young woman’s virginity. Practically all of the young women, unless there had been some extenuating circumstances, were considered to be virgins before they were married. The same price wasn’t for all women. If one woman was more beautiful than another she would get a larger bride price than another.
Let’s notice something else. At what age did the young boy get married? 18. When did the young girl get married? Usually around 12 or 13 after her first menstrual period. By the time of her first menstrual period she was already a candidate for the kupah. Her menstrual cycle determined that she had come into her maturity, that she was a woman.
After the ketubah , the Jewish marriage contract, was signed by the bridegroom and the father of the bride they were legally obligated to the marriage contract. This was signed a year before the wedding took place. This was so binding that anytime after that either partner could be divorced or put away. Look at the wisdom of getting married at a young age. First of all they died at a young age since the average life span was about 40. The young man was just now entering into the peak of his sexual desire and marrying at the age of 18-20 he had an object upon which he could vent that desire and do so in a moral and legitimate way. At a young age the woman could have the opportunity to bear more children than she is going to if she is married later on in life. This had to do with the promulgation of the race. Many of them were killed in war, battles, and sickness so this really had to do with survival. Notice that we have something specific here relative to Mary’s virginity. It says that she was orsah (betrothed) before he had come upon her. Then later on she’s going to say to the angel, “How’s this possible in that I’ve never known a man?” Mary’s virginity is not hinging upon an understanding or translation of the word almah in Isaiah 7:14 it’s right here in the text. Was she a virgin or not? Yes, she was a virgin. But, another question is “Was the birth of Jesus a virgin birth?” The answer is no.
A true virgin birth is labeled in scientific terms today as a parthenogenic birth--that without a male element. It can occur in lower forms of life in a laboratory if an electric shock is involved such as carrots or rabbits. Since the Holy Spirit is introduced there is a "male element" introduced, therefore it cannot be a true virgin birth.
“A virgin is going to conceive and she’ll bring forth a son and is going to call him Immanuel. (God with us). From the very beginning we’re seeing a theological dogma presented that’s going to be established by the words of Jesus himself. This one who is to come is not coming as some kind of a Messiah figure, some kind of a Rabbi, or some kind of teacher. He’s coming not as the son of God, but as God!
“He did not know her...” They were not sexually intimate. “...until she had brought forth a son.” When she had this child they called his name Yeshua.
Could Mary have divorced Joseph for not fulfilling his conjugal rights to her or are there special rules, or could Joseph have divorced Mary because of the pregnancy that he knew wasn't his child? He could have divorced her and put her away. The text says that he decided against this action since an angel appeared to him and explained the situation.
Did you ever wonder why God chose Joseph to be the earthly father of Jesus? There’s something very significant here. In the Mishnah, in Nezekin, Sanhedrin, which has to do with courts and laws, it talks about crime and its punishment. It tells us about the different kinds of death penalties that are vested in the court: stoning, burning, beheading, strangling. Then it tells about those who are to be stoned and those who are to be beheaded. In Sanhedrin 7, Mishnah 4, “These are those who are to be stoned: ...the one who has sexual connection with a bethrothed maiden.” Notice that when Joseph finds out that Mary is with child he is willing to put her away privately. We think that it was because he was so nice, and he loved Mary so much that he didn’t want to see her publicly scorned. If anyone had violated her that individual would have been stoned. It tells us something about Joseph. Not only was he willing not to make her a public disgrace but the one who had violated her would not have been stoned. It says something about the character of Joseph.
Was it a violation of the law for the Holy Spirit to come upon Mary and impregnate her? Unfortunately, we don’t have the actual chronological sequence of events here. We don’t know how long they had been espoused that Jesus was actually born. If you’ll read it in the text, in v. 18, it says that the birth of Jesus was on this wise: when his mother was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with a child of the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t say that the Holy Spirit came upon her after they were espoused. When did all of this occur? It’s a good question.
Next week we'll continue this discussion trying to enter into the first century as a Jew and looking at it the way the original audience would have interpreted it.