Why the Virgin Birth Matters

As it is December, believers turn their thoughts to the Christmas season and the Biblical and theological meaning of the Incarnation and the virgin birth.  The secularists, atheists, and skeptics, and even Muslims will be busy attacking the Christian faith, even though Islam agrees that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary (Qur’an, Surah 3:45-48; 19:19-21), Islam denies the Incarnation, that Jesus pre-existed, is eternal, that He is the eternal Son and eternal Word of God, and that the Word became flesh (John 1:1-5; John 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8).  Although the Qur’an calls Jesus “the Word of God” (Kalimat’Allah, کلمه الله ; based on the phrase, “a word from him”, (Surah 4:171) – even though the Qur’an calls Jesus “the Word”, it denies that the Word is God by nature/substance.  Muslim theology interprets that phrase as pointing to the command that Allah gave, “Be! and it happened”.

This article on the significance of the virgin birth, by Andreas Köstenberger and Alexander Stewart, is very good.  I went to seminary with Andreas at CIU, and I had Hebrew class with him; and I remember him getting perfect scores in Hebrew – he went on to get a Phd. and be one of the top scholars of today.  Praise God for him!

Studying the significance of the virgin birth is part of being equipped in sound doctrine and the missionary task of evangelism, apologetics, and making disciples.  (Matthew 28:19; Jude 3; 1 Peter 3:15)

https://www.crossway.org/blog/2015/12/why-the-virgin-birth-matters/

Read the whole article, but this part was especially good:

Was It Necessary?

So why is the virgin birth theologically important? John Frame helpfully summarizes the main reasons:

The virgin birth is doctrinally important because of: (1) The doctrine of Scripture. If Scripture errs here, then why should we trust its claims about other supernatural events, such as the resurrection? (2) The deity of Christ. While we cannot say dogmatically that God could enter the world only through a virgin birth, surely the incarnation is a supernatural event if it is anything. To eliminate the supernatural from this event is inevitably to compromise the divine dimension of it. (3) The humanity of Christ. This was the important thing to Ignatius and the second century fathers. Jesus was really born; he really became one of us. (4) The sinlessness of Christ. If he were born of two human parents, it is very difficult to conceive how he could have been exempted from the guilt of Adam’s sin and become a new head to the human race. And it would seem only an arbitrary act of God that Jesus could be born without a sinful nature. Yet Jesus’ sinlessness as the new head of the human race and as the atoning lamb of God is absolutely vital to our salvation (Rom. 5:18–19; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Pet. 2:22–24). (5) The nature of grace. The birth of Christ, in which the initiative and power are all of God, is an apt picture of God’s saving grace in general of which it is a part. It teaches us that salvation is by God’s act, not our human effort. [1]

Viewing the virgin birth as part of God’s initiative in salvation reminds us to cast it in a long line of supernatural births. Reflecting upon our discussion of the “seed of the woman” from Genesis 3:15 in the last chapter, we see that barrenness and other obstacles constantly threatened the progression of the seed and that God often intervened supernaturally to ensure the seed’s survival. (Sarah’s conception of Isaac and Rebecca’s conception of Jacob and Esau come immediately to mind.)

Jesus’s virgin birth thus represents the final and most supernatural birth in the succession of births in fulfillment of God’s promise immediately following the fall in the book of Genesis (Genesis 3:15).

Is It a Legitimate Fulfillment of Prophecy?

Moving from a theological to a historical question requires a closer look at the original context of Isaiah’s reference to the virgin conceiving a son in Isaiah 7:14.

Between 740 and 732 BC, Syria and Israel tried to force king Ahaz of Judah to join their military coalition against Assyria. When he refused to join their alliance, they invaded with the intention of deposing him and setting up a king in Judah who would join their side. Rather than trusting God, Ahaz appealed to Assyria for help. Assyria did help but at a very high cost: in essence, Judah became a vassal state of Assyria and was forced to pay heavy tribute. This series of events is known as the Syro-Ephraimite War.

In the midst of this crisis, the prophet Isaiah came to King Ahaz with a word of encouragement and an invitation to trust God: “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint. . . . It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. . . . If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all” (Isaiah 7:4a, 7b, 9b).

Ahaz, however, doubted God and did not think God would deliver. In Ahaz’s mind, his only hope was Assyria. Ahaz refused to trust God or receive a sign of God’s commitment to rescue, and Isaiah responded:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold the virgin [‘almah] shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. (Isaiah 7:14–16)

God’s sign to Ahaz in Isaiah 7:14 likely had an immediate fulfillment that directly related to the original historical situation in the Syro-Ephraimite War. The Hebrew word translated “virgin,” ‘almah, denotes a young woman who in most contexts in the Old Testament was also an unmarried virgin. [2] The young woman could have been a member of the royal family but was more likely the “prophetess” of Isaiah 8:3. Given the flow of the narrative, Isaiah’s own son probably fulfilled the prophecy. The parents might easily have given the child two names, particularly when they chose the names symbolically as signs or portents.

Pointing to Jesus

How does a historical fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah’s day relate to Matthew’s use of Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23 to refer to Jesus?

To answer this question, it is important to look at the birth of one more child in the context following Isaiah 7. Isaiah 9:1-7 is linked to the prior prophecies by reference to the birth of a son, but unlike the previous passages, the description of the child here easily and quickly leads to a picture of one who is more than human and will accomplish a deliverance that extends far beyond the original historical context of the Syro-Ephraimite War.

Significantly, the translators of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek in the Intertestamental period translated the Hebrew word ‘almah with the Greek word parthenos, a much more specific term for “virgin.” This may indicate that even before Jesus was born, Jewish readers viewed the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 in light of Isaiah 9:1–7 and thought that the birth of the promised child would be supernaturally accomplished “in the latter time.” Matthew clearly knew the further prophecy in Isaiah 9:1–7, because he later invoked part of this passage to describe Jesus’s ministry in Galilee in Matthew 4:15-16.

All of this leads us to interpret Isaiah’s reference to the virgin conceiving a child in terms of double fulfillment. The prophecy makes complete sense in its original historical context, but other factors within the context—the name Immanuel and the description of the child in Isaiah 9:6–7—also point forward in time to the birth of another child.

Jesus was the true and final embodiment of Immanuel, “God with us,” the one who would sit “on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.”

Andreas Kostenberger and Alexander Stewart

Posted in Apologetics, Incarnation of Jesus Christ, The Virgin Birth of Christ | Leave a comment

Intro lecture to the Canon, by Dr. Michael Kruger, Phd.

The Intro lecture that Dr. Michael Kruger gave to “The Canon”, is very helpful and a great start to a course that has been really needed for all Christians.

An interesting background to this is that Michael Kruger was a student of Bart Ehrman and so what he learned from him motivated him to study the issues deeper and refute him.  Yes!  Kruger refutes Ehrman quite well.

His analysis of Walter Bauer and the influence that Bauer has had on liberal theology in this century – his theory that early Christianity was a diversity of Christianities of equal validity (Montanists, Gnostics, Marcion, Ebionites, Sabellians, Arians, etc. ; and the subtle jump that liberals and skeptics make and think “diversity means that no one knows which view is right” and “the winners of theological wars got to pick which canon of Scripture would win”, etc.   Bauer’s theory has had massive influence on “The Jesus Seminar” (John D. Crossan, Marcus Borg, Robert Funk, many other liberals, “5 Gospels” book that includes “The Gospel of Thomas”), Bart Ehrman, and Elaine Pagels and others who peddle various forms of the “DaVinci Code” type of propaganda and lies, is very helpful.

http://subsplash.com/reformtheosem/v/edzp4p7

The whole course looks great.  Looking forward to working through it, as God allows me the time.

http://subsplash.com/reformtheosem/s/xjduvb5

Kruger’s web-site / blog.  “Canon Fodder”

Kruger’s three excellent books that deal with these issues:

Canon Revisited.

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The Heresy of Orthodoxy.  (Response to Walter Bauer’s theory)

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The Question of Canon

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Posted in Apologetics, Bart Ehrman, Canon of Scripture, church history, early church history, Liberal Theology, Reliability of the Bible | Leave a comment

Scholarly & Historical Evidence that Jesus rose from the dead

Paul Williams and Shabir Ally and other Muslims like to say, “scholars say” and give liberal western scholarship as their basis for polemics against Christianity, but here is irrefutable evidence from scholars that Jesus really did die, was buried, and rose from the dead.

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Irish Christmas

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Go tell it on the Mountain

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Paul Bilal Williams left Christianity and traded it for a leap of faith & something that contradicts history

In “The Converts Debate:  Paul Bilal Williams vs. Nabeel Qureshi” , Paul B. Williams uses a quote from the philosopher John Hick to seemingly approve of the Qur’an’s statement in Surah 4:157, which denies that Jesus really died on the cross in history.  The Qur’an claims that Allah tricked (Surah 3:54-55) the Jews into thinking that they had crucified and killed Jesus, “it was made to appear to them” (Surah 4:157) that He died, but Jesus really did not die.  This denial of the death of Christ in history makes the historical evidence “non-falsifiable” – that is, it will never matter how much historical evidence we can bring; the Muslim can always deny the crucifixion and death of Christ, which is a denial of history, because of that verse that says that Allah did a miracle behind the scenes and took Jesus to heaven and just made it appeared to all watching that Jesus was crucified and Allah made it appear that He died.  This also means that Allah tricked the Jewish Christians, the disciples, the women at the cross, etc. and all generations afterward who believed in the death of Christ and atonement of Christ and the resurrection of Christ.

In part 2, around the 7:50 to 8:30 minute mark, Nabeel Qureshi responded with some of the same content as this quote:  (this is from John Hick’s web-site)  Nabeel was quoting from Hick’s book, “Disputed Questions”, but I was able to find a similar statement here at Hick’s web-site.

“This particular question of Jesus’ death raises well some of the issues that we have to look at. As a strictly historical question it is fairly nonthreatening to Christian faith. For the historical evidence is distinctly one-sided. Although the Gospel accounts come from two generations after the event, they all concur in affirming a death, as do the letters of St Paul, earlier than the Gospels, and there is also an independent reference in Josephus’ Antiquities to Jesus being crucified (though there has been much discussion about the authenticity of this passage); and the only basis on which his death is denied within Islam is the theological inference that God would not allow so holy a prophet to be killed. But this inference does not constitute historical counter-evidence. Any strictly historical question mark is a very slight and shadowy one arising merely from the general fact that we cannot attain one hundred per cent certainty about any historical details of the remote past. So there is (in my view at least) no serious purely historical dispute here. There is however a theological dispute. Here I can only express my own view. On the one hand, I have no doubts as to the historicity of Jesus’ death on the cross. But on the other hand I think that the ideas that his death was an atonement for human sin, and that his disciples’ experience of his presence after his death was a physical experience, are later creations of the church and are optional Christian beliefs.”

John Hick

Hick affirms the historical evidence that Jesus really did die on the cross; but he denies the theological meaning of the atonement for sins.

Hick claims that the Gospels are “two generations after the event”.  Does this mean he thinks the Gospels were written 80 years after 30 AD?  120 AD?  Maybe John was written between 80-90 AD, but the others were in the 50s and early 60s.  It seems clear that Luke was written by 62 AD, because of the way the book of Acts ends at that time.  If it was written later, Luke would have written more about what happened to Paul.  Instead it ends with Paul still in house arrest awaiting for his trial.

Wow.  Even for the most so called “mainstream” views of Mark and Matthew and Luke, that is way too late.  (let’s take just Bart Ehrman and Raymond Brown, since Paul Williams likes to use those 2 among others.)   Even Bart Ehrmans puts Mark at 66-70 AD.  If a generation is 40 years, then that is one generation away from 30 AD, when Jesus was crucified. Nevertheless, Mark was probably written between 45-60 AD; Matthew 50-60 AD, and Luke in 61 or 62, based on the way Acts ends in 62 AD, and that Luke clearly says he wrote Luke first in Acts 1:1-5.

“As a strictly historical question it is fairly nonthreatening to Christian faith. For the historical evidence is distinctly one-sided.”  John Hick

“On the one hand, I have no doubts as to the historicity of Jesus’ death on the cross.”

“Although the Gospel accounts come from two generations after the event, they all concur in affirming a death, as do the letters of St Paul, earlier than the Gospels, and there is also an independent reference in Josephus’ Antiquities to Jesus being crucified . . . ”

John Hick

Even though Hick is wrong about the dating of the gospels,

  1.  He affirms the historicity of the crucifixion and death of Christ
  2.  He says the historical evidence is all on the Christian’s side.
  3. He affirms the Josephus statement that Christ was crucified under Pontius Pilate

So, from listening to the debate again, it seems that Paul Williams’ main beef with Christianity were his problems with the theological issues such as the Deity of Christ, the incarnation, the Trinity, the atonement and issues of the canon of Scripture and, upon learning liberal and accepting liberal scholarship, the dating of the NT books.

But he now accepts that the Qur’an is the Word of God, and if it says in Surah 4:157 that God made it appear that Jesus was crucified and died, but Jesus really did not die; then Paul Williams has just traded in his faith in God’s supernatural ability to do things (become a human – John 1:14 and then die for the sins of the world, be the atonement – Mark 10:45; Romans 3:25-26; Hebrews 2:14-18; 1 John 2:2; traded those beliefs in miracles, for another belief in a miracle that has one verse behind its claim, Surah 4:157, yet all of historical evidence is against that miracle claim.

He claims to be such an intellectual, etc. yet he traded in very basic historical evidence in favor of a miraculous claim made 600 years after the event, and the miraculous claim makes any historical evidence non-falsifiable.  He traded intellectual study, history for a bare leap of faith in a non-substantiated miracle.

Yet, when we defend Christian doctrine based on NT texts, Paul Williams’ constant complaint is “you don’t understand how scholarship works” or “the best intellectual scholarly arguments show the gospel of John is non-historical” and “Luke deleted Mark 10:45”, etc. – yet, the best historical scholarship principles applied to the Qur’an shows that the author of the Qur’an was ignorant of history (Surah 4:157; 7:157; 61:6), and mixed truth (the truth is that the disciples of Jesus did become the uppermost and dominant and victorious group, for over 300 years, eventually winning the Roman Empire- but mixed with fiction, that God deceived everybody and Jesus did not really die ( 61:14; 3:54-55) and the Qur’an is ignorant of Christian theology (5:72-75; 5:116; 6:101; 19:88-92) that was established for 600 years, and therefore scholarship shows that the Qur’an was not inspired by God.

 

 

 

Posted in Apologetics, Islam, Muslims, Paul Bilal Williams, Substitutionary Atonement, The Atonement of Christ | Leave a comment

Church History Series: “The Visible Apostolicity of the Invisibly Shepherded Church”

THE VISIBLE APOSTOLICITY OF THE INVISIBLY SHEPHERDED CHURCH, by Timothy Kauffman

Part 1 – Biblical defense of elders, local church authority under the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and His Word.

“And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

1 Peter 5:4

“For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”

1 Peter 2:25

Part 2 – Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch.

Part 3 – The Shepherd of Hermas and Mathetes Letter to Diognetus.

Part 4 – Tertullian and Origen.

Part 5 – excellent analysis of Irenaeus and Roman Catholic papal claims.

Part 6 – Cyprian of Carthage.

Part 7 – more of Cyprian.

Part 8 – Cyprian and Augustine.

 

 

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