The Virgin Birth in the Old Testament -- By: Charles Lee Feinberg

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 117:468 (Oct 1960)
Article: The Virgin Birth in the Old Testament
Author: Charles Lee Feinberg

The Virgin Birth in the Old Testament

Charles Lee Feinberg

[Charles L. Feinberg is director of Talbot Theological Seminary, Los Angeles, California, and Professor of Semitics and Old Testament Literature.]

In order to define the field of investigation precisely it must be pointed out that this study will not deal with the significant accounts of the virgin birth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. They are valid and trustworthy narratives, but not within the immediate range of this treatment. The “immaculate conception” phrase, which confuses the birth of Mary with that of Christ, is not a proper designation for our subject. Neither “supernatural birth” nor “supernatural conception” conveys the intended meaning, for in the first case there was, as far as Scripture testimony is concerned, nothing exceptional in the birth, and in the second case, the terminology is too broad in view of the supernatural conception of Isaac, Samson, and John the Baptist, among others. Virgin birth is accurate as a statement and not open to equivocation.1

When Adam and Eve sinned in disobedience to the clear prohibition given them by God, the Lord pronounced a curse upon the serpent in these words: “And the LORD God said to the serpent, Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou more than all the cattle, and more than all the beasts of the field; on thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen 3:14–15). This important prophecy at the threshold of Biblical revelation has received various explanations at the hands of expositors. One of these is significant for the subject of the virgin birth in the Old Testament.

The Naturalistic Interpretation

This position sees in the prediction a conflict between snakes and men. Skinner puts it succinctly: “The whole brood

of serpents, and the whole race of men.”2 More elaborately stated it holds: “There is to be endless hostility between snakes and men, the one crushing the head of the other whenever the opportunity arises, and the snake striking at the heel of man. Ancient zoology is often strange to us, and there is other evidence to show that the old Hebrew believed that earth was the normal food of snakes. It is certainly true that most snakesbites are inflicted on the foot. Our narrative explains this as part of the ‘curse’ or doom laid on the creature for having misled the woman.”

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