How Many Virgin Births Are In The Bible? (Isaiah 7:14): A Prophetic Pattern Approach -- By: Paul D. Wegner

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 54:3 (Sep 2011)
Article: How Many Virgin Births Are In The Bible? (Isaiah 7:14): A Prophetic Pattern Approach
Author: Paul D. Wegner

How Many Virgin Births Are In The Bible? (Isaiah 7:14): A Prophetic Pattern Approach

Paul D. Wegner*

* Paul Wegner is professor of Old Testament at Phoenix Seminary, 4222 E. Thomas Rd., Suite 400, Phoenix, AZ 85018.

There is little doubt that Isa 7:14 and its reuse in Matt 1:23 is one of the most difficult problems for modern biblical scholars. For centuries, attempts have been made to provide a clear rationale as to how Matthew can pick up this passage from Isaiah which appears to have its own historical context and apply it to Jesus. The idea that this passage refers to Christ goes back at least as far as Tertullian (c. AD 160–c. 220), an early North African Church father who stated the following:

But we need to show why the Son of God had to be born of a virgin. It is to be expected that the one who was going to inaugurate a new birth had to be born in a new way, and Isaiah had foretold that the Lord would give a sign of this. What was the sign? Look, a virgin shall conceive in her womb and bear a son. Accordingly, a virgin did conceive and bore Emmanuel, God with us.1

However, it is very difficult to see how Matthew could apply this verse to Jesus given its present context. NT scholars understandably emphasize the NT’s use of this Isaianic text and its fulfillment in Jesus. Dr. Walter Kaiser’s emphasis on the “single intent of the author” seems to demand such a reading. However, the more one examines Isaiah 7 and its near context, the more problems arise. Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard nicely summarize the problem:

Though Kaiser has done an admirable job of defending his case in several problematic texts, we doubt that he has succeeded in each instance, or that it is possible to demonstrate that the OT writers did in fact intend all the meaning that NT writers later found. We suggest there are instances where NT authors found meaning in an OT text that the OT author did not intend.2

If they are correct, then at least three questions need to be addressed: (1) How is Isa 7:14-17 related to its context? (2) How is Isa 7:14-17 fulfilled in Christ? and (3) Is there more than one virgin birth in the Bible?

I. How Is Isaiah 7:14-17 Related To Its Context?

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