Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 95 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Matthew 1 today and our focus is on The virgin birth of Jesus – is this a big deal in Christianity? We will also consider . We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Bangkok, Thailand, and Udon Thani, Thailand. Madya Pradesh, India, Parts unknown, Ukraine, Oslo, Norway, Parts unknown, France, Gothenburg, Sweden, Ontario, Canada, Chicago, Illinois and Odessa, Texas. Thanks for listening! Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan
Given that today is the day after Easter/Resurrection day, I suppose that taking up the topic of the virgin birth of Jesus may seem a bit out of season, but this is a very important truth that is often under fire from liberal scholars, so I suppose today is as good a day as any to discuss this important truth. I’ll go ahead and tell you up front that today I’m going to be advocating against the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, which will make me a heretic in the eyes of the Catholic church, quite simply because there is no biblical basis for the perpetual virginity of Mary, and a good bit that stands against such a doctrine.
Does the Bible teach that Jesus was born of a virgin, and thus not conceived in the typical way? Yes, absolutely, as we see here in our verse of the day:
18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18
The language is quite clear and unambiguous. Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born.
I like how pastor Tony Evans presents the importance of this view in his pointed and unpretentious, but spot-on way:
There is no football game without a football. No baseball game without a baseball. No golf game without a golf ball. No tennis game without a tennis ball. And there is no Christmas without a Virgin birth. The Virgin birth stands as an essential ingredient of Christmas. In fact, it stands as an essential ingredient of the gift that Jesus is offering to you, and that is to bear the government of your life on His shoulders. When the Virgin birth falls, everything about Christianity falls, Christ falls, the Bible falls, salvation falls, everything falls. The Virgin birth is the key to Christmas.
If you just look back one page to chapter 7, verse 14, you read these words, therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. “Behold a Virgin will be with Child, and bear a Son, and she will call His name,” what? “Immanuel.” Immanuel is made up of two words, God and with us. Immanuel means God with us. The essence of the Christian view of Christmas, is not that a woman had a baby. It is that a Virgin had a baby, whose daddy was God. At the heart of the Virgin birth is that in the manger laid God.
Tony Evans, “‘Christ’s Christmas Gift to You,’” in Tony Evans Sermon Archive (Tony Evans, 2015), Is 9:1–7.
Let’s read our passage, and then discuss some interesting claims that the Catholic church makes about Mary, mother of Jesus.
The perpetual virginity of Mary is a doctrine of the Catholic church that was conceived sometime in the late 2nd century, first put forward in a non-canonical book called the Gospel of James (which was written not at all written by James since it originated about 100 years or so after his death.) The Gospel of James is quite a wild book, which is pretty typical of the gnostic gospels and similar works that arose in the 2nd century. It was initially condemned as heretical by Pope Innocent in the 400s and Pope Gelasius in the 500s, but it had a great effect on the development of Mary-focused theology in the Catholic church. This text teaches that Mary was a virgin all of her life, that Joseph was an old man with no desire for sex, that the brothers of Jesus were actually children from a previous marriage of Joseph’s, and that Jesus was not literally born of Mary, but appeared out of a cloud and a blinding light in a cave near Bethlehem, and immediately began nursing from Mary. I know that sounds a bit out there, but here it is straight from the supposed gospel of James, as narrated by Joseph, Mary’s husband. Here he talks about the birth of Jesus and meeting a midwife to help Mary:
And I saw a woman coming down from the hill-country, and she said to me: O man, whither are you going? And I said: I am seeking an Hebrew midwife. And she answered and said to me: Are you of Israel? And I said to her: Yes. And she said: And who is it that is bringing forth in the cave? And I said: A woman betrothed to me. And she said to me: Is she not your wife? And I said to her: It is Mary that was reared in the temple of the Lord, and I obtained her by lot as my wife. And yet she is not my wife, but has conceived of the Holy Spirit. And the midwife said to him: Is this true? And Joseph said to her: Come and see. And the midwife went away with him. And they stood in the place of the cave, and behold a luminous cloud overshadowed the cave. And the midwife said: My soul has been magnified this day, because my eyes have seen strange things — because salvation has been brought forth to Israel. And immediately the cloud disappeared out of the cave, and a great light shone in the cave, so that the eyes could not bear it. And in a little that light gradually decreased, until the infant appeared, and went and took the breast from His mother Mary. And the midwife cried out, and said: This is a great day to me, because I have seen this strange sight.
Yeah – that’s where the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary comes from, and I’ll be honest – I think it’s hogwash. The Bible gives no indication that Jesus’ brothers were not also born of Mary. Further, if the Gospel of James scenario were literally true, then the brothers of Jesus wouldn’t be his brothers at all, but step-brothers.
Theologian J.I. Packer helps us to focus on the real Mary of the Bible, writing:
Mary was a virgin till after Jesus’ birth, but later ideas of her perpetual virginity are merely fanciful. The gospels show that Jesus had brothers and sisters (Mark 3:31; 6:3).
“Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary” in the Creed witnesses to the reality of the Incarnation, not the glory of Jesus’ mother: the Roman Catholic Church, however, has sponsored the unhappy development of Mariology (Mary-doctrine) among theologians and Mariolatry (Mary-worship) among the faithful. Mariology, which sees Mary as co-redeemer, rests on the nonbiblical teaching that Mary, like Jesus, was born without sin (the immaculate conception) and entered resurrection glory straight after death (the assumption).
But the real Mary, the Mary of Scripture, saw herself simply as a saved sinner. “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:47, KJV). She sets us a marvelous example, not just of the privilege (and the price!) of cooperating in God’s plan to bless the world (see Luke 1:38; 2:35), but also of humble response to God’s grace.
J. I. Packer, Growing in Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), 49.
You will not find Mary venerated and supremely honored in the Bible like the Catholic church honors her. Was she a great woman of God? Absolutely, the Bible shows us this, but the idea that she was without sin, that she was a perpetual virgin, and that she was the co-redeemer with Jesus of humankind is non-biblical, contradicted in the Bible, and developed many years after the completion of the books of the Bible.
End of the Show: Bible memory verse for April James 4:6 “But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
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