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Imagine a married man who is preparing his future life with his new bride. Suppose this bride was gone on a three month trip to help her cousin and when she returned was found to be pregnant! What kind of feelings would this cause? Well, Joseph knew this feeling exactly, because he was this man and Mary was the wife. It sounds like the typical story of the unfaithful wife who shared her intimacy with another man, because she had not had any with her husband[1]. Since Mary was not pregnant by her husband, this was not the case. Instead her baby was conceived while she was still a virgin. This idea may have sounded far fetched and crazy to the people at the time and it still does.  

Mary was indeed pregnant. Pregnancy is not something that is taken lightly and one that was to come about by supernatural means would surely be thought of as words from a lunatic. We are going to explore this. This blogpost is to going to dive into the Virgin birth of Jesus Christ and how people responded to the news of her pregnancy. 

In order to study how people responded to her pregnancy, we must discover how she became pregnant and how people found out. Mary lived during the Roman Empire in a small town of the Galilee province called Nazareth. She was “married ” to a carpenter named Joseph and they were both descendants of the David[2]. At this time the couple had not consummated their marriage nor been together, probably because Joseph was preparing for their marriage. Joseph may have been working to pay off a bride price or building the home unit for him and his wife to live in one day.  

At the same time Mary’s cousin Elizabeth was sixth months pregnant with John the Baptist. It was during this time that the Angel Gabriel told Mary she would be pregnant with the Son of God. In response Mary asked “how”, because she had not had relations with Joseph. This is the typical reaction to news of miracles from Angels in Scripture[3].

Shortly after this Mary left for the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah to aid her in the late stages of her  pregnancy. When she first arrived John leaped in the womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit , knowing that Mary would bear the Son of God. It was probably shortly after or before this that the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus with Mary. Since there is no indication that Mary felt when Jesus was conceived and there is a clear distinction made to her virginity, she probably did not know when it occurred. After Elizabeth’s divine outburst Mary sang praises to God for the favor she had been shown to be blessed as the mother of the Messiah. After Mary was with Elizabeth for three months she returned home to Nazareth. [4]

Either by Mary’s own mouth or obvious appearance, Joseph discovered Mary’s pregnancy upon her return. While Joseph would have felt betrayed he decided to handle the pregnancy calmly. He made up his mind to privately divorce her to shield her from public humiliation and to obey the Pentateuch laws.[5] In this case divorce was permitted by Deuteronomy which stated that a husband may divorce a wife if he found in an indecency in her[6], in this case was Mary’s perceived adultery. Now if Mary had told Joseph she had conceived by the Holy Spirit it seems Joseph would not have believed this and thought this to be a lie. There is no significant textual evidence that indicates she did, however there is explicitly states otherwise.  

Whether or not Joseph knew beforehand of the Holy Spirit’s involvement, took contact with of an Angel would change his mind. One night while he slept an Angel came to him and told him to not be fearful in taking Mary as a wife, because her child was with the Holy Spirit.[7] Notice the Angel did not just say “take Mary as your wife”, but “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife”. This would indicate that Joseph not divorcing Mary would probably be shunned by the community. A virgin birth by the Holy Spirit would have been viewed as insane, perhaps Joseph being delusional or ignorant of the law; maybe even a conspiracy that claimed they were of prophecy.  

Not everyone could be expected to believe this. Isaiah's prophecy on the virgin birth of the Messiah[8] may not have been widely known to the general population at the time. Despite this there were still some, such as Herod the Great who knew it was true but still denied it[9] . Years later the Jewish scholarly community, despite being eyewitnesses of countless miracles, did not believe. Unbelief in Jesus was even foretold by Isaiah and John confirms this in his gospel[10]. The principle that Paul writes in his first epistle to Corinth stood true then and now: those not of the spirit will not accept things from the spirit[11]. The three people that explicitly accepted Jesus’s virgin birth at the time of the announcement all required supernatural communication to be convinced. Both Mary and Joseph were told by Angels and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.    In the end true belief in this important doctrine requires faith[12] and involves the supernatural conviction of the Holy Spirit[13].

In the next blogpost we will explore how the Bible claims the Virgin Birth as a literal event rather than an allegory  

Verses

  1. Matt 1:25 (Link)
  2. Matt 1:3,Luke 3:33 (Link)
  3. Luke 1:28-37 (Link)
  4. Luke 1:39-56 (Link)
  5. Matt 1:18-19 (Link)
  6. Deut 24:1, 22:14-19 (Link)
  7. Matt 1:20 (Link)
  8. Isa 7:14, Matt 1:23-24 (Link)
  9. Matt 2:1-8,16 (Link)
  10. John 12:37-40, Isa 53:1,Isa 6:10 (Link)
  11. 1 Cor 2:14 (Link)
  12. Heb 11:1 (Link)
  13. John 16:8 (Link)

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