This is episode 10 in the series, What Must A Christian Believe? In this episode we are considering the third article of the Apostles’ Creed. The late and apostate Episcopal Bishop, which apparently did not disqualify him from holding episcopal office in the Episcopal Church USA, John Shelby Spong, once declared, “The virgin birth is no big deal.” Holy Scripture and the holy catholic church beg to differ. In the third article of the creed we confess, “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.” In this episode we tackle the biblical and ecumenical doctrine of the virgin birth. By this we understand that the Holy Spirit mysteriously overshadowed Mary and thereby God the Son took upon himself true human nature.The historic Christian view is that this was in fulfillment of the prophecy given by the Spirit through the prophet Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa 7:14). Notoriously, in 1952, the Revised Standard Version translated the Hebrew noun (עַלְמָה) for virgin as “young woman.” The New English Bible followed suit in 1970 and the NRSV did it again in 1989 but the overwhelming majority of English translations use virgin. There is a reason for this. The LXX translation, made during the inter-testamental period (3rd to 2nd cent BC) used the noun παρθένος (parthenos), which the New Testament authors also use. The rationalist critics think that they know what can and cannot be so they rule out virgin a priori but we may be thankful that God the Spirit did not consult them when he inspired the New Testament authors to interpret Isaiah 7:14 for us because they clearly intended us to understand that Mary was a virgin, i.e., a young woman who had never had sexual relations with a man, when God the Son took on a true human nature in her womb. Ps. Yes, I realize I said “2020.” Let us consider it a charming idiosyncrasy.
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