Meacham next goes to address two different problems. The first problem is in the translation of Isaiah 7:14– he states that there are scholars that think the rendering of the passage should be “a young woman” not “the virgin.” The next problem is geography. According to the Old Testament prophecies, the Messiah would come from Bethleham, but many were objecting to Jesus being from Nazareth, so he said Matthew and Luke had to get them there. He states that Matthew has Mary and Joseph as residents of Bethleham that had to move to Nazareth. He also says that Matthew added dramatic flair going having them go to Egypt. He states that there is no historical evidence for the Herodian slaughter.
First, I want to point out that the first instance of a reference to the virgin birth is not found in Isaiah 7, but in Genesis 3:15. In that passage, God refers to the woman’s seed crushing the head of the snake, not a man’s seed. This is important because, as we have discussed previously, Jesus is the son of Mary, not of Joseph.
Now for the Isaiah 7 question– the facts I’m about to give you come from McDowell’s book, as I stated before:
What does ‘Almah Mean? ‘Almah is the term translated “virgin” in Isaiah 7. “Edward Hindson states, ‘Though it is true that ‘almah is not the common word of virgin, its employment always denotes a virgin.’ Moreover, ‘Biblical usage of ‘almah is clearly never that of a married woman, but always of an unmarried woman.'”
Passages to consult:
Genesis 24:43 – Rebekah is called a “young woman” who was a virgin”, and in verse 43, it is reduced to virgin.
Exodus 2:8 – Moses’ sister, Miriam, is referred to as a virgin and young woman, as if it was understood to have come from her age.
Psalm 68:25 – The women going into the temple would definitely not be harlots or impure woman– they would be virgins.
Proverbs 30:19 – The way with a young man and an ‘almah is here discussed. The passage is put up against the evil woman versus the virtuous woman. It’s definitely the case that virginity is assumed.
Song of Solomon 1:3 – The virgins (‘almah) that are attracted to Solomon are just that, virgins.
Song of Solomon 6:8 – Three categories of women: Married, Concubines, Maidens. The Maidens would be assumed to be virgins.
Thus, in every case of this usage (other than the one in question) it implies virgin. John Calvin goes on to make the point that a birth of child by normal means would by no means conjure up the thought of a supernatural sign or miracle, but a birth to a virgin would.
Now, to take up the case about Matthew/Luke and Jesus birthplace. First, a table by James Orr (Orr, VBC, 36-37) that lists 12 points of agreement between the Gospels:
- Jesus was born in the last days of Herod (Matt 2:1, 13; Luke 1:5).
- He was conceived by the Holy Ghost (Matt 1:18, 20; Luke 1:35).
- His mother was a virgin (Matt 1:18, 20, 23; Luke 1:27, 34).
- She was betrothed to Joseph (Matt 1:18; Luke 1:27; 2:5).
- Joseph was of the house and lineage of David (Matt 1:16, 20; Luke 1:27; 2:4).
- Jesus was born at Bethleham (Matt 2:1; Luke 2:4, 6).
- By divine direction He was called Jesus (Matt 1:21; Luke 1:31).
- He was declared to be a Savior (Matt 1:21, Luke 2:11).
- Joseph knew beforehand of Mary’s condition and its cause (Matt 1:18-20; Luke 2:5).
- Nevertheless, he took Mary as wife and assumed full paternal responsibilities for her child (Matt 1:20, 24, 25; Luke 2:5 ff.).
- The annuciation and birth were attended by revelations and visions (Matt 1:20, etc, Luke 1:26, 27, etc.)
- After the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary dwelt in Nazareth (Matt 2:23; Luke 2:39).
McDowell then presents evidence that Mark may not have been the first gospel written– Matthew might have been. Also, keep in mind Matthew’s prior profession. As a tax collector, he would have known to to keep facts true. Meacham relies on Matthew and Luke not being historians but fabricators that come come up with the accounts on their own. Again, this is because he states that there are little to know first hand witnesses… back to where we started!
As for Egypt and Herod’s killing of the boys, many sources say that killing of the boys would not be something out of character for Herod (as Meacham agrees), and God would have needed to supply a way of escape.