In order to ensure that someone does not accuse us of saying the same things as the poets, who say that Zeus came to women for sexual pleasure, we will explain the words of this prophecy clearly. The phrase “behold, the virgin shall conceive” means that the virgin would conceive without intercourse. If she had in fact had intercourse with someone, she would not have been a virgin. God’s power came on the virgin, overshadowed her and caused her to conceive while she remained a virgin.1
I know that the Jews are accustomed to meet us with the objection that in Hebrew the word almah does not mean a virgin but “a young woman.” And, to speak truth, a virgin is properly called bethulah, but a young woman, or a girl, is not almah but naarah! What then is the meaning of almah? A hidden virgin, that is, not merely virgin, but a virgin and something more, because not every virgin is hidden, shut off from the occasional sight of men.2
The Jews say that it is not written in the prophecy “virgin” but “young woman.” To which it may be answered that “young woman” and “virgin” mean the same thing in Scripture, for in Scripture “young woman” refers to one who is still a virgin. Furthermore, if it was not a virgin that gave birth, how would it be a sign, something extraordinary? Listen to Isaiah, who says, “For this reason the Lord himself shall give you a sign,” and immediately he adds, “Behold, the virgin.” So if it were not a virgin that would give birth, it would not be a sign. The Jews, then, alter the text of Scripture in their malice, putting “young woman” instead of “virgin.” But whether the text reads “young woman” or “virgin,” it should be understood in either case that it is a virgin who will give birth so that the event may be a miraculous sign.3
What is the sign? “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” In fact, a virgin did conceive and gave birth to “Emmanuel, God with us.” This is the new birth: a man born from God. God was born in the man, taking the flesh of the old human race without the help of the old human seed. God took the flesh in order to reform the old human race with a new seed. In other words, he spiritually cleansed the old human race by removing its old stains.4
- FIRST APOLOGY 33. McKinion, S. A. (Ed.). (2004). Isaiah 1-39 (p. 61). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- AGAINST JOVINIANUS 1.32. McKinion, S. A. (Ed.). (2004). Isaiah 1-39 (p. 61). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- EXPLANATION OF MATTHEW 23. McKinion, S. A. (Ed.). (2004). Isaiah 1-39 (p. 61). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- ON THE FLESH OF CHRIST 17. McKinion, S. A. (Ed.). (2004). Isaiah 1-39 (p. 61). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.