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Was Mary a Virgin?

written by Asher Intrater
December 27, 2009

Mary’s real name was Miriam. Technically, when Miriam gave birth to Yeshua (Jesus), she was not a virgin, but a virgin-betrothed. In biblical law, there is a big difference. Miriam was legally married to Yoseph (Joseph), but they had not yet come together physically. Had she been with another man, it would have been a case of adultery demanding the death penalty (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). If a man lies with an unbetrothed virgin, he must pay a fine and marry her (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

Legally, according to Deuteronomy 22, Miriam was not a virgin but a virgin betrothed. This is important for several reasons. First, both Miriam and Yoseph had to believe in the supernatural power of God to overcome the circumstances that would have warranted a death penalty.

Secondly, the prophecy in Isaiah about the birth of Messiah uses a different term other than “virgin.”

Isaiah 7:14 – The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the “virgin” shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Immanu El.

The word for virgin in this passage is not the normal word betulah but a special word alma. The word alma is found in scriptures only 3 other times.

  1. In Genesis 24: 43 alma is used for Rebecca, interchangeably with the betulah for a virgin (v. 16).
  2. In Exodus 2:8 the alma is Miriam, the sister of Moses. She also was a virgin. In addition, her name is a prophetic clue of the mother of the Messiah, who would be THE alma.
  3. In Proverbs 30:19, the alma refers to the relation with a man and therefore in contextual meaning could be a married woman. However it is also a parable of the mysterious relationship between Messiah and the Church (Ephesians 5:32).

Opponents of the gospel who know biblical Hebrew claim that the Isaiah 7 passage does not refer to Yeshua because the woman there is not betulah but alma.

However the prophecy fits Yeshua perfectly.

  1. The Septuagint, written by 70 rabbis, completed in 132 BC (before the birth of Yeshua), translates alma of Isaiah 7 into Greek as parthenos, meaning virgin.
  2. In Genesis 24, alma means virgin (Rebecca).
  3. In Exodus 2, alma also means virgin (Miriam).
  4. Isaiah 7 could not use the word betulah, since it needed a special word referring to a different legal condition, not a normal virgin, but a virgin betrothed, that is, both a virgin and legally bonded to a man.
  5. Isaiah 7 logically refers to a virgin, since the birth is a miraculous sign.
  6. The child of Isaiah 7 has to be supernaturally born because He is also “God with us,” El Immanu.

Three Genealogies

There are three genealogies concerning Yeshua. John 1 deals with His divinity. Luke 3 deals with His physical birth through Miriam. Matthew 1 deals with His legal lineage from King David.

Matthew 1:20-21 – Yoseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Miriam your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins.

The work of the Holy Spirit was to cause the child to be conceived inside of Miriam. The work of Miriam was to give birth to the baby. The work of Yoseph was to call His name.

All three were necessary for salvation. Yeshua had to be of God to be holy. He had to have a physical body to be part of the human race. He had to have the royal covenant lineage of David to have the authority of earthly government.

Had Miriam been simply a virgin (betulah), Yeshua would not have had legal rights to the throne of David. Had she been married with a normal conception, Yeshua would not have had the divine power to save us. So God invented a category in the Torah – betrothal: a time of being married legally without conception. He did that to create a framework for an unusual opportunity. Miriam, not a virgin, but a virgin-betrothed, gave birth to a Son, who was spiritually God, physically human, and legally the heir of the kingdom. To fit that category, He used a different word: alma.

Both Miriam and Yoseph were of David’s lineage. Yeshua was a native born Israeli, born in Bethlehem, circumcised in Jerusalem, raised in the Galilee. He was of Middle Eastern background, likely dark skinned, and observed the commandments of the Torah.

Some of our people mock our faith, saying that no one could be born of a virgin. I ask them: Do you believe in the Torah? If so, do you believe in the creation of Adam? If so, which is harder: to create a man from dirt or to cause a virgin to give birth?

Isaac was born supernaturally; as was Samson; as was Samuel. How much more should we expect the Messiah to be born of supernatural origin?

What Kind of God?

God revealed Himself to mankind in a way mankind could understand. Yeshua was born through the womb of a woman. What kind of God would do that? God wants to be close to us and in friendship with us. Any person or religion who does not see God in Yeshua cannot fully understand how much God is committed to intimacy and involvement in every part of our lives.

The same God-Man who walked in the Garden of Eden and came to visit Abraham at Mamre, loved us so much that He was born into this world as a human baby. He became like us so we could become like Him. In that baby lies the ultimate revelation of God and the ultimate destiny of man. In the birth of Yeshua, the divine and the human came together.

Asher serves as president of Tikkun Global family of ministries and congregations, dedicated to the dual restoration of Israel and the Church. He is founder of the Revive Israel five-fold ministry team, and oversees both Ahavat Yeshua and Tiferet Yeshua congregations in Israel.

He and his wife Betty share a passion for personal prayer and devotion, local evangelism and discipleship in Hebrew, and unity of the Body of believers worldwide.

Asher was raised in a conservative Jewish home and holds degrees from Harvard University, Baltimore Hebrew College and Messiah Biblical Institute. He has authored numerous books, tracts and articles.

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