A Global Association of Orthodox Jewish Believers in Messiah Yeshua
Messianic Apologetics & The Virgin Birth (Conception)
Messianic Jewish apologetics is not that difficult. Take any argument that a counter-missionary gives you and reduce it to an argument from the Torah, and you will remain standing on the truth every time.
The only winning tactic of the counter-missionary is to attack arguments which are themselves not based on a Torah frame of reference. So to win the argument once and for all, take the argument to a Torah frame of reference. If they can’t, then you’ve won already. At that point, be kind and show them the truth from the Torah.
For example, a counter-missionary attacking the Catholic concept of the Trinity, though he may win his point on the matter, is engaging in a fruitless argument, since the Messianic Jew is standing right there in agreement with him all along since the trinitarian model is a limiting box that man has placed upon HaShem, a box that is not found in the Torah.
We can respond to any objection to Yeshua as the Mashiach by simply reducing the objection to an argument from the Torah, each and every time. If the argument the counter-missionary makes is not made from the Torah, how then can their argument stand? After all this is proper biblical hermeneutics – the study of the bible is based upon the premise that nothing can be added to or subtracted from the Torah, since it is written:
Deuteronomy 12:32 (13-1)
אֵת כָּל-הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם אֹתוֺ תִשְׁמְרוּ לַעֲשׂוֺת לֹא-תֹסֵף עָלָיו וְלֹא תִגְרַע מִמֶּנּוּ
Deuteronomy 12:32 (13-1)
All this word which I command you, that shall ye observe to do; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
This means nothing can be added to or taken from the Torah. This includes everything that came after, from Joshua onwards. When one understands that Joshua through 2nd Chronicles, and Matthew through Revelation, are divinely inspired commentary on the Torah, then one has the key to Messianic Apologetics, since when you stand upon the foundation of the Torah, you will not fall.
One of the best examples of this is the counter-missionary argument that Isaiah 7:14 is not referring to the virgin birth of Messiah:
לָכֵן יִתֵּן אֲדֹנָי הוּא לָכֶם אוֺת הִנֵּה הָעַלְמָה הָרָה וְיֹלֶדֶת בֵּן וְקָרָאת שְׁמוֺ עִמָּנוּ אֵל
Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman (הָעַלְמָה) shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
“The almah” הָעַלְמָה shall conceive. Yet Isaiah could not add to Torah any more than we can, so we must then inquire of the Torah for the answer. Many Christian and Messianic apologists make the mistake of defending a commentary (the Prophet or the Writing), when the source text of that commentary is readily available (the Torah).
What do we find when we inquire of the Torah about this matter? הָעַלְמָה shows up in two places in the Torah. The first is in Gen 24:42-43:
וָאָבֹא הַיּוֹם, אֶל-הָעָיִן; וָאֹמַר, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲדֹנִי אַבְרָהָם, אִם-יֶשְׁךָ-נָּא מַצְלִיחַ דַּרְכִּי, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי הֹלֵךְ עָלֶיהָ. הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי נִצָּב, עַל-עֵין הַמָּיִם; וְהָיָה הָעַלְמָה, הַיֹּצֵאת לִשְׁאֹב, וְאָמַרְתִּי אֵלֶיהָ, הַשְׁקִינִי-נָא מְעַט-מַיִם מִכַּדֵּךְ. וְאָמְרָה אֵלַי גַּם-אַתָּה שְׁתֵה, וְגַם לִגְמַלֶּיךָ אֶשְׁאָב–הִוא הָאִשָּׁה, אֲשֶׁר-הֹכִיחַ יְהוָה לְבֶן-אֲדֹנִי
And I came this day unto the fountain, and said: O LORD, the G-d of my master Abraham, if now Thou do prosper my way which I go: behold, I stand by the fountain of water; and let it come to pass, that the maiden (הָעַלְמָה) that cometh forth to draw, to whom I shall say: Give me, I pray thee, a little water from thy pitcher to drink; and she shall say to me: Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels; let the same be the woman whom the LORD hath appointed for my master’s son.
It is interesting to note (הָעַלְמָה הַיֹּצֵאת לִשְׁאֹב) “The almah that brings forth bundle (implies bringing forth water)” is the Torah’s designation for what is later said of “whom HaShem has appointed for my master’s son.” The Torah is giving us something to look for! It is pointing us to look for an almah drawn by analogy, “who HaShem has appointed” for “my master’s son”. Who is this almah? One related in context to one drawing forth (from) water. Who is this master’s son? The Torah doesn’t give us Isaac’s exact name in this statement, thus we can also take this concept and apply it to another similar analogy as refering to one who is also drawn from water. This is based on the Jewish hermeneutic known as a “Gezera Shava” – an exegesis by analogy by common term. There are several common terms in this passage. “HaAlmah” “the maiden” is one, and the other is the phrase “ben adoni”, “master’s son.” HaAlmah is a found in only one other place in the Torah, Exodus 2:8. From there we begin our search for the rest of the clues in the related analogy and set of clues given in Gen 24:43. Who is “ben adoni?” not just Isaac, but also can refer to Mashiach who is called the seed of Abraham, and the seed of the woman, which we will get into later.
So then we question the Torah “where in the Torah is there another almah related to ‘my master’s son’ the Mashiach?” The answer the Torah gives us is found the the only other passage the gezra shava prompts us to look for in the Torah: Exodus 2:8. But how can we be certain? Because the same analogy of “bringing forth (water)” is also found in Exodus 2:10:
וַיִּגְדַּל הַיֶּלֶד וַתְּבִאֵהוּ לְבַת-פַּרְעֹה וַיְהִי-לָהּ לְבֵן וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֺ מֹשֶׁה וַתֹּאמֶר כִּי מִן-הַמַּיִם מְשִׁיתִהוּ
And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses, and said: ‘Because I drew him out of the water.’ (כִּי מִן-הַמַּיִם מְשִׁיתִהוּ)
How do we know Exodus 2:10 is related to the prophesied almah of Gen 24:43? Because it is written two verses later in Exodus 2:8:
Exodus 2:8 וַתֹּאמֶר-לָהּ בַּת-פַּרְעֹה לֵכִי וַתֵּלֶךְ הָעַלְמָה וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-אֵם הַיָּלֶד
Exodus 2:8 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her: ‘Go.’ And the maiden went and called the child’s mother.
(הָעַלְמָה וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-אֵם הַיָּלֶד) “The almah and called mother of the child.” The Torah is again not being specific as to who because it wants to teach us something more than just the initial story it is portraying. It is again the same conditions and presentation we find in Gen 24:43, that prompts us to inquire of the Torah who “the almah” in Exodus 2:10 that “brought forth” “my master’s son,” the Mashiach. We don’t ignore the immediate context at all, since it is the context that gives us the clues we need to find the answer: for we simply inquire of the Torah the name of “the almah called the mother of the child” and therefore ask the Torah what the name of the mother of Mashiach is: it is Miriam (Ex 15:20). And how old is she in Exodus 2:8? She is thirteen according to commentaries.
Is Miriam a virgin at this point? Yes, but that doesn’t prove Isaiah is referring to a virgin. We can’t eisegete. We can only exegete. Therefore we continue our inquiry to find out more about the mother of Mashiach, “the almah” being just one clue. She is also “called” “the mother of the child” in Exodus 2:8. We find this as a reference back to the first mother, who is “called” “the mother of the living” – Chavah (Eve). Yet again, Torah does not use her (Chavah’s) name when it says in Genesis 3:15:
וְאֵיבָה אָשִׁית בֵּינְךׇ וּבֵין הָאִשָּׁה וּבֵין זַרְעֲךׇ וּבֵין זַרְעָהּ הוּא יְשׁוּפְךׇ רֹאשׁ וְאַתָּה תְּשׁוּפֶנּוּ עָקֵב
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; they shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise their heel.’
The woman we know is Chavah, but the Torah leaves this ambiguous to show us that it is also referring to the mother of Mashiach for beginning here in Gen 3:15 we see that the Mashiach is called “zarah” (זַרְעָהּ) – “her seed.” Not “his seed” – meaning he’s not from Adam, and thus by implication is not of “theMan” haAdam,” but rather is of the seed of “the woman,” not of the man. Maschiah is the Seed of the Woman.
How do we know that this is what the Torah meant? By what is recorded that Chavah said when she gave birth Cain:
והאדם ידע את-חוה אשתו ותהר ותלד את-קין ותאמר קניתי איש את-יהוה
And the man knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain, and said: ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.’
Chavah was looking for Cain to be the Mashiach, and as such understood the prophecy of Gen 3:15 as “her seed” meaning that the result of the Machiach being born through her is because of HaShem (and not because of Adam). Little did she understand though the full implication of “her seed” as meaning that Mashiach is conceived completely of the woman’s seed alone, and not of the man. In fact it’s not fully understood by men until the narrative gets to the birth of Enosh to Seth (again the implication of his being born “to Seth” is recorded to teach us what not to expect of Mashiach- that is, he is not born of a man and woman but only of a woman), and only then at that time do men begin to “call upon” or “profane” the “name of HaShem” (again another reference to who Mashiach is in Gen 4:26) – essentially it is at that time they do because they realize the Mashiach isn’t coming anytime soon, and he’s not coming with the help of any man. This is why “to Seth” is it recorded a son is born to him.
Women don’t have seed, and the Torah clearly teaches that Mashiach doesn’t come through the union of a man and woman (perhaps this is why circumcision is a sign of the Covenant – the sign that Mashiach doesn’t come through human flesh), so who is the prophecy referring to, and how can the woman get a man (ish – also her “husband” who she will “desire,” that is, Messiah) without the help of a man but only “with the help of HaShem?” How can she acquire the Messiah with the help of HaShem? How is this possible when HaShem is masculine? Because it is written that “HaShem Eloheim” gave the prophecy concerning the Mashiach to Chavah. Eloheim is feminine! How do we know that Eloheim is the one who creates the seed of the woman? Well, who creates anything? As it is written in Gen 1:1:
בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ
In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth.
It is Eloheim, the feminine of G-d, that creates. So then, one understands from Torah itself that it is through Eloheim that a woman will conceive of the Mashiach with the help of HaShem through the Spirit of G-d.
So Isaiah is certainly referring to a young woman, yet when the argument is made from the Torah, this young woman’s name is Miriam, is young (like Miriam who is at thirteen years of age according to commentaries), and conceives without the help of a man. It is she who brings forth Mashiach. But how do we get that she is a virgin?
Because of the first almah, as explained above in the example of Rivkeh, it is written:
והנער טבת מראה מאד בתולה ואיש לא ידעה ותרד העינה ותמלא כדה ותעל
And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her; and she went down to the fountain, and filled her pitcher, and came up.
Right within the passage of the first mention of “almah” – young woman – in the Torah is also the Torah’s first mention of the word “betulah” – virgin – and its referring to the same person!
As mentioned already above:
הנה אנכי נצב על-עין המים והיה העלמה היצאת לשאב ואמרתי אליה השקיני-נא מעט-מים מכדך
ואמרה אלי גם-אתה שתה וגם לגמליך אשאב הוא האשה אשר-הכיח יהוה לבן-אדני
Genesis 24:43-44 behold, I stand by the fountain of water; and let it come to pass, that the maiden (ha almah) that cometh forth to draw, to whom I shall say: Give me, I pray thee, a little water from thy pitcher to drink; and she shall say to me: Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels; let the same be the woman whom the LORD hath appointed for my master’s son.
This person is Rivkeh according to the greater peshat narrative, but as we see, the specifics in the verses mentioned are not clear, meaning those verses can also refer to the mother of Mashiach according to the rule of gezrah shavah. That we find this when comparing to the actual event in Gen 24:16, to Eliezar’s recollection of the same event in Gen 24:43, is key to understanding how the Torah teaches us to look for deeper meaning and context through gezrah shevah, especially concerning this issue. From this we see that Torah teaches clearly that the first mention for virgin is one who has not known any man, is also related to the first mention for almah in its later understanding, and is also a direct reference to the woman “ha ishah” appointed for “ben adoni” son of my Master.
That “ish” also means husband also proves that the virgin is married, and has not known her husband, and thus she is betrothed (like Rivkeh). How do we know that a betrothed woman is a virgin?
כי יהיה נער בתולה מארשה לאיש ומצאה איש בעיר ושכב עמה
… a damsel that is a virgin betrothed unto a man…
So then Torah is clear that “the woman” who brings forth “zarah” with “the help of HaShem” through “Eloheim” is not just an almah, but also a virgin. So then, why a virgin conception? Why not just an almah conception? The Torah gives us the answer as to why:
We find the answer in the Torah concerning a woman accused of adultery, the sotah:
וְאִם-לֹא נִטְמְאָה הָאִשָּׁה וּטְהֹרָה הִוא וְנִקְּתָה וְנִזְרְעָה זָרַע
And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be cleared, and shall conceive seed.
(הָאִשָּׁה…נִזְרְעָה זָרַע) “The Woman…shall conceive (zarah) seed (zara).” Notice that “the woman” is accused of adultery, cleared, and is promised that she (not they – as in her and her husband) will conceive (zarah) seed (zara). The Mashiach. This verse in Numbers 5:28 tells us why it’s zarah in Gen 3:15. It is to exonerate the woman and thus eliminate suspicion that the woman is guilty of having relations with her husband, or with any man for that matter! The promise is that she will bear seed! The promise is that she will conceive the Mashiach! This zara is a direct reference to Gen 3:15, the “zarah” Seed (Mashiach), thus placing the sotah in the category of yet another prophecy of Mashiach that explains that without the help of her husband (or as is also understood the sotah also refers to one betrothed), without the help of a man; being innocent, she conceives the Mashiach: a promise of a virgin conception (otherwise the suspicion of the fathered zara then is on the husband, which Torah here doesn’t mention him, but only mentions that the woman conceives!).
But why a virgin birth? To eliminate suspicion on the part of the husband (and thus of all mankind) as to the authenticity of the conception of the Mashiach. We see from Torah that “the woman” has “a husband,” just as Eve was Adam’s wife but had not known her husband yet when G-d gave the prophecy concerning Mashiach being “her seed.” Yet as we read, Torah records that Adam lay with his wife and she conceived, three times. Why? To teach us what not to look for in Messiah (and conversely what to look for in the true Messiah). How? Each time it is written he lay with her and she conceived, there was produced a failed messianic candidate (Abel fails to rise from the dead, Cain is a Torah breaker, and Seth has a son) until it’s written concerning Seth having a son “at that time men called upon/profaned the name of HaShem” the final realization of who the Messiah is. It is as if the Torah teaches us what not to look for concerning the promised Seed (that he doesn’t die as a result of murder, doesn’t rise, is a sinner, and has children), by telling us what to look for (he has the name of HaShem in him). Messiah will rise from the dead, be sinless his entire life, and yet die without producing offspring – all which the Prophets and Writings later comment on. By removing man from the picture concerning the conception of Messiah by the trial of the sotah, his origin and purpose is fully authenticated.
Of Yeshua we do not find that this happened to authenticate his origin: that his mother was brought before the priests on suspicion of adultery and found innocent. Why? Because of Yoseph, her betrothed, it is written he had in mind to divorce her quietly, and then later, because of a dream (like another Yoseph we know who by sharing his dream lost his reputation with his brothers, and later too had his sexual integrity questioned), he does not divorce her, and instead remains faithful to her by being her husband. Although it is true that Torah teaches that even the husband never has relations with “the woman” before the conception of Mashiach, it doesn’t demand that the husband bring the woman through the trial-by-ordeal of the sotah, the woman accused of adultery, unless he has a spirit of jealousy! It is never written of Joseph (both the father of Mashiach, and yes of Joseph in the Torah, who Torah also teaches is the name of the father of the king Mashiach – avrech – Gen 41:43) that he was ever jealous, but instead it is said he was a righteous man, and he continues to stay righteous even though by staying righteous his integrity was called into question, and his reputation possibly tarnished! (He certainly had a reputation to keep to, since according to Torah he would have been a tzaddik in his own time, a Torah scholar, an itenerant rabbi, and a leading member of the Sanhedrin, if not a serving nasi – the explanation for this from Torah is beyond the scope of this paper.) Something so convinced Joseph that as a righteous man he never had a spirit of jealousy come over him that he remains faithful to his wife, even after the conception and birth of Messiah. The account in Matthew records that Joseph had a dream. Either we believe the Torah when it says Joseph had a dream about his identity not believed by his brothers, or we don’t. We either believe the Torah when it says Joseph’s sexual fidelity was innocent and secure, or we don’t. The same is true for the betrothed husband of the mother of Messiah.
Again, we see in Numbers 5:28 dealing the the sotah, the Torah gives us liberty with the text by giving a generic verse. It has multiple meanings, both in the context of the command, but also to teach us by drash that one who is betrothed (like that state Chavah was in with Adam when G-d made the prophecy of the Messiah), the mother of the Mashiach is innocent of adultery, is a virgin, not having known a man.
So then we learn from Torah that the almah’s name is Miriam, she is young like Miriam and Rivkeh, and betrothed like Chavah and Rivkeh, and is a virgin like Rivkeh when she conceives Mashiach, and though her fidelity may questioned (and even that of her husband (who is Joseph)), she is innocent (and so too her husband), and as a result brings forth Mashiach with the help of HaShem through the Spirit of G-d.
For the counter-missionary, when you argue from the Hebrew of the Torah, you can not lose. This is why I encourage all those who desire the truth of these matters, to learn Hebrew, study Torah, and look for what the Torah is telling who Mashiach is.