Was the Virgin Birth Incorrectly Prophesied?


Sean McDowell gives us an in depth look at the interpretation of Matthew. This shows that neither he nor other writers of the New Testament were twisting the Old Testament passages or taking them out of context.

Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23). 

Difficulty: Isn't Matthew misquoting Isaiah 7:14, because wasn't the child who was born actually Hezekiah, who became king of Israel? 

Explanation: Yes, Matthew quotes Isaiah 7 and claims it was prophesied that Jesus was to be born of a virgin and would be called Immanuel. And critics do point out that a full reading of chapter 7 of Isaiah seems to more likely refer to the birth of Hezekiah, who became a godly king of Israel. 

Some accuse writers of the New Testament of twisting and taking Old Testament passages like this out of context to teach their brand of Christianity. They say writers of the Gospels and the epistles seemed to take liberties with the Old Testament text to establish a whole new religion of their own. 

Another example is in Matthew 2. Mary and Joseph fled into Egypt with baby Jesus to escape Herod’s decree that infant boys in the Bethlehem area under the age of two be killed. Matthew then wrote, 

This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt”…Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A cry was heard in Ramah—weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead” (Matthew 2:15, 17-18). 

Matthew is quoting first Hosea the prophet, who said that when Israel was a child, God loved him and “called my son out of Egypt” (Hosea 11:1). We all know that God did in fact call his people out of Egypt. Yet Matthew claims this was a prophecy about Joseph and Mary taking Jesus to Egypt and later bringing him back. Matthew quotes Jeremiah about Rachel weeping over her dead children and claims it was referring to first-century mothers weeping after Herod had the infant boys in Bethlehem killed. Critics claim, again, that Matthew is grossly twisting and misinterpreting Hosea and Jeremiah. 

What critics overlook is that Jesus came to fulfill God’s promise to Israel and provide a means for all of God’s lost children to be redeemed. This means the many prophecies and promises to Israel were foreshadows of Jesus’ plan to bring Israel and his church into his eternal kingdom. 

Jesus came to establish his kingdom, and it was he who said, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose” (Matthew 5:17). He was the realization of all the prophets and the law taught. He was the fulfillment of God’s message to Israel, and therefore we must understand the Old Testament in light of him.

So Matthew and other writers of the New Testament weren't twisting the Old Testament passages or taking them out of context. Rather, they were understanding them as God had inspired his writers to understand them—Israel was God’s means of bringing salvation to the world, and Jesus was the literal fulfillment of his masterful and merciful plan. Jesus was the true Son called out of Egypt, the son Israel was unable to be. This was not a misinterpretation of Hosea 11:1. Isaiah did predict a child would be born to deliver Israel. Hezekiah was only a temporary salvation to God’s people. God revealed through Matthew that Jesus was the permanent salvation not only for Israel but for the whole world. New Testament writers like Matthew did not misquote the Old Testament passages; they simply gave them the Christocentric context that God intended.

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