The Virgin Birth: A Miracle, not a Misunderstanding

Erik Manning
7 min readDec 23, 2019
Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

The Christmas season is like an alarm clock for skeptics. It’s an annual reminder for them to tell you that the Christmas story is fiction. One of their favorite arguments is to cast doubt on the virgin birth.

Critics say that Matthew was very quick to connect Jesus to the Old Testament. Even if it caused him to get sloppy and make a fool out of himself. So to bolster Jesus’ Messianic credentials, he invented the virgin birth story. He did this by misreading the Greek version of Isaiah 7:14, which does use the word virgin or parthenos in Greek.

But the original Hebrew passage wasn’t referring to a virgin at all, but a young woman. If Isaiah was prophesying a virgin birth, he would have used the more precise word betulah, not almah. Matthew assumed the word meant virgin. His ignorance led to the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus. A great example of this kind of criticism comes from popular atheist YouTubers Paulogia and Digital Hammurabi. Feel free to give it a watch.

So it is true that betulah means no engagement in sexual activity. But does that mean almah never means virgin?

Virgin or Young Maiden?

The word almah occurs six other times in the Old Testament. Let’s take a look at these passages and see if they mean virgin or young maiden.

Genesis 24:43. Rebekah was Isaac’s bride-to-be. In the same chapter, she is a “girl” ( na’arah). (Gen 24:14). She’s also called a virgin ( betulah) in verse 16 and a maiden ( almah) in 24:43. All three words describe a virginal young woman.

Exodus 2:8. Miriam’s sister Moses is an almah. She’s still living at home with her parents. It’s easy to infer she’s still a virgin.

Psalm 46:1. Indeterminate.

Psalm 68:25. Indeterminate.

1 Chronicles 15:20. Indeterminate.

Song of Solomon 1:3. This verse refers to the alamot for Solomon. These are not married women but maidens who…

Erik Manning

I am the Reasonable Faith Chapter Director in Cedar Rapids and the writer for I’m interested in the intersection of Christianity and history.