Posted November- December, 2005
It was possibly during the festival of Succot on the day of October 3, 7 BCE when a young Davidian was born in the city of Bethlehem. This date was definitely before the great historical divide as was conceived by the medieval Catholic monks between B.C. (“Before the birth of Christ) – prior known as A.C.N. as “Ante Christum Natum” and AD (Anno Domini – “In the year of our Lord Jesus Christ”). It was an epochal separation of the history of the world as before and after the birth of Jesus Christ, the messiah to the Jews and the progenitor of the Christian faith.
This birth was before the historically documented date of the death of Herod the Great in March, 4 BCE. In his paranoid pogroms to eliminate any potential rival to Herod’s throne, he killed his favorite wife, Mariamme and strangling his Hasmonean sons, Alexander and Aristobulus. This was near the dates of 7 BCE when the conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter in the constellation of Pisces occurred as discovered in 1603 by the Prague astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler who saw the convergence of two planets into one larger “new star” through his rudimentary telescope. Remembering the ancient rabbinic writer, Abravanel (1437-1508), who wrote that Jewish astronomers felt that when the occurrence of the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in Pisces, the Messiah would come. In ancient Jewish lore, Jupiter represented the royal House of David, Saturn, the protector of Israel and the constellation of Pisces as the House of Israel, the sign of the Maschiach of Yisra’el (Messiah of Israel).
It would not be until 1925 when the astrological archives were discovered in cuneiform inscriptions at Abu-Habbah the temple ziggurat complex in the ancient Sumerian city of Sippar that was dedicated to the Sumerian god of the moon, Shamash. This city was expertly positioned on a major canal connecting the Tigris and the Euphrates in Babylon. Here in the ancient scribal School of Astrology, among the tens of thousands of clay tablets, the dates of the convergence of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces occurred over five months in four observable dates, May 29, July 29, October 3 and December 4 in the year of 7 BCE.
And then we have the registration of the Jews as mentioned by the physician Luke in 6 BCE of Quirinius (Publius Sulpicius Quirinius), a Roman soldier, senator and consul under the rule of Augustus Caesar who was sent to become a legate of Syria with Coponius, the predecessor of Pontius Pilatus, who eventually would become the first prefect of Judea.
Even though Herod was a client king under the authority of Augustus, the paranoia and failing health of this Idumean king over the Jewish people could have propelled the Caesar to prepare Judea to possibly return to Roman authority. It was a joke in the Herodian court that it was safer to be Herod’s pig than his son. In fact Josephus mentions the fury of Augustus against Herod in 8 BCE over the lack of military discipline in the Judean provinces so that the Arabian border-states were revolting and not paying their taxes. With the overreaction of Herod and his military and the progressive disorder, thousands of deaths had occurred in the western provinces of the Roman Empire. We find this possible clue in Josephus:
Flavius Josephus – “Caesar was provoked…and asked no more than this one question, both of Herod’s friends who were come from Syria, Whether Herod had led an army thither? And when they were forced to confess so much, Caesar, without staying to hear for what reason he did it, and how it was done, grew very angry, and wrote to Herod sharply. The sum of his epistle was this, that whereas of old he had used him as his friend (client), he should now us him as his subject (subject to taxes).” (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XVI, ix 3)
Did Augustus Caesar impose a census upon Judea in 7 BCE? The answer would have been “no” due to the fact that Herod had his own tax collectors and paid the tribute from the proceeds to Rome. Yet the question still begs a legitimate answer. With Herod becoming progressively insane, the conservative emperor of Rome was enraged by the madness of Herod and the havoc it placed on Rome’s own subjects, the Jews and with the Herodian dynastic family. We have seen the passion Augustus the Great had with the preparation for a Julian dynastic succession in his own Roman family. His fury that his client king, Herod, could not have been so careful to set up a proper dynastic succession would have been a legitimate motive. Any prudent administrator would have begun the preparation to act upon his threats written in his letter to his “client king” concerning the reality of demoting Herod to a “subject” and taxing him like any other Roman subject. The move to the eventual transfer of the Judean Roman client state back under the direct rule of the Syrian governor could have begun at this time.
While in 7 BCE, there was possibly only a registration and hence the background for the birth of Jesus, this registration was also best done when all the Jewish males came to the vicinity of Jerusalem for one of the three mandated festivals of the Lord. It does not preclude that Caesar could not have imposed an actual census in Syria/Palestine the following year in 6 BCE upon the data of the registration the prior year and thus begin the 14 year cycle of Roman taxation of the province of Judea. Lack of Roman records for such a census does not preclude such an historical event. Two thousand year old records were lost or destroyed over the millenniums. It was 64 CE that Rome was burned during the reign of Nero and sacking of this august city have occurred numerous times over the centuries.
In the midst of this political chaos, Jesus the son of Josef son of Mary daughter of Heli/Eliakim/Joachim (Yahshua ben Yosef ben Miriam bat Heli/Eliakim/Joachim), according to the testimony of Luke, was born of a “virgin.” Mary was the daughter of Joachim (Heli) and Anna. He was a wealthy livestock producer in contract with the Temple of Herod, who raised cattle, sheep and goats for the temple sacrifices in the city of Jerusalem. Mary’s mother, Anna (Hannah), was a barren Jewess who pledged her child to the service of the Lord if the God of Israel would bless her with a fruitful womb.
Dedicated at the age of three and placed under the supervision of the priests of the temple, Mary went to live in the temple proper in the royal city of David. As a child with a fertile mind for learning, she was able to listen and learn with close proximity of access to the inner sanctum of the high priest of the temple. What form of education she was allowed to have we do not know. According to the histories, she was educated in the “holy of holiest” suggesting that she had access to the site of the temple itself. That she had access to listen to the acclaimed pharisaic teachers of Judaism we can only assume. What she was able to absorb by close association to the private affairs of the temple hierarchy with access behind the corridors of power and politics in Jewish history could speak volumes in itself.
At the age for marriage at twelve to sixteen years, depending on the text, Miriam was brokered by lottery to the most eligible orthodox Jewish bachelor in Judea using rods from an almond tree. That he was a widower and was already a father is a fact in the histories. That he was a devout halachah observing Jew is also a fact of also ancient historical records. That Joseph was a Davidian, born in the House of King David, and protected by the secret sect of the Essenes is now suspected in the historical drama. That his followers included powerful elders of the Great Sanhedrin in the grain merchant Nicodemus and the Roman mining decurio, Joseph of Arimathea is also alluded to in the Gospels, the Nazarene , Roman, Jewish and British Culdee testimonies.
As we weave through the vast archives of ancient documents, a composite picture begins to give flesh, pathos, intrigue and vibrancy to the historical events leading up to that time in history when the Almighty One of Israel brought to this planet earth the emanations of His Tiferet from the World of the Divine to the heart of Jewish life and culture, the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem through the womb of a young maiden from Bethlehem.
Prophecies of Jesus’ (Yahshua’s) Birth
As a “tekton” or a master craftsman of stone, wood, and other building materials, Yosef (Joseph) was not only puzzled, alarmed but perplexed. The atmosphere around the betrothal ceremony to this young Jewish maiden from the temple of Herod was puzzling enough; the purpose of that betrothal is still shrouded in the mystery today of that babe known to 1/3rd of the world inhabitance who call themselves Christians. This babe to Christianity is called the “Christ Child.” Only one thing that was known to Yosef, this young maiden was pregnant.
As the final act of the legal trial that ensued, both of them, Yosef and Miriam (Mary) testified by the honor of their own names and the names of their family that this pregnancy did not arrive by the normal procreative process of conception. The fact that both Joseph and Mary lived to tell their story of this experience and were not stoned to death testifies that their explanations were believed. When we understand that Miriam was given as a child to God to serve under the custody of the temple priests, we understand that the temple hierarchy had a lot at stake in this birth.
Both Yosef and Miriam underwent intense legal scrutiny. They were subjected to the ancient Mosaic rite of the use of Holy Water in an Earthen Vessel in the ritual of a woman suspected of adultery. This was called the Law of Jealousy. According to the instruction given to Moses from the Lord of hosts if a husband was jealous or suspected his wife of adultery yet had no proof of her impropriety, the instructions were given to the husband and the priests to perform the ritual as outlined in Numbers 5:11:31. This ritual was to be conducted with the use of an earthen vessel.
Numbers 5:15-22 – “Then the man shall bring his wife to the priest. He shall bring the offering required for her, one-tenth of an ephod of barley meal; he shall pour no oil on it and put no frankincense on it, because it is a grain offering of jealousy, and offering for remembering, for brining iniquity to remembrance.
And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the Lord. The priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. Then the priest shall stand the woman before the Lord, uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering for remembering in her hands, which is the grain offering of jealousy. And the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that brings a curse. And the priest shall put her under oath, and say to the woman, “If no man has lain with you, and it you have not gone astray to uncleanness, while under you husband’s authority, be free from this better water that brings a curse.
But if you have gone astray while under your husband’s authority, and it you have defiled yourself and some man other than your husband has lain with you;’ then the priest shall put the woman under the oath of the curse, and he shall say to the woman – “ the Lord makes you a curse and an oath among your people, when the Lord makes your thigh rot and your belly swell; and may this water that causes the curse go into your stomach, and make you belly swell and your thigh rot.”
It was the duty of the scribes and lawyers to examine every act that was done under the authority of the Herodian temple priesthood. When the entire legal interrogation was over, it was found that no that no letter of the Torah law was found to be violated in the conception and birth of this Child. The rest became a mystery for all ages.
The story of the birth of the babe, Yahshua (Jesus) begins with Yosef the betrothed husband trying to figure out what to do. As the author of the Seder Mattityahu (Book of Matthew) wrote;
Gospel of Matthew 1:19-25 – “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, who was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
But while he thought about these things, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary 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 Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us.’” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.”
Modern scholars today give their majority opinion that the gospel stories in the New Testament were written in Greek many years after the death of Jesus. Yet in the 14th century, a Jewish polemical treatise titled “Even Bohan” was written about 1380 with included Jewish books of on the Jewish faith, passages in the bibles that were disputed by Jews and Christians, haggadic sections of the Talmud used by Christian or Christian proselytes and the entire Gospel of Matthew written in Hebrew. This treatise was written and compiled by a Spanish physician, Shem-Tob ben-Isaac ben-Shaprut born in Tudelo in Castile Spain.
The editors and scholars have documented that the Hebrew Matthews is a Hebrew translation of the Greek but written predominately in Biblical Hebrew with some Mishnaic Hebrew elements that was affected by the editing of Jewish scribes. It dates to the earliest in the 1st century CE and retains a difference from all other translations due to its unique interpretations. When we look at the Hebrew Matthew in comparison with the above text, we read the following:
Gospel of the Hebrew Matthew 1:19-25 – “The birth of Jesus was in this way: It came to pass when his mother was betrothed to Joseph, before he knew her, she was found pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph was a righteous man and did not wish to dwell with her or to expose her by bringing her to shame or binding her over to death. He rather wished to conceal her.
While he thought on this matter in his heart, behold an angel appeared unto him in a dream and said: Joseph son of David do not fear to take your wife Mary because she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you will call his name Jesus because he will save my people from their sins.
All this was to complete what was written by the prophet according to the Lord: ‘Behold the young woman will conceive and bear a son and you will call his name Emmanuel, that is, God with us. Then Joseph awoke from his sleep, did according to all which the angel of the Lord commanded him and took his wife. But he did not know her until she bore her firstborn son and he called his name Jesus.”
Yet the name Jesus or Yahshua was not a unique name. It is found several times in the Bible. The most famous is Joshua (Yahshua in Hebrew) who took the reigns as the military commander of the Israelites after Moses died and led the children of Israel in the Promise Land. There was also Joshua (Yahshua) the high priest. This Joshua was the first high priest when the temple of Zerubabbel was rebuilt after the Jewish people returned from exile from the land of Persia and Babylon. The name, life and role that these two great leaders played in the Jewish economy represented the Yahshua (Joshua) who was born to what is translated, “a virgin”. They were “types” or “shadow pictures” of the future Jesus the Jewish Messiah.
In the modern English translation, we know that we are reading a translation by Christian editors from a Greek text. Yet, the Jewish people in the 1st century Judea did not speak or read English. They spoke predominately Aramaic which is a language very much like Hebrews. Some Jewish people also spoke Greek and Latin. When this passage states that Joseph “called His name Jesus,” was that the name that Joseph really called Him? No! Jesus’ name in Aramaic and Hebrew was Yahshua which is translated, “YHVH (God of Israel) who does the saving.”
Other differences between the Hebrew and the English translations include: in the Greek to English translation the text state that Joseph was “not wanting to make her a public example” while in the Hebrew to English translation, Joseph did not wish to “expose her by bringing her to shame or binding her over to death.”
When we look at the key word using by the angel to describe Miriam, we read in the Greek-English, it states, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son,” yet the Hebrew Matthews states, “Behold the young woman will conceive and bear a son.” Lastly, it is interesting to note when it comes to salvation issues, the Greek-English translation states, “He will save His people from their sins” yet the Hebrew Matthews states, “he will save my people from their sins.”
When we think of that young twelve to sixteen year old Jewish girl who became the mother of Jesus, of whom do most Christians think? The “Virgin Mary!” Is it not strange to recognize that word “virgin” was never spoken and recorded in scriptural history by any human being? This word, “virgin” was only spoken by an angelic messenger called Gabriel to Joseph the perplexed betrothed husband to this young Jewish maiden called Miriam or Miryam. Here was an other-dimensional being sent as an emissary or messenger from the God of Israel. In order to connect to the real meaning of the text, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child,” this angelic visitor wrapped this message around a prophetic message given by the prophet Isaiah to the king of Judah, Ahaz. Let us now look at this ancient text.
The angel to Joseph was actually confirming an ancient prophecy concerning a future One that was interpreted to be messiah; his name, Emmanuel (“God with us”) and that He would be born of a virgin. This prophecy was first given by the apocalyptic prophet, Isaiah in an oracle given to King Ahaz, son of Jothan, son of Uzziah, who was the king of Judah.
King Ahaz was being summoned to trust in the Lord in a time of national crisis when his kingdom was being challenged by war from Rezin, king of Syria in Damascus and Pekah, king of Israel, son of Remaliah. Two descendants of the house of David, King Ahaz of Judah and King Pekah of Israel, were about to go to war to annihilate each other. The whole royal lineage of the house of David, the same lineage that was prophesied that the future messiah would come, was on the brink of destruction and disaster. All of this could happen because of the disbelief of King Ahaz on the God of Israel and that he had to take the Nation of Judah into a defensive war and not wait nor trust in the God of his forefathers.
Let us telescope our minds back to the days of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah was a prophet in the temple courts of several of the last kings of Judah. It was the prophet Isaiah that the Lord of hosts commanded to give an oracle or prophetic utterance to King Ahaz. So the Lord commanded:
Isaiah 7:3 – “ Then said the Lord unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field.”
The city of Jerusalem sat upon a high mountain ridge. Between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives to the east was a highway called the “highway of the Fuller’s Field that travelled north to south along the Kidron Valley. Along side the road was a parcel of land that was given to the fullers; the linen washers or dry cleaners for the temple that washed and air dried all the priestly garments. Nearby was the Gihon Spring, a subterranean siphon pump that gradually filled a cavern below and then gushed out intermittently. Called a karst system, this spring would pulse and move as it overflowed from its subterranean depths below the city.
In the days of Jesus the Rabbi, the pulsating of the waters was seen by the peasants to be the work of the angels. The waters were believed to have healing properties by miraculous divine forces. It was there along a water channel from the upper pool of the Gihon Spring, the priests laid out the priestly linens to dry on the large stones. After washing them in copper tubs where the dirt and grime was loosened by a soap, each garment was pounded clean by a “fuller’s club.”
The nation of Judah was in a national crisis. They were being threatened by foreign powers who were seeking to overthrow the king of Judah and the royal house of David. It was urgent for the royal court prophet to speak with the king. According to specific instructions from God, Isaiah was to take his son, Shear-Jashub, whose name meant, “A Remnant shall return”, and give a warning to the king as they stood upon the stones along the waterway from the Pool of Siloam.
The dynasty of the House of David was in jeopardy. The ancestral lineage from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and David that the Lord of host was preserving as the chosen lineage for God’s “Only Begotten Son” was about to be annihilated. To the north of Jerusalem the enemies of Judah ruled; Rezin, the king of Syria in Damascus and Pekah the king of the nations of Israel. They both were conspiring to remove King Ahaz from the throne of David at Jerusalem and to install a Syrian, the son of Tabeal (“God is good”) as a puppet ruler in Jerusalem and Judah. The Kingdom of Judah would now be under the foreign control of Rezin, king of Damascus. The House of David in Jerusalem would be destroyed.
First the Lord of hosts gave a challenge to the unbelieving king through the voice of His prophet Isaiah:
Isaiah 7:11 – “Ask a sign for your self from the Lord our God; ask it either in the depth of in the height above.”
But Ahaz refused;
Isaiah 7:12 - “I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!”
Then Isaiah speaking the words of the Lord of hosts calling King Ahaz, the “House of David”, stated;
Isaiah 7:13-16 - “Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel, (“God with us”). Curds and honey (food of royalty) He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings.”
By using the name, Immanuel meaning “God is with us’, the Lord of hosts was announcing to King Ahaz, whether he liked it or not, that He was with the nation of Judah. He would protect Judah’s fate and seal her destiny according to His own purpose.
Fifteen years later (722 BCE) the capital of Samaria was destroyed. Around 670 BCE, the final fate of the Northern Nation of Israel was sealed when the Assyrian Emperor Esarhaddon deported the last of the nation of Israel. These people would only be remembered in the mist of ancient history as the “Lost Tribes of the House of Israel.”
Born of a Virgin
Before we begin our study of the Hebrew word ‘virgin’, let us first look at Isaiah’s oracle and see why the angel of the Lord referred to it hundreds of years later when he spoke to Joseph.
When we are seeking the Hebrew meaning of a word in the Bible, the most common resource used by scholars and laymen in textual study is a good Hebrew Concordance like the “The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance” of the Bible that was compiled by James Strong, LL.D., S.T.D. Here we find some surprising results. When we look up the word for “virgin” in both the TaNaKh (Old Testament) and the Brit Hadassah (New Testament), what do we find?
We find 26 texts using the word “virgin” in the Hebrew TaNaKh (Old Testament) and 7 texts in the Greek Brit Hadassah (New Testament). What is of interest is that in the TaNaKh, there are two different Hebrew words that are used that have been translated into the English language as a “virgin”. Even more interesting is that the Isaiah 7:14 text, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel,” uses a Hebrew word that is virtually unique in the Bible. It occurs only two times in the Old Testament. Does the meaning of this Hebrew word give insight and clarity to the two texts in the New Testament that refer to what this word “virgin” means?
The Hebrew word, almah (al-maw) means a damsel or a maid who is veiled or hidden (Strong’s 5959). This word comes from the root word alam, (aw-lam) meaning to keep veiled from sight, to conceal or to hide one’s self. Our minds are suddenly thrust to that glorious heavenly concept of the hidden and veiled God of Israel, the “Ein Sof”, or the “Hidden One.” We are suddenly thrust before the throne of the God of Creation and the monotheistic Almighty One of Israel.
When we read the Hebrew word, almah or alam, our mind now opens to the visual concept of one who has the sacred responsibility of being selected by the Almighty One. Not only selected, but the mission of this almah is pre-ordained. Finally, this almah is then veiled or hidden from mankind until the day when she is revealed as ordained by the Lord of hosts.
But there is one more text besides this Isaiah prophecy in the Old Testament that uses this word, almah. This text also refers to a young maiden that was being sought to become a bride for someone special, chosen by the God of Abraham to carry the ancestral lineage of the anointed one, the future messiah of Israel.
Here we see that famous Sumerian potentate, Abraham who is now seeking to find a wife for his son Isaac. Abraham gives this special assignment to his most trusted bondservant, Eliezar from Damascus. The story of this drama is powerfully recited as Eliezar goes to the land of Hurrians, to the town of Nahor, named after Abraham’s brother. This town was built in northern Mesopotamia near the city of Harran, the home of Abraham’s father, the oracular high priest of Sumeria.
As Eliezar traveled to the town of Nahor, he sought divine guidance from the God of his master, Abraham before he entered the town of Nahor. He would patiently await a sign from the God of Abraham as he sat by the city well. Here the young maidens were coming to get water from the well for their households. One of them was to be the chosen bride of Isaac. Which one of them would be the chosen one? And so Eliezar narrating his own story said:
Genesis 24:42-23 – “O Lord God of my master Abraham if you will now prosper the way in which I go, behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass that when the virgin (almah) comes out to draw water, and I say to her, “Please give me a little water from your pitcher to drink,” and she says to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also,” – let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.”
What then was the purpose or emphasis of this story? Abraham’s servant set the conditions to God so that he would know if the divine will of the God of his master affirmed or was pleased with a certain damsel who was coming to the well. When he made a certain inquiry and the damsel responded a certain way, it was be a positive sign to Eliezar that this was God’s chosen one.
Was the word, almah that was interpreted as “virgin” in this text used to emphasize that this young maiden, Rebecca of the house of Bethuel, was sexually inexperienced? No! It was the purpose of Eliezar to find a suitable wife for the son of his master. It was also important that this wife was the one that the God of Abraham approved. He was looking to find a gracious, self-confident, hospitable and caring young lady who would bring honor to the House of Abraham.
Yet in Hebrew there was another word for ‘virgin’, which in the Semitic language of Hebrew actually meant a ‘physical virgin’, or one who was sexually inexperienced. This was the Hebrew word, bethuwlah (beth-oo-law), (Strong’s 1330) which is the feminine passive participle of an unused Hebrew root meaning ‘to separate’ a virgin from her privacy, a bride or a maiden. It is interesting that this word, bethuwlah, is taken from the name of the father of Rebecca, Bethuel, who was called the “Syrian of Padam-Aram”. (Genesis 25:20)
What is the difference between these two words and what is the significance of these meanings to the birth of Jesus? By seeing a young woman coming to the well in Padam-Aram and Rebecca offers not only water for him but the courtesy of getting water for his camels, did Eliezar know that she was a physical virgin? No! The text clearly states that the chosen bride for Isaac would be revealed by God to Eliezar only by a predetermined sign. Upon the revelation of this sign from the Lord, the first thing Eliezar did was to place a ring in her nose and golden bracelets on her wrist as a sign of the selection of Rebecca for marriage. He was clueless at that time that she was even a descendant of the family of Abraham. All he knew was that she was chosen by the Lord.
Was Rebecca also a physical virgin, in that she had no prior sexual relationships with any other men? Yes, the scripture states to the affirmative that it was so. Yet it appears that the matter of the choosing Rebecca to be the ancestress of the future messiah was that the Lord of hosts had chosen a maiden for certain noble qualities of character and that her physical virginity was not a factor in the choice. The Lord of hosts did not give Eliezar, the servant of Abraham, any reason to consider sexual inexperience as a guiding reason for the selection of Rebecca. Eliezar made the selection because of what he felt was divine direction by the Lord of hosts. He then sealed his selection by putting a golden nose ring on the nose of Rebecca plus two golden bracelets.
This was not a superficial act of kindness on the part of Rebecca. When looking at the Torah story, when Rebecca offered to bring water for his camels, she was offering to bring enough water for ten camels which each drank 140 gallons of water. The fact that she offered suggested did not offer out of a momentary act of kindness but that she was capable of fulfilling her pledge to do so as she had already done it in the past.
What is interesting, to seal or complete the contract to betroth Rebecca to Abraham’s son, Isaac, according to the Torah, they had to obtain the consent not only of Bethuel, but also the consent of Rebecca herself. She was chosen by the Lord of hosts, the rest depended on whether all the parties consented to the Lord’s choosing. In the era of the Sumerians and the Hurrians, the parents and the bride herself both had the right of refusal.
Genesis 24: 12-16 (parts) – “Then he, Eliezar said, “O Lord God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham. Behold here I stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink’ – let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.”
“And it happened, before he had finished speaking, that behold, Rebecca ….came out with her pitcher on her shoulder. Now the young woman was very beautiful to behold, a virgin (bethuwlah); no man had known her. And she went down to the well, filled her pitcher, and came up…..So it was, when the camels had finished drinking, that the man (Eliezar) took a golden nose ring weighing half a shekel, and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels of gold, and said, “Whose daughter are you?’
Watch carefully this very authentic Hurrian custom of selecting a bride. Eliezar made the selection by the city well according to the communications he had with the God of his master, Abraham. When he was satisfied even with signs of divine intervention, he immediately identified the bride for his master by putting a golden nose ring on her nose and two golden bracelets on her wrists even before he knew who her parents were. What faith of a servant of God!
Rebecca was not chosen by Eliezar because she was a physical virgin. She was chosen because the Lord of hosts selected a young maiden (almah) who was veiled or hidden from all other parties and God had separated her for a special purpose.
That Rebecca was a physical virgin (bethuwlah) was later revealed to Eliezar, the servant of Abraham after she had been selected as a virgin (almah). He had sealed his commitment for her marriage to the son of his master with a nose ring that weighed bekah that weighed about a ¼ ounce of gold and the two wrist bracelets each weighing about 5 ounces of gold (10 1-shekel gold coins).
According to the Jewish sage, Rashi, the nose ring was symbolic of the silver Shekel, the silver coin donated to the temple for communal sacrifices and the ten gold shekels for the wrist bracelets were symbolic of the ten commandments of the Lord. These had already been placed on her body as a sign of committal by Eliezar for marriage by Abraham for Issac his son.
From the Talmud sages writing on the ethics of their Fathers, we learn that the world exists on three pillars: Torah, Divine service and loving acts of kindness. Since Rebecca had demonstrated tremendous acts of kindness, Eliezar informed her that her children would also accept the Ten Commandments (Torah) and be “chosen” to bring offerings to the temple of the Lord (Divine service).
Is it possible that Gabriel, the archangel for the gentile nations of this earth was sent to Yosef and reveal to him in a language coded in the ancient writings of the TaNaKh (Old Testament)? Was this message the special veiled or hidden role that Miriam would play in the purpose of the Hidden One, the Heavenly Abba’s (Father’s) plan of salvation for all mankind?
Was the purposeful use of this unique Hebrew word to give a meaning to those who had ‘eyes to see’ and ‘ears to hear’ that the Almighty One of Israel has selected Miriam as a young maiden (almah) who was to remain veiled or hidden from all other parties including the priests of the temple in Jerusalem. Do we not see later that her role would to be revealed but only to a selected few; Simeon the Righteous and Anna the prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher.
We also see a clue in that Miriam, that young temple maiden was selected as a virgin (almah) and truly did remain hidden or veiled from all parties because “she kept all these things in her heart.” Her calling as a “veiled or hidden one” was not the calling of man, it was not the calling of the priests for their purposes, and it was not the calling of Joseph either by choice or persuasion.
Traditional Birth Place of Yahshua (Jesus) by BiblePlaces
Oldest Traditions: Justin Marty (2nd c.) Protoevangelium of James (2nd c.) and Origin.
That the prophet Isaiah specifically used this same word, almah, in reference to the choosing of the bride of Isaac in order to preserve the lineage of David for the future anointed one is profound. That the authentic Torah observing Jewish authors of Matthew and Luke carefully selected this passage of the prophet Isaiah as the designation that there was something unique in the birth of Jesus is also profound.
This word, almah, is also unique in that it gives a meaning that is more profound than whether a young maiden had any prior sexual experience. The issue of selecting Rebecca who would be the ancestral mother of God’s chosen people and later Miriam the mother of the “Only Begotten Son” of the Father appears to transcend and be more profound in concept and purpose than mere physical sexuality.
The concept of the birth of Jesus to a sexually inexperienced young girl, a virgin (bethuwlah) is the foundation of Christian Roman orthodoxy. It was they who defined the orthodox Christian concept of the nature of Jesus
So today, the defining statement on whether a person is a Christian or not, is not whether they believe in Jesus as the messiah, the anointed or the Only Begotten Son of the Father God but whether they believe that Jesus was born of a physical sexually inexperienced “virgin”, called Mary.
Only after believing in the “virgin birth” as defined by Roman orthodoxy are most modern Christians willing to believe that young the child, Yahshua was actually the One who is the incarnation of the emanations of God Himself. Yet the word translated as ‘virgin’ in the New Testament does not carry this meaning or connotation as coming from a physically intact or sexually inexperienced young female.
Matthew 1:23 – “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Many very healthy discussions on ‘Who’ Jesus is are stopped cold when the Roman orthodox view of the ‘Virgin Birth’ is not accepted by one of the discussing parties. This discussion many times ends in acrimonious dissent.
For that manner, millions have died in wars of genocide over disagreeing with the orthodox Roman Christian belief. Today most Jews and Christians cannot discuss any portion of the Torah or the TaNaKh (Torah, Prophets and Writing) until both parties are in agreement on the fundamental issues of the “virgin birth” and the “deity” and “divinity” of Yahshua (Jesus). It leads one to wonder, why? Is this the will of the God of Israel?
Before we continue to analyze the import of the Hebrew meaning of almah, let us first look at the legal implications of the Levitical Mosaic law of Torah as it defines a “virgin?”
Before we become immersed in the story of the virgin birth of Jesus, let us look carefully at the Torah. It is here that we find the moral foundation of Hebrew philosophy and the standards of legal case laws that defined Israelite social justice and judgment.
The highest standards of the land were exacted upon the high priest and the Levites. Here the strictest codes of ethics, morality and social justice were enforced. Was God enforcing morality upon his people? Was the culture of the Israelites to be a society of perfectionism?
Over and over, the Lord of hosts proclaims that the “Land” that He gave to Abraham was a “Holy Land”. As such, the Lord of hosts demanded that a holy people, living representatives of the Lord of hosts were to live on this “Holy Land.” As such the high priest and the Levites were to live lives as holy people and they were to be called the “Holy Ones.” God’s chosen ones were to be a reflection of the God whom they served. So, choosing a wife was done with great care and deliberation. Honoring the Lord of hosts was more important than appealing to or degrading one’s sexual and sensual senses.
Concerning the regulations concerning the Levitical priests, we find this text:
Leviticus 21:7 – “They (the priests) shall not take a wife who is a harlot or a defiled woman, nor shall they take a woman divorced from her husband; for the priest is holy to his God.”
Of the regulations concerning the High Priest, the Holy Writ says:
Leviticus 21:13 – “And he (the High Priest) shall take a wife in her virginity. A widow or a divorced woman or a defiled woman or a harlot – these he shall not marry; but he shall take a virgin of his own people as wife. …for I the Lord sanctify him.
What is the difference between these two regulations between the regular priests and the high priest? The regular priests were able to marry widows, but the high priest was not.
Who then were these defiled women or the harlots? Were they the women who were sexually abused, incestuously assaulted or raped? Was a defiled woman, one who was married or betrothed to a man and another man finds her in the city and has sex with her? What if the sexual activity was done in the countryside where the young woman could not call for anyone to help? These were the meticulous laws that dealt with in the Mosaic regulations of sexuality. Let us look at these legal case laws in the Torah.
Case Law One: The first is the case of a young man who marries a wife. He then does not consummate the marriage because he decides that he does not like her, love her, or there is a legal complication. Rather than give her a bill of divorce, he slanders her name that she was not a virgin. The wife’s family then protests and she is examined by a midwife as the “evidences of my daughter’s virginity” is presented to the elders of the city. The man is punished, has to pay one hundred shekels of silver to the parents of his wife. Because her name was slandered, she must remain his wife and he was forbidden ever to divorce her. - Deuteronomy 22:13-19
Case Law Two: If case one though is true, the marriage had not been consummated and she is found to not be ‘sexually intact’, the young woman will be brought from her father’s house and stoned, because she played the role of a harlot. - Deuteronomy 22: 20-21
Case Law Three: If a man had sexual relations with a married woman, then both the man and the married woman are stoned to death. This was adultery. – Deuteronomy 22:22
Case Law Four: If a young woman with no sexual experience is betrothed to a husband and another man has sex with her in the city, they both are stoned to death because she failed to cry out for help and because he “humbled his neighbor’s wife.” Note that a betrothed woman was recognized to already be the wife of the man. – Deuteronomy 22:23-24
Case Law Five: If the same young woman in case four was betrothed to a husband and in the countryside she was abducted and forced to have sex by a man, only he would be stoned, because even if she cried out for help, there would be no one to help her. – Deuteronomy 22:25-27
Case Law Six: If a young man seized a young female who is a virgin and has sex with her and they are not betrothed, and they are found out, the young man shall give fifty shekels to the wife’s father and she will become his wife with no rights for divorce. - Deuteronomy 22:28-29
Imagine if the Torah laws written by Moses today were the laws of the modern nations in our world. What would the status of morality and immorality in our nation be today? Some call the Israelites a primitive society. Others protest that these laws are reflected in the Islamic law of sharia, where the female has no rights at all and in punishment she must remain married to the male.
But notice carefully that the agreement for betrothal as seen in the story of Eliezar finding Rebecca to be a wife for Isaac, the male, Isaac, abrogated his decision making capacity to his father in the choosing of a bride yet the young bride to be, Rebecca, had the right of refusal.
The Harlot, the Defiled Woman and the Temple Virgin
A harlot was recognized in Israelite society as a young woman, who was either sexually inexperienced and was seeking to be sexually active, one who was betrothed and seeking sexual favors from another male, one who was married and seeking sexual favors from another male (betrothed and married were recognized to be both the same), or a prostitute who was seeking sex for hire.
Leviticus 19:29 – “Do not prostitute your daughter, to cause her to be a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry and the land becomes full of wickedness.”
On one hand, a defiled woman was a young woman who had her sexual inexperience taken away from her by force whether it was by her consent or not. This could have been before a betrothal, during a betrothal or after she was fully married. If this young lady sought the sexual favors of a male, she in essence became a personal harlot. She could do this for hire or only for personal gratification.
There was also a ritual harlot, which was different than personal harlot.
Deuteronomy 23:17 – “There shall be no ritual harlot of the daughters of Israel, or a perverted one of the sons of Israel. You shall not bring the wages of a harlot or the price of a dog to the house of the Lord your God for any vowed offering, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.”
A ritual harlot was called a temple virgin in most cultures of the Middle East. Engaging in sexual intercourse became a part of the temple rituals. This was also called temple prostitution. The male was called the dog and the female was called the harlot.
Worship in Israel, the land that was called holy unto the Lord, was to be different than all other religions. The Lord of hosts was very specific; temple prostitution, ritual harlotry and temple virgins were not to be apart of the worship experience for the God of Israel. Their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, could not be manipulated by sex.
We shall soon study, the early Christian traditions of Mary that come down through Roman orthodoxy state that this young maiden was dedicated to the Lord about the age of three. She was to live in the temple under the custody of the male priests in service to God.
Some secular authors have studied this carefully and have come to the conclusion that Mary in the temple of Herod was performing the same rites and rituals seen throughout the rest of the Middle East, as part of the Temple Virgin Cult. Even if Miriam were sexually molested by the priests in the temple of Herod, she would still have been classified as a virgin.
Yet as we shall soon see that the Lord of hosts, who does know the unknowable, chooses those ‘young maidens’ who are ‘hidden or are not revealed’ (almahs). This same God also does know that they are bethuwlahs or young females who truly have not been defiled by the ways and the curses of man.
Under our modern legal system, Miriam would have been suspected as being sexually abused. The international legal cases in the courts around the world concerning the Roman Catholic priests, bishops and even nuns molesting the alter boys and adolescent females in training for service to the Church bring this abomination in stark reality in our modern life.
Yet, there appears to be no Hebrew case law against a betrothed young female who has sex with the male she is betrothed to on or before the date of their marriage. It appears that a young woman’s consent, the young man’s affirmation to marry and the parental consent for the union of the two constituted ‘marriage’ in Israelite court of law.
The religious conflicts today seen concerning pre-marital sex in reference to young couples has a lot to do with understanding Torah law and recognizing that responsible action must be on their part of all parties. Central to the Torah law was the affirmation and consent of both sexual partners and obtaining the consent of both parents. Marriage rightfully so, was a family thing. The legal consent of the Justice of the Peace did not justify the union of two individuals in marriage but the consent of the parents of both the young man and the young female did.
Yet what we understand by implication of what the Lord of hosts allowed in societal action also gives us an understanding as to what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord. We do know that Rehab, a harlot, living in Jericho, was permitted to marry an Israelite, Salmon, the father of Boaz and she became one of the grandmothers of King David and Jesus.
A widowed woman, Ruth, who also was a Moabite non-Jew, was permitted to marry a prominent Israelite, Boaz, who was called a “man of great wealth of the family of Ehimelech” (Ruth 2:1) and also became one of the grandmothers of King David and Jesus.
The Moabites were descendants of the family of Lot, the nephew of Abraham. When they fled from the burning cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, their nation resulted from the incestuous relationship between Lot and his two daughters. Ruth was the descendant from the relationship of Lot with his eldest daughter.
Genesis 19:30-32, 36-37 – “Then Lot went up out of Zoar and dwelt in the mountains and his two daughters were with him; for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar. And he and his two daughters dwelt in a cave. Now the firstborn said to the younger, ‘Our father is old, and there is no man on the earth to come in to us as is the custom of all the earth. Come let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father…
Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father. The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day. And the younger, she also bore a son and called his name Ben-Ammi, he is the father of the people of Ammon to this day.”
Because of the illegitimate births of Moab and Ben-Ammi their descendants were not allowed to enter the assembly of the Lord or become a member of the Israelite community for ten generations.
Deuteronomy 23: 2-4 – “One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord.
An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation…because they did not meet you with bread and water on the road when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against your Balaam, the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.”
It is interesting that within two generations, a harlot, Rahab, married Israelite male, Salmon, and fathered a son. Their son, Boaz later married a widowed gentile Moabite woman, Ruth, a descendant of the accursed Moabite lineage. Both generations gained favor in the eyes of the Lord and were included in the ancestral heritage of King David and the future Jewish messiah, Yahshua ben Yosef ben David (Jesus son of Joseph son of David).
If a woman, Rahab, gave up of her life of harlotry after going through the rites of purification and living a life of halachah according to those 613 commandments of Torah pertaining to women, she was assimilated back into society of the Israelites. She also was found acceptable to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
So also if a widow, Ruth, who never was defiled or divorced, like a woman who was given a bill of divorce, was able to be redeemed back with favor into the society and economy of the Israelite society. Even more so, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who gave the prohibition of the Moabite descendant not to enter the assembly of the Israelites honored His decree. Boaz was the 11th descendant from Abraham and the curse was now over.
And so we understand fully the beautiful plea of the Moabite Ruth to her Jewish mother-in-law Naomi, when she said,
Ruth 2:16-17 – “Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”
As we have seen, defining what truly is a virgin and remaining close to the halachah of the Jewish people and their Israelite heritage has little relationship to modern concepts of virginity. We must truly ask the question, does it matter?
For some reason, the virginity of a sexually inexperienced Mary in Orthodox Christian traditions, formulated by the Roman Catholic Church, is indelibly tied with the Christian understanding and the affirmation of the divinity and as some Christians insist, the deity of Jesus.
Is it not amazing that the more primal of human passions, one which humans share with all the rest of the animal kingdom, is linked to the most profound act of God, the incarnation of part of the world of the divine into a human being?
So far the proper exegesis of the biblical texts which gives us the Hebrew textual understanding for the Greek word for the word ‘virgin’ to which Mary was called neither affirms nor confirms whether she as a virgin meant her to be sexually experienced or inexperienced.
The Apostle Paul, as we shall soon see, also appears to side with the concept that virginity is more related to being prior married. He also claims to have no direct revelation from God. Jewish law even suggests that a sexually inexperienced young female who sought sexual favors from a male was not a virgin but a harlot and condemned to be stoned to death. This carries the implication beyond the act to the motive.
Mary the Mother of Jesus – artist Marydel
According to biblical scholars, the first gospel written, the Gospel of Mark makes no mention of the virgin birth. Some scholars find this strange for Mark was felt to be a Hellenistic Diaspora Jew who would have catered to the curiosity of the gentiles about Jesus Christ. The Greeks lived in a society replete with stories of the gods and goddesses of the Greco-Roman pantheon and all their relationships with each other. To the Hellenistic citizen, the question was not whether the Son of God was incarnated into human flesh but how?
Yet according to this author, the author of the gospel was John Mark or Johannes Marcus, using both his Hebrew and a Greek name, who was the nephew of the Apostle Barnabas and the son of Mary, the owner of the house with the “Upper Room”. It is well known that John Mark was a staunch orthodox Jew, who while traveling with Paul and Barnabus in their first missionary journey left incensed and returned to Jerusalem claiming that the Apostle Paul had switched his mission from preaching to the Jews to preaching to the gentiles. So the gospel of Mark, with no mention of the virgin birth would be in harmony with the 1st century Jewish thought that impregnation of a female by a god or an other-dimensional being was accursed of God. The concept that the God of Israel was a sexually active god was foreign to the first century Jewish mind.
Neither does the Gospel of John, written by the disciple closest to Jesus and the one in whom Jesus gave custodial care of his mother just before his death affirm the Virgin Birth of Jesus. The concept of the Virgin Birth is not even alluded to or mentioned in any of the other books of the Brit Hadassah (New Testament). The Apostle Paul does not make any mention of the Virgin Birth, neither does Jesus’ brother, James the Just, who was the leader of the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia of Jerusalem (Jerusalem Church) and the author of the Book of James and possibly Hebrews.
The story of the Virgin Birth is told in only two of the four gospels of the New Testament, Matthew and Luke.
Matthew 1:23 – “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Luke 1:26-27 – “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused (betrothed) to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
When we begin the translation from Aramaic to Greek and then from Greek to Latin and finally Latin to English the translations become even more confused. What did the Greek language imply with the word, virgin?
All verses in the Greek New Testament for the word ‘virgin’ come from the Greek word, parthenos (par-then-os) meaning once again simply a maiden. By implication, Paul’s treatise is concerning an unmarried daughter (Strong’s 3933) or possibly anyone who is unmarried, but it does not necessary imply whether there is any sexual experience or inexperience.
The English word, ‘virgin’, was actually taken from the Latin virgo, which literally meant ‘unmarried’. The Latin word, virgo, also did not have any qualifications as to whether there was any prior sexual experience. The Latin language did have a word that specifically meant sexual inexperience, virgo intact. Yet the Latin translators of the New Testament chose not to use this specific word which would have qualified the young maiden, Mary, to have been a ‘physical virgin’ meaning lacking any sexual experience.
Let us then reexamine the only two texts in the New Testament that give the defining meaning to what the “Virgin Birth” means. The Matthew text as stated is a quotation as we have seen at the beginning of this article of Isaiah rebuttal to King Ahaz when he asked for a ‘sign’. According to the message given to King Ahaz by the Lord through Isaiah was that the only time the Almighty One would give a “Sign” in earth’s history would be when He will send His only Begotten Son.
Matthew 1:23 – “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Isaiah 7:13-16 - “Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel, (“God with us”). Curds and honey (food of royalty) He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings.”
What is of interest is that this ‘Sign’ is also confirmed by the Apostle Paul when he wrote:
1 Corinthians 1:22 – “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
But you want to protest the Lord of hosts throughout the Old Testament was giving signs to His people. As we shall see in another section, Jesus, God and the World of the Divine, YHVH Elohim, the Lord of hosts, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all were none other than the revealed Yahshua, the Divine Son of God, who was the Sole Representation of the Almighty One to this universe.
It was Yahshua, who was the burning bush, the Pillar of Fire that brought Israel out of Egypt and hovered over the Wilderness Tabernacle. It was Yahshua who was the Angel as the Captain of the Lord’s hosts to Joshua. Every emanation of the Almighty One, the Ein Sof, or the Hidden One, that is presented in any other dimension outside of the limitless dimensions of His Own Being was presented through Yahshua. He is the Tiferet of the World of the Divine and the Beauty as the Glory of God. He came as the fullest revelation of His Father in heaven that could be placed in our three dimensional world as mere babe who became the “Torah revealed in the flesh”.
If Yahshua was given as the “Sign” to the Jews, was He also not known to the Greeks as “Wisdom”?
Proverbs (Mishlei) 8:1, 6, 12, 22-24, 27, 30 - 31 -
“Wisdom is calling!
Understanding is raising her voice!…
“Listen! I will say worthwhile things:
When I speak, my words are right….
“I, wisdom, live together with caution;
I attain knowledge and discretion….
“Adonai made me as the beginning of his way.
The first of his ancient works.
I was appointed before the world.
Before the start, before the earth’s beginnings.
When I was brought forth, there were no ocean depths,
No springs brimming with water….
“When he established the heavens, I was there,
When he drew the horizon’s circle on the deep,
“I was with him as someone he could trust.
For me, every day was pure delight
As I played in his presence all the time,.
Playing everywhere on his earth,
And delighting to be with humankind. (Jewish TaNaKh)
What we now have seen is that the Hebrew word, almah, used only two times in the Old Testament, is the defining word describing the virgin life of Miriam. And this word means nothing more than a young woman, a damsel or a maiden, who was hidden or veiled from the world.
The Hebrew word for implying a physical virgin with an intact hymen upon examination at betrothal was the Semitic word, bethuwlah. This word was used many times in the TaNaKh, the Hebrew scripture of the gospel writers. Yet almah and not bethuwlah was selected as the Hebrew word used to describe who Miriam was at the time she was given in betrothal to Joseph. Miriam truly was a maiden and unmarried at that time.
As celibacy in the early Christian Church grew within the monastic institutions of the Roman Catholic Church, the iconoclastic image of Mary as a virgin was the defining image of those choosing to give themselves wholly to the Church. Yet celibacy was defined by the monks as sexual inactivity and did not imply any prior sexual experience, so also virgin or virginity in the first century Judaism could also define sexual inactivity and was not a moral statement on sexual experience or inexperience.
Was it not St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE), who led a promiscuous life in his youth whereby he abandoned an illegitimate child that he fathered and the maiden that he used for his own sexual desires, only to become famous later as the celibate and celebrated Doctor of the Church and the bishop of Hippo? What did he learn out of this experience? According to St. Augustine, man has a pre-determined fate which he has little power to influence except to be fully dependent upon God for his own salvation. To Augustine, the act of having sex was intrinsically evil and by expressing human will, man had neither the power to indulge in sexual desire or to suppress it. This in a sense became spirituality without responsibility.
As primitive Gentile Christians lived a life more closely akin to their Hebrew Jewish brethren in the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia than the later Roman Christians, the act of having sex was typically avoided except for the divine purpose to procreate. Yet it was Augustine of Hippo, who was the father of the orthodoxy who sought to deny that mankind truly had any free will and as such was not responsible for his prior acts of sexual irresponsibility.
To Augustine, Adam’s original sin was caused by Adam having sex to Eve at the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This “Original Sin” was now transmitted through the mother’s womb and by it, tainted all human beings leaving them incapable of choosing good over evil. It also denied man the responsibility of choosing his own spiritual destiny.
By such circular reasoning, Mary the maiden, was sexually inexperienced not because of her choice, but because the Lord of hosts determined that it was to be this way. By denying the fatherhood of Joseph, the Roman Church also was denying that the Original Sin of Adam would not taint the babe who was the Christ Child. How so, we ask, could not the Original Sin of Adam also come through the genes of Mary? Not so said the Roman Catholic Church, for Mary the mother of Jesus was also born, not from living earthy parents, but by Immaculate Conception. And so the circle of spiritual reasoning was complete……and in the process Jesus lost all of his humanness. In essence, Jesus was ‘Wholly God” but God was Jesus’ Father and God was also Jesus’ grandfather and Jesus’ grandmother through the immaculate conception of Mary.
The Apostle Paul, who was trained as the Pharisee Rabbi Shaul in the School of Gamaliel in Jerusalem, in a treatise on “virgins” in 1 Corinthians 7 used the Greek word parthenos which has been translated as a virgin.
1 Corinthians 7:25 - “Now concerning virgins (parthenos): I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy.”
Here we see one thing clearly; the Apostle Paul had not received any commands or insights concerning the word “virgin” from the Lord of hosts. According to the next verse, the difference between a wife and a virgin did not have anything to do with sexual experience, but did have everything to do whether they were married or unmarried. The final implication in these texts was that being a ‘virgin’ was centered on a woman’s unrestrained service to the Lord of hosts.
1 Corinthians 7:34 – “There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world – how she may please her husband.”
Understanding the full implication of the corruption and immoral lifestyle of the citizens in the city of Corinth, Paul stated that a young man who was betrothed to a maiden (virgin) had the right to go ahead and get married. The ‘flower of youth’ was the best years of life for a young woman to get married because it was the years of prime fertility. For a young woman, this age was between her bat Mitzvoth at the age of thirteen and upwards to thirty years of age. A married woman who was not fertile and did not have any children was seen as accursed of God. We see this depicted in the life of; Sarai and Abraham who eventually as senior citizens gave birth to Isaac, Elizabeth and Zechariah, the parents of John the Baptist and Anna and Joachim (Heli), the parents of Miriam.
1 Corinthians 7:36 – “But if a man thinks he is behaving improperly towards his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry.”
1 Corinthians 7:37 – “Nevertheless he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well.
The implications of all these texts depict that sexual experience or sexual inexperience was not part of the understanding of the New Testament word, parthenos, for a woman called a virgin. A woman who received a bill of divorce from her husband from no fault or immorality of her own was called a virgin. Why? For any other reason, she would have been killed by stoning. A woman, whose husband had prematurely died and she was now a widow, was also recognized to be a virgin. The implication was not dependant upon puritanical concepts of sexuality, on whether a sex act had or had not been committed, but had everything to do with reproduction and the stability of a nuclear family, for the first commandment to mankind was, “Be fruitful and multiply.”
According to the Torah Law of the Lord
At the same time, Miriam was chosen by God and called ‘blessed of all women” because according to the testimony of the archangel Gabriel, she was an almah (al-maw) who was selected by the Lord of hosts to be a servant dedicated to the Hidden One, the God of Israel called the Ein Sof. She was to be His vessel to incarnate part of His emanations into another dimension outside of Himself.
She was a maiden or a damsel who was to be ‘veiled, hidden or concealed from one’s own self.’ This mission of Mary’s was not even fully understood to her except in time as it was fully revealed to her.
It is a fact of the testimony of Miriam that she was sexually inexperience. To falsely testify this fact according to Torah meant that she could be stoned to death. The fact that she remained alive to tell her story is also a legal testimony that her story was accepted as truth.
Luke 1:34 – “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
This testimony of Miriam also came in the same testimony by the author of the Sefer (Book or Gospel) of Luke to Theophilus, who was the high priest in the temple of Herod about 36 CE. The birth of Yahshua, the purification rituals of the mother, Miriam (Luke 2:22), the dedication of Yahshua as “holy to the Lord” (Luke 2:23), the offering of the sacrifice of two turtle doves (Luke 2:24), the dedication of the infant Yahshua by Simeon the Just in the temple (Luke 2:27) were all done according the strict proscriptions of the 613 commands of the halachah (Torah law of Moses). The final chapter in the birth of Jesus was summed up in this manner.
Luke 2:39 – “So when they had performed all things according to the law (halachah or Torah law) of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.”
It is also a fact that Joseph gave also his testimony.
Matthew 1:18-19 – “After…Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.”
According to Jewish law, the sexual inexperience of Mary, bethuwlah in Hebrew or virgo intacta in Latin (there is no translatable word in Greek), was confirmed by two witnesses, Mary and Joseph.
Joseph was in a legal quandary. If he put her away or divorced her openly, Joseph would have also been slandering Miriam’s integrity and her name. If the parents of Miriam, whom we shall soon meet, protested their child’s innocence and if their legal protest was determined to be valid by the examination of a midwife, then according to Case Law One (Deuteronomy 22:13-19) Joseph would have had to pay reparations to the parents of Miriam one hundred shekels of silver, complete the betrothal ceremony which he had already legally committed himself to and be forbidden ever to divorce her. Also his reputation would be forever damaged.
On the other hand, if Joseph put Miriam away or divorced her secretly and it was found out, then the temple priests would be committed to have Miriam also examined by a mid-wife. Case Law One would again apply if Miriam was found to be a sexually inexperienced virgin yet if it was determined that she had been sexually violated, she would be impelled to notify the authorities who her sexual partner was and the both of them would have been stoned to death.
Even if Miriam refused or could not convince the temple priests who her sexual partner was, knowing full well that convincing the temple priests that her sexual partner was the Holy Spirit would be difficult, then according to Case Law Two or Four, (Deuteronomy 22:20-21 and Deuteronomy 22:23-24) she would be stoned to death, because she played the role of a harlot.
This was truly not a win-win situation. Divine intervention was necessary and the archangel Gabriel then made a visit to Joseph.
Matthew 1:20-21 – “But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying “Joseph, 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 Yahshua (Jesus), for He will save His people from their sins.”
According to the testimony of Joseph in the Book (Sefer) of Matthew, he believed the angel of the Lord and as such did not have any sexual relations with Miriam until after the birth of Jesus and the forty days of purification after the delivery.
Matthew 1:24 – “Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son, and He called His name Yahshua (Jesus).
Yet it took the affirmation and the testimony of the both Joseph and Miriam to affirm that Miriam was truly a sexually inexperienced young maiden. That Miriam conceived without any evidence of sexual relations was tested legally in the Jewish courts is suggested in the probable historical yet extra-canonical writings: the infancy stories of Jesus in The Book of Mary, Proto-evangelium of James and the priest’s legal examination of Mary and Joseph in The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew.
Does the ‘Virgin Birth’ actually make any attestation to the Divinity or the Deity of Jesus? No! The orthodox concept of the ‘Virgin Birth’ demanding physical manifestations is understood only by the corrupted thought processes of man since the fall of Adam. This concept gives no understanding to the transcendent reality of the incarnation of Yahshua ben Yosef as the babe born in the House of David.
Historically the concept of the ‘Virgin Birth’ gave rise to the powerful monastic movement in the early Christian Church which became a tool of the power and authority over the free will of the priests, monks and nuns. It was they, the male chosen representatives of the eventual Roman Catholic Church, which became the tools to transmit this institutional power and authority even to this very day. This monastic movement was a Holiness Movement that was not holy and history showed it to be open to a lot of corruption of power and control in future years.
The ‘Virgin Birth’ concept of Jesus, even though its reality was attested by the legal testimony of two witnesses, both Miriam and Yosef (Joseph) as being true, it also became the ‘seed’ to the concept that sex is sinful. It also gave rise to the non-Hebrew concept that the ‘Original Sin’ of Adam was transmitted by the equally sinful and corrupted act of sexual intercourse. In the fullness of the Divine Prescription to the children of Adam, “be fruitful and multiply”, these two concepts, the “Virgin Birth” and “Original Sin” have led to disastrous spiritual and sociological results. This is the dividing line between the full restoration of Judaism without the Messiah and Nazarene Christianity without the Torah.
Let us now reaffirm, the Hebrew word ‘virgin’ used by the prophet Isaiah is a unique word used only twice in all scripture. The word, almah (al-maw) gives the meaning of a damsel or a maid who is veiled or hidden (Strong’s 5959). It comes from the root word alam, (aw-lam) meaning to keep veiled from sight, to conceal or to hide one’s self. The concept of “hidden and veiled” lifts us back to the transcendent concept of the Ein Sof, the Hidden One, who is the God of Israel.
As such the Hebrew idea of the virgin, almah or alam, has to do with the sacred responsibility of being selected by the Almighty One and one whose mission is pre-ordained and then veiled or hidden from mankind until the time of revelation as ordained by the Lord of hosts is revealed.
Was Yahshua ben Yosef born to a sexually inexperienced maiden called Miriam? Yes! To suggest anything different in Torah observant Jewish society, Miriam would have been stoned to death and the “rest of the story” never would have been told.
The proper textual exegesis yet suggested a more powerful message. Miriam was a virgin or a young maiden because she was a ‘hidden one’ who was to represent her God, the Ein Sof or the Hidden One of Israel. She was to be a holy vessel in order to be the birth mother to Yahshua, the Only Begotten Son of His Father, YHVH.
Maybe Miriam knew best her hidden role she was to perform for her God.
Luke 2:19 – “But Mary kept all these things (hidden) and pondered them in her heart”
Truly she was God’s chosen one.
Go to Part Four - The House of Joachim and Anna, the Parents of Mary
Miriam, the mother of Yahshua
Roman Orthodoxy and the Immaculate Conception of Mary
Orthodox Christian traditions on the parents of Miriam; Joachim and Anna
The Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem
The Circumcision and the 'Giving of the Name' to the Infant, Jesus
The Dedication and Consecration of Jesus as the Firstborn Son
Mary, the mother of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament
The Nathan and Solomon Lineages of Jesus
The Testimony of Joseph by Matthew Levi
The Testimony of Mary by Luke the Physician
Luke the Student of Gamaliel
The Story of Mary in Luke
The Daughters of Zelophehad and the Legal Inheritance of a Family with No Son
Joseph as the Son (son-in-law) of Heli
Heli the son of Matthat
The Blood Curse of Jeconiah (Jehoiachin)
Miriam as the Descent of the Lucian Genealogy of Jesus
Part Three – Born of a Virgin
Part Five – Was Joseph Betrothed or Espoused to Mary?
The History of the New Testament by Jack Kilman
Bethlehem – by Ancient Sandals
Overview of the historical and archaeological significance of Bethlehem, including a location profile, with an interesting article on the birth of Jesus. Includes a neatly organized, though short, photo gallery.
History of Bethlehem - Holy Land Network
A succinct article on the history of Bethlehem. Also includes a photo gallery with briefly annotated pictures.
Bethlehem, Palestine - Bethlehem 2000
A brief article on the history and present condition of the city, written to commemorate the Bethlehem 2000 celebration. Includes a couple of pictures of the modern city and a map of walking tours.
The City of Bethlehem - Bethlehem Municipality
A number of good pictures and articles on the city, its history, and the sites located in and around it. Sites include the Church of the Nativity, the two proposed locations of the Shepherds' Field, and Rachel's Tomb. The website also has a couple of photo galleries of the city and the Church of the Nativity.
Places to Visit -- Bethlehem - Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities
Pictures of places in and around Bethlehem including the Church of the Nativity, The Shepherd's Field, and Rachel's Tomb. All of the sites in Bethlehem are the traditional locations and not necessarily the actual locations of the events.
Bethlehem - Bethlehem Organization
A brief article on the city which provides some statistics on the population of the modern city and its refugee camps. Unfortunately the site contains many links that no longer work.
Pictures: Bethlehem and Surroundings - Franciscan Cyberspot
More than 40 pictures of the city and its sites available for download in either low or high definition.
Brief history of Bethlehem - Bethlehem Peace Center
An overview of the city's history from the Canaanite period to the present day with one picture of the modern city.
Bethlehem - Virtual Israel Experience
An informative article about the Church of the Nativity, Rachel's Tomb and a couple of neighboring sites.
Bethlehem - Catholic Encyclopedia
An encyclopedia article on the city and its history. Includes a history of the early tradition that Jesus was born in a cave.
Bethlehem – Crystalinks
An article about the city and the Christmas story with a few photographs and drawings.
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