Some Christians join skeptics on this point. They doubt Matthew’s claim about Mary: “While she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18),     Matthew says this fulfills prophecy: “The virgin will conceive a child!” (Isaiah 7:14). But virgin in Hebrew-Isaiah’s language-can men “young woman” or “virgin.” In either case, Isaiah wasn’t talking about a pregnant virgin.

He was talking about a specific woman in his time, perhaps someone the king was about to marry. This young woman would soon get pregnant-the normal way-and have a son. And by the time this boy was old enough to eat solid food, two nations threatening the Jewish kingdom would be destroyed. So the son was a sign.

Matthew sees the prophecy as a sign for his time, too, 700 years after Isaiah. The Greek word that Matthew uses for “virgin” means just that-a woman who hasn’t had sex. Perhaps Matthew gets this insight from Jesus. But he doesn’t say.

Early Christians came to accept the teaching literally. They saw it as a miraculous expression of an unsolvable mystery-evidence supporting the Christian teaching that Jesus is fully human and fully God.

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