The Historical Setting

It is time now to come to the Scripture itself, and to look at the fact of the Virgin birth in its historical setting, and its relation with other truths of the Gospel. As preceding the examination of the historical evidence, a little may be said, first, on the Old Testament preparation. Was there any such preparation? Some would say there was not, but this is not God’s way, and we may look with confidence for at least some indications which point in the direction of the New Testament event.

The First Promise

One’s mind turns first to that oldest of all evangelical promises, that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent. “I will put enmity,” says Jehovah to the serpent-tempter, “between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15. R. V.). It is a forceless weakening of this first word of Gospel in the Bible to explain it of a lasting feud between the race of men and the brood of serpents. The serpent, as even Dr. Driver attests, is “the representative of the power of evil” — in later Scripture, “he that is called the Devil and Satan” (Rev. 12:9)— and the defeat he sustains from the woman’s seed is a moral and spiritual victory. The “seed” who should destroy him is described emphatically as the woman’s seed. It was the woman through whom sin had entered the race; by the seed of the woman would salvation come. The early church writers often pressed this analogy between Eve and the Virgin Mary. We may reject any element of over-exaltation of Mary they connected with it, but it remains significant that this peculiar phrase should be chosen to designate the future deliverer. I cannot believe the choice to be of accident. The promise to Abraham was that in his seed the families of the earth would be blessed; there the male is emphasized, but here it is the woman — the woman distinctively. There is, perhaps, as good scholars have thought, an allusion to this promise in 1 Timothy 2:15, where, with allusion to Adam and Eve, it is said, “But she shall be saved through her (or the) child-bearing” (R. V.).

A Saturated Gospel

Let us observe in an example or two how thoroughly saturated the Gospel narrative is with the assumption of the deity of Christ, so that it crops out in the most unexpected ways and places.

In three passages of Matthew, reporting words of Jesus, He is represented as speaking familiarly and in the most natural manner in the world, of “His angels” (13:41; 16:27; 24:31). In all three He designates Himself as the “Son of man”; and in all three there are additional suggestions of His majesty. “The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that cause stumbling and those that do iniquity, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire.”

Who is this Son of man who has angels, by whose instrumentality the final judgment is executed at His command? “The Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then shall He reward every man according to his deeds.” Who is this Son of man surrounded by His angels, in whose hands are the issues of life? The Son of man “shall send forth His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Who is this Son of man at whose behest His angels winnow men? A scrutiny of the passages will show that it is not a peculiar body of angels which is meant by the Son of man’s angels, but just the angels as a body, who are His to serve Him as He commands. In a word, Jesus Christ is above angels (Mark 13:32) — as is argued at explicit length at the beginning of the Epistle to the Hebrews. “To which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, etc.” (Heb. 1:13).