A Physician’s Account of the Virgin Birth
December 24th, 1961 @ 10:50 AM
A PHYSICIAN’S ACCOUNT OF THE VIRGIN BIRTH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-24-6 10:50 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the 11:00 o’clock morning message entitled A Physicians Account of the Virgin Birth. The sermons this day, prepared and delivered in God’s will form a trilogy. At the eight-fifteen o’clock hour, the message was of the prophet Isaiah, as he foretold the coming of our glorious, wonderful Lord, whom he called the Prince of Peace [Isaiah 9:6]. The sermon this morning at this hour is the fulfillment of that prophecy. And the sermon tonight is from John, John 1:14: "And the Word was made flesh"; and is a sermon of the result of the coming of our Lord into the world. This middle sermon concerns a physician’s inquiry into the birth of our Lord.
For the great prophet Isaiah, in 7:14, said, "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and they shall call His name Immanuel, God with us" [Isaiah 7:14]. And in keeping with that incomparable prophecy, the first chapter of the First Gospel, opening the new dispensation and the new covenant: "Now this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" [Matthew 1:22-23]. This was the announcement, the preaching, the witness, the heralding of the first Christian ministers.
So Luke, a physician, in the way and the manner of a physician, had opportunity in two years residence at Caesarea, the capital of Judea, while Paul was in prison, Luke those two years said that he sought out the sources of the gospel message; and he talked and did interview those who from the beginning bear witness of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. And in those two years, the beloved physician, Doctor Luke, interviewed Mary the mother of Jesus, interviewed all the other witnesses who lived in the lifetime and ministry of our Lord. And Luke sat down, and having said in his great prologue, in beautiful Greek language – the only Gospel that has such a dedication and such a prologue – in some of the most beautiful language in literature, Luke sat down and wrote the result of his inquiry [Luke 1:1-4]. And I read a part of it in the first chapter of his book, beginning at verse 26: "And in the sixth month," in the sixth month of the conception of Elisabeth, who was to bear John called the Baptist, "in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a parthenos" [Luke 1:26-27]. The Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, two hundred fifty years before Christ, translated almah, the Hebrew word that Isaiah used, "Behold, an almah shall conceive, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel" [Isaiah 7:14], two hundred fifty years before Christ the Greek scholars of Ptolemy in Alexandria, Egypt, taking the Hebrew Scriptures into the Greek language, translated almah, parthenos. On the acropolis in Athens, you have a parthenon; that is, "This is the temple dedicated to the virgin Pallas Athena"; the Parthenon. And in those centuries before Christ, those Greek scholars translated almah in Isaiah 7:14, parthenos, "virgin." And that’s the word that Matthew used when he said, "This was fulfilled, what Isaiah said, Behold a parthenos, a virgin" [Matthew 1:22-23]. And this is the word you will find in Doctor Luke:
To a parthenos espoused, pledged, engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the parthenos name was Mary.
And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what the salutation should mean.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: thou hast found favor with God.
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and call His name Jesus, Iēsous, Joshua, Savior.
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give Him the throne of His father David:
And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.
That was last Sunday’s sermon.
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I am not married, I know not a man, a virgin?
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
From the beginning that has been the first battleground of the Christian faith. Even in the days of our Lord, those who hated Jesus, who were His bitter and implacable enemies, they circulated the current gossip that was rife, and you can read it today in the Talmudic literature of Babylon and of Jerusalem. They said, in the lifetime of our Lord, "He is the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier named Panthera and this peasant woman, Mary of Nazareth." And you’ll find that echoed in the Word of God. Here in the Gospel of John 8:19, the bitter enemies of our Lord says, "Where is Thy father?" And then in verse 41 of the same chapter, they say, "We be not born of fornication" [John 8:41]. Could I conclude the sentence there, saying, "We be not born of fornication like You are." All of those things were current gossip, the pointing of the finger, the hush-hush, the whispering about the Lord Jesus in His lifetime. And you’ll find it, I say, reflected here in the Holy Scriptures.
In the lifetime of the apostles, that thing was current and rife. The great opponent of the apostle John in Ephesus was a gnostic called Cerinthus; and he was the author of a great system of gnosticism called Cerinthian Gnosticism. Cerinthus said, in opposition to the apostle John at Ephesus, Cerinthus said that Jesus was born illegitimately of a Roman soldier. He said He was a great prophet and a great man, but the power enduement and unction of prophecy fell upon Him at His baptism and left Him at the cross. That was the gnostic explanation of the unusual gifts and power of the Lord. But he based his gnosticism upon the ordinary procreation by which Jesus was illegitimately born into the world.
Now, that thing was carried through the centuries. Celsus, in the second century, the greatest of all of the antagonists of the Christian religion, Celsus repeated it. You’ll find those same repetitious things in the great infidels of literature, such as Voltaire and Tolstoy in his The Four Gospels, and it is rife today. There is no liberal school, there is no modernistic seminary, there is no man who in the modern tradition attacks the inspiration of the Word of God but will begin it here. This is the place where they start. For example, Matthew Arnold, the great literary critic, said, "I do not believe in the virgin birth; for that would imply miracle, and miracles do not happen." Reginald T. Campbell, in The New Theology, writes, and I quote, "The doctrine of the virgin birth tends to put a barrier between Jesus and the race. It operates as a hindrance to spiritual religion. The simple and natural conclusion is that Jesus was the child of Joseph and Mary, and had an uneventful childhood." In another book of modern theology, in your day, our day, Saltoy writes in The Birth of Christ, "Whoever makes for the demands that a Christian shall believe in the words ‘conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary,’ unwittingly constitutes himself a sharer in the sin against the Holy Spirit of the true gospel, as transmitted to us by the apostles." He says, "To believe in the virgin birth of our Lord is actually a sin against the Holy Spirit of God." That’s the turn, so peculiar and unusual, of most modern theology. The minister of the gospel who stands in the pulpit, who believes in the virgin birth of our Lord, is in the minority. The great mass of modern theology and the great host of modern theologians scoff and ridicule, make fun of anyone who believes in the Holy Scriptures and the virgin birth of our Lord.
Now what they say about our Savior is this: that all of the great men of the past had supernatural births, according to tradition. That was the mark of elevating a great man, an unusual man, was to ascribe to him an unusual birth. Well, we’re not blind, and we can read; so we can see for ourselves what they say. They say the birth of our Lord is just like those fabulous traditions that surround, like a snowball accumulating, surround the great of the past. Well, we can read them for ourselves; so in just a moment, follow. Let’s go through some of those, just hurriedly. They say the birth of our Lord was like, oh, those accumulated traditions around Alexander the Great. Well what traditions of Alexander the Great? This was it: Alexander the Great, as he became the conqueror of the world, decided that it was beneath his dignity to be born like other men were born, so he said, Alexander the Great said, he said that a serpent cohabited with his mother, and he was born. Now that’s that one.
Here is another: Augustus, the great Caesar, the first imperial dictator of the Roman Empire, Augustus said – and this was the tradition concerning him – Augustus said that his mother went to the temple of Apollo, and the god transformed himself into the form of a serpent – they seem to like snakes – transformed himself into the likeness of a serpent, cohabited with his mother, and Octavius Caesar, later called Augustus, was born. That’s his miraculous birth. Gautama the Buddha, for three hundred years after Gautama there was no thing said about his birth. Then a tradition began that his mother saw in a vision an elephant with six tusks; he forcibly entered her side and Gautama, later called "the enlightened one," the Buddha, was born. That’s that miraculous birth.
Here is another one: the miraculous birth of Hercules. Jupiter transformed himself into the likeness of the husband of Alcmene, the daughter of Electryon of Mycenae, and Hercules was born. And Juno so despised the child, the wife of Jupiter, that she sent two serpents to destroy the youngster; but as an infant, Hercules the Mighty choked the serpents and destroyed them. That’s the tradition around Hercules.
Let’s take just one other: Achilles. Achilles was born when Peleus, the king of Thessaly, fell in love with a sea nymph named Thetus. And when the baby was born, she took him and dipped him by his heels in the River Styx. And he was invulnerable, all except where she held him by the heel when she dipped him in the River Styx. That’s where Paris shot him with a poison arrow as they warred over Troy. Now that is what they say.
I would submit it to any fair mind, compare, compare the great and holy and prophetic announcement of the coming of our Lord into the world, heralded from the days of the beginning of Genesis, through all of the millenniums and centuries since, finally described by the incomparable Isaiah and Micah, then brought to fulfillment in the holy chapters of the Gospels of the New Covenant. Compare, just compare those ludicrous, immoral, filthy, impossible conceptions of the great of the ancient day. Compare them with the holiness, and the purity, and the beauty of the virgin birth of the Son of God. The only virgin born child, I know, I’ve read of, is in the Book. It’s in the Book.
Somehow we must account for the Lord. "Never a man spake like that Man" [John 7:46]. Never a man loved like that Man. Never did one pour out his life unto death for sinners, for us, like that Man. Never has one so profoundly guided into new channels the destiny and history of the human race like that Man. Somehow an accounting must be made for Jesus. Where did He come from? Where did He come from?
What a remarkable thing will you find when we probe into that. Joseph said, "I am not His father. And he was minded to put Mary away surreptitiously, furtively, secretly, not willing to make her a public example, that all might look upon her. He was a good man, and a just man." And he thought privately to put her away. I am not her husband, and I am not the father of that Child, said Joseph" [Matthew 1:18-19]. And Mary said, "Joseph is not the father of the Child." And the angel Gabriel said, "He is not the father of the Child." Well, who is?
Luke, the beloved physician, two years, having opportunity to be in Jerusalem and in Judea and in Palestine, Luke, the beloved physician, ferrets out the story. Matthew will tell it from a kingly side, from David’s side, from the throne’s side, from Joseph’s side; but how the thing happened you will find from the pen of Luke as he tells the story from Mary’s side. And you can know from whence the story came by how Luke will write. Now listen to him: "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart" [Luke 2:19]. That is, Luke is telling you that Mary is the source of his story. And he says it again, "But His mother kept all these sayings in her heart" [Luke 2:51]. She didn’t walk up and down the land parading, announcing, displaying that marvelous and incomparable saying; she kept it in her heart. And only four knew at first: Zacharias the priest, and Elizabeth his sainted and aged wife, Joseph the espoused husband, and Mary. And Luke wants you to know that he learned these things from the testimony of the mother.
So Luke writes the story of how the virgin girl, in the despised little town of Nazareth, was visited by Gabriel from God [Luke 1:26-35]. And the great herald angel said, that, "Today is to be fulfilled all the great prophecies of the ancient past: For unto us, unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall rest upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace" [Isaiah 9:6]. Today, today is this great prophecy to be fulfilled."
"But how?" said the demurring Mary. "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: and that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" [Luke 1:34-35].
May I speak of the two great biological miracles that God hath wrought in the earth? First: the first biological miracle is the creation of Adam, the first Adam, from the dust of the ground [Genesis 2:7]. And out of that creative process, God hath continued that first incomparable miracle. There’s one place where I agree with Huxley, the infidel and the unbeliever, and it is this: Huxley said, "The mysteries of the church are child’s play compared to the mysteries of nature." And that’s the truth! The first great biological mystery, when God created the first Adam out of the dust of the ground, and began that process that is the miracle of our houses and of our homes today: the miracle of mitosis.
In every somatic cell, in every body’s cell, every cell that makes up one’s person, there is a set number of chromosomes, little threadlike particles in every nucleus of every cell; all except in the reproductive cells in which the number is halved. In the spermatozoa of the man, half the number of chromosomes; in the ova of the woman, half the number of chromosomes, and when the ova and the spermatozoa come together, you have the full number again: twenty-four – in the case of a human being – twenty-four from the woman, twenty-four from the man, carrying the genes of heredity. And the number is complete once again. That’s the first biological miracle of the Lord God in heaven: when He created Adam and began that indescribable, mysterious process of mitosis.
The second great biological miracle of all time is when the Lord God in heaven broke into that chain and created the sinless and the spotless Son of God, born of a woman, made under the law [Galatians 4:4], formed in fashion like a man [Philippians 2:8], but God incarnate from heaven. No wonder the angels sang! No wonder the Scriptures say all heaven desired to look into the mystery of the wonder of what God did bring to pass in the earth! [1 Peter 1:12].
"O little town of Bethlehem" – the mystery, the wonder in thy sacred streets! [Micah 5:2]. O come, all ye angels, gather round ye hosts of Adam’s fallen race; here is the second great biological miracle of the Lord God of heaven, intervening, interposing, reaching down to form in mankind, in manhood, in flesh, in blood, in bone: the likeness and the form and the fashion of the Son of God [Philippians 2:6-8].
"O come let us adore Him!" Come bow down before Him! Name His name! Worship Him in your soul. Thank God for Him every day of your life. Let the hopes, and joys, and fears, and destinies of all of our days flow in love and praise unto Him. Blessed, holy, hallowed be His name forever and forever!
This is God’s gift to us: that we might know Him, that we might learn of Him, that we might enroll in His school, that we might be a disciple sitting at His feet, that we might pray in His name, that we might be washed from our sins, that we might be saved from death and from hell, and that someday we might see the face of God and live forever. "Call His name Iēsous, Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins" [Matthew 1:21]. This is the account of Doctor Luke as he wrote of the birth of the virgin born Son of God.
That’s our prayerful appeal to your heart this morning. Taking Jesus as Savior, come. Putting your life with the people and family of God in this beloved congregation, come. Somebody you, in this balcony round, there’s a stairway at the back, at the front, on either side; there is time and to spare, come. On this lower floor, somebody you, into the aisle and down to the front, "Here I am, preacher, and here I come. I give you my hand; I give my heart in faith and in trust to the Lord Jesus." Come. A family you, maybe one member of the family coming first and the rest of the family will follow after. In this holy and hallowed hour, for God, for Christ, for our Lord, "Here I come, I make it now," while we stand and while we sing.
A PHYSICIAN’S ACCOUNT OF THE BIRTH OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 9:6, 7:14, Matthew 1:22-23)
B. While Paul in prison, Luke interviewed witness of the lifetime of our Lord (Luke 1:26-35)
II. The birth of Jesus a battleground from the beginning
A. In His lifetime (John 8:19, 41)
B. In the lifetime of the apostles
1. Cerinthian Gnosticism carried through the centuries
C. Modern theology scoffs Holy Scriptures and virgin birth
III. Is it just another legend?
A. All great men of the past had supernatural births, according to tradition
B. Compare the ludicrous, immoral conceptions with the holiness, purity and beauty of the virgin birth
IV. The unique character of Jesus
A. An accounting must be made for Jesus (John 7:46)
B. Joseph was not the father (Matthew 1:18-19)
C. Luke tells the story from Mary’s side (Luke 2:19, 51)
1. A young virgin girl, visited by Gabriel (Isaiah 9:6)
2. How will it be done? (Luke 1:34-35)
V. The two great biological miracles
A. Creation of Adam from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7)
B. God broke into the chain of mitosis, created sinless Son of God
1. Born of a woman, made under the law (Galatians 4:4, 1 Peter 1:12)