Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Name and Incarnation.

More from the book.

A similar movement might be observed with the description of God's Name in the Old Testament.  As we have previously observed, the divine Name is identical with God's hypostatized presence.  The Tabernacle/Temple is a "house for My Name" (2 Sam 7:13).  God gives Israel his Name in Exodus 3 at the same time of his revelation of his will to redeem them for the sake of the promises made to the Patriarchs.  This means that through God's unilateral act of promise he has bound himself up with Israel's fate.  His Name is exalted through the exodus and redemption of Israel (Exod 9:16).  Because he has tied his Name is tied to Israel, his name is cursed among the nations when Israel sins (Ezek 36:20).  Ultimately, YHWH will redeem Israel not for their own sake, but for the sake of his Name that he has bound to them and donated to them (Ezek 36:22).  There will be a final moment of universal reconciliation where all the nations recognize his Name and will give true worship (Isa 45:23).  This exaltation of the divine Name will be the moment of final reconciliation of all the nations. 

This coincides with the promise to Abraham to bless all nations and exaltation his name (Gen 12).  Since God has in fact tied himself to Israel, the exaltation of his Name through the unity and true worship of the all the nations must logically connect to Israel's own exaltation.  The one who receives the blessing of the coming "seed" in Genesis 9:26-6 is Shem.  Shem's name literally means "Name."[1]  Abraham, as an inheritor of Shem's promise to bring about the reconciliation of the Gentiles (9:26-7), is told that his name will be "great" (12:2) and that the nations will be blessed and reconciled in him (22:18).  This promise directly parallel's God's statement in Isaiah 45 that the exaltation of his Name would coincide with the reconciliation of the nations.  Elsewhere, David is told that his name will be made great: "I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth" (2 Sam 7:4).  This will come about because God will establish the eternal throne of the Messiah.  David states in his prayer in response to the oracle: "this is the instruction of all mankind" (7:19).[2]  He goes on to state that by fulfilling his promise, God's Name will also be exalted among the nations (7:26).  Beyond the fact that these are obviously fulfillments of promises made to Abraham, David is connects back also to the events Genesis in other way.  First, by his crushing of the head of Goliath, who wears serpentine armor (1 Sam 17:5) which echoes the protevangelium.  He is also connected to the earlier narratives of Genesis (as noted in chapter 1) by the fact that he offered himself up as a substitute and built an altar on Mt. Moriah (2 Sam 24), the very place where Abraham offered up Isaac and built an altar (Gen 22).  It should also be noted that this is the place where Abraham received the promise of the blessing of the nations.    

In other words, by way of the exaltation of David's seed and name, God's own Name will be exalted, thereby fulfilling his promises to Adam, Eve, and Abraham about the coming "seed." By this, all humanity will be redeemed and united.  Hence the exaltation of Israel and of God's Name, merge into the single person of the Davidic Messiah.  Paul shows in the Christological hymn of Philippians 2, that it is in fact though Jesus, the Davidic Messiah (Rom 1:3) and the seed of Abraham (Gal 3:16), who by his being exalted (Phil 2:9) and gaining "the name that is above every name" (v.9), that the prophecy of Isaiah 45 will be fulfilled.  God's own self-donation to Israel logically leads to the vindication and exaltation of Israel and God's own Name in a single person.

Flacius was Right After All: Another Death Blow to the Finns.

One thing that came up during the (now blessedly ended!!!) debate over universal justification, was that Luther consistently describes Christ as having "born all sins." In other words, he was imputed with humanity's sin and therefore suffered for it. He is, as Luther put it in the Great Galatians commentary, is the "Greatest Sinner" and the "Only Sinner."

This provides another problem for the Finns.

If you read Mannermaa's work, he does like to cite the aforementioned passages. Nevertheless, he construes them as having to do with the event of unio mystica. In other words, we are justified because via faith we enter into union with Christ. Christ then takes our sins and we his righteousness and voila, we're justified by becoming a single subject with him.

Now it's true that Luther does conceptualize the imputation of sin to Christ as taking place because God regards us as a single subject with him (this is how Jenson puts it, not Luther, though I think he correct to state it this way). He more heavily leans on the marriage and union metaphor than does Melanchthon, who is certainly more keen on the forensic one (although it should be noted that Luther also endorsed Melanchthon's way of stating things, contrary to what the Finns and Karl Holl would like us to believe). Nevertheless, let us examine what Luther really means when he says that we become a "single subject" with Christ.

Going back to the description of Christ bearing all sins, it becomes obvious that Luther holds to a universal and objective justification. He states again and again that Christ in his death forgave all sins and so forth.  Consequently, when he speaks of us becoming a single subject with Christ, he's not talking about the event of unio mystica which occurs through faith. If that were the case, then why are we told he is the "Only Sinner"? In other words, if Mannermaa was correct, then he logically wouldn't be the only sinner. All those other people who hadn't entered intounio mystica with him by faith would still be sinners and only after faith would their sins be transfered to him.

For this reason, it appears very likely that Flacius in his debate with Osiander actually got the Luther was aiming at when he suggested that the transfer of sins and unity with Christ's person occurred in God's mind prior to our temporal justification. God had in his eternal will to redeem, transferred our status to Christ and Christ's to us. Normally, he admitted, this would be strange and absurd. But in the case of God, this was possible. If this is true, and Flacius was true to Luther's intention on this point.  

It should also be noted that when Quenstedt in his systematic theology deals with this question that he conceptualizes it in exactly the same manner.  This means, I think, that there is greater continuity between Luther and Lutheran scholasticism than most Luther scholars would like to admit.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Critique of the Roman Catholic Marian Doctrines: Pt. 1

This is the last section of my discussion of the Virgin Birth from the Christology book.

 This brings up the most important point regarding the Virgin Birth from the perspective of Lutheran dogmatics.  In regards the inner unity and coherence of the analogia fidei, the Virgin Birth stands as an important corollary of the sola gratia.  As we noted above, that John makes pains to state that the Christian's new spiritual birth occurs "not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but . . . of God" (Jn 1:13).  If indeed salvation comes by grace, then it is not fitting that the Messiah's birth would come about by anything other than grace.[1]  In fact, it would appear that ecumenical differences regarding the status and nature of Mary are linked quite specifically to differences in the doctrine of grace.

            Most notably, (as both Herman Sasse[2] and Karl Barth[3] have observed) the Roman Catholic understanding of Mary mirrors their synergistic concept of grace.  According to the Catholic Catechism, the Virgin Mary was herself conceived without sin (described as being "born redeemed") and was filled with supernatural grace, both created and uncreated.[4]  The description of Mary being "full of grace" originates from the translation of Luke 1:28 in the Vulgate which reads "et ingressus angelus ad eam dixit ave gratia plena Dominus tecum benedicta tu in mulieribus."  The words "gratia plena" ("full of grace") is the translation of the Greek "κεχαριτωμένη" which does not mean "full of grace" but "highly favored."  In light of the fact that medieval (and modern) Roman Catholics came to understand "grace" to denote a supernaturally infused predicate of the human subject,[5] it is easy to how theologians of that tradition came to understand Mary as they did.  Similarly, the word "χαρε" (which is properly rendered as either "greetings" or "rejoice") is translated as "ave" ("Hail") makes it appear that Mary is being given some sort of adoration (or "hyperdulia" in Catholic thought, one step below worship in its proper sense) [6] rather than being exhorted to rejoice in God's grace. 

Beyond the mistranslation of the angel's address to Mary, Roman Catholics historically found a basis for the Marian doctrines in the Vulgate's translation of the protevangelium.  Genesis 3:15 is rendered in the Vulgate "inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem et semen tuum et semen illius ipsa conteret caput tuum et tu insidiaberis calcaneo eius."  The Douay-Rheims translation of the Vulgate renders this: "I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel" (Emphasis added).  In other words, it is the woman (read as Mary) who will crush the serpent's head, whereas in the original Hebrew (translated accurately in countless modern English Bibles) it is the male seed of the woman who will triumph over the serpent.  This accounts for the frequent presence of statures of Mary crush a serpent in older Roman Catholic Churches.

The difference between the original Greek and the Vulgate (and how this translation was appropriated) illuminates the difference between the Roman Catholic and the Evangelical Lutheran understanding of both grace and the doctrine of the Church.  From the Roman Catholic perspective grace is given us so that we might correspond to God's expectations and thereby gain salvation.  This takes the form of meritorious behavior.  Although "justification" (translated in the Vulgate Romans 3:28 as "iustificari," i.e. to "make righteous," rather than to "forgive" or "vindicate" as "δικαιοσθαι" as in New Testament and LXX Greek)[7] cannot properly speaking be merited, although salvation itself can and must be.[8]  Catholics the term "justification" to mean moral regeneration that occurs in baptism through the reception of created and uncreated grace, not salvation promised for the sake of Christ.  Salvation is not conceived in crass Pelagian terms, but in more subtle ones. There is rather an attempt to balance out the claims of nature and grace.  If humans had no power to contribute to their salvation by cooperating with grace, then nature would be defective.  If they did not need grace, the work of Christ and the supernatural power of God would be unnecessary.  Furthermore, the merit of those who are redeemed is in a sense a participation in the merit of Christ, since Christ is casually responsible for their meritorious behavior.[9] 

Grace then is view as being inherently participatory.  One of the major problems faced by this model of grace is the historicity of salvation.  In other words, if salvation already happened and is complete as a previous historical event, it means that one is powerless to contribute to said event.  Rather, as a saving event in the past, it can only be recognized and trusted in, which is why the New Testament urges faith or trust (πίστεως) in Christ's already completed work.

            Doctrinally speaking, for Roman Catholic theology, the two main solutions to this problem are the sacrifice of the Mass and the Marian doctrines.  Salvation happens because of the Incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ.  In the Mass, the believer not only receives grace, but also participates in Christ's death and self-offering to the Father irrespective of time and space.[10]  One is effectively taken back in time to the crucifixion so that one might be capable of offering themselves up collectively with Christ.[11]  Through this, the problem of distance from the crucifixion in that the Mass makes participation in the historical event possible.  The distance of the believer from the Incarnation is not solved by individual participation in the event, but rather recognition that one person, Mary, the "Queen of Heaven" and the "highest of all creatures,"[12]did have this opportunity.  Like the believer who participates in their own redemption through the reception of grace (created and uncreated), so too Mary, being "full of grace," was born "redeemed" from original and actual sin.  For this reason, she was able to actively participate in the work of redemption.  In this sense, she is the unique Mediatrix of grace and worthy of hyperdulia, that is, worship that is not quite true worship ("latria," that is true worship, which is reserved for God alone).[13]  She is then, the model of the person, who after baptism is sinless participates in the merit of Christ by their own grace infused efforts.

            Of course the difficulty with all this is the total lack attestation from the New Testament or even early Christian tradition (a point made by Barth[14]).  As we noted earlier, the actual text of the first chapter of Luke utterly contradicts the traditional Roman Catholic reading of it ("Hail" is really "greetings" or perhaps an admonition to "rejoice") or that she possess an infused supernatural quality known as "grace" rather than is "highly favored."  In fact, what appears to be the case is that the genesis of Marian doctrines occurred mainly because of a misreading of a badly translated text.  It is therefore highly unusual that the present Catholic Catechism continues to use these phrases (notably "Hail" and "Full of Grace" are cited as a biblical basis) despite the fact that modern Roman Catholic scholars and theologians now use the original Greek and Hebrew texts and acknowledge the faultiness of the Vulgate.  One suspects that they might invoke the theory of the development of doctrine.[15]  But even if the Evangelical Lutheran Church accepted as legitimate the idea that the articles of the faith can be developed beyond their annunciation in the biblical authority, it is difficult to see how a verse of Scripture which teaches the very opposite of the doctrine of modern Catholicism can be believed to legitimate development.

Flacius was Right After All

Blog post as been moved to the top.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Semper Virgo.

More from the book.

Beyond the Scriptural data which clearly teaches the virginity of Mary at the time of Jesus' conception, there is the issue of the extra scriptural tradition of her perpetual virginity (semper virgo).  As it is well known, the perpetual virginity of Mary was taught widely in the early Church, some claim as early as St. Ireneaus in the late second century.[1]  The doctrine was also supported by Luther,[2] Zwingli,[3] Calvin,[4]and the later Lutheran Scholastics.[5]  The Protestant Reformers and Scholastics mainly drew their arguments in favor of Mary's perpetual virginity from St. Jerome's work, Against Helvidius.  This teaching continues to be upheld by the Roman Catholic Church to this day.[6]

The difficulty with this doctrine, is of course, that Jesus is clearly stated to have brothers and sisters in the Gospels (Mt 12:46, 13:55-56, Mk 3:31-34 Lk 8:19-21, Jn 2:12).  Other objections have been raised by verses such as "But he [Joseph] had no union with her until she gave birth to a son" (Mt. 1:25, Emphasis added).  In other words, this seems to suggest that Joseph did have sexual intercourse with Mary after Christ was born.  To these objections, Jerome argued that within their biblical idiom, the words "brothers" and "sisters" could also mean cousins or even just countrymen.[7]  It might also be argued that they were children from a previous marriage of Joseph.  In that Joseph does not appear in stories concerning Jesus' later ministry (unlike Mary) it is possible that Joseph was considerably older than his wife and could have been married to another at an earlier date.  Nevertheless, this is amounts to speculation.  Regarding the "not until" of Matthew 1:25, Jerome claimed that this was a mere turn of phrase, similar to "before he repented, he was cut off by death."[8]  Of course, the person in question never did repent and consequently saying "before" does not mean that they eventually repented. 

Jerome's main goal here was not simply to vindicate a tradition of the early Church.  Helvidius had claimed that virginity is no better than matrimony and children in the eyes of God.[9]  To prove this, he had stated that because Mary, one "blessed among women" had occupied both, that both must be equally good.  To counter this claim and laud the superiority of virginity, Jerome did his best to vindicate the tradition. 

Although Luther and the majority of the Lutheran tradition prior to the Enlightenment held to the doctrine of the perpetual virginity, Lutheran theology must be wary of accepting this idea for several reasons.[10]  The first difficulty is the lack of Scriptural data.  Although we do not have the space here to engage in a thorough exegesis of every passage that Jerome cites, let us posit for the sake of argument that all of his exegesis is essentially correct.  Even if we do this, his arguments do not positively vindicate the tradition on the basis of Scripture.  Jerome's argumentation style is rather ad hoc.  What he suggests is that the word usage of Scripture provides wiggle room. If one accepts that this wiggle room exists and therefore the possibility that the texts can be read in such a way as not to exclude perpetual virginity, the exegete can take the next step and read the text in light of the extra biblical tradition.  By these means, semper virgo becomes exegetically plausible.  If one was not motivated by imperative of the extra biblical tradition and one was simply left to make a decision on the question purely on the basis of Scripture alone, it is difficult to see how one would come to conclusion that Mary always remained a virgin.  Even Jesus' turning his mother over to the disciple John (Jn 19:26-7) is far too ambiguous to make this a positive of suggestion.  Again, read in isolation, there are any number of alternative reasons why Mary's natural sons might be incapable of taking care of her.  In essence, the difficulty is that the exegetical method here employed allows a non-biblical tradition to not merely shed light on a passage in Scripture, but be the determining factor in the interpretation the Scriptures.  This is not acceptable in light of the Reformation principle of scriptura sui interpres.

The second point is that Lutheran theology cannot accept the idea that the state of perpetual virginity is inherently superior to married vocation.  Jesus and Paul certainly do praise virginity for those who can accept it (Mt 19:3-121Cor 7:8-9, 27, 32-35, 38), but this does not negate other vocations (1 Cor 7:7).  God placed Mary in a married vocation and it would have been in violation of God's commandment at the beginning of creation (Gen. 1:28) if she did not engage in sexual intercourse with her husband. 

This brings us to one of the most puzzling aspects of the doctrine of the perpetual virginity.  Namely, if Mary decided to remain a virgin perpetually, were did she get the idea?  The idea that she did so of her own accord without a Word from God suggests a sort of Enthusiasm on her part.  This would have been rather inconsistent with her faithful harkening to the Word of God spoken to her by the angel (Lk 1).  One might also ask as to what purpose always remaining a virgin within marriage might serve.  It is easy to see why Jerome and the Latin tradition in general would think of virginity as superior.  If it meant a greater degree of self-denial, it could function as an act of supererogation.[11]  In contrast to this, Evangelical Lutheran dogmatics posits on the basis of Scripture that no vocation can be considered meritorious (Lk 17:7, 1 Cor 7).  All are justified by faith and all serve an equal and important function in the one body (Rom 12, 1 Cor 12). 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Luther and Gerhard Dig Theosis.

A couple of quotes that will likely make the low churchy and existentialist Lutherans among us go bonkers.

First Luther:AE 26:247.  Luther writes of the person of faith in the Galatians commentary of 1531-5: 

"“The one who has faith is a completely divine man, a son of God, the inheritor of the universe."

From Gerhard in On Christ, 144.  In discussing what the goal or end of the Incarnation is, Gerhard writes:

 "However, because God wished out of His immense mercy to turn our disgrace and misery away from us, to join us to Himself again, and to restore to our possession the goodness that was lost, He used this manner and means: that He personally united His Son with our nature that we might in turn be joined to God through Him who touches us by kinship and nearness of the human nature."  Gerhard then goes on to cite Irenaeus: "Because of His immense love, the Son of God became what we are, to perfect us to be what He is.  He became a partaker of our nature to make us sharers in the divine nature."  

Hence Gerhard views the true goal of the Incarnation as being what the Patristic theologians referred to as theosis.

Update: Just to clarify, this does not mean I am even remotely interested in going EO.  I think that this is the logical outworking of the Lutheran idea of the gospel is divine-self donation as it is expressed in our sacrament theology in general and the Christological doctrine of the genus maiestaticum in particular.

The Virgin Birth.

Another excerpt from my book.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church has always affirmed the creedal statement that Jesus Christ "who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man [Homo Factus Est]"[1]  The biblicalsedes[2] of for this teaching is clear from the Gospels, notably Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:18-23 and Luke 1:34-6.  Matthew draws special attention to the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14.  Although it has been frequently argued that this verse only refers to a "young woman" several scholars have demonstrated that the term means "virgin" as the authors of the LXX translated it.[3]  Even the Jewish scholar Cyrus Gordon has agrees the word used in the verse, almah, does in fact mean virgin.[4]  Beyond the linguistic arguments, the context is highly suggestive of this.  The king is told by Isaiah that "the Lord himself will give you a sign."  If a miraculous event of a virgin giving birth is not referred to here, how would such an event be a sign?  If Isaiah merely refers to a "young woman," then this would not be miraculous in that young women give birth all the time.   

Beyond these typical and obvious sedes, David Scaer notes that in one of the textual variants of the Gospel of John, there is also a suggestion of Virgin Birth (the variant is in 1:13).[5]  As we have previously noted, the New Testament teaching of Virgin Birth represents the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, where we are told of the coming of the "seed of the woman."   Within Ancient Near Eastern culture, the women do not have "seed" and therefore such a phrase is highly suggestive of Virgin Birth.[6] 

Although it has been popular among theologically liberal circles to do so, it is incorrect to argue that Matthew and Luke possess a teaching on the Virgin Birth that finds alternatives elsewhere in the New Testament.  According to this theory, because John and Paul do not directly mention Jesus' Virgin Birth, they did not believe in it.  Whereas Matthew and Luke thought Jesus was a mere human and therefore needed to explain how Jesus could be God's Son (thereby inventing the Virgin Birth as an explanation), John and Paul believed in the pre-existence of Christ and therefore did not need a Virgin Birth to explain Christ's ontological connection to God the Father.[7] 

This is problematic for several reasons.  First, as we have shown in chapter two, the overwhelming evidence is that Matthew and Luke did believe that Jesus was God.  In fact, Matthew directly says this when quoting Isaiah's prophecy that Christ would be "God with us" (Mt. 1:23).  As we also noted, this reading is validated by the inclusio of divine presence within the Gospel.[8]  That the Virgin birth was directly connected to Christ's divinity in Matthew was recognized by the early Jewish Christian heresy of the Ebionites.  Although they used Matthew's Gospel, they removed the section that spoke of the Virgin Birth.[9]  Similarly, as Arthur Just notes, Luke describes Mary in the same terms of Moses describes God's descent in the Tabernacle in Exodus 40.[10]  Therefore Virgin Birth does not represent an alternative ascending Christology, but rather is part and parcel of a high, divine, descending Christology. 

Regarding the teachings of John and Paul, as we mentioned above, Scaer notes that in light of a particular textual variant, it is very possible that John did mention the Virgin Birth directly.  Nevertheless, we of course do not know if he textual variant preserves the original reading.  Certainly, the text as it is agreed upon by most lower-critics, would seem to imply that Christ was born of a Virgin, in that the new spiritual birth that Christ brings occurs "not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God" (Jn 1:13).  If this is how believers gain spiritual birth, then how much more would not the Son of God also be born in this manner as well?  Regarding Paul, itshould be observed (with Scaer again)[11] that in Galatians 4:4 that Paul says merely that Jesus was "born of a woman" and not a "woman and a man."  Within this context there was no reason not to say that Christ was simply was "made man" or just "born."  Paul appears to rather deliberately go out of his way to emphasize that Christ was "born of a woman" alone. 

In any case, it seems particularly strange that John and Paul would teach anything other than Virgin Birth, not only because they share a common incarnational theology with Matthew and Luke, but because it would simply be illogical for them not to.  If Jesus is God's Son, then to claim that he had an earthly Father according to the flesh and then a heavenly Father would seem very strange.  It would be to suggest that both John and Paul had a theology whereby the Son of God had somehow intervened at an opportune moment of human insemination and thereby brought about the Incarnation.  Not only is this bizarre sounding, but it would appear to totally contradict the monergistic theologies of grace taught by both.  Lastly, among the theologians of the early Church that we possess no records of or even a merely suggestion of, the existence a descending and incarnational Christology that does not accept the Virgin Birth.[12]

But if John and Paul did believe in the Virgin Birth, why did they not mention it?  There are very likely several reasons.  First, many of the writings of the New Testament (particularly Paul's) are occasional and do not deal with every article of the faith.  Since it appears that Gospels were widely circulated at an early dateas David Scaer,[13] Martin Hengel[14] and Richard Bauckham[15] have argued, [16]  it is likely that they would have assumed their audiences were already familiar with the doctrine via other writings or simple contact with the Apostolickerygma by way of oral teaching.  Hence there would be no reason to mention it. 

Secondly, N.T. Wright has noted, that although the Virgin Birth is an important doctrine, it is not at the very heart of the New Testament gospel.  Though one certainly cannot dispense with Christmas-Good Friday, Easter and Pentecost are more central to the New Testament's saving message.[17]  Consequently, the preaching of Paul and John emphasize these.  As Wright notes, even when we turn to Matthew and Luke, this doctrine is only taught in a few verses.[18]  Part of the reason for this might very well be a desire to actually play the doctrine down.[19]  After all, as we have observe in chapter two, it is the purpose of Luke to portray Jesus as an incarnation of YHWH's hypostasizedkavod, the Servant of Deutro-Isaiah, and the new David.  In light of this fact and the fact that Luke is very likely writing what (according to Arthur Just) is a catechism for Gentiles,[20] an overemphasis on such a doctrine might make his formerly pagan audience begin to think of Jesus as a pagan demi-god.  Matthew might very well have faced similar issues with his Jewish audience.  In the Jewish context, there appears to be significant evidence that certain Jews of this period (notably those who read Enochic literature, including the sect at Qumran) misread the story of the "sons of God" copulating with the "daughters of men" in Genesis 6 and thereby constructed a fantastic notion that sexual intercourse between fallen angels and human women had lead to the insemination of a race of giants.[21]  Matthew very likely did not wish to emphasize the Virgin Birth because this might create associations within some of his Jewish contemporaries' minds between Jesus and supernatural human-angel hybrids creatures.[22]  To understand Jesus in this way, would detract from Matthew's portrayal of Jesus as living kavod and Torah made flesh in the person of the Davidic Messiah. 

On an apologetic note, it is therefore hard to see why Matthew or Luke would favor inventing the doctrine of Virgin Birth in light of these concerns.  In fact, if it were not for their inspiration by the Holy Spirit, their immediate impulse might have very well been to suppress these events as embarrassing.  After all, from the Second Temple Jewish texts that we possess, there is no suggestion that there was a wide spread belief that the Messiah would be born of a Virgin.[23] Consequently, a Virgin Birth wouldn't ultimately make much of a difference in arguing that Jesus was the Messiah and might even harm it if their audience (in the aforementioned ways) got the wrong idea.  Nevertheless, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they felt it necessary to tell to the truth about Jesus' birth and conception, while at the same time giving the doctrine minimal emphasis.