The oldest representations of gods are female & one of the oldest is the
Venus of Willendorf, dating from the Upper Palaeolithic about 30,000 years
ago. Coming closer to the present is the Mother Goddess of Skorba in Malta
which dates from the Neolithic about 6,500 years ago. Isis, the Mother
Goddess of the Egyptians is about 3,500 years old and bringing us nearly
to the present era are Hera and Athena the Greek Mother Goddesses of
500BC. In 1950 Pius XII declared infallibly that the Assumption of the
Blessed Virgin Mary was a dogma of the Catholic Church, despite the fact
that there is absolutely no warrant in Scripture for such a statement,
thus giving the European and Near Eastern World at last an official
Christian Quasi-Goddess to carry on a 30,000 year old pagan belief ! The
irony of the situation is that Luke 1:23 is based, not on the Hebrew of
Isaiah 7:14 but on the Greek Septuagint version which gives it the
translation “virgin” which is not in the Hebrew. You will be aware that
virgin births and gods coupling with humans were two a penny in
the religious stories of the Ancient World. Acting on the syncretizing
principles of all religions, the Jesus cult got one too.

I, too, find the worship of Mary to be a shameful thing. The Bible never
anticipates the worship of Mary. I believe if anyone were to ask her for
permission to pray through her or to bow to an idol of her she would be
horrified and emphatic in her answer no. The doctrine of the Immaculate
Conception has not an iota of support biblically. You claim that the cult
of Mary was a concession to mother goddess worship. I think there may be
some truth to that. This is the pattern of the Roman Catholic Church to
syncretize idolatrous worship form in order to spread the “gospel.”
Having said that, I believe some of the tendencies to deify Mary, at least
in the first three or four centuries was an over-reaction to some of the
heretical sects. At first, Mary, the mother of God was intended to
emphasize, not the deity of Mary, but the deity of Christ. Later on,
however, as you point out, this turned out to be a slippery slope to a
pseudo-mother goddess cult in Western Christendom. It is shameful, but
there is nothing I can do about that.

About Isaiah 7:14, first I believe it is a messianic prophecy. I believe
this is established conclusively by the statement which follows the part
about the maiden who is with child. She will call him Immanuel, which is
God with us. The Jews (not all, but many) considered this passage
messianic. Because the meaning of the Hebrew is not absolutely clear that
the young woman who is with child is a virgin, I do not use this
particular passage when I am sharing messianic prophecies as proof of
Jesus as the Messiah and of the inspiration of the Bible. Besides, we
have it on the word of only two people, Mary and Joseph that this was the
case. Personally, I believe that this witness is very powerful, given the
character of Mary, but I like to be conservative and only use really solid
evidences. Having said that, I still believe that this passage is a
prophecy of a virgin birth. I believe this for two reasons. First of
all, this is declared to be a sign. If a woman has sex and gives birth to
a child, I do not see how this can be a sign. Second, the Jews, when they
translated Isaiah into Greek, used a word which is an unambiguously
virgin. Obviously, the Jews considered this a prophecy that a virgin
would be with child. Of course, this is exactly what happened.

So, I agree with you that there is at least some reason to be skeptical
about Isaiah 7:14, but I believe the balance of the evidence is that it is
a prophecy of virgin birth. I also believe that this is what happened,
but will admit that this is not a slam dunk. The fact that many Near
Eastern cults copied this Christian story, almost all of them after
Christ, is not evidence against the truth of the Christian claim.
Besides, God did not “couple” with Mary. That claim is blasphemous and
religiously insensitive to say the least. Please be more polite in what
you imply.

John Oakes, PhD

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