The Language of the Virgin Birth

Why Luke 2:33 Is Important

The Christmas season is always a time of challenge and wonder in the area of preaching. One of my favorite texts comes from Luke chapter two where Joseph and Mary take Jesus to the temple. They are met by Simeon, who takes the babe in his arms and says: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29–32). What a wonderful moment in Scripture!

I am sure the young couple were amazed by this turn of events. In fact, the Bible goes on to say, “And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him” (Luke 2:33). That is, if your Bible is the Authorized Version, better known as the King James Version.

Now, if your Bible happens to be:

  • The New International Version, it reads: “The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.”

  • The New American Standard Bible, it reads: “And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him.”

  • The Darby Translation, it reads: “And his father and mother wondered at the things which were said concerning him.”

  • The New Century Version, it reads: “Jesus’ father and mother were amazed at what Simeon had said about him.”

Now, as you read the various versions, did you notice any difference between the King James Version and the other versions?

I admit that I am not much of a Greek scholar, but I can figure out an Interlinear New Testament. So, I turned to my two that are based upon the Received Text: the classic by George Ricker Berry, and Jay P. Green’s Interlinear Bible. Both of them show the name “Joseph” in the Greek text. I then turned to my copy of the 1881 Westcott and Hort Greek text based interlinear (mine is published by the “Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society”). It clearly shows a different Greek word being used—the word for “father.” So, my conclusion is that the various English Bibles do indeed accurately translate the Greek texts from which they originate.

I know it is only a slight word difference, but I cannot seem to grasp how such a change in wording does no damage to the virgin birth! I have always understood the virgin birth to be a fairly important doctrine of our faith. We all agree that without a virgin born Saviour, we have no Saviour at all. It is foundational to all that I believe and preach throughout the year, not just at Christmas.

What I find interesting is that many people who use the newer versions are still convinced of the virgin birth and its importance. Then why continue to accept a text that clearly, in my admittedly unscholarly opinion, weakens the very doctrine they hold?

Sometimes people wonder about our usage of the “old” Bible. It isn’t because it is old, it is because it is better! Hang on to the right Bible at Christmas!

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