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« on: March 29, 2006, 07:49:25 AM »

can someone explain to me Isaiah 7:14

ISAIAH 7:14 Jewish Publication Society
Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 NIV
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Does Isaiah 7:14 refer to the crises that Ahaz was having ?

Isaiah's son is named Immanuel.

or Hezekiah Ahaz's son ?

or does it refer to Jesus
but explain to me how no one else fits in it ? and only Jesus does?





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« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2006, 09:15:45 AM »

- THe Church says that Isaiah 7:14 is a foretelling of the birth of Christ, who is also referred to as Emmanuel (Immanuel if you like).

- The word for "young woman" has the implication that she is not married, and thus a virgin (this came from my OT professor, who speaks/reads Hebrew and other Semitic languages very well).

- The Septuagent interpreted this "young woman" as "virgin," which is where you get the difference in rendering.
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« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2008, 05:08:21 PM »

I know this is an old topic, but it's one that may be re-visited by some guest or newbie on this site, so I figured I'd bolster the argument a bit with some Patristic references (courtesy of the "Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament X (Isaiah 1-39)", S. McKinion (ed.), InterVarsity Press, 2004, pp. 60-64).

What Does Almah Mean? JEROME: Isaiah tells of the mystery of our faith and hope: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel."  I know that the Jews are accustomed to meet us with the objection that in Hebrew the word almah does not mean a virgin but "a young woman."  And, to speak truth, a virgin is properly called bethulah, but a young woman, or a girl, is not almah but naarah!  What then is the meaning of almah?  A hidden virgin, that is, not merely virgin, but a virgin and something more, because not every virgin is hidden, shut off from the occasional sight of men.27  AGAINST JOVINIANUS 1.32.28

27 For Jerome, the argument is over the proper understanding of the Hebrew word almah.  He contends it is used to speak of a virgin who is hidden to men.

28 NPNF 2 6:370.
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« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2008, 05:12:33 PM »

From the same source:

Virgin and Sign THEOPHYLACT: The Jews say that it is not written  in the prophecy "virgin" but "young woman."  To which it may be answered that "young woman" and "virgin" mean the same thing in Scripture, for in Scripture "young woman" refers to one who is still a virgin.  Furthermore, if it was not a virgin that gave birth, how would it be a sign, something extraordinary?  Listen to Isaiah, who says, "For this reason the Lord himself shall give you a sign," and immediately he adds, "Behold, the virgin."  So if it were not a virgin that would give birth, it would not be a sign.  The Jews, then, alter the text of Scripture in their malice, putting "young woman" instead of "virgin."  But whether the text reads "young woman" or "virgin," it should be understood in either case that it is a virgin who will give birth so that event may be a miraculous sign.  EXPLANATION OF MATTHEW 23. 29

29 EBT 21.
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« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2008, 05:18:48 PM »

From the same source:

The Birth is a Sign. CHRYSOSTOM: What precedes this passage also gives us its meaning.  He does not simply say, "Behold, the virgin will conceive."  First he said, "Behold, the Lord will give you a sign," and then he adds to it, "Behold, the virgin will conceive."  If the one who was to give birth was not a virgin but the conception occurred in the natural manner, then what sort of sign would this be?  A sign must be extraordinary and strange, or how else could it be a sign?  HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW 5.3 42

42 PG 57:57
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« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2008, 05:52:27 PM »

It must also be remembered that the Septuagint uses the word parthenos (virgin) in this passage, not gyne (woman) or kore (daughter or young woman).
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« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2008, 06:02:49 PM »

It must also be remembered that the Septuagint uses the word parthenos (virgin) in this passage, not gyne (woman) or kore (daughter or young woman).

Right.  The interpretation of the translators was that the word almah in the Hebrew text was most closely translated as parthenos in the Greek; remember, these were Jews who spoke both Hebrew and Greek, and were translating the Scripture for the Jews in the diaspora to use (before the time of Christ).

The Fathers contend that when the Masoretes added the vowels to the text of the OT (which was rendered before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. without the vowels), they were influenced by the controversies and disagreements with the Christians, who by this time were blamed by the Jewish leaders for the Roman oppression of the Jews in Jerusalem, and for the destruction of the city.  The addition of the vowels to the text was an act of translation/interpretation, because there are many different ways of interpreting the different words.  Is "ND" to be rendered "AND," or "END," or "NED," or "NAD?"  Depending on the context, multiple interpretations of the vowel placement could be found; hence why many consider the Masoretic Text a translation and not a Manuscript of the Hebrew OT.
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« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2008, 10:03:23 PM »

It's something of a controversialism anyway, because the passage in Matthew dictates how the passage is to be interpreted as foretelling the virgin birth. The potential trouble comes in considering it as a prophecy to Ahaz in his own context. One could read almah as "young woman" with the implication that she is virgin (not being sure how much damage this does to the rest of scripture-- my understanding is that almah is very far from being a hapax legomenon), but in that sense parthenos isn't really an accurate translation, with its connotation of virginity as a special (and perhaps even religiously intended) state rather than being the natural result of youth and inexperience.
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« Reply #8 on: November 04, 2008, 10:09:28 PM »

It's something of a controversialism anyway, because the passage in Matthew dictates how the passage is to be interpreted as foretelling the virgin birth. The potential trouble comes in considering it as a prophecy to Ahaz in his own context. One could read almah as "young woman" with the implication that she is virgin (not being sure how much damage this does to the rest of scripture-- my understanding is that almah is very far from being a hapax legomenon), but in that sense parthenos isn't really an accurate translation, with its connotation of virginity as a special (and perhaps even religiously intended) state rather than being the natural result of youth and inexperience. 

I don't remember exactly, but I thought that in Ancient-Koine Greek the word "thigater/kori" (daughter/girl) did not have a necessary connotation of virgin, hence if one wanted to point it out even in a youth one would have to use the word "parthenos."
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« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2008, 10:20:13 PM »

I don't remember exactly, but I thought that in Ancient-Koine Greek the word "thigater/kori" (daughter/girl) did not have a necessary connotation of virgin, hence if one wanted to point it out even in a youth one would have to use the word "parthenos."

Well, that's the thing: if they are choosing kori over parthenos for other places where almah appears, then one has to wonder whether the translation in this spot is a mistake.
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« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2008, 10:43:07 PM »

I don't remember exactly, but I thought that in Ancient-Koine Greek the word "thigater/kori" (daughter/girl) did not have a necessary connotation of virgin, hence if one wanted to point it out even in a youth one would have to use the word "parthenos."

Well, that's the thing: if they are choosing kori over parthenos for other places where almah appears, then one has to wonder whether the translation in this spot is a mistake.

I'd have to imagine that, barring some sort of indication that parthenos is only in the later manuscripts of the LXX, it is a deliberate interpretation by the translators.  But who knows - we have no BC-blogs to help us, do we?

It would be an interesting study, to compare the translations of all the occasions of almah in the Scripture.
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« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2008, 11:36:27 PM »

It must also be remembered that the Septuagint uses the word parthenos (virgin) in this passage, not gyne (woman) or kore (daughter or young woman).

Let's not forget even the Dead Sea Scrolls use the Semitic word for "virgin," not woman or daughter.
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« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2008, 10:11:12 AM »

One of the values to an orthodox Christian in the use of the Septuagint over other translations of the scriptures is that it presents the Jewish mind and beliefs that were held by those to whom Our Lord came. It helps us to understand and believe as they did in the coming messiah and how they understood him. The Masoretes (after the fall of Jerusalem)tried to present an anti-christian response to Christian claims, they were influenced by the controversies and disagreements with the Christians, who were making  headway among  jewish congregations and believers both in Palestine and the diaspora. The masoric text  leaves out much  scripture that was read and believed by the Jewish people at the time of Christ, sadly our Protestant bretheren have accepted the Masoric text over the Septuagin centuries later thinking it to be a more accurate copy of Jewish Scripture without realizing they have accepted text not followed by the early Christians and Martyrs for the faith .

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« Reply #13 on: November 05, 2008, 01:57:42 PM »

It must also be remembered that the Septuagint uses the word parthenos (virgin) in this passage, not gyne (woman) or kore (daughter or young woman).

Let's not forget even the Dead Sea Scrolls use the Semitic word for "virgin," not woman or daughter.

Huh?? The DSS of Isaiah is the only one that is entirely intact. It's an extremely safe bet that its Hebrew text has almah, or we wouldn't be having this discussion.
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« Reply #14 on: November 05, 2008, 03:31:08 PM »

Funny thing, I wrote on this quite extensively in an old blog of mine a few years back during Christmas time. It was a two part blog, the second part dealt with refuting Rabbinic Judaism's interpretation of isaiah 7:14....Let me paste it here for all to read and I hope it helps with the discussion here (Note: I wrote this during my Protestant days so ignore the parts where I say that "Chrsitains only follow the Bible" part in my intro....I don't hold the doctrine of "sola scriptura" anymore"):

" The Rabbinic Jewish viewpoint concerning the virgin birth of the Messiah

If there is one viewpoint that Christians and Messianic Jews need to take into serious consideration and be able to discuss, is that of our fellow Rabbinic Jewish brothers and sisters. We both share the same love and passion for the Tanakh and revere the message of the  Lord G-D Almighty through the Torah and the entire Tanakh. Problem being that we both see things a bit differently and the birth of the Messiah is definitely one of them. After thousands of years, we are still discussing these issues and us Christians must come to the discussion table in humility with our Rabbinic Jewish brothers and sisters and listen to them no matter how different our views on YHWH, the Lord G-D Almighty, the Law and his Messiah might be. Our roots are the same; we stem from the Ancient Biblical Jewish faith and we regard the Torah and the Tanakh as scripture and accept the truth of the revelation of the One True G-D of Yisrael. Both of our faiths took very different paths after the destruction of the Second Temple around 70 A.D. Christians simply follow the Bible, containing both the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament (Note - the Orthodox and Catholic Churches contain the Pseudapigraphical writings in their Bibles as well) with occasional discussion on passages found in the earliest traditions trasmitted from the early church fathers (note - tradition is not considered scriptural and its discussion from the pulpits are virtually absent in various North American mainline churches; only a few denominational churches such as the Catholic, Orthodox and some Anglican Churches practise it), whereas our Rabbinic Jewish brothers and sisters follow the Tanakh, the Talmud and the Mishnah, collections of oral tradition pertaining to scripture, compiled by the early rabbis, which go (some believe) as far as the time of Moses. I will be focusing on both Christian, Rabbinic Jewish and Messianic Jewish scholarship on this issue since all three of these sides claim to worship the Living G-d of Yisrael and is only fair to entertain ideas from all sides to see which one is more potent in their criticism and/or argument.     

Now, the passage in dispute is found in the Hebrew Scriptures. The passage is found in Isaiah 7:14 as it says:

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel." (Christian NIV Translation, Isaiah 7:14)

"Assuredly, my Lord will give you a sign of his own accord! Look, the young woman is with child and about to give birth to a son. Let her name him Immanuel." (Jewish JPS Translation, Isaiah 7:14)

Our Rabbinic Jewish brothers and sisters say that the term "virgin" here does not refer to the state of one's sexual history, but that of age. The word used in the Hebrew Scriptures in this specific passage is "almah" which means "young girl" and not specifically a virgin. If Isaiah meant a virgin (sexually speaking) he should've used the word "bethulah", which more or less means a person who remained sexually untouched i.e. virgin. Also this prophecy was intended for King Ahaz, of Judah during his battle with the Arameans (Syrians) and the Israelites. This prophecy is too late to be intended for Jesus, who comes into the picture about 700 years after the event. These points are rather interesting and are, bluntly speaking, much saner forms of objection as opposed to the one dealt with above. This point of view has some rather strong ground to back itself up with but it sadly sometimes takes a very one-sided view to the diversity of word usage in the ancient Hebrew language and misses on some of the minute details, which could make the biggest difference. Also this objection fails to analyze the information, seen in the oldest surviving record of Hebrew scriptures, the Greek Septuagint, which can provide us with a wealth of information as to how one read these passages in that day and further find out whether Matthew and Luke, two of the 3 Synoptic Gospel writers were bending the truth to further their own claims of the (false) messiahship of Yeshua. Most of the proponents of this theory simply ignore the wealth of evidence, seen in the Septuagint and in other early records of scripture like the Targums and the Midrashim (commentary) of some of these verses.

This objection will be divided into four main areas namely:

1) Lexical data revolving around three main words: Almah, Bethulah and Parthenos (Greek)

2) Understanding of Rabbinic Jewish Rabbis about this particular verse

3) A closer look at the grammatical structure of the sentence(s) of the passage in question and other surrounding 
    passages.

4) The expectations (or lack thereof) of first century Jews for a Messiah and their different concepts.

Lexical data revolving around the three words: Almah, Bethulah and Parthenos

Let us first take a look at the two Hebrew words – Almah and Bethulah and see their usage in the Hebrew Scriptures. While our Rabbinic Jewish brothers are right in claiming that “bethulah” means virgin in the sexual sense, there is in fact no single word in the Bible that corresponds only with virginity. Messianic Jewish scholar, Michael L. Brown in his 3 volume work titled “Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus” discusses this as he says:

“Actually, there is no single world in Biblical Hebrew that always and only means “virgin” (called in Latin virgo intacta). As for the Hebrew word betulah, while it often refers to a virgin in the Hebrew Scriptures, more often than not it has no reference to virginity but simply means “young woman, maiden”. In fact, out of fifty times the word betulah occurs in the Tanakh, the NJPSV translates it as “maiden” – rather than “virgin” – thirty-one times! This means that more than three out of every five times that betulah occurs in the Hebrew Bible. It is translated as “maiden” rather than “virgin” by the most widely used Jewish translation of our day. Not only so, but the Stone edition of the Tanakh, reflecting traditional Orthodox scholarship, frequently translates betulah as “maiden” as well. Even in verses where the translation of “virgin” is appropriate for betulah, a qualifying phrase is sometimes added, as in Genesis 24:16: “The maiden (na’arah) was very beautiful, a virgin (betulah) whom no man had known.” Obviously if betulah clearly and unequivocally meant “virgin” here, there would be no need to explain that this betulah never had intercourse with a man. Just think of normal English usage; we would never say, “The young woman was a virgin, and she never had sexual intercourse in her life.” How redundant! What other kind of virgin is there?” (Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus. Volume Three: Messianic Prophecy Objections, Michael L. Brown, Baker Books, 2003, pgs. 21-22)     

Having mentioned the general ambiguity between both words regarding the virgo intacta nature of the passage, we must turn to the word almah one more time and notice the social elements this word accompanies. The book titled “Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels” which is a work of various Christian scholars, in which the entry titled “Birth of Jesus” is present, there is some valuable information that one ought to consider before making any decisions. It says that,

the term almah is never used in the OT of a married woman, but does refer to a sexually mature woman. There are no texts in the OT where almah clearly means one who is sexually active, but it is possible that Song of Solomon 6:8 (cf. Prov 30:19) implies this. It would appear then that almah normally, if not always, implies a virgin, though the term does not focus on that attribute. Fourth, several of the Greek translations of the OT (i.e., Aq, Sym, Theod) translate almah with neanis;  however, the LXX clearly translates it with parthenos. It is probably correct to say that if almah did not normally have overtones of virginity, it is difficult if not impossible to see why the translators of the LXX used parthenos as the Greek equivalent.” (Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ‘Birth of Jesus”, 1992) (Note – the term LXX refers to the Septuagint) 
 
In fact, as the above source clearly indicates, many Jewish scribes later (after First Century C.E.) changed the Greek term ‘parthenos’ to another term ‘neanis’ since the other term was ‘too Christian’. However, the earliest copies of the Hebrew scriptures contains the word ‘parthenos’ in the passage of Isaiah. These “corrections” were seen elsewhere as well as documented in the book titled “Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading, & Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism & Early Christianity” written by M. J. Mulder and Harry Sysling, both experts in the fields of Tanakh studies. They go on to say that:

"Apparently Aquila made a special effort to replace renditions which had become 'Christian' terms. Thus the translation of mascah (christos) was replaced with aleimmenos. Partly because of this, his translation was well-liked among Jews, while avoided by Christians." (Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading, & Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism & Early Christianity, 2005, Hendrickson Publishers, pg. 184)

Having mentioned that, there are two instances where the term “almah” is/can be/may be understood in a sexual manner: That of Proverbs 30:19 and Song of Solomon 6:8-9. We need to deal with these two verses to better clarify what it is exactly they are referring to. The passage of Proverbs 30:19 goes like this:

“There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a maiden (almah).”

This verse is talking about the four things that are considered amazing to the writer. The fourth one, being the act of a male courting a single woman and then getting married later on. This is attested to in the Bible Commentary titled “Bible Knowledge Commentary” as it says:

"What do the ways of an eagle in the sky . . . a snake on a rock . . . a ship in the ocean, and a man with a woman have in common? Some writers say the ways of these four are mysterious; others say their ways are nontraceable; others suggest that they each easily master an element that is seemingly difficult. Another suggestion is that they each go where there are no paths. “The way of a man with a maiden ” refers to a man’s affectionate courting of a woman." (Bible Knowledge Commentary, 1985, Victory Books)

Now if one has to reply back saying that the woman need not have been a virgin while the man was courting her, he/she has accidentally or purposely stated an anachronism. I am not saying that it is not possible AT ALL for the woman to have not been a virgin upon time or courting but it is HIGHLY (and I do mean HIGHLY) probable that she was a virgin at the time of courtship. We are dealing with a culture thousands of years old and we sometimes do make judgments on these societies and peoples through a 21st century postmodern lens. That is a methodological blunder in conducting research on ancient societies. The assertion of the loss of virginity in this specific passage is in actuality “stretching it” and the person that asserts this, needs to bring forth strong evidence to support his/her belief (which has not happened till today). Until then, we have to go according to the social understanding of the time and make a fair conclusion that the almah, being referred to in this specific passage is in fact a virgin, at the time of courtship.

The second passage refers to the one found in the Song of Solomon in Song of Solomon 6:8-9 as it says:

“Sixty queens there may be, and eighty concubines, and virgins (almaoth) beyond number; but my dove, my perfect one, is unique, the only daughter of her mother, the favorite of the one who bore her. The maidens (banoth, lit. 'daughters') saw her and called her blessed; the queens and concubines praised her.”

Richard Niessen, in his article titled “The virginity of the Almah in Isaiah 7:14”, published in the Bibliotheca Sacra in the April-June issue in 1980, discusses this as he says that:

"Apparently three categories of women are mentioned here for the sake of completeness. The queens were quite obviously married, and the concubines were like the common-law wives of today. The almaoth are apparently in contrast to these two groups of wives and as such would be unmarried women. They were in the service of the queens and destined to be chosen eventually as wives by the king. Thus it would be quite natural to expect them to be virgins. This is confirmed by the events in Esther 2. King Xerxes had gathered together a great number of virgins (bethulah, tanknote: from their father's households) for the purpose of selecting a new queen (2:1–4 ). Purity was so essential that the women were to go through a process of ceremonial purification for an entire year (2:12–13 ) before going into the king’s chamber. Their biological virginity was not open to question; it was assumed.” (The virginity of the almah in Isaiah 7:14, Bibliotheca Sacra, 1980)

So we see, that from the available material of scriptural data and scholarly opinion on the matter, we do see that the word almah, while not containing any explicit references to virginity was the general term applied for women of sexual maturity and still remained virgins. Having mentioned that, we need to take one final look of the term Bethulah before we move on to the Greek word parthenos. Eugene A. Nilda, a key figure in the development of Bible translation (Christian) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Nida) and Johannes P. Louw, his partner who wrote a commentary on the word betulah, describes it as such:

"virgin, i.e., a mature young woman that has never had sexual intercourse, and under the authority and protection of the father (Ge 24:16; Ex 22:15[EB 16]; Est 2:2)…young women, i.e., a class of young female, though the class may be virgins, the focus is on the youth group…dear one, one cared for, loved one, formally, virgin daughter, a young woman who is loved by the father, with the associated meaning of being pure, innocent, and under the protection and care of the father

So again, some points need to be made. Betulah, while still capable of bearing the characteristic of virginity, generally refers to the social position of an unmarried female i.e. living in her father’s house and is under his protection; whereas the term almah, while not explicitly referring to a virgin, has characteristics of a woman that has reached sexual maturity and is generally considered a virgin. This is probably why the translators of the LXX (Septuagint) used the Greek equivalent for virgin (Virgo intacta) as opposed to any other Greek words that would produce ambiguity within the text. We now turn to the Greek word – parthenos.

The word parthenos is almost always described as virgin but not all the time. It must be noted that there are exceptions to this word as well as noted in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary on the New Testament, as it says:

“"The LXX renders the word by parthenos which almost always means "virgin." Yet even with this word there are exceptions: Genesis 34:4 refers to Dinah as a parthenos even though the previous verse makes it clear she is no longer a virgin. This sort of datum prompts C.H. Dodd …to suggest that parthenos means "young woman" even in Matthew 1:23 and Luke 1:27. This will not do; the overwhelming majority of the occurrences of parthenos in both biblical and profane Greek require the rendering "virgin"; and the unambiguous context of Matthew 1 (cf. vv. 16, 18, 20, 25) puts Matthew's intent beyond dispute…the later (second century A.D.) Greek renderings of the Hebrew text of Isaiah 7:14 prefer neanis ("young woman") to parthenos (so Aq., Symm., Theod.), we may legitimately suspect a conscious effort by the Jewish translators to avoid the Christian interpretation of Isaiah 7:14." (Expositor’s Bible Commentary on the New Testament, 1982)

Having mentioned the understanding of all three words – the connection between almah and parthenos is more stronger and a valid case can be made in that the individual described in the passage of Isaiah 7:14, possibly refers to someone who was born from a virgin. We now move to Rabbinic tradition(s) from rabbis to see if there was any midrashim or commentary made on this particular passage.

Understanding of Rabbinic Jewish Rabbis about this particular verse

The one commentary on this passage that is very interesting is that of noted medieval rabbi Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, popularly known as “Rashi” (1040-1105). Rashi’s last half of the commentary on this passage, translated by Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg says: “And some interpret that this is the sign, that she was a younger girl {‘almah”} and incapable of giving birth.” (Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg, Judaica Press Complete Tanach with Rashi, CD-ROM ed., Davka Corporation and Judaica Press, 1999) While Rashi’s interpretation of almah is dubious due to the information present above, his understanding of the capability or incapability of giving birth deserves serious attention. In the passage, we see the prophecy of a birth being foretold while Rashi sees the individual that is being described as one that is incapable of giving birth. Rashi, here is implying the presence of a supernatural birth. Does this lead to a “virgin birth”? Most definitely not, but the very fact that one of Judaism’s best rabbis understood the birth of this child to be simply supernatural or out of ordinary is worth considering.

By looking at this piece of commentary, we can then see that Rashi’s portrayal of the birth of the child does not fit either with King Ahaz or Isaiah, whose wives gave birth normally. Who then fits the picture of a person who was born of a “supernatural birth”? This leads us to our third section, which focuses on the grammatical structure of the passages that surround the passage of Isaiah 7:14, which can provide us with an understanding of this particular passage.

The grammatical structure of the sentence(s) of the passage in question and other surrounding passages

There are certain minute details that need to be observed in order to gain a better understanding of the general context in which the passage in dispute is being uttered in. There are two points namely:

a) The definite article – What I mean by this is that the Hebrew text, refer to the woman as “The virgin”. Where am I going with this? Well, from the book, used by both Christians and Jews titled “Genesius’ Hebrew Grammar” the definite article in this particular passage is discussed as it says:

Peculiar to Hebrew is the employment of the article to denote a single person or thing (primarily one which is as yet unknown, and therefore not capable of being defined) as being present to the mind under given circumstances. In such cases in English the indefinite article is used." (Genesius’ Hebrew Grammar, pg. 126)   

By understanding the basics of Hebrew grammar, the definite article used in the Hebrew, indicates the child to be unknown to both Isaiah or King Ahaz, thereby eliminating any possible chance of this child being that of King Ahaz’s or Isaiah’s.

b) The word “you” in the disputed passage is a plural pronoun – This point deals with an extremely minute detail that is often passed and unlooked, but fortunately has been brought to attention in recent times by some really good scholarship. Before the disputed passage of Isaiah 7:14, King Ahaz was offered help from God, but he refused since he did not want to “put the LORD to the test” (Isaiah 7:12). Immediately after that verse, we see Isaiah appearing and revealing to “you” the prophecy. Let us read the passage in its greater context to gain a better understanding:

The Lord spoke further to Ahaz: Ask for a sign from the LORD you God, anywhere down to Sheol or up to the sky. But Ahaz replied, “I will not ask, and I will not test the LORD.” Listen, House of David,” {Isaiah} retorted, “is it enough for you to treat men as helpless that you also treat my God as helpless? Assuredly, my Lord will give you a sign of his accord! Look, the young woman is with child and about to give birth to a son. Let her name him Immanuel.” (Jewish JPS Translation, Isaiah 7:10-14)

Now, this is straight from the Jewish Tanakh and I would like the readers to notice a few things here. One, once Ahaz refused to accept help from the Lord, Isaiah butts in and addresses the House of David – not Ahaz or himself in particular. Two, the prophecy of the child is intricately connected with the rejection of King Ahaz and the House of David’s lack of faith in the Lord G-D of Yisrael and the flow of the two halves are indisputable. For one to even think of two separate messages being seen in the passage is near impossible. The harmony within this small portion of scripture is undeniable. Dr. Jaggelli, Professor of Old Testament/Tanakh Interpretation and Language at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina talks about this in his online article titled “The Interpretation of Old Testament Prophecy”. He says that:

“Ahaz had just refused the Lord’s gracious offer of a miraculous sign to persuade him to believe what God had said about the military danger he faced (vv. 10–12). Because of Ahaz’s unbelief, God turned to the “house of David” (v. 13). The “you” of verse 14 is plural. God was no longer addressing Ahaz. The promise of Immanuel was for the entire Davidic dynasty. Simply by failing to identify a plural pronoun, one can miss the proper interpretation of a whole section of prophecy.” (http://www.dbts.edu/journals/1997/Proph.pdf)

The inclusion of the plural pronoun, therefore changes the dynamics of the prophecy of this tiny passage. This passage, no more looks “local” in anyway and seeks to fulfill something on a much more grander scale. We, as Christians see this prophecy being fulfilled “immediately” by either through King Ahaz’s son or Isaiah’s son, but due to their failures the ultimate fulfillment is realized only through his Mashiach, his Annointed One, his Beloved One, the “monogenes” (One of a kind) Son of the Almighty G-d. This leads us to the concept of the Messiah in itself and what forms it took in 1st century Judea and were Jewish people looking forward to a Messiah at that time?

Different concepts of the Messiah and the expectation (or lack thereof) of the Messiah in 1st century Judea.

As we look into the concept of the Messiah prevalent in that day, the first issue one must be clearly aware of is that there was no “one” concept of a Messiah. 1st century Judaism was not like the Rabbinic Judaism we see today. It was very different and contained a variety of sects such as the Essenes, the Zealots, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Christians so on and so forth, who had their own understanding of who the Messiah was. So to try and pinpoint an “orthodox” notion of a Messiah in 1st century Judaism is next to impossible, simply because there was no such thing as the “status quo” notion of what a Messiah should’ve been in that day. A couple of scholars will back me on this. John J. Collins, Holmes Professor of Old Testament/Tanakh at Yale University (check his CV at http://www.yale.edu/divinity/cv/JCOLLINS.pdf ) discusses the concept of the Messiah during the Maccabean Period around the second century B.C.E in his article titled “Messiah in the Maccabean Period” in the book “Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era” as he says:   

The notion of a transcendent savior figure under God is perhaps the most significant development in Jewish messianism (broadly defined) in the second century B.C.E." and "There are some traces of messianism in the Maccabean period (164bc-63bc). It is evident , however, that messianism was neither widespread nor prominent during this period and that there was no one 'orthodox' notion of 'the Messiah.' The traditions on which Davidic messianism was based were preserved, but these in themselves did not ensure any lively expectation. The presence or absence of messianism was primarily determined by the political attitudes and circumstances of the different groups within Judaism. Those who placed their hopes in the institutions and leaders of their day, whether the High Priests, the Ptolemies, or the Maccabees, had little interest in messianism. Apocalyptic groups developed the idea of a transcendent savior figure, either as an alternative or as a complement to earthly messianism. Only with the rise of the Qumran community do we find a group with a strong and developed interest in messianism, and then again in the first century BCE in the Psalms of Solomon." (p. 101)   

James H. Charlesworth, George L. Collord Professor of the New Testament Language and Literature and specializes in Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old and New Testaments, the Dead Sea Scrolls and many more. He “has worked on the computer-enhanced photographing and translating of the Qumran scrolls in order to make available for the first time both an accurate text and an English translation of these documents.” (http://www.ptsem.edu/PTS_People/Faculty01/charlesworth.htm) In his book titled “The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity” he goes on to say that:   

We have numerous early Jewish sources that portray the Messiah, variously, as one who will serve as the eschatological high priest (the Dead Sea Scrolls, the T12P), or as the consummate benevolent and all-powerful king (PssSol 17). Numerous functions are sometimes attributed to the Messiah: He will judge the wicked (PssSol 17, 4Ezra 12, 2Bar 40), destroy them (PssSol 17, 4Ezra 12, 2 Bar 72; cf. Is 11), deliver God's people (PssSol 17, 4Ezra 12, cf. Zech 9), and/or reign in a blessed kingdom (PssSol 17, 18; 2Bar40; cf. Ps. 2)." (p. 7)

The late Jewish scholar, Baruch M. Bokser, professor of Talmud and rabbinical studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, talks about the diversity of opinions on the Messiah in the early days of Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity in his article titled “Messianism, the Exodus Pattern, and Early Rabbinical Judaism” in the book “Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era” as he says:

Jews in the first two centuries held diverse views regarding the traditional hopes for the future. Rabbinical circles, although apparently not preoccupied with the problem, did discuss the relationship of past redemptions to the future one(s), and masters differed over the place of the prophetically envisioned later days or messianic period within the scheme of the future" ...in seeing how these early rabbinical circles differentiated between aspects of traditional messianic beliefs, we can appreciate how they responded in a positive and creative fashion to the inherited views of the future." (p. 256-257)

Lastly, another Jewish scholar who has made his strong criticisms against Christianity in the past has displayed the existence of varied beliefs in 1st century Judaism, which he calls “early Judaism”. This Judaism, he concludes, allowed the belief of the concept of a Messianic God-Man! without compromising the unity of God (hint hint Muslims..). Just so that his reputation is not disputed, he is considered by critic and sympathizer alike to be one of the finest religious scholars the world has today. He “was educated at Harvard University, the Jewish Theological Seminary (where he received rabbinic ordination), the University of Oxford, and Columbia University. Neusner is often celebrated as one of the most published authors in history (he has written or edited more than 900 books.) He has taught at Columbia University, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Brandeis University, Dartmouth College, Brown University, University of South Florida, and Bard College. Neusner is a member of the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton, and a life member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University. He is the only scholar to have served on both the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. He also has received scores of academic awards, honorific and otherwise.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_Neusner) He goes on to mention this in his article “MIshnah and Messiah” in the same book titled “Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era” as he says:

“We focus upon how the system laid out in the Mishnah takes up and disposes of those critical issues of teleology worked out through messianic eschatology in other, earlier versions of Judaism (emphasis mine). These earlier systems resorted to the myth of the Messiah as savior and redeemer of Israel, a supernatural figure engaged in political-historical tasks as king of the Jews, even a God-man facing the crucial historical questions of Israel's life and resolving them: the Christ as king of the world, of the ages, of death itself." (p. 275)

So as we can see, the concepts of the Messiah in 1st century Judea was so varied and diverse that it simply cannot be deduced from the available data displayed from some of the finest scholars in their fields that a) the Messiah was never anticipated or b) the concept of a “divine” Messiah was never seen in 1st century Judea. It is the direct opposite that is seen." "


...........I hope this helps.....

In Christ,



« Last Edit: November 05, 2008, 03:40:33 PM by OrthodoxPilgrim » Logged
Fr. George
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May the Lord bless you and keep you always!


« Reply #15 on: November 05, 2008, 03:44:21 PM »

Thank you for posting that!
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"The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the one who can't read them." Mark Twain
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Ordained on 17 & 18-Oct 2009. Please forgive me if earlier posts are poorly worded or incorrect in any way.
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