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January 04, 2007

Comments

Brian John Schuettler

A brilliant exposition of chapter and verse as well as an exegetical tool for Scripture study. Thanks Jimmy!

Maureen

Now, that was interesting. It also reflects on all the use of typology.

Further, it suggests a much more interesting tack for a fantasy book about prophecies and such. You usually get "well, they misunderstood the prophecy but here's the real answer" or "The first time the prophecy failed, but now it's going to work". You don't get, "Here's yet another fulfillment of the same prophecy!" But that would be equally fun, I would think.

Steve Cavanaugh

While some modern English translations use the term "young woman" for the Hebrew almah, that really is not the best English translation. Partly because it doesn't reflect the Septuagint and the Tradition of the Church, but also because "young woman" has no implications for the virginal status of the woman...a better English word would be "maiden", which, like the Hebrew term can mean either (or both) a "young woman" or a "virgin". The Hebrew is thus more faithfully replicated, the Biblical text also reflects better traditional English hymnody, for Mary is indeed referred to as a "Maid" or "Maiden"; in fact, it links better with the traditional translation of the the Angelus (and thus the Gospel of Luke): "Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord." But most of the translations I looked at online used the word "virgin" for this passage (NAB, NIV, ESV, CEV, KJV, Challoner, Darby)

In looking up these other translations, I also looked at the Reina-Valera 1995 (Spanish) translation, which has some interesting footnotes.

Isaías 7:14 La identificación de este niño ha sido objeto de muchas discusiones, pero la gran mayoría de los intérpretes modernos considera que la señal dada por el profeta (véase Is 7.11 nota m ) debía ser un acontecimiento cercano. De lo contrario, Acaz no habría podido recibir esa señal como prueba de que los reyes de Damasco y Samaria fracasarían en el intento de arrebatarle el trono al descendiente de David. Por tanto, la madre del niño debió ser una mujer conocida de Acaz, muy probablemente su propia esposa. Isaías 7:14 Años más tarde, la versión griega de los Setenta (LXX) tradujo el heb. alma (véase Is 7.14 nota p ) por la palabra griega parthenos, que significa virgen. De este modo, el texto de Isaías se enriqueció con una perspectiva mesiánica que no poseía en su forma original. Esta relectura mesiánica no carecía por completo de fundamento, porque las palabras de Isaías se fundaban en la promesa de Jehová a David, es decir, en una palabra profética que contenía como en germen toda la esperanza mesiánica de Israel (véase 2 S 7.16 n.). Por eso, Mt pudo citar esta profecía como anuncio de la concepción virginal de Jesús (véase Mt 1.23 nota q ).

which is translated as:

b Isaiah 7:14 The identification of this child has been the object of many discussions, but the vast majority of modern interpreters consider the sign given by the prophet (see Isaiah 7:11 note m) must be a near-in-time event. Because if otherwise, Ahaz would not have been able to receive this sign as proof that the kings of Damascus and Samaria would be frustrated in their intention to drive him (i.e., Ahaz) from the throne the descendant of David. Because of this, the mother of the child must be a woman known to Ahaz, probably his own wife. c Isaiah 7:14 Years later, the Greek version of the Seventy (LXX) translated the Hebrew almah (see Isaiah 7:14, note p) by the Greek word parthenos, which means virgin. In this way, the text of Isaiah was enriched with a Messianic perspective that it did not possess in its original form. This Messianic rereading is not completely lacking in foundation, as the words of Isaiah are founded on the promise of the LORD to David, that is to say, on a prophetic word that contains as a seed all of the Messianic hope of Israel (see 2 Samuel 7:16 note n). Because of this, Matthew is able to cite this prophecy as announcing the virginal conception of Jesus (see Matthew 1:23, note q).

Note b agrees with Jimmy. Note c introduces a topic that is related, which can be put as "Is the Septuagint also an inspired work". One of my the professors at CUA back when I was there posited that the Septuagint was the truly inspired version of the Scriptures, and noted that this question has never been decided upon by the Church. For the Greek Orthodox, the Septuagint is the normative version, of course.

bill912

The trouble with the idea that the word "almah" refers to Ahaz's wife, is that the word never refers to a woman of rank.

"The Hebrew word 'almah, best translated 'maiden', does not normally refer to a married woman and certainly does not mean a married woman of distinction, which disposes of the two most frequently heard modern interpretations, that either Isaiah's own wife or the Queen of Judah was meant....Since the mother herself will name the child, evidently it has no father at hand to do so (normal procedure in the strongly patriarchal Middle East);therefore, if on the merely natural level, the child is illegitimate. Why Ahaz, Hezekiah, Isaiah or anyone else should regard the birth of an illegitimate boy in Judah in 735 B.C. as a sign of anything significant--to say nothing of being proof that 'God is with us'--no one has explained."--Warren Carroll, "The Founding of Christendom", p. 140, footnote 19.

Tim J.

Thanks, Jimmy! A very helpful exposition on the nature of prophecy.

Realist

To reiterate as an op-ed: As per recent conclusions based on archeology and lack of attestations for the OT, http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2002/0401torah.asp

"The New York Times article, titled ‘As Rabbis Face Facts, Bible Tales Are Wilting,’ opens:

‘Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

‘Such startling propositions—the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years—have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity—until now.’

And as Father Edward Schillebeeckx has concluded: " Church: The Human Story of God, Crossroad, 1993, p.91 (softcover)

"Christians must give up a perverse, unhealthy and inhuman doctrine of predestination without in so doing making God the great scapegoat of story" . "Nothing is determined in advance: in
nature there is chance and determinism; in the world of human activity there is possibility of free choices. Therefore the historical future is not known even to God; otherwise we and our history would be merely a puppet show in which God holds the strings. For God, too, history is an adventure, an open history for and of men and women."

i.e. if God does not know the Future, OT "prophets" surely did not know!!!

And as many biblical exegetes have concluded, the authors of the NT embellished the NT to make the life of Jesus fit the "prophecies" of the OT.

Tim J.

For the sake of simplicity, and for those new to JA.O, here is a short synopsis of Realist's comments on just about any subject;

1) The Bible is nothing more a collection of faith stories with no basis in historical fact. He knows this because the Jesus Seminar says so, and they are infallible in matters of doctrine.

2) The *Official Version* of Church history is a lie made up by the hierarchy so that they can continue scamming all of us.

3) Miracles - that is supernatural events of any kind - are impossible because in reality, nothing exists outside of nature. This means we have to re-think our idea of God.

3)Catholic is a word with no fixed meaning... this means that all Catholics are equal, especially dissidents. There is, of course, no absolute Truth, but the *Official Catholic Version* of anything is ESPECIALLY rejected.

None the less, Realist assures us that he REALLY IS a Catholic, which is like me insisting that I am REALLY a committed Communist, even though I think communism gets everything wrong and that Karl Marx never existed, but was an invention of Joseph Stalin.

Did I leave out anything? Wild dogs? Ancient astronauts?

bill912

And I predicted that they next thread would bring out the Hobby Horses! (Missed by *that* much!)

bill912

"Did I leave anything out?"

Yes, Tim: What the wild dogs "probably" ate.

caine thomas

Isn't one of the big criticisms of the RSV among Evangelicals that it translates that Isaiah verse as "young woman" instead of "virgin"? I find it ironic that Mary's virginity being declared in the OT is so crucial to Protestants, yet her living place in a person's faith life and the life of the Church is negligible.

Steve Cavanaugh

Fr. Schillebeeckx's conclusions about God's foreknowledge and predestination and free will (which is a commmon problem for many people) is based on a misunderstanding.

God, who is eternal (which means "outside of time") does not know the future as something that will happen, but as something that is. God does not need to control present events in order to produce a future event, because the present and future are known to God simultaneously, in a way that is not open to us who are mortal and bound by time.

Realist's concluding two lines are therefore based on a false solution of Fr. Schillebeeckx to a non-existent problem. The many biblical exegetes Realist cites have likely been confused by this same conundrum. Funny how "modern" scholars cannot arrive at the correct understanding of this, when it was clearly articulated more than 1000 years ago by John Scotus Eriugena in his On Predestination. While it's true that this work was condemned by local councils, it was for his (perhaps) Pelagian understanding of salvation, and not for his understanding of God's foreknowledge.

Curious

Jimmy,
Thanks for this article. I have run across this issue in reading some Jewish counter-apologetics, which argue that Jesus isn't the savior because his name wasn't Immanuel. So this answer is very useful, except that it is so detailed and nuanced that it sounds like backpedaling. I think it is a good argument, but wouldn't survive the heat of apologetic battle. But then again, you are the master apologist, not me.

Fabio P.Barbieri

My view is that Matthew had no authority for the use of that particular passage in Isaiah, but selected it himself. Matthew is the one among all the New Testament writers who is most fond of text proofs and quotations, and "The virgin/maiden/young woman shall conceive" is one of a few he has in common with no other author. And that being the case, it has in my view a most important significance for the life of Jesus. I am one of those people who accept a very early dating for all the Gospels - as it has been pointed out, there would be no point in the gospel of Matthew containing a regulation for Christians paying tax to the temple of Jerusalem, if the Temple had already been destroyed when the Gospel was compiled. They were written WITHIN LIVING MEMORY of Jesus Christ. So what is the point of Matthew using this prophecy - one that is fairly clearly difficult to fit with its supposed object? Just this: that Matthew is the most keen of all NT writers to reconcile the life and teaching of Jesus with traditional Hebraic ideas. What was he trying to explain by that curious and strained quotation? THE VIRGIN BIRTH. He needed an OT passage that explained the idea of a young virgin giving birth without a father, and that birth being connected with salvation. That was the closest he could find. And what that tells me, in turn, is that the Virgin Birth was accepted as a fact, unchallenged and universal, by the earliest Christian community, since Matthew felt the need to explain it in classic Jewish terms. We are talking of a period in which the Mother of God was either still alive or only recently passed away. The first Christians, still in touch with the family of Joseph and the memories of Mary (some of which ended up in the Gospel of Luke) uniformly accepted the truth of the Virgin Birth, even though it was difficult to fit both in Greek and in Jewish ideas. The Gospel of Matthew is particularly the Gospel of Joseph, who takes a far more prominent role than Mary, but this particular fact warns us against imagining early splits or differences within the earliest Church.

Jimmy Akin

Curious:

Thank you. The answer was written as an explanation rather than an answer to an objection. If I were writing it to an objector or covering it in the context of a debate, I'd write it differently.

SDG

Realist:

We get it.

Really.

You've made your point. Ad infinitum, ad nauseum. I have to give you credit for your persistence. We are now all thoroughly versed in the Realist World View.

Thanks to your tireless efforts, we all now have a working familiarity with the Assured Results of anti-supernaturalist Historical Jesus Scholarship, what's wrong with the Catholic Church, and so forth.

By this point, as Tim J's and bill912's posts suggest, we are practically capable of essentially writing your posts for you, on whatever subject Jimmy should happen to post.

Baptism? Mary? Original Sin is a myth; we're all immaculately conceived.

Marriage and celibacy? Paul didn't know what he was talking about, and anyway he thought the world was coming to an end.

The Magisterium? They need to wake up, smell the coffee, and make their peace with the brave new world that Crossan and Co. have opened our eyes to.

See?

We get it. Really.

Why not take the the opportunity, at the start of this new year, to consider it a job well done?

Congratulate yourself. Hang up a "Mission Accomplished" banner. Pop a bottle of champagne. You have educated -- truly educated -- Jimmy Akin's readers.

What more you could now possibly hope to accomplish, endlessly retreading the same ground? Perhaps it's time for new challenges, new accomplishments.

You don't need to be the minority report on Jimmy Akin's blog all the time. For one thing, like I said, we all know pretty much what you're going to say anyway.

For another, we aren't impressed. You're getting nowhere. We all know Crossan, etc. are out there. We know what they say. We don't care.

I don't want to sound callous to you as a person. I'd be happy to talk with you about any subject we could have a constructive discussion about. Perhaps we could have a nice chat about movies, for example.

But you don't seem interested in the constructive discussions Jimmy's posts typically address. You seem to want most discussions to take the form "Resolved: That Catholic Teaching Cannot be Taken Seriously in the First Place."

That's a valid discussion to have, but most of the time it's not the discussion at hand. Those of us who believe in Catholic teaching must occasionally discuss it as if it were actually true. We can't always stop and be addressing first principles.

paul f

I think "Miracles" by C.S. Lewis is a good starting point for someone convinced that nothing exists outside of nature, like Realist.

Esau

SDG:

That was the best review you've done yet!!!

Bravo!!!

This is the real "No-Spin" Zone!

Tim J.

Meanwhile, as Gold Five so famously stated while making the Death Star trench run...

Stay on target!!

Back to the thread...

Puzzled

"ben Mariam" more likely.

However, it seems you've been reading Ray Brown or Bultmann or some other promoter of a low view of Scripture, alas.

Jordan Potter

As Jimmy has explained so well, it is obvious that in its original context, the Immanuel prophecy was to be fulfilled during the reign of King Ahaz. The suggestion that King Hezekiah was the original Immanuel is very old, and St. Justin Martyr argues against it in his Dialogue With Trypho the Jew. However, my own view is that the original Immanuel was Isaiah's own son, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, mentioned in Isa. 8, the very next chapter. Note the nearly identical phrasing of the sentences: "The virgin shall conceive and bear and son, and shall call his name Immanuel," "I went in unto the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son, and the LORD said to me, Call his name Maher-Shala-Hash-Baz." In both instances, the conception and birth of the son is a sign to reassure that God would prevent Syria and Israel from conquering Judah. I think the proper explanation is that Isa. 7:14 is the prophecy and Isa. 8:1-4 is the fulfillment.

Or the initial fulfillment anyway. As St. Matthew said, Isa. 7:14 is one of the many Old Testament foreshadowings of the Messiah's birth and coming into the world. Thus, the original "almah" of Isa. 7:14 would have been, in the interpretation I favor, the wife of Isaiah the Prophet (and hence called "the prophetess"), but that was meant as a type of the Blessed Virgin, who prophesied in the Magnificat.

SDG

"ben Mariam" more likely.

Well, the angel seemed to think that Joseph's Davidic ancestry was significant, presumably because as Jesus' legal father Joseph would give Jesus legal descent from David. So bar-Joseph seems appropriate.

However, it seems you've been reading Ray Brown or Bultmann or some other promoter of a low view of Scripture, alas.

Not all all, Puzzled. Typology is essential to understanding how the inspired authors correctly read OT passages originally referring to OT persons, places and institutions as also referring to Christ -- precisely because in God's providence those OT persons, places and institutions themselves foreshadow Christ, and therefore the divinely inspired accounts of the shadows also embrace the reality.

Take Psalm 110, originally referring to the Davidic king, probably Solomon. Solomon as David's heir is a type of Christ; therefore the NT correctly applies Psalm 110 to Christ himself. In fact, it's the OT passage most frequently quoted in the NT.

An interesting link on typology

Phil M

Authentic Catholic teachings, and geek Sci-fi references?

Best Catholic blog, ever! (Enunciated in Comic book Guy fashion)

Jordan Potter

From the passage from Dr. Carroll above:

"The Hebrew word 'almah, best translated 'maiden', does not normally refer to a married woman"

Indeed, as I understand it, in biblical and post-biblical literature in Hebrew, it always refers to a young unmarried woman.

"and certainly does not mean a married woman of distinction, which disposes of the two most frequently heard modern interpretations, that either Isaiah's own wife or the Queen of Judah was meant"

But what if the marriage of Isaiah and his wife had not yet been consummated at the time of the prophecy of Isa. 7:14, but they were as yet only betrothed? Also, would the young wife of a prophet be "a woman of distinction," a prominent, wealthy, powerful woman well known to all?

"Since the mother herself will name the child, evidently it has no father at hand to do so"

But what about St. John the Baptist, who was named by both Zechariah and Elisabeth? And what about Jesus, who was named by both Joseph and Mary? Were Zechariah and Elisabeth, and Joseph and Mary, not really married just because the mother as well as the father bestowed their names? It is going beyond what the text can tell us to conclude that because Isa. 7:14 refers to the mother naming the son, that means there was no father around to name the child. It's an argumentum ex silentio.

"Why Ahaz, Hezekiah, Isaiah or anyone else should regard the birth of an illegitimate boy in Judah in 735 B.C. as a sign of anything significant--to say nothing of being proof that 'God is with us'--no one has explained."

I'm not sure what Dr. Carroll is getting at here. Dos he really believe the Immanuel prophecy wasn't fulfilled in the 700s B.C.? It doesn't seem possible that Isa. 7 could be read in any way but that Immanuel was to be born during Ahaz's own lifetime, as a sign to testify to God's intervention to save Judah from Rezin and Pekah. Illegitimate or not (and like I said, Isa. 7:14 does not necessarily indicate a bastard birth), the utter defeat of Rezin and Pekah was to take place before Immanuel's "bar-mitzah" (or whatever they had in Isaiah's day when a Jewish boy turned 12).

Esau

What has been said:

The sign proposed by Isaiah was concerned with the preservation of Judah in the midst of distress (cf Isaiah 7:15, 17), but more especially with the fulfillment of God's earlier promise to David (2 Sam 7:12-16) in the coming of Immanuel (meaning, "With us is God") as the ideal king (cf Isaiah 9:5-6; 11:1-5).

The Church has always followed St. Matthew in seeing the transcendent fulfillment of this verse in Christ and his Virgin Mother. The prophet need not have known the full force latent in his own words; and some Catholic writers have sought a preliminary and partial fulfillment in the conception and birth of the future King Hezekiah, whose mother, at the time Isaiah spoke, would have been a young, unmarried woman (Hebrew, almah).

The Holy Spirit was preparing, however, for another Nativity which alone could fulfill the divinely given terms of Immanuel's mission, and in which the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God was to fulfill also the words of this prophecy in the integral sense intended by the divine Wisdom.

Maureen

"the NT correctly applies Psalm 110 to Christ himself."

The Fathers applied all the Psalms as being sung/prayed by Christ, and either reporting His POV or praying from our POV, for us.

I think this idea is truly awesome, and so I wish we would hear about this more often. Especially since so many people don't really understand the importance of the psalm readings at Mass, and maybe that interpretation would impress them.

Slowboy

"...My view is that Matthew had no authority for the use of that particular passage in Isaiah..."

Other than being an intrument of theHoly Spirit.
:)

Jordan Potter

"I think this idea is truly awesome, and so I wish we would hear about this more often. Especially since so many people don't really understand the importance of the psalm readings at Mass, and maybe that interpretation would impress them."

With this knowlege in hand, even a quick perusal of the Psalms in the new lectionary in the context of the other readings will show that the Psalms often were selected with an allegorical interpretation in mind that sees them as referring ultimately to Jesus Christ.

"...My view is that Matthew had no authority for the use of that particular passage in Isaiah..."

As Slowboy said, the authority of the Holy Spirit -- not to mention 2,000 years of unbroken Catholic tradition and teaching -- backs up St. Matthew's selection of that text as a prophecy of the Virginal Conception and Birth. Indeed, Isa. 7:14 is but one such prophecy in a long, developing tradition of Hebrew Messianic prophecy that directs our attention to a Savior who would be born of a Woman, starting with the Protevangelion in Genesis 3 and continuing through the annunciaton of the miraculous conception and birth of Isaac, the annunciation of Samson's birth, the prophet's resurrection of the widow's son, Jeremiah's prophecy of a Woman encompassing a Man, and on and on. If you read Isaiah's prophecy in that tradition, as the Apostles did, then the Immanual prophecy is a perfect fit, revealing a little more of what great things God finally would do for Israel and all the world,

Steve Cavanaugh
But what if the marriage of Isaiah and his wife had not yet been consummated at the time of the prophecy of Isa. 7:14, but they were as yet only betrothed? Also, would the young wife of a prophet be "a woman of distinction," a prominent, wealthy, powerful woman well known to all?

The wife of some prophets might not be known to the court, but Isaiah was of royal blood, and thus would have been known to Ahaz.

He was, according to the tradition of the Hebrews, of the blood royal of the kings of Juda: and after a most holy life, ended his days by a glorious martyrdom; being sawed in two, at the command of his wicked son in law, King Manasses, for reproving his evil ways.

from the introduction to Isaias in the Challoner revision of the Douai-Rheims Bible

Jordan Potter

Yes, I was aware of the later Jewish tradition that Isaiah's father Amoz was a younger brother of King Amaziah of Judah. The tradition may be correct, although we have no way to tell one way or the other. However, I'm still not sure Isaiah being a junior cadet of the House of David would be enough to make his wife "a woman of distiction."

That's assuming "almah" really was never used for young women of distinction back in Isaiah's day. I know of the basis for saying that "almah" never means a married woman, but I don't know the basis for saying it never means "a woman of quality."

Jordan Potter

By the way, if the Jewish tradition is correct that Isaiah was of the House of David, then I would see that as added support for the identification of Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz as the original Immanuel. If the original Immanuel was a Davidic scion, he would serve even more fittingly as a typological foreshadowing of the Messiah, the Son of David.

Eileen R

Maureen:
Further, it suggests a much more interesting tack for a fantasy book about prophecies and such. You usually get "well, they misunderstood the prophecy but here's the real answer" or "The first time the prophecy failed, but now it's going to work". You don't get, "Here's yet another fulfillment of the same prophecy!" But that would be equally fun, I would think.

Yep. I had that idea for a novel I wanted to write a couple years ago, then realized I didn't know enough to write it yet, so put it on the backburner to pursue other stories. But the idea was grounded in some folk lore about the restoration of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire one day, plus the fact that the Byzantines knew a lot about typology and prophecy.

I can't recall everything I researched but I meant the story to be set a long time *after* the restoration, when everything had gone to pieces again, this time with a materialist magic state instead of Islam controlling Constantinope. But it'd turn out that historical event to be only the *first* time the prophecy was fulfilled. Surprising the protaganists of course.

I think it's a good idea. One day I might write it.

John

In the Catholic Living Bible I have there are 37 Old Testament Prophesies fulfilled by Jesus everything from he would be born to a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) , he would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), crucified between two thieves (Isaiah 53:12) to he would ascend (Psalm 24:7-10)

From my interpretation as well as the Bible Prophesies, it only states that "He would be CALLED Emmanuel" Isiah 7:14 with Matthew 1:23.

I agree this is a great thread by JA, and has made me think, and not being an OT expert or Apologist as JA is could being "called" be different from that of being "named" Jesus??

Fabio P.Barbieri

Slowboy: of course, except being an inspired author. In fact, my understanding is that the New Testament in all its visible human mental developments and in-built debate is a part of the revelation of God through man. We have, at first or nearly first hand, the impact of the presence of God among men, including the development of their minds. And that development was itself miraculous... read the Letters of John, and then read any of the writings of Tacitus. They wrote within forty years of each other, and yet John lives in another world. That is what meeting God face to face had done to a tolerably educated mind of the period: it had changed the bases on which it looked out at the world.

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