Full Text for The Interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 (Text)

THE SPRINGFIELDER April 1974 Volume 38, Number 2 The Interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 T I-IE NEW ENGIdISIH BIBLE of 1970 Ilas translatecl Isaiah 7: 14 as follows: "Therefore the Lord hinlsclf shall give you a sign; a )wing woman is with child, and will bear a son, and w;jll call him Imlnanuel."' Thc Revised Stanrlard Versio~z of 1 9 5 2 and 1 9 5 9 rendered this passage similarly: "Therefore the- Lord himself n7ill give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and ])ear a son, ancl shall call his name Immanuel."? The Amc?rican ?7ra~zslntior~, ~rotluced by the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, trans- lated Is. 7: 13: "Thereforc the Lord himself will give you a sign; behol(l! a young woman is with child, and is about to bear a son; and she will call hi111 'God \\lit11 us.' "I' The translation sponsored by The ]owisll l'ublication Society of America has n sin~ilar rendering: "Tl~c~.ef-'orc the Lord 1-Iin~sclf shall give ~OLI a sign: bchold, the young wolnan shall conceive, ancl bear a son, ~113tl shall call liis name Im- ~nanuel."' Thc h4oRot.t translation intcrpretetl the I-Iebrew as fol1o.r~~: '"T'hcre is a young \voman wit11 child, .who shall bear :I son ant1 call his nalne 'J~nmanuel' (Got1 is with us)."5 Generally it mil!/ be stated that critical scholars, rejecting the idcn of prctlictive prophecy, embracing a wrong concept of i\/lcssii~nic prophet) ant1 refusing to accept the New 'Testament's interpretations of 01~1 'Tcstarncnt p1-ophecies, adopt tllc "jgoung ~volnan" intc~prcta- ti011 fol- thc I-Icbrciv jvord nlr~oll. I-Io~v (lid the ancient versions understand Isaiah 7: 14? 'Thc Scpti~i~gint translated: "Dia touto dosei I'ou. Maid shall 1)e with child, and shall bear a son, that sllall be called Imnlanuel."' .' The Confraternity Ver- sion of 19 70 tloes lilzcwise.'" 'I'lle 1959 and 1969 versions of the 13erl n virgin. The prophet sees in a vision thc virgin pregnant ;111d abot~t to I~ear a son, whom she will call lr~z~~za~zz.1~~1. I'rofessor Gchnlan and those who follow his vic~vpoint claim thnt to talw Is. 7: 14 as a pretliction \vould fail to do j~lsticc to the J~istor~cal situation, that the prophet's ~vords to Ahaz Ilad to have relevance for the inl~nediate situation in which they lverc uttered. 'Thosc who acccpl. Rqatthcw's statement thnt the conception of Christ h> thc Virgin Mar! was in fulfillment of what Isaiah had predicted are accused by Gehman of being guilty of subjective exegesis.'" 'To find a prophecy of the Virgin Birth of Christ in Is. 7: 14 is not i'anciful esegesis. The salvation set forth 1)y Christ n~ltl the iipostlcs was the theme of Old 'Testament prophecy. In writing to thc co~lgregations of /\sia Minor, l'etcr said: "This s;llvation was the theme which the prophets pontlered and csplor~d, those who prophesied about the grace of God awaiting !ou. 'Thev tried to find out what was the time, and what were the circumstances, to which the spirit of Christ in thcm pointed, foretelling thc sufferings in store for Christ anti the splcnclours to follorv; an0 it was discloset1 to them that the niatter they treated of was not for their time but for yours. And now it has 1)een openly :~nnoiinced to you through preachers .rv11o brought you the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. These are thjngs that angels long to see" (I Pctcr 1: 10-12, NF33)." 'The same apostle, speaking before the Jewish council, clain~cd that the Old Testanlent prophets had foretold the suffering and glorifica- tion of the Rqessiah, identifietl with Christ by Peter. "And so said all the prophets, from Samuel onwards; with one voice they all predicted the present time." Professor Gehman has stated in his article on "Imn~anuel" in the Nczu Westminister Ilictio?zary of the Bible that "the prophet spoke in a historical situation, and that Isaiah would not have been understood by his contenlporaries if in some mysterious manner he had referred to an event that was to take place 700 ycars in the futt~re.''~~ There are Inany more statements in the prophetic literature that contain nsser- Lrolis about the future wllicIl ivcrc not always understood by those to who111 they were addressed. 'That is no adequate criterion for rejecting thc clcar interpretation of Platthew that Isaiah had definitely forctold thc unique nlanncr of Christ's conception on the grounds that the im~l~cdiate hearers needed to understand the words. hllaz had been t~~lilt~ of ~rnbelief; his condition i.iloulc1 mali~tc at thc salictunrp. In thc Song of Solonlon, ill 1 : 5 I (~l/~~alr ccrti~inly does not impl!: a wonla11 of qucstioniihlc rcl?~it;~ti.on, inasmi~ch as she is descril~ed as a ivoman to 116 ilcsircd. 'Tllc snmc can also I)c snit1 abo~~t the use of the term al~liuh ill 6 : (4, \vhc~.e tllc word is c111 [)lo yctl to s~~ch as stand over against hot11 cluecns and concubi~~cs. 'T'llus virginity is implied. Dr. Von Ilohr Sauer in an articlc in t11c Corrc:ol-tlirr 'r'hcological ~\/lorrthl~, ilugust-, 19 5 3, pagc 5 58 :isscrtecl the folIo\ving :rl)out the ilsc ant1 meaning of r.111.iztll~ in Isaiah 7 : 14 : ( 1 ) Al~a~llr is never 1.1sec1 of :i girl before slic attains to l>ul)crtc, as tllc ct!.mology of the word slloll-s. (2) AEtrlnFl is never useil of :I girl at'tcs shc has become a ~narrictl Ivomnn, as the usage in thc Old 'Tcstilnicl~r: shows. (3) 'This means that n girl is called an nZ/~rah. on1.i. tl~rril~g a \/cry 1:estrictcd periotl of her life, namely, from the j~oint (if licr becoii~ing inaturc to tllc point of I~cr becoming ~narriccl. ('4) It is proposed that this is precisely thc l>eriocl in ivhich tlie I-Iebrcw girl norl~iiillg possessed the clinracteristics of moidei~hood. (5) It- is fur- 1-lie]: l~i-opose(l that the word "maid" or "nlniden" is an accurate trails- lation of the ~vord a21r11111, tvhicli in~plies virginity \vithout stressing it, ;IS hctF~ulatr tloes. (6) It is finally proposetl that this translation is sup- portetl b!; t.1~ probability that the sign in Is. 7 : 14 is a rnisnculous sign. i\n il~teresting test has coine from the Ilash Shamra or Ugnritic literatur:~, wherc tllc goddess Niltltal is described as "A virgin will give birth . . . a damsel wilI bear a son."?' In this passage hethzllnh 'and gZ7121: (=: Hebrew almoh) arc used synonymously. These two designa- tio1.1~ .are used of thc gotldess Nikkal before her marriage to a god took place. It is of little iiportance that the cl~iltl is to be born after the marriage; what is significant is the fact that before her \vedding Nikkal is characterized by two words btlt and glmt. Thcse two Uga- ritic words are practically svnonymous. At least, there was no hesita- tion in appljjing this word btlt; in the Ugaritic texts it is the standing designation for the virgin Anat. Glmt is never used in Rash Shamra of a ~narried woman, and hence it was well adopted to serve as a parallel expression to btlt. The new evidence from Rash Shamra in no \vise supports the contcntion that nlmrrh map be used of a ~narried fvoiilan. It was the conclusion of the late Robert Dick Il\'ison of 1'1-inceton Scminary that in cstra-Biblical Semitic literature allnah Jie\,er ~ncnnt a voung illarried wonx~n.~~ A~III(?~? ~71e I'ropcr Noz.112 for 7)esig7zatZo1r7 of Virgi~li't~ Ilr. I Young, clain~s that of all the Hebrew words that Ssniah co~~lcl use to dcscrlbc the virgin birth, al~iznlz was actually the only suit;ible word." 'T'l~us thcrc were available the follo~.in,a words: I'dJcrl?, i?n7zznrnJ1., l?etl,zz,~7ah., isl?shnh, kalah and nll~~nh. Yrrldulz was used of a you17g cllild and thus would not be appropriate to describe n wonran ihal: had thc capability of hearing a child. In loel 4: 3 the rvorcl is enll~lo\;ed of one who is a Inere child. 'The word ~znhnrnh is the ordinary ivorcl for "girl." Its usage is I~roatl and therefore would not have been suitable in this Inln~anuel p~:ophecy. Nahara7z may refer to both nlarried ancl un~~~arriecl wolnen. It inay be ~lseci of rt concubine as well as of a11 evil woman. 'Thus it: \\.as ~~nsuitablc for predicting a virgin birth. Then there is tllc word betha~lah \\?11ich thosc contend should have been employed if Isaiah wanted to aimounce virgi11 birth. 111 the Rash Shamra texts as has been sho\vn the nlorcl nithout exception refcrs to ;in zinmarrie(1 woman. This l~o~vever, is not the case in Bihli- cal Hebrew. Dr. Young has csamincd the usage of 1-he word in 0,T. Hebrew and claims that : 1 11 close exalnination of the J3iblical data rct*eals the fact that in Oltl Testnrnent tinles thei-e were two classes of wonlell who might: bear the designation bct.hulnh.. One of these was tlie young girl who may Iiavc. been of marringeablc age, I~ut ~vllo u!as tcc1.1- nicall\~ a virgin in that she had not Ipol:t this rc:nc'lc.ring.:j' In discussing the meaning of Isaiah 7: 14 it shoultl also bc ~:c- nicn~hered that thc name I~t~rna~z~rel occurs three times in chapters 7-1 1, and for this reason this section of Isaiah 112s 1)een callc(l the "Imn~anuel boo]<." Thc second Immnnuel passage we 11:lve in chapter 9: 1-9. I11 this passage thc prophet announces that Imnlanuel's inin- istry will be ill Galilee. A4atthe\,v states that this propllecv was fulfilled in the 1)reaching in CXillee, during thc first \,ear of Hjs public inin- istry. Isaiah ascribes to Immanucl the follo~ving titles: \\?onderful Co~~nscllor, h4ight God, Everlasting Father, Prince of I'eace. Of the increase of his goI1ernment and of peace there shall be 110 end, upon thc throne of Davitl, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to upholtl it with justice and ivitl.1 righteousness froin henceforth eve11 9, r forevcr. The titles given here srrrely could not 11e assigned to a11j7 human Icing. Nor \vould the nature of Iminnnuel's rcign be possible for any llunlan Israelite king. In this passage there are also the distinctive features of the llavidic covenant; he shall sit on David's throne, his kingdom is ever- lasting; and he is God's son, as Jehovah had promised. In Isaiah 11 : 1-9, the third ~mrnanuel passage, new feat~~res appear in Isaiah's picture of the Messiah. He is to be the house of Jesse: the Spirit is poured out upon him abundantly; righteo~~sness and iustice are the foundations and strength of his reign; and peace will fill the earth. 111 ~hiil3t~'~~ 7, 8, anti 10 thc l3rophet has predicted the desola- ti011 of jutlah which thc Assyrian will effect. Before thc mighty As- sgria~l, the harlses of Is]-acl and Judi111 have f;~l,len as trecs of the forest before thc axes of thc ~voodmen. Onlv the bare stumps relnai11 to ac- centuatc: tht desolation. rT1~eo begirk the message of hope in the elevent11 cl~i-tpter; one of thesc stumps has life in it, and will put forth again, for there shall coinc forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse. This coming King "sliall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither dcciclc after the hearing of his ears." Rightco~isness is declared to bc the strength of his reign by thc figure of girdecl loins 01: ~vr~ist-. Fjnalli,, 11 is reign of rjglltcousl~ess \\:ill heal the .cvot111(1~ of the \\:orld ant1 establish everlasting 1.3cacc. 1. The New English. Biljlc ~vith A~~OCI.~~I(E (New York: 'I'11~ OsFol-tl Uni-- vcrsitv YI-css, C:ambritlgc Univcrsity Press, .1970), 1). 817. 2. T'lzc Holy ljible Contai~zilzg the Olri and Sctv Testrol-zcnts. Ilc hnstalt, 1922), p. 675. 10. T~L: ifoly Riblc (:ontailzing thc Old nnd Nczv Tcstamwc~zts. Tr~~nslcit~~E Ozlt of tlic Original Tongues (Oxforcl: At thc University Press, 1892), p. 508. I I. Tlzc Oxforci Historical Dicti~rztrn. (Oxford: I\t the Univcrsity :llrcss, 1933)) XII, pp. 230-231. 12. ?'he American Cutholic Edition. The Holy l3ible (New Yorl;: Benzinger Ilrothers Inc., 1958), p. '709. This \.crsion contains thc Rhc.ims-I>o~~a), translation of Isniah. 13. The Jerzisalcm Biblc (Kew Yoxk: Doul~leday ik Company, Inc., 1966), pp. 11 53-1 154. 14. Ihox. Thc Holy Biblc. A Trnnslution from tlzc Latin Vzrlgatc i~r rhc Liglzt of Nehre~v and Greek Originals (New York: Sheen & Ward, Inc., 1956), p. 634. 15. Thc New American Bible. Sponsored by thc Bishops Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Iloctrine (New York and Clcvel;~nd: 'Ihc World Publishing Company, 1970), p. 62 1. 16. Holy Bible. The New Berkeley Version in Modern Englislz. Gcrrit Vct- kuyl, Editor-in-Chief (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pubiisbing Company, 1969), p. 691. 17. Edward d. Young. The Book of isaiah. (Gmnd Rapids: Wm. 8. Eenl- mans Pu lishing Company, 1969), 1, p. 278.