There have been quite a few debates on why the word παρθένος (“virgin”) is used in the Septuagint of Isaiah 7:14 when translating the Hebrew word עלמה ("a young maiden”).1 For context let us go through a few ancient translations of Isaiah 7:14:

Hebrew Masoretic of Isaiah 7:14

לָ֠כֵן יִתֵּ֨ן אֲדֹנָ֥י ה֛וּא לָכֶ֖ם אֹ֑ות הִנֵּ֣ה הָעַלְמָ֗ה הָרָה֙ וְיֹלֶ֣דֶת בֵּ֔ן וְקָרָ֥את שְׁמֹ֖ו עִמָּ֥נוּ אֵֽל׃

Westminster Leningrad Codex.

St. Justin Martyr's dialogue with Trypho shows that second century Jews did not interpret עלמה as a virgin. The passage probably should be read naturally: "the young woman will conceive and give birth to a son," as indicated by the context, without excluding a possibility that the young woman might be a virgin.

Dead Sea Scrolls of Isaiah 7:14

לכן יתן יהוה הוא לכם אות הנה העלמה הרה וילדת בן וקרא שמו עמנואל

The Great Scroll of Isaiah.

This passage from the Dead Sea Scrolls has a few differences from the Masoretic text.2

  • Starting from the right, the third word יהוה "Yahweh" is used in DSS; this is the name of God. In the Masoretic text the word אדוני "adonai" is used instead.
  • The third word from the right is וקרא "he will call." In the Masoretic text this word is written as וקראת "she/you will call,” which the LXX translation agrees with over the DSS.
  • The last word is עמנואל "imanuel." This is the combination of two words עמנו "with us" and אל “God.” These two words are grouped together as one, indicating that it is a name not a description. In the Masoretic text this name is written as two separate words עמנו אל "God is with us."

From these examples we can compare both MSS and DSS with the LXX. There is no known manuscript or fragment of Isaiah 7:14 in which בתולה "a virgin" was used instead of עלמה "a young maiden."

Aramaic Targum of Isaiah 7:14

בְכֵין יִתֵין יוי הוּא לְכוֹן אָתָא הָא עוּלֵימְתָא מְעַדְיָא וּתלִיד בַר וְתִקרֵי שְמֵיה עִמָנוּ אֵל׃

Aramaic Targumim.

The Targum translates the Hebrew עלמה with an Aramaic עוּלֵימְתָא which according to the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon, means “young girl” in a neutral sense without a reference to virginity. This supports the argument that the original Hebrew text did not contain בתולה "a virgin" but instead עלמה "a young girl," as seen in both MSS and DSS.

Syriac Peshitta of Isaiah 7:14

ܡܛܠ ܗܢܐ ܢܬܠ ܠܟܘܢ ܡܪܝܐ ܐܠܗܐ ܐܬܐ܂ ܗܐ ܒܬܘܠܬܐ ܒܿܛܢܬ ܘܝܿܠܕܐ ܒܪܐ܂ ܘܢܬܩܪܐ ܫܡܗ ܥܡܢܘܐܝܠ܂

Syriac Peshitta.

The Syriac Peshitta translates the Hebrew עלמה into Syriac with ܒܬܘܠܬܐ “chaste maiden.” This translation is consistent with the reading “virgin" in LXX rather than "young girl" as seen in MSS, DSS, and Targum.

Latin Vulgate of Isaiah 7:14

Propter hoc dabit Dominus ipse vobis signum: ecce virgo concipiet, et pariet filium, et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel.

Latin Vulgate.

St. Jerome was one of few early Christian writers to argue in favor with the Hebrew text.3 But as a faithful Catholic he come to conclude that the Hebrew עלמה should be translated as virgo.4

Greek Septuagint of Isaiah 7:14

διὰ τοῦτο δώσει κύριος αὐτὸς ὑμῖν σημεῖον ἰδοὺ ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει καὶ τέξεται υἱόν καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Εμμανουηλ.

Greek Septuagint.

The early Christian writers favored the LXX translation of Isaiah 7:14 because it was quoted in the Gospel of St. Matthew 1:23. It became the proof text for the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ for the Church among the early Church Fathers.

Greek Aquila and Theodotion of Isaiah 7:14

διὰ τοῦτο δώσει κύριος αὐτὸς ὑμῖν σημεῖον ἰδοὺ ἡ νεᾶνις ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει καὶ τέξεται υἱόν καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Εμμανουηλ.

Greek Aquila and Theodotion.

Aquila and Theodotion made a revision to remove a reference to a virgin birth from the text. Aquila was a late 1st century Jew and Theodotion was a late 2nd century Ebionite. From the context of Isaiah 7:14, a young woman might plausibly be a virgin, but ἡ νεᾶνις renders the Hebrew העלמה neutrally.

With a few ancient translations of Isaiah 7:14 included above for comparison, what are the arguments that the author intended for this passage to refer to a virgin?5

1 St. Simeon the God-receiver was one of the seventy two scholars who came to Alexandria to translate the Holy Scriptures into Greek. God promised him that he would not die until the promised Messiah, Christ the Lord, came into the world. There are various traditions on how old he was. St. Jerome argues that only Pentateuch were translated in the late 3rd century BC and the rest including Simeon's translation of Isaiah might be written later in the late 1st century BC.

2 As used today in all Hebrew Bibles and which Protestant translations are based on.

3 Including Origen of Alexandria who favored the Hebrew text by compiling the Hexapla which used by Jerome extensively for his new translation of Latin Vulgate. Among his contemporary is Theodore of Mopsuestia who is considered as the Interpreter and known for his grammatical-historical hermeneutic. Both died peacefully with the Church but later some of their works were anathematized in the Fifth Ecumenical Council of Second Constantinople in 553.

4 I owe to John Meade's excellent analysis that Jerome believed the Hebrew עלמה meant abscondita “hidden,” a remarkable insight to something which I was unaware about before. As a faithful Catholic following the Holy Tradition about the life of Theotokos Jerome believed the young maiden in Isaiah 7:14 was more than a virgin, she was a cloistered girl who devoted her chaste life in the Temple which necessitates virginity.

5 Like the early Christians, John Meade in his paper follows Justin's argument in Dialogue 84 that from the Greek word σημειον it would not be a divine sign if the woman would give birth in the natural way. The miraculous birth of the Messiah by a virgin is the sign. Jews argue in opposite that the sign isn't an allusion to a virgin birth, but rather the sign is referring to "the two kings who threatened King Ahaz would be destroyed quickly."

  • It appears you are not the original author of much of this analysis. Even in a question, not crediting this is considered plagiarism. You need to edit this and use > markers to format quoted text and include appropriate credit where it is due (to include names, publication data, and links as appropriate). – Caleb Mar 14 '15 at 13:53
  • I'm putting this question on hold because it consists mostly of plagiarized text without appropriate attribution of sources. Please provide due citations and structure the question using your own thoughts rather than copying and pasting from another site. Then we can see about re-opening it. Thanks. – Susan Mar 14 '15 at 14:09
  • @Susan, there is a similarity with your question. The difference is as a Catholic I presupposed who the author is, St. Symeon the God-receiver. There are various traditions on how old he was. But St. Jerome argues that only Pentateuch were translated in late 3rd century BC and the rest including St. Symeon's translation might be written later in late 1st century BC. But because it's a hermeneutic site that assumption is presumed. I posted quickly last night around 3 AM I forgot to provide appropriate citation. oca.org/saints/lives/2015/02/03/… – Adithia Kusno Mar 14 '15 at 16:16
  • @AdithiaKusno This question is not a "dupe"; the one Susan posed was "What were the LXX thinking?" vs "What is the meaning of the text?" 2 Different Questions. It is a very good question; but please clarify your sources as to remove the 'taint' of plagiarism. Also, (with moderator assistance-Susan wears the diamond) you might consider making this a duplicate and adding the answers to her question, which contain meaningful responses to yours. Thank you! – Tau Mar 14 '15 at 23:48
up vote 6 down vote accepted

The answer to whether עַלְמָה means "young maiden" or "virgin" may lie in the answer to a second question. The meaning of the word אוֹת has a tremendous impact on how we read Isaiah 7:14. The word אוֹת as it is used in Tanach can generally be translated as "sign" or "omen." But as signs in the bible often come from G-d, אוֹת can also convey the meaning "miracle." If we translate אוֹת as meaning "miracle" in Isaiah 7:14, then it would seem plausible to translate עַלְמָה as meaning "virgin," referring to a miraculous virgin birth. On the other hand, if translate אוֹת as meaning "sign," then we might instead translate עַלְמָה as "young maiden," and assume that the sign refers to the son who will bring G-d into the midst of Israel. Whether אוֹת means "sign" or "miracle" is dependent upon the context.

Genesis 9:12 is one example where אוֹת means an ordinary sign:

וּנְמַלְתֶּם אֵת בְּשַׂר עָרְלַתְכֶם וְהָיָה לְאוֹת בְּרִית בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵיכֶם
And you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and between you.

In this verse it is clear that the circumcision is a sign and not a miracle. However, consider Exodus 7:3, which discusses the miracles in Egypt:

וַאֲנִי אַקְשֶׁה אֶת לֵב פַּרְעֹה וְהִרְבֵּיתִי אֶת אֹתֹתַי וְאֶת מוֹפְתַי בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם
And I will harden the heart of Pharaoh and I will increase my miracles and wonders in the land of Egypt.

In this verse, the miracles in Egypt, along with the word מוֹפְתַי ("my wonders") provide the context to interpret אֹתֹתַי as meaning "miracles" rather than ordinary "signs." The meaning of אוֹת in Isaiah 7:14 can also be estimated by the context of the verse in the chapter.

Isaiah 7 discusses the plight of Ahaz, the king of Judah, who faces the prospect of being conquered by the Northern kingdom. Isaiah 7:2 mentions that the hearts of Ahaz and the House of David trembled upon hearing news of the siege. As it so happens, G-d uses the word אוֹת when speaking to Ahaz in 7:11:

שְׁאַל לְךָ אוֹת מֵעִם יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ הַעְמֵק שְׁאָלָה אוֹ הַגְבֵּהַּ לְמָעְלָה
Ask for yourself a sign from the L-rd, your G-d: ask it either in the depths, or in the heights above.

It could be argued that אוֹת in this verse means either "sign" or "miracle." If we assume that Judah felt it had no chance of surviving the attack, then we may translate אוֹת as "miracle" here. On the other hand, in the next verse 7:12 Ahaz appears confident and says that he has no desire to either ask or test G-d. Following this line of reasoning, we could also translate אוֹת as "sign," in the sense of G-d displaying a sign that He will stand behind Judah in the battle.

Our choice to view the events of Isaiah 7 as being miraculous or not determine how we will ultimately translate 7:14. If we assume that אוֹת means miracle, then it would support the notion that עַלְמָה means "virgin" and that Isaiah prophesied a virgin birth. On the other hand, if we assume that אוֹת merely means sign, then it would lend more support to translating עַלְמָה as "young maiden."

For historical background, Isaiah 7:14 has been a source of tremendous strife between Jews, Christians, and even Muslims throughout the centuries. In this analysis, I tried to be completely neutral to all religions and present an independent and unbiased analysis of the text.

  • In regards to religious issues I rarely seen an answer with an objective tone like this. I like your neutral tone. Excellent answer. May I know if there is a consensus among Orthodox Rabbis regarding the authoritative Jewish reading on this passage (or if there are various rabbinical views may I know what are they briefly)? Or if you want maybe we can discuss this in a chat room. – Adithia Kusno Mar 16 '15 at 18:17
  • Here is a standard translation of Isaiah 7 which clearly translates עַלְמָה as "young woman." Interestingly, the Septuagint, which was originally a Jewish translation, uses the Greek word parthenos which implies virginity. But mainstream Rabbinic Judaism has rejected the Septuagint on grounds of this and other inaccuracies. – Tim Biegeleisen Mar 16 '15 at 23:50

The Sign of Immanuel in Isaiah 7:14 is the single most debated text in scripture. Dozens—literally dozens—of PhD dissertations have been written on it. There are three main questions inherent in the text but the center of the storm revolves around a single word: elem or alma.

The story begins with Ahaz, King of Judah, and the coalition formed between the King of Israel, Pekah and the King of Syria, Rezin to depose him. Very unfriendly of them, but when God is on your side, who can stand against you? God assures Ahaz the enemies of Judah will be frustrated and invites Ahaz to ask for a sign to assure him of that. Ahaz foolishly declines, so God picks a sign of his own: the “young woman/virgin” will have a child, and before certain stages of growth are reached in the life of the child, both Syria and Ephraim will no longer be a threat to Judah.

The big question is, how is this passage to be understood in the immediate and/or the larger context? And in order to answer this, it’s necessary to answer some lesser questions first by treating the individual terms of the passage separately.


SECTION I

First, what exactly is meant by the word sign (oth)? If there were agreement among interpreters it would be a good start, but the variety of views on this is disconcerting. This word occurs 79 times in the Old Testament.

In our passage it relates to a sign which

“takes place before the promised event happens, and serves as a pledge to those to whom it is given that the event suggested by it will come to pass. We shall expect, then, to find in the sign given to Ahaz something which occurred prior to the deliverance foretold in the same passage, and became a pledge to him of that deliverance.” (Charles R. Brown, “Exegesis of Isaiah VII. 10-17,”JBL, 9, no. 1 (1890): 119).

J.A. Alexander reasons that

“it seems very improbable that after such an offer (directly from God), the sign bestowed would be merely a thing of everyday occurrence, or at most the application of a symbolical name. This presumption is strengthened by the solemnity with which the Prophet speaks of the predicted birth, not as a usual and natural event but as something which excites his own astonishment, as he beholds it in prophetic vision.” (Joseph A. Alexander, Commentary on Isaiah (1865; repr., Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1953), 167.)

Following other examples from scripture reveals God’s modus operandi: Get a prophetic promise from God and God always means it for more than just you and just right now. For example, Abraham’s son Isaac; Abraham got a son from God, but that son was more than just for Abraham and Sarah; he was also meant to be the father of many nations and impact the whole world—and he has.

Again, David offers to build a house for God— and God says instead, I will build a house for you, and that house will always have someone on the throne, meaning the Heavenly throne and not the earthly one. God established David’s immediate kingdom, but God’s promise was also meant in the eschatological sense, for it is from the house of David that the Messiah will come. And that promise has always been understood in this manner.

In light of God’s other acts in scripture, it is only reasonable to conclude God is acting consistently with Himself here in Isaiah. It would be expecting God to be inconsistent with Himself to expect otherwise.

The second question to ask about this prophecy is whether it is about the past, the present or the future? The key to answering this is the word hinneh (behold) with its following participle; it is always presenting something in the future, and the thing presented is a real thing. The same term hinneh (see) and grammatical construction is found in Genesis 6:11–13, Genesis 17:19-20 and Judges 13:5,7 where the future is also forecast.

And now this sign was to be given—the Messiah should be born of a virgin. Therefore a “behold” is affixed to it, What else could be a sign of wonder? That a young married woman, Isaiah’s wife, should be with child which is not at all surprising and of which there are instances repeated every day? The wonder does not lie in the truth of the prediction but in the greatness of the thing predicted. (Gill).

And you shall call him Emmanuel; “God with us.” (Mat.1:23; John 1:14; 1 Tim. 3:16)

The third small point to be made in this section is based on comparing the construction of the text to the literature found at Ras Shamra; and here we see

“the phrase assumes a birth of unusual importance.” (Edward J. Young, Studies in Isaiah (London: Tyndale, 1955), 159.

Young’s conclusion is:

“Isaiah, therefore, because of the tremendous solemnity and importance of the announcement which he was to make, used as much of this ancient formula of announcement as suited his purpose.” (160).)

The sign would precede the event; the event would be something extraordinary and probably supernatural and maybe even eschatological; it might well involve God working on two levels of reality just as he had done before: the immediate human reality and the eternal spiritual reality; “the sign” was something that would happen in the future--but maybe also immediately, but the whole future possibility absolutely astonished Isaiah.

And what exactly is the sign? The sign is a young woman—a virgin—and a baby: God with us. And even the stars in the sky noted His arrival.


SECTION II

The eye of this storm revolves around that young woman and the word used to describe her, the word alma. Reams have been written on it already and, doubtless, reams will be written on it in the future. What is the exact translation of this pivotal word? Is there an element of ambiguity, or has the vagueness been imported through bias?

As N.T. Wright advocates, for a hypothesis to be valid it must encompass all the evidence yet still offer the simplest most straightforward explanation.

Toward that particular end, it must first be noted the noun in question in Isaiah 7:14 has a definite article—the—which points to a specific person. This indicates the prophecy has a definite woman in view. My Jewish friend Yechiel in Israel assures me this is Isaiah’s wife and this disproves the entire foundation of Christianity: alma means “young woman” not virgin, and if Isaiah had meant virgin, he would have used the term betula. This is not a new position. Is it correct?

I do not argue the point with him (given Christianity’s negative past with “converting” Jews), and aside from the fact that Christianity is not founded on one principle, not even this one, it seems clear my friend has this one wrong. Yes, alma means young woman, but that must include virginity by inference. There is no other option.

Looking at it from what other alternatives were available in the language of Isaiah’s day and their cultural context quickly reveals why.

The most common terms used for ‘woman’ in a wide general sense was either ‘enowsh’, which generally refers to any mortal, or ‘nashiym’, which is also often translated ‘wife’ and is most associated with married women in, for example, Exodus 21:3. If Isaiah were referring to his wife in this prophecy, he would have used either nashiym or the term he used in Isaiah 8:3, ‘nebiyah’, “the prophetess” (which means a prophet’s wife.)

Alma is used 7 times in the Old Testament and in every instance it refers to a young unmarried woman; Isaiah would not have picked a term associated with a young unmarried woman to refer to his very married wife. If the prophet were referring to his wife in Isaiah 7, why would he change and use a different word to refer to the same woman in chapter 8? No, these points are all against the “alma” of Isaiah 7 being Isaiah’s wife.

The other word choices available for use by Isaiah at the time were limited. Bethuel was available, but why shouldn’t Isaiah use the more common term if it still encompassed the concept of virginity within it? And it did; it had to because there is no other choice. Let me demonstrate.

The ancient Hebrews had a couple of words describing young unmarried women who were not virgins; one of those terms was —zanah—which is taken from the term for well-fed/well developed and means wanton; it’s often translated harlot in the English.

None of these other terms is used in Isaiah 7:14. The woman referred to here is not a wife, or a wanton, or just any mortal. She is specifically a young woman who is not married yet—not a wife—and though she is young and unmarried she is not referred to as zanah either, she is not wanton—so by ancient Hebrew standards, there is only one choice left; by inference she is still a maid: a virgin.

Alma is used 7 times in the Old Testament. The first is in Genesis 24:43 where Isaac first meets Rebekah. “…if a maiden (alma) comes out to draw water…” and out walks Rebekah. Let’s be blunt. Let’s be direct. Let’s be completely honest. Is anyone—Jewish, Christian or otherwise—going to suggest or even imply that Rebekah was anything other than a virgin? Of course not.

She was not a married woman. She was not a wanton. She was a young woman of marriageable age—an alma—therefore it is inferred—the only other option left in ancient Hebrew society is, she was a virgin: a maiden.

The next use of alma is Exodus 2:8 in referring to Moses’ sister when she was still a girl, and not even of marriageable age yet. This young girl is clearly still a maiden as well.

These two are sufficient to indicate the inference was not unusual. It doesn’t matter whether alma is always translated virgin or not; it only matters if was ever assumed to include that idea; because in that ancient society those were the only options for women. That was the cultural reality of the day.

Culture matters when interpreting. How the Hebrews saw women matters when interpreting a concept revolving around a woman. There were three kinds of women in Isaiah's day: maidens, wantons and married ones. Those were the cultural choices; pretending otherwise from our modern view is disingenuous.


SECTION III

Culture supports the translation of the word alma as virgin, but there is also linguistics to provide the most powerful support for this translation.

There are about 5000 languages spoken in the world today but scholars group them into about 20 families of languages linked by shared words, sounds and grammatical constructions. The theory is, originally, there was one “mother tongue,” and as people spread, language evolved and adapted and changed and spread just like people did. This is certainly consistent with the Biblical record.

By about 3000 B.C. the Semitic family of languages were spoken over a large tract of desert territory from southern Arabia to northern Syria. The Hebrew language arose in that part of the world where the city of Ugarit in Syria was. The fact ancient Hebrew is so similar to the Ugaritic language is good evidence the Israelites origin was somewhere in the region of upper Syria which is consistent with Biblical accounts.

Cyrus Gordon is the best reference here as he is a Jewish Semitic scholar:

the commonly held view that “virgin” is the Christian translation of alma and “young woman” is the Jewish one, is not accurate. The fact is, the Septuagint, which is the Jewish translation made in pre-Christian Alexandria, takes alma to mean virgin. Accordingly the New testament follows the Jewish interpretation.

Modern Jews now claim that Septuagint translation made a “mistake” and for Christians to hold to that earlier “error” simply prolongs the problem. What the study of linguistics reveals is that the Septuagint was following the older linguistic tradition which is closer in time and more consistent with Isaiah’s day, than that which the moderns seek to impose upon it today 2700 years after the fact.

From Ugarit of around 1400 B.C. there’s a text celebrating the marriage of two of the male and female lunar deities. It is there predicted the goddess will bear a son… the terminology is close to Isaiah 7:14. However the Ugaritic statement that the bride will bear a son is —fortunately—given in parallelistic form. She is called by the exact etymological counterpart for the Hebrew word alma in 77:7, and in 77:5 by the exact etymological counterpart for betula—effectively equating the terms.

This means the New Testament rendering of alma as virgin actually rests on the older Jewish interpretation; which is now born out for precisely the annunciation formula we have taken it to be by a text that is not only pre-Isaiah but even pre-Moses and is in the form we now have it in on a clay tablet.

(Cyrus H. Gordon, “Almah in Isaiah 7:14,”JBR21, no. 2 (April, 1953): 106.

Some have overlooked or minimized the fact that Joel 1:8 indicates a betula has been married and lost her husband. See the interesting reference of William S. LaSor in his “Isaiah 7:14—‘Young Woman’ or ‘Virgin’?” (Altadena, CA: By Author, 1953), 3–4; especially the larger issues involved at the end of his treatment.)

The “mistake” did not begin with the Septuagint because there was no mistake; Isaiah and the Septuagint both used alma in the older tradition consistent with its day and time. Imposing modern word usage on ancient language is where the mistake begins.

The fact that alma and bethuel have come to have separate meanings in our modern day proves nothing about their use in Isaiah’s day. The number of examples that can be offered to exemplify this and the changes in meanings and word usage that occur over time are multiple:

Chaucer—though it was written in what is the English language of it’s day—in the original it has more in common with High German than it does with modern English. Another example is amusing story about Christopher Wren, who may be the greatest architect of all time, at the completion of St.Paul’s Cathedral when Queen Anne told him it was “awful, artificial and amusing.” Wren, however, was pleased by the royal compliment, since 400 years ago awful meant “full of awe,” artificial meant “artistic,” and amusing meant “amazing”.

We can only begin to imagine the kinds of changes that have occurred in a language so old it is no longer spoken 2700 years later.


SECTION IV

There is divergence of thought on the identity of the mother, though Matthew 1 asserts it is Mary, but after alma, the next tempest is over the identity of the child.

It cannot be Hezekiah. The chronology doesn’t work. He would have been 9 years old when the prophecy was delivered. Some assert verse 14 applies to Jesus while verses 15 and 16 apply to Isaiah’s son Shear-jashub, and that is certainly a possibility.

That the Messiah would be born of Judah, of the royal line guarantees the line will continue on into history, but it is not problematic if there is no immediate fulfillment in a child for that time.

It does seem likely Isaiah’s third son was the immediate partial fulfillment of the promise even if the promise is also primarily Messianic; one does not need to necessarily negate the other as has already been shown: God always works one two levels.


CONCLUSION

There seems no sufficient reason to doubt Isaiah intended “virgin” by his use of the word alma and every reason to believe that is exactly what he meant. Even though alma does mean young woman, the cultural realities of the day, the older traditional linguistic history of the term, and the term’s original translation all stand as evidence of its intent and meaning as a virginal one.

Attempts to impose a modern meaning on it now are attempts to change an ancient view to suit a modern one. That in itself is a fallacy and is certainly insufficient to prove alma is mistranslated or that it is in anyway misapplied to Jesus.

  • I've cleaned up the formatting for you to help improve the structure, @J.Hawk. This is a detailed and extensive answer - what are the 'sections' for, though? It might be good to see these given proper titles to help explain your flow of thought. – Steve Taylor Nov 15 '16 at 14:49
  • thank you so much! I copied and transferred this from something I wrote and sent to N.T.Wright. This is the first thing I have put up here and I haven't a clue what I'm doing! I need a class! :-) – J.Hawk Nov 19 '16 at 9:13

Nearly all English-language Christian Bibles say 'virgin' in Isaiah 7:14, reflecting the LXX reading, which is generally described as a mistranslation from the Hebrew. In the original Hebrew, Isaiah 7:14 uses the word 'almah, which means 'young woman' and is used only in this sense in nine other references in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for 'virgin' is betulah and is used exclusively in that sense more than fifty times in the Hebrew Bible. Ian Wilson says in Jesus, page 46, that while 'almah carries a general connotation of eligibility for marriage, this does not necessarily mean virginity.

In chapter 7, in the reign of Ahaz, Jerusalem has survived a threat from Assyria and now the Aramaeans and Israelites (Ephraim) are the next threat (*). However, in 7:7-9, the Lord tells Isaiah that they will not succeed, and that Israel will be destroyed within just sixty five years (... within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people.). He offers to provide Ahaz with a sign from God, to dissuade him from forming an alliance with Assyria, but Ahaz refuses. Isaiah presses the point, saying that a son shall be born, called Immanuel, and that he will be holy and there will be peace and prosperity. In other words, I propose that Isaiah believed that this good news would help him persuade the king that God favoured Isaiah’s advice (**).

The oracle could probably be linked to the birth of a royal baby in Isaiah 9:5-6:

For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion [kingship] rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, From David's throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains By judgment and justice, both now and forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!


(*) At this stage, we must distinguish Israel (Ephraim) from Judah. They were separate nations and occasionally at war, as in this case. In later centuries, Judah glossed over these differences and adopted the name ‘Israelite’ for themselves, perhaps with a view to justifying a claim on the rich northern lands of what was later known as Samaria, in line with its chief city and capital, Samaria.

(**) I used to think that 7:14 refers to the prophet's wife and her baby (Isaiah 8:3), simply because of the proximity to 7:14, but I admit I was being lazy - a son born to a sometimes irritating prophet is not a sign that would make a king feel blessed by God . As I understood Isaiah better, I realised that the reference was to the royal baby mentioned in 9:5-6. In particular, only the expectation of a son would make the king feel blessed by God and willing to heed the words of his prophet. Isaiah 9:5-6 describes the king's son in raptuous terms, followed in the remainder of chapter 9 by news of the defeat of Israel, which had so recently threatened Judah.

St Justin's Dialogue with Trypho was written about 100 years after our Lord's Resurrection and he clearly states and gives examples of the Jews altering the Old Testament and repeatedly asserts that this has happened to Isaiah 7:14. Codex Vaticanus and Codex Siniaticus are dated about 400 a.d. and both use the greek for Virgin. The Jews stopped using the Septuagint when they saw how Christians were using it to show biblical prophecy of the Incarnation, Virgin Birth etc. The Jews also have a convenient policy of not preserving old bibles.
We cannot see the texts that the Early Church Fathers saw only what the Masoretes have handed us. What some people call the 'original Hebrew' was written about 1000 years later than the Septuagint texts and Moses would not recognise this Aramaic form of the language. See - https://theorthodoxlife.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/masoretic-text-vs-original-hebrew/

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    But we do have the Dead Sea Scrolls. How does this conspiracy theory account for them? – curiousdannii Jun 10 '16 at 23:21

Ok theologians, where does this come or who wrote it?

The prophet Isaiah, addressing king Ahaz of Judah, promises the king that God will destroy his enemies; as a sign that his oracle is a true one, Isaiah predicts that an almah (young woman of marriageable age) will shortly give birth to a child whose name will be Immanuel, "God is with us", and that the threat from the enemy kings will be ended before the child grows up.[1]

If this is true, nobody would have killed the son of God or any prophet of God. The heir would have had no enemies. The Roman Empire and Pharisees killed both John the Baptist and Immanuel to steal the priesthood inheritance and were severly punished for it. Mark 12:6-7, Matthew 21:33-40, Revelation 11:4-6. There is no way that God would give the priesthood to anyone except a true heir of King David, Abraham, Noah and Eve, the mother of all living. Genesis 3:20. Mary is not the mother of all living or the mother of the 12 tribes of Israel. The Romans are frauds.

  • The dead sea scrolls were altered just like the new testament and old testament were altered by the Romans and Pharisee scribes specifically Josephus that invented the story about resurrection and sacrifice. God hated sacrifice and he meant it. Isaiah 1:11. If you cause bloodshed on a man, god will cause your bloodshed. Genesis 9:4-6. God does not kill innocent people, Satan does. He is a murderer and a liar. John 8:44. – Sandra Bouchard Aug 8 at 19:00
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    Hello Sandra - welcome to BHSX. First, this is NOT a site for theologians - it is a site for calm, reasoned hermeneutics - understanding the Bible text as we have it. Second, you should include references to support historical matters. I am unaware of alterations made by Josephus and others, but if you have evidence you should quote it. Please the guidelines for answers on this site. – Dr Peter McGowan Aug 8 at 21:40

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