Saturday, June 6, 2015

Isa. 7:14, Matt. 1:23 and the Virgin Birth

The writing of this blogpost was inspired by Christian apologist Steve Hays' blogpost The virgin birth prophecy which is a response to atheist skeptic Richard Carrier's article The Problem of the Virgin Birth Prophecy (2003). I recommend reading both articles.

All bolding below has been added by me, AP.

Many skeptics are quick to charge the writer of Matthew (in Matt. 1:23) of mistranslating, abusing and twisting Isa. 7:14 to fit Christian theology. Usually, they do so by making claims and argument even knowledgeable and scholarly atheists would regard as erroneous and fallacious. The fact is that the meaning of the words "almah," bethulah," (in Hebrew) and "parthenos" (in Greek) do not have a single definite meaning. They must be interpreted in light of context. Even the skeptic Richard Carrier states, "The Greek word parthenos carries a basic meaning of 'girl', hence it denotes 'virgin' only by implication." Nor does Carrier deny, but rather affirms, that the Hebrew word "almah" could refer to a virgin, even though he is quick to point out that the Hebrew word "bethulah" more clearly meant virgin. Carrier also states, "It is possible the Jewish translator of Isaiah wasn't taking sides on whether 'virgin' was meant but was using a word that could mean either, and that only later did Christians take it as definitely meaning 'virgin'."

I recommend reading Carrier's full article, The Problem of the Virgin Birth Prophecy (2003). Make sure to also read the footnotes. Then immediately read Steve Hays' response The virgin birth prophecy

The Jewish Annotated New Testament is a New Testament with annotations written by non-Messianic Jewish scholars. Page 33 has an article that includes the following [entirety not quoted]

Matthew's rendering of the LXX's parthenos from Isa 7.14 ("A virgin will conceive and bear a son" [Mt 1.23]) remains a site of popular piety and scholarly debate. The Hebrew word translated by parthenos in the LXX is 'almah, which is used in the Tanakh in Isa 7.14 and six other times (Gen 24.43; Ex 2.8; Ps 68.26; Prov 30.19; and Song 1.3; 6.8) in the sense of "a young woman" but does not necessarily suggest "virgin." The Greek parthenos does not, for the LXX, necessarily connote "virgin," although that is the predominant translation. It appears in Gen 34.3 in reference to Dinah, who had just had intercourse with Shechem. The Hebrew term betulah, used more than fifty times, including several times in Isaiah, usually (but not always) carries the technical sense of "virgin." Thus for the Hebrew text of Isa 7.14, and perhaps even the Greek text, the prophet is saying, "The young woman is pregnant...." There is no reason to presume her pregnancy was miraculous.
I tried to be exact in typing the above excerpt (including italics). I put in bold what I found interesting.

Even according to these Jewish scholars (who are not believers in Jesus/Yeshua as the Messiah) NONE of the words "almah," "parthenos" or "betulah" have only one definite meaning. If that's true, then that seems to demolish the charges that 1. the LXX (translated by Jews no less) was definitely wrong in its translation of almah. 2. Matthew was wrong in latching onto "parthenos" as having the sole definite meaning of "virgin."

When the above facts are coupled with the traditional Jewish hermeneutical approach to Biblical interpretation called Pardes/PaRDeS, Matthew cannot be charged with 1. tampering with the wording of the Hebrew scriptural passage, 2. altering its prophecy, 3. twisting its meaning by a misleading translation, 4. putting an eisegetical spin on its interpretation and application to Christ's virgin birth.  Since it is not clear which of the four hermeneutical approaches of PaRDeS Matthew used to connect Isa. 7:14 with Jesus' supernatural conception and birth.

Moreover, some Christians scholars have argued that there is a dual fulfillment of Isa. 7:14. One relatively immediate during the lifetime of the original recipients of the prophecy, and secondly the final ultimate fulfillment in Christ's virgin birth. In which case, if God meant to have a dual fulfillment, then the more ambiguous word "almah" would make room for two fulfillments, rather than "bethulah" which would only allow for one fulfillment.

See also the following resources:

What Do You Think About The Messiah?
This is my comprehensive blogpost in defense of the true Messiahship of Jesus.

Does the New Testament Quote the Old Testament Out of Context?

How the New Testament Quotes the Old Testament by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum

A Look at Messianic Prophecy: Four Ways the New Testament Authors Use the Hebrew Bible

The virgin birth prophecy by Steve Hays

"The Virgin Will Conceive": Typological Fulfillment in Matthew 1:18-23 by James M. Hamilton Jr.

Context And Content in the Interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 by J.A. Motyer

Modern Rabbis and the Virgin Birth of Messiah

7 Supernatural Sons

Answering Your Toughest Questions with Dr. Michael Brown YouTube Episodes:
 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16,
 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25,26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32

Countering the Counter-Missionaries with Dr. Michael Brown
(Over 24 hours of teaching)

Day 1 part 1 & 2
Day 1 part 3 & 4

Day 2 part 1 & 2
Day 2 part 3 & 4

Day 3 part 1 & 2
Day 3 part 3 & 4

Day 4 part 1 & 2
Day 4 part 3 & 4

Day 5 part 1 & 2
Day 5 part 3 & 4

It's common for non-Messianic Jews to argue that no respected and learned rabbis ever accepted Jesus' Messiahship. However that's false. As the following two articles proves.

Rabbis Who Thought For Themselves Part ONE
Rabbis Who Thought For Themselves Part TWO