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Question on Isaiah 7:14 -- was the Messianic prophecy referring to a 'young woman' or 'virgin'?

Posted on 12/19/2009 3:26:14 PM PST by SeekAndFind

I have a questions to all of you knowledgable Biblical Scholars out there and it relates to the so-called Messianic Prophecy in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It is relevant as we celebrate the Christmas Season.

“Does Isaiah 7:14 contain a prophecy of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ?

Some suggest that Isaiah’s statement should be correctly translated as a ‘young woman’ (not necessarily a ‘virgin’) of his day, who would conceive and give birth to a child, and that this event would be a sign to Hezekiah.

It is then further said that Matthew took that text and applied it to Jesus’ birth, though, allegedly, this was not the meaning of the passage originally. How do we respond to this assertion?”

Some also claimed that a real boy named Emmanuel was born.

How do you respond to this claim ?

Thanks.


TOPICS: General Discusssion; History
KEYWORDS: isaiah; messiah; virgin; youngwoman
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
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1 posted on 12/19/2009 3:26:16 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

I can’t read Hebrew so I can’t tell you that it was a young woman. It used to be Virgin and most translate it Virgin. One bad translation changes nothing for me.


2 posted on 12/19/2009 3:38:22 PM PST by mountainlion (concerned conservative.)
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To: SeekAndFind
The answer is in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament and in Matthew 1:23. The Septuagint, while not inspired, was the translation from Hebrew to Greek and they use the word "παρθένος" (parthenos) meaning virgin, not just a young girl. This is the same Greek word in Matthew 1:23.
3 posted on 12/19/2009 3:38:47 PM PST by kosciusko51
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To: kosciusko51

Oh, I forgot to mention that the Septuagint was so named because of the 70 Hebrew scholars who translated this into Greek for Hellenized Jews. Sometimes you will even see the the Roman LXX used to describe this translation.


4 posted on 12/19/2009 3:41:06 PM PST by kosciusko51
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To: SeekAndFind

I have heard that the Hebrew could refer to either but my response would be “Why would a young woman conceiving and giving birth qualify as a ‘sign’ from ‘the Lord Himself’”? It would to make more sense for it to be translated as “virgin” in this case if only because it would hardly be unusual for a “young woman” to have a child! I’m sure there are other arguments as well.


5 posted on 12/19/2009 3:43:39 PM PST by marinamuffy (Palin/West 2012!)
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To: SeekAndFind
If memory serves, this revolves around the Hebrew word "almah," which can mean virgin and well as maiden or young girl. "Virgin" is more to the point, but a young girl need not be as such to still merit the word.

However, given the context, we Christians will go with the Immaculate Conception.

6 posted on 12/19/2009 3:46:14 PM PST by Enosh (†)
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To: SeekAndFind
I think what is sometimes missed in the discussion of how this verse should be translated is that Matthew wrote with the guidance of God’s spirit and so when Matthew applies this verse to the virgin birth of Christ it’s not just his own interpretation.
7 posted on 12/19/2009 3:50:19 PM PST by count-your-change (You don't have be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
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To: SeekAndFind
The word in the Hebrew is alma which means young woman. Betula is the word for virgin. Properly translated the verse refers to a young woman with child, rather than a virgin who shall conceive.

ML/NJ

8 posted on 12/19/2009 3:50:37 PM PST by ml/nj
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To: SeekAndFind
Sorry I don't have time to look this up right now and give you links, but as I remember it:
9 posted on 12/19/2009 3:50:43 PM PST by Mrs. Don-o (Sorry: Tag-line presently at the dry cleaners. Please find suitable bumper-sticker instead.)
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To: ml/nj
Actually, alma can mean either young woman or a virgin. Betula is more more specific in meaning virgin. The 70 translated the Isaiah 7:14 alma into Greek as parthenos which means virgin. And Matthew uses parthenos as well.
10 posted on 12/19/2009 3:54:20 PM PST by kosciusko51
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To: ml/nj
Properly translated the verse refers to a young woman with child, rather than a virgin who shall conceive.

If this is true, that would mean that almost all popular English translations of this verse from King James to New American Standard to New International Version are improper translations ??
11 posted on 12/19/2009 3:55:41 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: Mrs. Don-o

Sorry I did not see your link before I wrote. Good stuff!


12 posted on 12/19/2009 3:56:25 PM PST by kosciusko51
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To: marinamuffy
“Why would a young woman conceiving and giving birth qualify as a ‘sign’ from ‘the Lord Himself’”? It would to make more sense for it to be translated as “virgin” in this case if only because it would hardly be unusual for a “young woman” to have a child! I’m sure there are other arguments as well.

Therein lies the rub. Skeptics (or even Jews who do not accept Jesus as Messiah ) would argue that this particular prophecy of Isaiah is REALLY referring to an actual historical woman who gave birth to a boy who was REALLY named Emmanuel.

Hence the following texts after verse 14 --

15 He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. 16 But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.

In other words skeptics and unbelieving Jews would say that it is a PURELY HISTORICAL statement made by Isaiah unrelated to Jesus Christ. Christians are simply force-fitting the historical statement made to make it fit Jesus.
13 posted on 12/19/2009 4:03:18 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind
Immanuel=God with us.

I'm not a scholar, but it was a sign. A young woman pregnant, common. A virgin pregnant, not common.

14 posted on 12/19/2009 4:08:48 PM PST by goodtomato (I'm blessed! I support Marco Rubio 2010)
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To: SeekAndFind
A Bible teacher answered this question this way.

Look at the context. A prophecy is promised in this passage - one of a great promise (ie The Lord Himself will give you a great sign). What makes more since ...

1) A child will be born of a young maiden! (yawn)

2) A child will be born of a virgin! (what?)

Case 1 would fall into the same category as ...

"I predict the sky will be blue tomorrow" - or more to the point ...

"I predict a sign - verily I say unto you, the next time Al Gore makes a speech about global warming, there will again be record cold temps."
15 posted on 12/19/2009 4:09:03 PM PST by tang-soo (Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks - Read Daniel Chapter 9)
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To: SeekAndFind
This is a two-fold prophesy. The first being the immediate, and the second being in the future. IIRC, I think there are several other examples of immediate/future prophesies in the OT, but I don't have the time to look them up for you.

The reason that Christians use it in the context of a virgin is that the followers of Jesus Himself (who were Jewish) used it in this same context, i.e. Matthew 1:23. Matthew also goes on to explain that Emmanuel means "God with us", and Jesus, as God Incarnate, is God with us (mankind).

16 posted on 12/19/2009 4:09:29 PM PST by kosciusko51
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To: SeekAndFind

Luke 1, 34
............................
34Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
............................


17 posted on 12/19/2009 4:10:47 PM PST by element92
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To: SeekAndFind

Luke 1:26 through 1:38 describes the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary and his announcement to her that she would bear The Son of God, The Saviour of the world.

Luk 1:34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

Now my friend, YOU may think it a small matter to lie to Gabriel, but I don’t; and somehow I don’t think Mary did, either. Therefore, I must conclude that Mary was a virgin indeed. And the nitpickers and error-spotters can have a field day if they want to.

But as for me; I agree with the old, black, fellow-believer, from somewhere in the deep south, who is reported to have said: “I believes da’ Bible is true from ‘Generations’ to ‘Revolutions.’ I believes it from cover to cover! I even believes da’ cover is genuine leather!” That pretty well covers what I, Old Watashi; Old Tommy Tucker believes, too!


18 posted on 12/19/2009 4:17:33 PM PST by Tucker39 (I Tim. 1:15b " .....Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.")
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To: SeekAndFind
As I understand it, the scholars using the word "parthenos" (virgin) ran into no controversy from the Jewish community whatsoever during the centuries when the Septuagint was the, "the" authorized translation. It was completely and universally accepted as accurate.

After the 1st century AD, some of the Jewish community decided to "de-authorize" the Septuagint because it gave such unambiguous authority to the Jewish-Christian belief that the prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus Christ.

So the problem wasn't that the Christians "force-fitted" the translation, but that the A.D.-era Jewish community "retrofitted" the translation.

If this were not so, why did they previously accept the word "parthenos"?

19 posted on 12/19/2009 4:20:06 PM PST by Mrs. Don-o (Sorry: Tag-line presently at the dry cleaners. Please find suitable bumper-sticker instead.)
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To: Enosh

Did you mean Virgin Birth? The Immaculate Conception is the belief that Mary was herself conceived without original sin.


20 posted on 12/19/2009 4:20:44 PM PST by kalee (01/20/13 The end of an error.... Obama even worse than Carter.)
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To: kosciusko51
We live in an age where "virgin births" are technically possible, and probably common. There's also an incredibly vicious campaign being taken against the first-born children ~ who would have been first-born if they weren't murdered in the womb by Satan's own agents.

In our own country, the individual most responsible for public health policy is literally a fallen angel of death, former Governor Sebelius!

No doubt there are a dozen other prophetic entries of similar nature in the Holy Scriptures that would appear to be getting recycled.

21 posted on 12/19/2009 4:22:26 PM PST by muawiyah
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To: kalee
It's not just a Catholic belief, it's Scriptural. Remember Mary is one of the people whose coming existence was prophesied. John the Baptist was also prophesied. Jesus was prophesied.

These people are exceedingly special ~ particularly to Christians.

22 posted on 12/19/2009 4:24:32 PM PST by muawiyah
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To: Mrs. Don-o

My great grandmother was named Parthenia, and I’ve understood the meaning that inspired the name to support what you’ve written.

Birth to a young woman would not have been noteworthy. Birth to a virgin, however, would definitely have been.


23 posted on 12/19/2009 4:29:36 PM PST by RegulatorCountry
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To: kalee

You are correct, my mistake. I did mean the Virgin Birth.


24 posted on 12/19/2009 4:31:45 PM PST by Enosh (†)
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To: SeekAndFind
It's a "young woman" in Hebrew, not explicitly a virgin, but that may be understood by the text (or not). The Septuagint translated it as "virgin" some time before Christ's birth, and that reading was used by the evangelists. (Notably, by Matthew, who according to tradition wrote his first gospel in Aramaic. If this is true, there may have also been a Targumic tradition that also read virgin in Isa 7:14. If a witness could be found, it would have interesting textual and even theological implications.)
25 posted on 12/19/2009 4:34:11 PM PST by Caesar Soze
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To: Enosh
However, given the context, we Christians will go with the Immaculate Conception.

The context of Isa 7:14 has nothing to do with the Immaculate Conception. And many Christians do not even believe in the Immaculate Conception.

26 posted on 12/19/2009 4:40:06 PM PST by Caesar Soze
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To: SeekAndFind

The context is that Aram(Syria) and Israel invaded Judah and beseiged Jerusalem.

Isaiah says in v. 10 that Ahaz the king should ask for a sign that God would deliver the city from their trouble.

The king refuses to ask for a sign.

So Isaiah says here’s the sign: a young woman will give birth and call his name Immanuel. And v. 16 says that before the child is able to discern good and evil, the two kings that trouble Jerusalem will be gone.

So the context demands that it was a young woman who gave birth to a son as a sign in the 700’s bc. Matthew then borrowed the verse to refer to Jesus.


27 posted on 12/19/2009 4:40:31 PM PST by lurk
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To: element92

“Luke 1, 34
............................
34Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?”

Bears repeating!


28 posted on 12/19/2009 4:45:17 PM PST by right way right
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To: SeekAndFind

the KJV is the word of God! period! no virgin can have a baby except by God!


29 posted on 12/19/2009 4:47:53 PM PST by FreeperFlirt
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To: Caesar Soze
If they do not believe in the Immaculate Conception, then what else do they not believe in?

The Resurrection?

That Jesus is the Son of God?

That believing Jesus’ testimony about himself is the way to eternal life?

Hell?

These “Christians” you refer to are not.

They belong to "their" father Satan.

30 posted on 12/19/2009 4:56:56 PM PST by right way right
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To: FreeperFlirt

Faith bump.


31 posted on 12/19/2009 5:00:37 PM PST by Ciexyz
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To: right way right; Caesar Soze

I think all Christians believe in the Virgin Birth, but not necessarily in the Immaculate Conception I mistakenly referenced. The Immaculate Conception has to do with Mary’s status at her birth, not Jesus’.


32 posted on 12/19/2009 5:03:03 PM PST by Enosh (†)
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To: kosciusko51
This is a two-fold prophesy.

Yes. In the same way, Isaiah 53 is about Israel.

Arguing against Jews when it comes to the Hebrew Scriptures is sheer folly. To "them" were given the oracles of HaShem (Rom 3:2). I shudder when I hear Christians explaining prophecies about Messiah, because invariably they end up looking like morons to people who LIVE the words of the Hebrew Scriptures. The nuances of Hebrew are lost on so many Christians as they act like bulls in a china shop.

The reality is: Isaiah 7:14 uses the word ALMA. It does NOT mean "virgin" - although it can imply it. Likewise, Isaiah 53 is about "My Servant Israel" - so when Christians blindly insist that Jews must see "Jesus" in Isaiah 53, such talk sounds silly.

Rather, Christians should defer to the experts (Jews), while not abandoning their own understanding. Isaiah 7:14 is about Isaiah's wife AND about the mother of Messiah. Isaiah 53 is about national Israel AND about Messiah, King of Israel.
33 posted on 12/19/2009 5:03:31 PM PST by Tzfat
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To: right way right
If they do not believe in the Immaculate Conception, then what else do they not believe in? The Resurrection? That Jesus is the Son of God? That believing Jesus’ testimony about himself is the way to eternal life? Hell? These “Christians” you refer to are not. They belong to "their" father Satan.

I'm not going to get into a religion war. Let me just point out that the Resurrection, Jesus's sonship, and his testimony about himself are explicit in the canon that is accepted by all Christians. Hell is kind of a tricky subject, due to generations of lazy translators. But the Immaculate Conception is merely Roman Catholic tradition. It is an old tradition and the Church has advanced scriptural arguments for it, but I remain unconvinced of its validity, and I would not question anyone's profession of Christian faith if they disbelieved it.

If you are Catholic, I suppose you must measure other Christians by the yardsticks of your Church. All I ask is that you judge the motes in our eyes with a bit of tact.

34 posted on 12/19/2009 5:09:35 PM PST by Caesar Soze
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To: Tzfat
Rather, Christians should defer to the experts (Jews), while not abandoning their own understanding.

As pointed out above, we are deferring to the experts. In this case, we are deferring to the Hellenistic Jews who are much closer temporally to the original text than any person living today, and also much closer than the Masoretes which fixed the modern Hebrew text. Don't blame us if there's a virgin in the Septuagint, we didn't put her there!

35 posted on 12/19/2009 5:12:11 PM PST by Caesar Soze
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To: Enosh

Your going to have to further explain what you said.

Status at “her” birth? Most humans are born virgins.
In fact, they all are.


36 posted on 12/19/2009 5:15:31 PM PST by right way right
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To: right way right

No, it means that Mary was born without sin, that is, the Original Sin. I has no bearing on her virginity.


37 posted on 12/19/2009 5:18:25 PM PST by Enosh (†)
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To: Caesar Soze

I’m not Catholic.

So, what I probably don’t understand is the definition of Immaculate Conception.

I know one thing, Christ was born from a virgin by the Spirit of God, by a supernatural event by God and that he is the Son of God. He is the CHRIST.


38 posted on 12/19/2009 5:20:23 PM PST by right way right
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To: Enosh
Interesting, where is the scriptural support for this belief?

I did not want to get involved in one of those pointless Protestant verses Catholic threads which bear no good fruit for the cause of Christ.

It looks like I stumbled in due to my ignorance of Catholic traditional belief.

39 posted on 12/19/2009 5:24:43 PM PST by right way right
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To: right way right
So, what I probably don’t understand is the definition of Immaculate Conception.

If you see something you don't understand, it is better to try to understand it before you go off half-cocked and start condemning people to hell. Including yourself, ironically.

40 posted on 12/19/2009 5:26:14 PM PST by Caesar Soze
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To: Caesar Soze
As pointed out above, we are deferring to the experts. In this case, we are deferring to the Hellenistic Jews who are much closer temporally to the original text than any person living today, and also much closer than the Masoretes which fixed the modern Hebrew text.

Masoretic text is "Modern Hebrew"? Please, don't let your conspiracy theory bias show. Shame on you. You should know that the Isaiah Scroll discovered at Qumron has Isaiah 7:14 EXACTLY as the Masoretic text. So much for THAT conspiracy.

Are you claiming the LXX is inspired? Sheesh.
41 posted on 12/19/2009 5:27:32 PM PST by Tzfat
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To: SeekAndFind
Properly translated the verse refers to a young woman with child, rather than a virgin who shall conceive.

If this is true, that would mean that almost all popular English translations of this verse from King James to New American Standard to New International Version are improper translations ??

Yes they are. I think I can give an even simpler example from this past week's Torah portion. Joseph interprets Pharaoh's dreams to mean that there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of ra-ah. EVERYONE from King James to Everett Fox translates ra-ah as "famine." But it cannot mean famine, for if it did Joseph would have subverted the will of G-d. There was no famine in Egypt. There was plenty to eat because Joseph stockpiled grain. What there was was drought. This must be the meaning of the word ra-ah in the text. (BTW, when Everett Fox pooh-pooh'd this analysis, my Harvard educated rabbi said Fox did so because he didn't think of it himself.)

I have a Zondervan (Christian Publisher) Interlinear translation of the Bible. In the introduction to the volume with Isaiah, they include this in the Introduction:

How Not to Use the NIVIHEOT*

Above all, no one should attempt to use this volume to criticize another translation or to "prove" a point of interpretation. As mentioned above, the vocabulary is that of the NIV. The appearance of Hebrew on the page imparts no additional authority to the definition of any given word.

For example, in Isaiah 7:14, because the NIV translators chose "the virgin" to translate the Hebrew word ha-alma [ML/NJ transliteration, Hebrew characters in quoted text], the interlinear translation reflects this choice rather than "the young woman" which might be the better option linguistically, contextually, and theologically. ...

*New International Version Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament

Where the words "the virgin" appear in the interlinear translation, there is a footnote directing readers to this comment in the introduction quoted above.

The word following ha-alma in the Isaiah text is ha-rah, which means pregnant. Just get a Hebrew-English dictionary and check it out. (Adjectives often follow the noun they modify in Hebrew. I really don't think there is any question about this.)

And none of what I say here should be taken as any sort of refutation of what is written in the Christian Bible. But sometimes people in their zeal to prove what they believe, point to things that aren't there.

ML/NJ

42 posted on 12/19/2009 5:41:28 PM PST by ml/nj
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To: Tzfat
Interesting comment on Isaiah 53. The problem I see is that many Jews will see this passage as ONLY national Israel and not the Messiah, and have denied any connection to Messiah. And Christians see this as ONLY Christ, and not the Israel.

As to the Jewish denial of Isaiah 53 as referring to Jesus, I would say this is described by Paul in Romans 11:8 "Just as it is written, 'GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY.'" - A reference to Deuteronomy 29:4 describing the unbelief of the Jews during their time in the wilderness.

43 posted on 12/19/2009 5:45:55 PM PST by kosciusko51
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Comment #44 Removed by Moderator

To: Caesar Soze

I make a humble recognition of my ignorance and seek knowledge upon the discovery of it, then your response exposes your true heart motive.
You do not wish to help me.

Instead you wish to accuse and condemn, you are only a viper
who comes here to gain notoriety among other vipers.

That is why I would not normally get involved in these fruitless religion threads which have become so common place here at Free Republic.

Jesus Christ knows your motives just as well as mine.


45 posted on 12/19/2009 5:49:38 PM PST by right way right
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To: ml/nj
I find it odd that you respond to an off-handed statement, rather than direct a comment towards the translation and use of the word by the Septuagint (not assumed to be inspired, of course) and by Matthew (inspired, at least in the Christian tradition).

Also, while the English translations are imperfect, I would not say that they are improper, especially when it comes to Isaiah 7:14.

46 posted on 12/19/2009 5:52:13 PM PST by kosciusko51
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To: kosciusko51
I find it odd that you respond to an off-handed statement

Please! I didn't even address you.

You may think that the comment I did respond to was "off-handed" (with whatever derogatory meaning you imply) but I thought it was a reasonable question and I tried to present an informed answer. My guess is that in forming that answer I consulted more books than you own. (Do you even know who Everett Fox is without Googling?) I really do not know enough Greek to comment upon the translation in the Septuagent. In addition to the Zondervan book I quoted, you might want to have a look at what the New Jerome Bible Commentary (Incredibly scholarly Catholic commentary) has to say about the verse in question, or like Joseph's brothers you can ignore obvious things presented to you in plain sight.

ML/NJ

47 posted on 12/19/2009 6:12:36 PM PST by ml/nj
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To: kosciusko51
Interesting comment on Isaiah 53. The problem I see is that many Jews will see this passage as ONLY national Israel and not the Messiah, and have denied any connection to Messiah. And Christians see this as ONLY Christ, and not the Israel.

This is why it is wise for Christians to become students of rabbinic writings. They may discover things about the Bible that their theology has blinded them to. At the time of the Reformation, before Luther's blatant anti-Semitism, many seminaries in Europe were starting Talmudic studies because they were amazed at the breadth of understanding rabbinic writings contained.

As for Isaiah 53, Judaism, like Christianity, many times defines itself as "other than." The plain truth is that Christianity so hung its hat on Isaiah 53, that Judaism must answer. Historical Christianity has done the same, denouncing Moses and the Law, to define themselves as other than Judaism.

The reality is that it is not the cherry picking of passages like Isaiah 53 that best speaks of Messiah... but all the TaNaKh itself (Luke 24:27). The problem is that the Hebrew Scriptures are so foreign to Christians (they think of them as stories) - even to Christian scholars - that they cannot see the Messiah in them, while Judaism declares: "All the world exists for Messiah..."

For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words? Jn 5:46-47
48 posted on 12/19/2009 6:22:32 PM PST by Tzfat
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To: ml/nj; kosciusko51
But sometimes people in their zeal to prove what they believe, point to things that aren't there.

I completely agree. Isaiah 7:14, and Isaiah 53 are perfect examples of Christians making morons of themselves to prove a point. Denying the PLAIN MEANING, they appear to be grasping at straws.

Better to state that Isaiah 7:14 clearly says ALMA, and that this could be a virgin as the LXX indicates (instead of beating Jews up for not seeing it their way). Likewise, ignoring the plain text of Isaiah 52, where the "servant" is clearly defined as "Israel My servant" and pretending that it does not say this. Rather, admit that the text does in fact say that Isaiah 53 (a continuation of ch 52) is about Israel - which does not preclude it being about Israel's chief representative, Messiah.
49 posted on 12/19/2009 6:34:00 PM PST by Tzfat
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To: ml/nj; SeekAndFind; Tzfat
First, I thought SeekAndFind's comment was rhetorical. If I am mistaken, I sincerely apologize to SeekAndFind.

Second, both SeekAndFind and I responded to your message. I just thought that you would respond to the clarification/refutation of your comment, as opposed to letting it sit out there unchallenged. My apologies for not thinking otherwise.

Third, I don't know who you are, nor you me, so don't go assuming how large a library I have, what knowledge I have or lack, how many resources I used or did not use, or whether I know who Everett Fox is. None of these items reduce my ability to respond to you. Besides, this seems to be a poor argument from authority debating tactic. You seem to be a better fellow than that.

Fourth, I would like to thank Tzfat for his wise interjection into this discussion.

Since is is getting late, I will end with "Shalom aleichem", "εἰρήνη ὑμῖν", "Pax vobiscum", and "Peace be with you".

50 posted on 12/19/2009 7:10:00 PM PST by kosciusko51
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