Monday, December 8, 2008

Isaiah's Immanuel

Edward Hindson (1978), Isaiah's Immanuel (Phillipsburgh, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co )

Edward Hinson was professor of religion at Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia. He is an Old testament scholar.
This is a 'meaty' scholarly thesis on Isaiah 7:14. There are three possible intepretation of the 'virgin' in the verse (v.14-16):

(1) The boy of whom Isaiah wrote was conceived shortly after Isaiah spoke this message. A young woman, a virgin, married and then had a baby. Before he would be old enough to tell the difference between good and evil the northern Aram-Israel alliance would be destroyed. According to this view the woman was a virgin when Isaiah spoke his prophecy but was not when the boy was born because he was conceived by sexual relations with her husband. Some say this child was born to Isaiah (8:3-4). They point out that 8:1-4 corresponds in a number of ways to 7:14-17.

(2) A second view sees the predicted birth as exclusively messianic and the virgin as Mary, Jesus’ mother. It is argued that in Isaiah 7:14 the virgin is said to be with child (lit., ”the virgin is or will be pregnant“). It is also argued that Matthew, stressing the fact that Joseph and Mary’s marriage was not consummated till after Jesus’ birth (Matt. 1:18, 25), affirmed that Jesus’ birth fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (Matt. 1:21-23).

(3) A third view, a combination of the first two, sees the prophecy as directed primarily to Ahaz regarding the breaking of the alliance. The ‘almâh was a virgin when Isaiah spoke his message, but then she would marry and have a baby. When the Aram-Israel alliance was broken the boy would still be young.

Hindson's thesis is that “(A)n evaluation of the evidence reveals that Isaiah did in fact predict directly and in advance the birth of Jesus Christ by Mary, the virgin of Nazareth.” (p.87) i.e. option number 2. Aside from the exegesis of the word 'virgin', Hindson seeks support from the Septuagint’s interpretation of Isa. 7:14 as that of a virgin birth. This messianic pre-Christian interpretation is shared by the rabbinic, Palestinian and Alexandrian Jews.

Option one is to be rejected because (a) Isaiah’s wife already had a child (Shear-Jashub, v. 3) and so was not a virgin,(b) the second child born to Isaiah’s wife was not named Immanuel but Maher-shalal-hash-baz which is a judgment on Judah while Immanuel is one of hope (8:3),(c) the virgin is Isaiah’s second wife which has no scriptural backing, and (d) there is no virgin birth. If option one is not acceptable, option 3 of double fulfilment is also not acceptable.

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