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Featured Revisiting Isaiah 7:14

Discussion in 'Bible Versions & Translations' started by Deacon, Apr 17, 2017.

  1. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant from the Holy Spirit. So her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.
    But after he had considered these thing, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, don't be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
    Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
    See, the virgin will become pregnant
    and give birth to a son,
    and they will name him Immanuel
    ,​
    which is translated “God is with us.”


    I've been spending some quality time in Matthew recently.
    There are five fulfillment passages that open his gospel following the genealogy.
    Each of them controversial in their own way.

    This first one is controversial due to the translation of the text of Isaiah from which it is drawn.

    Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign;
    Behold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son,
    And shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14 AV1874)​

    Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.
    Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son,
    and shall call his name Immanu-el. (Isaiah 7:14 RSV)​

    The common versions are of one mind when translating this verse.
     
  2. TCassidy

    TCassidy Administrator
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    The Holy Spirit inspired translation, παρθενος, is very clear. A maiden. A young woman with an intact maidenhead.
     
  3. Scarlett O.

    Scarlett O. Well-Known Member
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    I have no problem with Isaiah 7:14 being a both far and near prophecy from God.

    It had to be a near prophecy because God told Ahaz that before this child born of this young woman was old enough to understand right and wrong - that the nations he feared would be abolished. That happened in Ahaz's lifetime and during the time of Isaiah. That birth was NOT a virgin birth.

    And Matthew tells us that this prophecy is a far prophecy - also pertaining to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.

    I have NO problem with the translation "young woman" in Isaiah. There is only one virgin birth and that is Jesus' birth. Matthew and Luke both stress that and the words of Mary herself prove that.

    The immediate birth of the "young woman's" child in Isaiah could not have been a virgin birth.
     
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  4. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    The NASB often uses the word, 'maiden' when translating the Hebrew word almah.
    I like that! but it has become an archaic word.
    Most versions translate almah as 'young woman' (with the exception of the ESV).
    Only in this passage is it consistently translated 'virgin', probably due to the abuse previous translations received.

    Rob
     
  5. TCassidy

    TCassidy Administrator
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    Two other Hebrew words often translated "virgin" - Naarah and B'thuwlah - do not always mean virgin, but can mean widow. God did not use either of these words to describe the appointed carrier of His Holy One. Both Naarah and B'thuwlah, when the intended meaning is a true physical virgin, require qualifying language, ie; Gen. 24:16, Judges 21:12....God used Almah because it needed no qualification. (Again, see Matt 1:23 for the Holy Spirit Inspired Translation of the Hebrew 'alma.')
     
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  6. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    The Hebrew word used by Isaiah could refer to either a young woman or a virgin, but the Greek term is chosen to refer to just a Virgin!
     
  7. reformed_baptist

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    It is interesting to note that those Jews who translated the Hebrew in Greek in the LXX understood it to be 'virgin'

    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
     
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  8. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    I learned a lot from John H. Walton, he's helped me lay to rest some issues I've carried for decades.

    He wrote a paper for JETS in the 1980's, ISA 7:14: WHAT'S IN A NAME? [Link]

    ...the LXX rendering of 'alma by parthenos has often been considered proof that the meaning "virgin" is valid.14 In response to this it must first of all be pointed out that parthenos itself does not always mean "virgin" in classical Greek, although all of its NT occurrences have that meaning.15 Therefore the LXX is not necessarily betraying an interpretation as virgin by choosing this term. Second, Gleason Archer very convincingly demonstrated in a paper delivered at the ETS national meetings in Dallas in 1983 that the LXX translator of the book of Isaiah consistently showed a tendency to be imprecise in his choice of Greek terms to represent the Hebrew.16 Often a vaguely suitable term was chosen when a much more acceptable and precise term was available. This could well be the explanation of the use of parthenos here. While some may find these explanations of parthenos unsatisfactory, it is illegitimate to use the LXX translation to override clear lexical material in the Hebrew text. Isa 54:4 demonstrates that an 'alma could be married and barren. Certainly an 'alma could also at times be a virgin. At best the LXX would indicate an interpretational preference rather than a linguistic necessity. The upshot of all of this is the conclusion that there is no defensible linguistic logic for suggesting the meaning "virgin" for the Hebrew 'alma. Exegetical methods lead us to the meaning "youth" or adolescent." It is only hermeneutical considerations, or should we say theological considerations, that would demand that the issue bé pushed further than linguistic analysis could support. (p 293)

    Here's how the each of the Hebrew word almah is translated (when it is translated, ...there are places where it is left untranslated)

    Genesis 24:43 ESV virgin, AV virgin NIV young woman, NAS95 maiden, NLT young woman, LEB young woman, CSB young woman

    Exodus 2:8 ESV girl AV maid NIV girl NAS95 girl NLT girl LEB girl CSB girl

    Psalm 68:25 ESV virgins, AV damsels NIV young women NAS95 maidens NLT young women LEB young women CSB young women

    Proverbs 30:19 ESV virgin, AV maid NIV young woman NAS95 maid NLT young woman LEB young woman CSB young woman

    Song of Solomon 1:3 ESV virgins, AV virgins NIV young women NAS95 maidens NLT young women LEB young women CSB young women

    Song of Solomon 6:8 ESV virgins, AV virgins NIV virgins NAS95 maidens NLT young women LEB maidens CSB young women

    Isaiah 7:14 ESV virgin, AV Virgin NIV virgin NAS95 virgin NLT virgin LEB virgin CSB virgin

    Rob
     
  9. reformed_baptist

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    That seems to downplay the link between NT Greek and LXX though doesn't it. I am not surprised that a theistic evolutionists might wish to downplay the meaning of over texts that seem to go against his understanding of science :)
     
  10. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    ad homonem
     
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  11. OnlyaSinner

    OnlyaSinner Member
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    While some may find these explanations of parthenos unsatisfactory, it is illegitimate to use the LXX translation to override clear lexical material in the Hebrew text.

    I'm not sure why using the LXX here would be "illegitimate." As posted above, parthenos always references "virgin" in the NT, if not always in classical Greek. The LXX may indeed be imprecise, but as the Holy Spirit chose to have Matthew's quotation of Isaiah 7:14 be from the LXX, and we should first interpret scripture from scripture, why should we take the meaning in Matthew to be any other than "virgin?"
     
  12. reformed_baptist

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    Nope, Ad hominem is the logical fallacy to seeking to rebut an argument through attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument - none of which I did - notice for example the impersonal nature of my words, and the word, 'might wish' - none of that is an attack on the person - however I am sorry it came across that way.
     
  13. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    "...it is illegitimate to use the LXX translation to override clear lexical material in the Hebrew text."

    It would be somewhat like saying the text of the KJV overrides the Greek text... sure, some accept that it may but it is 'illegitimate' to do so.

    One of Walton's points is that 'almah is an imprecise term, not always associated with a virgin... qualifiers are needed for precise translation.
    ...and to translate it as virgin in Isaiah would almost preclude a double meaning.​

    A virgin birth did not occur in Ahaz' time. That was not the miracle that Isaiah was predicting in Ahaz' time. Isaiah's prediction miracle concerned the timing of the boy-child's birth and life.

    Keeping the term imprecise allows the fulfillment in Ahaz' time as well as for the birth of the Messiah.

    Rob
     
  14. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    Translating the word as virgin does not necessarily preclude a double meaning. For example, one interpretation includes that the woman is still an unmarried virgin at the time of Isaiah's prophecy. Whether or not that is correct, it nevertheless shows one interpretation with both the word virgin and a dual fulfillment.
     
  15. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    The Hebrew can legit bee translated as either a young maiden, woman, virgin, but the Holy Spirit have to Matthew the real meaning as Virgin!
     
  16. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    This is true because the Christian versions that choose to render ‘almah as virgin, also render the following clause in the future tense, “…will conceive and give birth…”.

    Walton notes:
    Verbless clauses in Hebrew are typically rendered into present or past tenses, the choice to be determined by the tense of the surrounding finite verbs. The only verb that can be called in to help in this context is the active participle, rendered future by the NASB: "and bear a son." In reality, however, the Hebrew participle properly rendered conveys action now in progress or about to begin. This gives the verbless clause a present context.

    The results of this grammatical analysis are not new or controversial. The resulting translation, leaving 'alma untranslated for the moment, should be: "Behold, an 'alma is pregnant and is about to bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel." (Walton, p 290-291)​

    Walton's translation compares favorably to the contemporary Jewish translation, Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures (1985)

    Assuredly, my Lord will give you a sign of His own accord! Look, the young woman is with child and about to give birth to a son. Let her name him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 (Tanakh)​

    Rob
     
    #16 Deacon, Apr 19, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
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  17. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    Is that alma in Isaiah 54:4? Perhaps related or derivative? It's not in your list below of verses that have alma.

    I would concede that if the argument for present tense is right, then it wouldn't seem to be virgin -- unless a virgin birth is intended in Ahaz's day, which I don't think is. Curiously, some translations give virgin and present tense (see below).

    I think he is right that it is not new, but I would question "not controversial". A large majority of English translations on Bible Gateway have rendered this in the future. So that makes it seem that it is "controversial" in the minds of many. Several Bibles, including the Common English Bible, Easy-to-Read Version, Good News Translation, and New American Bible (Revised Edition) put it in the present. Interestingly, the old RSV rendered alma young woman but still put it in the future (Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive). On the other hand, the new revisions of the RSV change it to "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son..." A few, like the CEV (A virgin is pregnant; she will have a son and will name him Immanuel) use virgin and put it in the present.

    My approach to Isaiah 7:14 is to give priority to the inspired New Testament interpretation of this verse. To me it is clear than Matthew intended "virgin" to mean a woman who has never been married and never known a man sexually -- not just from the use of parthenos, but from the context in Matthew and other New Testament testimony. So as I see it:
    • Isaiah 7:14 is a prophecy of the birth of Jesus Christ.
    • The mother of Jesus Christ was a virgin.
    That still leaves open the question whether Isaiah 7:14 is a single prophecy with a dual fulfillment. I find the explanation of Jonathan Sarfati appealing, though I haven't completely embraced it:
     
  18. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    Hebrew generally uses three-letter words and adds to them to form related words, in Isa 54:4 the words, 'youth' and 'widowhood' are related to 'almah.

    It's my suspicion that this verse has caused so much controversy in the past that translators are catering to the public. That and the idea that there is just not a suitable English word to distinguish the term.

    The term ‘almāh (“maiden”) has in the past evoked much controversy, initially because of its translation in Greek by the LXX as parthénos (“virgin”), and its subsequent role in Matt. 1:23. The noun is derived, not from the root “to be concealed” as suggested already by Jerome, but from a homonym, meaning “to be full of vigor,” “to have reached the age of puberty.” Thus the noun refers to a female sexually ripe for marriage. The emphasis does not fall on virginity as such and, in this respect, differs from the Hebrew betûlāh. However, apart from the controversial reference in Prov. 30:19, the women in all the other references to an ‘almāh do actually appear to be virgins (e.g., Gen. 24:43; Ex. 2:8; Ps. 68:26). It is very unlikely that a married woman would still be referred to as an ‘almāh. In sum, the English translation of the Hebrew by the AV as “virgin” is misleading in too narrowly focusing on virginity rather than on sexual maturity. Conversely, the preferred modern translation of “young woman” (NRSV) is too broad a rendering since it wrongly includes young wives.
    Brevard S. Childs, Isaiah: A Commentary, ed. William P. Brown, Carol A. Newsom, and Brent A. Strawn, 1st ed., The Old Testament Library (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 66.​

    There is not dispute that Matthew clearly identifies Jesus' conception as immaculate.

    Rob
     
  19. reformed_baptist

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    If you considered my statements Ad-hom then isn't this also Ad-hom :)

    However that isn't my real reason for posting - this is what I really want to add:

    "On the assumption that the Bible is the best evidence for the meaning of its words, we note that bĕtûlâ occurs fifty times. Of these, twelve are metaphorical (e.g. 37:22) and fourteen are general, where (e.g. Ps. 148:12) ‘young men and maidens’ is equivalent to ‘young people’ and there is no more ground for demanding that the ‘maidens’ are unmarried than that the men in question (bāḥûrîm) must be bachelors. There are twenty-one cases (such as Exod. 22:16; Deut. 22:19) where the bĕtûlâ in question would be, or be assumed to be, a virgin, but the requirement is in the context, not in the word itself. The idea is ‘of marriageable age/ready for marriage’.

    By contrast ‘almâ is found only eight other times. Of these, 1 Chronicles 15:20 and Psalm 46 (title) use the word in a musical direction that is no longer surely understood. Three further references are indeterminate. It is hard to see that the tambourine-girls (Ps. 68:25) would have to be specified as unmarried; in Proverbs 30:19 many commentators hold that the reference is to the mysteries of procreation, though it more reasonably suggests the often much less explicable matter of sexual attraction! Song 1:3 is more likely to mean ‘unmarried girls’ looking for a good match than the longing gaze of ‘young married women’! But Genesis 24:43, Exodus 2:8 and Song 6:8 refer unquestionably to unmarried girls. Genesis 24 is particularly important as bringing ‘almâ and bĕtûlâ together. Abraham’s servant prays (24:14) for a ‘girl’ (na‘ărâ) to marry Isaac; the approaching Rebekah (24:16) is described as female (na‘ărâ), of marriageable age (bĕtûlâ) and single (‘no man had ever lain with her’). It is important to note that bĕtûlâ is not sufficient by itself to denote virginity but needs the explanatory qualification (‘no man …’). Finally (24:43), in the light of the knowledge of Rebekah that he has thus accumulated, the servant describes her as ‘almâ—i.e. female, marriageable and unmarried.

    In the light of this there is no ground for saying that ‘almâ must mean ‘young woman’ and that bĕtûlâ is the technical word for ‘virgin’. Rather, to the contrary: Isaiah used the word which, among those available to him, came nearest to expressing ‘virgin birth’ and which, in the event, with linguistic propriety, accommodated that meaning. It is also worth noting that outside the Bible, ‘so far as may be ascertained’, ‘almâ is ‘never used of a married woman’." [Motyer, J. A. (1999). Isaiah: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 20, pp. 90–91). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.]
     
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  20. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    Quote from Rob: "It's my suspicion that this verse has caused so much controversy in the past that translators are catering to the public."

    If your statement wasn't an ad homenem, you were stepping on the line. ;)

    I've tried to clearly lay out the evidence from which I've drawn a conclusion - rather than attacking a characteristic or attribute and drawn conclusions based on that.

    So no, my suspicion was not an ad-hom attack.

    Rob
     
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