Matthew incorrectly attributes a prophecy by Zechariah to Jeremiah

From: Darrell Marshall

In response to this, in Matthew 27:9, Matthew is actually paraphrasing Zecharia 11:12 and 13.

Matt. 27:9. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;

But in the time of Christ the Hebrew canon was divided into three different sections: Law, Prophets, and Writings or Psalms, as mentioned in the Gospel of Luke:

Luke 24:44. ...which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

The prophet Jeremiah was listed first in the prophetic book's order and sometimes the prophets were collectively referred to by Jeremiah's name.

Curt Responds:

I have heard of this solution before. Indeed, it was the one that I used to use myself when I was a Christian. The problem lies in the assertion that prophetic quotes were sometimes referenced by the book that opened the section of the canon. When I actually researched this question, I could find no examples of this actually happening. In the New Testament, for example, prophetic quotes are usually simply attributed to "the prophet" (Matt 2:5 for example), or the prophet is correctly referenced, regardless of where he appears in the canon (Acts 2:16).

Thus, in order to make this solution work, you would have to provide specific examples of places where a prophet was knowingly attributed to the opening book of the section.


From: Mark Mcfall

FURTHER ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW 27:9

NAS Matthew 27:9 Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying, "AND THEY TOOK THE THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER, THE PRICE OF THE ONE WHOSE PRICE HAD BEEN SET by the sons of Israel;

This verse is often quoted by "atheist" as proving that the Bible is not the Word of God. The atheist's point of contention is that this prophecy is not in Jeremiah but in Zechariah 11:12-13:

NAS Zechariah 11:12 And I said to them, "If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind!" So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages. 13 Then the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them." So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the LORD.

The traditional way of interpreting this verse is that it is ascribed to Jeremiah, because Jeremiah stood first in the book of the Prophets, from which it was taken, the order being Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the Twelve Minor prophets (latter prophets). As opposed to Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. (former prophets). This explanation of order of prophets is due to J.B Lightfoot who quotes "a tradition of the rabbis". (dia Ieremiou). This quotation comes mainly from Zec 11:13 though not in exact language. In Jer 18:18 the prophet tells of a visit to a potter's house and in Jer 32:6ff. of the purchase of a field. It is in Zechariah that the thirty pieces of silver are mentioned. Many theories are offered for the combination of Zechariah and Jeremiah and attributing it all to Jeremiah. Matthew has here (27:10) "the field of the potter" (eij ton agron tou keramewj) for "the potter the house of the Lord" in Zec 11:13. That makes it more parallel with the language of Mt 27:7.

Atheist that have at one time been Christian (so called) Apologist (defenders) of the Bible and now claim that they "see right through" the alleged discrepancies of the Bible, are quick to point out that the explanation given above is quite "weak". Saying, that we either ignore the problem or brush the problem away and not deal directly with it.

"I would like to admit that this is truly a difficult problem". I would like to point out that the above explanation is just a theory, and because it is the traditional interpretation it has been contemplated by Biblical Scholars thoughout the centuries. In other words it is not a new problem that has recently come to light. Some Biblical Scholars like W. Robertson Nicoll General Editor of the well acclaimed "The Expositor's Greek Testament" further complicates the issue and thus strengthens the case of the Atheist, he wrote on this verse and said:

"....the reference to Jeremiah probably due to there being somewhat similar texts in that prophet running in the evangelist’s mind. A petty error. More serious is the question whether this is not a case of prophecy creating facts whether the whole story here told is not a legend growing out of the O.T. text quoted....The truth rather seems to be that facts, historical traditions, suggested texts which otherwise would never have been thought of."

While most Biblical Scholars disagree with this theory, I would like to point out that W. Robertson Nicoll is a reputable Scholar that is displaying a highly subjective position on this issue, but because of his credentials, one must be open to the possibility of this being the case. Regardless of one’s theological position of the Bible.

One theory of the difficulty may have arisen from abridgment of the names. In the Greek, Jeremiah, instead of being written in full, meaning the short form, would look like this, "Iriou", Zechariah in the short form, would look like this, "Zriou". By the mere change of Z into I, the mistake would have been made by a copyist. Scribal abbreviations were quite common amongst early Christians and were uniformly developed. In their manuscripts these abbreviations were written in all capital letters with a horizontal line above the letters to identify them as contractions. Example:

____

ANOJ = anqrwpoj= man

___

KJ = kurioj= Lord

The Greek witnesses of the New Testament firmly establishes the reading Ieremiou (Jermiah), being supported by a A B C L X W G D q P

and most minuscules, including most of the Old Latin, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, Gothic, Armenian, Ethiopic, and the Georgian versions. Since, however, the passage quoted by the evangelist is not to be found in Jeremiah, but seems to come from Zechariah 11:12-13, it is not surprising that several other Greek witness’s (22 syr, arm) substitute Zaxariou, while others (F 33 157 1579 it vg syr cop pers Diatessaron mss) omit the name entirely. What is also interesting is that two witnesses (21 it) read "Isaiah". St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.) though primarily a theologian, showed on occasion a keen critical judgment in textual problems. Thus when considering the difficulty that Matthew 27:9 attributes a quotation to Jermiah which actually appears in Zechariah, Augustine suggests that one should "first take notice of the fact that this ascription of the passage to Jeremiah is not contained in all the manuscripts of the Gospels, and that some of them state simply that it was spoken "by the prophet". It is possible , therefore, to affirm that those manuscripts deserve rather to be followed which do not contain the name of Jeremiah. For these words were certainly spoken by a prophet, only that prophet was Zechariah". With commendable candour, however, Augustine declares that he is not altogether satisfied with this explanation, because "a majority of manuscripts contain the name of Jeremiah, and those who have studied the Gospel with more than usual care in the Greek copies report that they have found it to stand so in the more ancient Greek exemplars". Thereupon Augstine virtually enunciates the critical canon that the more difficult reading is to be preferred; he continues, "I look also to this further consideration, namely that there was no reason why this name should have been added [subsequently to the true text] and a corruption thus created; whereas there was certainly an intelligible reason for erasing the name from so many of the manuscripts. For presumptuous inexperience might readily have done that, when perplexed with the problem presented by the circumstance that this passage cannot be found in Jeremiah".

In conclusion, while I have not solved the problem of Matthew 27:9, I believe I have given reasonable theory’s on interpreting this verse, and that is precisely the point, the Atheist is also interpreting the verse in a different way. The Atheist has equal rights in interpreting the Scripture also, the Atheist who are on the offense, are people who have studied different books and Scholars than the Christian and are highly philosophized. So how can we come together ? I believe if both sides dropped the books that influence our subjective thinking and only studied the Bible in a objective, Textual, Historical, and cultural background, we would be in agreement more often than we are. I’m not saying they would be converted, for even Judas who was an eye-witness of Jesus Christ betrayed him, but what I am saying is, if we used a Textual, Historical, and cultural background we could interpret in a objective way, as opposed to how some Christians and some Atheist interpret in a subjective way. Sola Scriptura is what I am suggesting, Sola Scriptura is not a claim that the Bible contains all knowledge or is an exhaustive catalog of all religious thought. What Sola Scritura is, simply stated, is that the Scriptures alone are sufficient to function as the regula fidei ( rule of faith) for the Church. All that one must believe to be a Christian is found in Scripture, and in no other source. That which is not found in Scripture either directly or by necessary implication is not binding upon the Christian.

By Mark Mcfall


When was the Last Supper?

From: Gary LaMotta

As far as the chronology of Jesus' last days, there is confusion because of not following the Scriptures. John 19:14 actually gives the specific date and time of Jesus' trial. It was at NOON on "de-preparation for passover" that is "de" = before "preparation for passover" refers to the day before the PASSOVER SABBATH DAY OF NISAN 21ST. There were two "preparation for passover" days during Passover Week and that was Nisan 14 and Nisan 20. Obviously it was already the 15th by the time Jesus was arrested and thus already the sabbath day of the 15th. There were two SABBATH DAYS during Passover Week which were the 15th and the 21st.

Nisan 14 was on a Friday. The next "preparation for passover" day was on a Friday, Nisan 20th. But the Greek language uses the conjunction "de" in front of times of the day to indicate "just before" that time period is to begin, the most common occurrence being "de-epaurion" or "before the next day" that day beginning at sunset or nightfall. So specifically, DE-PREPARATION FOR PASSOVER meant the few hours immediately before the "next day" which was PREPARATION FOR PASSOVER OF NISAN 21ST, at Noon. Thus the trial was at Noon on Wednesday, Nisan 19th and he died on the following day of preparation, Nisan 20th before the sabbath of Nisan 21st. This allows Jesus to be in the grave for three days and THREE NIGHTS. His trial was on Wednesday at Noon, he was impaled at the ninth hour, 9:00 P.M. (Mark 15:25) and was on the cross all that night until Noon when it got dark until 3:00 p.m. It was now Thursday, the 20th, and he was in the grave Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday night, to fulfill Matthew 12:40 which says Jesus would be in the grave three days and three nights, which can only mean he had to die on a Thursday afternoon.

He rose on Sunday, Nisan 23rd and was with his disciples for 40 days then ascended to heaven and Pentecost happened three days later.

This gives you enough time for everything to happen and shows that there is no conflict in the Synoptic Gospels versus John.

Poor interpretation and the truncated nature of the gospels have allowed this misinterpretation that everything happened in just one day to prevail, when in fact this entire "Passion" happened over a week's time.


How many times did the cock crow?

From: Gary LaMotta

I'm very fascinated by your very logical notice of some of the problems in the NT surrounding Jesus' last days. But here are a few resolutions.

As far as Peter's denials are concerned, I have concluded that Peter was so adamant about not denying Jesus that after telling him once that he would deny him three times BEFORE A COCK CROWED, he again told him he would deny him ANOTHER THREE TIMES before a cock crowed TWICE. You have to piece the gospels together correctly but they are in harmony. He first denied to a woman and then two men/groups for the first three times while Jesus was still in the courtyard. But the way those homes were made, you had several areas to go through to get outside. So on his way out he ended up having to again deny Jesus three times to two women and a group of men before he finally got out, by this time, a cock crowing twice. So all in all, Peter denied Jesus at least six times; three times before a cock crowed once and three times before it crowed twice!


Who saw Jesus after his Resurrection?

From: Gary LaMotta

As far as who saw Jesus after his resurrection, the Bible is in complete harmony as to the timing of events, but most persons don't understand how specific the Bible is regarding these times. Furthermore, many don't realize how many Marys there were. Mary Magdalene was quite a common designation for some of them, apparnetly, as there were THREE MARY MAGDALENES in the company of Jesus and three different ones came to Jesus' tomb at three different times. If you pay close attention to the timing of events you can see this. Here's a brief synopsis of the chronology.

Jesus rose before 3:00 a.m.. Then during the early morning watch (3-6a.m.) WHILE IT WAS STILL DARK, Mary M#1 from whom Jesus expelled seven demons came to the tomb and saw the stone rolled away. She ran and got John and Peter. They saw nothing and left. Then Mary saw Jesus in the garden and was told to report back.

Shortly thereafter, WHILE IT WAS GETTING LIGHT, another Mary Magdalene and her companion, the "other Mary" came to the tomb. They had just missed Jesus who had left, and the angels told them Jesus had risen and report back. But they encountered Jesus on the road and did obeisance to him and were told to report back.

Then at "DEEP DAWN" before the sun had risen, several women came to the tomb with spices. The third MM was not in this group. These women saw two angels and were told to report back and then did.

Then finally, AFTER THE SUN HAD RISEN, Mary M#3, Mary the mother of Joses (i.e. Jesus' mother) and Joanna came to the tomb with spices. They saw an angel who told them Jesus had risen and they were petrified and too stunned to tell anyone about this.

Thus if you follow the exact times each one came, you learn a very subtle fact and that is that there were at least THREE MARY MAGDALENES in the company of Jesus. Mary was a very common name, as was Cephas and Judas among others. Mary "Magdalene" may have been an effort to at least separate a group of them who were from "Magdala" from the rest of those fro mthe general Galilee area.


Matthew refers to an unknown prophecy

From: Mark Mcfall

Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?

NAS Matthew 2:23 and came and resided in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazarene."

This verse is probably the most problematic passage in the New Testament. Critics of the Bible refer to this passage as a "nonexistent prophecy", pointing out that it is not contained in the Old Testament. For indeed, the well learned Scholar W. Robertson Nicoll in his "The Expositor's Greek Testament" made the following most honest statement:

"The final prophetic reference in the history of the infancy is the weakest link in the chain. It is wasted effort to try to show its value in the prophetic argument. Instead of doing this, apologists would act more wisely by frankly recognizing the weakness, and drawing from it an argument in favor of historicity. This may very legitimately be done. Of all the incidents mentioned in this chapter, the settlement in Nazareth is the only one we have other means of verifying...In this case, therefore, we certainly know that the historic fact suggested the prophetic reference, instead of the prophecy creating the history. And the very weakness of the prophetic reference in this instance raises a presumption that was the nature of the connection between prophecy and history throughout."

The eminent Scholar A.T Robertson echoes the same thought:

"Mat 2:23 - Should be called a Nazarene (Nazwraioj klhqhsetai). Matthew says "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets" (dia twn profhtwn). It is the plural and no single prophecy exists which says that the Messiah was to be called a Nazarene. It may be that this term of contempt (Joh 1:46; 7:52) is what is meant, and that several prophecies are to be combined like Ps. 22:6,8; 69:11,19; Isa 53:2,3,4. The name Nazareth means a shoot or branch, but it is by no means certain that Matthew has this in mind. It is best to confess that we do not know. See Broadus on Matthew for the various theories. But, despised as Nazareth was at that time, Jesus has exalted its fame. The lowly Nazarene he was at first, but it is our glory to be the followers of the Nazarene. Bruce says that "in this case, therefore, we certainly know that the historic fact suggested the prophetic reference, instead of the prophecy creating the history." The parallels drawn by Matthew between the history of Israel and the birth and infancy of Jesus are not mere fancy. History repeats itself and writers of history find frequent parallels. Surely Matthew is not beyond the bounds of reason or of fact in illustrating in his own way the birth and infancy of Jesus by the Providence of God in the history of Israel".

Despite what these well learned Scholar's say, one must be prepared to take up where these Scholar's left off:

r`hqe.n dia. tw/n profhtw/n (spoken through the prophets), as best that I can ascertain, I believe the key is in r`hqe.n (spoken), the text does not say ge,graptai (written), earlier in this same chapter in Matthew 2:5, when quoting the Old Testament Matthew uses the term ge,graptai(written), and of course the quote is not disputed. Also just five verses earlier ( from Matthew 2:23) in Matthew 2:17, there is the phrase r`hqe.n dia. VIeremi,ou (spoken through Jeremiah), Matthew use's the same word r`hqe.n (spoken) as in Matthew 2:23, but the difference being that he qualifies it with VIeremi,ou (Jeremiah), again of course the quote is found in Jeremiah. This evidence shows that Matthew is not ignorant on how to use quotes.

Matthew’s use of the case ending wn, is in the plural. This makes it quite obvious that Matthew is not quoting any particular prophet. This view is held by the great St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 A.D.) in his exposition, Catena Aurea (Golden Chain), Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 2 page 60 (revised by John Henry Parker and J. Rivington in 1842):

"To this he adds the Prophet's testimony, saying, "That is might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Prophets", Had he meant to quote a particular text, he would not have written 'Prophets,' but 'the Prophet.' By thus using the plural he evidently does not take the words of any one passage in Scripture, but the sense of the whole".

The evidence of the moral character of Matthew comes in to play here as well. The Bible being the very epitome of every thing good, I find it hard to believe that Matthew would have pulled this verse out of the sky, having never heard it before. My position on this "spoken through the prophets" is that Matthew either heard from oral tradition that "He shall be called a Nazarene", or he heard it from other prophets of God that are not mentioned in the Bible. This position is also held by St. Thomas Aquinas in his "Catena Aurea" (page 60).

"Pseudo-Chrys.: They might have read this in some Prophets who are not in our canon, as Nathan or Esdras. That there was some prophecy to this purport is clear from what Philip says to Nathanael. "Him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth." [John 1:45] Hence the Christians were at first called Nazarenes, at Antioch their name was changed to that of 'Christians".

I’ve quoted the verse that St. Aquinas refers to for the sake of context and supplied the verse in question beneath it for a comparison of similarities:

NAS John 1:45 Philip *found Nathanael and *said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

NAS Matthew 2:23 and came and resided in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazarene."

I think the similarities are striking, there is something here that two different writers know about that we do not. I believe I have made a strong case for either a lost document that both these writers had used as there common source, or a common knowledge of oral tradition (this later view seems more likely). For the critic who points out that in John 1:45 the word is "wrote" therefor it can not mean oral tradition, I would like to counterpoint that by stating that the English word "wrote" in this verse is underscored by the Greek word eu`rh,kamen (verb indicative perfect active 1st person plural) meaning "to learn the location of something, either by intentional searching or by unexpected discovery - 'to learn the whereabouts of something, to find, to discover, to come upon, to happen to find", it is the word gegramme,non that means "written" that is not used in this text.

For the Christian and Scholar who is uncomfortable with the latter of the two proposals I would like to say, "surely you don't think that only the people mention in Bible received revelation". God has a way of dealing with each of one us individually. As each person reading this article will have his own story in his walk with the Lord. 


Mark incorrectly attributed a prophecy

From: Mark Mcfall

MARK'S ONLY PROPHETIC QUOTATION ON HIS OWN ACCOUNT

NAS Mark 1:2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER BEFORE YOUR FACE, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY;

3 THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.' "

Critics of the Bible often point to the oldest Gospel (50 A.D) of the Biography of Jesus Christ as the first written account to contain errors. They say, that the passage above is not a quote from Isaiah but a quote from Malachi 3:1:

NAS Malachi 3:1 "Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the LORD of hosts.

While this statement in Mark 1:2-3 is a quote from Malachi 3:1, it is also a quote from Isaiah 40:3:

NAS Isaiah 40:3 A voice is calling, "Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.

The above qualification of the explanation given above, is quite sufficient for the Christian investigating this issue at a non-academic level. In other words it is the traditional way of interpreting this verse at a glance. But for the skeptic this traditional way of interpreting is not sufficient, in fact to them it is very weak. "Well", the following is for the skeptic:

Mar 1:2 - In Isaiah, the prophet (en tw| Esaiai tw| profhth|). The quotation comes from Mal 3:1 and Isa 40:3. The Western and Neutral classes read Isaiah, the Alexandrian and Syrian, "the prophets," an evident correction because part of it is from Malachi. But Isaiah is mentioned as the chief of the prophets. It was common to combine quotations from the prophets in testimonia and catenae (chains of quotations).[1]

In the earlier manuscripts of Mark 1:2 the composite quotation from Malachi 3:1 and from Isaiah 40:3 is introduced by the formula, "as it is written in Isaiah the prophet". Later scribes, sensing that this involves a difficulty, replaced en toij profhtaij. Since the quotation which Matthew 27:9 attributes to the prophet Jeremiah actually comes from Zechariah 11:12, it is not surprising that some scribes sought to mend the error, either by substituting the correct name or by omitting the name altogether [2]. It is easy to see, therefore, why copyists would have altered the words "in Isaiah the prophet" (a reading found in the earliest representative witnesses of the Alexandrian and the Western types of text) to the more comprehensive introductory formula "in the prophets." [3]

Example of variant:

SCR Mark 1:2 ~Wj ge,graptai evn toi/j profh,taij( VIdou,( evgw. avposte,llw to.n a;ggelo,n mou pro. prosw,pou sou( o]j kataskeua,sei th.n o`do,n sou e;mprosqe,n sou

BNT Mark 1:2 Kaqw.j ge,graptai evn tw/| VHsai<a| tw/| profh,th|\ ivdou. avposte,llw to.n a;ggelo,n mou pro. prosw,pou sou( o]j kataskeua,sei th.n o`do,n sou\

From this example it is easy to see that scribes early on in the transmission of the text of the New Testament had the very same thought as the skeptic. In fact, the reason why modern scholars are so confident that the proper reading is "in Isaiah the prophet" stems partly from this very fact: it is much easier to understand why a scribe would try to help Mark out, so to speak, and correct what seems to be an errant citation than to figure out why someone would change it to "Isaiah the prophet". But as in so many instances where a scribe thought he had encountered an error in the text, the error was, in fact, the scribe’s, not the text's.

The problem with the skeptic's argument at this point is simply one of ignorance of the common forms of citation at the time of the writing of the New Testament. We have at least two instances recorded for us by the apostles where a conflated citation of two different Old Testament prophets is placed under the name of the more important or major of the two prophets as stated above. This was, as I’ve said on other occasions, common practice in that day, and we cannot fault the apostolic writers for using the conventional means of expressing themselves. The "error" exists when modern readers try to force the ancient writers into modern standards of citation and footnoting. This is called Textual, Historical and cultural ignorance. We see, then, that "Mark" was quite accurate in his original wording and did not need the editorial assistance of later scribes, nor of the skeptic’s at all.

Another aspect of this verse is that, it is often pointed out by skeptics, that it is not a "to the letter quote". It will be seen that, in both cases (meaning the wording of the quote from New to the Old Testament), the original sense is substantially preserved in the citation. A thorough investigation of the subject will show conclusively that the sacred writers, in quoting from one another, quote according to the sense, and not according to the letter. They seldom, almost never, quote verbatim.

So where is the balance in the purposed agruement. "Well" the evidence suggest that this is not an inaccuracy, nor an error of memory on the part of Mark, but through indifference to greater exactness of modern thought, the quotation from Isaiah being what chiefly occupied Mark’s mind. In other words you are going to have problems with this verse if you do not understand the Textual science, the Historical significance and the Cultural background with which Mark lived. 

[1] Word Pictures In The New Testament by A.T Robertson. Page 252.
[2] The Text Of The New Testament Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration by Bruce M. Metzger. Page 199.
[3] A Textual Commentary On The Greek New Testament by Bruce M. Metzger. Page 62.


Matthew misapplies an Old Testament passage

From: Mark Mcfall

THE VIRGIN BIRTH

MATTHEW 1:23 parqe,noj (Virgin) Can It Be Reconciled with Isaiah 7:14 hm'l.[;h (young woman)

This research paper had its beginnings in a young Marriage couples group Bible study that I was present in believe it or not. When one young woman turned to the Pastor and said "I was watching the television show "Mysteries of the Bible" and they were saying Isaiah 7:14 prophecy of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ could have a doctrinal flaw, because the Hebrew word in the Text does not mean Virgin it means young woman". I still can recall what followed. While our Pastor sat back in his chair I could hear the creaks in his chair, It got real quite. I sensed that he had come across this issue before. As he stroked his beard thinking for a moment he then sat forward to say something when another person in the couples group exclaimed "Ahh" What do they know ! The moment was lost and the question was never answered.

In my study I have found that "Mysteries of the Bible" are not the only doubters to this prophecy of the Virgin birth. In fact some Bibles even use the term "young woman" in there translation:

"There is a young woman with child, who shall bear a son and call his name Immanuel (God is with us)"(James Moffatt Translation)

The most common Translation is found in the New American Standard Translation:

"Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel".

The meaning of hm'l.[;h' (young woman or Virgin) is from a comparatively rare use making it not easily determined. We cannot, therefore, argue from the usage of the word the meaning intended in Isaiah 7:14; but the whole context of the passage, as well as the analogy of Isaiah 8:1-4, suggests that the sign intended did not consist in anything miraculous in the birth itself, but in the speedy coming of the event, and in the symbolical name to be given to the child.

The Hebrew Manuscripts that we possess today are of relatively late date. The Masoretes carefully copied their Manuscripts from earlier Manuscripts that have since been lost. Therefore the Manuscripts that we possess, we refer to as the Masoretic Text. These Texts are dated to 700-900 A.D. The Dead Sea Scrolls which were recently excavated at Qumran are said to be dated about a 1000 years older than the Masoretic Text. The Hebrew word hm'l.[;h' (young woman or Virgin) is present in both Texts, critics point to this and say "see it's in the oldest texts it means young woman". A careful Textual study will show that the Hebrew word hm'l.[;h' can mean both "young woman and Virgin" and not effect our understanding of the Birth of Jesus Christ, in fact, what it shows us is that the Scribes were faithfully preserving the Hebrew Text regardless of Theological pressure.

The Septuagint or LXX was translated from the original Hebrew to Greek sometime between 285-247 B.C. This places the LXX at an earlier date than the Dead Sea Scrolls by about a 100 years. The LXX understood parqe,noj (virgin) in its strict sense, it would seem, that it is indicating the mother of Immanuel was at the time a virgin--a possible interpretation of the word. Matthew, quoting from LXX, takes the passage as a direct prophecy of the Birth of Christ from a Virgin. Such has till recent times been the practically universal interpretation of the passage by Christians. It has been very naturally disputed by the Jews from the time of Justin Martyr downwards, and is said to have been one of the chief reasons for the first Greek Translation of the Old Testament by Aquila.

It is more reasonable to consider that the argument that convinced Joseph was the fact, pointed out to him by the angel, that such an event had already been predicted by Isaiah. There is no instance where it can be proved that hm'l.[;h' designates a young woman who is not a virgin. Matthew writing under divine inspiration directly quotes from the LXX and not the Hebrew. He use case endings that are identical, examine it for yourself:

LXX Isaiah 7:14 ivdou. h` parqe,noj evn gastri. e[xei kai. te,xetai ui`o,n

Matthew 1:23 ivdou. h` parqe,noj evn gastri. e[xei kai. te,xetai ui`o,n

NAS Matthew 1:23 "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND SHALL BEAR A SON

Matthew without doubt had Virgin in his mind when writing his Gospel. Having said that, this author feels that it would be only fair to note that hm'l.[;h' (young woman or Virgin) in Isaiah 7:14 does not carry the notion of unspotted virginity in the strictest sense of the word, neither does it convey the idea of the unmarried state. Isaiah does convey however, the proper Hebrew word hl'WtB. (Virgin) in its stricter sense in Isaiah 62:5:

NAS Isaiah 62:5 For as a young man marries a virgin (hl'WtB), So your sons will marry you; And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So your God will rejoice over you.

It seems that Isaiah is aware of the significance of the Hebrew word that is found in Isaiah 7:14 hm'l.[;h' as using it in its loose sense of thought meaning "young woman or Virgin", as opposed to how he wrote what was in his mind under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 62:5 hl'WtB in the strict senses of the word meaning only "Virgin". This being the case, that would mean that it is possible that the LXX may have incorrectly translated parqe,noj (Virgin in the strict sense) for hm'l.[;h' (young woman or Virgin in the loose sense) or our Lexicographer’s do not fully comprehend the Historical context in which this word was written over 2,500 years ago and the culture with which the Written Word of God was interpreted. One thing is certain, the object in view in seeking to undermine the opinion which would assign the signification of "Virgin" to this word, is clearly to raise a discrepancy between Isaiah 7:14, and Matthew 1:23: nothing which has been stated does, however, it really does give us ground for assigning another meaning. The ancient versions, which gave a different rendering, did so for party purposes, while the LXX, who could have no such motive because Christ had not been born yet, render it "Virgin" in the very passage where it must to their minds have occasioned a difficulty. The absolute authority of the New Testament is, however, quite sufficient to settle the question to a Christian.

Thus no conflict exists between Matthew’s use of parqe,noj (virgin) in his citation of Isaiah 7:14, and Isaiah’s use of hm'l.[;h' (young maiden) in the original prophecy, since Matthew was not claiming a one-to-one correspondence between Isaiah’s words and the fulfillment they found in the Virgin Birth of Christ. Further evidence of this observation, is that while the LXX took hm'l.[;h' as meaning parqe,noj (Virgin) in Isaiah 7:14, the Jews never interpreted the verse as a prediction of a Virgin-Birth, a proof that the Christian faith did not grow out of this passage. Thus Matthew cited Isaiah 7:14 not to provide a proof text for the claim that Jesus was Virgin-Born, but to interpret the meaning of the Virgin Birth as a sign of God’s salvation within the framework of Israel’s history as God’s covenant people.

By Mark McFall


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