[And before you ask, yes, I do intend for each of these blog titles to be just as oxymoronic as “Jews for Jesus”].
So, today, we’re gonna jump into the largest of the shark-infested waters: the claim of JC’s being born of a virgin. [Sidenote: the idea that JC was born of a virgin is NOT the concept of “Immaculate Conception”. “Immaculate Conception” is actually the idea that Mary was born without sin. The claim that JC was born of a virgin is called, fittingly enough, “virgin birth”.]
Anyhoo. a lil history lesson. At the Council of Nicea back 325 AD, HUNDREDS of gospels were candidates in the forming of the New Testament. But Constantine [who by the way was a lifelong pagan] was no idiot. He knew the best way to disseminate this new religion through Rome was to give the masses something really similar to the Olympians they were already used to. And so any gospel that didn’t play up, or even in some cases, completely denied JC having any miraculous divinity, were kicked to the side. And so: virgin birth.
The virgin birth concept is based on and “proven” by Matthew 1:22-23:
“Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name
Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
The “prophet” in said verse is said to be Isaiah, as shown in Isaiah 7:14:
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Seems pretty open and shut, right? Right there in black and white? So whats the problem Jews have with it?
Well the problem Jews have with this verse…is that that’s NOT what the verse actually says. Now, right now you’ve prolly just pulled out your King James Bible and are looking at the verse and thinking I’m crazy, right? Except, you see, the original language of Isaiah is Hebrew. Which most Jews during JC’s time couldn’t read. But they could read Greek. Which, funnily enough, the Old Testament had happened to have been translated into at the time. [And btw, King James is English. Translated from Latin. Translated from Greek. Translated from Hebrew. So, naturally, a real pinnacle of authenticity.]
Anyhoo, what the line ACTUALLY says is this:
“Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman is with child, and will bear a son, and she shall call his name Immanuel.”
And now, to the best of my ability, I will try to convey, solely in English, the nuances and specificity of the Hebrew. I urge everyone to look at the original text–IN THE ORIGINAL LANGUAGE–on their own when they get a chance.
1-Hebrew, especially Biblical Hebrew, is pretty specific. The word for “virgin” is “betulah”. You can find said word and its conjugations [virginal,virginity,etc] in Exodus 22:15-16, Lev 21:3, Deut 22:14-20 and pretty much ANYWHERE in the ENTIRE Old Testament when a virgin is even LOOKED at crosswise. Such as every OTHER time Isaiah talks about virgins [23:4,12, 37:22, 47:1, 62:5].
The word in Isaiah 7:14, however, is “almah”, which just means “young woman”. The same way the male version of the noun, “elem”, means “young man”. The issue is being of baby-making age, not the state of virginity. The “virgin” problem arises once “alma” was translated into Greek as “parthenos”, “parthenos” ALSO meaning young woman in Greek, but with the connotations of virginity. And it all went downhill from there.
What’s that you say?
You remember that Jews have some fast connected to commemorating when 70 of their Rabbis had to translate the Torah into Greek for King Ptolemy? And you’re saying that since the Rabbis themselves used a word that might be construed to mean virgin thereby proves that “almah” can also mean virgin?
Excellent thinking. Except for the fact that only the FIVE BOOKS OF MOSES were translated from Hebrew into Greek by the Rabbis. Or by Jewish scholars AT ALL actually. The rest of the OT was translated, usually poorly, by hacks and self-imagined scholars on Hebrew.
Besides, if “almah” was already understood to mean “virgin”, then why would the OT have to tell us that Rebecca was an “almah” [Gen 24:43] AND a “betulah” [Gen 24:16]? And seeing how the word “betulah” is used 50 times in the OT to mean virgin [9 times in the Five Books, 41 times everywhere else], it’s OBVIOUSLY the word to use when discussing v-cards.
2-If you’ve noticed, the King James reads “A virgin”. The Hebrew reads “THE young woman”. Note the use of the definite article. Isaiah is speaking of a SPECIFIC female known both to himself and his audience [who, btw, is King Ahaz of Judah]. The young woman in question, also just so happens to be Isaiah’s wife, who was with child, which, btw, brings us to…
3-The woman in Isaiah’s prophecy, aside from being present, is ALREADY WITH CHILD. “The young woman is WITH CHILD, and she will bear a son”. The word used–“harah”–exists in the OT as both a verb and a noun. As a verb its used to describe BEING pregnant [as well as other forms of ACTIVELY carrying something you’ve conceived, such as an idea]. As a noun “harah” means a PRESENTLY pregnant woman.
4-The claim that 7:14 refers to JC being born makes absolutely no sense in the context of the rest of the chapter. Here take a look:
“And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Aram, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to war against it; but could not prevail against it.And it was told the house of David, saying: ‘Aram is confederate with Ephraim.’ And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the forest are moved with the wind.” [Is 7:1-2]
Summary: King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah of Israel are attacking King Ahaz of Judah. Ahaz is scared.
“Then said the LORD unto Isaiah: ‘Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shear-jashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, in the highway of the fullers’ field;and say unto him: Keep calm, and be quiet; fear not, neither let thy heart be faint, because of these two tails of smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram, and of the son of Remaliah.Because Aram hath counselled evil against thee, Ephraim also, and the son of Remaliah, saying:Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set up a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeel;thus saith the Lord GOD: It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.For the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people;And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son. If ye will not have faith, surely ye shall not be established.'” [Is 7:3-9]
Summary: Gd says to Isaiah, “Yo, go over to Ahaz with your son and tell the king to chill. Rezin and Pekah aint about ish.”
“And the LORD spoke again unto Ahaz, saying:’Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God: ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.’But Ahaz said: ‘I will not ask, neither will I try the LORD.’And he said:
‘Hear ye now, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to weary men, that ye will weary my God also?” [Is 7:10-13]
Summary: Isaiah’s like “Calm down Ahaz. Gd’s got ur back. Pick a sign that He’s got you, and you’ve got it.” Ahaz says “Nah, I dont wanna bother Him”. Isaiah says “Nigga plz”.
Now what sounds more plausible in this narrative? That Isaiah says “The kid that my wife is carrying RIGHT NOW will be a sign for you that you don’t need to worry about these two kings”…OR…”You don’t need to worry about these two kings because in seven and a half centuries a virgin will give birth to a child”?
5-Why does everyone FORGET that Isaiah KEEPS TALKING about the child born in 7:14 for ANOTHER TWO VERSES?
“Curd and honey shall he eat, when he knoweth to refuse the evil, and choose the good.Yea, before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land whose two kings thou hast a horror of shall be forsaken.” [Is 7:15-16]
Since everyone is apparently of the mind that JC is the child who will be named Immanuel [even tho there is NO record of him being called by that name by his parents anywhere in the New Testament], this raises some huge questions if this verse is to be seen as referring ONLY to JC:
a-Which two kingdoms were abandoned during JC’s lifetime?
b-Where’s the story about JC eating curds and honey?
c-If JC was born w/o sin and was completely sinless in life, there wouldn’t be any reason for him to HAVE to know or learn the difference between refusing evil and choosing good.
d-If you say this was a “double prophecy” or something so that it makes sense in context and STILL refers to the future event of JC’s birth, then who was the FIRST virgin who gave birth to a child? Doesn’t that mean that neither Mary OR JC are anything special then?
6-Note again the original verse: “And SHE shall call his name Immanuel.” Where do we ever see Mary call JC “Immanuel”? That’s the only way for this “prophecy” to actually be “fulfilled”: the virgin who gives birth to this child has to call him Immanuel too. And that doesn’t happen with JC. It doesn’t matter how many OTHER people call or reference him by that name. the verse clearly states the criteria. It has to be MARY who does it. And she never does.
[So, you might ask, who IS the Immanuel child, huh? Cuz I don’t see him anywhere in the Old Testament. Well if you head over to Is 8:3:
“And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bore a son. Then said the LORD unto me: ‘Call his name Maher-shalal-hashbaz.”
The “prophetess” being the same as the “young woman” from 7:14, Isaiah’s wife. What’s that you say? THIS kid isnt called Immanuel either? Well, we dont know that. We’re only told what his FATHER called him: Maher-shalal-hashbaz. We’re never told what his MOM called him. Although it was not uncommon practice for fathers and mothers to call their kids by different names. Take a look at Jacob and Rebecca, for instance:
“And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing–for she died–that she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.” [Gen 35:18].
Well then how do we know that Maher is Immanuel? Answer: Because just like Ahaz’s enemies being defeated before Immanuel is old enough to know between good and evil, Maher’s deal is…
“For before the child shall have knowledge to cry: My father, and: My mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be carried away before the king of Assyria.'” [Is 8:4].
Damascus and Samaria,by the way, being the kingdoms of Aram and Israel, ruled by those two kings Rezin and Pekah.]
And we’re done here. Until tomorrow.