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The special jewish perspective of matthew. the first nativity. part ii. chapter 2.


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A historical and exegetical analysis of Matthew 1:18-25 focusing on the questions of Jesus' earthly mother and adopted father, the problems of the Messiah's geneaology, etc. Also the knotty question …

A historical and exegetical analysis of Matthew 1:18-25 focusing on the questions of Jesus' earthly mother and adopted father, the problems of the Messiah's geneaology, etc. Also the knotty question of the validity of St. Matthew's citation of the Immanuel prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 is defended.

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  • 1. 50II. The Special Jewish Perspective of Matthew : Matthew 1:18-25. Matthew and Luke tell us that Joseph was betrothed to Mary when sheconceived Jesus. By the custom of those days a betrothal was a significantlymore sacred bond than an engagement is today. A couple might be betrothedfrom childhood, and this bond was legally as strong as marriage except thatthey lived apart and had no conjugal relations, and the woman’s family wasstill responsible for her care and support. Marriage was the final seal upon thebond, after which the couple lived together and the husband had fullresponsibility for his wife. If a betrothal were to be dissolved, however, theprocedure was equivalent to a formal legal divorce. When Mary was foundpregnant, she was betrothed but not married to Joseph. In the eyes of thecommunity, if Joseph were the father, they had both commited a serious sinand an unforgivable social and moral transgression. At best they would live inshame and lose all honor in the community. It would be better for them toleave and find a home elsewhere. This kind of uprooting would have beenconsidered nothing less than disastrous in a culture that placed such a highvalue on one’s home community. On the other hand, if Joseph were not thefather, by law he had the right to have Mary either stoned or cast out of thecommunity. Such casting out of a young unwed mother would have beentantamount to a death sentence. She probably would not have been able tosurvive on her own, and few people would have helped a woman in disgrace.In either case, Joseph’s honor in the community was severly tarnished. Hewould have been scorned as an immoral man, or laughed at as a cuckcold. A sign of his great compassion was his unwillingness to have Maryeither executed or banished, which a more vengeful man would certainly havedone. Instead, he arranged to divorce her formally, after which she could stilllive with her family, albeit in shame for the rest of her life. After the dream, inwhich the angel confirmed what Mary undoubtably had told him, that thechild was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Joseph accepted her in spite of whatthis would do to his reputation in the community. Small towns and theirgossips are not forgiving, and Joseph and Mary would have to live with thewhispering for the rest of their lives. This may have been a factor in the refusalof the people of Nazareth to believe Jesus’ teachings. . . .1
  • 2. 51 One fact deserves to be borne constantly in mind in the wholediscussion—the fact, namely, that Jewish Christianity was not confined to theschismatic Jewish Christians included in lists of heresies. It has been shownabove that even of the heretical Jewish Christians mentioned by Origen andothers some accepted the virgin birth. But this whole discussion has left out ofaccount the great numbers of Jewish Christians who in all probability simplybecame merged in the Catholic Church. And everything points to thehypothesis that these, and not the schismatics of whatever opinion, were inpossession of the most primitive historical tradition with regard the life ofJesus. The results of the foregoing investigation of the second-centurytestimony to the virgin birth may be summed up in two propositions:1. A firm and well-formulated belief in the virgin birth extends back to the early years of the second century.2. The denials of the virgin birth which appear in that century were based upon philosophical or dogmatic prepossession, much more probably than upon genuine historical tradition.2
  • 3. 52 Jesus’ story is unique, and thus its beginning had to be unique. This is not aphilosophical principle or theological abstraction, but a requirement of real history. If theaffirmation of John 1:14 is to be taken as a sane and normal statement about God’s entrance intoour world, then we have to acknowledge that Jesus the Messiah’s coming into Judea in era of thePax Romana was and is an absolutely incredible event. But its setting in the life of the Jewishpeople and the kernel events in Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Egypt are real and graphicallyillustratable space and time happenings. These matters are not spiritualized allegories ormystical feelings in the minds of gullible ancient people; these are empirical and plain facts inbright sunlight of Judea and things that transpired in the dark cool nights in Galilee and in thetiny hamlet six miles southeast of Jerusalem ca. 6 – 5 B.C. A few years ago, F.F. Bruce stated thiscase with amazing panache: . . . . But the argument [e.g., that history does not matter – JR] can be applied to the New Testament only if we ignore the real essence of Christianity. For the Christian gospel is not primarily a code of ethics or a metaphysical system; it is first and foremost good news, and as such it was proclaimed by its earliest preachers. True, they called Christianity ‘The Way’ and ‘The Life’; but Christianity as a way of life depends upon the acceptance of Christianity as good news. And this good news is intimately bound up with the historical order, for it tells how for the world’s redemption God entered into history, the eternal came into time, the kingdom of heaven invaded the realm of earth, in the great events of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. The first recorded words of our Lord’s recorded words of our Lord’s public preaching in Galilee are: ‘ The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has drawn near; repent and believe the good news. ’3 That Christianity has its roots in history is emphasized in the Church’s earliest creeds, which fix the supreme revelation of God at a particular point in time, when ‘ Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord . . . suffered under Pontius Pilate ’. This historical ‘once-for-all-ness’ of Christianity, which distinguishes it from those religious and philosophical systems which are not specifically related to any particular time, makes the reliability of the writings which purport to record this revelation a question of first-rate importance.4 A. The Engaged Couple and Jewish Customs : Mary & Joseph We begin with the human situation of Joseph and Mary in little town of Nazareth inGalilee. Not unlike many American small towns two millennia later, it was home to red-blooded Jews, who were intensely nationalistic and given to traditional patterns of life which
  • 4. 53were instinctive and grounded in the experience of many centuries of the training of the OldTestament. Alfred Edersheim states that the people there were “ also with the petty jealousiesof such places, and with all the ceremonialism and punctilious self-assertion of Orientals. Thecast of Judaism in Nazareth would, of course, be the same as in Galilee generally.” 5 However,the people of Nazareth would not necessarily follow the rabbinic observances of the Judeansand there was a greater simplicity and freedom from certain practices thought necessary inmore sophisticated urban settings like Jerusalem. Yet, much like the country life of Americansmall towns today in the Midwest or the South, ancient Galileans had a purer home life andmarried relationships were conducted with customary family privacy and moral propriety.There was both less regard for formality and also desire to keep the wedding celebration chasteand simple; thus the institutions of the groomsmen (or “friends of the bridegroom”, John 3:29)with its tendency toward coarse male behavior, was highly discouraged. Edersheim adds :“The bride was chosen, not as in Judea, where money was too often the motive, but as inJerusalem, with chief regard to ‘a fair degree;’ and the widows were (as in Jerusalem) moretenderly cared for, as we gather from the fact, that they had a life-right of residence in theirhusband’s house. ”6 The learned Dr. Edersheim, himself a Christian Jew, explains further aboutthe betrothal process and the unique situation of Mary and Joseph : Such a home was that to which Joseph was about to bring the maiden, to whom he had been betrothed. Whatever view may be taken of the geneaologies in the Gospels according to St. Matthew and St. Luke – whether they be regarded as those of Joseph and of Mary, or, which seems the more likely, as those of Joseph only, marking his natural and his legal descent from David, or vice versa – there can be no question, that both Joseph and Mary were of the royal lineage of David. Most probably, the two were nearly related, while Mary could also claim kinship with the Priesthood, being no doubt on her mother’s side, a ‘blood – relative’ of Elisabeth, the Priest-wife of Zacharias (Luke 1:36). Even this seems to imply, that Mary’s family must shortly before have held higher rank, for only with such did custom sanction any alliance on the part of Priests. But at the time of their betrothal, alike Joseph and Mary were extremely poor, as appears – not indeed from his being a carpenter, since a trade was regarded as almost a religious duty – but from the offering at the presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:24). Accordingly, their betrothal must have been the simplest, and the dowry settled the smallest possible. Whichever of the two modes of betrothal may have been adopted: in the presence of witnesses – either by solemn word of mouth, in due prescribed formality, with the added pledge of a piece of money, however small, or of money’s worth for use; or else by writing (the so-called Shitre Erusin) – there would be no sumptous feast to follow; and the
  • 5. 54 ceremony would conclude with some such benediction as that afterwards in use: ‘ Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the World, Who hath sanctified us by His Commandments, and enjoined us about incest, and forbidden the betrothed, but allowed us those wedded by Chuppah (the marriage–baldachino) and betrothal. Blessed are Thou, Who sanctifiest Israel by Chuppah and betrothal’ – the whole being perhaps concluded by a benediction over the statutory cup of wine, which was tasted in turn by the betrothed. From that moment Mary was the betrothed wife of Joseph; their relationship as sacred, as if they had already been wedded. Any breach of it would be treated as adultery; nor could the band be dissolved except, as after marriage, by regular divorce. Yet months might intervence between the betrothal and marriage.7 We must not think of the ancient Jewish betrothal in terms of our modern dating andengagement practices. Both engagement and marriage in the ancient world of the Bible hadmore seriousness and permanence. And the customs and laws of Israel protected the family asthe primary unit of society as marriage and children were not just a matter of personalconvenience, but were a matter of tribal and national survival. Most importantly, for thebelieving Jew, God had established this institution in the very beginning of history andprotected it with His holy commandments. The main word for “betroth” (i.e., the verb) and“betrothed” in the Old Testament is used only about a eleven times (there is another OldTestament word, but it is only used in marital sense 2 or 3 times). The Hebrew wordused is , ‘aras and it is found in Exodus 22:16; Deuteronomy 22:23,25,27,28; 28:30; 2Samuel 3:14 and Hosea 2:19 (2X) and 2:20.8 When we get to the Greek New Testament,the word for “espousal” or “betrothal” is νηστεύω. It is only used three times in the NewTestament: Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:27, and 2:5. One other word used in the original Greek of theNew Testament for “to espouse” or “to betroth” is ἁρ όζω is found in 2 Corinthians 11:2. Thisis a special word and it definitely has a Hebrew and Old Testament background.9 Now one should consider the linguistic facts in the context of the cultural and socialexpectations of that day. The Holman Bible Dictionary observes: Old Testament: The biblical terms, betrothal and espousal, are almost synonymous with marriage, and as binding. Betrothal and marriage comprised a moral and spiritual principle for the home and society. The penalty under the law of Moses for disrupting this principle by adultery, rape, fornication, or incest was death by stoning (Deut. 22:23-
  • 6. 55 30). Later under some circumstances the Jewish legal system allowed divorce. The forgiving love and grace of God for his adulterous people is demonstrated by Hosea buying back his adulterous wife and restoring her to his home and protection (Hos. 2:19- 20). This means that forgiveness takes precedence over stoning or divorce. New Testament: Mary and Joseph were betrothed but did not live together until their wedding. When Mary came to be with child during betrothal, Joseph decided to quietly divorce her. In a dream from God, the apparent unfaithfulness of Mary was explained to Joseph as a miracle of the Holy Spirit. This miracle gave emphasis to the unique human and divine nature of Jesus Christ. Paul used the betrothal concept to explain the ideal relationship that exists between the church as a chaste virgin being presented to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2).10 Unlike our modern and post-modern social culture with its loose view of marriage as alegal contract to justify sexual cohabitation and as a means to allow “domestic partners” tocollect government or medical benefits, ancient Judaism saw the marriage relationship in sacredand permanent terms. Indeed, as the majority of serious scholars acknowledge, the heart of theHebrew concept of marriage was the notion of a holy covenant. Thus, it was not only a legallybinding agreement, it was a spiritual pledge with both physical and social obligations (Cf.Proverbs 2:17). Since Yahweh himself served as a witness to the marriage covenant (andoriginated it, Genesis 2:24-25), He promised blessing on its faithful preservation but attachedhatefulness to its betrayal (Malachi 2:14-16). Since the LORD and His Spirit intimately enter intothis sacred pledge, this kind of union between man and woman is not a mere social conveniencebut a spiritual bond created in the name of God. Jesus later taught that this meant that amarried couple “ [they] are not longer two, but one ”(Matthew 19:6). Thus, according toScripture, marriage has three Divine purposes: (1) true and godly companionship (Genesis 2:18;Proverbs 18:22), (2) the production and nurturing of godly offspring (Malachi 2:15; I Corinthians7:14), (3) the fulfillment of God’s calling upon an individual man or woman’s life as a deputy ofGod’s creation (Genesis 1:28). Unlike the narcisstically selfish and physically trivialized view ofsex in modern American culture, the Biblical perspective on sex is relational and sociallysanctifying. Marriage and divorce in ancient Israel was guided by these principles. The NIVArchaeological Study Bible has an excellent summary of these things:
  • 7. 56 It was customary in ancient Israel for parents to arrange a marriage (Ge 24:47-53; 38:6; I Sa 18:17) although marrying for love was not uncommon (Jdg 14:2). Arranged marriages highlight the nature of the marriage covenant as a commitment intended to outlast youthful infatuation. The declaration at the first marriage “ This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh ” (Ge 2:23), is a kinship formula (Ge 29:14; 2 Sa 5:1; 19:12-13). Marriage binds husband and wife together into an entity greater than either partner as an individual and it does so in order to assure continuity of the family lineage. Marriage within the kinship group was encouraged so as not to alienate family land holdings (Ge 24:4; Nu 36:6-9), and in the event that a woman’s husand died and left her childless the law provided for the husband’s brother to act as a levirate in order to raise up offspring for the deceased (Ge 38:8; Dt. 25:5-6). An engagement period preceded the wedding celebration and the consummation of the marriage union. The pledge of engagement was regarded as being as binding as the marriage itself and a betrothed woman was considered legally married (Dt 22:23-29). The engagement was concluded with a payment of a bride-price to a woman’s faither (Ge 29:18; Jdg 1:12). This may be understood as a compensation given to the family for the loss of their daughter. The father enjoyed its usage temporarily, but the money reverted to the daughter at the father’s death or in the event she were widowed. In addition gifts were given to the bride and her family at the acceptance of the marriage proposal (Ge 24:53). Thus marriage and its attendment economic investment brought the bride and groom’s families into legal relationship with one another (Ge 31:50). Israelite law included a provision for divorce – initiated by the husband only. Marriages were dissolved contractually with a certificate of divorce (Deut 24:1). This divorce document most likely recorded a formula of repudiation declared orally before witnesses: “ She is not my wife, and I am not her husband (Hos 2:2). The declaration might have been accompanied by a sign the act of removing a woman’s outer garment as an annulment of the promise made at the time of the wedding to protect and provide for her (Ru 3:9; Eze 16:8 37; Hos 2:3, 9). A man was not permitted to divorce his wife if he had forcefully violated here while she was yet unbetrothed (Dt. 22:28-29) or if he had falsely accused her of nonvirginal status at the time they had wed (Dt. 22:13 – 19).11 Thus, taking Matthew 1:18 as our starting point as our historical and literary point ofdeparture, we are at once confronted with the absolute distinctiveness of Jesus’ human origin.It is perfectly clear that there were to be no sexual relations during a Jewish betrothal period.Furthermore v. 20 plainly states that while Joseph and Mary were legally covenanted to eachother, they had not yet been living together in the same house as husband and wife. Once againthis precisely accords with Deuteronomy 22:24 where a betrothed woman is called a man’s wifeeven though the preceding verse calls such a woman “ a virgin pledged to be married .” ForTorah-observant Jews sexual unfaithfulness during this betrothal period would have beennothing less than adultery which could be punishable by death through stoning (Cf. Leviticus20:10; Deuteronomy 22:23-24). From the Nativity pericope (vv. 19-20) we see Joseph, a godly and
  • 8. 57compassionate groom, planned to have a private divorce. This would allow him to maintain hispersonal righteousness while still saving young Mary from certain public disgrace and possibledeath. From the standpoint of human reason and custom, it was a weak win-win response to anotherwise lose-lose situation. B. Matthew’s Geneaology of Christ and Special Emphases The first distinctive or special emphasis of Matthew’s Nativity account is his uniquegeneaology in the first seventeen verses of his opening chapter. Matthew deliberately andformally links the life of Jesus to the life of King David and of the prime Hebrew patriarchAbraham (v.1). Every devout Jew who faithfully read the Hebrew Bible knew that God hadpromised Abraham a “seed” to bless the nations and that He further specified that from theline of David the Messiah (“the Anointed One”) would come. Accordingly, he concludes inverse 17: “ So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from Daviduntil the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon untilthe Christ are fourteen generations” (NKJV). The reader will notice please, that Matthewdesires unequivocally to identify Jesus, the son of Mary and the legal (adopted son) of Joseph,(v.16) with “the Christ.” Yet, there is a subtle change in the pattern when Matthew reaches the line describingJoseph. Unlike all the previous individuals in Jesus’ geneaology Joseph is not listed as “thefather of” anybody; rather, he is called “ the husband of Mary.” From Matthew’s narrativewhich immediately follows (as with Luke’s account later), we are told explicitly that Jesus wasborn from Mary, but not from Joseph. This is why Joseph, the desperate and perplexedbridegroom portrayed in the later verses, having discovered his betrothed was pregnant,wanted to act quickly and discretely to deal with an incredible personal crisis. But God directlyintervened and save the day, there came to Joseph a supernatural revelation that Mary’spregnancy was not because of another man. Her conception and this child was thesupernatural and prophecied action of God the Holy Spirit (1:20-21). This son therefore wouldbe of the Messianic promise, He would be Immanuel (= “ God with us”), the literal fulfilment
  • 9. 58of the prophet Isaiah’s declaration in Isaiah 7:14 (1:23). He would save His people from theirsins – He would be the Savior of Israel (1:21-22), Jesus (or Yeshua) whose name actually means“ Yahweh is salvation.” Joseph’s dilemma turned into unbelievable deliverance for his ownfamily and his nation. Matthew, the ever meticulous scribe, dutifully notes that Joseph had nosexual relations with Mary until after the promised child was born in Bethlehem (v. 25). Then,immediately in the next phase of the narrative (2:1-12), Matthew depicts the aftermath of Jesus’nativity in Bethlehem when the mysterious Magi (Gk. magoi) arrived in the city of Davidlooking for the King of the Jews. Matthew notes how these sages of the East were led there by aspecial Star (astronomical phenomena ?) and that they had made their immense journey tohonor and worship this child who was born a God-ordained king.12 Every person who carefully studies the nativity narratives in Matthew and Luke’srespective Gospels will note that there is a significant divergence of the list of names in the twogeneaologies. Professor Craig Blomberg (Denver Seminary) makes the important point in hiscommentary that there are two contemporary views about these distinctive geneaologies: Two major proposals concern the divergence of names in the two geneaologies: (1) Luke presents Mary’s geneaology, while Matthew relates Joseph’s ; (2) Luke presents Mary’s geneaology, while Matthew gives his legal ancestory by which he was the legitimate successor to the throne of David. Knowing which of these solutions is more likely probably is impossible unless new evidence turns up.13 While certainly agreeing with many scholars that Jewish Matthew had a concern forestablishing the geneaological purity of Jesus’ ancestory, this writer is not so keen on the theorythat such motivation led Matthew to a strained midrashic exegesis of the Bible’s texts to proveit.14 Professor Craig A. Evans in a popular layman’s commentary on the Synoptic Gospelsquestions the assumption behind this kind of reasoning, i.e., that there was not unanimousJewish opinion in the early Christian period that the Messiah would stem from David. Whilethis researcher cannot comment on whether there was indeed unanimous Jewish opinion aboutthe Messiah’s Jewish ancestory in the first two centuries A.D., he is absolutely certain that the
  • 10. 59New Testament writers reflected the ancient teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures that the Messiahwould be of the seed of David. Professor Evans wisely comments: Although the Matthean and Lukan geneaologies differ in significant ways, they agree that Jesus was the descendent of King David. Some scholars dispute this tradition, but there is important evidence in its support. Paul accepted it, even though it seems to have been of little importance to him (Rom. 1:3). There is not a hint that the claim of Davidic descent was controversial. As a former opponent of the early Church, one would think Paul would have known of such controversy, had there been any. There is also a tradition that the grandsons of Jesus’ brother were questioned regarding their Davidic descent (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3:20; cf. Africanus, Letter to the Aristides; b. Sanh. 43a: “ with Yeshu [i.e., Jesus] it was different, for he was related to royalty [lit. to the kingdom]”). 15 Thus it appears to this writer that while there may have been some philosophicalspeculation about the Messiah’s proper credentials among non-believing Jews, Matthew’spurpose was not speculative or exegetical (in the symbolic sense) but strictly historical andfactual. Matthew-Levi, a former Roman tax-collector and public scribe (somewhat akin to amodern city or county commisioner), desired, we believe, to refute the latter Jewish suspicion ofillegitimacy surrounding Mary with the example on ancient non-Jewish heroines sanctionedthrough Divine blessing and election. The entire context of the Virgin conception (vv. 18-25)makes it clear that Mary’s innocence is due to God’s miraculous action. One must either acceptit whole-cloth or entirely doubt it. The specific grammar of the text in v. 16 however, makes itcertain that the author believed firmly that Joseph was not the human father of Jesus as therelative pronoun “whom” (Gk., ἧς ) here is feminine and therefore can only refer to Mary as thehuman parent of the Christ child.16 Professor Ethelert Stauffer, after his painstaking review ofthe remote evidence in The Gospel of John (John 2, 3), the paradoxical negative evidence of Mark6:3,4 and even the remoter Islamic (Koranic) tradition about Jesus (Sura 3.40; 19:16ff. ),bombastically asserts: To sum up: Jesus was the son of Mary, not of Joseph. That is the historical fact, recognized alike by Christians and Jews friends and adversaries. This fact is signifi– cant and ambiguous like all the facts in the history of Jesus. The Christian believed him to begotten by act of the Divine Creator. The Jews of antiquity spoke of Mary as an adultress. Out of this struggle between interpretation and counter–interpreta– tion – which, according to Mark 6,3 and Matthew 11,19, had already begun in the
  • 11. 60 lifetime of Jesus–the account of the ancestory of Jesus in the major Gospels emerged. They lay stress on Joseph’s having bowed himself to the miracle of God. He neither denounced nor abandoned Mary, but rather took her into his house as his lawful wife and legitimized the son of Mary by personally naming him. By this act Jesus was admitted in a formal, legal sense to the house of David. 17 As the author endeavored to throughly review the facts about the two Gospelgeneaologies, he came across a fresh perspective written by a contemporary well-informedJewish-Christian (i.e. Messianic Jew), Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum who has re-explored thisquestion. As this author attempted to explain how Matthew intended to defend the rightfulclaim of Yeshua ben Joseph to the throne of David, he emphasized the diverse perspectives ofMatthew and Luke. First, let us hear his introductory comments: Of the four Gospels, only two give us a genealogy, the same two that deal with the birth and early life of Jesus. Both Mark and John do not deal with the birth of Yeshua or His early life. Matthew and Luke do record those events, so it is natural that only these two would bother recording a genealogy. While both Matthew and Luke give us the story of the birth of Jesus, they tell the story from two different perspectives; Matthew tells the story from Josephs perspective, while Luke tells the story from Marys perspective. In Matthew, we are told what Joseph is thinking, what is going on in his mind; but we are told nothing of what Mary is thinking. We read of how angels appeared to Joseph, but there is no record of angels appearing to Mary. On the other hand, when we go to Lukes gospel, we see this same story told from Marys perspective. In the Gospel of Luke, it is Mary who plays the active role while Joseph plays the passive role. We find the angels appearing to Mary, but no angels appearing to Joseph. We are told several times what goes on in the mind of Mary but we are never told anything about what Joseph is thinking. From this context, when we have these two genealogies and these two Gospels only, it should be very evident that since Matthew tells the story from Josephs perspective, we have the genealogy of Joseph; whereas when Luke tells the story from Marys perspective, we have the genealogy of Mary instead.18 Yet, as Dr. Fruchtenbaum goes on to examine in detail the need for two distinctivegeneaologies, he differs in an important respect from the typical evangelical account. Thepopular view is that while Matthew gives us the “royal line” of Jesus, Luke provides the “real” orbiological ancestory of the same. Accordingly, he observes that some teachers holding thatJoseph is the heir-apparent to the throne of David reason that since Jesus is the adopted son ofJoseph, he has a rightful legal claim to David’s throne. Fruchtenbaum avers, however“Therefore, these teachers conclude that: through Mary, He was a member of the House of
  • 12. 61David, but He claims the right to sit on Davids throne through Joseph because He was the heir-apparent. However, we will show in this study that, actually, the exact opposite is true. ”19 Howis this interpretation possible? Our author offers this sagacious argument: Matthew breaks with Jewish tradition in two ways: he skips names, and he mentions names of women. Matthew mentions four different women in his genealogy: Tamar, the wife of Judah; Rahab; Ruth and Bathsheba. Why does he mention these four when there are so many other prominent Jewish women whom he could have mentioned in the genealogy of Yeshua? One thing that the four women had in common was that they were all Gentile. What Matthew was doing by naming these four women and no others is to point out that one of the purposes of the coming of Yeshua was not only to save the lost sheep of the House of Israel, but also that Gentiles would benefit from His coming. Three of these women were guilty of specific sexual sins: one was guilty of adultery; one was guilty of prostitution; and one was guilty of incest. Again, Matthew begins hinting at a point he makes quite clear later; that the purpose of the coming of the Messiah was to save sinners. While Matthew breaks with Jewish tradition in these two ways, Luke, however, follows strict Jewish law, procedure and custom; he does not skip names, and he does not mention any womens names. 20 On the other hand, while agreeing with the essential logic of Dr. Fruchtenbaum’sanalysis of Matthew’s geneaology, it is possible to see First Gospel writer’s greater thrust asactually setting for the the royal succession coming from David and culminating in Jesus. Thereare at least three sets of facts in favor of this understanding: (1) His geneaology follows theactual line of Jewish kings; (2) Since Matthew’s Gospel narrative is distinctively that of theGospel of the Kingdom, his reports of Jesus’ ministry emphasize Jesus’ ultimate Messianicintentions which would fulfill the hope of the Hebrew Scriptures (Matthew 4:17; 5:17-19, etc.).Indeed, in the latter part of Matthew’s record Jesus’ Transfiguration underscores “ Jesus comingin His Kingdom ”(16:28). (3) Finally, Matthew’s genealogy is nuanced in a special way: he linksthe names in his geneaology with the term “begat.” The English idea of this word would seemto exclude any shifts in the actual blood line yet the Greek term gennao (Gk., ) denotesnot merely biological conception but also frequently means “cause to bring forth” or“produce.” God arranges kingdoms, marriages, and births !21 Yet, as has already been painfullyobserved, Matthew and Luke’s geneologies radically differ (which is acknowledged in Dr.Fruchtenbaum’s analysis). Dr. Edward Rickard argues that the succession did pass into Joseph’s
  • 13. 62line at the time of Salathiel (Sheatiel) and Zerubbabel (comparing Luke 3:27 and Matthew 1:12),yet passed out of it again for several centuries. He suggests that if Matthan in Matthew’s list(v.15) is the same as Matthat in Luke’s (v. 24), the succession returned to Joseph’s blood lineonly a generation or two before Jesus was born (this part, of course, disagreeing with Dr.Fruchtenbaum’s argument).22 And because this point is so crucial to this study we shall quoteDr. Rickard in extensio: Second argument: The two genealogies of Jesus seem to contradict each other. Reply: The following are the three most serious discrepancies. 1. The two lines converge in the names Salathiel and Zorobabel, but diverge in the name of Salathiels predecessor (Matt. 1:12-13; Luke 3:27). Matthew calls him Jechonias (Jeconiah). Luke calls him Neri. The Old Testament states that Salathiel (that is, Shealtiel) was the son of Jeconiah. 15 And the sons of Josiah were Johanan the first-born, and the second was Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum. 16 And the sons of Jehoiakim were Jeconiah his son, Zedekiah his son. 17 And the sons of Jeconiah, the prisoner, were Shealtiel his son, 18 and Malchiram, Pedaiah, Shenazar, Jekamiah, Hoshama, and Nedabiah. 19 And the sons of Pedaiah were Zerubbabel and Shimei. And the sons of Zerubbabel were Meshullam and Hananiah, and Shelomith was their sister; 20 And Hashubah, Ohel, Berechiah, Hasadiah, and Jushab-hesed, five. 1 Chronicles 3:15-20 Shealtiels place at the head of Jeconiahs sons clearly indicates that he was the principal heir—indeed, that he was the legitimate successor to the throne (v. 17). The expression "his son" after Shealtiels name does not necessarily signify physical descent, however. The double occurrence of Zedekiahs name (vv. 15-16) shows that the expression can designate merely an appointed heir. Although Zedekiah is called Jehoiakims son (v. 16), he was not the natural son of Jehoiakim. He was actually Jehoiakims brother (v. 15; 2 Kings 24:17). Thus, the meaning of the record is that Jehoiakim had two successors with the legal status of sons. The first was his natural son Jeconiah. The second was Zedekiah, whom Nebuchadnezzar placed on the throne in Jeconiahs place. In conformity with the official genealogy stated here, the chronicler elsewhere identifies Zedekiah as Jeconiahs brother (2 Chron. 36:10). After listing the sons of Jehoiakim, the record goes on to indicate that after Zedekiah was removed from the throne, the throne rights reverted to Jeconiah, who was still alive, a prisoner in Babylon (v. 17). The right of succession then passed to Shealtiel, who, like Zedekiah, need not have been Jeconiahs natural son. Indeed, he was the son of Neri (Luke 3:27). The circumstances leading Jeconiah or his Babylonian overlords to bestow kingly honors on Shealtiel cannot now be imagined. Yet a break in the royal succession had been predicted by Jeremiah.
  • 14. 63 28 Is this man Coniah [Jeconiah] a despised broken idol? is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not? 29 O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord. 30 Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah. Jeremiah 22:28-30 Jeremiah had declared that no physical descendant of Jeconiah would ever sit on the throne of David. If his prophecy was true, and if Jesus was the Christ who would sit on the throne of David forever, Jeconiah obviously could not have been an ancestor of Jesus. We have already shown why the inclusion of Jeconiahs name in Matthews genealogy (Matt. 1:12-13) offers no great difficulty. Matthew gives a roster of kings and legitimate pretenders, not a roster of ancestors. Salathiel, the next person after Jeconiah in Matthews list, was an ancestor of Jesus, but not a descendant of Jeconiah. He was, in fact, the son of Neri. Jesus was descended from David through Nathan and Neri rather than through Solomon and Jeconiah. The curse on Jeconiah did not touch the blood lineage of Jesus.2. Both genealogies state that Zorobabel (Zerubbabel) was the son of Salathiel (Matt. 1:12; Luke 3:27). But the Old Testament chronicler identifies Zerubbabel as the son of Pedaiah (1 Chron. 3:19). Though present knowledge does not permit an easy solution, the discrepancy does not undermine our confidence in the two genealogies of Jesus, since, in their assertion that He descended from Salathiel (Shealtiel), they agree with each other and with several Old Testament texts (Ezra 3:8; 5:2; Neh. 12:1; Hag. 1:1). If we grant that Luke states the blood line of Christ, we must conclude that Salathiel was indeed Zorobabels father or grandfather. Pedaiah and the others listed in 1 Chronicles 3:18 may be the sons of Shealtiel rather than Jeconiah.3. After Zorobabel, the two Gospel genealogies proceed along different lines. Matthew notices the descent through Abiud (Matt. 1:13), whereas Luke focuses on the heirs of Rhesa (Luke 3:27). The difficulty is that neither name appears as a son of Zerubbabel in the chroniclers official genealogy (1 Chron. 3:17-20). Nevertheless, it is likely that Rhesa was another name of Zerubbabels principal son, Hananiah. Many Jewish captives assumed two names, one Hebrew, one in the language of their captors. Whereas Hananiah is a Hebrew name, Rhesa is the Persian word for "prince," a most suitable title for a man who stood in the succession of Jewish kings (12). Abiuds absence from the chroniclers genealogy may mean only that Matthew skipped one or more generations between Zorobabel and Abiud. The many gaps in his list of kings—between Joram (Jehoram) and Ozias (Uzziah), for example, he omits Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah (Matt. 1:8)—demonstrate that he did not intend to furnish a complete genealogy.23 The reader may find the following chart helpful in understanding the wonderfulprovidential manner of God acting in history to both to judge (i.e., the Divine curse on Jeconiah’simmediate bloodline) and redeem (i.e., His arrangement of Jeconiah’s adoption of Sheatiel, whowas actually the son of Neri in Babylon and then Zerubbabel’s own adoption by Pedaiah, whowas actually the son of Neri in the untained bloodline of Nathan, son of David). And if God’s
  • 15. 64removal of the “curse” on three generations is not enough, He even brings about one moregeneration of removal by having Joseph to be legally adopted by Mary’s father Heli near thetime of their engagement. Either with Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s simple explanation or the moreintricate exposition of Dr. Rickard, Arthur Custance, et al., no curse falls upon blessed head ofJesus, the son of Mary and the Son of God. And, indeed, like his illustrious ancester Zerubbabel,He is prophetically marked out and directly appointed by the LORD God in His person andoffice. There are no higher credentials. 24
  • 16. 65 C. Angelic Messengers and Troubling Dreams Now, let us turn to the Gospel text in question and we shall make our observationsdirectly from the original Greek text: τοῦ δὲ Ἰη οῦ Χριστοῦ ἡ γένεσις οὕτως ἦν μνηστευθείσης τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ Μαρίας τῷ Ἰωσήφ πρὶν ἢ συνελθεῖν αὐτοὺς εὑρέθη ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχουσα ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου. Ἰωσὴφ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ αὐτῆς δίκαιος ὢν καὶ μὴ θέλων αὐτὴν δειγματίσαι ἐβουλήθη λάθρᾳ ἀπολῦσαι αὐτήν. ταῦτα δὲ αὐτοῦ ἐνθυμηθέντος ἰδοὺ ἄγγελος κυρίου κατ’ ὄναρ ἐφάνη αὐτῷ λέγων Ἰωσὴφ υἱὸς Δαυίδ μὴ φοβηθῇς παραλαβεῖν Μαρίαν τὴν γυναῖκά σου τὸ γὰρ ἐν αὐτῇ γεννηθὲν ἐκ πνεύματός ἐστιν ἁγίου. τέξεται δὲ υἱὸν καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν αὐτὸς γὰρ σώσει τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν. τοῦτο δὲ ὅλον γέγονεν ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ κυρίου διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος, ἰδοὺ ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει καὶ τέξεται υἱόν καὶ καλέσουσιν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἐμμανουήλ ὅ ἐστιν μεθερ- μηνευόμενον μεθ’ ἡμῶν ὁ θεός. ἐγερθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰωσὴφ ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕπνου ἐποίησεν ὡς προσέταξεν αὐτῷ ὁ ἄγγελος κυρίου καὶ παρέλαβεν τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ. καὶ οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν αὐτὴν ἕως οὗ ἔτεκεν υἱόν καὶ ἐκάλε- σεν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν. (Matthew 1:18-25, Greek punctuation slightly modified, JDR) Professor R.T. France, one of the best contemporary commentators on Matthew’sGospel, offers some excellent initial comments on these verses. He begins as follows: These verses do not relate to the birth of Jesus, but explain his origin (the virgin conception) and his name in relation to a specific Old Testament prophecy. They concentrate entirely on the experiences of Joseph rather than those of Mary (as do also 2:13-23). Even the miraculous conception of Jesus is related only as its discovery affected Joseph. This remarkable concentration, compared with the complete silence on Joseph elsewhere, may indicate that Matthew’s infancy material (except for 2:1-12, where Joseph is noticeably absent from v. 11) derives from special traditions originating with Joseph (whereas Luke’s very different account is clearly dependent on Mary’s reminiscences). It may also be the result of Matthew’s concern to establish Jesus’ legal lineage through Joseph, i.e., to explain how the preceding geneaology applies to Jesus the son of Mary.25 The present writer enjoys this vintage scholar’s commentary because he does not flinchin presenting the Biblical claims of the Virgin Birth. He then continues with exceptional clarityon this point:
  • 17. 66 That Jesus was conceived by a virgin mother without the agency of Joseph is clearly stated throughout this section, and is the basis for the introduction of the question in vv. 22-23. It is not so much argued or even described, but assumed as a known fact. There may be an element of apologetic in Matthew’s stress on Joseph’s surprise, his abstentation from intercourse, the angel’s explanation of Jesus’ divine orgin, and the scriptural grounds for a virgin birth, due perhaps to a early form of the later Jewish charge that Jesus’ birth was illegitimate (see Brown, pp. 534–542). But the account reads primarily as if designed for a Christian readership, who wanted to know more precisely how Mary’s marriage to Joseph related to the miraculous conception of Jesus, and who would find the same delight that Matthew himself found in tracing in this the detailed fulfilment of prophecy.26 Now to the particular matter of Joseph’s troubling dreams and the special mission ofGabriel, the archangelic messenger. This is the situation that precedes Joseph’s coming tounderstand that Mary’s virginal conception was the work of the Holy Spirit. At first his mentalstate and his reaction is that of any man, of any potential groom of a decent sort. He is highlydisturbed and grieved at the apparent unfaithfulness and perceived promiscuity of hisperspective bride. Yet, in this case, as we have already summarized, the potential legalconsequences for Mary were that of both traumatic personal shame and capital punishment.But God’s redemptive solution far outran Joseph’s careful and quiet legal maneuvers to save hisown and his spouse’s reputation and to avoid the harsh punitive measures of the Torah. This initself is a picture of God’s grace: as Immanuel, He comes by the work of the Holy Spirit to bringHis own saving righteousness to all those who will receive His love (John 1:12,13; Romans 6:11-14). For Joseph, however, this comes as a revelation in the midst of his mental stress andtroubled sleep. Like the ancient patriarch with the same name (who also had his share oftroubles as God’s chosen man), Joseph, the betrothed of Mary, found Divine guidance andpromise in his dreams (Genesis 37:5; 40:8-9, 16; 41:15,17). Craig A. Evans has explained howimportant revelatory dreams were not only found in the Hebrew Scriptures but also evenreported among ancient Gentiles: Dreams were taken very seriously in antiquity, among Gentiles (Illiad 1:63; 5.150; Virgil, Aenid 4.556-557; Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.685-701; Arrian, Alexander 2.18.1) and the Jewish people (1QapGen. 19:14-23 [where Abraham is warned in a dream]; Jub. 27:1-23; 32;41:24; Ps.–Philo, Bib. Ant. 9.10); 42:3; 4 Ezra 10:59; b. Bat. 10a; b. Ber. 55a-58a) alike.27
  • 18. 67 We are explicitly told how God alters Joseph’s plans in Matthew 1:20-21. The “angel ofthe Lord” which appears in Matthew 1-2 is unnamed, but Luke clearly states that it was Gabrielthat spoke both to Zecharias and Elizabeth and to Mary in Nazareth. Joseph’s angel may havebeen different, but he may well have been the same. This is especially plausible in light of therevelation to Daniel the prophet (8:15-18; 9:20-23). The most important point here is thatGabriel’s communication to Joseph not only has Old Testament precedents but angelicmediated Divine messages frame the First Gospel (cf. 2:12-13,19,22; 27:19 [Pilate’s wife’sdream]).28 It is this disclosure from the Lord that relieves the conflict in Joseph’s mind andmakes unnecessary his otherwise practical human solution. Since the angel assures Joseph thatMary has not been unfaithful and that her child has been supernaturally conceived throughdirect action of God, he is ready to marry her and also fulfill his role in the Messianic plan. Theangel revives Joseph’s consciousness of his messianic lineage by calling him “son of David.”Joseph, a righteous man, now with angelic support, is ready not only not to divorce Mary but tomarry her immediately. And, although we have seen the point disputed, it would seem thatJesus’ status as Joseph’s legal son allowed Him to be legally the Son of David.29 The absolute miraculous uniqueness of Jesus is underscored in v. 21 of Matthew’s firstchapter. His name, as we transliterate it in English, is Jesus, but the original Hebrew name wasYeshua (given in The Greek New Testament as Ἰησοῦς). And Yeshua (i.e., Joshua) is formed fromcombining the name of Yahweh with the verb “ to save”. Hence, His name literally means that“ Yahweh is salvation ” or that “ the LORD saves”. It is also true that Jesus’ ministry willinvolve the future physical liberation of Israel from her worldly enemies among the nations(Matthew 23:37-39; Acts 3:19-21; Romans 11:11-27; and Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5; 21:1-21) but Henow offers present spiritual deliverance from their sins which have alienated them from Godthe Father (Matthew 10:5-15; 10:27-42; 11: 15 -30; 20:1-28; 22:1-14; 22:34-46). D. Observations of Prophecies Fulfilled. The prophecy of the Virgin birth (quoted by Evangelist Matthew in 1:22,23) is one of themost amazing statements of the Holy Bible and unparalleled in its theological grandeur. Yet,
  • 19. 68sadly, it is also one of the most controversial subjects linked to the Nativity of Christ. The matterof prophecy necessitates a brief discussion of what is called the “Higher Criticism” of the Biblebefore we can proceed further. The philosophical and scientific rationalism which grew out of the Enlightenment Era(ca. 1600 – 1789) led directly to the caustic anti-supernatural Biblical Criticism of the eighteenth,nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. This movement may be said to have formally began withthe attacks of Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679) in his Leviathan (1651). Although he professedChristianity, he questioned the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and the miracles of the Oldand New Testament. There were others like the philosopher Benedict Spinoza (1632 – 1677), apantheistic Dutch Jew, in whose works such as Ethica Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata (1677) andhis Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670) questioned all the traditions of revealed religion, bothJewish and Christian by a geometrical rationalist logic. Richard Simon (1638 – 1712) thenexplicitly carried out this program by endeavoring to debunk the credentials of both theHebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the Christian Scriptures (New Testament). His threechief critical books, Histoire critique du Vieux Testament (Paris, 1678) (E.T., A Crititical History ofthe Old Testament, published 1682), Histoire critique du texte du Nouveau Testament (Rotterdam1689), and Histoire critique des principaux commentaires du Nouveau Testament (Paris, 1693) set thestage for all of the eighteenth century’s dismissal of the Divine authority of the Bible.30 Thereafter, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries brought in a more forceful andcaustive exegesis of the Biblical text. There were many examples, but a few stand out in relief.Jean Astruc (1684 – 1766), a French physician, set out to refute some of the seventeenth centurycritics but ended up dividing Genesis into two distinct documents by a Elohist and Yahwistauthor used by Moses later. His book was Conjectures sur la Genèse (Brussels, 1753). He alsosuggested that the Four Gospels were separate but complimentary accounts of the life of Jesuswhich employed a similar method. Astruc’s method indeed was adopted by a number ofGerman and other European scholars who brought to a full theory the idea of “higher criticism”of the Bible which fundamentally explained away the sacred writings as purely human andtemporal productions. Two important examples came in the later work of Johann GottfriedEichhorn (1752–1827) and Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette (1780–1849). Eichhorn (often
  • 20. 69called “ the father of modern Old Testament Criticism”) wrote his Einleitung in das AlteTestament (5 vols., Leipzig, 1780–1783) and his Einleitung in das Neue Testament (Leipzig, 1804–1812). According to Wikipedia: He took for granted that all the supernatural events related in the Old and New Testaments were explicable on natural principles. He sought to judge them from the standpoint of the ancient world, and to account for them by the superstitious beliefs which were then generally in vogue. He did not perceive in the biblical books any religious ideas of much importance for modern times; they interested him merely historically and for the light they cast upon antiquity. 31 DeWette, on the other hand, was a liberal German Lutheran pastor and theologian whoprepared the way for more extreme analysis of the Pentateuch than either Simon’s or Astruc’s,sometimes called the “Supplement Theory.” His two essential works were Beiträge zurEinleitung in das Alte Testament (2 vols; Leipzig, 1806–1807) and Einleitung in das NeueTestament (Berlin, 1826). It was during this era that the so-called JEPD theory or DocumentaryHypothesis of the Pentateuch displaced the ancient Jewish view that God revealed the Torah toMoses. This process of a rationalistic dissolution of Biblical history reached an zenith in thework of Julius Wellhausen (1844 – 1918) who added his special twist to the rewriting of BiblicalJewish history. Wellhausen, a theology professor and gifted orientalist taught at several Germanuniversities (Greifswald, Halle, Marburg, and Göttingen). His epoch-making work wasProlegomena zur Geschichte Israels (Berlin, 1882; 3rd ed., 1886; Eng. trans., Edinburgh, 1883, 1891;5th German edition, 1899) which totally rewrote Old Testament history according to a liberalrationalistic view of religion and evolutionary development of human thought.32 Thus was prepared the background of doubt and historical skepticism which wouldreflect on Jesus the Messiah and particularly the Nativity narratives of Matthew and Luke. Butwe ask the reader to endure a little more on the history of the Lives of Jesus and Gospelcriticism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many, although not all of the liberalswho pursued the “Quest for the historical Jesus” in the nineteenth century (i.e., the First Quest)would have been happy to assign the person of Jesus Christ to the status of myth, but such aconclusion generally conflicted with even the minimal allowances they themselves made for his
  • 21. 70historical existence. Typically, those like Karl Venturini, Heinrich G. Paulus, David Strauss,Bruno Bauer, William Bousset in the nineteenth and those like Rudolf Bultmann and SchubertM. Ogden in the twentieth century would dismiss all accept the minimum of historical dataabout Jesus Christ and categorically deny any supernaturalism connected to his birth. 33 Besidesonly giving credit to the most elementary materials in the Synoptic Gospels and virtually norecognition to anything remotely historical in John’s Gospel account, they reflect a fundamentalnegative philosophical and theological stance: The liberal questers estimate of Jesus involved a denial of the historic Christian Christian creeds. Jesus was not the metaphysical Son of God or deity. The difference of Jesus from us was not one of kind, but only one of degree. On the other hand, these writers agreed that he was looked upon as deity by the early Christians. Our estimate of him, rather, should be from a point of view of his excellence as a man. He was to be revered primarily for his ethical thought, his spiritual force, and his moral excellence. These characteristics inspired the disciples in the formation of the Church, which is the continuing evidence of his significance. 34 The Liberal “Lives of Jesus” have went through several stages from the later nineteenthcentury until the recent decades: (1) The so-called History-of-Religions School (German: Diereligionsgeschichtliche Schule) which included among others Johannes Weiss (1863 – 1914),William Bousset (1865 – 1920), Albert Eichhorn (1856 – 1926), Hermann Gunkel (1862 – 1932),Rudolf Otto (1869 – 1937), and Richard August Reitzenstein (1861– 1931). Probably, some of theinspiration and methodology of this group also derived from the work of the two acclaimedliberal theologians Adolf von Harnack (1851 – 1930) and Ernest Troeltsch (1865 – 1923)35; (2)Then, the critical view of the “Liberal Jesus” led by William Wrede (1859 – 1906), AlbertSchwietzer (1875 – 1965), and Martin Kahler (1835 – 1912) which dismissed the previous schoolfor its inconsistent rationalism and subjectivism and its lack of recognition of the eschatologicalelement in early Christianity 36; (3) The existentialist school (philosophical and theological) ofRudolf Bultmann (1884 – 1976) and his students which expressed almost total skepticism aboutthe historical character of the Gospels and New Testament (i.e., formgeschicte historie) andproceeded to a radical program of “demythologization” of the miracles and Christology of theNew Testament 37; (4) The conservative and neo-orthodox critics of Bultmann’s existentialistic
  • 22. 71theology and demythological approach to Christianity such as Karl Barth (1886 – 1968),Ethelbert Stauffer (1902 – 1979), Joachim Jeremias (1900 - 1979), and Walter Kunneth (1901 –1997), as well as the more radical critics farther philosophically and theologically to the left suchas German philosopher Karl Jaspers (1883 – 1969) and the American theothanatologist SchubertM. Ogden (1928 – 2012) 38; (5) The “New Quest” for the Historical Jesus from the 1960s and1970s 39; and finally, (6) the more recent “Third Quest” of both believing and non-believingscholars in the 1980s and beyond.40 But now the reader is entitled to ask ? How do such developments and speculationsaffect the prophecy of the Virgin Birth of Christ ? Unfortunately, much in every way because adenial of the historical nature of Christ’s incarnation has been accompanied for several centuriesby related denial of Messianic prophecies, particularly the famous “Immanuel Prophecy” ofIsaiah 7:14ff. A few years ago Professor James T. Dennison, a distinguished Presbyterian churchhistorian and editor of the online journal KERUX, reminded his readers of ancient Solomon’smaxim that “there is nothing new under the Sun ” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, 10). The occasion for thistimely comment was his review of a new book on the contest between Christianity and ancientGreco-Roman paganism. The work in question was John G. Cook, The Interpretation of the NewTestament in Greco-Roman Paganism. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002. As the goodprofessor drew his review to an end, he trenchantly remarked: Cooks conclusion (pp. 335-40) is a summary of the pagan apologetic juxtaposed with the Apostles Creed. Here he measures pagan objections to Christianity by the early confessional definition of faith. At each point, the antithesis is evident. Paganism opposed every element of the Christian confession. It still does—whether in its Enlightenment guise or Modernist/Post-Modernist rags. One of the most arresting revelations of Cooks work is the similarity in attack upon the Scriptures which we find in these Greco-Roman opponents and the comparable views of those devoted to so-called "scientific" Biblical criticism. Indeed, "there is nothing new under the sun." 41 The goodly professor’s observation is accurate, and it provides a most interesting entreeto the matter of the perennial attacks on the Christian doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Christ. Oneof the earliest formal intellectual attacks came from the pagan Neo-Platonist philosopher
  • 23. 72Porphyry of Tyre (234? – 305? A.D.), a student of Athenian Longinus and the famous Latinphilosopher Plotinus. Although an author of many philosophical and literary works, he isperhaps best known for his anti-Christian polemic, Against the Christians (Adversus Christianos,ca. later 3rd century). The following are some of this ancient philosophical critic of Christianity’smusings: 5) "Jewish tradition and later pagan critics knew Jesus as the son of a woman named Miriam or Miriamne, who had been violated and become pregnant by a Roman soldier whose name often appears a Panthera in talmudic and midrashic sources. The "single parent" tradition, if not the story of Jesus illegitimacy, is still apparent in Mark, the earliest gospel (Mark 6:3), as is an early attempt to show Jesus freedom from the blemish of his background (Mark 3:33-4)." "To counter the reports of Jesus illegitimacy more than to secure his divine stature, his mother was declared the recipient of a singular divine honor: Jesus was the son of Mary - a virgin - "through the holy spirit" (Matthew 1:20). As is typical of his writing, Matthew comes closest to revealing the argumentative purpose of his birth story and its links to Jewish polemic against Christian belief in his reference to Josephs suspicion of Marys pregnancy (Matthew 1:19). He is also careful in the birth story and elsewhere to provide evidence and proofs from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew bible - as a running narrative. " 6) Regarding the Biblical prophecies concerning Jesus: "Porphyry notes that what is said in Hebrew prophecy could as well apply to a dozen other figures, dead or yet to come, as to Jesus." 42 Yet, there has always been a vigorous Biblical and historical defense against this kind oflow attack of Christianity. An exceptionally fine response has been provided quite recently by astudious Christian writer: It is clear that the pagan critics used the Panthera as an attack on the Virgin Birth, which in their metaphysical paradigm was either impossible altogether or possible only in the way in which pagan myths reported the gods and goddesses having sex with mor- tals to produce heroes such as Hercules. They had set to attack Christianity as a forceful new rival to their traditions, so, one basic tactic to cast aspersions upon the founder of the religion. Without the Virgin Birth as a defining doctrine involved in establishing Jesus’ divinity, the pagans would probably have ignored Jesus’ otherwise disreputable concep– tion and birth. Illegitimacy was a comparatively minor issue except in matters of legal succession or inheritance. The Virgin Birth, however, drew pagan criticism like a light– ening rod, and Mary’s character or reputation was of no concern to them. Celsus and Porphyry despised Christianity and Christians with no restraint. Any pretext would do, even one as feeble and unsubstantial as that taken from the Talmud, if that really were the source for their ideas. Further, if they had actually comprehended the Virgin Birth in its distinction from the pagan myths, the moral and spiritual implications of it would have only worsened their hostility.43
  • 24. 73 Later, the critics have continued their assault by endeavoring to remove the verypossibility of a virgin birth in the 1 st century A.D. by denying that there ever was meant to be avirgin birth even in the prophetic records. Professor Ernst Wilhelm Henstenberg, whose classicChristology of the Old Testament we have previously referenced, has explained this tact: . . . . The Messianic interpretation has the prevailing one in the Christian Church in all ages. It was followed by all the Fathers and other Christian expositors till the middle of the eighteenth century; some of them, however, held that besides its higher reference to the Messiah, it related in a lower sense to an event in the time of the Prophet. – The principal objections which, after the example of the Jews, Is– enbeihl, Gesenius, and others have brought against this interpretation, are the fol– lowing.44 [ jdr, note: After this, on pp, 173 – 176 Professor Henstenberg lists and then - exegetically, historically and philologically demolishes the four main objections of modern critical interpreters like W. Gesenius, J. Isenbiehl, J.D. Michaelis, F. Rosenmuller, et al. to the strictly Messianic and futuristic interpretation of v. 14]. Dr. Hengstenberg also effectively handles the objections of those who would use thecontextual verses of Isaiah 7:15-16, and we quote him again at length: How then is it possible to make these two verses harmonize with the preced- ing ? How can the Prophet make the development of the powers of a child, who should be born seven hundred years later, synchronize with the deliverance of the land from its enemies,which took place in a little time after his prediction ? The view of Vitringa, Lowth, and Koppe, comes nearest the truth. According to them, the Prophet employs the period between the birth of the Messiah, and the development of his faculties, as a measure of time for the complete deliverance of the land from its enemies. It is of the utmost importance to observe, that the fifteenth and sixteenth verses were spoken in the same ecstasy, in which he be–held the Messiah (the fourteenth verse) as present. His vision here, as in all other cases has no concern with time. The child appearing before his prophetic eye as already born, he borrows from him his measure of time. What he means to say, is, that within the space of about three years, the two hostile kingdoms will be overthrown. This he expresses by saying, that the same space of time would elapse before that event as between the birth of the child, which he then beheld as present, and his coming to the age of discretion. – Having made this general remarks, we now proceed to an explanation of particulars. It is asked, in the first place, what we are to understand by eating milk and honey. Several interpreters take this as a designation of wealth and abundance: but they have confounded two very different modes of expression, viz. to eat milk and honey, and to flow with milk and honey; and the twenty-second verse plainly shows, that the eating of milk and honey must be regarded as a consequence of a general devastation of the country. The fields being laid waste, those who remained must lead a nomadic life, being sustained by wild honey, and the produce of their herds, which now be more numerous than before, in consequence of the great abundance of pasturage. The phrase, ‘to know to choose the good and refuse the evil,’ signifies the first commencement of
  • 25. 74 moral consciousness in the child, at the age of two to three years. The sense of the verse therefore is: the existing generation , represented by this child, whose birth was viewed by the Prophet as present, would not for some years to come obtain the quiet possession of the country, but but be obliged to live on the produce of their herds, which would find abundant pasturage in the devastated land. Then, in the sixteenth verse, follows the prediction, that nevertheless before the close of this period, the ruin of the two hostile kings, and the desolation of their lands (by the Assyrians) would ensue. So that afterwards, the products of the country would in the mean time be cultivated, could again be quietly enjoyed. – The land will be forsaken, that is, it will be laid waste, and deprived of its inhabitants. 45 Over the last two and one-half centuries there have been many higher critics who havedenied the true prophetic prediction of Isaiah 7:14-16 even as they have rejected several hundredmore other prophecies of the Hebrew Tanakh. It would be impossible to name all of them in thisperiod, but Dr. Edward Hindson listed about twenty major non-Messianic interpreters from thelate eighteenth century until 1965. These scholars have in one way or another revived part of theancient non-believing Jewish and pagan approaches to the Messianic prophecies and theImmanuel prophecy in particular.46 Nevertheless, the traditional (evangelical) and orthodoxview of this pericope has had its stalwart learned defenders among Biblical orientalists,archaeologists, and historians.47 Finally, there are a number of reasonably conservative andevangelical scholars (as well as some of a liberal theological persuasion) who endeavor todefend a “dual fulfillment” of the prophetic statement in Isaiah 7:14ff.48
  • 26. 75 Since those who reject Biblical prophecy begin with a set of negative presuppositionsabout what God can and can do, we shall not endeavor to refute them at this point, but onlyacknowledge that Christian believers are moved to believe that a sovereign and transcendentCreator of the cosmos can and does know the future (please see our arguments from Pt. I, Ch.8).49 One of the most provocative arguments against the critics of literal, predictive prophecy isthat they so radically contradict one another in their various denials. Professor J.A. Alexander ofPrinceton quipped about a century and a half ago that the only thing the “Higher Critics” ofBiblical prophecy agree upon is that there simply “cannot be distinct prophetic foresight of thedistant future”50 Edward H. Dewart further comments: “Among German Biblical theologiansthere are sad examples of men who deny the supernatural, and make their interpretations ofScripture conform to their skepticism.”51 Then he gives some salient examples: F. Baur (quoted by Dr. Pusey) says: “The main argument for the later date of our Gospels is, after all, this: that they one by one, and still more collectively, exhibit so much out of the life of Jesus in a way that is impossible .” Knobel (quoted by DeWette) says: “ To maintain the genuineness of Isaiah xxiii., and yet refer it to a siege of Tyre, by Nebuchadnezzar, more than a century later, as Jerome, etc., do, is impossible, in that in Isaiah’s time there could be no anticipation of it, much less a confident and definite announcement of it.” Kuenen and his school take a similar position. No interpretation that involves the miraculous intervention of God in human affairs is admitted by him. He expounds the prophecies avowedly to exclude and disprove all actual fulfilment. With him prophecy “ is a human phenomenon proceeding from Israel, directed to Israel. ” Jewish and Christian miracles are placed in the same category as those of Buddha and Mahomet. It is extraordinary and significant that Prof. Workman quotes Dr. Kuenen, the avowed denier of supernatural predictions, with approval as an authority against the fulfilment of Old Testament predictions. It needs little argument to show that the theories of this negative school of critics undermine and assail a vital Protestant principle, viz., the divine inspiration and authority of Holy Scripture.52 Disappointingly, there has been a steady drift toward the “dual-fulfillment” theory andeven a vague typology of a supposed seventh–century “virgin”and then later Mary even amongconservative evangelicals among the last century (Hindson names Albert Barnes, WilliamBeecher, Charles Ellicott, Charles Briggs, Alexander McClaren (!), W. Mueller, H. Ridderbos,R.V.G. Tasker, and Erich Sauer as examples of this intellectual compromise). 53 But there havebeen few stellar Bible scholars and theologians who have mustered spiritual backbone and
  • 27. 76followed the noble pattern on Ernst Henstengberg, Franz Delitzsch, Joseph Alexander, andKonrad von Orelli. Notable among these were Robert Dick Wilson and J. Gresham Machen.Others have also arisen who have firmly defended the ground of the Virgin Birth prophecy ofIsaiah 7:14ff. Thus, next we turn to the more modern (or contemporary) linguistic and historicalreparations to the traditional orthodox belief in the prediction of the Messiah’s birth. Seven Irrefutable Reasons The “Immanuel Prophecy” Is A Prophecy !1. The Historical – Literary Context demands A Prophetic Sense. After carefully laying out the historical seventh century B.C. background of Isaiah 7:1 –16, Dr. Edward Hindson makes this initial conclusion: The poetic structure makes it clear that Ephraim is to fall and within sixty- five years lose all national distinction, and that Judah will also fall if she does not heed God’s warning. Here we have the picture, Judah has begun to weaken, but Ahaz refuses to submit to his northern invaders. But rather than turn to God, he would seek the support of the Assyrian Empire. It should be remembered that Ahaz was the one who introduced the pagan Assyrian altar to the temple worship in Jerusalem. He was a man who had been deliberately disobedient to God. Only such a man could reject the promise of help from God that was about to be extended to him. “THEREFORE” Having renounced Ahaz for trying his and God’s patience by refusing the sign that had been offered him to assure of God’s blessing , Isaiah connects his statements in verse 13 to verse 14 with the Hebrew particle laken (“therefore”). Its emphasis may be clarified by such phrases as: “since this is so,” “for these reasons,” “according to such conditions.” This connective work often was used by the prophets to introduce a divine command or declaration. Most commentators have not bothered to deal with this word. Young and Budde, however, stress its relationship to verse 13. They feel it serve to introduce “a sign of a different character from that which had previously been offered.” Ahaz could have chosen any sign to attest God’s message of hope as delivered by the prophet, but he refused and, “therefore,” God will choose His own sign. The context into which verse 14 fits is unified by the transitory word, “therefore.” The worried king will not trust in God, so the prophet announces that God will give a sign to the nation of Judah that will command their trust in Him. Since the line of David is at stake and later the nation will be removed, the people needed some confidence to trust in God’s maintaining the throne of David for “ all generations .” It is the sign of Immanuel that com–
  • 28. 77 mands their confidence in God. Isaiah had taken a message of hope to the king, but in return he will give a sign of eventual doom (to Judah) and of ultimate hope (to the throne of David).54 More recently, Professor (Dr.) John N. Oswalt (Asbury Seminary) has freshly andcarefully examined the whole context of Isaiah 7 – 12 and makes this immediate caveat: What all of this says is that all the elements of this unit must be understood in light of the emphasis on divine trustworthiness and immanence on the people’s behalf which characterizes the unit. This has a considerable bearing upon the correct understanding of 7:14. Whatever we might conclude from the paragraph alone, and this is hardly ambiguous, the larger context points us to an understanding which far surpasses Ahaz’ own immediate experience. Just as his choice was to have far-reaching consequences for the kingdom of Judah, so we should expect the mysterious sign to have significance beyond the immediate historic context as well. That the sign does have such significance is supported by the conection of children with both of the messianic prophecies. This is paricularly important with 9:2-7 where the Messiahs coming is as a child. While the Messiah in 11:1-9 is not specifically called a child, the childlike qualities ascribed to him (11:3) and the repeated mention of children leading and playing among previously raven-ous animals (11:6, 8) surely contributes to the same understanding. Can it be merely coincidence in a segment where the presence of God among his people is central that Immanuel is a child and the Messiah is a child? I think not. In fact, there is every reason to believe that the language is intentional in order to guide the reader to make the association between the two.55 Professor J. Alec Motyer, who has written one of the finest commentaries on Isaiah todate, likewise lays out the logical alternatives of interpretation with candid precision: . . . . Isaiah was fully aware of the crucial seriousness of the coming Assyrian threat—contrary to the political speculations of Ahaz. It was for this reason that he introduced the second child into the sequence of prophecies (8:1-4), allowing Maher- shalal-hash-baz to take over from Immanuel the task of providing a time-schedule for the immediately coming events. Indeed, it is essentially right to see the relationship of these two children as follows: either we must identify Maher-shalal-hash-baz with Immanuel, or we must project Immanuel into the undated future. These are real alternatives, but the first of them is self-evidently impossible.562. The Identifications of the Double –Fulfillment Do Not Work ! There is every reason to accept Isaiah 7:14-16 as having to do with a future Immanuel(Messiah) and no genuine necessity to require an immediate fulfillment of the core prophecy.This does not mean that Isaiah 8:1-4 is not a valid separate prophecy or recitation of a symbolic
  • 29. 78prophetic action picturing Yahweh’s visitation of judgment upon the hostile kings of Damascusand Samaria. Yet, both in Hebrew and in English the sense and reference to “Immanuel” in 8:8-10 connects the previous immediate historical act of Divine judgment with the promised futureprophetic salvation. There are two prophetic “talking points,” but the primary prophecy isfuture and restorative. A wonderful observation was made by the late Messianic rabbi Sam Stern on thequestion of Ahaz’s or Isaiah’s sons being identified with Immanuel: Regarding the ot [sign or miracle in Hebrew] that God told the house of David He would give them, Metsidas Zion* states that the almah is haracha b’shanim [young in years]. *Metsidas Zion and Metsidas David are commentaries on the Prophets and Writings by Rabbi ben David Altschuller in two parts. Rashi, in his comment quoted below, also stresses the youth of the almah. He mentions what other commentators say about the almah who is to bear a child, implying a miraculous birth: This is the sign: she is a naarah [young girl] and would not be prophesying at her age, but the Holy Spirit will rest on her…Some say the son is Hezekiah, but this is impossible because Hezekiah was born nine years before his father [Ahaz] became king. Some say she was…too young to have a baby. The ot [sign or miracle] is that the young girl shall bear a child. In addition, Isaiah’s wife, who is named as the prophetess in Chapter 8, verse, 3, had already borne a son, Shearjashub [7:3], and would not qualify as the young girl, naarah, that Rashi calls the almah mentioned in Isaiah 7:14.57 Dr. Charles Feinberg, former Dean and Professor of Old Testament at Talbot Theological Seminary, summarized the case well in the early 1950s: The reference is undoubtedly to the virgin Mary, a fact clearly attested by Matthew 1. Those who cannot interpret ‘almâ as a virgin present a variety of views as to the identity of the young woman. Some assert it was the consort of Ahaz, any contemporary young woman, Isaiah’s wife, one of Ahaz’ harem, or a princess of the court of Ahaz. Manifestly, these do not meet the requirements of the context for a miraculous occurrence.583. An Ordinary Occurrence Does Not Equal the Hebrew . Most concordances of the Hebrew Old Testament list seventy-nine occurences of `otforty-four times in the singular and thirty-five in the plural.59 While many modern critical
  • 30. 79scholars have endeavored to argue that `owth is not necessarily miraculous, this view is moreself-serving theological rationalization than objectively the standard usage in the Old Testamentitself. According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament: 4. Most of the eighty occurrences of ôt refer to "miraculous signs." All the plagues on the Egyptians are called "signs." In these contexts the complementary word mopet (q.v.) meaning "wonders" often occurs (Exo 7:3; Deut 4:34; Deut 6:22; Deut 7:19; Deut 26:8; Neh 9:10; Isa 20:3; et al.). This word ôt is used in Isaiahs famous prophecy to Ahaz (Isa 7:11, 14). The shadows advance on the palace steps was a "sign" for the ailing king Hezekiah (2Kings 20:9; Isa 38:7). Likewise God showed Gideon a "sign" by igniting the offered food (Jud 6:17). 60 Perhaps one the finest discussions of this point comes from the pen of Dr. J. Alec Motyer(former Principal of Bristol College, U.K.). While the quote is lengthy, it is worthwhile to peruseit: The Immanuel prophecy is presented as a divinely given ‘sign’. We need to notice at once the ambivalence of the use of the sign in the Old Testament. Firstly, the sign is used in the sense of a present persuader, i.e. it is designed to promote some action or reaction in the immediate present. With such signs Moses was sent to the people in Egypt (Ex. 4:8, 9). With such a sign the false prophet of Deuteronomy 13 would move the people to adopt his novel theology. Just such a sign was offered to Ahaz (Is. 7:10, 11): a magnificent divine gesture which would reassure him of the Lords power and goodwill and promote policies based on faith in the Lord as thus revealed. The balancing phrases ask a sign (verse 1) and the Lord will give you a sign (verse 14) have led to the supposition that Immanuel is also a. sign of this order. Is this supposition correct? The alternative understanding of sign is that it is a future confirmation, i.e. it is de- signed to follow a series of events, to confirm them as acts of God and to fix a stated interpretation upon them. Exodus 3:12 is a sign of this order. The gathering of Israel on Sinai seals the divine commission to Moses and confirms as from God the forecast of the course and significance of the events leading up to the sign. There is a prima facie case for saying that Immanuel must have been immediately recognized as a sign of this second order: firstly, because on any interpretation his birth would be too late to prompt Ahaz to the desired position of faith in the Lord: the die would have been cast already; and secondly, because his involvement in a situation yet to come—the desolation of the lands of the treaty powers (verse 16)— shows that he can only act as a subsequent verification of the present word from God. We may take this matter further by asking whether, as a sign, Immanuel sets forth hope or threatening—or, in order to be more exact, whether hope or threatening occupies the foreground of the prophecy, for if we are speaking of the God of Israel neither can be wholly absent and certainly hope cannot be omitted.61
  • 31. 804. The “Therefore” [ ‫ן‬ ] of Isaiah 7:14 Is Corroborative Evidence ! Not only is the Hebrew word for “sign” vitally important in this text, but even thespecific grammatical introduction is corroborative evidence to the special message of thispericope. The prophet Isaiah had just renounced King Ahaz for not only frustrating him but fortrying God’s patience by refusing the gracious Divine sign that had just been offered to him. Dr.Edward Hindson then illustrates the huge signficance of the “Therefore”: Isaiah connects his statements in verse 13 to verse 14 with the Hebrew particle laken (“therefore”). Its emphasis may be clarified by such phrases as: "since this is so," "for these reasons," "according to such conditions." This connective word often was used by the prophets to introduce a divine command or declaration. Most commentators have not bothered to deal much with this word. Young and Budde, however, stress its relationship to verse 13. They feel it serves to introduce a "sign of a different character from that which had previously been offered." Ahaz could have chosen any sign to attest Gods message of hope as delivered by the prophet, but he refused and, "therefore," God will choose His own sign.62 Again Charles Feinberg quotes both Jewish scholar Emil M. Kraeling and the nineteenthcentury Princeton exegete Joseph A. Alexander to the effect that Isaiah’s language expectssomething extraordinary and that an everyday occurrence would be highly improbable in viewof the solemnity with which the prophet spoke of the predicted birth. 63 As several interpretershave noted, laken [Heb., ] is a transitional word which ties the historical encounter of Isaiahwith unbelieving Ahaz to the sublime promise that the Lord (Adonai) gives to Judah. God willnot allow the Davidic line to be obliterated because He had already promised to preserve thethrone of David forever (2 Samuel 7:14ff.; Psalms 72:7-8, 17-20; 89:20-38). Yet, since the faithlessmonarch had rejected God’s message of hope, the prophet pronounced upon him and Judah asign of immediate doom (i.e., the Assyrian crisis) but for the future a sign of ultimate hope. 645. The “Behold” of the Prophet is Absolutely Serious (Heb., ).
  • 32. 81 The Hebrew word logically links with ‫ן‬ previously described. Having turnedfrom the matter of Ahaz’s unbelief and disobedience, the prophet asserts the sovereignty of Godby calling attention to his unique vision of Immanuel. Hinneh is the command which means toarrest the attention of the hearers.65 The essential thrust of this word is to bring attention to thesignificance of what is to follow, i.e., the depiction of the virgin and her son. 66 Since the nexttwo proofs have to do with the crucial matter of the verbs employed in the Immanuel prophecyand a discussion of the meaning of “virgin,”, let it simply and firmly be stated that is amarker of the magnitude and wonder of what Isaiah says about his vision of the virgin and herchild. This is a call to reverently look and perceive a special revelation from Yahweh; it is not acasual form of communication. Ahaz balked at God’s word of promise, but God decree Hissovereign intent to save anyway !5. The Hebrew `Almah Most Definitely Means “Virgin” ! Here we repeat this controverted text of 7:14 in the original Hebrew: It is important to go back to vv. 10-11 to get the immediate context of this declaration.There the Lord via the noble prophet Isaiah individually addresses Ahaz with a personalinvitation. He is graciously assured that he may ask for a Divine sign of hope and salvation (heis invited “ to ask for yourself a sign.” Hebr.: and the verb isin the 2nd person Qal imperative). Then we see in v. 12, Ahaz make a facietious show of piety,but really a move of disobedience to God’s Word. This then brings us to vv. 13-14 where adefinite transition in both grammar and thought takes place. As was pointed out in point 3above, despite Ahaz’ faithless vacillations the LORD would still set forth a great “sign ” – an
  • 33. 82 ! Yet, this sign would not be for Ahaz alone (certaintly not alone nor even chiefly), but for“you all” (pl.; Hebr.: ‫ם‬ ). As a corroboration to this point, we have the insight from a classicOld Testament commentary, Keil and Delitzsch (Isaiah, Vol. 7) as well as the standard parsingguide for the Old Testament verbs, that it is the Virgin who shall call his name “Immanuel” andnot Ahaz or the court of David in his day [Hebr., .]67 Professor Gordon Franz of theAssociates for Biblical Research states this corroborative fact with exceptional and succinctforce: The word ‘you’ in verse 14 is plural. In other word, he is no longer talk– ing to Ahaz, but the whole house of David. The sign of the virgin-born son, Immanuel, was directed primarily toward Hezekiah in order to encourage him to trust the Lord. A few years later, when he came to the throne, he initiated a great revival the first year. His trust was only in the Lord. 68 What then is God’s message to “the house of David” (v. 13, grammatically referenced v.14)? It is “Therefore the Lord himself will give you [all] a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceiveand bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel ” (NKJV). It is this point about the virginwhich has historically created more exegetical controversy than almost any verse in the Bible.As the late Charles L. Feinberg has quipped: “ The storm center of the text, is, of course, theword `alma (young woman). Reams have been written upon it and, doubtless, reams will bewritten on it in the future.”69 Even so, we press on and wish to make four key points about this`alma : 1. First, she (the virgin or young woman) is marked out with the article in the Hebrew, she is “the virgin.”70 2. Second, the claim of many (usually, liberal) scholars that had Isaiah actually meant a real virgin, he would have used betula has been and can be successfully contested. In actuality, context is crucial for precise in interpretation in either case.71 3. Third, both the Old Testament and ancient Ugaritic literature support the translation of “the virgin” over any of the alternatives.72
  • 34. 83 4. Fourth (and finally), a young married or unmarried woman having a baby per se, is not a miracle and does not fit with the Hebrew meaning of “sign” and the serious exalted language of this pericope.73 Dr. Edward Hindson has a magnificient summary of the whole matter of “theVirgin” : Consider also that the ordinary word for “virgin” (bethulah) does not itself guarantee by its usage that its referent is in fact always a virgin. In Deuteronomy 22:19 and Joel 1:8 bethulah refers to a married woman. Therefore, the term bethul-ah does not itself give absolute certainty that the maiden is always a virgin. If Isaiah wished to use a word that would exactly express his intention, the use of ‘almah would better signify absolute virginity than would the more common term bethulah. It is quite obvious that if Isaiah intended to conveys a prediction of the virgin-birth he chose the right word, not an improper one. There is no "basis for asserting that he should have used another word in place of ‘almah, for usage indicates that ‘almah was the most correct term to use to signify an unmarried virgin.746. Isaiah’s Vision Is Prophetic and Thus Uses the Vivid Tense. This may seem like a disproof to the uninitiated, but to Hebrew scholars there is verylittle doubt that Isaiah uses a Hebrew construction which compares to the present tense inEnglish. The A.V., of course, translates the key portion of the text, “ shall conceive and bear ason ” as do most modern English versions which generally follow its lead. Yet, the fact that incontext the Hebrew perception of the time of action has been demonstrated to be immediate (inthe prophet’s vision) has only strengthened the Messianic interpretation of this verse. 75 Asmany Hebrew grammarians have pointed out ‫ה‬ , a feminine verbal adjective, should only betranslated as future if it occurs in participle form (when used with hinneh). But here it isimmediately followed by ‫ת‬ , which is a waw-conjuctive feminine active participle from theverb yalad (Hebr.: ‫ 67.)דלי‬This means that Isaiah is seeing in his prophetic eye a young maiden(a virgin) who is already pregnant and ready to bear a son. This is nothing less than a virginbirth, or else it is a formal logical and historical contradiction. As seen in the previous point, it isthe ‘almah, one who is still a virgin and unmarried who is (or will) bear a child. Thus, the
  • 35. 84present sense of the context means that this is a prophecy and not a prediction of a normaleveryday event. If the ‘almah were to be seen as marrying, losing her virginity, and thenconceiving and bearing a son, we would expect the Hebrew to more precisely reflect this by theuse of the typical word for wife, `ishah (Hebr.: ).77 Once again, we come back to theposition of that classic commentator, Dr. Ernst W. Henstenberg, the doyen of 19 th centuryLutheran Hebrew exegetes: The form hr*h* is not as Rosenmuller supposes a participle of the verb rWh , which does not occur, but the feminine of the verbal adjective hr#h* pregnant. We may translate, either: the virgin is pregnant, or the virgin becomes pregnant and brings forth a son. The participle td#l#oy, standing for the present, hnh, shows that the event, which was to take place in future times was present to the prophet.—The form tar*q* may be 3d fem. for ha*r+q* , as in Jer. 44: 23 . 78 The conclusion of most classic orthodox and evangelical scholars and even manystalwart modern interpreters is that only the direct Messianic view of Isaiah 7:14 does justice toboth the contextual sense and the Hebrew grammar of the text. Theologically, it makes perfectsense in view of the chain of Messianic prophecies in Isaiah and in the latter prophets of the OldTestament. Thus, there is no need to resort to a shaky “dual-fulfillment” (especially since wehave no Scriptural identification of another virgin and son). Over seven centuries before Christwas born in Bethlehem, Isaiah saw the Virgin with Immanuel, and it was a wonderful trueprophetic vision. D. The Key Issue: The Virgin Birth of our Lord. For believing Christians, those who reverence the Lord and hold to the genuineinspiration and inerrancy of the Word of God, the main issue about Matthew’s Nativitynarrative in 1:18-25 is the matter of the name and character of Jesus, who is also Immanuel,(Hebr.: , “God with us.”). Like Hosea and other prophets, Isaiah used symbolic names
  • 36. 85and titles to designate the characteristics of people and nations.79 Elsewhere, Isaiah describesthe Messiah as an incredible person with Divine power and perogatives, for example: 1. Isaiah 4:2: The Messiah is called “the Branch of the Lord” (Hebr.: ). Cf. also Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15 and Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12. 2. Isaiah 9:6,7: The Messiah is called by four awesome Divine names: “Wonderful Counselor,” “ the mighty God,” “the everlasting Father,” and “the Prince of Peace (Hebr.: ) 3. Isaiah 11:1,2: The Messiah is called the “rod of Jesse” and “the branch” out of his roots (i.e., the Davidic line) and described as possessing the Spirit of the LORD in every dimension of his person. 4. Isaiah 12:2,6: The Messiah and his rule are described as God’s “salvation” (Hebr.: ) twice in v. 2 (and the same Hebrew name is transliterated as “Jesus” (Greek: Ἰησοῦς in Matthew 1:25 in the accusative form). The “Immanuel” aspect (7:14; 8:8) is emphasized by the phrase in 12:6b: “ . . . for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee ” (Hebr. phrase emphasized: This phrase helps link Isaiah 7:14 with Matthew 1:23,25.80 Since it has been aptly demonstrated that Immanuel of Isaiah 7:14 and the Prince withfour glorious names in ch. 9:5,6 are the same person, we can validly conclude that this issomeone beyond human imperfection and frailty. Not only this, but the fact of the closeassociation of Immanuel with the land of Judah in Isaiah 8:1-8 and the descriptions of himbringing peace to the land of Israel (9:1-7 and 11:1-16) denote Divine ability and power. Thus,the purpose of the Immanuel prophecy is a sign not only guaranteeing the perpetuity of theDavidic line and throne, but the conservative Messianic interpretation of the prophecy appliedto Christ makes sense, chronologically and geographically. As E. J. Young has well argued, thepicture of the birth and growth of the youthful Messiah contains a prediction about the
  • 37. 86shortness of time until destruction will come upon Judah’s enemies. 81 As has been shown in aprevious lengthy citation from Dr. Ernst Hengstenberg (pp. 74-75), since Isaiah’s propheticvision saw the `almah as though she already existed, and as pregnant and about to bear a childand name him, the present “tense” of the Hebrew was used in the adjective and verbalconstruction. The prophet was speaking in the present (and vivid) tense, even though the actualevent was in the future.82 Again, as Professor Hindson has emphasized, that while the nameImmanuel (“God with us”) alone does not prove the deity of the Virgin’s son, the wider contextof Isaiah 7-11 does make this fact abundantly clear.83 Especially the titles of ‘el gibor’ [“MightyGod” or “a Heroic God] and ‘avi’ad [Hebr.: ‫י‬ : “Father of eternity”!] make liberal scholars’laughing off Isaiah’s Immanuel vision much more difficult. Finally, the prophecy of Immanuel,the Virgin’s child perfectly harmonizes with the later Messianic reference to the “shoot from thestump of Jesse” in Isaiah 11:1: . Paradoxically, afterIsaiah has already foretold the coming of the Virgin’s son to rule over Israel andsupernaturally preserve the throne of David, we now are told the actual chronology ofevents. There will be a tragic cutting down of the tree of David because of Ahaz’sunbelief, yet a shoot will come forth from the bare stump or root to flourish in the latterdays. Once again, God’s sovereign navigation of world history and his unfailingpromises to David testify to Israel’s hope: the Messiah is coming and will be born –even when the glorious Davidic dynasty is no more than a felled tree with only its geza(Hebr.: ‫ )עזג‬remaining. Indeed, as we open our New Testament to Matthew, we see a humblepoor carpenter from Nazareth and his betrothed as all the significant signs of David’s line.Nevertheless, from that stump or rootstock a twig (Hebr.: ‫,רטח‬ choter) will sprout forth and abranch (Hebr,: ‫ ,רצנ‬netser) will flourish by God’s eternal design ! Thus, God’s purposes willcome to pass, because not only is the LORD still on the throne, but He has (will) come to dwellwith His people as a Savior near at hand. Thus Isaiah 11:4,5 will be fulfilled because this Son of
  • 38. 87David will establish righteousness and faithfulness and bring destruction to the wicked. So,Judah (and Israel) need not fear for Immanuel will come, and God’s anointed King will reign(Cf. Isaiah 9:6 and Psalms 2:6-12). And this Son of David will be the Son of God among men –indeed, He truly will be Immanuel. Critics can argue against believers all day, but they cannot argue against God and Hisimplemented purposes. Nor do the slurs and dismissals of Matthew’s quotation of Isaiah 7:14 asmere supposition or spiritual typology really work. The disproof comes in the fact that theprophecy was written over seven centuries before by a prophet who may not have evenunderstood all its marvelous implications. All the Apostle Matthew, an alert Jewish scribe andformer Roman tax-official, did was to announce that he knew first-hand of its fulfillment in thedays of King Herod and in the time of Joseph’s bethrothal to Miriam in Nazareth. When criticsdeny the validity of Matthew’s interpretation, they suppose they know more than both true Jewwho knew his Tennach and a mighty prophet-seer who had made dozens of other prophecieswhich the centuries saw brought to pass (see chapter 8). Isaiah did predict the Virgin Birth ofChrist and Matthew was keenly aware that he had done so.84O come, O come, Emmanuel,And ransom captive Israel,That mourns in lonely exile hereUntil the Son of God appear.RefrainRejoice! Rejoice!Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,Who orderest all things mightily;To us the path of knowledge show,And teach us in her ways to go.
  • 39. 88RefrainO come, Thou Rod of Jesse, freeThine own from Satan’s tyranny;From depths of hell Thy people save,And give them victory over the grave.RefrainO come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheerOur spirits by Thine advent here;Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,And death’s dark shadows put to flight.RefrainO come, Thou Key of David, come,And open wide our heavenly home;Make safe the way that leads on high,And close the path to misery.O come, O come, great Lord of might,Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s heightIn ancient times once gave the lawIn cloud and majesty and awe.RefrainO come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,An ensign of Thy people be;Before Thee rulers silent fall;All peoples on Thy mercy call.RefrainO come, Desire of nations, bindIn one the hearts of all mankind;
  • 40. 89Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,And be Thyself our King of Peace.85Endnotes for Part II, Chapter II :1 Richard R. Losch, All The People in the Bible: An A – Z Guide to the Saints, Scoundrels, and Other Characters in Scripture(Cambridge, U.K and Grand Rapids, Michigan: Cambridge University Press and William B. Eerdmans PublishingCompany, 2008), p. 223. Father Richard Losch is a retired Episcopal Priest, the Rector Emeritus of St. James’ Church,Livingston, Alabama . He was educated Yale University (A.B., 1956), Berkely Divinity School at Yale U. (M. Divinity,1959), and North Carolina State University (M.Ed., 1990).2 J. Gresham Machen, The Virgin Birth of Christ (2nd Edition; New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1932.Reprinted: Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House Classics, 1967), pp. 26-27. Dr. J. Gresham Machen was one ofthe most famous of the early twentieth-century orthodox Protestant (and evangelical) scholars. An AmericanPresbyterian theologian in the early 20th century, he was the Professor of New Testament at Princeton Seminarybetween 1915 and 1929, and led a conservative revolt against modernist theology at Princeton and formedWestminster Theological Seminary as a more orthodox alternative. He taught there from 1929 until his death in 1937.
  • 41. 90The son of a Baltimore lawyer, he was privately educated in the classics and then later matriculated to John HopkinsUniversity as a seventeen year old in 1898 and completed his B.A. in Classics by 1901, when was elected to the PhiBeta Kappa Society (having previously been admitted to the Psi Kappa Psi Fraternity). From 1902 until 1905 he earnboth a Bachelor of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and a M.A. in Philosophy at Princeton University.From 1905 to 1906 (two years) he studied at the University of Berlin under the famous liberal theologian WilhelmHermann where he finished his doctoral studies. At first confused and dismayed by the critical issues raised byAmerican and Continental liberals, Machen began to answer liberal theological objections one by one. The Virgin Birthof Christ was his fifth book in his larger orthodox apologetic program of response to liberalism.3 Cf. Acts 5:20; 9:2; 19:9,23; 22:4; 24:14,22. These are cited by Professor Bruce in the full quotation – see footnote 4.4 The New Testament Documents. Are They Reliable ? New Foreward by N.T. Wright (Sixth Edition; Cambridge, U.K.Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Downers Grove, ILL.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company and IntervarsityPress, 1981), Ch. 1, “ Does It Matter ?” , pp. 1– 2. We have previously noted that Professor Bruce (1910-1990) wasRylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester, England. He was born in Elgin,Morayshire and was educated at the University of Aberdeen, Cambridge University and the University of Vienna.After teaching Greek for several years first at the University of Edinburgh and then at the University of Leeds hebecame head of the Department of Biblical History and Literature at the University of Sheffield in 1947. In 1959 hemoved to the University of Manchester where he became professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis. In his career hewrote some thirty-three books and served as editor of The Evangelical Quarterly and the Palestine Exploration Quarterly.He retired from teaching in 1978. Besides the books he wrote, Dr. Bruce published several hundred articles inlearned international journals.5 The Life And Times of Jesus The Messiah. Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody, MA.: HendricksonPublishers, Inc., 1993 [Based on the 2 Vol. 3rd Edition; London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1886]), Bk. 2, Ch. 4, p. 104.Edersheim here adds: “ The purity of betrothal in Galilee was less likely to be sullied (Keth. 12 a) . . .” (Ibid., p. 105).Alfred Edersheim himself, was an Austrian Jew (born in Vienna), who was converted to Christianity as a young manthrough the influence a Scottish Presbyterian chaplain. After studying Classics and Philology at Vienna, he alsostudied theology at Edinburgh and Berlin. Later, he became perhaps the leading authority of his time regarding thedoctrines and practices of Judaism in the centuries preceeding and during the early Christian era. He was anordained clergyman in the Church of England and his initial appointment was as Curate of the Abbey Church,Christchurch, Hants, for a year. Then, from 1876 to 1882 he was Vicar of Loders, Bridport, Dorset. He was appointedto the post of Warburtonian Lecturer at Lincolns Inn 1880-84. In 1882 he resigned and relocated to Oxford. Heeventually was elected to the University 1884-85 and became the Grinfield Lecturer on the Septuagint 1886-88 and1888-89. Edersheim died at Menton, France, on March 16, 1889.6 See once more Edersheim’s reference in the previous footnote, Keth 12a, and compare with his comments in Sketchesof Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ (New York: James Pott & Co., 1881), pp. 152ff.7 The Life And Times of Jesus the Messiah, pp. 105-106. Edersheim elucidates on Mary’s ancestry in his footnote 16 on p.105: “ The Davidic descent of the Virgin-Mother – which is questioned by some even among orthodox interpreters –seems implied in the Gospel (Luke 1:27, 32, 69, 2:4), and an almost necessary inference from such passages as Rom. 1:3;2 Tim. 2:8; Heb. 7:14. The Davidic descent of Jesus is not only admitted, but elaborately proved – on purelyrationalistic grounds – by Keim (u. s. pp. 327-329). ”8 See the King James New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. Edited by James Strong, LL.D.,S.T.D. (Nashville, TN.:Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), Hebrew No. # 781, p. 105. One of the Hebrew words for appointment or meeting istranslated as “betrothed” in Exodus 21:8,9 and given as Hebrew No. #3259. This is .9 Cf. The Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, p. 384. These are Greek No. # 3423 and # 718.10Trent C. Butler, Ph.D., ed., Holman Bible Dictionary [CD-ROM] (Nashville, Holman Bible Publishers, 1991), cited byRon Kienzle, “Betrothal and Marriage At the Time of the Nativity,” pdf., p.1 fromBetrothal_and_marriage.pdf. Details on the full ancient and modernJewish rituals and prayers used during betrotal are fully discussed by Rabbis Marcus Jastrow and Bernard Drachmanin the Jewish Encyclopedia online, http://www.jewishencyclopedia. com/view. jsp?artid= 995&letter=B.
  • 42. 9111 ” Cultural And Historical Notes: Marriage and Divorce in Ancient Israel,” in Walter C. Kaiser Jr. Duane A.Garrett and John Davis Wanner (eds.), NIV Archaeological Study Bible: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History andCulture (Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan 2005) p. 1548.12 We confess that generally here we have followed the excellent and brief summary of Paul Barnett in “ Bethlehem:The Beginning, ” in Behind The Scenes of the New Testament (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1990), Ch. 1, pp.14-15.13 The New American Commentry: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture. Matthew. (Nashville, TN.:Broadman Press, 1992), pp. 53-54. Dr. Blomberg cites as the source of the first view the commentary by J.L. NollandLuke 1-9, Word Bible Commentary (Dallas Tx.: Word 1989) p. 170. He cites for the second source the classic study of J.Gresham Machen, The Virgin Birth of Christ (New York: Harper and Row, 1930). Our author also takes serious note ofthe highly detailed monograph dedicated to the analysis of Matthew and Luke’s geneaologies by J. Masson, Jevsusfils de David dans les gevnevalogies de saint Mattheiu et de saint Luc (Paris: Tequi 1981). This scholar argues for acombination of the two opposing views with Mary and Joseph sharing a common great-grandfather.14 This notion seems to be the thrust of the article by Marshall D. Johnson (Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa) in TheInternational Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Revised Edition; Grand Rapids, MI.: William B. Eerdmans PublishingCompany, 1982), Volume 2: E-J, pp. 428-431. Though Johnson is a specialist in this area with his superb study, ThePurpose of Biblical Genealogies With Special Reference to the Geneaologies of Jesus (1st Edition, 1969; Second Edition;Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1988), I think his assumption that Matthew (Levi) was not the actualauthor of the Gospel bearing his name (e.g., his dependence on critical literary theories of Gospel composition) andthe idea that a former Jewish tax-collector would follow Rabbinic practices may be fairly questioned. The whole pointof the latter Misnah’s rabbinic classifications of the degrees of purity in Israelite ancestory is belied by the fact thatMatthew deliberately includes at least four non-Israelite ancestors for Christ – Tamar the Canaanite (mother of Perezand Zerah), Rahab the Jericho harlot (mother of Salmon), Ruth the Moabitess (grandmother of King David), andUriah’s wife (Bathsheba, a Hittite ?). Surely Matthew himself (or the imagined anonymous author of the First Gospel)had a universal interest in the redemption of mankind (cf. 4:12-16; 20:29-34; 25:31-46; 28:18-20). This emphasis is notabsent from the Old Testament either (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:5-8; 32:39-43; Psalms 2:6-12; 72:8-19; 96:1-13; 102:12-22;Proverbs 9:1-12; Isaiah 42:1-17; 43:8-13; 44:6-8; 45:20-25, etc.). This implicit universality in Matthew’s Gospel becomesmore explicit in 2:1-12 and 8:5-13 where the Magi (Gentiles from the East) and later, the Roman centurion,acknowledge the worthiness and authority of the LORD’s Messiah.15 Craig A. Evans, General Editor, The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary, Matthew-Luke (Paris, Ontario andColorado Springs, CO.: Cook Communications/Victor, 2003),pp. 45-46. Dr. (Professor) Evans is New Testamentscholar, Craig Evans, is the Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College of AcadiaUniversity, in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada. He graduated from Claremont McKenna College, he received his M.Div. from Western Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from ClaremontGraduate University in southern California. He has also been awarded the D. Habil. by the Karoli Gaspard ReformedUniversity in Budapest. A well-known evangelical scholar throughout the world, he is an elected member of theprestigious SNTS, a society dedicated to New Testament studies. After teaching one year at McMaster University inHamilton, Ontario, Canada, Evans taught at Trinity Western University in British Columbia for twenty-one years,where he directed the graduate program in Biblical Studies and founded the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute. He was also aVisiting Fellow at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. Author and editor of more than sixtybooks and hundreds of articles and reviews, Professor Evans has given lectures at Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, Yaleand other universities, colleges, seminaries and museums, such as the Field Museum in Chicago, the CanadianMuseum of Civilization in Ottawa and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. He also regularly lectures and givestalks at popular conferences and retreats on the historical Jesus, Archaeology, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible.16 Thus, in this I am totally in agreement with Professor Craig Blomerg, The New American Commentary- Matthew, Op.Cit., p. 56. But this is Craig’s, Keener’s, Nolland’s and most contemporary evangelical commentator’s positions aswell.17 Jesus And His Story, II, p. 18. See also the elaborate and sophisticated analysis of this issue in Craig S. Keener’srecent commentary, The Gospel of Matthew: A Social-Rhetorical Commentary. (Cambridge, U.K and Grand Rapids, MI.:Cambridge University Press and William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009),pp. 75 – 87.
  • 43. 9218 From Ariel Ministries’ Messianic Bible Study # 025, “ Yeshua’s Right to David’s Throne,” at from Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s website, ” Yeshua’s Right to David’s Throne, ” Ibid.20 ” Yeshua’s Right to David’s Throne, ” Ibid.21 Here we follow the thoughtful argument of Dr. Edward Rickard, Ph.D. in his article, “ The Lineage of Christ.Lesson 2: The Evidence,” pp. 2-3 from Bible Studies at The Moorings, This also is entirely consistent with the highly detailed analysis of Dr.Arthur C. Custance, Ph.D., “ The Geneaologies of the Bible: A Neglected Subject . . . . New TestamentGeneaologies, ” Dr. Edward Rickard, Ph.D. in his article, “ The Lineage of Christ. Lesson 2: The Evidence,” p. 4.23 “ The Lineage of Christ. Lesson 2: The Evidence,” pp. 4-5. Several Charts in Dr. (Professor) Custance’s article abovethroughly support this and there are other Bible history experts who have similarly reasoned on the unusualrelationship between the two Evangelists’ exposition of the Jewish geneaology of Jesus the Messiah.24 This is a simplified version of a highly detailed study by Professor Bruce Schweigerdt, M.A., “ The Geneaologies ofJesus: The Chrono– geneaological Record of His Story, ” (July 2003) Appendix, p. The Gospel According to Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary (Leicester, U.K. and Grand Rapids, MI.:Intervarsity Press and William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985), pp. 75-76. Dr. France, a distinguished NewTestament scholar, earned his B.A. and M.A. at Baillol College, Oxford (1960, 1963) and received his B.D. fromTyndale Hall, University of London and his Ph.D from Tyndale Hall, University of Bristol (1963 and 1967,respectively). He has also been a pastor and missionary teacher for over thirty years. He has recently published alarger, more technical commentary on Matthew for the New International Commentary on the New Testament series(Cambridge, U.K. and Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007).26 Ibid., p. 76. The reference to “Brown” to the great Roman Catholic scholar Raymond E. Brown’s epochal work(which is moderately liberal), The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives of Matthew and Luke(London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1977), pp. 534-542 cited here.27 The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary, Matthew – Luke, Op. Cit., p. 46. Many Biblical figures were guided bysupernaturally inspired dreams God has frequently made use of dreams in communicating his will to men. The mostremarkable instances of this are recorded in the history of Jacob (Gen 28:12; Gen 31:10), Laban (Gen 31:24), Joseph(Gen 37:9-11), Gideon (Jdg 7), and Solomon (1Ki 3:5). Other significant dreams are also recorded, such as those ofAbimelech (Gen 20:3-7), Pharaohs chief butler and baker (Gen 40:5), Pharaoh (Gen 41:1-8), the Midianites (Jdg 7:13),Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 2:1; Dan 4:10, 18), the wise men from the east (Mat 2:12), and Pilates wife (Gen 27:19). Andbesides Joseph’s dream here being discussed there is New Testament account of Paul’s vision in the night where a“man from Macedonia” pleads for his help (Acts 16:9) and later where Jesus encourages him in Acts 18:9; 27:23).28 An excellent resource on the specific Old Testament background is found in R. Gnuse, “ Dream Genre in theMatthean Infancy Narratives,” NovT 32 (1990): 97 – 120.29 This is the position of Dr. Craig Blomerg, The New American Commentary- Matthew, pp. 55 – 56; 59. We have alreadydiscussed the special historical questions and proposed a harmonization of them previously on pp. 57 – 65 of thisstudy.30 See the article on “ Biblical Criticism (Higher)” in New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia online, which lists various earlier secondary source studies. A very scholarlymonograph has recently appeared which is also quite excellent, cf. Henning Graf Reventlow, History of BiblicalInterpretation: Vol. 4: From the Enlightenment to the Twentieth Century. Translated by Leo J. Perdue (Leiden,Netherlands: E.J. Brill Publishers, 2011). Besides these one should consult the massive reviews in the standard OldTestament Introductions such as Otto Eissfeldt, Klaus Koch, R.H. Pffeifer, Rolf Rendtorff, (liberal) and GleasonArcher, R.K. Harrison, and Bill T. Arnold and Bryan E. Beyer (conservative) listed in the bibliography.31” Johann Gottfried Eichhorn,” About the same time thatEichhorn and DeWette were pursuing their critical theories of the Old Testament, Frederick Daniel Ernst
  • 44. 93Schliemacher (1768-1834), another German biblical critic and philosophical theologian (who is sometimes called “TheFather of Modern Liberal Theology”). As a student at the University of Halle in the late eighteenth century he washighly influenced by the rationalism of F. August Wolf and Johann S. Semler which caused him to abandon hisyouthful Moravian pietism. Also he became a disciple of the historical methods of Johann A. Eberhard and a devoteeof the philosophical ideas of Immanuel Kant and Frederick Heinrich Jacobi. Thus Schliermacher came to deny thedeity of Christ, his literal incarnation, His sinlessness, and His atoning (substitutionary) sacrifice. When he came towrite his Der christliche Glaube nach den Grundsätzen der evangelischen Kirche (1821–1822; 2nd ed., greatly altered, 1830–1831) and his other works, he argued that the fundamental principle is that of religious feeling, the sense of absolutedependence on God as communicated by Jesus through the church, and not the creeds or the letter of Scripture or therationalistic understanding, is the source and basis of dogmatic theology. Historical details of the Gospels andreports of miracles he dismissed as accretions of pious legends.32 ”Biblical Criticism,” Actually many of the early proponents of the mythical view of Jesus contradicted themselves in their elaborateschemes to explain away the precise details of the crucifiction and resurrection of Jesus. Cf. “Biblical Criticism,” Op.Cit., p. 2, “ New Testament.” Beginning with skeptical doubts of Samuel Remairus (1694 – 1768), a German historianwho rewrote the story of Jesus in a totally naturalistic frame rather than a supernatural one, doubters came out of thewoodwork in the next centuries: French philosophical savants such as Pierre Bayle (1647-1706); English Deists likeLord Edward Herbert of Cherbury (1583 – 1648), John Tolland (1670 – 1720), and Anthony Collins (1676 – 1729); theskeptical Scottish empirical philosopher David Hume (1711-1776); and Gottfried Lessing (1729-1781), Germanphilosopher and playwright. The key writers in the nineteenth century were all German rationalist scholars, e.g., KarlF. Bahrdt (1741 – 1792) in his Ausfuhrung des Plan und Zwecks Jesu (1784-1792); the four volume work of Karl H.Venturini’s Naturliche Greshichte des grossen Propheten von Nazareth (1800-1802); and the two volume work of H. E. G.Paulus (1761 – 1851); a Das Leben Jesu (1828). Each to varying degrees attempted to debunk Jesus’ miracles withclever naturalistic explanations, such as he was a medicinal healer, Lazarus was actually in a coma, and the disciplesmistakenly thought Jesus was walking on water when he was actually only walking on a sandbank in the shallows. Itwas David F. Strauss (1808 – 1874) that ended this school of thought with his book Das Laben Jesus, kritishebearbeitet (1835). Strauss consistently grouped all the various miraculous events in the Gospels connected to Jesus’person and work as being “myth”, a religious narrative with metaphysical message.34 Charles C. Anderson, The Historical Jesus: Quests and Questions (Kearney, NE.: Morris Publishing, 2000), Ch. 1, “Background and Foreground,”p. 4. Cf. further, pp. 4 – 26 for the elucidation of the historical details of these variousviews.35 The History-of-Religions “school” was largely a group of critical German historians and theologians more or lessconnected to The University of Gottingen in the 1880s and 1890s. Beside those mentioned above, one might alsoinclude Old Testament/Semitic scholar Bernhard Duhm (1847 – 1928), famous for his theory of three “Isaiahs”, AlfredRahlfs (1865 – 1935), Old Testament scholar and editor of a famous edition of the Septuagint , and WilhelmHeitmueller (1869-1926). We also include the work of Adolf von Harnack here because of hisnaturalistic/evolutionary view of the development of Christian doctrine and Ernest Troeltsch for his humanisticviews about the sociology of the early Church.36 These New Testament scholars (and popular preachers!) were to some degree reacting against the work of AlbrechtB. Ritschl (1822 – 1889) and Adolf Harnack (1851 – 1930) whose dogmatic and historical theology writings werefocused on the practical ethical experience of the Church and moral emphasis of the development of dogma. BothRitschl and Harnack were suspicious of metaphysical ideas in theology and most highly valued ethical righteousness(i.e., keeping the commandments). The first step came with Johannes Weiss’s Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God(German 2nd Edition; Die Predigt Jesu vom Reiche Gottes, 1900; E.T., edited by R.H. Hiers and D.L. Holland, London,1971). Based on his historical and linguistic research, Weiss strongly emphasized that Jesus’ teaching about God andHis kingdom was definitely eschatological with supernatural or transcendent characteristics. Another blow to theliberal and ethical Jesus of Ritschl and Harnack came with the unusual analysis of William Wrede in his DasMessiasgeheimnis in den Evangelien, Göttingen 1901 (E.T., London, 1971). Wrede’s challenge was to the prevailing viewthat Mark’s Gospel was an unadorned and simple account of the ethical Galilean Jesus. He concluded, on thecontrary, that the “Messianic secret” motif revealed that the early Church had rethought and reconstructed the lifeand thought of Jesus as Messiah in light of its resurrection faith. Hence, Mark was an Evangelist of this belief and
  • 45. 94thus his Gospel could not be [???] a primary source for the life of Jesus. Further building on the conclusions of Weissand Wrede, Albert Schweitzer used the eschatological perspective not only the key to Jesus’ teaching but also Jesus’life. His epochal Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung (Strausourg,1906. E.T., The Quest for the Historical Jesus by WilliamMontgomery. London, 1910). His conclusions were radical, the ‘lives’ of the establishment liberals were mirrorimages of their own egos and the approaches to the historical Jesus were all dead ends. While Schweitzer made nonew attempt to deal with critical issues of the sources, he did resolve that “the true historical Jesus should overthrowthe modern Jesus.” He also took seriously Jesus’ self-designating Messianic titles such as Christ, Son of God, and Sonof Man were “historical parables.” Thus, in reality, for Schweitzer the original historical Jesus of Nazareth wasunknown, an inponderable mystery. Oddly enough, Schweitzer’s Jesus became for practical purposes likeNietzsche’s heroic “superman” and his theology dissolved into non-transcendent “Christ mysticism.” Such an oddthesis forced Schweitzer himself to write his medical doctoral thesis to endeavor to vindicate Jesus against charges ofparanoia (Cf. The Psychiatric Study of Jesus: Exposition and Criticism. Strausbourg, 1911. E.T., London: The MacmillianPress, 1913).37 Schweitzer’s Quest, despite its author’s disclaimers, was clearly a work with a philosophical apologetic agenda andnot a piece of neutral historiography (if such a creature exists). It reflected Kantian rationalism, Strauss’ (andLessing’s) dichotomy of the supernatural and “the historical.” In the transtitition came the work of Martin Kahler,Der sogenannte historische Jesus und der geschichtliche, biblische Christus (1896. E.T., The So-Called Historical Jesus and theHistoric Biblical Christ. Trans. and ed., Carl E. Braaten. London and Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1964). Kahlercondemned the effort to get behind the Church’s faith and tradition and a la Lessing repudiated the program ofmaking faith dependent upon historical research. He concluded that it was in fact impossible to separate the Jesus ofhistory from the Christ of faith. Ironically, one Kahler’s outstanding pupils, Paul Tillich, went on to treat all theGospel stories as pure existential and philosophical symbols and not literal space and time facts. Then we come to thedemythologization of Rudolf Bultmann. Bultmann, who was trained by professors of the History-of-Religions school.He accepted especially the ideas of Wilhelm Bousset that the New Testament eschatological concepts were borrowedfrom Hellenistic mystery religions and Ernest Troeltsch’s rejection of the absolute religious claims of Christianity andWestern Religion (e.g., historical relativism). Bultmann enthusiastically embraced these assumptions, and employedthe new methods of Form Criticism pioneered by Karl L. Schmidt and Martin Dibelius, he adopted a high skepticalstance toward the historical traditions in the Gospels. His first major work was Die Geschichte der synoptischenTradition (Berlin, 1921, 1931. E.T. John Marsh. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1964). Here he argued that the“communities” in the early Church created traditions aout the life of Jesus and many utterances were the result theexperiental deliverances of Christian prophets. Thus the Hellenistic church preached did not preach the Jesus ofhistory, but the Christ of faith. In his methodology Bultmann employed the criterion of dissimilarity between genuineactions and sayings of Jesus and stories which reflected Jewish morality, piety, or eschatological views of thePalestinian Jewish community. This was the first criterion which Bultmann thought was the hallmark of scientificcriticism. The other test of authenticity was the use of idiomatic Aramaic or Semitic phraseology. Later, Bultmann setforth his “demythologization” program in a paper on “ New Testament of Mythology,” in H.W. Bartsch, ed. Kerygmaund Mythos. 2 Vols. (Hamburg – Volksdorf, Germany: Herbert Reich, 1941. E.T. , London: SPCK , 1953). In these andhis several other writings Bultmann proposed that the thought world of the New Testament (i.e., first century) washighly mythological and this supernatural framework was drawn from both Jewish apocalyptic and orientalGnosticism (the fact that these worldviews were logically contradictory never seemed to enter this critic’s mind).Bultmann’s preaching and theology was then a reinterpretation (e.g., demythologizing) of these texts about theincarnation, crucifiction, and resurrection of Jesus by means of Martin Heidegger’s existentialist philosophy. Thisscholar thus recast the salvation message of the New Testament as a proclamation about the “authentic existence”(i.e., a life of faith) contrasted with an “inauthentic existence” of a life without faith in Christ. While Bultmann totallydenied the New Testament has any reliable materials for the objective historian (since Jesus Christ was not/is not ahistorical fact), he maintained vigorously that it somehow paradoxically testifies to the eternal Word.38 The preceeding (paragraphs in endnotes 35 – 37) are essentially the author’s rough summation of the article,“Historical Jesus, Quest Of, ” in Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight and I. Howard Marshall, Dictionary of Jesus and theGospels (Leicester, U.K. and Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1992), pp. 326 – 341. Also consulted wasWalter A. Elwell and Robert W. Yarbrough, Encountering The New Testament: A Historical and Theological Survey(Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Books, 1998), Ch. 12, “ The Modern Search for Jesus,” pp. 181 – 190. Besides this seeCharles C. Anderson, The Historical Jesus: Quests and Questions, Op. Cit., pp. 4-18. Karl Barth, of course, was the
  • 46. 95premier twentieth century Neo-orthodox scholar and theologian. A Swiss-Reformed theologian and pastor, heactually rejected the Protestant Liberal theology of the nineteenth century and introduced the new “Dialecticaltheology” which stressed the paradoxical nature of Divine truth (e.g., God’s relationship to humanity embodies bothgrace and judgment). Barths theology majored the on the sovereignty of God based on the interpretation of theCalvinistic doctrine of election. His most famous works were Der Romerbrief, The Epistle to the Romans (2nd Edition;Geissen: Theologischer Verlag, 1922. E.T. by Edward C. Hoskyns. London: Oxford 1933) which marked a clear breakfrom his own earlier liberal thinking, and his massive thirteen-volume work Church Dogmatics (E.T., 4 Vols inFourteen Parts. Edinurgh: T. & T. Clark, 1956 -1977. New Edition; 31 Vols. T. & T. Clark, 2008) which is one of thelargest works of systematic theology ever written. Conservative and fundamentalist theologians having rightlycritiqued Barth’s theology as “neo-orthodox” because he endeavors to keep the traditional orthodoxy of the Christianmessage while denying that the Bible (and hence the Gospels) can be substantiated or confirmed historically. Somepeople have said Barth’s theology is entirely kergymatic and non-apologetic. Barth himself tried to distinguish hisposition from that of R. Bultmann and modernist theologians. Ethelbert Stauffer was a German pastor-theologian,historian, and numismatist. He taught at Bonn University before his removal by Nazi authorities in 1943. Then helater returned in 1946 and thereafter taught at the Universities of Halle-Wittenberg, Berlin, and Tubingen. His lastprofessorship was at Erlangen Divinity School. Stauffer’s most important research was done on the Christian martyrsof the early Christian centuries. Yet he was also a serious New Testament and Classical historian who believed thatthere was much reliable secular evidence to support the New Testament. His most important major works are:Christus und die Caesaren, Hamburg 1952 (E.T., Christ and the Caesars. Historical sketches. Translated by Kaethe GregorSmith and Ronald Gregor Smith. London: SCM-Press, 1955); Jesus: Gestalt und Geschichte, 1957 (E.T. by Richard andClara Winson. New York: Alfred Alfred A. Knopf, 1960. Stauffer also wrote a nuanced and learned New TestamentTheology (Bern, 1955. E.T. by John Marsh. 2 nd Edition; London: SCM Press, 1963). More will be said of Lutheranprofessor Joachim Jeremias’s response to German higher from history and archaeology. Walter Kunneth’s efforts todefend the traditional view of the Gospels and the historical Christ against radical critics will also be reviewed later.39 The “New Quest” began as a formidable protest against the conclusions of Rudolf Bultmann by his own studentsfrom Marburg University. In 1953 Ernest Kasemann (1906 – 1998) gave a lecture to a reunion of old Marburg studentsentitled “ The Problem of the Historical Jesus ,” (E.T. in Kasemann, Essays on New Testament Themes, 1964,pp. 15-47).While he protested his loyalty to Bultmann’s form-critical methodology and conceded that a strict biography of Jesuswas impossible, he nevertheless insisted that scholars could not disengage their interest in an earthly Jesus or elsethey would fail to grasp the early church’s distinction between the humiliated and exalted Lord. Thus, Kasemannimplied that Bultmann’s position actually promoted either Docetism or Gnosticism. What Kasemann suggested wasthat the way to discover the earthly Jesus was through investigation into the actual preaching of Jesus which was notgeneral religion or Jewish morality but how the kingdom of God had dawned and that God had come near tohumanity in His grace and call to service (Cf. Jesus Means Freedom: A Polemical Survey of the New Testament. London:SCM Press 1969). The next important step in the New Quest came with the work of Gunther Bornkamm (1905 –1990), Professor of New Testament at Gottingen and Heidelberg Universities. Bornkamm, contra Bultmann, suggestedthat there must be closer relationship between the theology of the early Church and the person and work of Jesus. Inhis ground-breaking book Jesus von Nazareth (1956; E.T. London: Hodder & Stoughton 1960), Bornkamm expressedthe profound difficulties of researching the historical Jesus. He stated that he wanted to produce a work that wouldinform not only professional theologians on the many questions, uncertainties and findings of historical research, butalso the laymen who would wish, so far as possible, to arrive at an historical understanding of the tradition aboutJesus and should not be content with edifying or romantic portrayals. He also stressed the note of authority in Jesus’words and actions which strongly evidenced historical authenticity and uniquess in the Gospel pericopes. Eventhough the figure of Jesus was colored by the Church’s Easter faith, his earthly features have not been effaced. Otherserious efforts were made to study the historical Jesus by Ernst Fuchs, Hans Conzelmann, Carl Braaten, James M.Robinson, and Norman Perrin in the 1960s and 1970s. Colin Brown (Fuller Theological Seminary) has reasonablyexplained the failure of the “New Quest”: “ If Harnack’s Jesus had the face of a liberal Protestant, and Schweitzer’sthe heroic demeaner of Nietzsche’s superman, the Jesus of the New Quest was an existentialist philosopher whosepresence in history was barely discernible behind the kerygma. He is encountered in a kind of existential vacuumfrom which the historical conditions of the first century are largely excluded. (“Historical Jesus, Quest of,” in Joel B.Green, Scot McKnight et al., Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, p. 337).
  • 47. 9640 This movement is a broad general description of the disunity and tension in the post-Bultmannian world of criticalscholarship. Essentially, “ The Third Quest ” is represented by a whole spectrum of new scholarly inquiries andinflux of new discoveries and knowledge of the first century. Unfortunately, it also includes a large body of highlyeccentric research and speculation which confronts the serious student with a variety of conflicting views andmethods. Some experts argue that the New Quest for the Historical Jesus ended about 1975 or 1980. Since then, amultitude of interpretations of the historical Jesus has arisen. If there is a common theme, it is that Jesus was not amodel of liberal Protestantism nor a modern existentialist like the writers of the New Quest (e.g. Ernest Fuchs,Gerhard Ebeling, etc.), but a historical individual whose life and ministry were rooted in first-century Judaism with aparticular religious, social,economic and political context. Cf. the excellent survey by Professor Colin Brown above in“ 3. The Third Quest” in the article about the Quest of the Historical Jesus in Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight et al.,Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, pp. 337 – 339).41 This was a “Book Review” examining John G. Cook’s historical monograph on paganism written by ProfessorDennison at An excellent introduction to Porphry isprovided by Eyjoyful Emilsson, “Porphry,” from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy online at See also Porphyry Against the Christians, R. M. Berchman, trans.,Ancient Mediterranean and Medieval Texts and Contexts 1 (Leiden: Brill, 2005); and Porphyry’s Against the Christians: TheLiterary Remains. R. Joseph Hoffmann, trans. (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1994).42 These quotations are taken from R. Joseph Hoffman, trans. and ed., Porphyry’s Against the Christians: The LiteraryRemains, pp. 122 and 131. On the other hand, see the sane and calm rebuttal of Porphry and other pagan libels andslurs against Christ in Richard R. Racy’s splendid study, The Nativity: The Christmas Story Which You Have Never HeardBefore (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2008), Ch. 5, “ Bethlehem,” in the section entitled “Panthera: HeathenShadow over Mary ,” pp. 72 – 75.43 The Nativity: The Christmas Story Which You Have Never Heard Before, p. 75. Many years ago Dr. J. Gresham Machennipped the slanders of the Talmud and the pagan philosophers in the bud in the first chapter of his classic defense ofChrist’s Nativity. He states forcefully: “ It has been shown above that even of the heretical Jewish Christiansmentioned by Origen and others some accepted the virgin birth. But this whole discussion has left out of account thegreat numbers of Jewish Christians who in all probability simply became merged in the Catholic Church. Andeverything points to the hypothesis that these, and not the schismatics of whatever opinion, were in possession of themost primitive historical tradition with regard to the life of Jesus. The results of the foregoing investigation of thesecond-century testimony to the virgin birth may be summed up in two propositions:1. A firm and well-formulated belief in the virgin birth extends back to the early years of the second century.2. The denials of the virgin birth which appear in that century were based upon philosophical or dogmaticprepossession, much more probably than upon genuine historical tradition. (The Virgin Birth. Second Edition; Londonand Edinburgh: James C. Clarke and T. & T. Clark, 1930), Ch. 1, “ The Virgin Birth in the Second Century,” pp. 26 –27.44 Christology of the Old Testament, pp. 172 – 173. He notes, parenthetically, “ And as to the objection, that the promiseof the Messiah could be no assurance of safety, since he was not to appear till many centuries later, were it just, itwould apply with equal force to all predictions of the Messiah. Yet not Isaiah only, but even Jeremiah and Ezekielconsoled the people, when they were carried away into exile, by predicting the future restoration of the theocracy toa far more glorious condition through the Messiah, whose appearance was nevertheless many centuries distant.” (Ibid.) .45 Christology of the Old Testament, pp. 177 – 178. More excellent references for this general argument which employthe larger literary context of Isaiah 7-12 may be found perceptive article by Dr. John N. Oswalt (Asbury TheologicalSeminary) in his “ The Significance of the ‘Almah Prophecy in the Context of Isaiah 7 – 12,” in Criswell TheologicalReview 6.2 (1993): 223 – 235. See also Dr. Edward E. Hindson’s meticulously nuanced paper on “ Isaiah’s Immanuel,”in the Grace Journal 10.3 (Fall, 1969): 3-15.46 Johann David Michaelis (1717 – 1791) in his commentary on Isaiah [German] (1778); Ernst Meier (1813 – 1866), DerProphet Isaiah, Pforzheifn, 1850; Samuel David Luzzato (1800 – 1865) [Sefer Yeshayah, the Book of Isaiah edited with anItalian translation and a Hebrew commentary. Padua, 1855 – 67]; Heinrich Ewald (1803 – 1875), Commentary on Isaiah,E.T., 1876; S.R. Driver (1846 – 1914), Isaiah: His Life and Times and the Writings Which Bear His Name, London, 1888;
  • 48. 97George Adam Smith (1856 – 1946), The Book of Isaiah [The Expositor’s Bible], 2 vols., London, 1888, 1890; Archibald H.Sayce (1846 – 1933), The Life and Times of Isaiah as Illustrated by Contemporary Monuments, London, 1889; W.E.O.Oesterley (1856 – 1950), Commentary on Isaiah, London, 1900; George A. Gordon (1853 – 1929), Commentary on Isaiah,Boston, 1909; George B. Gray (1865 – 1922), A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Isaiah 1 – 27, [ICC series,Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912], Charles C. Torrey (1863 – 1956), The Second Isaiah, New York: Scribners, 1928; GeorgeW. Wade (1858 – 1941), The Book of the Prophet Isaiah, 2nd Edition, London: Westminster Commentaries, 1929; CharlesBoutflower (1846-1936), The Book of Isaiah [Chapters I – XXXIX] in Light of the Assyrian Monuments.London: S.P.C.K.,1930; Edward J. Kissane (1886 – 1959), The Book of Isaiah, Translated from a Critically Revised Hebrew Text, Maynooth,Ireland: Brown and Nolan, Ltd., 1941; George A. Buttrick, ed., The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5: Ecclesiastes, Song of Sons,Isaiah, Jeremiah, New York: Abingdon Press, 1956; Sheldon H. Blank (1899 – 1989), Prophetic Faith in Isaiah, New York:Harper Brothers Publishers, 1958; S. Paul Schilling (1904 – 1994), Isaiah Speaks, New York: Crowell Press, 1958; JohnMauchline (1902 – 1984), Isaiah 1 – 39, Torch Bible Commentaries, London: S.C.M. Press, 1962; E. A. Leslie (1888 – 1965),Isaiah: Chronologically Arranged, Translated and Interpreted, New York: Abingdon Press, 1965. Cf. Edward E. Hindson, “Development of the Interpretation of Isaiah 7:14: A Tribute to Edward J. Young,” in the Grace Journal 10.2 (Spring,1969): 19-25.47 Hindson lists twenty-one defenders of the strict Messianic view and twelve scholarly apologists for the “dual-fulfillment” position among conservative and evangelical Bible scholars, “ Development of the Interpretation ofIsaiah 7:14,” pp. 21 – 23. These include: Puritan Matthew Henry (1662 – 1714); Anglican Bishop Robert Lowth (1710 -1777), an Oxford professor and grammarian; Adam Clarke (1760 – 1832); Methodist theologian and Biblical scholar;Ernst W. Hengenstenberg (1802 – 1869), incredibly erudite Lutheran orientalist and theologian [author of theChristology of the Old Testament]; Joseph A. Alexander (1809 – 1860), famous philologist and Biblical scholar, professorat Princeton Seminary and University; Charles Simeon (1759 – 1836), Anglican preacher and founder of the LondonSociety for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews [1809]; Franz Delitzsch (1813 – 1890), Lutheran theologian andexpert Hebraist whose collaboration with Johann Friedrich Karl Keil produced the famous Keil – Delitzsch OTCommentary Series [10 Vols. Leipzig, 1852 – 1889]; Thomas K. Cheyne (1841 – 1915) , Fellow of Balliol College,Oxford and author of The Prophecies of Isaiah, A New Translation and Commentary. 2 Vols. [London: Kegan Paul, Trench,& Co., 1868]; Henry Cowles (1803 – 1881), Yale graduate and Professor at Oberlin College from 1835 – 1863, author ofIsaiah: With Notes: Critical, Explanatory, and Practical [New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1869]; Thomas R. Birks(1810 – 1883), non-conformist theologian and controversialist, Knightbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy atCambridge, author of Commentary on The Book of Isaiah: Critical, Historical, and Prophetical [Rev. 2nd Edition; London:Macmillan & Co., 1878]; Charles W.S. Kay (1820 – 1886), another Oxford scholar, missionary to India, and laterUniversity Preacher and Professor of Septuagint, author of Isaiah in the The Speakers’ Bible Commentary Series (London,1886); Edward Hartley Dewart (1828 – 1903), Wesleyan-Methodist preacher and journalist, editor of the ChristianGaurdian (Toronto) from 1869 – 1884, and author of Jesus the Messiah in Prophecy and Fulfillment (Cincinnati: Cranston& Stowe, 1891); C. Von Orelli [aka Hans Konrad von Orelli] (1846 – 1912) was a Swiss theologian and Orientalist,trained at Leipzig and Tubingen, and later a preacher in Zurich and Professor of Bible and Theology at the Universityof Basel, author of The Prophecies of Isaiah, Expounded [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1895]; George L. Robinson (1863 –1958), a magnificient historian and linguist who studied at Princeton and Berlin Universities, who later taught atKnox College, Toronto and Beirut College in Beirut. He also was director the School of Oriental Research in Jerusalemfrom 1913-15 and later was Professor of Theology and Oriental Languages at the University of Chicago. He authoredthe celebrated volume The Book of Isaiah in Fifteen Studies [New York: The Association Press, 1910]; Arno ClemensGabelein (1861 – 1945), a Methodist minister, a prominent Bible teacher and conference speaker (also associated withthe production of the Scofield Reference Bible), editor of Our Hope magazine the author of Isaiah Commentary in hiswork, The Annotated Bible: The Holy Scriptures Analyzed and Annotated, Vol. IV, Proverbs to Ezekiel [New York:Publication Office “Our Hope”, 1912]; George Rawlinson (1812 – 1902), was Canon of Canterbury and CamdenProfessor of Ancient History at the University of Oxford, and his pertinent book, published posthumously, was Isaiahin the Pulpit Commentary [2 Vols., 2nd Edition; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Co., 1913]; Robert William Rogers (1864 –1930), a superb scholar who studied at the University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins, and Haverford, was adistinguished orientalist and filled the chair of Hebrew and Old Testament Exegesis at Drew University from 1893 –1930. He authored “Isaiah,” in the Abingdon Bible Commentary, Frederick C. Eiselen (ed.) [Nashville, TN.: AbingdonPress, 1929); B.A. Copass (1865 – 1950), who studied at Bethel College in Kentucky and Southern Baptist Seminary inLouisville, also served several pastorates in Texas. He is the author of Isaiah: Prince of Old Testament Prophets[Nashville, TN.: Broadman Press, 1944]; William Kelly (1821 – 1906), an Irish Biblical scholar and preacher among the
  • 49. 98Plymouth Brethern, who authored of An Exposition of the Book of Isaiah [4th Edition; London: C.A. Hammond, 1947,published posthumously !]; William E. Vine (1873 – 1949), English Bible scholar and theologian who studied atUniversity College of Wales and London University and was a enthusiastic supporter of world missions. His relevantwork is his Expository Commentary on Isaiah [1st Edition; Nashville, TN.: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1953]; Edward J.Young (1907 – 1968), was a brilliant Hebrew linguist who studied at Stanford University, Westminster TheologicalSeminary, and Dropsie University (Ph.D., 1943). He authored a classic three volume set of commentaries , The Book ofIsaiah [Grand Rapids, MI.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965 – 1972], which was the initial volume ofthe New International Commentary Series. This list of conservative defenders of Isaiah’s genuine predictive prophecycould be vastly expanded in the last forty years.48 Dr. Hindson’s article (Op Cit., pp. 21 – 22) list a dozen of these scholars who are by all means recognized anddistinguished scholars. These include: Albert C. Barnes (1798 -1870), a Presbyterian theologian and graduate ofPrinceton Theological Seminary, and author of the well-known Notes On The New Testament. His work on Isaiah isNotes: Critical, Explanatory, and Practical on the Prophet Isaiah [3 Vols.; Boston: Crocker & Brewster, 1840 (Vol. I)];Alexander Keith (1791 – 1880), was a noted Scottish minister, a graduate of Marischal College, a strong advocate ofthe restoration of the Jews to Palestine, and a writer of no mean ability. Keith’s work on Isaiah was Isaiah As It Is Or,Judah and Jerusalem The Subjects of Isaiah’s Prophesying [Edinburgh: William White and Company, 1850]; J. Skinner (1852 – 1925 ), was a celebrated Scottish preacher and Bible scholar who studied both in Scotland and Germany andjoined the faculty of Westminster College at Cambridge in 1890. His work was The Book of the Prophet Isaiah: Chapters I.– XXXIX. with Introduction And Notes (Cambridge: The University Press, 1896); Alexander McClaren (1826 – 1910),was a famous Scottish Baptist minster who studied for the ministry at London and Stepheny Colleges, London andfrom 1858 until 1905 was pastor of Union Chapel in Manchester. He was twice president of the Baptist Union. HisBiblical commentary was Isaiah: Chapters I to XLVIII in Expositions of Holy Scripture [London: Hodder & Stoughton,1906]; C.W. Edward Naegelsbach (1806 – 1859), classical scholar at Erlangen and pastor in Bayreuth, Bavaria, authorof Der Prophet Iesaia [Bielefeld: Verlag von Belhagen 1877. E.T., William N. Hornblower. Philadelphia: AmericanBaptist Publication Society, 1906]; Edward H. Plumptre (1821 – 1891), scholar of University College, Oxford and laterFellow of Kings College and Dean of Wells, Professor of Pastoral Theology. His commentary on Isaiah in Charles J.Ellicott (ed.), Commentary on the Bible. [3 Vols.; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1920]; JosephS. Exell (1849 – 1909), served as editor of the Biblical Illustrator and co-editor of the Pulpit Commentary; see hisexposition of Isaiah in Joseph S. Exell and H.D.M. Spence, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. X [Grand Rapids, MI.: WilliamB. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1925]; Charles B. Williams (1869-1952), a Baptist minister and linguist whostudied at Baylor U. and the University of Chicago (M.A., 1907; Ph.D., 1908), pastored a number of churches in NorthCarolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, and Florida, made a popular translation of the New Testament and wrotehis commentary on Isaiah [Chicago: Moody Press, 1926]; John Aberly (1867 – 1963), a Lutheran missionary andprofessor, studied for his degrees at Gettsburg College and was missionary and translator in Telugu [Bolivar, MO.:Quiet Waters Publications, 1948]; Frederic Charles Jennings (1847 – 1948), a distinguished Plymouth Brethern andpreacher who studied in England, and wrote his Studies In Isaiah [New York: Loizeaux Brothers, 1950]; William Fitch(1911 – 1984), Isaiah, The New Bible Commentary. F Davidson, ed. [Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 1954]; and Gleason L.Archer, Jr., Princeton and Harvard graduate, Hebrew savant and long-time professor at Trinity Evangelical DivinitySchool (Deerfield, Illinois), wrote Isaiah in the Wycliffe Biblical Commentary [Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1962].49 See the brilliant analysis of Mr. Wayne Jackson, editor of the Christian Courier journal (online since 1997), “AnAmazing Prophecy of Daniel,” at See also the scientifically precise and logically scintillating review of Christian Physicist John A. Bloom,Ph.D. in his article “ Is Fulfilled Prophecy of Value for Scholarly Apologetics,” which originally appeared in TheGlobal Journal of Classical Theology, Vol. I, No. 2 (1999) and this author’s own modest submission to the same journal “The Aramaic of Daniel and the Integrity of Biblical Prophecy,” Vol. 7, No. 3 (2009).50 Commentary on The Prophecies of Isaiah. Edited by John Eadie,D.D., LL.D. (New Revised Edition; Vol. I; New York:Scribner, Armstrong, and Company, 1874), Introduction, p. 24. He adds: “ This doctrine is avowed more explicitly bysome (as by Hitzig and Knobel) than by others (as Gesenius and Ewald ;) but it is really the s of thewhole school, and the only bond of unity between them. There is also a difference in the application of the generalrule to specitic cases. Where the obvious exposition of a passage would convert it into a distinct prediction, Geseniusand Hitzig usually try to shew that the words really relate to something near at hand, and within the reach of asagacious human foresight, while Ewald and Umbreit in the same case choose rather to convert it into a vague
  • 50. 99anticipation. But they all agree in this, that where the prophecy can be explained away in cither of these methods, itmust be regarded as a certain proof of later date.” (Ibid.). See Alexander’s whole discussion, pp. 1-50. Later, such aisagogical critique of the critics’ negative rationalism is carried out by Prof. Edward Hartley Dewart for the laternineteenth century in his devastating analysis in Jesus the Messiah in Prophecy and Fulfillment: A Review and Refutationof The Negative Theory of Messianic Prophecy (Toronto, Canada: William Briggs, 1891), cf. his “Preliminary Remarks,”pp. 5-16. Later J.G. Machen, Edward Young, and Edward Hindson bring this irenic apologetic into the early and latertwentieth century.51 Jesus the Messiah in Prophecy and Fulfillment: A Review and Refutation of The Negative Theory of Messianic Prophecy,“Preliminary Remarks,” p. xii.52 Ibid., p. 13. Dr. Hindson remarks in his thoughtful article that “the non-messianic interpretation gainedimpetus in Germany and began to influence writers in England and the United States during the last of thenineteenth century, conservative writers of the early twentieth century began to adopt position earlier ad–vocated by Barnes and Keith. At the sametime there was a noticeable drop in commentaries advocating a strictlymessianic fulfillment. Meanwhile the critical viewpoint continued to gain acceptance, especially with the publicationof Grays work as part of the International Critical Commentary. Such interpretation has a firm foothold today in liberaland neo-orthodox interpretation. The conservative works advocating single-fulfillment since Orelli were really morestudy-guides and devotional commentaries, so that Young was right when he wrote in 1954 that "since 1900 no trulygreat commentaries upon Isaiah have been written.” (“Development of the Interpretation of Isaiah 7:14: A Tribute toEdward J. Young,” in Grace Theological Journal 10.2 (Spring 1969), p. 22.53 Hindson, Op. Cit., pp. 19-22. However, strongly opposed to this adjustment of the difficulties of predictiveprophecy to historical speculation and interpreter’s sentiments were such stalwart evangelical OT experts asPrincetonian Robert Dick Wilson in his meticulous “ Note and Notices. The Meaning of `Alma (A.V. “Virgin”) inIsaiah VII.14 ”, The Princetonian Theological Review, Vol. 24, No. 2 (1926): 308 – 316. Then also came the incisivecounter-critical reflections of W. Robinson, “William C. Robinson, "A Re-Study of the Virgin Birth of Christ."Evangelical Quarterly, Vol. XXXVII. No.4 (London: October, 1965), pp. 198 – 211 and Charles Feinberg, " Virgin Birth inthe Old Testament and Isaiah 7:14." Bibliotheca Sacra Vol. 119 (Dallas: July, 1962), pp. 251-58.54 ”Isaiah’s Immanuel,” in Grace Journal 10.3 (Fall, 1969): 3 – 15. Immediately before this the author had reviewed thechief facts of the Syro–Ephraimatic Alliance and intentions of King Rezin and King Pekah of Israel (Samaria) ca. 734B.C. and their intentions to install a “puppet regime” in Judah. He also discussed the details of a previous invasionrecorded in 2 Kings 15 – 16:5 and 2 Chronicles 28:5. He then emphasizes the “remnant” motif (exemplified by Isaiah’sson Shear-Yashub) and the denouement of the “two firebrands” of Rezin and Pekah who are in reality only“smoldering sticks” in God’s eyes. Since God had eternal purposes for the throne of David according to 2 Samuel7:14-17 (that it would be reserved from the coming Messiah!), the prophet was calling for repentant faith andcovenantal courage from weak king Ahaz (cf. pp. 3-4).55 ``The Significance of the `Almah Prophecy in the Context of Isaiah 7 – 12, ” in the Criswell Theological Review 6.2(1993):223 – 235, citing p. 229. However, Professor Oswalt himself holds to the “dual fulfillment” idea, nevertheless.He states in the next paragraph: “ It should not be inferred from this argumentation that I believe the Immanuelprophecy refers solely to the Messiah. As I have stated elsewhere, the statements in 7:15 – 16 surely point to a birthduring the lifetime of Ahaz. What we know of Israelite and Syrian history confirms this, in that both Syria and Israelhad been defeated and annexed by Assyria by 722 B.C., approximately 12 years after the most likely date of thisprophecy. Thus, it seems beyond question that the prediction was fulfilled, as intended, during Ahaz’ lifetime. Inaddition, it seems very likely that it was fulfilled in Isaiah’s own family through the birth of his son, Maher-shalal-hash-baz. This argument is supported by the recurrence of language in 7:14 and 8:3 (“she conceived and bore a son”),by the similarity of the signs, and by the mention of Immanuel on both sides of the mention of Maher-shalal-hash-baz.” (pp. 231-232). We believe that Oswalt’s logic of structural context is valid, however his specific deductions inthe second part of his paradigm is not nearly as convincing as he claims (we shall address this shortly). Hiscommentary, written a few years ago, is The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1 – 39 in the New International Commentary of theOld Testament series, R.K. Harrison and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. (eds.) (Grand Rapids, MI.: William B. EerdmansPublishing Company, 1986) [Cf. pp. 246 – 247]. He himself also cites Herbert M. Wolf, “ A Solution to the ImmanuelProphecy in Isaiah 7:14 – 8:22,” in the Journal of Biblical Literature 91 (1972): 449-456 and controversial article of JohnWalton, “ What’s in a Name?” in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 30:3 (1987): 289 – 306.
  • 51. 10056 ``Context and Content in the Interpretation of Isaiah 7:14* ” in the Tyndale Bulletin 21(1970): 118 – 125, p. 124. Oneof the more recent editions of Motyer’s commentary (published in the Tyndale OT Commentary series) is The Prophecyof Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1993. This is actually the second ofthree core assertions in the latter part of the article. The first one that “ Isaiah proceeded, from the start, from theknowledge of the ultimate fall of Judah and Jerusalem and the captivity of the people (see 6:9ff.).” Motyer’s thirdessential point is follows: “ Isaiah, thirdly, was involved in the necessity of facing Ahaz with the devastatingimplications of his choice. Ahaz belonged to a situation of expectation. He was the Davidic king, both heir andtransmitter of the promises of God. Isaiah chooses to try to force him to see that he can put and indeed is putting thepromise into jeopardy by the apparently bald statement that he is the immediate precursor of the prince Immanuel,and that because of Ahaz and the faithless decision to rely on Assyria the Messianic Immanuel will inherit a defunctdynasty and a pauperized, overrun and captive land. ” (pp. 124-125).57 ” The Miraculous Birth,” in Hebrew Witness (2003), cited from Theauthor has elsewhere written, “One could discuss the problems connected with immediate and “double” fulfillment([God could have done it that way, but the actual text and the history of Messianic prophecy and fulfillment dojustify a claim that he did, in fact, do this ]). Poor candidates have been suggested: (1) Hezekiah [?]. But Hezekiah wasalready 12 - 15 years old and quite definitely not the Messiah of Isaiah 2, 4, 9, and 11; (2) the son of the prophetess(Isaiah’s wife), but neither the language of the text nor history suggests that Shear-Yashub or another son was born ofa genuine virgin; (3) some unknown child in Ahaz’ court or in the land of Judah in the late 8 th century B.C. Where isthe hard proof and how does one account for the fact the Jews continued to look for a unique and incomparable sonof David until the time of Christ ?58 Dr. Feinberg’s essay was originally published in the Bibliotheca Sacra in 1962, and later in his book study, Is theVirgin Birth in the Old Testament ? (Whittier, CA.: Emeth Publishing, 1967), 34 – 48. He we cite the reprint , “ TheVirgin Birth and Isaiah 7:14,” in Master’s Seminary Journal 22/1 (Spring, 2011): 11-17, specifically p. 16. Dr.Feinberg(1909 -1995), a Jewish Christian (Messianic Jew), was a highly distinguished Semitic scholar with credentialsfrom the Hebrew Institute of Pittsburg, the University of Pittsburg, Th.M. and Th.D. (Dallas Theological Seminary),M.A. from Southern Methodist University, and a Ph.D. in Archaeology and Semitic languages from John HopkinsUniversity.59 Cf. the annotations from the Strong’s Concordance for Hebrew 226 - `owth cited in Professor Feinberg (Op. Cit., p. 13) cites the same statistics from CharlesR. Brown’s report in “ Exegesis of of Isaiah VII:10-17,” in the Journal of Biblical Literature 9, No. 1 (1890): 119.60 Edited by R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke. (2 Vols.; Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), citedfrom The HBSC Bible Navigator (Nashville, TN.: Holman Bible Publishers/Lifeway, 2003).61 ``Context and Content in the Interpretation of Isaiah 7:14* ” in the Tyndale Bulletin 21(1970), p. 120. Rev. ProfessorJames D. Price (Temple Baptist Seminary) remarks: “That the sign truly was to be a miracle is evident from verse 11--Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above." Clearly Isaiahoffered King Ahaz a miraculous sign of the magnitude of the miraculous sign actually given to King Hezekiah at alater time (38:8). That Ahaz understood the offered sign to be a miracle is evident from his response in verse 12--"ButAhaz said, I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!" The request of a purely natural event would not have beenregarded as a test of God.” Cited from Incidentally, Dr.Price hold an M.Div. from Los Angeles Baptist Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in Hebrew and Cognate Languagesfrom Dropsie University.62 ” Isaiah’s Immanuel,” Grace Journal 10.3 (Fall, 1969), p. 5. Dr. Hindson adds this commentary: “The context intowhich verse 14 fits is unified by the transitory word, "therefore." The worried king will not trust in God, so theprophet announces that God will give a sign to the nation of Judah that will command their trust in Him. Since theline of David is at stake and later the nation will be removed, the people needed some confidence to trust in Godsmaintaining the throne of David for "all generations." It is the sign of Immanuel that commands their confidence inGod. Isaiah had taken a message of hope to the king, but in return he will give him a sign of eventual doom (toJudah) and of ultimate hope (to the throne of David).” See also Gordon Franz, M.A., “ The Ultimate Sign: Isaiah 7, ”from the Bible and Spade magazine online,
  • 52. 10163 “ The Virgin Birth and Isaiah 7:14, ” pp.13 – 14. The article by Professor Emil M. Kraeling was “ The ImmanuelProphecy,” Journal of Biblical Literature, 50, no. 4 (1931): 277 – 295, cited from p. 280. The reference to Dr. J.A.Alexander was to his Commentary on Isaiah (1865; reprint, Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1953),p. 167.64 Cf. the excellent article by Professor Gordon Franz cited above in Footnote 62. See also S.A. Horodetsky, inMOZNAIM ("Balances" and "Scales") V01 1, No. 10; Nov.-Dec., 1929. Rabbi Horodetsky is here cited from Arthur W.Kac, M.D., The Messianic Hope: A Divine Solution For The Human Problem (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, ACanon Press Book, 1975), pp. 40-41.65 Dr. Hindson gives some examples of this. He remarks: “ Here Isaiah uses it to introduce Immanuel. This form ofannouncement is similar to Genesis 16:11 where Hagar is introduceed, and Judges 13:5,7 which is an annunciation tothe wife of Manoah. In all three cases an unusually important event is signified. The word “behold” is merely aninterjection, but when used with a participle hineh does introduce either a present or a future action.” (” Isaiah’sImmanuel,” Grace Journal 10.3 (Fall, 1969), p. 6). In this point Dr. Hindson is following the lead of Rev. ProfessorFranz Delitzsch in his Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament: Isaiah. E.T., Vol. 1 (Reprint: Grand Rapids, MI.:William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1949), p. 216. He correctly acknowledges the fact that the harah in verse14 is probably not a participle at all but rather a verbal adjective (more on this later).66 Edward J. Young (cited by Dr. Hindson, op. cit.) has demonstrated that the regular feminine participle actually behorah [Heb., ]. But what occurs here is hr*h* . See Young’s Studies in Isaiah(Grand Rapids, MI.: William B.Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1954), p. 161. Later, in his three volume commentary on Isaiah in the NewInternational Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 1965), pp. 284 – 286 he somewhat de-emphasized his original point [?]67 Here we cite from Franz Delitzsch’s original edition before he and Professor Keil corroborated on publication. SeeFranz Delitzsch, D.D., Biblical Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah. E.T. from German by Rev. James Martin(Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1869), Vol. I, p. 216. See the Net Bible, comment on Isaiah 7:14, note 28, and see Todd S.Beall, William A. Banks, and Colin Smith. Old Testament Parsing Guide: Revisied and Updated Version (Nashville, TN.:Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), p. 501. The verb is quite definitely a Qal waw-consecutive feminine singular[archaic form] and not something else (like a Qal waw-consecutive 2nd person masculine singular, etc.).68 Gordon Franz, M.A., “ The Ultimate Sign: Isaiah 7,” Article from Associates for Biblical Research, “ The Virgin Birth and Isaiah 7:14, ” Op. Cit. See further his defense of “the virgin” translation on pp. 14 – 16 in hisclassic article.70 E.W. Hengstenberg (and even Scandanavian liberal O.T. scholar Johannes Lindblom) emphasize the definite articleand argue that the most natural explanation is that a definite woman is viewed in the prophet’s vision. Henstenbergstrongly contends this: “ In harmony with hinne h, the article in ha `alma might be explained from the circumstancethat the Virgin is present to the inward perception of the prophet – equivalent to ‘the virgin there.’” Cited byFeinberg, p. 14.71 Here, Charles Feinberg, Op. Cit., p. 15 states: “ It is in place here to indicate that many reputable scholars have heldand do hold that the Hebrew term in this context means virgin. Gray affirms that “‘almâ means a girl, or youngwoman, above the age of childhood and sexual immaturity…a person of the age at which sexual emotion awakensand becomes potent; it asserts neither virginity nor the lack of it; it is naturally inactual usage often applied to women who were as a matter of fact certainly (Gen 24:43; Ex 2:8), or probably (Song 1:3;6:8; Ps 68.26), virgins.” Additionally Feinberg quotes from the famous Jewish archaeologist and Semitic scholar CyrusH. Gordon: “ The commonly held view that ‘virgin’ is Christian, whereas ‘young woman’ is Jewish is not quite true.The fact is that the Septuagint, which is the Jewish translation made in pre-Christian Alexandria, takes ‘almâ to mean‘virgin’ here. Accordingly, the New Testament follows Jewish interpretation in Isaiah 7:14. Little purpose wouldserve in repeating the learned expositions that Hebraists have already contributed in their attempt to clarify the pointat issue. It all boils down to this: the distinctive Hebrew word for ‘virgin’ is betûlâ, whereas ‘almâ means a ‘youngwoman’ who may be a virgin, but is not necessarily so. The aim of this note is rather to call attention to a source thathas not yet been brought into the discussion. From Ugarit of around 1400 B.C. comes a text celebrating the marriageof the male and female lunar deities. It is there predicted that the goddess will bear a son…. The terminology is
  • 53. 102remarkably close to that in Isaiah 7:14. However, the Ugaritic statement that the bride will bear a son is fortunatelygiven in parallelistic form; in 77:7 she is called by the exact etymological counterpart of Hebrew ‘almâ ‘youngwoman’; in 77:5 she is called by the exact etymological counterpart of Hebrew betûlâ ‘virgin.’ Therefore, the NewTestament rendering of ‘almâ as ‘virgin’ for Isaiah 7:14 rests on the older Jewish interpretation, which in turn is nowborne out for precisely this annunciation formula by a text that is not only pre-Isaianic but is pre-Mosaic in the form thatwe now have it on a clay tablet. ” Cf. Almah in Isaiah 7:14,” Journal of Biblical Literature 21, No. 2 (April, 1953): 106,cited by Feinberg, p. 15.72 Cf. Cyrus H. Gordon’s 1953 JBL article cited above in footnote 71. But see also the magnificient compilation oflinguistic/philological data on ‘almah discovered by Professor Robert Dick Wilson in “Notes and Notices: TheMeaning of ‘Alma (A.V. “Virgin”) in Isaiah VII.14,” in The Princeton Theological Review Vol. 24, No. 2 (1926), andexcellent illustrative material from the Jewish Aramaic Targums quoted in Rev. Professor William G. Most (NotreDame) in “ The Problem of Isaiah 7:14,” found in Faith & Reason (Summer 1992), cited This much is clear from the Hebrew text itself and employing the most elementary textual logic. Isaiah’s God , theYahweh of Israel, is surely capable of more than pointing to an every day occurrence for a Divine sign, especially onethat would reassure those who believe in the unconditional Davidic covenant. But see the restrained and carefuldiscussion of ‘almah and its implications by Dr. Edward E. Hindson in “ Isaiah’s Immanuel,” Grace Journal 10.3 (Fall,1969), pp. 6 – 8. Indeed, as theologian Richard Niessen has put it: “ [T]he hardes sign God could give that wasrelevant to the occasion was a true biological impossibility – the miraculous conception of a son by a woman whowas a virgin in the biological sense of the word.” (Cf. his entire article, “ The Virginity of the ‘Almah in Isaiah 7:14,”in Biblotheca Sacra 137 (April – June 1980): 135 -150)74 ”Isaiah’s Immanuel,” Op. Cit. , p. 7. In one of his footnote references he bluntly remarks: “One cannot help butwonder what the deniers of the virgin-birth prediction would say: if Isaiah had used the term bethulah. Would theirtheological presuppositions cause them to turn to Joel 1:8 and say that bethulah cannot mean virgin and thus Isaiah isnot predicting a virgin birth? ” The main objection to reading “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 is thus not historical or linguisticbut it is philosophical and theological prejudice.75 Dr. Hindson, “Isaiah’s Immanuel,” cites the opinion of A. Dillmann that the “tense” should be understood asfuture in his Das Prophet Jesaia (Leipzig, 1890), p. 70 (see his footnote 35, p. 13). But as Hindson himself pointed out(footnote 36, citing J.A. Alexander and Edward J. Young), is actually a verbal adjective. As Young states: “ theadjective should be taken as expressing present condition, unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary. Suchreasons are not present in Isaiah 7:14 . . . .” (Studies in Isaiah, pp. 161 – 162, cited in E. Hindson, Ibid.). This can beconfirmed by consulting Gesenius’ Lexicon, Brown–Driver–Briggs’ Lexicon, or Koehler-Baumgartner’s newer Lexicon.76 Cf. Todd S. Beall, William A. Banks, and Colin Smith. Old Testament Parsing Guide: Revisied and Updated Version, p.500. Hindson’s discussion of this is excellent and found in his article, “Isaiah’s Immanuel,”pp. 8 – 9. His reasoning isthus : “ It is quite obvious that the verbal time indicated here should be taken as a presenttense, and so most since Lowth have agreed. The concept of the time element involved is very important to theinterpretation of the passage. If the word almah means "virgin" and if this ‘almah is already pregnant and about tobear a son, then, the girl is still a virgin, even though she is a mother. Consider the contradiction if this passage is notreferring to the only virgin birth in history--that of Jesus Christ. ”77 Hindson, p. 9 (footnotes 41-42, p. 14) cites Professor Robert H. Gundry’s work, The Use of the Old Testament in St.Matthew’s Gospel (Leiden: E.J. Brill Publishers, 1967), pp. 221 and the observations of Otto Procksch, Jesaia I (Leipzig,1930), p. 143. Here is the salient comment: “ The adjective points to the state of the `almah’s pregnancy as if it hadalready begun, so that Gundry concludes: ` we must understand that she conceives and bears in her status as `almah.’“ This is the reason that only Mary, the mother of Jesus can meet the qualifications for fulfilling this prophecy andtherefore the speculations that “the virgin” is the prophet’s wife (i.e.,`` the prophetess” of 8:3), the wife of Ahaz, thewife of Hezekiah, or some unknown local virgin is an impossibility. For the claim to be meaningful, it must bemiraculous and occur in the future.78 The Christology of the Old Testament. Translated from the German by Dr. Reuel Keith (Protestant EpiscopalTheological Seminary of Virginia) (Alexandria, D.C.: William M. Morrison, 1836), Vol. I, p. 326. ContemporaryHebrew syntax scholars Bill T. Arnold and John H. Choi (Asbury Seminary and Graduate School) have described the
  • 54. 103second and third verb-forms as a “Sequential” form of a “ Perfect Plus Waw-Consecutive, ” which “ expressestemporal sequences, describing an action or situation subsequent to a previous action or situation. ” (A Guide ToBiblical Hebrew Syntax. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2003, Ch. 3, pp. 87-88 ).79 Cf. the comments about symbolic naming in Cyrus H. Gordon, Introduction to Old Testament Times (Ventor, N.J. :Ventor Press, 1953), p. 210. Professor Gordon compares here the symbolic name of Jezreel and Immanuel. He states infootnote 7 on this page: “ The symbolic naming of the child (here called “Jezreel”) is a feature of Hosea that served asa precedent for future prophets; notably Isaiah, whose messianic prophecy about Immanuel is in line with thistradition.” See also the Messianic Bible study, “ Isaiah 7:1-17: The Virgin Birth of Yeshua the Messiah, God’s TrueHope and Deliverance,” written by pastor (rabbi) Re’ uben Drebenstedt, Director in The Menorah Light. Edition 1,2012, pp. 5 – 8.80 See the author’s previous observations about Isaiah in The First Nativity: Promise and Prophecy of the Nativity, Part I,pp. 174 – 195 for greater detail.81 Cf. Edward J. Young, Studies In Isaiah, pp. 196 – 198, cited in Edward Hindson, “ Isaiah’s Immanuel,” p. 10.82 Dr. Hindson cites Professor Kyle M. Yates here, from his Essentials of Biblical Hebrew (New York: Harper & Row,1954), pp. 134 – 135, cited in Edward Hindson, footnote 56, p. 14. Hindson talks about the “ Perfect of Prophecy,” iswhich an old defintion. But notice our citation from the contemporary standard grammar study by Bill T. Arnold andJohn H. Choi, A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax in footnote 78. [?]83 ” Isaiah’s Immanuel,” , p. 10. He also observes that the titles of the “gift–child” in 9:5,6 are descriptions of thecoming Messianic ruler and not merely “titulary epithets” (Dr. Hindson cites here the brilliant and scholarly criticismof the University of Liverpool archaeologist and orientalist, Professor Kenneth A. Kitchen who convincingly showedthat “ the Hebrew titles are actually more parallel in usage to the Ugaritic epithets of Niqmepa, who is described as:‘Lord of justice,’ ‘master of the (royal)house,’ ‘protector,’ and ‘builder.’ ” (Ancient Orient and Old Testament. Chicago:Intervarsity Press, 1966, pp. 106-111, cited in Hindson, p. 15, footnote 60.)84 See the meticulously detailed defense of the validity of Matthew’s use of the Old Testament quotations about theMessiah in Dr. R.H. Gundry’s work, The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel (Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. BrillPublishers, 1967), pp. 226-227. See also the fine internet essay by Ron W. Leigh, “ `Fulfill, ‘ Matthew 1:22, and Isaiah7:14,” at Dr. Leigh is an associate instructor at Ivy TechCommunity College in Ft. Wayne, Indiana and holds a B.A. and M.A. from Wheaton College andGraduate School as well as a Ph.D. from New York University.85 Words: Combined from various antiphons by an unknown author, possibly in the 12th Century (Veni, veni Emanu-el); translated from Latin to English by John M. Neale, Mediaeval Hymns, 1851. Neale’s original translation began,“Draw nigh, draw nigh, Emmanuel.” Music: VENI EMMANUEL, from a 15th Century processional of French Franciscannuns (the setting for the funeral hymn Libera me); arranged by Thomas Helmore in the Hymnal Noted, Part II (London:1856)