Prophecy Part 5: Virgin Birth

I’ve been working on a series of posts that examine the prophecies given in the Bible. My first post in the series can be found here.

One of the best known prophecies of Christ concerns the virgin birth. In Matthew 1:18-25, we learn about Mary’s pregnancy and the birth of Jesus. In verses 22-23, we’re told:

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

The passage in Isaiah 7 that Matthew is referencing is definitely a prophecy. It says that something specific is going to happen, and it seems to include peculiar events that would be impossible under normal circumstances. However, there are still a couple of problems.

First of all, this prophecy is given to King Ahaz of Judah to put him at ease about the looming threat of Syria and Israel, who had joined forces to attack him. Ahaz refuses to ask for a sign, but he’s given one anyway:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.”
– Isaiah 7:14-15

Now in the Bible story, there’s only one person we know of that is born of a virgin, and that’s Jesus. But this prophecy was given to a king who lived 700 years before Christ and had an immediate need that he was concerned about. So if this were a prophecy about Christ, what possible consolation would it have been for King Ahaz? The other interesting question is why would it say “before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good,” if we’re talking about Jesus? Granted, we don’t know exactly how he was as a child, but this still sounds unusual.

Of course, the reason we know this prophecy is talking about Jesus is because of the word virgin. But in actuality, the Hebrew word here is almah, which means “maiden.” While that can imply virginity, it does not necessitate it. And in any other circumstance, a maiden who is pregnant is obviously not a virgin. Had Isaiah really meant virgin, he could have used the word bethulah, which means just that. That word is used in Deuteronomy 22:13-24 where the subject of virginity is actually discussed. The word almah was used in passages like Genesis 24:43 where the point of the passage had nothing to do with whether or not someone was actually a virgin. Of course, even if Isaiah had meant to say “virgin,” that doesn’t necessarily mean he was implying the conception would be through miraculous means. A virgin can conceive by having sex. So she may have been a virgin at the time the prophecy was given, but that doesn’t mean he was stating she would still be one by the time she conceived.

Furthermore, Isaiah 8 actually seems to show the fulfillment of this prophecy. Verses 1-4 show where Isaiah goes in to a prophetess who conceives, and he names the child Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Then he repeats the same prophecy he gave before, “before the boy knows how to cry ‘my father’ or ‘my mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria” (vs 4).

Every indication is that this prophecy has nothing to do with Christ. It was about a current event in Isaiah’s time, and its fulfillment happened right there in Isaiah chapter 8. This really calls Matthew’s integrity into question.

The fact that Isaiah’s prophecy deals with a local event in his own time is not new information. Apologists and preachers are aware of it, but they try to answer the problem by saying that many prophecies have double fulfillments. In other words, they admit that Isaiah was talking about a local issue in this prophecy, and that it was fulfilled by the birth recounted in Isaiah 8. But they say that the prophecy also had a double meaning that pointed to Christ.

I think this is a very poor explanation. A prophecy really has no point unless it’s predictive in nature, because anyone can claim credit once the event has happened. To borrow an analogy I’ve used before, I could claim credit for predicting the World Trade Center collapse of 9/11 by saying I knocked down a tower of blocks when I was four. While my immediate actions only concerned the tower of blocks, I was also predicting the collapse of the World Trade Center.

Obviously, that’s a ridiculous claim. But this is basically how people have tried to explain Matthew’s use of Isaiah 7. See, here’s the problem: Before Christ came, people who read Isaiah would find no significance in the prophecy of chapter 7, because they’d see that it had already been fulfilled in chapter 8. Since no one saw it as a prophecy of the Messiah, there was no point in having it. No one would have dreamed of making the connection until Matthew told us to.

So while I suppose we could say that this was just the magnificent insight of a person who was inspired by the Holy Spirit, it seems more like the manipulation of someone creating a myth.

We’ll continue our study of prophecies in the next post.

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69 thoughts on “Prophecy Part 5: Virgin Birth

  1. I had a (brief) discussion with Unklee about Moses and how most scholars these days agree that this character was fictious or an amalgamation of several people as per Martin Noth.
    The point I tried to illustrate was exactly what you are doing here, namely, the New Testament is considered fullfilment of prophecy, it is its ‘raison d’etre’, yet there are NO prophecies fullfilled!
    Furthermore, as Moses is reckoned to be ficticious who, then, was Jesus talking about when he mentions Moses by name?
    Surely the Son of God/ God incarnate would know the ‘history’ of the OT?
    Unklee suggested the issue was not black and white and whether Moses was real or not made little if any difference to the validity of Jesus. (‘scuse me!!!)
    It’s comments like that which do my head in, honestly, and why, as gentile as people lik Unklee come across as, they all have an agenda.
    William lane Craig is another expert at the Evangelical Twostep.

    One might as well try to plait fog!

    Oh, excellent post, as usual.

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  2. Of course, I agree with you about Moses. But honestly, guys like unkleE don’t bother me too much. I respect the fact that’s thought deeply about these things, even if we disagree. But more importantly, I appreciate that he is moderate in his attitudes toward others. While I wouldn’t mind seeing all religion decline, it’s really fundamentalism that I find dangerous. If all religious people were like unkleE, we’d be in pretty good shape! 🙂

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  3. Pingback: A Collection of Failed and Discrepant Bible Prophecy | The BitterSweet End

  4. william

    so, isaiah wasnt talking about a literal virgin after all, nor was he referring to someone who’d be born hundreds of years later; He was talking about a sign, for the present king of Judah, which would be a child born in chapter 8.

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  5. “so, isaiah wasnt talking about a literal virgin after all,”

    Sure he was. Nates article is full of errors and he’s overlooked a key point. So whats the terms of the debate. Thats necessary or it will just end up like the other thread where nate failed to prove his point, he’ll get angry when this one gets taken down and start levelling accusations without substance. You’ll say the same of me so thats even more the reason some rules of engagement need to be spelled out

    If you want to find truth that is.

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  6. Mike, you either have something to say or you don’t. Whether I agree with you or not should be irrelevant to you if your goal is to help people find what’s true about Christianity. I may not accept your points, but I won’t censor them or ban them. You’re free to say what you like. The only other promise I’ll make is that I’ll be honest in my thoughts concerning what you say. If you aren’t agreeable to those terms, then you certainly don’t have to participate.

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  7. william

    “…failed to prove his point, he’ll get angry when this one gets taken down and start levelling accusations without substance.”

    perhaps we can all avoid that here.

    This is nate’s blog, so i’ll let him set the rules as he likes, but i suggest not looking at this like a debate, where people automatically take sides and the view the other as a competitor, but instead, view this as a discussion and sharing of ideas, information and knowledge, letting the facts speak for themselves. If in the end, we do not agree, perhaps we can all accept that in a friendly way, without assigning assumed motivations and intentions to the other – keep it polite and dignified.

    While we wait on nate’s rules, do you mind sharing the key point you say he missed?

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  8. Nothing wrong with debate Will. What you said sounds nice but we already know from the other thread sides have already been taken. its why I was asked by you and others to participate here and not in a nice way that gave any indication that it would be an open no sides discussion. In fact lets be honest . it was downright confrontational.

    SO I was as they say just keeping it real and trying to see if this was worth my time. I fully understand that this is Nate’s blog but its also my time and a few of you asked me here so for my participation it will be mutually agreed on or I will pass.

    “While we wait on nate’s rules, do you mind sharing the key point you say he missed?”

    I already did in the other thread and I am not getting into what would be a discussion on it without those rules. As an example of an error nate made and to show I am not blowing smoke on that either his Genesis 24:43 claim is false . it had EVERYTHING to do with being a virgin. Again you have to read the whole context, historical, cultural and linguistic and when you do there is no way on God’s green earth if you understand the culture that the servant was looking for a non virgin to bring back to Isaac to wed. That would have been a HUGE affront to Abraham and an big failure by the servant.

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  9. william

    “What you said sounds nice but we already know from the other thread sides have already been taken. its why I was asked by you and others to participate here and not in a nice way that gave any indication that it would be an open no sides discussion. In fact lets be honest . it was downright confrontational.”

    indeed, which is why i suggest starting off fresh here. wipe the slate clean, if we’re all willing. I think it would provide a much more profitable and tolerable discussion for all. If it sounds nice, then good – let’s play nice.

    as far as the hebrew word for virgin being used in isaiah, as i understand it from the research i did, meant young maiden, which could, but did not necessarily imply “virgin” based on the context. There was another hebrew word which meant only “virgin” which was not used in isaiah’s prophecy.

    With isaac’s future wife, i can agree, they were looking for a virgin. But back in isaiah 7, where he made his prophecy, the context surround the kind of judah, who is anxious about encroaching nations from the north. Isaiah gives him a sign, that a young maiden would give birth, and before that child could do this or that, the king of judah’s problems would be resolved. In chapter 8 a child is born, and before he could this or that, the problem was taken care of.

    I looked this up many times, using different sources. If I’m incorrect, please advise.

    I used to be the tyre of christian who thought that this was a dual prophecy, one for the child in chapter 8 and the other for christ. But now, it seems to me, that isaiah never said anything about more than one fulfillment. and if there could have been more than one, why stop at 2? maybe it will continue to be fulfilled as time goes on and on…

    Plus, if isaiah meant jesus, who would be born hundreds and hundreds of years later, how would that serve as any sign to the king of judah?

    and I guess I missed you key point for this topic in the tyre thread, so i’ll go back and reread it.

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  10. “Mike, you either have something to say or you don’t. ”

    You are either seeking the truth or you are not. I did nothing wrong in asking for some debate rules particularly since the last ended with you making all kinds of accusations falsely and the same claims being made of me. Whats wrong with that Nate? It helps to avoid unpleasantries FOR BOTH SIDES. You can get all hot under the collar all you want and be rude if you choose. A sthe saying goes – thou dost protest too much. What does that have to do with “finding truth”? You have banned once and can ban again my world still revolved at the same speed. no hiccups. This isnt even a high traffic blog. It wont make any of the errors or oversights in this article into the truth (but I suppose it may help you to think its as iron clad as you think – so there is that).

    SO what kinds of evidence will be legit and what will be “word games” because honestly t this point I have no idea what you call that. If you can’t even muster something so fair and hnest a request this ill be and already is of to the same direction – only this case for this article is VASTLY weaker

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  11. Mike, I’m simply not going to debate you on debate rules. If you have something to say about this prophecy, feel free to say it. If you’re looking for specific rules on how to discuss the issue, maybe you can find another blog interested in that.

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  12. william

    let’s just try to be honest, try to use valid sources and definitions, try to remain in the text’s context and try to remain polite – not assigning motivations and/or intentions to the other. If we think someone’s point is stupid, let’s remember that that the person isn’t stupid,as we’ve all made mistakes before and will continue to do so.

    let this serve as the rules. common courtesy. Proverbs 15:1. Galatians 6:1.

    can we agree on that?

    mike?

    nate?

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  13. william

    that being said, and assuming we can all agree to those terms, mike, i looked back at the tyre blog and didnt see where you listed the key issue with nate’s virgin birth problem. Do you mind posting it again here for us to see and consider?

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  14. william

    And just to add some clarification, in case it was needed, the hebrew word used in isaiah’s prophecy means “young lady.” the hebrews had a different word that meant “virgin” exclusively – this word was not used by Isaiah.

    and since the hebrews had the two words, we cant say that the “young lady” word always meant “virgin.”

    Granted, and especially in that time period, a young lady was typically also a virgin, especially when unwed. Since that was the case, i believe examples could be found where the word for “young lady” also implied “virgin” – the context would indicate.

    for instance, if a young lady had sex, does that mean that since she’s no longer a virgin, that she’s also no longer “young” or “female?” of course not.

    would a woman remain young forever if she remained abstinent? no, she’s just an old maid.

    regardless of what Genesis says, regardless of whether anyone believes jesus was born of a virgin or not, isaiah was speaking to people who didnt believe any virgins could give birth to children. the jews didnt believe that any girl got pregnant without having sex, so for clarity sake, isaiah would have added something like, “without having known a man” in order to ensure his audience knew what to expect, especially if he was not going to use the specific hebrew word for “virgin,” if that’s really what he meant.

    In chapter 8, when the baby was born to the young lady, are we to assume that he was also born of a virgin, if that’s what isaiah intended? and again, if this prophecy could be fulfilled twice, then why not more? Were there at least 2 virgin births that have occurred?

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  15. “Mike, I’m simply not going to debate you on debate rules.”

    and who asked you to? I asked to hear what they are. you are supposed to be an honest and fair guy you say so what in the world is so wrong difficult or hard saying what they are. I have no definition on what”word games”are. That would be key to know

    Will it be a “word game” when I point out that you missed the son in the room?
    Will it be a “word game” when I follow the text and say the son was commanded to be there? and ask why?
    Will it be a “twist” when I tell you he may have been as young as a baby and by all accounts a young boy not a man?
    Will it be a word game when I tell you it makes a huge difference or will you put on your binders and say facts you were unaware of when you came to your conclusions doesn’t matter to the discissusion?
    Will it be a twist or word game when I show you the passage in Isaiah that says all Isiah’s sons were for signs?
    Will it be twisting and word games when I follow the text that says the virgin birth prophecy was specifically made to the house of David not merely the king as you allege
    Will it be “word games” when I show you that the sign first offered to the king was miraculous and had to be?
    Will it be “twisting” when I follow the text and say the king flat out turned down the offer causing the prophecy not to be directed at the king but all the house of David?
    and will it be twisting and irrelevant that prophetic texts along with much of the OT (and almost all texts biblical or not at that time) have few directions cues as to who was being looked at or pointed to?

    Its so sad that you try and characterize asking for some ground rules as something bad. Its also greatly revealing as if you are scared if you do put down some rules there won;t be anywhere to turn for you.Its not my fault you couldn’t prove that mainland tyre of the one entity Tyre you admitted to wasn’t the focus of the prophecy that came true and its certainly not my fault that the claims you make for this article fall flat again when the facts are looked at.

    Not my fault Nate – thats yours.

    So since you can’t be civilized and respectful enough to not be rude about a perfectly legit question of ground rules for a debate (what an affront and sin – Mike asked to hear the rules) have at it and your wordpres.com blog. However isolating yourself from answers so that you can find “truth” is about everything but finding what the truth is – not for you or for your family. You might THINK you are just angry with me but My bet is you are angry as well that some of the things you thought were so cut and dry and made key decisions really are not- you just didn’t search hard enough to find the real answers that were there all along.

    Not too late nate. sounds like the church you were in was kind of cultic anyway.

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  16. Portal001

    Reread what you just wrote and instead insert your name in where you have Nates.

    What sort of impression do you get? Does it seem rude to you? If such a post was addressed at you?

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  17. “And just to add some clarification, in case it was needed, the hebrew word used in isaiah’s prophecy means “young lady.” the hebrews had a different word that meant “virgin” exclusively – this word was not used by Isaiah.”

    Wrong William. Almah was overwhelming the word used for a virgin. Heres where not understanding the culture really causes a person to come to bad conclusions. We are not talking about modern times and mores where everyone sleeps around. A young unmarried woman that was not a virgin was a total disgrace so the term almah almost always referred to being sexually pure . Nates example as you admit fails utterly. You are free to present other ones but as you try to you will find almost none where it indicates a woman that had been with a man previously. A couple are border line

    Furthermore the text is unambiguous – the sign that was to be given was of the miraculous order

    Isaiah 7:11 (KJV)
    11 Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.

    Its pretty locked and loaded and no way around it.

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  18. “What sort of impression do you get? Does it seem rude to you? If such a post was addressed at you?”

    I get the impression I just laid out my case why Nate’s proof passage fails yet again and blog owner or not called out and specified his rudeness to me when just asking for some ground rules

    What are you doing?

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  19. “Would you feel compelled to consider a post like this? ”

    Why do you feel anyone can compel anyone to consider anything? You assume an intent for me that I deem impossible and irrational. I am not compelled to consider nates rude response to me when just asking what the rules are either. So whats the point really?

    Blog owner makes right? Not to me. This blog is not important enough to me to accept such uneven terms. I was asked to be here in another thread that trumpeted in no uncertain terms that no one was going to be “compelled” to change their already foregone conclusion this article was solid and true. So don’t for a second dream I think I will be converting anyone here. That hopefully will be someone else when in a less belligerent mindset they realize that all the points I make are nowhere near as flimsy as they are sure they are

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  20. “that being said, and assuming we can all agree to those terms, mike, ”

    William thank you for a fair response . I do appreciate it and it just might have been a solid discussion but as you pointed out this is Nate’s blog. Your terms really don’t control anything. Whoever wants to claim otherwise is free to but I think we both know that if I responded to a request for some ground rules the way that nate just did in total rude ungraciousness you would have called me a jerk. o is it surprising that I think he was? then whats the point going on?

    Hey enjoy your weekend and I mean that sincerely. I part with you on good terms from my side but the blog itself. meh -its become a bit of a joke to me.

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  21. Portal001

    Mike, To add to what I wrote before,

    if you take a tour around this blog, I think you will find that this is a space with bloggers that don’t generally seek to offend people. Instead people I think come here to understand perspectives, share thoughts and discuss beliefs.

    Nate is one of the most respectful and generous bloggers I have come across. I can personally vouch on this from past experience.

    All the best 🙂

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  22. Portal001

    One more thing, Nate also definitely expresses grace, again I can say through personal experience on his blog.

    As I wrote about before, Grace is something we all benefit from and need 🙂

    Night

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  23. “In chapter 8, when the baby was born to the young lady, are we to assume that he was also born of a virgin, if that’s what isaiah intended? and again, if this prophecy could be fulfilled twice, then why not more? Were there at least 2 virgin births that have occurred?”

    I missed this post and saw it as I was scrolling up. No the prophecy is to the house of David not as Nate alleges to the king. The King had already turned down the offer of a divine miracle down and God responded that nothing could weary him and he would give a sign to the whole house of David. I won’t deny that many have missed this point (though there are commentaries that don’t) but Isaiah’s son may well have been the age that fit verse 16 at this time – really young. We can’t fix the age but by all accounts he was young not a man. We have no real explanation why he is there and SPECIFICALLY told to be brought by God. Obviousy he had to play a role and the most likely role was a sign himself as isaiah 8 goes on to say ALL Isiaiah’s children were.

    Ancient writings are notorious for not being descriptive of turning , pointing or those kinds of physical cues. Most of the Bible just states what is said not other cues (gospels have some turning and looking etc but even there its rare) so the logical interpretation is that at that point the buo in the room who had been asked by God to be there was the subject. it fits although I am quite sure I will probably hear it doesn’t

    Unfortunately I won’t be around to really get into it as I don’t find the blog owner too honest (sheesh after reading the elaborate scheme to fool a church I just read even more so) and certainly nowhere near as open as he claims. Skeptics often claim his and then get very angry when presented with evidences for alternate views they swear they were open to when they thought they did not exist.

    At any rate have fun claiming its all just hot air and “Word games” and pinning all of it on evil Mike . I’m bored. I may or may not just leave off reading here as I did the Tyre thread but good luck to you

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  24. Back to the discussion at hand. I just happened to do considerable research on this word usage for my book. This is what I found out.

    The Hebrew word almah, while often translated in English bibles as “virgin” (a word with strong connotations in the English language), actually means “young woman,” according to Jewish scholars, and denotes age, not virginity or sexual purity. The Hebrew word most commonly used for virgin is bethulah.

    Wikipedia comments that the meaning of almah is most often determined by referring to its uses in the Bible; however, only a few of the verses where it is used contain clear and unambiguous meanings. It goes on to say, The problem is further compounded when one considers that these various texts were recorded by different authors living centuries apart. Languages tend to evolve over time and ancient Hebrew was no different

    The following is a quote from outreachjudaism.org:

    “For nearly two millennia the Church has insisted that the Hebrew word almah עַלְמָה can only mean “virgin.” This is a vital position for defenders of Christianity to take because Matthew 1:22-23 translates alma in Isaiah 7:14 as “virgin.” The first Gospel quotes this well known verse to provide the only “Old Testament” proof text for the supposed virgin birth of Jesus. The stakes are high for Christendom. If the Hebrew word alma does not mean a virgin, Matthew crudely misquoted the prophet Isaiah, and both a key tenet of Christianity and the credibility of the first Gospel collapses.”

    And further:

    “The word betulah appears frequently in the Jewish Scriptures, and is the only word – in both biblical and modern Hebrew – that conveys sexual purity.”

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  25. “Nate is one of the most respectful and generous bloggers I have come across. I can personally vouch on this from past experience. ”

    IF you didn’t feel that way you wouldn’t stay at this blog so all the people who feel otherwise are not around. its the the natural almost groupie affect to a blog you like (especially a small one). I can personally vouch with me he has not been anywhere near respectful or generous. I was having a fairly good conversation with him when he compared me to Clinton’s lying and twisting then claimed he meant nothing but was back in days spelling the same thing. Thats neither honwst nor gracious

    Anyway enough I’m out

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  26. william

    Isaiah 7:

    “12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”

    13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you[c] a sign:”

    Mike, while Isaiah does say “house of david” it appears to me that he’s still referring to Ahaz and this direct family line. He uses that phrase when scolding Ahaz and then adds that the Lord will give him a sign whether he wants to ask for one or not.

    I will say that it’s unfortunate that we cant seem to abide by the suggested rules, but it doesnt really matter in the long run. but whether someone takes the high road or not should have little bearing on whether we do.

    and for nate, all those that know him here, whether believer or nonbeliever – all hold him in high regard for honesty and fairness. I see that you do not, but i can only assure that he is both. regarding his reply to you about rules, perhaps he was merely and hastily stating that “rules” shouldn’t be required when discussing the facts. A short can answer can sometimes be misinterpreted as rude, but I believe in this case, it was nothing more him getting to the point. he didnt call you any names, or suggest anything about your character or motives.

    I havent seen where nate has lied about anything. it’s possible that he’s been mistaken, as it is for the rest of us, but i haven’t seen any intentional lies being passed on by him.

    “Almah was overwhelming the word used for a virgin.” – mike

    would you provide sources verifying this claim? my research is in agreement what nan’s.

    “Furthermore the text is unambiguous – the sign that was to be given was of the miraculous order.” – mike

    I agree, but what could be ambiguous is what the miracle was to be. Considering the text, the context and the events in the next chapter, i believe isaiah’s “miracle” was the prediction of a child being born around the time Ahaz’s enemies were thwarted.

    I’m not sure I understand your point about the boy in the room?

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  27. Nate as i leave I will tell you – Your book will be suck horrible. If you think what you just provided (from wikipedia and a Jewish anti christian perspective) does anything that settles an issue that has been debated by Hebrew experts on both sides you are delusional. Young unmarried woman back in those days WERE virgins overwhelmingly so usind that word g DID without a doubt overwhelmingly imply that. Its a cultural fact

    “however, only a few of the verses where it is used contain clear and unambiguous meanings”

    which being interpreted means you have nothing to really answer the clear cultural meaning of the word or the fact that its clearly a reference to a miracle within the context.

    LOL I have to really hit the back button so I can get out of here for good. As soon s I post theres something else just posted

    BYE BYE

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  28. william

    “I can personally vouch with me he has not been anywhere near respectful or generous.”

    mike, you cant say any better of yourself. let’s not throw stones from a glasshouse. If you’re gonna dish it out, maybe you shouldnt complain about it.

    can we discuss isaiah or must we continue to delve back into who hurt whose feelings or who was more rude than who?

    we’re all guilty (mike, nate, william) in being less than polite. we could all debate who started it or to which degree who did what more or less than the other – but that’s static, and nothing of any real substance. It detracts from the points we’re trying to make.

    Please elaborate on the boy in the room and what significance that is supposed to have.

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  29. william

    “Young unmarried woman back in those days WERE virgins overwhelmingly so usind that word g DID without a doubt overwhelmingly imply that. Its a cultural fact” – mike

    which definition do you have that says the word means “Young unmarried woman?” It may, but to my knowledge the word simply means “young woman.”

    “LOL I have to really hit the back button so I can get out of here for good. As soon s I post theres something else just posted” – mike

    well, that’s because this is high trafficked blog.

    what in isaiah would have made the jew on isaiah’s time think that he was referring to some event over 700 years away, when the “prophecy” seems to be fulfilled in the chapter following the prophecy?

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  30. It appears you just can’t stay away, Mike, so I’m going to point out that it was me … NAN (not NATE) … that discussed the use of the word almah and provided sources.

    And if you don’t think a comment like, “Your book will suck horrible” is offensive, then you are grossly mistaken. Common courtesy would dictate a response similar to: “I would have grave doubts about the accuracy of your book …” or something similar instead of saying it would “suck.”

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  31. william

    nan, I’m hoping I’m wrong, which is why i keep trying to insist upon cordial discourse, but i suspect that Mike is a troll, like Ark suggested.

    And Like Ark pointed out, “Mike Anthony” is also the name of a bass player for switchfoot. could be coincidence, but could also be some dude going around making noise.

    either way, not too big of a deal. during my deconversion, when reading articles and blogs similar to this one, the blog comments tended to have a lot more affect on me. they supplemented the article and you could point and counter point. i didnt comment, but i observed. with most of these issues I saw that the apologist arguments often and mostly failed to win, and then they’d typically resort to name calling, then get upset when names were called their way, etc.

    the facts will rise to the top, through all the vitriol and posturing. Could i have missed something in this issue? certainly, but i havent seen it pointed out yet. at least nothig supported with citations, just baseless claims.

    Prov 15:1, Gal 6:1 – be excellent to each other.

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  32. Some people in this world simply can’t get beyond the “I’m right, you’re wrong” syndrome.

    Having said that, in this instance, “troll” does seem like an appropriate definition.

    Like

  33. william

    “A virgin can conceive by having sex. So she may have been a virgin at the time the prophecy was given, but that doesn’t mean he was stating she would still be one by the time she conceived.”

    and nate said this is his article. it seems true. Isaiah specifically said “a young woman shall conceive…” it doesnt say the conception would be miraculous or that she was definitely a virgin or not, nor does it go over at which point she was a virgin and when she stopped being one.

    so again, I posit that isaiah was not saying a miraculous conception would happen, he said something would happen when this other thing happened. he’s giving a prediction about events, which is his miracle – especially when read in the context of the preceding verses and the events in the following chapter.

    how do you see this, as a “dual prophecy?”

    Like

  34. william

    “‘however, only a few of the verses where it is used contain clear and unambiguous meanings’
    which being interpreted means you have nothing to really answer the clear cultural meaning of the word or the fact that its clearly a reference to a miracle within the context.” – mike

    Mike, I think that’s a bad interpretation. nate is suggesting that isaiah, when talking to king ahaz was like,

    Isaiah: “ahaz, god wants to give you a sign that your troubles will be absolved. Just ask for one.

    Ahaz: “I’m no gonna ask.”

    Isaiah: “you’re so difficult and should learn to rely on your god! Well god’s got a sign for you anyways; a young lady will conceive and before her son can do this or that, the lord with have taken care of your troubles.”

    as it turns out, in the following chapter, chapter 8, this happens:”3 Then I made love to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the Lord said to me, “Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. 4 For before the boy knows how to say ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria.””

    so isaiah makes a prediction that he’ll impregnate someone, and young woman, which he does, so she’s no virgin, and then has a son while ahaz’s problems have been settled at the same time.

    prophecy fufilled – at least the first time.

    Like

  35. Portal001

    Mike,

    Not sure if your still here, but this morning I was thinking about what’s been expressed here

    I don’t agree with William, Nate, Ark, Nan in their position of atheism. But that doesn’t mean I think they are lesser people.

    We all say things sometimes that can trigger strong responses or cause disagreement and even offence.

    But just because there is disagreement doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t want the best for others, even if the best is considered to be different things by different people.

    But it’s only through sitting down alongside someone (digitally so to speak) that you gain a better understanding of who they are and what they actually are trying to convey.

    And this helps to prevent misrepresentation for both theists and atheists.

    Like

  36. Portal001

    Also Mike, In saying that, I’m Not suggesting you think people as lesser either by the way 🙂

    Like

  37. @Portal

    Just an FYI– perhaps it’s a technicality, but I don’t see myself as an atheist nor an agnostic. I’m simply a “non-believer” in that I don’t agree with the concept of Christianity. If anything, I lean towards natural or scientific pantheism.

    Like

  38. Portal001

    Hi Nan,

    I wasn’t aware of that, your views are not what I thought they were. Thanks for your clarification

    Like

  39. william

    I dont really know how to classify myself, but i guess agnostic is the most accurate…

    but, i was wondering if there were a hebrew word for “young woman” than never had the connotation or the implication of virgin?

    If they only had one word for “young woman,” then usages being partially based on context is completely unavoidable.

    Like

  40. William, in looking at an interlinear Bible, it looks like there’s a Hebrew word nor (or e’nor) which also means “young woman.” But I haven’t had luck finding any real information about that word. It’s odd…

    However, I did run across some interesting information concerning the way the Greek word parthenos is used in the Septuagint. Matthew uses the term “virgin” when he references the prophecy because the Septuagint uses parthenos in that passage, which is commonly used for “virgin.” But in Genesis 34, the Septuagint also uses parthenos to describe Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, after she lost her virginity to Shechem. So it seems that the translators of the Septuagint did not always use parthenos as a way to stress virginity, but as a general term for “young woman.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almah

    Like

  41. william

    it is interesting. When i was a christian I was so sure that is all just “right” that now i am still amazed at how ambiguous it all really is, and has been. I marvel at how long it took me to see it.

    Like

  42. William

    In the case of genesis, where they are finding a wife for Isaac, it was assumed that a young girl being sought for a wife, would also be a virgin, since that was an important part of their customs. So when the word meaning “young woman” was used in that context, it was safe to assume they were also looking for a virgin, because a young bride was typically a virgin under their customs. So “virgin” would have been assumed to be implied because of the customs, not because of the word meaning “young woman.”

    In the case of Isaiah, he used the word for “young woman” as well, and not the word for “virgin.” The assumption would have been different here than in genesis because women who have had sex, not only typically, but always, can only conceive children. Since that is the case, that virgins never conceive and that the specific word for virgin was not used, the meaning of “virgin” would not be assumed – it would have to be explicitly stated otherwise. Isaiah, for clarity, would have made absolutely clear that a virgin would conceive and bear a son, without ever having known a man; but that clarification was never made.

    I don’t think it’s so much the word for “young woman” that conveys “virginity” as much as it is the surrounding context.

    Like

  43. Pingback: Letter to Kathy (the Bible Has Problems) | Finding Truth

  44. william

    In the case of genesis, where they are finding a wife for Isaac, it was assumed that a young girl being sought for a wife, would also be a virgin, since that was an important part of their customs. So when the word meaning “young woman” was used in that context, it was safe to assume they were also looking for a virgin, because a young bride was typically a virgin under their customs. So “virgin” would have been assumed to be implied because of the customs, not because of the word meaning “young woman.”

    In the case of Isaiah, he used the word for “young woman” as well, and not the word for “virgin.” The assumption would have been different here than in genesis because women who have had sex, not only typically, but always, can only conceive children. Since that is the case, that virgins never conceive and that the specific word for virgin was not used, the meaning of “virgin” would not be assumed – it would have to be explicitly stated otherwise. Isaiah, for clarity, would have made absolutely clear that a virgin would conceive and bear a son, without ever having known a man; but that clarification was never made.

    I don’t think it’s so much the word for “young woman” that conveys “virginity” as much as it is the surrounding context.

    Like

  45. william

    You know, the more I think about this the more it seems so clear, and I think is really worth the consideration from believers.

    Virgins, and I mean real, never had sex, virgins do not have children. This is so rare that even christians believed it only happened once.

    So rare that some christians and well as all nonbelievers dont believe it happened ever. many people are nonbelievers because the thought of a real deal virgin giving birth is so ridiculous and contrary to the natural order of human reproduction.

    yet, despite this rarity, Isaiah didnt specifically draw attention to the fact that he meant a real deal virgin. he used the word for “young woman” and NOT the hebrew word for Virgin.

    Sure, some will say that isaiah obviously meant “virgin” but that ignores the child being born in chapter 8 as well as the context of child birth… Virgins dont give birth to children, so if this what isaiah meant, then he would have made certain, so that there was no mistaking it, so there was no doubt as to what he meant.

    “Young women” can bear children after they’ve had sex. “Virgins” do not. “Young women” were expected to be virgins prior to marriage, but no where in isaiah 7 does it say the “young woman” would be unwed – but even if she were not, a “young woman” that has sex out of wedlock, is still young and is still a woman – but not a virgin – all of which could be why isaish said “young woman” and not “virgin.”

    plus, a baby was born in the next chapter that fit the description and would have actually served as a sign to the king that the “prophecy” was given as a sign to. He was essentially giving a show of foreknowledge of a baby being born and the demise of enemies prior to a child being born – although still without a very specific timeline or date.

    Like

  46. william

    well, i guess I should make one correction and that being that several religions also claim virgin births – some of which (if not all) predate christianity.

    Like

  47. Matt

    I read through a different version of the bible that I on’t use that much called The Message translation it reads as follows:
    13-17 So Isaiah told him, “Then listen to this, government of David! It’s bad enough that you make people tired with your pious, timid hypocrisies, but now you’re making God tired. So the Master is going to give you a sign anyway. Watch for this: A girl who is presently a virgin will get pregnant. She’ll bear a son and name him Immanuel (God-With-Us). By the time the child is twelve years old, able to make moral decisions, the threat of war will be over. Relax, those two kings that have you so worried will be out of the picture. But also be warned: God will bring on you and your people and your government a judgment worse than anything since the time the kingdom split, when Ephraim left Judah. The king of Assyria is coming!”

    I have to admit that it does read as he is predicting something in the immediate future to put the audience at ease, not predicting the coming of a Messiah.

    Like

  48. I personally don’t think The Message is the most straightforward translation, when compared to older translations it can come off as confusing to me.

    eg: comparing Psalm 23:1

    King James Version

    – The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

    New International Version

    – The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

    The Message

    – GOD, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Message_(Bible)

    Like

  49. or here’s another example,

    The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)

    King James Version

    9. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

    10. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

    11. Give us this day our daily bread.

    12. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

    13. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

    compared to

    The Message

    9-13 With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:

    Our Father in heaven,

    Reveal who you are.

    Set the world right;

    Do what’s best— as above, so below.

    Keep us alive with three square meals.

    Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.

    Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.

    You’re in charge!

    You can do anything you want!

    You’re ablaze in beauty!

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

    __________________

    Another note to make is that “as above, so below” is actually a maxim in Hermeticism, which is not a Biblical tradition

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermeticism

    Why would have Eugene H. Peterson translated his (The Message) version to this maxim?

    It does make me question other possible influences behind this translation

    Like

  50. And what meant by saying that Hermeticism is not a “Biblical tradition” is that its a occult tradition,

    Maxims like this seem to imply a mixing of Biblical Truth in translation, with external pseudepigraphical influences.

    Like

  51. And I’m not saying that some nefarious reasoning is necessarily behind this.

    I’m just saying that not all translations are the same. Not all translations are translated off the same sources of manuscripts and translation bases. The translation s process can take years and involve many different people. It really is a science as well as a calling.

    Here are two examples:

    1. The New American Standard Bible, which took nearly 10 years to complete involved a variety of people from different denominational backgrounds. The translators of the updated NASB meticulously followed all the same tried-and-true safeguards as set forth in the original NASB regarding the updated NASB, more than 20 translators spent nearly three years scrutinizing the NASB in order to modernize and maintain it in accordance with the most recent research on the oldest and best manuscripts.”

    At no point did the translators attempt to interpret Scripture through translation. Instead, the NASB translation team adhered to the principles of literal translation. This is the most exacting and demanding method of translation, requiring a word-for-word translation that is both accurate and readable. This method follows the word and sentence patterns of the original authors in order to enable the reader to study Scripture in its most literal format and to experience the individual personalities of those who penned the original manuscripts. For example, one can directly compare and contrast the simple eloquent style of John with the deep complexity of Paul.

    http://www.lockman.org/nasb/

    2. The King James translation was done by 47 scholars, all of whom were members of the Church of England. In common with most other translations of the period, the New Testament was translated from theTextus Receptus(Received Text) series of the Greek texts. The Old Testament was translated from theMasoreticHebrew text, while the Apocrypha was translated from the Greek Septuagint (LXX), except for 2 Esdras, which was translated from theLatin Vulgate. In 1769, the Oxford edition, which excluded the Apocrypha, became the standard text and is the text which is reproduced almost unchanged in most current printings.

    http://www.gotquestions.org/King-James-Version-KJV.html#ixzz3CnKMinNG

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_James_Version

    Certain types of translations work off different manuscripts

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible_translations

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible_translations_into_English

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulgate

    For example the Textus Receptus:

    Constituted the translation base for the original German Luther Bible, the translation of the New Testament into English by William Tyndale, the King James Version, and most other Reformation-era New Testament translations throughout Western and Central Europe.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Textus_Receptus

    In contrast, the Alexandrian text:

    Most modern New Testaments are based on the Nestle-Aland 27, in formulating a Greek text. This invariably results in a text that is strongly Alexandrian in character

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novum_Testamentum_Graece

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandrian_text-type

    There are also movements that hold the position that Textus Receptus is the accurate and Holy Spirit Inspired succession of printed Greek texts of the New Testament.

    Many of these same movements also consider The Alexandrian text-type to be false, and some even believe it is a demonic deception that has been mixed with newer translations to confuse and “muddy the waters”

    There are some Christians who consider the Nestle-Aland translations and subsequent editions of these to be inherently corrupt, since they are based off of Nestle-Aland. There are even circulating articles that critique the integrity and personal lives of Eberhard Nestle and Kurt Aland, to build a case that their translations are deceptive and/or erroneous.

    I find it all very interesting 🙂

    Like

  52. Matt

    Found this via wiki:
    The verses surrounding Isaiah 7:14 tell how Ahaz, the king of Judah, is told of a sign to be given in demonstration that the prophet’s promise of God’s protection is a true one. The sign is that an almah will give birth to a son who will still be very young when Judah’s enemies will be destroyed.[7] Most Christians identify the almah of this prophecy with the Virgin Mary.[8] In Isaiah 7, the almah is already pregnant, and modern Jewish translators have therefore rendered almah here as “young woman”.[9] The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, which was completed in the late 2nd century BCE, translated almah into Greek as παρθένος (parthenos). Many scholars render parthenos into English as virgin. However, the Septuagint also describes Dinah as a parthenos even after she has been raped and hence is no longer a virgin.[10]

    I’ll say it is up in the air wether the word means young woman/maiden or if it mean virgin. However what seems pretty clear is the king was wanting an imediate sign to calm his fears not something that will occur hundreds of years later.

    Like

  53. MAtt, the more i’ve look at this and thought about it, it seems so very clear.

    The hebrews had a word that meant only “virgin” and a word that meant “young woman” that sometimes implied virginity depending on the context.

    1) “young woman” was used here – not “virgin.”

    2) the natural context of a woman having children rules out “virgin” since no virgins give birth to children. If the context that a young woman was to wed, we could probably assume she was also a virgin at that time… but with child birth? Young women can have children. Young women can be virgins. Virgins cant have children, though, so something more would be presented to make certain that “virgin” was understood if it is what was intended.

    3) the very next chapter a son is born to a young woman and while he is still young, ahaz’s enemies are taken care of.

    If isaiah meant “virgin” or intended “virgin” to be understood, dont you think he’d put more emphasis on this? Dont you think that he’d not only use the word for “virgin” instead of “young woman” but also likely repeat it, so that everyone clearly understood that he was talking about a miraculous event and not just some prediction of childbirth?

    something like, “a real virgin will have a son, a young woman who has never known a man, will be bear a child from god…”

    something like that, compared to, “a young woman will conceive and bear a son…”

    Like

  54. Matt

    You would think that the writer would flesh out “will conceive” a little more if it was to be taken any differently than how conception is normally done, wouldn’t you.

    Like

  55. If nothing else, Isaiah 7 and 8 certainly don’t offer the kind of prediction of a virgin birth that we all would have assumed, considering its level of importance in Christianity. As often as we heard it spoken of from the pulpit, or in Bible classes, or around Christmas, you’d think the prediction would be blindingly obvious.

    Like

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