Falsely Translated Isaiah Verses Predict Virgin Birth
The verse that is the heart of the controversy is found in the book of
|"Therefore the Lord Himself giveth to you
a sign, Lo, the young woman is
conceiving, And is bringing forth
a son, And hath called his name Immanuel" .
||"Therefore the Lord himself will give you
a sign: the virgin will be with child and
will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."
|"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou
shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the
Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with
child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call
his name Emmanuel"--which means
"God is with us"
Thus, the woman--not a virgin --is already carrying
the child whose birth is imminent; thus, the Isaiah verse cannot refer to
a future conception. We see above that Isaiah was not speaking of
a messiah which would appear eight hundred years later; he was referring
to the present. The child he spoke of was already conceived; the child,
which would soon be born, would be a sign--a good omen--to a king about to
engage in battle.
The editors of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) and
New English Translation (NET) of the Bible would undoubtedly have loved to
uphold the traditional belief that Isaiah predicted that Jesus would be born
of a virgin, but they evidently knew that was wrong: "Behold, a young
woman shall conceive and bear a son.."
7:14) ... "Look, this young women is
about to conceive and will give birth to a son."
NET), but they didn't do so because they evidently knew the proper
translation is "young woman", not "virgin". The reason Matthew put the word
"virgin" in Isaiah's mouth may have been because belief in saviors
born of a virgin was extremely commonplace, and Matthew either wanted to
be sure not to disappoint those whom he wished to recruit into his religion
and put the word there fraudulently, or else he actually believed that Isaiah
spoke of a virgin, when in fact his recollection of scripture was foggy and
he had no access to scripture which would have shown him wrong. A similar
point is about Matthew's memory is made in Potter's Field article; there
you'll find another example of Matthew twisting remembered accounts of stories
in scripture into prophecies of a coming messiah.
Note that the name of the child to be conceived
was to be Immanuel , not "Jesus" . In
the entire New Testament the name Immanuel appears only once--in Matthew's
verse where he quotes the false Isaiah prophecy. More than a thousand times
the name Jesus appears in the New Testament, but not once is the savior from
Nazareth called Immanuel, except in the single verse where Matthew tells
us what Isaiah said the child would be called. One would think that if Jesus
was ever called Immanuel by anyone, then one of the characters in the Bible,
or one of the writers, would have done so, as Matthew said Isaiah said would
happen; Mark, Luke, John, Paul, or Peter would surely have mentioned the
name a few times, but they mentioned it not once. The reasonable inferrence
to be made here is that Isaiah was not predicting that a future savior of
the Jews would be called Immanuel. Why then did Matthew think that
Jesus was called Immanuel, if that's what he thought? This is only speculation,
but perhaps Matthew, a greek Jew who didn't know the first thing about the
Hebrew language, thought that the name Jesus was the greek version of Immanuel,
which means "God is with us"; but it's not, Jesus is Hellenized Greek for
Joshua, which means "God is salvation".
Immanuel Is Born in Isaiah
Additional evidence that the prophet in Isaiah referred
to an event soon to be realized, and not an event in Bethlehem eight
hundred years later, may be found in the very next chapter in Isaiah (see
table, below), where a child called "Immanuel" is born. As proof that the
boys in these two Isaiah chapters are one and the same, we may note below
in the table below, both chapters mention the conquest of the lands
of two kings "before the boy" reaches a certain age; this key phrase links
the two chapters to the same child, Immanuel. The unborn and born child in
the two Isaiah chapters are further linked by the appearance of the name
Immanuel in both places. Immanuel, which in Hebrew means "God is with us"
is a name which one may be sure was carefully chosen by the prophet to reassure
the king that God would be on his side. Thus, in the second chapter we see
the exclamation, "O Immanuel", which is Isaiah's proud announcement that
the child was born and represented a sign that "God is with us".
|Before Birth of
||After Birth of
|"The young woman has conceived and will
give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel. Before the
boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right,
the land of the two kings you dread will be laid
waste." (Isaiah 7:14-16)
||"And she conceived and gave birth to a
son. 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 ......O Immanuel."
Immanuel Was Not
Another reason for doubting that the child spoken
of in Isaiah is the future Jesus Christ is that Isaiah notes that there will
be a waiting period before the child will know the difference between
right and wrong. This would not make sense if the child referred to by Isaiah
were actually the future son of God: How could a God-entity not know
the difference between right and wrong? Since the perfect son of a perfect
God could not have been imperfect at birth, we have one more reason for believing
that Isaiah was not prophesying the coming of the future messiah.
Matthew Was Referring to a Prefigurement
errors can be mitigated by a somewhat more forgiving interpretation of his
intentions. I think it is apparent that the person Matthew was
speaking of whose name would be Emmanuel is not Jesus, but the child in
Isaiah. Matthew obviously knows that the actual name of the
son of God is Jesus, because he said so, so he apparently doesn't believe
the son of God's actual name is also Emmanuel, as well as Jesus.
Now, the question is, Why did Matthew compare the virgin birth of the son
of God to the virgin birth of the child in Isaiah? I believe the
words shown above (Matthew 1:20) show clearly that Matthew only wanted his
audience to know that the birth of the son of God--who now is
with us--was prefigured in the virgin-birth centuries before of the
one whose name meant, "God Is with Us."
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us."
Matthew said that the birth of Jesus fulfilled this prophecy. How could the prophecy have been fulfilled unless both aspects of the prophecy happened as predicted?
If the "fulfillment" of a Biblical prophecy story requires that all of its specifications be met, then Matthew was mistaken when he said that "all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet."
On the other hand, if "fulfillment" in the New Testament sometimes meant that the fulfillment story contains SOME elements which are parallels to some of the elements in the antecedent story, then Matthew was not in error. One example of the type of "parallel" I think Bible writers occasionally had in mind is David's lamenting prayer following his betrayal by one close to him, and Jesus' lamenting prayer following a similar betrayal. The details of the parallel events don't match at all, but the parallel is inescapable, and almost surely was on the mind of Mark when he invented the Gethsemane story. I mention this so that it is understood that "parallels" need not contain elements which match exactly. This is the case with the virgin birth prophecy.
In the fulfillment under discussion, there are two parallel elements:
(1) Jesus was born of a virgin, and so was Emmanuel.
(2) Jesus birth meant that through him God was now with us and would save
us from our sin, and Emmanuel's name meant God is with us.
These are also inescapable parallels which Matthew no doubt thought were of divine significance, and I'm sure his readers thought so, too.
In summary, unless skeptics insist that "fulfillment" to New Testament writers HAD to mean that ALL of the specifications in the antecedent story would be actualized in the fulfilling story, there is not necessarily a problem with Matthew's fulfillment story.
To refute this argument, it would seem to me that skeptics have to show textual evidence that "fulfillment" never meant merely that significant parallels existed.
Matthew made several other prophecy "fulfillment" claims. Can anyone show that the fulfillments in these other stories were not merely the appearance of some parallels between the fulfillment and antecedent stories? If not, then skeptics should perhaps not be so quick to allege that Matthew was in error.
Did Matthew believed that Isaiah passage about Emmanuel was a prophecy?
It seems to me that the most Jesus is saying is that the virgin-born child
the prophets had "spoken of" was "fulfilled" in Jesus
birth. Prophets writing about something, as Isaiah did with
Emmanuel, is not the same as prophesying. If we are to believe that
Matthew thought that Isaiah was predicting that the child
"Emmanuel" was to be the "Jesus" in Matthew's birth
story, then we must conclude that he thought that "Emmanuel" was
not born in the time of Isaiah. But, is this likely? Is it possible
that Matthew did not know that Emmanuel was born two chapters later in
Isaiah? And, did he not know that Jesus evidently was never called
Emmanuel by anyone?
If Matthew knew that Isaiah was not making a prophecy, then we have no
right to insist that Matthew was in error when he said that Jesus'
virgin-birth fulfilled that which was spoken of by the prophets, do we?
Now, the question is, what does Matthew mean by, "fulfilled as spoken
of by the prophets." I've given my answer to this question
elsewhere (the virgin birth story): Matthew was merely calling
attention to divine parallels.
It seems possible that the author of Matthew based
his virgin-birth story on the incorrectly-translated verses in Isaiah because
he believed--or pretended to believe-- that the prophet in Isaiah was referring
to a future virgin-birth, and not describing an already-pregnant young woman.
If Matthew actually believed that the son of God would be known as
"Emmanuel," he apparently made three other mistakes, too. (1) He evidently thought
that Jesus was the Hellenized form of Immanuel, but he was wrong. (2) He
apparently overlooked the fact that the child referred to in the alleged
virgin-birth prophecy in Isaiah was born two chapters later. (3) He may have
failed to understand that the child in that prophecy was to have a period
of learning before he knew the difference between right and wrong and, which
implied that the child couldn't have been the future son of God.
Alternatively, if Matthew was merely telling his audience that Jesus'
virgin birth was prefigured in the virgin-birth of the one whose name
would be "Emmanuel," then Matthew's errors are not as bad.
When all of this evidence is viewed objectively,
it is hard to avoid that conclusion that Matthew was simply mistaken. This
will be no problem for those who don't believe that every story in the Bible
must be true in order that one may hold the belief that Jesus is God. However,
for the inerrantist, these apparent inconsistencies present a very large
problem. In order to fully harmonize these apparent problems, inerrantist
must explain these inconsistencies:
"prophesied" messiah would have to wait until he knew right from wrong.
child referred to in Isaiah 6 was apparently born two chapters later.
child-omen to a king living in 800 BC would be Jesus in 30 AD.
word "ha-almah" normally means "young woman", not "virgin".
word "harah" is past tense, not future tense, and means
 Crishna; Indian saviour god, born
of the virgin Devaki; before sixth century BC.
Buddha; Indian god born of Virgin Maya or Mary; third
century BC. Fo-Li; Chinese mythological god, born
of a virgin in 3468 BC. Lau-Kiun (Lao-Tsze), born
of a virgin in 604 BC. Ra; Egyptian god, born from
the side of his mother. Before 2000 BC. Zoroaster;
Persian (Iranian) god; born in innoncence, of an immaculate conception of
a Ray of Divine Reason.Perseus, son of Jupiter by
the virgin Danae, daughter of Acrisius, King of Argos.
Hercules, son of Jupiter by mortal mother, Alcmene.
Apollo; son of Jupiter and mortal mother, Latona.
Romulus, alleged founder of Rome, son of god by a
pure virgin, Rhea-Slyvia.
 "laken yittan adonai hu lakem oth
(omen) hinneh ha-almah (young woman)
harah (is pregnant) ve-yeldeth ben ve-karath shem-o immanuel."
According to Yariv Eyal, a teacher of Hebrew, "There
exists no word with the ayin-lamed-mem root of "almah" (the female form of
"elem", or "lad", which is mistranslated as "virgin" in Isaish 7:14 in all
Christian Bibles), which definitely connotes "virginity" in any way. I can
find various words which are derived from this sense of the root which connote
age, not status of virginity, and even Strong's concordance  lists the
word "almah" as the female counterpart of "elem" (lad), which
makes no mention of virginity in its respective entry."
 Immanuel, "God is with us"
 Jesus: Joshua "Yahweh saves; Yahweh is salvation."