Appeared in Summer 1992, Vol. XVIII, No. 2 Download PDF here
Valuable help on our problem comes from a number of major modern Jewish scholars who are commendably honest in bringing forth facts that really favor the Christian interpretation of Isaiah 7:14, as we shall be seeing presently.
In our study we are going to make much use of the targums, ancient Jewish Aramaic free translations, plus fill-ins, of the Old Testament. We are especially concerned with the Targum Jonathan, the official targum to the prophets — for most of the greatest messianic prophecies are found in that targum, to the prophets Isaiah and Micah. We must also add Targum Onkelos, because of the great prophecies of Genesis 3:15 and 49:10, which Onkelos recognizes as messianic.
The Date of Targums
As a result, we need to consider the question of the date of composition of the targums, especially Targum Jonathan. There is much diversity of opinion among scholars. For example, Samson Levey wrote1 that the official targums (which include those of Onkelos and Jonathan) are likely to come from the second century B.C., since they are cautious about using the full title “King Messiah” — they omit the word King — because in Maccabean times, hope for restoring the Davidic kingship might sound like treason to the Hasmoneans. But two pages later, Levey says the older view that the latest possible date, the terminus ad quem, of Targum Jonathan was earlier than the Arab conquest of Babylon in the 7th century A.D., which is wrong. It should be placed after that.
Rabbi Menahem Kasher, in his large 25 volume work, Torah Shelemah (=complete Torah) traces Onkelos, Pseudo-Jonathan, and even Neofiti to the time of Ezra, that is, the fifth century B.C. He notes that the scribe Ezra, according to Nehemiah 8:7-8, read the law, while Levites, “gave the sense, so that the people understood what was read.”2 Jacob Neusner, perhaps the greatest of modern Jewish scholars, thinks that “the targums contain ideas from a time prior to their own closure and redaction.”3 Similarly Bruce Chilton, in the notes to his translation of the Isaiah Targum4 comments on 25:2 which says that the gentiles will never build a temple in Jerusalem: “Such a vigorous assurance has a rather clear terminus ad quem, since in 136 . . . the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus was dedicated there.” So that statement must have been made before 136 A.D. Chilton also, in great detail, in his A Galilean Rabbi and His Bible, argues that much of the matter of the targums was already in use in oral form in the time of Jesus, and finds echoes of it in the teachings of Jesus.5 The debate still goes on today over the dates of the targums. However, one thing is certain: They do reflect ancient Jewish understanding of the messianic prophecies, made without what some have called “hindsight,” i.e., without help by seeing them fulfilled in Christ. If any parts are more ancient than the final form, it will be the prophecies, as we gather from the remarks by Neusner, Chilton, and Levey just cited. However, as Neusner, Levey and Schoeps, whom we shall presently cite on the point, admit, there was deliberate distortion introduced into some targums on prophecies to counter Christian use of them.
New Evidence for Targum Dates
This view is strengthened by still newer evidence. Jacob Neusner, in his Messiah in Context, makes an exhaustive survey of the teachings of the rabbis after the fall of Jerusalem on the Messiah. In speaking of the Mishnah, the earliest of the major documents of that period, dating from around 200 A.D., Neusner says that it hardly mentioned a messianic figure of any kind.6 He suspects that the reason is great disappointment about the debacle of Bar Kokhba. Similarly, the Tosefta is not much concerned with the Messiah.7 The Talmud of Jerusalem shows no tendency, he says, to bring up questions of messianic importance even into discussions of passages of the Mishnah that would naturally suggest it.8 He adds that there is no more importance given to what he calls the “messiah myth” in the hermeneutical works such as Genesis and Leviticus, Rabbah, Sifra, Sifre on Numbers, Sifre on Deuteronomy.
But when we finally come to the much later Talmud of Babylonia (reached closure 500-600 A.D.) a fair bit of interest develops in the Messiah. However, the items that are discussed are remarkable for what they omit — they do not take up the great classic prophecies of the Messiah, such as Isaiah 7:14 and 9:5-6 or 53. The chief points they do discuss, according to Neusner,10 are these: There will be a time of tribulation before the Messiah comes. It is not a good idea to try to calculate when he may come — for the figures may be wrong, and disappointment could ensue. The history of the whole world is in three parts, of which the third is the time of the Messiah, who will come to a generation that is worthy of him, for it is the condition of Israel that will determine the time of his coming. The only item mentioned by Neusner that ties closely to the classic prophecies is that the Messiah will be from the house of David.
What do we gather from this survey by Neusner? We notice the remarkable lack of interest in the Messiah until rather late. Even then, there is no reference to the great prophecies of Isaiah about the Messiah. Therefore we think it at least likely: The chief substance of the targums — we admit possible later revisions of course, especially those designed to counter Christian use, of which we will soon speak — must be earlier than even the Mishnah, that is, 200 A.D. We could add a small but significant item. Jastrow, in his great Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Jerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature11 does not list any occurrences of the word Memra, so common in the targums to stand for God or for a characteristic of His12 after the targums. In other words, the wordMemra does not seem to occur in the later Jewish literature which Neusner surveyed.
A similar small but interesting item is the fact that the Isaiah Targum on 5:16 mentioned God, “the Holy One,” but did not add the phrase which rabbis so consistently added “Blessed be He.” This could point to an early origin for this line at least.13 So, since, as we said, the targums most certainly do reflect ancient Jewish interpretations of the prophecies, made without any “hindsight” we may confidently make use of them in our study.
But to start, we notice that there are two problems: 1) Is Isaiah 7:14 messianic? 2) Does it speak of a virgin birth?
Is Isaiah 7:14 Messianic?
We begin with the question of the messianic character of Isaiah 7:14. Catholic scholars at one time used to defend the messianic nature of that text. Then they shifted to divided positions: some said the child spoken of was the King Hezekiah, the son of King Ahaz, to whom Isaiah spoke. Others would say it is Christ. A third position is quite possible if we hold that there can be multiple fulfillment of prophecies.14 The text could refer to both Hezekiah and Christ.
We will first summarize the more usual arguments in favor of a messianic sense, and then will add some new evidence, given us indirectly by the Jewish scholars mentioned.
The birth of the son is to be considered as a sign. Would the birth of an ordinary child be really a sign? Some insist it could be. Otto Kaiser insists that even ordinary events could be called a sign in the OT.15 J.H. Hayes, and S.A. Irvine even say that the words “need not be taken as the presentation of a sign at all.”16 They are simply the announcement that a royal child is soon to be born, and that he will survive! Some explain that the birth of the child is a sign that the line of David would survive, as God had promised.17
But these claims are very weak. Isaiah had in a great gesture offered any sign, from the top of the sky to the depth under the earth. It would be a case of what Horace called “parturient montes”18: the mountains in labor to bring forth a silly little mouse, if it meant only the birth of an ordinary child to continue the royal line. That had happened so many times. And most importantly, why tell Ahaz he will have a son to continue his line, when he had already sacrificed a previous son by fire, as 2 Kings 16:3 says? (From the context, it seems the son was born before Hezekiah, since only after verse 3, namely in verse 5ff, do we learn of the danger from Rezin and Pekah, of which Isaiah 7 speaks.) Really, the line of David, as Isaiah 11:l foretells, was to die down to a mere stump, from which later would sprout the Messiah.19
Further, it is generally agreed even by scholars who do not favor seeing Christ as the child, that the child foretold in Isaiah 9:5-6 is the same as the child of 7:14.20 But the description of that child of 9:5-6 is too grandiose for an ordinary king: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,21 everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Some at this point try to say these are merely throne names of the ordinary Hebrew kings.22 But there is no record elsewhere in the OT of calling a king “Mighty God.”23 Indeed, el gibbor occurs only 5 times in the entire OT24 — and every time it is found, it means strictly “Mighty God.” Jewish translators of Isaiah 9:5-625 render el gibbor that way — even though they use a different expedient to avoid giving the title of Mighty God to the child.26 A remarkably strained view is found in Hayes and Irvine, who say that the child is not even Hezekiah, but Ahaz himself!27
It would seem strange too that the Hebrew text uses the direct article ha meaning “the” to refer to the ordinary wife of the king.
New Evidence of Messianic Nature of Isaiah 7:14
But there is newer evidence which has not been sufficiently noticed. According to the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 99a), Hillel, the great teacher of the time of Christ, said “There will be no Messiah for Israel, because they already had him in the days of Hezekiah.”28 Also, Johanan B. Zakkai, according to Talmus, Berakoth 28b, said: “Prepare a throne for Hezekiah, king of Judah, who is coming.” A fine Jewish scholar, Samson Levey29 comments “Johanan’s statement is especially significant, for it was he who salvaged what little he could in 70 C.E.” That was after the destruction of the Temple, a traumatic event for all Jews. Levey also observes, in his comment on the Targum Jonathan to Isaiah 9:5, that the use of tenses in the targum as compared with the Hebrew makes us suspect that the writer of the targum had Hezekiah in mind as the Messiah30 — which incidentally is an indication of a rather early date for the targum, since the view that Hezekiah had been the Messiah was dropped later on. Since later the Jews dropped the idea that Hezekiah was the Messiah: the Talmud, Sanhedrin 99a cites Rabbi Joseph as pointing out it could not be Hezekiah, since Zechariah 9:9, after the time of Hezekiah, still foretold a Messiah as to come in the future.
However, as we said earlier, several major Jewish scholars help us. Perhaps the most eminent, Jacob Neusner, in his Messiah in Context made the remarkable admission that since Christians began to say that the Messiah had already come, and so the Jews had no Messiah to look forward to, Jews began to say that Hezekiah had not been the Messiah: “It was important to reject the claim that Hezekiah had been the Messiah.”31 The implication is of great importance: The Jews at one time, as we saw from the words of the great Hillel, had considered Hezekiah as the Messiah — which meant that they did see Isaiah 7:14 as messianic — but later, to keep Christians from claiming that prophecy, they began to deny it was messianic, saying it did not mean Hezekiah. Christians of course would agree Hezekiah was not the Messiah, but would still insist that Isaiah 7:14 was messianic.
Thus we can make a coherent picture with another piece of data, namely: The Targum Jonathan does say that Isaiah 9:5-6 is messianic — but — scholars commonly agree today32 that the child in 9:5-6 is the same as the child in 7:14. Therefore, the deduction is clear: Isaiah 7:14 must be messianic too, and the early Jewish view that it was messianic, as we saw in Hillel, must be correct.
Neusner’s indirect admission that there was distortion in the targum to keep Christians from using the OT is reinforced by statements from other important modern Jewish scholars.
Samson Levey, whom we cited above, quotes with basic approval the words of J. Bowker, The Targums and Rabbinic Literature: “Christians tended to base their arguments against Judaism on verses of scripture, and the targum-interpretation of those verses was often deliberately designed to exclude the Christian argument.” Levey adds right after the quote: “The author, on the basis of his own study, agrees with Bowker, in the main, but thinks he is too dogmatically certain and too general in the assertion.”33 Still another prominent Jewish writer, H.J. Schoeps, in Paul: The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History says that reports of atonement for sin in the martyrdoms of rabbis were carefully worded, to avoid helping Christians and adds: “Again with the same motive, and in order to eliminate the reference of Isaiah 53 to Christ, atoning power was imputed to the death of Moses.”34
We mentioned above in passing that it is possible to see a multiple fulfillment pattern in 7:14, namely, the prophecy would refer to both Hezekiah and to Christ. St. Augustine already in his De civitate Dei 17:3 recognized that some OT prophecies refer only to OT persons or events, some to Christ and His Church, and some to both. He would notice this to be the case by finding the prophecy would fit partly the one, partly the other. Inasmuch as some things in Isaiah 7 seem to fit Hezekiah better, some to fit Christ better, this may well be the case here. Vatican II, inLumen gentium #55, used a similar principle: “These primeval documents, as they are read in the Church, and are understood under the light of later and full revelation, gradually more clearly bring to light the figure of the woman, the Mother of the Redeemer. She, under this light, is already prophetically foreshadowed in the promise, given to our first parents after their sin, of victory over the serpent (cf. Gen 3:15). Similarly she is the Virgin who will conceive and bear a Son whose name will be called Emmanuel (cf. Is 7:14; Mich 5:2-3; Mt 1:22-23).”35 Behind this principle of course is the fact that the Chief Author of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit, of course could intend more than the human author might see at the time of writing.36 So we gather two things from this text of Vatican II: (1) The complete sense of Isaiah 7:14 was not clear at the start, probably not even to the human author; (2) it has become clear now, with the passage of time, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Chief Author of Holy Scripture. So we see that as a matter of fact, the Holy Spirit did intend the messianic sense.
So at least in this sense, Vatican II does teach that Mary is the virgin of Isaiah 7:14.
Virgin Birth: The Usage of almah and parthenos
This of course brings us to our second question: Does Isaiah 7:14 speak of a virgin birth? Vatican II does teach this, in showing that this point is really contained in Isaiah 7:14, as intended by the Chief Author, the Holy Spirit.37 But we would still like to see the exegetical evidence for this matter.
Of course, we must examine both the Hebrew almah and the Septuagint translation, (LXX) parthenos.
The Hebrew almah does not necessarily mean a virgin. It means a young girl of marriageable age — who is presumed to be a virgin. The OT uses the word almah only seven times: Gen 24:43; Ex 2:8; Prov 30:19; Ps 68:26; Songs 1:3 and 6:8; plus, of course, Isaiah 7:14. Out of these only Genesis 24:43 and Isaiah 7:14 seemed clear enough to the Septuagint translators that they rendered it by parthenos, which, of course, definitely means virgin.38In Gen 24:43 Isaac is on his way to find a bride for himself. He then proposes to God that he will stand by the well of water, and asks that the almah who comes out to draw water, and who offers water for both him and his camels may be the one he should take as a bride. Exodus 2:8 tells how the daughter of Pharaoh told the sister of the infant Moses to get a Hebrew woman to nurse him. We would think likely that the sister was a virgin, since she seems to be still living with her mother. But the Septuagint was being quite careful: it used the broader word neanis, young woman. Proverbs 30:19 says the author cannot understand a few things. One of them is “the way of a man with analmah.” It seems to mean his desire for intercourse. That of course could be true even if she were not a virgin. Yet a young man in general would want a virgin.39 Even so, the LXX did not render by parthenos — in fact, it changed the sense, rendering en neoteti — the writer of Proverbs does not understand the way of a man “in his youth.”40Psalm 68:26 speaks of the alamoth playing with timbrels in a victory procession — we would say most likely, at least, they are virgins. But the LXX stayed with the more generic neanis again. Songs 1:3 is not very clear: “Therefore do the alamoth love you.” O. Kaiser thinks that in Songs 6:8 “virginity . . . is certainly ruled out.” We do not agree, for the verse says: “There are 60 queens, 80 concubines, and alamoth without number.” Now if a girl is neither a queen, nor a concubine, it seems likely she is still a virgin. But the LXX again stayed with neanis.
We gather that the LXX was extremely careful about translating almah as parthenos, virgin. It did it only twice. One of those two times is in Isaiah 7:14. Hence it seems that the LXX was quite convinced that it really did mean a virgin in Isaiah 7:14.
René Laurentin, in the original French edition of Les Évangiles de 1’Enfance du Christ41 raises some objections to taking Isaiah 7:14 as foretelling a virgin birth.
First, he recognizes that the LXX does translate by parthenos, but he says this point is weakened in two ways. “Jewish tradition never interpreted this as a virginal conception. The Septuagint (two centuries before Christ) had in the meantime translated it by parthenos; this does not imply a development in the direction of the virginal conception. If this were the case, the Greek text would have retained the most significant factor of the Hebrew text, where it is the young girl who receives the mission of giving the name to the child. In the LXX this mission is given to Ahaz.”42 In the LXX the prophet says, speaking to Ahaz “You will call.”
However, it is not true that the change of who would give the name is so significant. It is now generally admitted that the textual tradition of the OT was not firmly fixed at the time the LXX was made.43 Hence the LXX probably merely used a different textual tradition, resulting in the shift about who would give the name. The Isaiah scroll of Qumran44 has wqra which could be rendered: “one will call” = people will call, or it will be called.45 (The Targum Jonathan has “she will call,” which matches the Hebrew.) Still further, the mother giving the name would not be critical anyway, in spite of Laurentin. At times even when there was a human father, the mother did give the name, e.g., Gen 4:1 & 25; 19:36; 29:32.
We note that above, Laurentin said the Jewish tradition did not see a virgin in Isaiah 7:14. Some later translations did not use parthenos but neanis.46
Secondly, Laurentin, in the French edition, tries to claim that the LXX is loose in its use of parthenos, and he cites as an example the case of Dina, violated by Shechem. Dina is, says Laurentin, called a virgin in Gen 34:4, after the violation.41 But Laurentin made a remarkable slip here: he must have not looked at the Hebrew or Greek texts at all, but just used a French translation, which does indeed have vierge in Gen 34:4. But had Laurentin looked at the Hebrew, he would have found not almah, but yaldah, “young woman,” and in the Greek he would have found not parthenos, but paidiske.
Somehow Laurentin found out his mistake before the English translation appeared. So in it he did not appeal to Gen 34:4 but to Gen 34:3.48 Now Gen 34:4 does have parthenos standing for Hebrew naara, “young woman.” But again Laurentin seems to have overlooked something: Often the OT uses a concentric pattern in narratives, i.e., it will first tell part of the story, then it will back up and repeat, adding details. It is at least very plausible to suppose that that is what has happened in the passage of Gen 34:1-4. Then, even though the Hebrew hasnaara twice for Dina in verse 3, yet the LXX translators, thinking it was the concentric pattern quite familiar to them, thought it referred to Dina before the violation, when she would still be virgin, and hence rendered naara both times by parthenos.
In view of the fact that we have seen how careful the LXX is about its use of parthenos we can hardly suppose without added proof that it was careless in translating Isaiah 7:14. We might add this: In the case of Genesis 24:14, 16 and 55 where the Hebrew has naara, the LXX each time uses parthenos. If we check the narrative in context, it is clear that the girl in question each time really is a virgin, for in verse 16, she is called firstnaara and then bethulah. So here the LXX is more precise than the Hebrew.49
Kaiser asserts: “According to the lexica, the words parthenos and virgo do not necessarily have the connotation of virginity in the strict sense.”50 Kaiser cites H.G. Liddell and R. Scott, A Greek English Lexicon, rev. H.S. Jones and R. McKenzie, Oxford 1940 (1961), and C.T. Lewis and C. Short, A Latin Dictionary, Oxford, 1907.
The Latin usage is not really significant — and it is much like the Greek anyway — but we are dealing with the Greek and further, the Greek of the Septuagint, not the pagan usage. But let us look at the citations even so. They are few. The general normal usage of parthenos even in pagan literature really does stand for virgin in the strict sense. Homer, Iliad 2:511-4 has: “Those who dwelt in Aspledon and Orchomenos of the Minyai were under Askalaphos and Ialmenos, sons of Ares, whom Astyoche conceived by the powerful god in the house of Aktor, son of Azeus, who entered her upper chamber, an honorable maiden (parthenos) and lay with her secretly.” We comment: the word could refer to her before that point — she was such before Ares came, and would be commonly thought to be a virgin, for she was honorable. Who would see the god enter?
Pindar, Pythian 3:31-34: “Thereupon did he (Apollo) send his sister (Artemis) to Laceria . . . for the unwedded girl (parthenos) was living by the banks of the Boebian lake.” We comment: Apollo knew of her fall from virtue. She would popularly have been considered a virgin at that time.
Aristophanes, Clouds 530-31: “And I, for I was still a virgin (parthenos) and it was not right to bear, I exposed it.” We observe: she was popularly considered a virgin, hence she exposed the child to hide what she had done, so as not to lose that reputation.
Sophocles, Trachiniae, 1219-20: Herakles says: “Do you know the maiden (parthenos) child of Eurytus?” Hyllus says: “It seems to me you mean Iole.” A few lines below, Heracles says she had lain by his side. But again, we observe that she would popularly be thought to be a virgin. (A similar situation comes below, at line 1275.)
From these examples we conclude: 1) All examples are from poets, who are apt to be more free in their use of words, especially for the sake of meter; 2) All examples are loose at least in the sense that the girl would popularly be considered a virgin. 3) These examples are few, and do not represent the general Greek pagan usage. But even if the pagan Greek evidence were much stronger, we would still have to say: What is significant for our purpose is not the loose usage of a few lines in pagan Greek poets, which is against general Greek usage — the important thing is how the Septuagint used the word. We have carefully checked the usage of the LXX, above, and found it to be very strict.
1) We produced new evidence (chiefly, lack of interest in the Mishnah and beyond, in the classic prophecies) that the Targums Jonathan and Onkelos are early, probably no later than 200 A.D., the date of the Mishnah, and likely even earlier. We saw that commentators quite commonly hold that at least some parts of the targums go back to earlier times. This is specially likely for the Isaiah texts we have studied, in view of the lack of interest in them later on. And for certain, the Targum Jonathan reflects Jewish understanding of the prophecies without the help of hindsight, that is, without the help of seeing them fulfilled in Christ, whom they hated.
2) We saw that the Targum Jonathan clearly makes Isaiah 9:5-6 messianic. Then, by the fact that 7:14 speaks of the same child — since both texts are part of the Book of Immanuel — 7:14 must also be messianic. We saw that the Jews once, e.g., Hillel, did consider 7:14 messianic, but gave it up to deter Christians from using 7:14 as messianic. So the fact that the targum does not mark 7:14 as such is readily explained by the distortion later introduced into the targums by the Jews who wanted to keep Christians from using them — a fact admitted by several major modern Jewish scholars.
3) We saw that Vatican II teaches that 7:14, as understood in the light of later revelation really does speak of the Messiah and of Mary His Mother, in a virginal conception. The Council indicates that the original readers, and probably even Isaiah himself, did not see the full import. But it indicates that even so, the Holy Spirit, the Chief Author of Scripture, did see it and intend it, so that later He led the Church to see it also.
4) Hence for those who accept the teaching of Vatican II, both points are clear: Isaiah 7:14 is messianic, and it does speak of a virginal conception.
5) A careful study of usage of the Hebrew almah and Greek parthenos in the Septuagint reveal that although almah need not mean virgin, it most usually does, and is so understood by the Septuagint, which employed even more precision than the Hebrew text of the OT in general in its use of parthenos.
1Samson Levey, The Messiah, An Aramaic Interpretation, Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, 1974, pp. 142, 144.
2Menahem M. Kasher, Torah Shelemah, Jerusalem 1927-74. His comments on targums are in volume 24. Alejandro Diez Macho, in Neophyti: Targum Palestiniense: MS de la Biblioteca Vaticana, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Madrid, 1978, V. pp. *41-82 reviews and comments on Kasher’s arguments. Further, Talmud, Sanhedrin 21b does say that in the time of Ezra the writing and language which had been Hebrew, changed to Assyrian characters and Aramaic language.
3Jacob Neusner, Messiah in Context, Fortress, Philadelphia, 1984, p. 240.
4Bruce Chilton, The Isaiah Targum, in The Aramaic Bible, V1 11. Glazier, Wilmington, 1987, p. 49.
5Chilton, A Galilean Rabbi and His Bible: Jesus’ Use of the Interpreted Scripture of His Time, Glazier, Wilmington, 1984. Cf. also Chilton’s review Three Views of the Isaiah Targum, in Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, #33, 1985, pp. 127-28. Martin McNamara, in Palestinian Judaism and the New Testament, Glazier, Wilmington, 1983, pp. 241-43 argues that St. Paul in 1 Cor 10:4, in speaking of the rock that followed the Israelites in the desert, probably draws on a targumic tradition.
6Neusner, op. cit., p. 74.
7Ibid., p. 77.
8Ibid., p. 86.
9On p. xviii Neusner explains that by “myth” he does not mean untruth. He says it is equivalent to idea, but more appropriate.
10Ibid., p. 175.
11Pardes Publishing House, N.Y. 1950, s.v. memra.
12Chilton, Isaiah Targum, glossary, p. lvi says Memra may refer to God’s command, or to the constant support God offers His people, and refers to “the constant interplay between divine constancy and human fickleness.”
13Cf. Chilton, ibid., p. 12, in Apparatus. Cf. also L. Turrado, in Biblia Comentada VIa, Romanos 2a ed. Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, Madrid, 1975, p. 369, note 113, on Rom 9:5.
14Cf. W.G. Most, Free From All Error, Prow, Libertyville, 1985, Chapter 5, “Multiple Fulfillment.”
15Otto Kaiser, Isaiah 1-12. 2d ed. tr. J. Bowden, Westminster, Philadelphia, 1983, p. 154.
16John H. Hayes and Stuart A. Irvine, Isaiah: The Eighth-century Prophet, Abingdon, Nashville, 1987, p.132.
18Horace, Ars poetica, 139.
19The targum explicitly recognizes Isaiah 11:1 as messianic.
20Cf. for example, Kaiser, op. cit., p. 116. Hayes and Irvine (op. cit., p. 180), surprisingly insist that a“messianic interpretation must be ruled out, if we are correct in rendering the verse in the past tense.” But it is a familiar fact that the perfect in Hebrew, even outside of a prophecy, can stand for future. Cf. Joüon, Grammaire de l’Hebreu Biblique 2d ed. Institute Biblique Pontifical, Rome, 1947, #112 g-h.
21New American Bible here renders God-hero. Kaiser, op. cit., p. 204 has divine hero.
22E.g., Kaiser, op. cit., pp. 212-14; Hayes & Irvine, p. 181-82.
23As Kaiser admits, op. cit., p. 213, it is only Psalm 45 that even seems to speak of the king as god. But the word used there is Hebrew elohim. That word is sometimes used loosely. In Ps 82:6 it refers to kings or judges. In Ex 22:8-9 it means judges. In Ps 8:6 it also means judges. In Ps 138:1 it means either angels or judges. But el gibbor is never used loosely, cf. note 24.
24It occurs only in Isaiah 10:21, Deut 10:17, Jeremiah 32:18, and Nehemiah 9:32-33, besides Isaiah 9:5. In each case context shows it means strictly God. While the targums and the Rabbis did not seem to see that the Messiah would be God, yet they did ascribe a marvelous character to him. Levey, op. cit., p. 108, says: “The belief that the Messiah would live eternally was widespread. . . .” On p. 114 Levey cites the targum on Ps 61:8: “He shall dwell forever before the Lord.” Levey also says, in commenting on Micah 5:1 (p. 93): “The latter part of v. 1 in the Hebrew would tend to support the doctrine of a pre-existent Messiah, which is not found in rabbinic thought.” But he adds that the rabbinic idea that the name of the Messiah existed before the world seems to be reflected in the targum on this same verse. The Talmud, Pesahim 54a says “Seven things were created before the creation of the world, namely: Torah, repentance, paradise, gehenna, the throne of majesty, the temple and the name of the Messiah” (Cf. also Nedarim 39b). E. Isaac, author of the translation and commentary on 1 Enoch in J.H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Doubleday, N.Y. 1983, p. 9 wrote: “The Messiah in 1 Enoch, called the Righteous One, and the Son of Man, is depicted as a pre-existent heavenly being, who is resplendent and majestic.” The comment is based on the fact that in Hebrew usage, the name and the actual existence of a being are often close to identical. HencePesikta Rabati, 33:6 (tr. w. Braude, Yale Judaica Series 8, p. 641) says: “You will find that at the very beginning of the creation of the world, the king Messiah had already come into being, for he existed in God’s thought even before the world was created.” Levey, p. 70, in giving rabbinic parallels to the targum on Jer 23:1-8 cites: “‘What is the name of the King Messiah? R. Abba b. Kahana said: His name is “the Lord”; as it is stated. And this is the name whereby he shall be called. The Lord is our righteousness (Jer 23:6)’ Lamentations Rabbah 1:51.” In his note on this passage (note 83, on p. 156) Levey gives the Hebrew for Lord here as Yahweh! Malachi 3:1 in the Hebrew reads: “Behold I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before my face, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight.” The noted form critic R.H. Fuller (Foundations of New Testament Christology, C. Scribner’s Sons, N.Y., 1964, p. 48) said: “The starting point for this expectation is Mal 4:5f (Mt 3:23f). In this passage, an editorial note commenting on Mal 3:1, Elijah appears as the forerunner not of the Messiah but of Yahweh himself . . . followed by the coming of Yahweh to his temple for the eschatological judgment. . . .” Objectively this does refer to the Messiah, and thus, according to Fuller, the Messiah is called Lord, meaning here, Yahweh. (Fuller uses the numbers 4:5 of Mal, following some English versions and the Vulgate. The Hebrew has the same words at 3:23-24).
25E.g., Levey, op. cit., p. 45 does render “the Mighty God.”
26Levey, p. 45, avoids calling the Messiah that by saying that the wonderful counsellor, the Mighty God etc. “has called his name Prince of Peace.” In his version of the targum on the same page, Levey uses the same expedient, while keeping “the Mighty God,” so that the Mighty God calls his name Messiah. In contrast, J.F. Stenning, The Targum of Isaiah, Oxford, 1949, p. 32 renders “Mighty God” but does not turn the sentence structure around to avoid calling the Messiah by that title.
27Op. cit., p. 182.
28Cf. Neusner, p. 174.
29Levey, op. cit., p. 154, note 33.
30Levey, op. cit., p. 45.
31Neusner, op. cit., p. 190.
32Cf. note 20 above.
33Levey, op. cit., p. 152, note 10.
34H.J. Schoeps, Paul, The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History tr. H. Knight,Westminster, Philadelphia, 1961, p. 129.
35Cf. Charles M. Miller, “As It Is Written” The Use of Old Testament References in the Documents ofVatican Council II, Marianist Center, St. Louis, 1973, pp. 49-60.
36This would involve a multiple fulfillment pattern, or what is sometimes called a fuller sense. On multiple fulfillment, see note 14 above. Vatican II, in the passage just cited does seem to imply this sort of thing. We note that Jeremiah in 31:31ff., the prophecy of the New Covenant, hardly foresaw that the essential obedience of that covenant would be that of Jesus Himself. So the Holy Spirit used Jeremiah as an instrument to express more than he saw. Similarly, St. Irenaeus, in comparing all sin to a tangled knot, and then saying that the knot of the disobedience of Eve was untied through the obedience of Mary, seemed to imply more than he understood — again, he was an instrument in the hands of Divine Providence. Similarly Vatican II itself, in the Marian Chapter VIII of the Constitution on the Church, also taught more than it understood. On these cases see W.G. Most, “Coredemption: Theological Premises, Biblical Bases” in Miles Immaculatae 22, 1986, pp. 90-91. Reprinted in Faith & Reason 13, 1987, pp. 54-55.
37See note 36 above.
38The objection as to the meaning of parthenos in Greek will be answered below.
39Some (cf. John D.W. Watts, Word Biblical Commentary 24: Isaiah 1-33, p. 99) argue that the next verse, verse 20 which speaks of an adulterous woman, means the same woman as the almah of verse 19. This is not impossible, but unlikely, for it uses a different word, isshah, not almah; and since Proverbs gives so many disjointed lines some modern editors insert a new heading before v. 20. So there is no proof that the woman in v. 19 is the same as the woman in 20.
40Kaiser, op. cit., p. 155.
41René Laurentin, Les Évangiles de l’Enfance du Christ, Desclee, Desclee de Brouwer, 2d ed., 1982, pp. 485-86.
42English translation by Michael J. Wrenn & Associates, The Truth of Christmas Beyond the Myths, St. Bede’s Petersham, 1986, pp. 411-12. The italics are in the French, not in the English.
43Cf. R.W. Klein, Textual Criticism of the Old Testament, Fortress, Philadelphia, 1972.
44Photocopy of the scroll, and transcription in Hebrew type, in Millar Burrows, The Dead Sea Scrolls of St. Mark’s Monastery I. The Isaiah Manuscript, American Schools of Oriental Research, New Haven, 1950. W.H. Brownlee, The Meaning of the Qumran Scrolls for the Bible, Oxford U. Press, N.Y. 1964, p. 55, dates the scroll at late 2nd century B.C.
45Cf. Paul Joüon, op. cit., #155d.
46Kaiser, op. cit., p. 154, comments that the other Greek versions of the OT used neanis instead ofparthenos “with the intention of thus preventing the church from giving a christological interpretation of the passage.” The thought is tempting, and is in line with the distortion which, as we saw, some good Jewish scholars admit was introduced into the targums, for such a purpose. However, while the version of Aquila probably dates from about 135 A.D., and that of Symmachus from late second century A.D., that of Theodotion is probably pre- Christian, from first century B.C.
47French edition, p. 486.
48English version, p. 412.
49It is unfortunate to notice that Laurentin, in contrasting Zechariah and Mary at the annunciation, writes: “But her objection (it is indeed an objection) is bolder to the extent that she opposes not an established fact, but her human will to the divine will” (p. 22 of English, p. 34 of French). But the Fathers, and the Church, have been insistent in praising her for conformity to the divine will, not for bold opposition! On the next page (English 23, French 35) Laurentin says that Zechariah is punished, but Mary exalted, because the right to speak is recognized in her case, not in his! And on pp. 18-19 of English (French pp. 29-30) Laurentin insists that Greek charis cannot mean grace, but only favor, and so the translation “full of grace” is incorrect. But Vatican II used it (On the Church #56). And the standard Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker, does recognize grace as one meaning of charis. For the fuller linguistic picture of charis, cf. W. Most, “Grace (in the Bible)” in New Catholic Encyclopedia, 6, pp. 672-74.
50Kaiser, op. cit., p. 154-55.