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Formal Debate --"Does Matthew take Isaiah 7:14 out of context?"

Discussion in 'Formal Debate Threads' started by MarkRohfrietsch, Jun 23, 2017.

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  1. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Supporter

    Matthew quotes from Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23 connecting it to the virgin birth of Christ; therefore, Matthew uses the Isaiah verse legitimately based on the organic and prophetic relationship between Jesus Christ and what's going on in Isaiah 7-9.

    1. Participants: Tree of Life Will be taking the affirmative; Nihilist Virus Will be opposing.
    2. The debate will consist of a total of 5 rounds; the first round will consist of both participants presenting their positions with Nihilist Virus making the first post. The next three alternating rounds will be the debate itself. In the final round each participant will summarize their position in the context of the debate.
    3. Outside sources may be used for reference, but the 20% copyright rule remains in effect.
    4. Each post will be limited to 1,000 words excluding quotes.
    5. There will be a one week time limit between posts.
    6. The debate can begin any time.

    For those not directly participating in this debate, there is a Peanut gallery where the progress of this debate and this topic can be discussed and debated. here:
    Formal Debate Peanut Gallery: Does Matthew take Isaiah 7:14 out of context
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2017
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  2. Nihilist Virus

    Nihilist Virus Infectious idea

    It is obvious to any neutral observer that Matthew takes Isaiah out of context in his delivery of the virgin birth. Matthew cites Isaiah 7:14, and many Christians are perfectly satisfied because they don't read the surrounding context. If they did, they'd know the verse was stripped of its context.

    The context of the prophecy clearly refers to contemporary events. Isaiah 7:1-9 establishes two things: that the House of David is under attack, and that the attack will not prevail. It even specifies in verse 8 that one of the enemies will be reduced to dust within 65 years. It then goes on in verse 10 to say that King Ahaz of Judah is supposed to ask for a sign. This is how prophecy is supposed to work: a promise or warning is given (here it is a promise), and then a sign is given to confirm that the promise or warning is truly from God. This sign would have no meaning otherwise.

    In verse 12, King Ahaz refuses to ask a sign (possibly because of Deuteronomy 6:16, assuming Mosaic authorship of the Torah). Then Isaiah mentions the "virgin" birth prophecy, but goes on to clarify that "before the boy is old enough to know right from wrong, the land that you dread will be laid to waste." This is the sign to King Ahaz. If this is not meant to be a sign for him, then why is Isaiah even talking to King Ahaz? If Isaiah only intended to prophesy about Jesus, he could've done so out in the wilderness. No witness would be necessary since he'd be writing it down centuries beforehand.

    In the conversation that precipitated this debate, my opponent said,

    What Tree of Life says here is logically correct, but also absurd in this setting. Yes, it is true that if Jesus is born several centuries after Syria and Israel are defeated, then the prophecy is fulfilled (even though it then fails to be a sign to King Ahaz). For these purposes, Jesus could've been born in the year 3000. This is clearly not what was meant by the author. If we take this exegetical approach, then we should condemn Jesus for falsely claiming that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds. Make no mistake: Tree of Life's entire position rests upon this notion. Without it, he has no case whatsoever unless he retreats to the dual prophecy theory.

    Lastly, Isaiah himself fathers the child in question. Let's compare Isaiah 7:14-16 with Isaiah 8:2-4.

    Chapter 7
    14Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

    15Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.

    16For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

    Chapter 8
    2And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.

    3And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the LORD to me, Call his name Mahershalalhashbaz.

    4For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.

    In chapter 8 verse 2, Isaiah establishes public record of the imminent sign that is supposed to accompany his prophecy. In verse 4, we see an unmistakable parallel with verse 16 from the previous chapter. While I admittedly don't understand why the name of the child is changed from Immanuel to Mahershalalhashbaz, it is clear that this is the manifestation of the prophesied sign.

    Nothing about this section of Isaiah has anything to do with the far future. It is clearly only concerning the near future and the immediate fate of Judah.
  3. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain

    United States
    In Matthew 1:18-25 Matthew describes the birth of Christ and emphasizes its miraculous nature. Specifically, Matthew claims that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. In the midst of recounting this story Matthew says something very typical of his gospel when he says:

    “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).” (Matthew 1:22-23). Here Matthew quotes from Isaiah 7:14.

    Matthew is very interested in connecting the life and ministry of Jesus to OT types and prophesies. He does so explicitly at least 10 times in his gospel where he uses a formula similar to “…this took place to fulfill…” (Matt 1:22, 2:15, 2:17, 2:23, 4:14, 8:17, 12:17, 13:35, 21:4, 27:9). This is because Matthew is Jewish (like all NT authors) and is writing to a Jewish audience, seeking to demonstrate that Jesus is the Christ by connecting him to the OT Scriptures. So the fact that Matthew would do this here with the virgin birth is not unique.

    However, upon closer inspection it is not clear how Matthew 1:22-23 really relates to Isaiah 7:14, especially upon considering Isaiah 7:14 in its original context. Some (like my opponent) have even gone as far to suggest that Matthew is misusing this verse by ripping it out of context and doing a primitive form of “proof texting” to try to haphazardly connect details in Jesus’ life to the OT. If this is really the case it would certainly be troubling.

    Thesis Stated
    But as I will set out to prove, Matthew is not ripping the verse out of context. His use of Isaiah 7:14 is perfectly legitimate in light of Isaiah’s original meaning. I will not be arguing here that Matthew’s use of Isaiah is the only possible interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 or even that it is the most plausible interpretation of Isaiah 7:14. My task here is simply to demonstrate that Matthew’s use is hermeneutically possible and therefore legitimate.

    Argument in Brief
    In this introductory post I will give a brief opening argument for the legitimacy of Matthew’s use of Isaiah 7:14. I believe that a simple exegetical walk-through of Isaiah 7-9 will be sufficient to show how Matthew’s use is possible. After this opening argument time will be spent discussing objections and counter arguments from my opponent.

    Looking at Isaiah 7-9 here’s what we see. Ahaz (the King of Judah - of the line of David) and Jerusalem are being besieged by Pekah (the King of Israel) and Rezin (the King of Syria). This series of events is know as the Syro-Ephramitic War. To summarize, Assyria was the major world power of that day and Israel (north) and Syria wanted to form a coalition against Assyria. They wanted the southern kingdom of Judah (Ahaz) to join them in this coalition. But Ahaz refused. So in order to compel him to join their coalition they went to war with Judah and besieged Jerusalem. You can also read about these events in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28.

    It is in this context that Isaiah is told to take his son and visit Ahaz with a word from the Lord. Briefly, Ahaz is described as one of the most wicked kings of Judah (2 Kings 16:1-4, 2 Chronicles 28:1-4) and was not a worshipper of Yahweh. The message to Ahaz is that Ahaz is to do nothing in response to this crisis (Isaiah 7:4). He is to simply wait on Yahweh and in a little while Yahweh himself will deal with Rezin and Pekah. The two smoldering fire brands will fizzle out and their plans will come to nothing (Isaiah 7:7).

    Basically, this was a call to have faith in Yahweh - the God who delivers. However, we know that Ahaz had other plans. He intended to reach out to Assyria - the major world power - for deliverance (2 Kings 16:7-9). Ironic, because Rezin and Pekah were at war with Ahaz to compel him to join their coalition against Assyria. So Ahaz sent gold and tribute to Tiglath-Pileser (king of Assyria) saying “I am your son and your servant”. Pileser answered Ahaz and responded by destroying Syria and the northern Kingdom in 722 BC.

    But Isaiah’s words to Ahaz are a pre-emptive warning and call to trust Yahweh and not to turn to Assyria for help. The Lord even offers Ahaz a sign of his choosing (Isaiah 7:10-11) - a very rare gift. Sadly, Ahaz rejects this sign in a show of false piety (Isaiah 7:12). Ahaz has already made up his mind to sell himself and his people to Assyria in order to be delivered from this crisis.

    Isaiah then warns Ahaz of the consequences. Assyria will not stop with Syria and Israel. They will also sweep into Judah like the banks of an overflowing river (Isaiah 7:18-25, Isaiah 8:5-8). But even though Ahaz has sold his people to Assyria, the Lord himself will provide a sign that God will be with his faithful people. A virgin will conceive and bear the child Immanuel - God Is With Us (Isaiah 7:14). Before the child comes to maturity the Syro-Ephramite crisis will dissolve (Isaiah 7:15-16). The Immanuel child will inherit Ahaz’s mess (Isaiah 8:8). And the child will be a Davidic king whose kingdom has no end and who brings peace (Isaiah 9:1-7).

    Matthew understands Jesus to be the fulfillment of this promise. He sees Jesus as the promised Davidic king who inherited the mess of former, wicked kings and who saves God’s people from their enemies rather than selling them in order to save himself (unlike Ahaz). Jesus’ kingdom is the one who has no end.

    So from this it can be seen where Matthew is coming from. While Jesus may not be the only possible way to understand the Immanuel child (many look to Hezekiah as the fulfillment or perhaps "Immanuel" is a third child of Isaiah's - virtually no scholar understands Maher-Shallal-Hashbaz to be in view) we can certainly see why Matthew had this hope.
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2017
  4. Nihilist Virus

    Nihilist Virus Infectious idea

    Yes, this establishes the point of contention.

    In saying this my opponent admits that Matthew had bias.

    So far it looks like Matthew has acted on his bias.

    I thought Luke was a gentile and that my opponent held to authentic gospel authorship...?

    So far my opponent has unintentionally established that Matthew had an incentive to fabricate details. But it seems like what my opponent meant to be saying here is that Matthew has a certain writing style which will exonerate him from wrongdoing should it be conclusively shown that he is taking a verse out of context. This is not the correct debate for that. I really don't care if Matthew had reasons or not - I care if he took Isaiah out of context.

    I don't see how it would be legitimate simply because it is hermeneutically possible.

    For example, nephilim could be the children of human females mating with demons. But we can't just eliminate that "could" part and jump to a definitive conclusion unless we find solid evidence to support our case.

    Now, what does Matthew do? He provides no evidence for his claim that Jesus was born of a virgin. He does not say that this seemingly fabricated event "could have been the fulfillment of scripture" but rather asserts that it definitely was. This is not legitimate hermeneutics.

    Merely being possible is not sufficient. If I roll dice and hide the results, it's possible that I rolled an 11. The fact that it is possible does not make one correct who claims that I rolled an 11.

    We cannot psychoanalyze historical figures. Even if we could, my opponent can give no good reason why we should believe that a king would feign piety or anything at all in a conversation with one of his subjects. A king will only feign loyalty to a greater king. My opponent is claiming here that a king who is loyal to other gods feigned loyalty to the deity being represented by one of his subjects. If I were to imagine a thousand scenarios wherein a king is greeted by the worshiper of another deity, then in exactly one thousand of those scenarios the subject is lucky to leave with his life after he feigns loyalty to the king's deity or deities.

    The likely scenario is that the king was a polytheist, just like nearly all people of that time. That explains why he was fearful to test Jehovah (see Deuteronomy 6:16) and it also explains why a devout follower of Jehovah would consider him to be evil.

    My opponent just skimmed past 700 years like they were nothing. We are in a detailed account of something occurring several centuries before Christ, and the king is being told what action he should take. To confirm that he should take this action, he will be given a sign from God. My opponent would have us believe that this sign came 700 years later. This makes no sense whatsoever. We are forced to assume that the sign is not meant for King Ahaz, but for the House of David as a long line of generations. Yet my opponent makes no attempt to explain why Isaiah went to the trouble of addressing the king with his message if that is the case.

    The only explanation that makes sense is that Matthew ripped the verse out of context.

    It's not clear where Matthew is coming from. Again, signs are given to show that a prophet's words are truly from God. When the sign is seen, those who were addressed by the prophet know to heed the prophet.

    My opponent wants to have us believe that Isaiah went through the trouble of acquiring the king's attention (I assume this is no easy task), only to address *no one in particular at all* and deliver a prophecy about a sign that will not occur for another several centuries. When this sign finally comes, it is witnessed by no one, reported decades after the fact with no corroborating evidence or testimony, and - to top it off - the sign has no immediacy to it. It is not a warning or a promise of anything at all. There is no action that is to be taken from this sign. It's just there for no reason. It is a sign that indicates nothing.

    Furthermore, Deuteronomy 18:22 says,

    When a prophet speaketh in the name of Jehovah, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which Jehovah hath not spoken: the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously, thou shalt not be afraid of him.

    Right here the Bible says that prophets must give falsifiable predictions. My opponent is twisting Isaiah's words into something that would have been unfalsifiable for anyone alive at the time. Literally any person on earth can be a prophet if they are allowed to prophesy about any point in the indefinite future.

    If my opponent is correct about what Isaiah stated, then one of two things would have happened: Isaiah would have been remembered as a false prophet, or he would have been forgotten. Decide for yourself if there is even a difference between the two. What we know for sure is that a long line of Jews would not have preserved the life's work of someone who was believed to be a false prophet - particularly in an era where a book was worth about as much as a car is today (and Isaiah is a long book).

    Hope of what? Hope that he was right about randomly plucking a sentence completely out of context and applying it to his own narrative?
  5. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain

    United States
    Dealing with Objections - Part 1
    In order to show that the Immanuel child cannot possibly refer to Jesus one must provide compelling evidence either that:
    1. Details concerning the Immanuel child are incompatible with Jesus, or…
    2. The Immanuel child refers to another figure that we know of.
    Either of these routes, if successful, would show that Jesus could not possibly be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy and therefore Matthew would be using the prophesy inappropriately. The most successful argument would be to demonstrate both cases above by showing incompatibilities and suggesting a very plausible alternative referent.

    In this post I will first examine some objections that have been raised in regards to (1) above. For the sake of space I will have to leave discussion of (2) above to my next post. However, I will briefly review the issues associated with (2) toward the end of this post. First, turning to (1)…

    Some have said that details concerning the Immanuel child are incompatible with the life of Jesus. The first detail is found in Isaiah 7:15-16, 21-22. It reads:

    In the first part what’s being said is that before the Immanuel child comes to maturity (before he knows right from wrong - Hebrew idiom meaning manhood) that Syria and Israel will be destroyed. There is even some language to suggest material blessing is in store - curds and honey were a sign of material abundance. The main idea is that Ahaz (along with Judah) should not be in dread of these two kingdoms.

    But in the second part of the prophesy we see there is a more sinister note. The abundance is only going to come after Judah itself has been destroyed. Assyria will invade the land of Judah (Isaiah 7:17) and will shave it like a razor. This is obviously in response to Ahaz’s intention to reach out to Assyria for help (Isaiah 8:6-7).

    This began to happen under the reign of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:13-37). Judah finally fell during the reign of Zedekiah (2 Kings 25). Only those who are left in the land after destruction will enjoy abundance (Isaiah 7:22). We also read on in Isaiah 8 and 9 that the Immanuel child will inherit this remnant kingdom (Isaiah 8:8) but will turn things around and bring it back to a golden age (Isaiah 9:1-11).

    So all we gather from Isaiah 7:15-16, 21-22 is:
    1. A child is coming
    2. Before he is a man, Syria and Israel will be destroyed
    3. Judah also will be destroyed
    4. But this child will inherit a remnant kingdom and bring it back to a golden age
    None of these items are incompatible with Jesus. Item (2) above does not necessarily mean that Immanuel needed to be born during Isaiah’s lifetime. Indeed, the destruction of Judah mentioned in (3) above happened in 586 BC - roughly 150 years after Isaiah’s time. So there are certainly elements of this prophesy that point forward to the future. So Jesus fits all 4 items we encounter in these verses.

    Another objectionable detail that’s been raised is that if Immanuel is a Davidic King (as Isaiah 9:7 suggests) then Jesus cannot be Immanuel since he was not a Davidic King. However, Matthew and all of the early church fully believed that Jesus was the penultimate Davidic King (Matthew 1:1, Romans 1:3) and is currently reigning as king from Heaven (Matthew 28:18). So Jesus also fits this detail.

    What’s more problematic for those who say that Immanuel cannot refer to Jesus is finding an alternative referent. There are basically three options:
    1. Immanuel is a figure in Isaiah’s lifetime
    2. Immanuel is a figure in history beyond Isaiah’s lifetime who can be identified
    3. Immanuel is a future Messianic figure
    The most likely candidates for (1) are that Immanuel refers to Hezekiah, that he is a third child of Isaiah’s (along with Shear-Jashub and Maher-Shalal-Hashbaz), or that he is Maher-Shalal-Hashbaz. Unfortunately problems abound for all three of these candidates. In my next post I’ll demonstrate why these options are problematic.

    Option (2) would not be out of the question for Isaiah because he speaks of future historical figures beyond his lifetime who are identifiable elsewhere in his prophesy. For example, he speaks of the Persian king Cyrus in Isaiah 45:1. Some scholars even understand Isaiah’s suffering servant of Isaiah 53 to be a reference to Zerubabel (the leader of the post-exilic community). However no likely candidates have been put forth for Immanuel as a future historical figure. If any are, then I will address them in future posts.

    Option (3) then is very much on the table. If we cannot find a plausible referent for Immanuel in Isaiah’s lifetime or in history after him, why couldn’t Immanuel be seen as a future Messianic figure? Isaiah speaks elsewhere of the future Messiah many times in his prophesy (Isaiah 11, Isaiah 50-55). Also, the Immanuel child has incredibly Messianic qualities listed in Isaiah 9. Namely, he will be a Davidic King who rules over all the earth and whose kingdom has no end. If Immanuel should be seen as a Messianic figure then certainly we can understand why Matthew would take Jesus to be the fulfillment of this prophecy.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2017
  6. Nihilist Virus

    Nihilist Virus Infectious idea

    My opponent actually addresses nothing of what I have said thus far. The closest he comes is vaguely promising to address one thing in a later post. If he is going to deal with what he feels are common objections, then he should address the "dual prophecy theory" as that is the most common viewpoint that informed Christians take on this issue.

    False. Again, the dual prophecy theory accounts for the second issue and thus one could claim that Immanuel refers to someone else and also to Jesus. Also, as I already said, the Bible has made it clear that if a prophet's words are not fulfilled then he is to be ignored. While no time limit is given, it's pretty obvious that 700 years is well beyond the time limit because all witnesses of the prophecy will be long dead.

    So I don't have to identify any referent at all. I've suggested one, but it is not necessary for my case. My opponent must explain why Jews would spend 700 years preserving the book of someone whom they believed to be a false prophet, or he must explain why they would believe Isaiah was a true prophet despite the fact that his prophecies did not come true for centuries.

    My opponent has historical facts wrong here. It is true that King Ahaz sought help from Assyria. Turns out, Assyria did help him. Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel. Assyria did not attack Judah. The part about King Ahaz being shaved (Isaiah 7:20) is a reference to how he will be shamed. In return for Assyria's aid, he had to pay tribute to the king of Assyria and presumably prostrate himself before said king and touch his head to the ground. That is his shame. When it says that the Lord will bring Assyria upon Judah, it is referring to the fact that Judah will owe Assyria tribute. There is no scholar on earth who says that Assyria invaded Judah and this issue is not up for debate. I will not entertain this idea any more than I would the idea that the rebels won the American Civil War.

    It was Babylon that conquered Judah over a century later and that is not in any way relevant to what is happening here.

    Again, when men from that era said this, they didn't take "before" to mean "700 years before." That's ridiculous, especially considering that the child being born was supposed to be a sign to confirm that the prophecy would take place. My opponent will have us believe that a prophecy was fulfilled and then the sign given to confirm the prophecy occurred 700 years later... in secret. This is utterly absurd. Not to mention the fact that Matthew makes no attempt to link the birth of Jesus to the fall of the northern kingdom - which is our hint that he is taking it out of context, and that is the whole point of why we're here.

    My opponent is attempting to establish that parts of the prophecy delivered in Isaiah 7-9 were fulfilled over a hundred years later in order to leverage viability to his idea that other parts could be fulfilled 700 years later. The only problem is that his premise - that Judah was invaded by Assyria - is entirely false.

    Anyone can be said to be reigning from heaven. This adds nothing to the conversation.

    Absurd conclusions are not viable in the absence of alternatives. We don't know where Jimmy Hoffa is buried; that doesn't mean it's plausible that he is buried on the moon.
  7. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain

    United States
    Responding to Nihilist Virus
    It’s not my intention to go tit-for-tat in this debate. I would rather focus on the larger contours of the issue than get bogged down in every little comment. So I’m not going to respond to everything that Nihilist Virus has said. However, a few things need commenting upon. In this section I’ll address some of his statements before moving onto what I promised in my previous post.

    Sennacharib (King of Assyria) invaded Judah in 701 BC and took their fortified cities and besieged Jerusalem. This occurred under the reign of Hezekiah (Ahaz’s son) and was the height of the Assyrian crisis for Judah. Both Hebrew and Assyria records of these events exist. You can read about them in 2 Kings 18:13-37 and Isaiah 36 & Isaiah 37. Also you can read about it here - Assyrian Siege of Jerusalem - Wikipedia. The “shaving” referenced in Isaiah 7:20 refers to the land being shaved (not Ahaz). This is further reinforced in Isaiah 8:5-8 which says:

    So, indeed, because Ahaz will establish a vassal relationship with Assyria there will be dire consequences that Immanuel will inherit. And although Assyria was not the one who conquered Judah in the end (Babylon did), Babylon conquered Judah from the north - from Assyrian territory. This is because Babylon conquered Assyria before conquering Judah. Either way, the Immanuel prophecy speaks of events that will come decades later (Assyrian crisis) and possibly centuries later (Babylonian destruction). Babylon is not explicitly named here, but is explicitly named later in Isaiah 39:6 as the ones who will be responsible for Judah’s ultimate fall.

    My opponent also says that the idea that Immanuel would appear 700 years after the prophecy is “ridiculous” and “absurd”. But why should this be so? This is the very question we’re discussing and so to simply assert this opinion is not much of an argument. Isaiah elsewhere in his prophecy mentions figures like Cyrus who will not appear for at least 250 years (Isaiah 45:1). So why cannot the Immanuel figure be a figure in the future?

    Who is Immanuel?
    As promised, I now want to discuss the problems with trying to identify Immanuel with figures in Isaiah’s lifetime. Some have suggested that Immanuel refers to Hezekiah, Ahaz’s son. Hezekiah was a Davidic king and he was a righteous king which fits with some aspects of Isaiah 9:6-7 and Isaiah 11:1-5. Also, he inherited the mess that his father had made which fits with Isaiah 8:8. Hezekiah, unlike Ahaz, did trust Yahweh when Jerusalem was later besieged by Sennacharib and God dealt with Assyria and delivered Judah. A problem with Hezekiah, however, is that there are other aspects of the Immanuel chronicle that don’t seem to fit. For instance Isaiah says that Immanuel’s kingdom will have no end (Isaiah 9:7). Yet Hezekiah’s kingdom did come to an end and Isaiah later prophesies that because of Hezekiah’s disobedience Babylon will conquer Judah (Isaiah 39:5-7).

    Other’s have suggested that Immanuel is one of Isaiah’s children. Perhaps a third child or Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz who is mentioned at the beginning of Isaiah 8. My opponent has listed reasons to believe that this is so. And the parallels that we see in Isaiah 7 and 8 are compelling. The problem with this, however, is that we know from Isaiah 7:3 that Isaiah already has at least one child - Shear Jashub. And Isaiah 7:14 says that Immanuel will be born of an almah (usually translated virgin). It is difficult to discern the precise meaning of almah because it is not well attested in the OT or other ANE literature. It only occurs about 9 times in the OT. To make a long story short, it appears that almah can mean virgin but it does not have to. It at least means a woman who has not yet born children. Either way, since Isaiah’s wife - the prophetess mentioned in Isaiah 8:3 - has already born children she could not be considered an almah. This would exclude the possibility of Immanuel being one of Isaiah’s children.

    Another reason why Immanuel cannot be one of Isaiah’s children is that Immanuel is clearly understood to be of the stock of David. He will be a Davidic King according to Isaiah 9:6-7 and Isaiah 11:1-5. Isaiah was not of the lineage of David and so this would also exclude Immanuel from being a child of Isaiah’s.

    So then we are left with the very real possibility that Immanuel points toward a future, Davidic king whose kingdom will have no end. And this would make Immanuel a Messianic figure.
  8. Nihilist Virus

    Nihilist Virus Infectious idea

    Whether the shaving of King Ahaz refers to his humiliation or to the land being plundered is inconsequential because both are consistent with the idea that he accepts the role of a vassal king.

    I was unaware that these attacks had occurred. However, they were nevertheless the result of Judah's new king, Hezekiah, violating the vassal-master relationship that Assyria had previously established with King Ahaz. This was certainly not an unpreventable attack. It was more of a disciplinary action than anything else. Assyria had no intentions of utterly destroying Judah because they wanted to continue to tax Judah for tribute.

    The main point of what I was saying is that my opponent represented history incorrectly. Here is the quote again:

    My opponent says that the destruction of Judah began under Hezekiah's rule and ended with Zedekiah's rule. The choice of words here strongly suggests that the same long struggle starts with the former king and ends with the latter; in reality, those two kings dealt with two different conflicts involving two different empires. I doubt I was the only one confused by the way it was worded. In fact, I see no other way to discern my opponent's intentions because he goes on to say that "only those who are left in the land after destruction will enjoy abundance." His use of the word "abundance" refers to curds and honey - the Immanuel prophecy - but Assyria did not destroy Judah and didn't even want to. The destruction occurred much later.

    Furthermore, no one was left after Zedekiah lost the kingdom because all of the Jews were exiled. While it's possible that not every single Jew down to the last man was exiled - I have not researched this - it is the case that Jesus' ancestors on both sides were among the exiled (Matthew 1:11-12 lists ancestors of Christ at the time of the exile, and Luke 3:27 lists the same exiles), so it would be invalid to think of Jesus as a remnant that remained left in the land.

    So if Immanuel was indeed a remnant of the destruction (somehow evading exile) then Immanuel is not and cannot be Jesus or even an ancestor of Jesus.

    I'm not entirely sure what my opponent is trying to get at here. He asserts that the Immanuel prophecy must be speaking of the Assyrian attack when there is no reason to think that at all. It is clearly describing the fact that King Ahaz will be a vassal. This is long before any attack occurs.

    My opponent seemingly did not read what I had to say because he is asking why the absurdity abounds in his position. He says that I am making an assertion and not an argument. I am now forced to repeat my argument because he has left it utterly unaddressed.

    In reading Isaiah 7, we see that King Ahaz is told that his kingdom will not fall and that he is entitled to ask for a sign as confirmation that this prophecy will come true. Isaiah promises a certain sign, and my opponent wants to have us believe that this sign - which was intended to inform King Ahaz and influence his actions - came 700 years later. This is what is absurd, this is the entire point of the debate, and my opponent has yet to even attempt to explain how this makes any sense. And this is why, as I've said, most Christians who have managed to read Isaiah 7:14 in its proper context come to the conclusion that it must have been a dual prophecy. My opponent, however, refuses this position on pain of forfeit:

    There are numerous other details that can be brought up on this issue, but what I said above about the sign and the 700 years of silence is the core of it. In failing to address this, my opponent has not yet even begun to defend his territory in this debate. Thus far the debate has gone on uncontested.

    My opponent concedes that there is compelling evidence that Immanuel is Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, then rejects this on the grounds that Isaiah had already had a child and that Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz's mother hadn't had any prior children. I see no reason to make this assumption when we are delving into an era of rampant polygyny. Prominent men regularly had many wives back then, and Isaiah, who was able to procure the king's attention, was presumably of some influence. Alternatively, the woman could've simply been a harlot. There are other possibilities that I will not mention for decency's sake.

    It is unclear to me that this passage is at all related to the events in chapters 7 and 8.

    Isaiah mentions a child being born in a prophecy, then, after finishing up the rest of the prophecy, he calls in witnesses to watch him have sex (Isaiah 8:1-3). We're supposed to believe that these events are unrelated, we're supposed to ignore the obvious parallels*, and we're supposed to somehow link Isaiah 7 to Isaiah 9 for no apparent reason.

    *Recall from earlier that I said,

    Chapter 7
    14Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

    15Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.

    16For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

    Chapter 8
    2And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.

    3And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the LORD to me, Call his name Mahershalalhashbaz.

    4For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.

    In chapter 8 verse 2, Isaiah establishes public record of the imminent sign that is supposed to accompany his prophecy. In verse 4, we see an unmistakable parallel with verse 16 from the previous chapter. While I admittedly don't understand why the name of the child is changed from Immanuel to Mahershalalhashbaz, it is clear that this is the manifestation of the prophesied sign.

    Multiple absurd assumptions must be made for this possibility to even be on the table.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2017
  9. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain

    United States
    This is my third and final post before my concluding post. I'll use this opportunity to respond directly to NV on several items.

    Typically in an instance like this the goal is to depose the rebellious king (Hezekiah) and install a king who will comply with the Vassal Lord. While Assyria invaded Judah because of Hezekiah's rebellion, from Isaiah's vantage point it is Ahaz who is responsible for the problem. This is because Ahaz initiated a relationship with Assyria that should never have been. This is made abundantly clear from a cursory reading of Isaiah 7-8. Because Ahaz has broken faith with Yahweh and trusted in Assyria there will be dire consequences in the future.

    This is true. But the two conflicts are so intertwined in Scripture that it would be a mistake to view them completely separately. Judah began to be harassed by Assyria under Hezekiah, Assyria conquered the northern kingdom during the reign of Hezekiah in 722BC, Assyria besieged Jerusalem in 701BC, and Jerusalem was then miraculously delivered by Yahweh. Assyria then fell to Babylon and then Babylon finally conquered Judah from what was formerly Assyrian territory. So while it is two kingdoms that are involved the sequence of events is very fluid and inter related.

    Right. But Isaiah 7 speaks of a destruction that will occur in the land. This is made very clear in Isaiah 7:23-25 where we get a picture of an uninhabited land:

    Isaiah 7:22 speaks of those who are left in the land. This is a classic way in the prophets of referring to deportation. And this is not the first instance it has occurred in Isaiah. Isaiah has already prophesied to Judah that she will go into exile and that a remnant will return in Isaiah 4:2-6 and Isaiah 5:13. So the idea of exile and a righteous remnant surviving exile is already present in Isaiah. He is only picking it up again in Isaiah 7:22. Since the only such destruction that might fit this scenario is the Babylonian destruction then Isaiah must be referring to the Babylonian destruction in parts of Isaiah 7 that speak of a remnant being left.

    The poorest of the land were left to cultivate the land (Jeremiah 52:16, 2 Kings 25:12). Not every Jew was deported. Only the educated, priestly, merchant, and ruling classes were deported.

    It's not invalid to think of Jesus as part of the righteous remnant. After all, we find him living in the land of Israel during his earthly ministry. This is because in 539BC Persia conquered Babylon and Cyrus, king of Persia, issued a decree that every Jew living in exile could return to their homeland and rebuild it. This is what's going on in the latter half of Daniel, in Ezra, and in Nehemiah. This is why we have Jews living back in the land during the time of Jesus. Although they are a destroyed, remnant people at that stage in history.

    The language in Isaiah 7 and 8 speaks of an Assyrian invasion. What better way to explain verses like:

    It's clear just from reading it. I don't think I need to comment on these verses to bring out the fact that they're talking about an invasion.

    I don't think I need to comment on this. You've explained your take on the verses and I've explained mine. We'll leave this for the peanut gallery to decide which is more plausible.

    Well we can assume that Isaiah has the only wife mentioned in the book. Why assume this? First, no other wives are mentioned. Isaiah is seen as a righteous figure and a prophet. There is no biblical data to suggest that any of the prophets had multiple wives, so Isaiah would be totally unique in this regard. Polygamy was rampant in this era in the case of kings, not common people or prophets. Kings had harems and produced many heirs. They could also afford to support these harems. This was a characteristically kingly activity. But there is little evidence that common people, especially prophets, practiced polygamy or could afford polygamy in this era. So we lack evidence that Isaiah had multiple wives and we have evidence to the contrary that makes it unlikely he had multiple wives.

    Or we can assume that he had multiple wives or illicit relationships. Why assume this? Only to explain away the word almah in the Immanuel prophesy. The peanut gallery can decide which assumption is more reasonable.

    There are many reasons to link Isaiah 7-8 to 9-12. I think that Isaiah 7-12 should be understood as one large unit. What are these reasons? The first obvious reason is that they're close in proximity. Chapter 9 follows chapters 7 and 8 immediately.

    The second reason is that there are no obvious breaks in the text or scene changes that occur between chapters 8 and 9. Usually when a prophet is taking up a new subject or a scene change occurs there are obvious markers in the text. For instance, there is a very clear break between Isaiah 6 and Isaiah 7. The marker occurs in Isaiah 7:1 which reads...

    The words "In the days of Ahaz..." is a Hebrew way of introducing a new scene and a break in the text. Furthermore, another such marker occurs in Isaiah 13:1, which reads...

    This is another classic way in the prophets of introducing a new "word" or new "oracle" and thus a transition of subject and change of scene. But no such scene change occurs anywhere in 7-12. This is a good reason to consider this whole chronicle as a unity.

    A third reason to take them altogether is that Isaiah 9 speaks of a son that will be born and a child that will be given, which hearkens back to the Immanuel sign in Isaiah 7:14 - a child who will be born.

    And finally a fourth reason to take them altogether is that most scholars, liberal and conservative, understand Isaiah 7-12 as a literary unit.

    All this means that the Immanuel figure is also the Davidic king figure and the branch figure that we encounter in Isaiah 9 and 11.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2017
  10. Nihilist Virus

    Nihilist Virus Infectious idea

    My opponent rejects the dual prophecy theory and has stated that if one were to find a referent of the Immanuel prophecy that is not Jesus, then the debate is over and Matthew has taken Isaiah 7:14 out of context.

    I have attested that Immanuel was born in Isaiah 8, and my opponent agrees that there is compelling evidence to support my position. However, my opponent rejects my conclusion on the grounds that Isaiah already had a son and that the mother of Immanuel hadn't yet had children. My opponent claims that prophets always had only one wife, or none.

    Before I summarize the list of points as to why my opponent's argument on this issue is weak, let me first remind everyone that my opponent's entire stake in this debate hinges on this very issue. This is the sole grounds upon which my opponent rejects what is otherwise a compelling case that Immanuel is someone other than Jesus.

    With regards to "the prophetess," my opponent dismisses the possibility that she is a harlot or a plural wife of Isaiah. Even granting this assumption, further explanation was owed from my opponent. In the era that this was written, people often died at young ages due to a lack of medicine and other issues. Women died in childbirth quite often. And Biblical writers very seldom gave details about the lives of women. Hence, it is very conceivable that Isaiah's wife died and that the "almah" in Isaiah 7:14 was betrothed or newly married to Isaiah, and that Isaiah had sex with her in chapter 8. This possibility has not been addressed. Also, the prophetess could have been a slave; this was also not addressed, although I am only now mentioning these ideas for the first time.

    My opponent gives no explanation as to why King Ahaz is supposed to base his actions upon a sign that will be delivered in secret 700 years in the future. My opponent gives no explanation as to why Isaiah calls in witnesses to watch him have sex with the prophetess right after he just prophesied that an "almah" would give birth. My opponent gives no explanation as to why the open-ended passage of Isaiah 7:14-16 is quite clearly concluded in Isaiah 8:2-4. My opponent must think that all of this is just coincidence.

    Lastly, my opponent has already laid the groundwork in his introduction for the idea that Matthew takes passages out of context.

    Here, my opponent not only establishes that Matthew was biased and had incentive to take quotes out of context, but he even points us directly to another smoking gun. Matthew 2:15 reads,

    “And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.”

    Here, Matthew refers to Hosea 11:1, and we can see just in that verse alone that he has quote-mined:

    “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”

    So "son" refers to Israel, not the messiah. Matthew has a bias, an incentive to take passages out of context, and a known propensity to do so.

    In conclusion, there is absolutely no case to be made that Jesus is Immanuel, there is no case to be made that Jesus has anything to do with the events and prophecies of Isaiah 7-8, and it is apparent that Matthew has taken this portion of scripture out of context.
  11. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain

    United States
    Concluding this discussion I want to review a few reasons why Immanuel can be legitimately understood as a future messianic figure and then conclude with another interpretive explanation of Matthew 7:14 that has recently become known to me (which also supports a connection to Jesus). First, a review:

    Reasons why Immanuel can be seen as a future messianic figure:
    1. The other elements of the prophecy in Isaiah 7-8 talk about future events. The Assyrian invasion (which will come 25 years later) is explicitly mentioned. Furthermore, the Babylonian destruction (which will come 150 years later) is strongly alluded to in Isaiah 7 and is explicitly mentioned elsewhere in Isaiah. Why cannot the Immanuel figure also be pointing toward the future?

    2. Immanuel cannot be one of Isaiah's children. Reasons being (1) Immanuel will be born of an almah and Isaiah's wife is not an almah; and (2) Immanuel will be a Davidic king according to Isaiah 9 and 11. More on this in the next point...

    3. Immanuel is clearly a Davidic king. There is no break in the text between Isaiah 8 and 9 and so no reason to suppose that the child mentioned in Isaiah 9-11 is a different figure than Immanuel.

    4. Immanuel cannot be Hezekiah. Isaiah 9 says that the child to come will have a kingdom that will never end. But elsewhere in Isaiah 39, Isaiah says that Hezekiah's kingdom will come to an end. And, of course, Hezekiah's kingdom did come to an end.

    5. The information we find in Isaiah 9 and 11 about Immanuel is very messianic. The child described in Isaiah 9 and 11 will be a Davidic king whose kingdom has no end, who brings peace, who is called "wonderful counselor" and "mighty God", who is a branch that will spring up from the fallen stump of Jesse -- all messianic terminology. There's no good reason to disconnect 9-11 from 7-8 and so we see again that Immanuel is a messianic figure.
    Additional argumentation
    I recently heard another interpretive take on Isaiah 7:14 put forward by a friend's seminary professor that I thought was of interest. Why is the sign of Immanuel a child being born of a virgin? Remember, almah does not have to mean virgin but it certainly can. However, the Septuagint (which is the greek translation of the OT and was made before the time of Christ) chose the greek word parthenos as a translation for almah. And the greek parthenos certainly means virgin. So even before the time of Christ this text was being read as a virgin miraculously giving birth to a child. So why would this be significant?

    Well let's remember that Rezin and Pekah are seeking to depose Ahaz and install their own puppet king who will comply with their coalition against Assyria. Ahaz is under siege, his life is in danger, and he is afraid. Isaiah goes to him to tell him not to be afraid because Yahweh will take care of this threat. This is certainly in line with Yahweh's promise to David that David will never lack a man to sit on the throne (1 Kings 9:5). So Yahweh is not going to deliver Judah and Ahaz because of the righteousness of Ahaz, but in order to be faithful to his promises to David. Yet Ahaz does not trust Yahweh to deliver and is planning on reaching out to Assyria for help.

    Here's where the significance of the sign comes in. Yahweh himself chooses the sign - a virgin will conceive. This is to say - "Ahaz, you have no reason to fear. Even if Rezin and Pekah should succeed in killing you, I will cause a virgin to bear a child for David who will continue the kingdom. No plans can prevail against my promises." If read this way, this would mean that God is able to fulfill his promises to David and raise up a Davidic king even if the line of David should be snuffed out. This word is given as a further assurance that God will deliver Ahaz from the crisis.

    And in Matthew's mind, this is exactly what God has done in raising up Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary in order to demonstrate that it is Yahweh alone who delivers. He is able to raise up salvation for his people in spite of the sinfulness of man. And Yahweh does not need to strength of man in order to deliver his people.
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