A QUESTION ARISING OUT OF MY DISCUSSION OF FAITH AND HISTORY, IN REFERENCE TO AN EARLIER POST ON ISAIAH AND THE VIRGIN BIRTH
I know that you posted something on the virgin birth in Isaiah in the past (which I think was in fact an excerpt from your forthcoming Bible Intro book) – but can you elaborate how you will apply your approach you discuss here with passages such as Isaiah 7 where there is debate around whether it is a prophecy referring to Jesus or not. Will you take a hardline interpretation and saying it must not be referring to Jesus, or will you just outline the major interpretations and stay neutral so the reader doesn’t know how you personally interpret it?
It’s a good question, and I do indeed have a firm opinion about it. My opinion is not very idiosyncratic; it is simply rooted in the “historical method” that I prefer to use when reading ancient texts. If you look at Isaiah of Jerusalem living in the 8th century BCE, writing to people of his time, and read what he has to say, then it is clear that Isaiah 7 is not predicting something that is going to happen in the distant future. I don’t believe that there is any debate about this among scholars of Isaiah. All one needs to do is read the context (in the book itself). The Syrians and Israelites (called Ephrahamites too) have banded together and invaded Judah. The king Ahaz is very disturbed. Isaiah tells him that this conflict will turn out right. There is a young woman who has already conceived a child (he does not say that she is a virgin, and he does not say that she will conceive; he says she has already conceived). She will bear the child and they will call him Emmanuel (which means “God is with us”). Before the child is old enough to know right from wrong, the two kings (and their armies) that are threatening Jerusalem will return home and the threat will end.
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