Tag Archives: Isaiah

Law v. Francesca: The Virgin Smackdown, 2012

TM Law has a few issues with Francesca’s reading of Isaiah and Matthew (referenced in her delightful BBC 5 interview earlier today).  As I suggested in a little conversation with Mark Goodacre and TM on the facebook on the subject, I don’t think at all that Matthew was so uninformed that he didn’t have a good enough grasp of Hebrew to know what Isaiah was saying.

The use of parthenos by Matthew is unquestionably a claim that Jesus was born of a virgin. But the claim is not based on a mistranslation, as Stavrakopoulou suggests. The Greek translator of Isaiah used a perfectly acceptable rendering for עלמה. It is more likely that there was already a virgin birth oral tradition, related to other Greek myths in the Greco-Roman world like that of the birth of Aeo (see e.g., Rösel, ‘Die Jungfrauengeburt des endzeitlichen Immanuel’, JBTh 6 [1991], 135–51). The Gospel writer was able to refer to the citation of Isa. 7:14 when he gave his narration of the birth of Jesus, because his readers, whether or not they were aware of the semantic shift that had occurred in the short history of this little Greek word, knew that in the first century parthenos indeed meant ‘virgin’.

I also understand that Mark will soon post a podcast on the very same issue.  So stay tuned.

I Like Krista. Krista is Smart. Krista is Astute. Krista is On the Blogroll.

You’ll like her too, and you’ll see how smart she is, and you’ll recognize her astuteness, and you’ll plop her on your own blogroll when you read her brilliant post on Matthew’s use of Isaiah, which she concludes by saying

… as modern readers, we must recognize that Matthew is not attempting to write a history but a narrative, and we cannot use his narrative as the framework of our historical reconstruction. The text in Isaiah and the text in Matthew speak to similar promises and refrains, messages we as modern participants in Christmas can relate, yet let us be careful of confusing these messages and losing their original context: Isaiah’s concern with the Syro-Ephraimite war, Matthew’s reflection on messianic expectations under Roman occupation of Judea, and we as modern readers, reflecting and inhabiting the Christmas story within our own world affairs.

Hooray.  Krista, you’re in.

So, Something Else to Love About Logos 5

While working with the LXX I discovered something of an anomaly, which I mentioned here.  Rick Brannan read the post and commented-

Ken’s got it right. “LXXALT” represents the alternate versions of texts in Rahlfs; Isaiah has no separate alternate version. The interlinear would be the better choice for a word at present. That, or you could use Swete’s edition of the LXX, but as Ken will tell you Swete’s version (based on Vaticanus, largely, correct?) has some issues compared to Sinaiticus and Rahlfs. I’ll report the issue with word lists and morph tagged texts that have reverse interlinears.

That was 26 November.  On 27 November when I opened Logos it began its auto update and when it was done here’s what had been updated and corrected-

The LXX was updated and corrected in a day! Remarkable.  So, that’s something else to love about Logos 5- swift attention to necessary corrections.

More on the ‘Read Isaiah in a Year in The LXX’ Group

A facebook group has been organized.  Check it out.  Sign up.  And don’t let the fact that the wicked Joel Watts is in it deter you.

Isaiah is looking at you.  He won’t be very pleased if you don’t do it.  Look at that face!

Read Isaiah in the LXX in a Year: Easy, Right?

Rahlf’s LXX

Most Bible reading plans let readers make their way through the whole thing in a year.  This plan urges folk to take a slower route through the book of Isaiah alone- in Greek- in a year.  I think I’ll join in.  It’s been a while since I plowed through LXX Isaiah and it will be fun to do it with a group.

Maybe you’ll join in too?

The Book of Isaiah in Contemporary Research

Christopher Hays writes

This article surveys scholarship on the book of Isaiah since roughly the start of the 21st century.Noting that theories of the book’s formation based on internal textual data have not commanded consensus, it calls for stronger methodological controls for models of composition and redaction,on the basis of comparative data from other ancient Near Eastern texts, especially prophetic texts.Although there has been an outpouring of scholarship from every angle, significant recent trends include centripetal / holistic approaches to the book and study of its reception history.

An ‘Almah’ is Not Necessarily a ‘Bethulah’

The Common English Bible renders Isaiah 7:10ff thusly:

The front side (recto) of Papyrus 1, a New Tes...

10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz: 11 “ Ask a sign from the LORD your God. Make it as deep as the graveq or as high as heaven. ” 12 But Ahaz said, “ I won’t ask; I won’t test the LORD . ” 13 Then Isaiah said, “ Listen, house of David! Isn’t it enough for you to be tiresome for people that you are also tiresome before my God? 14 Therefore, the Lord will give you a sign. The young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel. 15 He will eat butter and honey, and learn to reject evil and choose good. 16 Before the boy learns to reject evil and choose good, the land of the two kings you dread will be abandoned. 17 The LORD will bring upon you, upon your people, and upon your families days unlike any that have come since the day Ephraim broke away from Judah—the king of Assyria.”

Translations which have ‘virgin’ in verse 14 mistakenly render the Hebrew word ‘Almah’ which simply means ‘young girl’. If the author had wished to say ‘virgin’ he would have used ‘Bethulah’ – the word for virgin in Hebrew. It is at precisely this point that we need to recall the historical context of Isaiah’s theological declaration: An invading army is approaching and God promises to deliver the city if the people will turn to him in faith. Ahaz isn’t sure it will happen so God tells him that the sign of his promise’s truth will be that this pregnant young woman will give birth to her son and before that son is weaned, deliverance will have dawned.

Christian readers who claim to take Scripture seriously and who yet ignore the very vocabulary of the passage and import into it a prediction of the birth of Christ violate it violently.

But does that mean Matthew has it wrong? Indeed not. Why? Because he has taken from this passage its ‘theology of deliverance from the enemy as promised by God’ and applied it to the birth of Jesus, whom he thus portrays as the ‘promise of deliverance’ par excellance.

Here again then we see Matthew the theologian doing the work of a theologian and reading his source theologically. Matthew is preaching and his text is Isaiah. Matthew isn’t doing history and neither is Isaiah (not primarily anyway).  And the proof?  Jesus wasn’t named Immanuel.  He was named Yeshua.

And anyway, if Isaiah had wanted to say ‘virgin’ he could have.  He just didn’t.  An ‘almah’ is not necessarily a ‘bethulah’.

Isaiah Describes American Politics!

English: Isaiah; illustration from a Bible car...

I bet this will come as a surprise but long ago Isaiah saw exactly what American politics would be like in 2011 (ok he didn’t and he wasn’t at all concerned about such things- but what he says of Judah is SO timely I have to point it out) –

3:1 Now the LORD God of heavenly forces is removing from Jerusalem and from Judah every form of support: all rations of food and water; 2 soldier and warrior; judge and prophet; fortune-teller and elder; 3 commander and celebrity; counselor, clever craftsman, and cunning charmer.

[That because the people are completely rebellious- the sots. And now the good part – ].

4 I will make youths their commanders; mischief makers will rule over them. 5 The people will oppress each other, each one against the other, neighbor against neighbor. The young will bully the old, the rogue, and the respectable. 6 Someone will seize a family member, saying, “ You have clothing! You be our leader! This mess will be your responsibility! ” 7 Someone else will cry out on that day, “ I’m no healer! I have neither food nor clothing in my house! Don’t make me the leader of the people! ” (CEB).

Sounds about right doesn’t it? Feckless leaders of the worst sort are the appropriate punishment of rebellious intransigents. Isaiah certainly wasn’t ‘prophesying’ modern American life- but modern American life certainly mirrors 8th century BC Judah in at least this respect!

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When the Prince of Peace Comes…

They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Or, as the Common English Bible has it- ‘Then they will beat their swords into iron plows and their spears into pruning tools.’

I like very much what Keil has to say about this saying from Isaiah 2:4-

Since the nations betake themselves in this manner as pupils to the God of revelation and the word of His revelation, He becomes the supreme judge and umpire among them. If any dispute arise, it is no longer settled by the compulsory force of war, but by the word of God, to which all bow with willing submission.

With such power as this in the peace-sustaining word of God (Zec 9:10), there is no more need for weapons of iron: they are turned into the instruments of peaceful employment, into ittim (probably a synonym for ethim in 1Sa 13:21), plough-knives or coulters, which cut the furrows for the ploughshare to turn up and mazmeroth, bills or pruning-hooks, with which vines are pruned to increase their fruit-bearing power. There is also no more need for military practice, for there is no use in exercising one’s self in what cannot be applied. It is useless, and men dislike it.

There is peace, not an armed peace, but a full, true, God-given and blessed peace.

It is in war that the power of the beast culminates in the history of the world. This beast will then be destroyed. The true humanity which sin has choked up will gain the mastery, and the world’s history will keep Sabbath. And may we not indulge the hope, on the ground of such prophetic words as these, that the history of the world will not terminate without having kept a Sabbath? Shall we correct Isaiah, according to Quenstedt, lest we should become chiliasts?

“The humanitarian ideas of Christendom,” says a thoughtful Jewish scholar, “have their roots in the Pentateuch, and more especially in Deuteronomy. But in the prophets, particularly in Isaiah, they reach a height which will probably not be attained and fully realized by the modern world for centuries to come.”

Yet they will be realized. What the prophetic words appropriated by Isaiah here affirm, is a moral postulate, the goal of sacred history, the predicted counsel of God.

Sometimes the ‘oldies’ really are the good ones. And I don’t know about you, but the cessation of all conflict would be very welcome.

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Advent 1

Tomorrow Advent begins and so here’s the passage I’ll mention in that connection:  Isaiah 64:1-9 –

1 If only you would tear open the heavens and come down! Mountains would quake before you
2 like fire igniting brushwood or making water boil.  If you would make your name known
3 When you accomplished wonders beyond all our expectations; when you came down, mountains quaked before you.
4 From ancient times, no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any god but you who acts on behalf of those who wait for him!
5 You look after those who gladly do right; they will praise you for your ways.  But you were angry when we sinned; you hid yourself when we did wrong.
6 We have all become like the unclean; all our righteous deeds are like a menstrual rag. All of us wither like a leaf; our sins, like the wind, carry us away.
7 No one calls on your name; no one bothers to hold on to you, for you have hidden yourself from us, and have handed us over to our sin.
8 But now, LORD, you are our father. We are the clay, and you are our potter. All of us are the work of your hand.
9 Don’t rage so fiercely, LORD; don’t hold our sins against us forever, but gaze now on your people, all of us: (CEB).

Nothing says need for redemption like human life.  Our best efforts are menstrual outcastings and faithfulness to God is as rare as an honest politician.  Yes, nothing says need for redemption like normal human life.

The Christocentric Exegesis of Johannes Oecolampadius

Jeff Fisher has posted a paper he’s reading at ETS just this week which should be of interest to one and all. Enjoy. One can never hear Oecolampadius mentioned too often.

Hell, Open Wide, Another One’s on the Way and his Name is David Morrison

A man has admitted sexually abusing a 14-month-old baby, after being caught by an international investigation led by Central Scotland Police.  David Morrison, 45, admitted four charges at the High Court in Glasgow.  Evidence that Morrison had raped the child was built up through online chat logs, photographs and expert analysis of veins on Morrison’s hands.  Morrison, from Grangemouth, also admitted taking, possessing and distributing images over the internet.  Forensic examination of five hard drives taken from Morrison’s home revealed that he had been in contact with paedophiles in 25 countries.

Subhuman beast.  Hell, open wide, here comes another of the most reprehensible of all the vile- the pedophile.  Or as Isaiah has it-

… hell has enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure.

And for those of you who don’t need the veil-

לָכֵ֗ן הִרְחִ֤יבָה שְּׁאֹול֙ נַפְשָׁ֔הּ וּפָעֲרָ֥ה פִ֖יהָ

Zwingli As Exegete: The Isaiah Commentary

The great commentary of Zwingli on Isaiah was published on the 15th of July, 1529.  It includes a complete translation of the text (into Latin) and a commentary (also in Latin).  It’s a spectacular example of theological exegesis.

His ‘letter to the reader’ concludes with a delightful prayer which should be what every exegete prays-

Dominus sic piis coeptis faveat, ut magis ac magis illius gloria cum innocentia nostra crescat!  Amen.

His work is published in the Saemtliche Werke, Bd 14.1.  At the conclusion of that volume Edwin Künzli’s ‘Zwingli als Ausleger des Alten Testamentes’ is absolutely must, yes simply must reading for anyone wishing to understand Zwingli as exegete.

Getting What You Pray For Isn’t Always a Good Thing…

Manasses was a king of the Kingdom of Judah. H...

Judah's Most wicked king

Take, for instance, the case of Hezekiah.  Ill, he prays to God for deliverance and rescue.  God answers in the affirmative, though Isaiah had indicated the opposite.  Rescued, he does indeed live for 15 years more.  But the third year into those fifteen the most wicked of all Judah’s kings was born, the vile Manasseh.  Had Hezekiah died when initially implied, that wicked soul never would have besmirched the Davidic line and been the precipitating cause of Judah’s exile (according to the Deuteronomist).

Or in other words, getting well isn’t always better than dying.  Unless one only cares for oneself… which seems clearly to have been the case with Hezekiah… (Is 38-39:8, exp 39:8).

There’s Still Time To Sign Up, Kiwis: Isaiah and Empire Colloquium

3. Prophet Isaiah

It’s a fantastic sounding colloquium titled Isaiah and Empire.

This colloquium (sponsored by Laidlaw-Carey Graduate School in Auckland, New Zealand) will explore cultural and theological implications of aspects of the book of Isaiah in the context of empire. Potential papers might include, but are by no means limited to:

* readings of particular texts in the light of ancient imperial contexts
* studies of the redaction history of Isaiah
* Isaiah (or a particular text) in contemporary “imperial” or post-colonial contexts
* theological reflections
* cross cultural perspectives on Isaiah in imperial contexts
* contemporary political reflections

The colloquium will take place in Auckland, NZ, on 14th-15th February 2011 (this is summertime in NZ but after schools have begun for the year). Since we intend to publish a book with the same title in 2011, draft papers will be circulated among participants in 2010 and final form submitted by April 15th 2011.

Please send enquiries and abstracts before 30th September 2010 to:

Dr Tim Bulkeley tim@carey.ac.nz or
Dr Tim Meadowcroft TMeadowcroft@laidlaw.ac.nz

For some reason SBL do not seem to have added this colloquium to their online listing, despite emailing them, though SOTS and some other professional societies have circulated the Call for Papers. In order to make it better known please either repost this, or email the link to any scholar you know with an interest in Isaiah.

It would be brilliant indeed to attend.