Question:

I read your article on how to help convert our Jewish friends, the problem is that yes, “our version” the Old Testament mentions things about Jesus, but when you bring that up, they show you in “their version” that is in Hebrew it is different.  Where ours says a virgin will give birth…but in their Hebrew Torah, when translated says..a women will give birth.  They say that this verse is about Moses’ birth.  Can you please shed some light on this because I’ve been a Christian for a while now and my faith is lacking and starting to think the Jews have a point.

Answer:

First of all, when I give evidence to either believers or non-believers for Jesus being the Messiah, I do not normally use Isaiah 7:14 because it is at least a bit debatable. My faith is not dependent in the least on this particular passage. It simply is not a big deal to me one way or another. Nevertheless, I do in fact believe that this is a messianic prophecy and that it is a prophecy that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. The “this is our version” is really a red herring. Any Christian or Jew can have access to the Hebrew Bible. The Jews do not own the Hebrew Bible. What the Hebrew says is that a young maiden would be with child, and that it is a sign from God. The Hebrew word for young maiden is ambiguous as to whether the young maiden is in fact a virgin. As with any question of interpretation, the chief determining factor is the context. Let us look at Isaiah 7:14:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin (young maiden, Hebrew: almah) will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means God with us).

The scripture states that the young maiden being with child is a sign. If she was not a virgin, and if she had had sex with a man, then it certainly would not be a sign!!! The fact is that the Jewish translation into the Greek known as the Septuagint translates the Hebrew word unambiguously as virgin. The reason for this is obvious. Any reasonable reading of the Hebrew implies that the meaning of almah in this context requires virgin, not simply young woman. We have positive proof in the Septuagint version (translated about AD 250) that the Jew’s understanding of this passage before the time of Christ was that it was a messianic passage about a virgin.

Your Jewish friends claim that “our version” of the Old Testament says young woman, not virgin is simply not true. The Jewish understanding of the passage was that the word meant virgin (at least before it became uncomfortable to interpret it that way after the time of Christ). This is an unambiguous fact. That they want to move away from this translation after the birth of Jesus is not surprising, but this argument that “our version” contradicts the Christian translation of the Hebrew is simply not accurate.

About the interpretation that Isaiah 7:14 is about the birth of Moses, I encourage you to read the passage in its context. I would suggest that no one simply reading this passage (unless they were trying to explain away the messianic implications) would read it as applying to Moses. Isaiah 7:14-17 is written in the future tense. It is a prophecy of the future. Even if you accept your Jewish friend’s claim that this prophecy may not be a prediction of a virgin birth, your friend’s claim that this is about Moses really makes no sense. You should not be intimidated by such arguments.

In summary, we should remember that the Christian faith does not depend even in the slightest on whether Isaiah 7:14 is a prophecy about a virgin birth. Nevertheless, Jewish claims that this is just some sort of Christian interpolation–unjustified by the Hebrew is simply not true. Is the interpretation debatable? Perhaps, but any open-minded person would have to agree at least that it is a reasonable interpretation.

John Oakes

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