I know it is beyond Christmas, but it always worth hearing from senior scholar, Dr. Richard Schultz. Here about context of Isaiah’s prophecy that is taken up by Matthew to discuss the virgin birth.
Dr. Richard Schultz, the Blanchard Professor of Old Testament in Wheaton College Graduate School, has co-edited with Daniel Block, Isaianic Intertextuality and Intratextuality as Composition-Historical Indicators: Methodological Challenges in Determining Literary Influence, along with other books and articles. In this episode he discusses the contexts and wording of the prophecy of Isaiah that Matthew applies to Mary, the mother of Jesus, in Matt. 1:23.
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I have a question about the “sign”: Tertullian, whose works I happen to be reading, argues that it is a supernatural sign, because a young woman giving birth would be too common to draw attention and be recognized as a sign. (By contrast, a prophet walking around naked would definitely draw people’s attention, because it is uncommon, though not supernatural). What do you think?
Nemo, good question. The word “sign” does not always refer to a supernatural act. Tertullian takes the word “sign” to refer to the virgin birth as a miraculous event. I’d concur. The Gospel of John uses the Greek word “sign” always to refer to a miracle of Jesus. In Isaiah’s context, “the young woman who gave birth” did not have to be a miracle for it to garner the king’s attention. The sign Isaiah refers to is a message directed to the king, not to the wider public. The name of the child is the “sign” part, not necessarily the conception and birth. Take a look at how the word “sign” is used in the OT. You can go to biblegateway.com and just type in the search “sign”. It will take you all the times the word occurs. I think that might help.
Many people (and places) in the OT are given names with the word for “god” embedded in them. So I don’t see how a baby given the name “Immanuel” would be a sign worth noticing. It would be as significant as babes being called Joshua nowadays, not the type of sign promised to Ahaz, “deep as Sheol or high as heaven”. If the sign is the message embedded in the child’s name, surely there are more direct ways to bring the message home?
I think Tertullian’s explanation why the word in Isaiah 7:14 should be interpreted as virgin not young woman, even in the context of Isaiah itself, makes sense. Hence my question.