Note on Isaiah 7:14

The Isaiah Prophecy

Some difference of opinion exists as to the relevance of the prediction in Isaiah 7:14 to the birth of Jesus. Matthew quotes the verse and cites the event as its fulfilment. "Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel" (Matt.1:22‑23). It is very frequent practice of Matthew to quote Old Testament passages as predicting incidents in his Gospel, and sometimes it is fairly obvious that he is not really claiming his quotations as specific fulfilment but merely illustrative of the incident under discussion. The controversy over this particular application by Matthew arises from the fact that the Isaiah passage is very difficult to dissociate from its immediate context and fit into a Messianic setting. The birth of the child to the virgin in Isaiah is intimately connected with the political happenings of the day and the immediate relations of Isaiah himself with King Ahaz. It is also argued that the Hebrew almah in Isaiah 7:14 means equally a virgin or a young woman of marriageable age so that the prophecy does not necessarily demand a virgin birth and this is true. The Greek Septuagint, though, has parthenos in this text, which word means virgin simply and solely, although some second and third century fragmentary versions of the Septuagint have neanis, which means young woman. The fact that Matthew uses parthenos in his quotation would appear to indicate that this was the accepted rendering in his day (the Septuagint was the version at that time in general use). It is evident that Matthew understood it in this manner and this, at any rate, confirms that he intended to assert the reality of the virgin birth. It is this factor which is of importance; the precise interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 is not so relevant. The doctrine of the Virgin Birth rests upon the actual happening as recorded in the New Testament and not upon the application of Old Testament prophecy.

The Virgin Birth of Christ