Friday, May 17, 2013

Citing messianic prophecy out of context

As a former Christian believer I had never thought to ponder the questions regarding the prophecies normally cited by believers as references to Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. While writing and searching for material for another post I came across a prophesy cited in the New Testament as being a prophecy of the coming of Christ.

22"All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”(which means “God with us”).
Matthew 1:22-23

This is a direct citation of a similar prophecy found in the Old Testament.

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14

For the purpose of this post I want to focus on the meaning of the original prophecy found in the book of Isaiah. By putting it in its proper context I will demonstrate that the author of Matthew, whoever he was cited this quote out of context. and finally to demonstrate that it was indeed not meant to be taken as a prophecy about the birth of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately for Christians this prophecy has nothing to do with Christ!

 In order to fully comprehend the true meaning of this prophecy you must read Isaiah chapter seven in its entirety. But here for brevity's sake I will break it down and simplify it for you since the language used is a little hard to follow and at times confusing.

At the time that this prophecy was given, Ahaz king of Judah was under the threat of attack by Aram and Ephraim. Their ultimate goal was to overthrow the king of Judah and take his kingdom and divide it amongst themselves. The author relates that Ahaz was afraid of this very dangerous and imminent threat.

"Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind." Isaiah 7: 2

In response to this threat the Lord sends his prophet Isaiah and his son to meet with Ahaz with a word from the Lord. God wanted to reassure Ahaz that he would lay both Aram and Ephraim to waste and that their plans would not come to fruition; hence the reference: " Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood"

After receiving the prophecy from Isaiah King Ahaz was told to ask for a sign from the Lord to which he refused because he did not want to test the Lord.

12But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.” Isaiah 7:12

But Isaiah gave him a prophecy relating to a sign anyway. Which is the main subject of this post the prophecy about a virgin giving birth and naming him Immanuel which as the text suggest means God with us. Not as in the incarnation of God as in Christ dwelling and walking the earth with us sinful humans as Christians believe. But rather God with us in the sense that he is on their side and they are in his good graces. The child itself is not significant in any other way, the text does not hint of a miraculous birth. In fact, the way the word virgin in this text should be translated is "young woman" not virgin as in a woman who has never known a man who has her hymen intact while giving birth.

Because of his disobedience of God through Isaiah Ahaz incurs some consequences, but the Lord still will fulfill his promise to deliver them from Aram and Ephraim. The consequences have to do with the Assyrians but at this time they are not relevant to this post so I wont get into them.

16"for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.”

Notice the specificity of the above mentioned prophecy. This was for Ahaz and his people during their time. There is no hint whatsoever in this entire chapter that states that a messiah will come to deliver his people. This is simply just another one of Christianity's inventions borrowed from the Old Testament to bolster their new belief systems acceptability and credibility by tying it to the older traditions of the Jews.  

Note: All biblical citations are from the New International Version


  1. This is why I never take the bible as evidence for anything. Firstly like you point out they may be taking it out of context, and secondly what makes it so divine?

    1. It's only divine because it says it is right in the book itself!