Jeremiah 31:22: Proverb, Promise, or Prophecy? Part II -- By: Charles Lee Feinberg
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Jeremiah 31:22: Proverb, Promise, or Prophecy?
[Editor’s note: In a previous article the author introduced the subject and considered whether the passage should be interpreted as a proverb or promise. In this article a third solution, that it is a prophecy, is considered, and the author’s conclusions presented.]
That interpretation which can lay claim to be the oldest and most widely held at first is the one which sees here a prophecy of the virgin birth of the Messiah. However, on this score Cunliffe-Jones is not prepared to commit himself, when he states: “The second part of v. 22 might be seen as a climax of Jeremiah’s appeal if we know what it meant, but we do not.”1 Graybill is correct in remarking that the majority of commentators now reject the Messianic view of the verse .2 It is of interest to notice that E. W. Hengstenberg does not treat the verse in his Christology of the Old Testament. Scofield makes no special mention of it in his Reference Bible, nor does Gresham Machen deal with the text in his classic volume on the virgin birth of our Lord. T. K. Cheyne gives only part of the argument when he maintains: “The exposition of St. Jerome and other Fathers, that the birth of Christ from a virgin is referred to, is altogether inadmissible, (1) because
BSac 124:493 (Jan 67) p. 17
the nouns which form the subject and the predicate respectively indicate sex, not age, and the first in particular cannot be tortured so as to mean ‘virgin’; and (2) there is no article to confine the reference to any particular persons.”3 Plumptre is quite outspoken in his opposition to the exegesis that sees here a prophecy of the virgin birth. He declares: “The notion that the words can in even the remotest degree be connected with the mystery of the Incarnation belongs to the region of dreams, and not of realities; and, lacking as it does the support of even any allusive reference to it in the New Testament, can only be regarded, in spite of the authority of the many Fathers and divines who have adopted it, as the outgrowth of a devout but uncritical imagination. The word used for ‘woman,’ indeed, absolutely excludes the idea of the virgin-birth.”4
But the older view is not without its modern advocates, as well as the honored names of the past, which will be considered first. Jerome, after speaking of the virgin in Isaiah 7:14, says, “This is she of whom God by t...
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