A Note On Use Of Isa 7:14 In Matt 1:23 Through The Interpretation Of The Septuagint -- By: Brian C. Dennert

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 30:1 (Spring 2009)
Article: A Note On Use Of Isa 7:14 In Matt 1:23 Through The Interpretation Of The Septuagint
Author: Brian C. Dennert


A Note On Use Of Isa 7:14 In Matt 1:23 Through The Interpretation Of The Septuagint

Brian C. Dennert

Brian C. Dennert is a Th.M. New Testament student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

I. Introduction

The use of Isa 7:14 in Matt 1:23 has been a focal point of controversy throughout the history of the church, from the work of Justin Martyr to contemporary translations and commentaries. Much of this discussion centers upon the use of παρθένος in the LXX to translate עַלְמָה which Matthew follows in his quotation. Studies often focus on philology to determine if this is a possible and appropriate translation, as Matthew’s use of the verse seems dependent on the Greek word as opposed to the Hebrew word. The importance of this verse for the doctrine of the virgin birth as well as the issue of the NT writers’ use of the OT has rendered conversation even more heated and plentiful, but discussions focused on lexical issues appear to have reached an impasse. An approach that traces the interpretative history of this passage in light of its translation in the LXX could shed new light on Matthew’s use of this passage. Tracing Isa 7:14 from the MT to the LXX to Matt 1:23 shows that Matthew draws upon latent messianic ideas in the original text that the LXX develops to show Jesus as the verse’s ultimate fulfillment in his birth to a literal παρθένος, but that he also uses this quotation to evoke themes from the verse’s Isaianic context. Therefore, while παρθένος in the LXX might have prompted Matthew’s quotation of this passage, he employs this verse in ways that do not solely depend on this word and the LXX; he uses this verse in light of its original context as well as its interpretation tradition.

II. Isaiah’s MT Prediction: Contemporary Event Wrapped In Mystery

A study of Isa 7:14 in its original context reveals that the prediction is closely tied to its immediate historical context and does

not refer to a miraculous birth.1 However, some features of the mother and child in this account and the overall context of this prediction points to a deeper meaning of this text beyond its original historical location, perhaps in a messianic figure.

This prophecy comes in the circumstances of the Syro-Ephraimitic war around 735 BCE, as Rezin the king of Syria and...

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