The prophecy is perhaps the best known of all the predictions in the Bible.
It is often read at Christmas time:
Isaiah 7:14-17: "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings." 1
Isaiah 7:14 according to many religious conservatives:
Their belief is grounded in the concept that the Bible is inerrant
-- it is free of errors. Thus, if one passage of the Bible predicts an event,
and one or more later passages state that the event actually happened, then both the
prediction and the fulfillment actually occurred as stated. The prophecy is true.
In this case, a virgin conception is such a miraculous event, that if the
prophecy came true, one could conclude that the prediction was inspired by the
In Isaiah 7:14, the writer is recorded as predicting in 734 BCE
that a "a
virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."
In Matthew 1:18-20, the author describes the birth of Jesus which
had happened in 4 to 7 BCE -- many decades in his past. He stated: "...When as his mother Mary was
espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with
child of the Holy Ghost...that which is conceived in her is of the
Holy Ghost..." In Matthew 1:23, the author quotes Isaiah:
"Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is,
'God with us.' "
Probably within ten years after Matthew wrote the above passage, the
author of the Gospel of Luke wrote in Luke 1:26-35: "...the
angel Gabriel was sent...To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary...behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS...The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."
Isaiah prophesized, during the 8th century BCE, the miraculous event
that a virgin would conceive. The event
happened circa 6 BCE and was infallibly recorded during the first century
CE by two independent Gospel writers. The prophecy came true. It was only one of many
dozens of prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) which
predicted elements of Jesus' life and which were verified by the Christian
Scriptures (New Testament) as having actually happened.
The Bible cannot have any internal conflicts that cannot
eventually be harmonized. The writers of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew both state that Mary was a
virgin when she became pregnant. So this must have been true. Thus the
prophecy made over seven centuries earlier came true.
Isaiah 7:14 according to some religious liberals:]
Many religious liberals would interpret the passage, as follows:
The author of Matthew quoted the Septuagint (Greek) version of the
Hebrew Scriptures. The Septuagint contains a translation error made
when the Hebrew of
Isaiah 7:14 was converted into Greek. Isaiah used almah to describe a young
girl who would give birth. In Hebrew, an almah is a young woman
of marriageable age. If he wanted to refer to a virgin, he would have
used the word bethulah. The creators of the Greek translation,
mistranslated the Hebrew almah into the Greek parthenos,
meaning virgin. The authors of Matthew and Luke were probably unable to read
Hebrew; they would have relied on the Septuagint translation in Greek. They based part of their writing on the error in the Greek. They were obviously creating a story in order to make the
prophecy come true.
Isaiah's prophecy was that the child Immanuel was to have been born
in 742 BCE, the first year of King Ahaz's reign. Ahaz, the king of
Judah, faced the combined armies of Syria and Israel. Isaiah explained
to Ahaz that he should not form an alliance with Assyria. In support
of this advice, God would provide a sign: a young woman would conceive
and bear a child who would be named Immanuel.2The
sign would have only have been effective if it happened almost
immediately. It would not have convinced King Ahaz that Isaiah's
prophecy was valid if it was not fulfilled until after King Ahaz' death!
Isaiah was clearly not referring to some event that would occur
centuries later. When he referred to the far future, as in Chapter 11,
he typically used a phrase such as "In that day."
The translation of the Hebrew name Immanuel, (Greek Emmanouel)
as "God with us" in Matthew 1:23 implies that the
name-holder is divine. The name really means "God is with us,"
meaning that God will support us. The name makes perfect sense if the child's
name was to indicate to King Ahaz that God is on their side.
Luke 1 states that Mary would call her son Yeshua
(Jesus in Greek). He is called Yeshua throughout the Christian
Scriptures -- not Immanuel.
The idea of Jesus being born to a virgin was not
prophesized by Isaiah. Rather, Isaiah must have been referring to a young
woman who gave birth to a son circa 742 BCE -- a very
normal occurrence. He predicted that she would call his name Immanuel.
Many births to young women would have probably happened at that time. But, there is no mention either in
the Bible or in the historical or archaeological record that positively refers to
an Immanuel having been born. It may or may not have come true. But the prophecy certainly was unrelated to