Sunday, June 20, 2010

Misreading Isaiah

Some of the most interestings remarks I receive regarding my articles are from Rabbanites. They are also in many ways some of the most ludicrous. For example, one such protagonist wanted to argue that Karaites have offered little in comparison to the great achievements in Jewish literature by the Rabbis who were writing and compiling material (the Talmud) from the second century AD onwards. He then goes on to say that Karaites didn't write anything of renown until the eighth century AD, thereby supporting his argument that there were six centuries of Rabbinical literary achievements and even some Karaite writers suggested that their followers should read some of this Rabbinical documentation. That was the sum total of his argument for the superiority of Rabbinical Judaism. That it had six centuries of writing in advance of Karaism and that Karaites were urged to read that material. Whoah! I don't know if I can debate against such an advanced and credible argument (dripping sarcasm). First of all, the greatest of all Karaite scripture is the Torah. Yes, I will call that Karaite since it is the heart of Boethian and Zadokite teachings which were the forerunners of Karaism. And since Karaism relies only on the Tanach (original 24 books which include the Torah) unlike Rabbinic Judaism which relies more heavily on the Talmud which in many instances negates what is written in the Torah (as some of my articles have pointed out), then by all rights it can be claimed and supported that the original Karaite scriptures are from the twelfth century BC and therefore are far oldelr than these much later Rabbinic writings. As for Karaites reading Rabbinic documents, how fortunate that we practice a religion that is tolerant of other sects, and as Anan ben David, our spiritual founder encouraged us to do in the eight century, to read everything and then make our own personal decisions based on the Torah. My protagonist missed to point of how enlightened we Karaites are as contrasted to the narrow scope of the Rabbanites, whom still in their daily prayer of reciting the Amidah, curse the names of Boethus and Zakok and pray for the demise and destruction of their followers. Since Karaism was the natural evolution of the religious doctrines established by these two second century BC priests, it only naturally follows that these Rabbanites are also praying for our demise and destruction as Karaites. How enlightened is that?

But todays article is not about Rabbinical Jewish followers and their inability to see and comprehend that they are the anomoly that resulted within Judaism, not Karaites. What I'll be discussing today is again from the works of one of the great Karaite scholars and writers, Isaac ben Abraham of Troki, whom the Rabbanites would like to pretend was one of theirs but sadly for them, he was not and he openly declared himself a Karaite so that there would be no mistake when referring to his works. Just one more point to make for those Rabbanites that still think the weightiness of Rabbinical writing is justification for its superiority; it was never a matter of how much is written but a case of how well it was written. And in that regard, Troki's Hazuk Emunah is one of the great books of Jewish wisdom.
The Misunderstood Virgin

Much is made of Isaiah 7:14 by Christian scholars when they read, "Therefore the Lord shall give unto you a sign; behold the young woman is with child and she will bear a son and she will call his name Emanuel.(God is with us)" For most Christians this one verse is the evidence they claims supports their entire faith. They proclaim that this son born to a young virgin was none other than Jesus and that the prophet Isaiah had predicted his arrival six centuries earlier.

The first evidence of something not right should be the reference to 'the young woman' by the prophet. He used the word Almah which does not in any manner refer to a young woman that has not had sexual relations with a man. We find the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 24:14 when Eleazar is sent back east to find a wife for Isaac and is instructed that "there shall be a young woman who cometh out to draw water." There certainly was no reference to the girl's virginity, only her youthfulness. And just to emphasize the point further, we would hardly refer to a young man as being a virgin, so in 1 Samuel 17:58, when the prophet asks, "Whose son is this lad," he uses the word Alem which is the masculine form of the word Almah. And we would hardly suggest that when in Isaiah 54:4 the prophet says, "And thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth," that he was acutally saying, "And thou shalt forget the shame of they virginity," because he used the word Alumim to indicate youth. So as it should be obvious to my Messianic and Christian readers, the reference to a virgin giving birth was a total distortion of what was actually written.

That being the case, then what is 7:14 actually about? To provide that answer, it is necessary that one reads what precedes this statement. It wasn never intended to be taken out of context and only when read in conjuction with the earlier sentences of the chapter does it start to make sense. The chapter is about King Ahaz, the king of Judah, and what decisions he needed to make concerning the alliance by Pekah, King of Israel and Rezin, King of Syria who were preparing to attack Jerusalem. Isaiah went to Ahaz in order to tell him not to fear, God would be on his side. A sign would be given to Ahaz to show him that God would not abandon him and it was this child that would prove to be this sign. Ahaz, who saw the immediate danger on his borders would hardly care about a sign that only manifested itself six centuries later. The urgent danger was then and there and Ahaz needed to know that his kingdom was going to survive. So who was this young woman with child? It was none other than Isaiah's young wife. And when she gave birth he named the child Emmanuel and later also called his son, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (Speed the plunder and hasten the spoil). Why the second name or title? Because Isaiah wanted to reassure the king that not only would his kingdom be saved but in turn both the Kingdoms of Israel and Syria would be crushed. As far as prophecies go, this one may have been self-fulfilling because at the same time Ahaz was being reassured by the prophet he was also being counselled to ally himself with Tiglath-Pilezar, King of Assyria. And as we know from Kings 16:9, Tiglath-Pilezar hearkened unto him and went up against Damascus and took it and slew Rezin. We also know form verse 30 that Hosea led a coup against Pekah shortly afterward, putting the king to death and reigning in his stead.

So now that you have a better historical perspective, read the prophecy again in Isaiah 7:14 and recognize what was actually being prophesized. When you appreciate that it had nothing to do with Jesus, you then have to reconcile all the other misunderstood concepts related to the virgin birth. Of course, there will be those that refuse to accept this interpretation even though it is crystal clear, arguing that we never have a reference from Isaiah that he first called his son Emmanuel. The only reference to naming the son is in the next chapter and then he is called by the Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz name and no other. The fact that he was called Emmanuel is implied from Isaiah 7:16, "for before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that thou abhorest shall be forsaken of both the kings." It is obvious which two kings the prophet is referring to and there can be no question that the significance of naming him, "God is With Us," was to provide Ahaz with the confidence that he would withstand their assault. In the next chapter when describing the events around Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, he uses the same references of the child being too young to know what's happening, a clear indication that he's talking about one and the same child in both accounts.

For those that still wish to believe that Isaiah 7:14 was still in reference to Jesus, then let's examine why the name Emmanuel was never applied to the son of Joseph and Mary. Firstly, the significance of God is With Us is entirely different from the meaning of Yeshua, or Saviour. In fact the indication of God's presence is not necessarily equivalent to his being a saviour in that capacity. In fact in Luke 2:21 we find at the naming ceremony following his circumcision, the baby was named Jesus because that was the name given to him by the angel while he was still in the womb. It is strange that had he been fulfilling the prophecy of the prophet Isaiah, that it did not say that he was named Emmanuel by the angel while he was in the womb. In that way they could have easily explained his being named Jesus after his birth without negating the possibility he was called differently at time of conception. But they didn't and in so doing they did negate any such possibility.

So with this in mind, let us reflect on whether it was ever intended by the early Christian followers that Jesus was to be seen as a fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. It would appear that any linkage to Emmanuel was a much later development. And if there was no linkage intended then the entire concept of the virgin birth was not intentional either and merely something that was contrived at a much later date when certain individuals decided to take Christianity in an entirely different direction from its early leaders.

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