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Christmas Time! Time to Investigate the Virgin Birth “Prophecy.”

An atheist considers a stained-glass manger sceneIn December, thoughts turn toward Christmas. In particular, to the Isaiah quote in Matthew’s narrative of the birth of Jesus: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (Matt. 1:23).

Matthew documents the fulfillment of a prophecy written 800 years earlier. Powerful evidence of the truth of the Bible?

Well … no. The first reason is the reason by which anyone would reject a claimed prophecy: the evidence of the fulfillment is not independent but comes only through authors (of Matthew and Luke) who one must assume had read the prophecy. They had motive and opportunity to claim a fulfillment where none existed. (I write more about common-sense requirements for a fulfilled prophecy here.)

But was that quote from Isaiah even a prophecy of a messiah? You’d expect something like, “The LORD God understands the burdens of His people and will send a savior. And ye shall know him by this sign: the virgin will give birth to a son” and so on.

Here’s what Isaiah 7 is actually about. In the early 700s BCE, Syria and Israel allied with other small states for protection against Assyria, the region’s 800-pound gorilla. Judah refused to join the alliance. Syria and Israel, fearing a potential enemy at its rear, moved to conquer Judah.

God spoke through the prophet Isaiah to tell the king of Judah that, with faith, his enemies would be destroyed. Isaiah tells the king to ask God for a sign of this prophecy, but the king refuses to put God to the test. Isaiah sees this as a lack of faith, scolds the king, and gives him a sign: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (7:14). Before the boy is old enough to understand right from wrong, Syria and Israel will be destroyed.

In other words, in five years or so, your enemies will be destroyed—that’s the point of the Immanuel story. The boy simply acts as a clock. And not only is Immanuel not a messiah, his three-verse story isn’t even a significant part of this chapter, which goes on to describe the impending conquest of Judah by Assyria and Judah’s painful future.

Yes, the Immanuel story is a prophecy, but it’s a prophecy that is to be fulfilled in five years, not 750. (And was the prophecy even fulfilled? Apparently not, according to the 2 Chron. 28:5–6 summary. 2 Kings 16:5 gives another history of the battle, with Judah the winner this time, but to argue that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled you must argue that the Bible is contradictory.)

The Immanuel story doesn’t even claim to be a miracle. Women are virgins before having sex, pretty much by definition. The story says that a woman who’s never had sex will then do so, become pregnant, and deliver a boy. Happens all the time. If this was a miracle prediction, you’d expect more would be made of it to eliminate the (obvious) mundane explanation.

And if Immanuel’s story is supposed to foreshadow Jesus, where does the Immanuel prediction (“before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid to waste,” Isa. 7:16) map in Jesus’s life?

To make things even more difficult for Matthew’s claim, the word “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 doesn’t really say that. First-century scholars could have had access to two versions of Isaiah, the Hebrew original and the Greek translation, the Septuagint. Since the author of Matthew was literate in Greek, he was likely more familiar with the Greek version. But these two versions use different words here—“young woman” in the Hebrew original and “virgin” in the Greek translation. The NET Bible is one that uses the older (Hebrew) term and has a thorough footnote documenting the scholarship behind this decision.

Why do most Bibles use “virgin,” even though the best sources use “young woman”? Perhaps only to avoid embarrassing Matthew.

And no one could fail to notice that, in Matthew, the baby is named Jesus, not Immanuel. Matthew prefaces his Isaiah quote by saying, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet” (1:22), but the prophecy isn’t fulfilled since Jesus is never called Immanuel—not just in Matthew but anywhere in the New Testament. In fact, the claimed fulfillment is contradicted just two verses later: “And [Joseph] gave him the name Jesus.”

Pope Benedict’s timely new book, The Infancy Narratives, emphasizes that the virgin birth is one of the “cornerstones of faith” and reassures us that it is not a myth. Though he rejects the idea that mythology entered the gospels, everybody who was anybody during that time in the eastern Mediterranean was virgin born—Alexander the Great in Greece, the Caesars in Rome, the Ptolemies in Egypt.

Despite the proliferation of virgin birth claims at the time, all were false except for the one for Jesus? That needs a lot of evidence, especially when Matthew’s argument is simply the misreading of a prophecy that expired centuries earlier.

This is the third biblical prophecy claim that I’ve studied (I’ve also written about Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22). Each has unique features, but I’m struck by one similarity: in context, each is plainly not talking about a future messiah. No serious scholarship is necessary to see this, just a willingness to let each chapter speak for itself. Only a determination to maintain the idea of supernatural prophecies, regardless of the evidence, props them up.

I pray that one day we may live in an America
where Christians can worship freely, in broad daylight,
openly wearing the symbols of their religion …
 perhaps around their necks?
And maybe (dare I dream it?)
maybe one day there can be
an openly Christian president.
Or, perhaps, 43 of them. Consecutively.
— Jon Stewart

Photo credit: Steve Day

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Richard S. Russell

    “… no one could fail to notice that, in Matthew, the baby is named Jesus, not Immanuel.”
     
    Gotta differ with you here, Bob. This passage is read from pulpits all around the world every year at Xmas, and literally MILLIONS of people never notice the contradiction. That’s because sermons are read-only; they’re not expected to be interactive. Think how much more fun church would be if you could ask questions from the audience.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      And you’d be the snarky one who goes to church only for asking the pointed questions, right?

      (Sounds like fun to me!)

    • C.J. O’Brien

      The (Episcopal) church I was raised in had a session after the Sunday service called “talkback” and it was specifically so congregants could ask the priest questions about the readings or the sermon. Of course, the two head priests whose tenures coincided with my youth were a Doctor of Divinity and a PhD professor of medieval and church history, respectively, so the answers tended to be pretty serious. I hated Sunday school and my parents started letting me sit in on talkback from when I was around 10. I learned a lot –enough to realize I was an atheist!

  • C.J. O’Brien

    “…everybody who was anybody during that time in the eastern Mediterranean was virgin born—Alexander the Great in Greece, the Caesars in Rome, the Ptolemies in Egypt”

    As I’ve said here before, that was different. Such individuals actually were semi-divine and favored by the gods, on the objective evidence of their world-shaking deeds and military and political successes. Such stories traded on that status; they did not seek to fabricate it or prop it up. (In the case of Alexander and Augustus anyway; the Ptolemies and Seleucids were arch propagandists prone to naming themselves “Savior” and the like. But again, there’s a huge contrast between royal propaganda and the notion that some crucified rebel was “actually” divine-born; no doubt the citizenry was cynical about the former in private in cases where the deeds did not match the claim, but the latter would have just seemed preposterous, contrary to obvious fact.)

    What we have in the gospels, with events in the life of Jesus fulfilling this or that biblical prophesy, is a further literary development of the kind of scriptural revelations Paul gives voice to: “According to the scriptures”. The Christ was found in scripture and only later given a first name and a career as an exorcist, itinerant sage, etc. These literary traditions grew up together; the prophesying based on scripture continued and we can see a relatively late inheritor of these two intertwined strands in Matthew.
    Part of the appeal of the Hebrew scriptures for Gentile “godfearers” and many diaspora Jews was precisely its perceived esoteric nature. It simply did not matter what the original context or import of a given passage in Isaiah or whatever was. The Bible was like a coded letter from God to whatever “remnant” community could find matters of relevance to their current situation in it. Look at Philo if you want to see some really far-out allegorical readings of what look to us like straightforward narratives. Rule 1 was nothing in the Bible was straightforward, and there were likely many more schemes of interpretation and exegesis than have survived in our extant sources.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      As I’ve said here before, that was different.

      Are you saying that important or divine people being virgin born as a meme had no effect on the Jesus story? If so, where did it come from?

      What we have in the gospels, with events in the life of Jesus fulfilling this or that biblical prophesy, is a further literary development of the kind of scriptural revelations Paul gives voice to: “According to the scriptures”.

      I’ve heard Bob Price call this reinterpretation of scripture “pesher,” though in looking it up it seemed to be a restricted concept. Have you heard of this?

      • C.J. O’Brien

        Well in neither case, Augustus or Alexander, was the mother actually believed to never have had intercourse, so the virgin aspect of it was more directly related to the LXX mistranslation and the supposed fulfillment of a specific prophesy, as you say in the post. What heroes and kings had was divine births in the stories, which mostly had to do with signs and portents, and the further differences had to do with the disconnect between pagan and monotheist concepts of the divine in that to deify a king was to put him simply where he was: at the very highest echelons of human status and acheivement, that is, in the (say, within spitting distance) of the ranks of the demigods and heroes.
        For an example of the spirit in which these stories were retold, Plutarch reports of Alexander’s mother Olympias:

        Eratosthenes says that Olympias, when she attended Alexander on his way to the army in his first expedition, told him the secret of his birth, and bade him behave himself with courage suitable to his divine extraction. Others again affirm that she wholly disclaimed any pretensions of the kind, and was wont to say, ‘When will Alexander leave off slandering me to Hera?’

        Pesher and midrash were the primary forms of interpretation in more traditionalist Jewish circles. Several peshers were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, including one of Isaiah, an interesting contrast as regards the current topic. Pesher would tend to be a very close commentary, picking out short passages and subjecting them to the method of the particular exegete. If you look at the book of Jeremiah, you can see that it in a sense contains a pesher. The passages of commentary would appear to have been incorporated into the book itself. The authors of other peshers may have had the same ambition.
        There’s a lot of midrash in the Mishnah. “Midrash” derives from a verb for ‘seeking’ and the method was to elucidate scripture by expanding on a biblical narrative, kind of like Bible fan-fic.
        The kind of allegorical interpretation in Philo and, I think, in the pre-narrative gospel traditions and continuing in the gospels was more oriented to the Hellenistic world and was influenced by middle Platonism and other Greek thought as well as Hellenistic-era developments in Jewish apocalypticism.

        • Richard S. Russell

          Grammar nit:

          prophecy, with a “c” and pronounced prŏ-fǝ-see, is the noun; it’s what you get.
          prophesy, with an “s” and pronounced prŏ-fǝ-sigh, is the verb; it’s what you do.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          What heroes and kings had was divine births in the stories

          I understand that, but I thought that some accounts have the great men’s mothers impregnated by magic (instead of the ordinary way). “Virgin born” is from a Wikipedia article.

  • Christian

    “The Immanuel story doesn’t even claim to be a miracle. Women are virgins before having sex, pretty much by definition. The story says that a woman who’s never had sex will then do so, become pregnant, and deliver a boy.”

    I’m sorry, but I think this is a huge stretch. Let’s check out the Matthew bit again:

    “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (Matt. 1:23).

    You’re literally working against the grammar here. “The virgin will conceive.” In the conventional way of things, at the time a woman conceives she’s not a virgin. The story (Matt. 1:23) does not say “a woman who’s never had sex before will then do so.” It says “a woman who’s never had sex before will become pregnant [nonetheless].” If we’re going according to the actual language of the passage, your theory doesn’t work at all.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      You’re literally working against the grammar here. “The virgin will conceive.”

      Take the statement, “Sally will conceive.” Sally is in state 1 right now, at this writing. Sally will be in state 2 in the future.

      One difference between state 1 and state 2 is that she’s pregnant in state 2 but not in state 1. Maybe other changes have happened. Maybe she’s cut her hair or changed her political party. Stuff happens over time.

      And maybe in state 1 she was a virgin.

      Anyway, what’s the most plausible interpretation of “the virgin will conceive”? That this will be parthenogenesis? Or that a god will impregnate her?

      Or perhaps that she’s a virgin at the moment but (obviously!) won’t be in the future after she’s pregnant?

      The story (Matt. 1:23) does not say “a woman who’s never had sex before will then do so.” It says “a woman who’s never had sex before will become pregnant [nonetheless].

      But is that interpretation of Matthew possible?

      And if it’s possible, is it the best interpretation?!

      • Christian

        Well, as a Catholic, I give a pretty slim chance to Mary ever having gotten some. So maybe I have a little confirmation bias, haha.

        However, I think it’s worth looking into the specific connotations of the terms “virgin” and, say, “Sally”. The term “virgin” has very specific connotations sexually, and in many contexts there would be strong cultural contexts as well. Heck, in many cultures, “virgin” bears more significance in terms of marital status than sexual experience or lack thereof. However, being an American provides some very different cultural experiences, haha. (“You’re a virgin? That’s… weird. I bet you’re sexually repressed, or something.”)

        However, the term “Sally” doesn’t really tell us much of anything. At most, it tells us that we’re likely talking about a female Homo Sapien or maybe a pet, though many cultures have also been known to give non-organisms female personification (ships, automobiles, the Church, etcetera). In any event, the term “Sally” doesn’t set us up with any particular expectation(s), sexually or otherwise. I could just as easily say “Sally is pregnant” as “Sally drives a Volkswagon”. Neither “pregnant” nor “drives a Volkswagon” has any connotation-related contradiction with Sally. However, if I told you that Sally was 70 years old or devoutly Amish, the terms “pregnant” and “drives a Volkswagon” would be very odd respectively.

        To say “a virgin will conceive” while leaving out the usual method of impregnation deliberately sets up a connotation-related contradiction. If I say “Harry the orthodox Jew attends Catholic Mass regularly and receives the Eucharist” and leave out the part where Harry converted to Catholicism and was received into the Church, we understand that I’m setting up a connotation-related contradiction. To say “Sally is pregnant” violates no idiom of speech, to say “the virgin will conceive” requires guessing at a missing part of the thought process in order to be non-miraculously possible.

        If Isaiah was just making it up, why would he say “virgin” and thus set up a connotation-related contradiction? It would’ve been much more straightforward to say “a woman will conceive” and avoid the whole mess altogether. Plus, it’s not like in this case the woman *has* to conceive via unconventional means; our Immanuel character (as you portray him) doesn’t have to be anything but ordinary and mortal.

        Unless you want to say that Isaiah was being intentionally sly by leaving out the loss of virginity or posit that he just sucked at spoken communication, I still think your interpretation of the phrase is a much bigger stretch.

        • Richard S. Russell

          It would’ve been much more straightforward to say “a woman will conceive” and avoid the whole mess altogether.
           
          According to the 2nd most popular translation of the original word, that’s exactly what he did say. (Well, not “exactly”; the other meaning is “young woman”.) But, as you can see, due to the “indisputable revealed truth as game of Telephone” method of passing along what’s purported to be the most important message of all time (nice system design, Yahweh), the whole mess was not avoided altogether.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Christian:

          To say “a virgin will conceive” while leaving out the usual method of impregnation deliberately sets up a connotation-related contradiction.

          “A virgin will conceive” could mean: “someone who’s a virgin now won’t be pretty soon, because she will become pregnant and then conceive a baby.” In fact, since that’s pretty much the way everyone comes into the world and happens millions of times per year, this is the preferred interpretation.

          If Isaiah was just making it up, why would he say “virgin” and thus set up a connotation-related contradiction?

          He didn’t say “virgin”!! Read the post.

          Unless you want to say that Isaiah was being intentionally sly by leaving out the loss of virginity or posit that he just sucked at spoken communication, I still think your interpretation of the phrase is a much bigger stretch.

          Where I come from, parthenogenesis or divine sex with a god is really rare. So rare, indeed, that we always assume the natural explanation when it comes to sentences like this wherever possible.

          But that’s just me. Maybe god sex is common in your part of the woods.

    • cafeeine

      ” In the conventional way of things, at the time a woman conceives she’s not a virgin”
      In the relevant scenario where a woman gets pregnant during the first act of intercourse this is true, but only in the view that ‘virginity’ is lost at the moment of first penetration, while conception occurs at some point after the first ejaculation. To project this type of modern understanding of conception to the biblical authors, and to treat the moment of penetration and the moment of fertilization as two separate states rather than a single act of coition seems to be a much bigger stretch than to presume that claiming that a virgin would get pregnant alludes to supernatural intervention rather than natural insemination.

      • Christian

        I’m not sure where you’re defining virginity as lost. In order for a virgin to be pregnant through conventional means, one would somehow have to define virginity as being lost after both penetration, the male ejaculation, and the potential ensuing fertilization. I understand that “virginity” as a sexual concept may mean different things to people in different contexts, but I’m not sure how your perspective on potential redefinition allows for a virgin to conceive a child. Even if one considers penetration and fertilization as a single act of coition rather than separate states, by the time of fertilization the woman would not still be a virgin unless the term is redefined to a greater extent than you seem to be proposing.

        • cafeeine

          In order for a virgin to be pregnant through conventional means, one would somehow have to define virginity as being lost after both penetration, the male ejaculation, and the potential ensuing fertilization.

          Or to put it more simply, at the end of coition. If virginity is viewed as not having had sex, then it is not unreasonable to consider it ended after the end of the first act of intercourse, rather than its starting point.

          Even if one considers penetration and fertilization as a single act of coition rather than separate states, by the time of fertilization the woman would not still be a virgin unless the term is redefined to a greater extent than you seem to be proposing

          Hmm, no. That would still be viewing them as separate states rather than occurring concurrently.

          Of course this is moot, as virgin become pregnant by having sex and conceiving in a natural way all the time. What you’re describing is a virgin conceiving a child and remaining a virgin during and after the conception which is not necessarily what the text in Is. 7:14.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          If virginity is viewed as not having had sex, then it is not unreasonable to consider it ended after the end of the first act of intercourse, rather than its starting point.

          That is a hair I don’t really think you are able to split. It makes me recall that Onan spilled his seed (which would mean that sex was interrupted) and it was still considered sex.

          But, even if we were to somehow say that “she would have been a virgin up until the first sexual encounter stopped” she could not have conceived during that encounter. It takes 45 min. to 12 hours for sperm to reach the egg. (The next sentence seems vulgar and I’m sorry for it, but I don’t know how else to put it. ) Have you ever heard of someone who was able to maintain penetration for 45 minutes after the ejaculation?

        • cafeeine

          @Ignatius Theophorus

          But, even if we were to somehow say that “she would have been a virgin up until the first sexual encounter stopped”

          But we don’t have to say that. There is no need to think the biblical account refers to a change of states between microseconds, but between actions. A person is a virgin until their first sexual act, and that first sexual act can result in conception. This is what I was objecting to when Christian said “In the conventional way of things, at the time a woman conceives she’s not a virgin”. In the conventional way of things, the same sex act that removes virginity can result in pregnancy. The idea that the passage implies that virginity and pregnancy will coincide is what is stretching the text.

          It takes 45 min. to 12 hours for sperm to reach the egg.

          It is one thing to say this is true. It is quite another to claim that this was known by the biblical authors and can therefore be used to discern their intent. This is what I was saying about projecting our modern understanding of reality on the biblical authors.
          You may think that the text is divinely authored of course, and therefore its inspiration did know these facts, but you still can’t derive that from the text.
          (Also, your phrasing is not vulgar at all. )

  • Richard S. Russell

    You may have heard stories of a “real” virgin birth occurring by fluke during the American Civil War. Snopes.com says that one was a hoax, too:
       http://www.snopes.com/pregnant/bullet.asp

  • SparklingMoon

    The Quran affirms the virgin birth of Jesus.It states in the Quran:
    [3:46] When the angels said, ‘O Mary, Allah gives thee glad tidings of a word from Him; his name shall be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, honoured in this world and in the next, and of those who are granted nearness to God;[3:47] ‘And he shall speak to the people in the cradle and when of middle age, and he shall be of the righteous.’[3:48] She said, ‘My Lord, how shall I have a son, when no man has touched me?’ He said, “Such is the way of Allah, He creates what He pleases. When He decrees a thing, He says to it, ‘Be!’ and it is.

    The Quran further explains the birth of Jesus without father by giving him a resemblance to the person of Adam who was very first life on earth :
    [3:60] Surely, the case of Jesus with Allah is like the case of Adam. He created him out of dust, then He said to him, ‘Be!,’ and he was.[3:61] This is the truth from thy Lord, so be thou not of those who doubt.
    But Quran also affirms that Jesus and his mother Marry were just human beings like other human beings in need of food and Jesus also had a mortal body like other prophets of God:
    ”The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a Messenger; many Messengers have passed away before him. His mother was a paragon of truth and they both were in need of and ate food. Observe how We explain the si gns for their benefit, then observe how they are led away. Ask them: Do you worship beside God that which has no power to do you harm or good? It is God Who is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” (5:76-78)
    Jesus was the last Prophet of Israel who was sent by God to reform the Children of Israel. God has also rejected the theory of Trinity in the Quran by saying that it had not been introduces by Jesus in his teachings :
    ”Those certainly are disbelievers who say: God is none but the Messiah, son of Mary: whereas the Messiah himself taught: Children of Israel, worship God Who is my Lord and your Lord. Surely God has forbidden heaven to him who associates partners with God.” (5:73-75)

    • Slow Learner

      Ooh, Qu’ran verses? I’ve never seen stories translated from a foreign language before. I will believe all you say and convert now!

    • Richard S. Russell

      The Quran affirms the virgin birth of Jesus.

      Heh. This reminds me of this famous exchange from Shakespeare’s Henry the 4th, Part 1:

      Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
      Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
      But will they come when you do call for them?”

       
      Same deal here, Sparkler. I too can affirm the virgin birth of Jesus. Watch: “Jesus was born of a virgin. She was a virgin while she was pregnant with him, and she remained a virgin after he was born.” There! Affirmed again. Any idiot can do it.
       
      Why should you believe any of the idiots who do?

      • Bob Seidensticker

        (Thanks for the quote. I’ll have to use that one!)

        • SparklingMoon

          There is available free online a very interesting book related to this topic to read:
          ”Christianity: A Journey from Facts to Fiction”

        • Bob Seidensticker

          I found a copy here. Is that it?

          Are there any arguments you’d like to summarize here for us?

      • SparklingMoon

        Richard S. Russell says: December 11, 2012 at 6:48 am
        Jesus was born of a virgin. She was a virgin while she was pregnant with him, and she remained a virgin after he was born.” There! Affirmed again. Any idiot can do it.
        ——————————————————————————————–
        The Quran has actually cleared all previous prophets and religious books from all allegations, raised or entered by people and has presented all religioun in their original form as were revealed by God. The birth of Jesus without father is explained by people in different ways and these multiple explanations has turned his person into a myth.

        The Quran not only affirms the virgin birth of Jesus,but also repudiates the notion that Mary was not pious and that her birth was illegitimate. The Quran narrates Mary’s statement to an angel: “How can I have a child when no man has touched me and neither have I been unchaste?” (19:21)Her noble chaste character is presented as an example to follow in the Quran. Moreover, it is on account of her piety that Chapter 19 in the Quran is named after her, and all pious people are likened to her.

        Second, the Quran also has explained that the birth of Jesus without father is not against the laws of nature that are working in the world. As through this law the very first life was created by God million years before on earth:
        [3:60] Surely, the case of Jesus with Allah is like the case of Adam.

        As Adam, the very first life on earth, was created by God without mother and father. And this first life is described in the Quran as feminine from whom her partner was created:

        ”your Lord, Who created you from a single soul and created from her its mate, and from them twain spread many men and women.” [Quran 4:2]

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Moon:

          The Quran has actually cleared all previous prophets and religious books from all allegations, raised or entered by people and has presented all religioun in their original form as were revealed by God.

          These are just theological claims. Meaningless. If you have no evidence for your claims, you might want to keep them to yourself, because I think that, without it, no one here will be interested.

        • Richard S. Russell

          To repeat, any idiot can make any claim that he or she wants to. For example, George W. Bush claimed, during his initial run for the presidency back in 2000, that he could speak Spanish. Such claims only become interesting (a) when they can be backed up with demonstrations or, even better, (b) when they can be shown publicly to be blatant lies. All Bush was ever able to demonstrate was that he was capable of delivering a couple of memorized sentences to a Latino audience. He never engaged in an actual conversation in Spanish, because his handlers never let him near actual Spanish-speakers.
           
          So here we have you reproducing claims from the Quran. I can cite you similar ones from The Sacred Book of Kush. Here’s one now:

          4:1 Kush points out that all the stuff you hear about this so-called supreme being, God (alias Yahweh, Elohim, Allah, Ahura Mazda, etc.), is simply a fraud perpetrated by people who ought to know better.
          4:2 Don’t believe a word of it.
          4:3 Kush is the one and only original supreme being.

          See, I can quote holy books, too. So what? Why should anyone take either of us seriously?

        • Kodie

          Second, the Quran also has explained that the birth of Jesus without father is not against the laws of nature that are working in the world.

          The Quran “explains” by pointing out the myth of Adam and Eve, that it’s not outside the laws of nature – NATURE – for someone to be born without at least some contribution from a father. It’s not outside the laws of nature for some lizards. Neither the Bible nor the Quran is a science textbook and offers no natural explanation, just stories.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      The Quran affirms the virgin birth of Jesus.

      A book from the 7th century doesn’t sound like strong evidence.

      At least the Koran doesn’t pretend to see prophecy in Isaiah 7…

  • avalon

    All the internal evidence points to the virgin birth as a late addition to the Jesus legend. Mark (considered the earliest gospel) shows Jesus being ‘adopted’ by God at his baptism.
    Luke 4:16 says, “Now Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, AS WAS HIS CUSTOM.” So, Jesus had attended synagogue for 30 years. No illegitimate person (conceived outside of wedlock) could have done that (Deut 23:2 “A person of illegitimate birth may not enter the assembly of the LORD; to the tenth generation no one related to him may do so.”).
    The people of “Nazareth, where he had been brought up,” clearly thought of Jesus as the legitimate son of Mary and Joseph. Just a regular guy, born in the regular way.
    The gospel of John skips the virgin birth and expands the legend by describing Jesus’ cosmic birth (John 1 “…the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. The Word was with God in the beginning…”). John 1:45 also calls Jesus “the son of Joseph”.

    avalon

    • Bob Seidensticker

      And Matt. and Luke give the geneology of Jesus–irrelevant if Joseph wasn’t his father. (Or can we assume that an adopted Jesus could then call himself descended from David?)

  • Kathy Goodfriend

    Biblical Hebrew was fairly precise as languages go. Isaiah used the word “almah” which refers to a woman of childbearing age, not “bethulah” which refers to a virgin. There’s a good explanation here: http://www.outreachjudaism.org/articles/alma-virgin.html. Rabbi Singer gives the same explanation I heard 40 years ago from my Episcopalian minister/professor when I was getting a second major in religious studies in college (focus on religions of the ancient Near East). I’m no expert, but this mistranslation that led to a major tenet of Christianity isn’t exactly recent news.

  • ronalon42

    It is also interesting to look at the accounts of his birth completely separately as read in Matthew and Luke. They are very very different – because there is no narrative of it in Mark to copy off of. Matthew never says they lived in Nazareth and traveled to Bethlehem for a census. Luke never mentions a slaughter of infant boys because of King Herod, nor does it mention Wise Kings from the east, or that Jesus and his parents lived in Egypt for a time – even though it is the most descriptive otherwise about his early years. Matthew’s account of the virgin conception all come from the perspective of Joseph, Luke gets more personal with Mary and Elizabeth.

    I think it is interesting anyway.

    • Richard S. Russell

      When it comes to comparing the accounts of the 4 gospels, I like to refer people to a little fable I made up on the subject several years ago: The Flat Tire and the Gospels

      • Bob Seidensticker

        nice story–thanks for sharing.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      ronalon: Agreed. The only 2 elements that are common between Matthew’s nativity and Luke’s is (1) virgin birth and (2) Bethlehem. The rest is unique to that book. And, as you noted, the other two didn’t think that a birth narrative was even important enough to give.

      • Rick Townsend

        I did a Google search on “gospel differences explanations” and came up with over 40 million hits. Some of the ones I checked did a credible job of trying to tackle some of the issues that are being tossed about in the comments above. Anyone serious about researching the differences would do well to look at some of these serious efforts to do scholarship and provide reasonable discussions. Anyone wanting to think themselves smart and sound off, just stay on this site instead. But you won’t find any real answers.

        The “Flat Tire and the Gospels” fable is a case in point. It bears little resemblance to any of the real issues, but makes the writer feel really smart to have come up with it. There are real answers out there if people really want to check out the folks who have spent a lifetime finding them rather than simply mocking.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          My summary of these explanations are that they are mostly rationalizations. Something like this: “Hmm. I gotta support my Christian presupposition, and these contradictions are a nuisance. How do I maintain my faith and dismiss these claims?” Yes, that’s a caricature, but yes, that’s their goal.

          You may think instead that they’re mostly scholarly explanations that nicely dismiss a contradiction. They exist, and I’ve learned lots and dropped some arguments as no longer effective after reading Christian sources.

          My point is that a rationalization may not be the best explanation. I’d rather follow the evidence.

        • Richard S. Russell

          Granted, my fable spends zero time pointing out the real issues with Bible accounts. It was presented, after all, as a fable, not as a hermeneutical analysis, because we’ve known from at least the time of Aesop that people’s brains are hard-wired to assimilate stories more easily than facts, figures, and ratiocination.

          For those who are interested in the real issues — specifically, the contradictions inherent in the 4 different Easter stories (the thing that prompted my fable) — I can send you a side-by-side comparison of the 4 so you can see exactly how they differ from each other. It’s in the form of a PDF file, and you can have a copy just by e-mailing me at
             RichardSRussell@tds.net
          and asking for
             “Resurrection” Chronology

        • ronalon42

          The birth stories can be melded together, but from a literary analysis standpoint I don’t think they should be. Luke’s nativity story contains a lot of personality and human interaction. There is also a lot of prophesying – the sort that reads almost like the character is breaking into song, or at least poetry. It contains a lot of details that carry the narrative forward. I think it is very strange that Luke would mention the shepherds and not the Wise men, the trip to Jerusalem to dedicate Jesus at the temple but not the infant genocide or trip to Egypt.

          Reading the contexts of the various prophecies is also interesting. Matthew especially seems to be really reaching with the ones he mentions in his short nativity story. I read the references as cultural cues to aid story telling, as prophecies are meant for far more than just literal future telling (I actually very much doubt that is their purpose at all but that is another topic).

        • Bob Seidensticker

          The Diatessaron (late 2nd century) is an early harmonization of all four gospels, and (obviously) it didn’t catch on.

          I would think that if you read any harmonization to any of the original authors, he’d say, “Uh, no–that’s not what I said. If I’d meant that, I would’ve said that. Go back and read what I wrote.”

          I agree that harmonizers do damage to the original message.

        • Richard S. Russell

          Bob’s comment about authorial intent reminded me of the story of Samuel Beckett’s most famous play, Waiting for Godot. (For those unfamiliar with it, the entire play is spent waiting; Godot never shows up.) Many people believed that “Godot” was a metaphor for God. Beckett was well known for believing that his plays should speak for themselves, and he resolutely avoided revealing what he thot they meant, but this one obviously exasperated him enuf that he broke his self-imposed rule and disavowed the notion. From Wikipedia:

          “When Roger Blin asked him who or what Godot stood for, Beckett replied that it suggested itself to him by the slang word for boot in French, godillot, godasse, because feet play such a prominent role in the play. This is the explanation he has given most often.”

          Beckett said to Peter Woodthorpe that he regretted calling the absent character ‘Godot’, because of all the theories involving God to which this had given rise. “I also told [Ralph] Richardson that if by Godot I had meant God I would [have] said God, and not Godot. This seemed to disappoint him greatly.” That said, Beckett did once concede, “It would be fatuous of me to pretend that I am not aware of the meanings attached to the word ‘Godot’, and the opinion of many that it means ‘God’. But you must remember – I wrote the play in French, and if I did have that meaning in my mind, it was somewhere in my unconscious and I was not overtly aware of it.” (Note: the French word for ‘God’ is ‘Dieu’.)

        • Rain

          @Rick Townsend: “Anyone serious about researching the differences would do well to look at some of these serious efforts to do scholarship and provide reasonable discussions. ”

          The “New American Standard Bible” has the Isaiah Immanuel thingy translated as “and she will call His name Immanuel.” No doubt the result of serious efforts to do scholarship has them capitalizing the “His”, and the beguiling phrase “will call His name Immanuel”, which nobody knows what the hell it means, is no doubt also the result of serious efforts to do scholarship.

          Admittedly I ran across this “New American Standard Bible” by happenstance and am not trying to provide reasonable discussion, but rather am laughing my tail off. YMMV.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          I’d never noticed that. That’s an obvious agenda being applied to the Bible, but I guess that’s not new.

          (You’ve heard of the new Queen James Bible?)

  • SparklingMoon

    Bob Seidensticker says: December 11, 2012 at 2:43 pm.
    Are there any arguments you’d like to summarize here for us?
    ———————————————————————————————–
    Yes it is the same book I have referred.

    This book ”Christianity: A Journey from Facts to Fiction” is free online to read and
    its first page with ”Table of Contents” presents different topics and one have a selection to read them according to ones own choice.
    The most interesting point about this book is that the whole discussion about the world of Jesus
    ( birth, death on cross, the theories of Trinity,Ascension,resurrection, the role of St. Paul in Christianity etc.) is analysed by the writer through reason.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      “Through reason”? Not through Muslim glasses?

      Why reject the religious analysis on the Christian side and favor the religious analysis on the Muslim side? Perhaps not because of reason but simply because that’s the side you’re from?

    • Kodie

      Bob:

      Are there any arguments you’d like to summarize here for us

      Sparkling Moon:

      Yeah, it is a book and it has a table of contents the way many books do, listing the arguments I won’t summarize here for you but I will list what the table of contents says

      You weren’t asked to do a 3rd grade book report. D-

  • Jireh

    RSR ,
    This is a favorite quote / comment of mine: ” Everyone we will try to reach with the Gospel of
    Jesus Christ has his own counsel of fools ”. I also kind of like these quotes from the ” idiot ” Paul from
    Phillipians 2 : 5-11.

    • Richard S. Russell

      I always like to identify sources where possible, to give credit where it’s due. You say that’s a favorite quotation of yours. Are you the author I should be citing?

      Your quotations from Philippians didn’t come thru.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Perhaps that Bible quote didn’t work because it was misspelled. Here it is–just another quote about how fantabulous Jeebus is. If there’s any special relevance to the conversation (besides “I’m right and you’d better convert!”), I missed it.

        • Jireh

          Hey Bob ,

          I think you misspelled His name. It’s Jesus ( not Jeebus ). He is not only fantabulous , He is
          ” awesome “. Why don’t you just bow down to Him now because as His word says in Philippians 2 :10 you ” will ” bow down at His name and your tongue frankly and openly will confess and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord. Don’t harden your heart any longer because there is hell to pay. ( Matthew 10 : 28 )

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Thanks, but I need evidence before I imagine that a supernatural being exists. Wouldn’t it be the height of rudeness to take God’s greatest gift to us, the human brain (without which we’d be just another smelly mammal), and put it on hold? Isn’t demanding evidence actually respectful to God?

          I fear that there will be hell to pay for you when you answer for not using God’s greatest gift when you stand before the Judgement Seat®.

        • Richard S. Russell

          Anyone who EXPECTS to be bowed down to is, pretty much by definition, NOT awesome.

          Arrogant asshole, maybe; awesome, no.

        • Kodie

          My heart’s really pretty soft. My brain is not too soft. I know the bible makes fun of non-believers, that’s a slick technique to get believers to feel superior for joining a club of not thinking for themselves.

          Do you see it?
          No I don’t see it?
          You’d have to be an idiot to not see it!
          Uh, okaaaaaay? I .. yeah, I see it. I definitely, um, not an idiot, I definitely see it. Yeah.

          As for bowing down – obviously part of the grandeur of the legend. People imagine god in a shape, in this case, the shape of a king sitting on a throne. He definitely assumes the properties of a king that I could imagine. He lets you live. He doesn’t like you, he doesn’t have to be your friend, but he lets you occupy space on his world and use resources. He has that condescending way about him, and all you bootlickers are afraid of what he’ll do to YOU because WE don’t believe in him. That’s why you want to convert us. Not to win souls for heaven or to show me the light, but to win favor on earth. So he doesn’t smite you for being my neighbor.

  • smrnda

    Quoting the Bible’s opinion on why people reject the Bible is meaningless circular reasoning. If I write a book called “Book X” and book X contains proposition 1. “All who reject the teachings of book X only do so to be contrary, since everyone deep down inside knows the teachings of book X are correct” proposition 1 isn’t exactly meaningful support for book X. In fact, my including it is just a sign that I’ve got a weak case and know it, but don’t want to admit it.

    But on prophecies, the problem is that Isaiah is a mess of bizarre imagery and language. It isn’t like it contains clear, precise statements like “In 2013, the Jets will win the super bowl.” The book itself, like other prophetic books, doesn’t clearly distinguish imagery from explicit predictions about the future.

    • Richard S. Russell

      “(1) This sacred book was revealed by Kush to his prophet, Rocko S. Fitch, who wrote it down word for word and added the punctuation later.
      “(2) This book is absolutely 100% completely true, and if you fail to believe any part of it, you will be cursed forever by an itchy spot in the middle of your back right where you can’t scratch.”
      —The Sacred Book of Kush, Chapter 1
       
      QED, so there!

    • Kodie

      Would you call someone a prophet for predicting the outcome of the Super Bowl since there are a finite number of teams – picking one is a good guess, probably statistically or emotionally, can actually come true without seeing the future. I would like to, if being a prophet is a job I might get paid for, claim prophecy on the Patriots grand upset in Super Bowl XLII, that they would continue undefeated past about game 6 of the season (when I made the prediction*) and lose the Super Bowl but I did not predict to whom they would lose. That was just gravy.

      *My exact words were “wouldn’t it be really funny if…”

      • Richard S. Russell

        This is the way those TV “psychics” work, too. It’s what’s called a “cold reading”. You just throw out a bunch of guesses, mainly stuff with high probability of hitting but the occasional wild-ass shot in the dark, too. People latch on to the ones that seem vaguely accurate and forget the rest. When, as is only to be expected under the law of averages, that offhand wild-ass shot in the dark actually happens (or something arguably close to it does), the charlatans shout it from the rooftops. Meanwhile, who’s keeping track of all the misses? Nobody.
         
        Prophecy fulfillment’s got an even easier gig than this. Anyone trying to fulfill a prophecy KNOWS IN ADVANCE what they have to do. It’s written down right there in the prophecy. Just follow directions. I like to characterize this with the observation “Every cake is a miraculous fulfillment of a prophecy called a recipe.”

        For all of that, Mary and Joseph blew it right out of the starting gate by not naming the kid Immanuel.

  • trj

    Another thing which is worth pointing out is that Isiah 7:13-14 says the boy is to be born as a sign to King Ahaz. How could it possibly be a sign to Ahaz if he died long before the boy was born?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Another good point, thanks.

  • Kodie

    I think they prefer to misunderstand it, as has been explained that other legends use the same device of a great man being born from a virgin, a real virgin, not a technically she was but then she wasn’t. The idea is sexist – the purity of the woman allows no father (just like now when people have these laws and stuff about premarital sex and used women). Strange to me that Mary had a husband but was also a virgin. Usually the idea here is pregnancy indicates an indiscretion if the husband hasn’t had sex with her – I don’t think any man would buy “magically” as an excuse.

    However, the legend removes the possibility of a father – the woman is a requisite vessel, except in the case of Superman, for example, but children do not just get carried here by storks or show up in the cabbage patch. A father would have to be a greater man than the great man being born, only by virtue of being the same only already here, and bigger, older, wiser – however incompetent or incapable of exhibiting his powers – how would a son be magical if his father was not. A son would inherit the qualities of the father, watered down. So you have to eliminate the father so as not to dilute the qualities of the son or have him be a shadow of someone else, or have to explain how he has magical powers his father does not. He is therefore, the shadow of god alone, emerging from a (chosen) vessel, a lot like Superman did when he was sent from Krypton, powers ready to go, and living with the Kents, but we don’t have to explain why Mr. Kent had no powers while his adopted son did. He came from another planet, that’s why.

  • Jireh

    Bob ,
    God’s greatest gift to us happens to be His son Jesus and very shortly Christians around the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Bob , if all you get is just one gift, I pray that you surrender your existence in this dark world of unbelief and take in ” the Light of the World “. The real kicker is that He offers this ” gift ” for free !! ( Ephesians 2 : 8,9 ). Just call on the name of the Lord and you will be saved. Take a peak @ John 3:36. , John 17:3. As hell is the worst outcome in this life , so
    eternal life is the best.

    • Richard S. Russell

      So the doorbell rings and you go to answer it. There’s a middle-aged man, well groomed, dressed in a nice suit, with a big burly guy, kind of disheveled and in need of a shave, standing behind him. “Hello”, he says cheerfully. “My associate Bruno here has come to kick the living shit out of you while I stand around and watch. I’ve specifically asked Bruno to do this, and he’s gladly agreed, because he really ENJOYS kicking the shit out of people. You happen to be next on our list. However, I’ve been given to understand that some people don’t actually enjoy having the living shit kicked out of them, and it’s possible you’re one of those. So here’s my offer to you — a generous offer, made freely by me, of a wonderful gift. Just suck up to me for the rest of your life, and I’ll call Bruno off. There, now, isn’t that a great deal?”

      Well, Jireh, apparently you think so.

    • Kodie

      I don’t understand this dark world of unbelief you’re talking about. I think you don’t know what you’re talking about, I not listen to you anymore, ok?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      The real kicker is that He offers this ” gift ” for free !!

      That’s nice. Tell him I said thanks.

      And note that he doesn’t offer this gift to me. The faith requirements are something I simply can’t meet.

      As hell is the worst outcome in this life , so eternal life is the best.

      What’s heaven going to be like for you? Are you going to enjoy living an eternity in paradise when you know that I’m being tormented forever? You haven’t even met me, but I imagine you have a lot of compassion for the suffering of your fellow man. How will you be able to enjoy heaven knowing the suffering that your landlord causes?

      Kinda makes heaven hellish when you think about it.

  • Jireh

    Bob ,
    I am going to enjoy being in heaven with Jesus for eternity but as Peter said in 2 Peter 3: 9 , Jesus is long suffering / patient / extraordinarily patient toward YOU, not desirng that ANY should perish, but that ALL should turn to repentance. My ” landlord ” ( Jesus ) is a loving and just God and He must punish sin. Sin has become ingrained in this society , it has become friendly with it , it has completely embraced sin , and God has to deal with it. Just imagine a murderer or rapist standing in front of the judge and the m/r says : ” Judge , I know you are a good man , and I believe you will be lenient to me “. What kind of judge would let this man go without a harsh punishment ? For the wages which sin pays is death , but the bountiful free gift of God is eternal life through ( in union) with Jesus Christ ( Romans 6:23 ) . Bob , yes, I don’t even know you personally , but as Scripture says I must plead with you as Jeremiah did in chapter 3:1-3. I get a kick from champagne but I weep like Jeremiah because he warned and warned but many , many did not listen to him. I am a self proclaimed ” watchman on the wall ” and I must warn of the danger of rejecting the savior of the world who shed His blood and died so YOU might have ETERNAL life if you believe.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      not desirng that ANY should perish, but that ALL should turn to repentance.

      And yet he (imagine him shapeshifting into his “God” avatar) made me so that I need evidence before I’ll accept a claim.

      Perhaps I make baby Jesus cry because I act in the way God made me.

      My ” landlord ” ( Jesus ) is a loving and just God and He must punish sin.

      Nonsense. He could just be the big man and forgive. Isn’t that how you do it? Isn’t that the lesson of the Prodigal Son? Jesus told that story; he must’ve thought it was important.

      And what sense does it make for God to forgive me for being imperfect, the way he made me?

      What kind of judge would let this man go without a harsh punishment ?

      And if you were the judge, you would punish him with an eternity in torment? Sounds rather extreme, your honor.

    • Richard S. Russell

      My ” landlord ” ( Jesus ) is a loving and just God and He must punish sin.

      Yeah, like eating shrimp is so awful that I deserve to fry like one for all eternity.

      Your landlord is an asshole. Good thing he’s not real.

      • Jireh

        RSR ,
        Whoa !! That’s really cold. RSR , you fit in perfectly as to what Romans 2: 24 said: ” The name of God is maligned and blasphemed and Isaiah goes along in 52:5 that He is blasphemed all day long !. You wish He is not real! My friend He is alive and kicking because the grave could not hold him back and someday He is coming back to judge believers and non-believers for what people say , think and do. RSR , by your callous stubbornness and impenitence of heart you are storing up wrath and indignation for yourself when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
        Be careful what you say to the One who created you because one day you will stand before Him and give an account.Remember that one day you will have to bow before Him and declare that He is Lord.If you continue to mock Him and reject his Son you will miss His salvation and if thats the case , once you die in that rejection I’m afraid because the ” red ” button will be pushed on the elevator to hell.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Jireh:

          He is alive and kicking because the grave could not hold him back and someday He is coming back to judge believers and non-believers

          These are your beliefs; this isn’t evidence. Do you have any?

        • Richard S. Russell

          Calling Yahweh an asshole is really cold? The guy who — according to his biggest fans — would send me to fry for eternity because I happen to like shrimp and lobster? You think I’m the one who’s cold!

          Wow!

          Look, Jireh, I’ve never met you in person. I know you only from what you’ve posted here. I have no particular reason to either hate you or love you. But if somebody came up to me and said “I have it in my power to force Jireh to hold his hand in a candle flame for 15 seconds, and he’ll be screaming in pain by the time I let him pull it back out. Should I do it?”, I would indignantly say “No, of course not. Why would you even think of doing such a thing?” And I’d guess that over 90% of humanity would give the same response.

          Yet Yahweh would use the flame of a blowtorch, not a candle; immerse my entire body in it, not merely my hand; and let it last forever, not just a fraction of a minute — and you still don’t think that he’s the asshole in this scenario? In fact, you seem to take great glee in looking forward to me getting mine.

          Christopher Hitchens was right: Religion poisons everything.

        • Kodie

          What’s really cold is that you defend that asshole. A living, thinking, human being agrees whole-heartedly with whatever that asshole “does”, and not just one, millions. Billions. Why? So you can snuggle up to him when you die.

          Grow up.

  • Ray

    ” (And was the prophecy even fulfilled? Apparently not, according to the 2 Chron. 28:5–6 summary. 2 Kings 16:5 gives another history of the battle, with Judah the winner this time, but to argue that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled you must argue that the Bible is contradictory.)”

    Yes it was. Isaiah said Israel and Syria would be destroyed. He didn’t say they would be destroyed by the Judaeans. Both Kingdoms were destroyed during the reign of Ahaz by the Assyrians. — now as to whether this “prophecy” was made before the events it predicts, I doubt it. But that’s a different issue.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Ray:

      First, those two passages are contradictory. 2 Chron says that Judah lost to Syria/Israel and 2 Kings said that they won.

      Second, Is. 7:7 says that God said, “It will not take place, it will not happen.” The “it” is the plan of Syria/Israel (verse 6): “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel [that is, a pliant sycophant] king over it.”

      I see your point about the specific prophecy in :16, but that’s not the only prediction.

      • Ray

        Contradiction between kings and Chronicles sure. But when was the son of Tabeel king of Judah?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Dunno. Does that matter? God said that the Syria/Israel plan would not succeed; 2 Chron. calls him a liar.

          Therefore the Lord his God delivered him [Judah] into the hands of the king of Aram [Syria]. The Arameans defeated him and took many of his people as prisoners and brought them to Damascus. He was also given into the hands of the king of Israel, who inflicted heavy casualties on him. In one day Pekah son of Remaliah killed a hundred and twenty thousand soldiers in Judah—because Judah had forsaken the Lord, the God of their ancestors.

        • Ray

          Does it matter? Depends what you’re trying to do. If you’re trying to figure out when the words attributed to Isaiah were written it’s very useful in that prophecies that work (especially those that are fairly specific) were likely written after their fulfillment, and prophecies that fail tend to be written before their failure.

          Now you can date Isa 7:8-9 earlier than the narrative text around it while staying within mainstream Biblical scholarship, since everyone agrees stuff was added to proto-Isaiah to make it look like Isaiah predicted events after his own death (e.g. Isa 39:5), but a lot of people think the verse passages were actually written by Isaiah. This would possibly render Isa 7:8-9 a wild ass guess that happens to be entirely compatible with the account in Kings and technically still compatible with the account in Chronicles (Even Chronicles does not depict the battle as a total success for Israel and Aram, and in any event the account in Kings is closer to the events in question and therefore probably more accurate.) But, the narrative text concerning the Immanuel prophecy is quite specific and seemingly intentionally ambiguous regarding the source of Israel and Aram’s destruction.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          prophecies that work (especially those that are fairly specific) were likely written after their fulfillment, and prophecies that fail tend to be written before their failure.

          Yep, that’s how Daniel is dated.

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