2003-12-07 - For Unto Us a Child is Born
Handel is probably the one most responsible for the public's familiarity with the verses we are examining. As you are probably aware, all over the Western world, performances of the "Sing-Along Messiah" are given. These are attended by believers and unbelievers alike. We frequently hear stories about how people are saved because of their involvement. What is interesting are the accounts of the makeup of the audience/participants of these programs. And frequently among those singing the words of Isaiah, as being applied to Christ, are Jews who would reject this use of Isaiah. "
For a child has been born to us, a son given to us, and the authority is upon his shoulder, and the wondrous adviser, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, called his name, "the Prince of Peace."" (1 Rosenberg, Rabbi A., Isaiah, Vol. 1, The Judaica Press, Inc., New York, NY, 1992, p. 86-87.)
This is how Jewish scholars understand Isaiah's words. And so, we will examine them, the different views of their meaning, and how in the final analysis they are a promise of God's love and mercy through the gift of His Son.
When looking at the Jewish understanding of these verses, we are talking about contemporary Judaism So we ask, where are these views coming from, and do they contradict the traditional Christian understanding? In considering the Christian understanding, what is the source for our views? Do they contradict Jewish views or simply expand on them? And finally, what should we draw from these few verses which affect our walk as believers? And, because of what I am trying to accomplish here, I will be doing a bit more quoting than I usually do.
A Jewish understanding:
Here is how Rashi expands on Verse 6 (Verse 5 in the Tanach). " Although Ahaz is wicked, his son who was born to him many years ago ... to be our king in his stead, shall be a righteous man, and the authority of the Holy One, blessed be He, and His yoke shall be on his shoulder, for he shall engage in the Torah and observe the commandments, and he shall bend his shoulder to bear the burden of the Holy One, blessed be He." 2
Of course, this approach led to the position that Isaiah was referring to Hezekiah and not some future Messiah. And there is nothing wrong with believing the prophecy may have had an initial fulfillment in Hezekiah. But this certainly doesn't preclude a second and even greater fulfillment in Jesus. The real problem here is in how the verses are translated. The Jewish translation has the titles referring to God, and in turn, God naming the child "Prince of Peace." This translation stems from the medieval commentator Kimchi. But this isn't consistent with either the Hebrew, and of more interest, earlier Jewish understanding. Speaking first to the grammatical issue, Buksbazen states: " This translation is from the standpoint of grammar, construction and context untenable, because the names would then refer to God and not to the expected child. The extent of the embarrassment of modern Jewish translators, with regard to the passage, is indicated by the fact that Rabbi Israel W. Slotki, in his commentary on Isaiah ... refused altogether to translate the names into English and simply transliterates them." (Buksbazen, Victor, The Prophet Isaiah, In Two Volumes, The Spearhead Press, Collingswood, NJ, 1971, p. 164)
Questions or comments?