[b-hebrew] Definite Article 7:14

JoeWallack at aol.com JoeWallack at aol.com
Sat Jul 14 20:25:29 EDT 2007

In a message dated 7/10/2007 2:52:30 PM Central Daylight Time,  
hholmyard3 at earthlink.net writes:

Dear  Joseph,
> HH: I  should have been clearer. If the context lacked a  specific person 
> that the  hearer could identify, he might have  been able to understand 
> that the  reference was generic and  indefinite.  
> JW:
> Genesis  14:13 is Narrative, not Dialogue.

HH: What difference does that make to  the discussion one way or the other?
Because 7:14 is Dialogue and in Dialogue there is a clear Hearer. A better  
question for you is why is it so hard to find an example of a speaker in  
Dialogue using the definite article and the Hebrew Hearer not knowing the  identity?

>JW:  "If the context" lacked a specific  
>  person 
> that the hearer could identify". The most likely explanation is  that  the 
> identity is known to the speaker and not the hearer and  the hearer  
> this.

HH: It would be good if you  identified exactly what you meant by the 
terms "speaker" and "hearer"  because there is no direct speech in Gen 
14:13. The speaker could be the  narrator; the hearer could be the one 
who hears the words read.
I'm using Hebrew Hearer in connection with Explicit Dialogue.

> JW: You want the possibility that the identity is known  to the  Speaker 
> the Hearer does not know that the identity is  known to the speaker.  Even 
> this is possible, isn't it  unlikely? And considering that the same  Author 
> writing the  part for Speaker and Hearer isn't it more than unlikely  that 
> would be this type of misunderstanding? Still waiting for an  example  of 
> in the Hebrew Bible.

HH:  If I accept that the escapee is the speaker and Abraham is the  
hearer in Gen 14:13, since the author is writing the part for them, what  
difference does it make whether or not Abraham the hearer knows the  
identity of the person speaking, beyond the fact that he is an escapee?  
And of course, the escapee knew his own identity as the speaker. And  
Abraham would know that the speaker knew his own identity. I think I am  
misunderstanding what you are saying. Are you perhaps ambiguously giving  
two different meanings to the term speaker (narrator and escapee).
My point (remains) is that 14:13 is not very relevant to our issue of 7:14.  
In addition to its lack of
Dialogue, you youself have pointed out that the Speaker (escapee) is not  
identifying any third party.
When I say "Narrator" I mean author.

>JW: I'm beginning to fear that at the present rate  of discussion the 
> could actually arrive before we  determine his/her identity.

HH: Are you trying to identify whether the  person in Isa 7:14 is or is 
not the Messiah? I think you can have it both  ways, given the structure 
of the Book of Isaiah and the possibility for a  double use of the words. 
I believe Isaiah uses Immanuel to speak about near  events and also about 
far events. His appearance in chapter 8 (8:8, 10), a  transition chapter 
between 7 and 9, points in this direction to me, since  the historical 
Immanuel is an otherwise unknown person, yet the Immanuel in  chapter 8 
may be an important person, like the child in chapter 9. There is  a lot 
of reuse of elements from 7:14 in 9:6, which also suggests a relation  
between the two children.
Peter, this is Exegesis.

>JW:  In order to try and  
> avoid this contingency  let me try to speed things up here. Regarding the  
> offending word  of 7:14 and with Apologies to Isaac Fried, you and I agree 
>  the Hebrew Definite article is used. My position is that for starters this 
> indicates a defnite and therefore, known person to the Hebrew speaker,  

HH: But you haven't proved that the definite article implies that  the 
person is known to Isaiah in the sense that he knows the name of the  
If the person is known to Isaiah this Implies that Isaiah knows the  name.
Isaiah could simply know the person as a woman within God's 
prophecy.  Even if the definite article clearly indicates definiteness, 
there is no  requirement that Isaiah personally knew or could identify 
the person when he  conveyed a prophecy that had a general application.
The definite article Implies (as opposed to "proves") that Isaiah knows the  
who and the name. 

>JW:   At 
> this point, whether or not this  known person is known to the Hebrew 
hearer, I 
>  say that "the" is  the likely English translation. I'm guessing that your 
> current   position is that you agree with me that this known person is 
>  known to  Isaiah. Yes or no?

HH: This is a complex question,  especially because this prophecy seems 
to involve a double fulfillment. I  believe it had a fulfillment in 
Isaiah's time, and I don't think he knew  what virgin he was speaking 
about there, since the term "the virgin" could  be generic, one who is in 
the status of virginity. 
Do you think Isaiah knew it was a double prophecy?
The generic use could become more specific as 
details pile up. Or it  could have been a specific woman God informed him 
about in prophecy without  his having any idea who in particular it was: 
someone in Israel. I think  Isaiah associated Immanuel with the child 
described in chapter 9. However,  how much Isaiah knew or did not know 
about the mother of the child in  chapter 9 is unclear. All mothers are 
virgins at some point in their lives.  The virgin in Isa 7:14 did not 
have to give birth while she was still a  virgin. The understood verbs 
could be future: one who is a virgin (now) will  in the future be 
pregnant and will be bearing a child.
You keep answering "possible" when I ask "probable". When you do that are  
you refusing to give a "probable" or conceding my "probable"?

> JW: I understand you think it possible that this person  
> is  unknown to the Hebrew hearer. Do you think that likely?  Finally, if 
> agree  that the person is known to Isaiah but  think this person is unknown 
to the 
>  Hebrew hearer, do you think  "a" is a possible translation or should be  
>  probable?

HH: If by hearer you mean the person  Isaiah was speaking to, of course I 
think it is possible that the virgin was  unknown to him.
You again answer a question I didn't ask.
HH: No woman is 
mentioned in the context. It would probably be  poor writing to speak so 
significantly about a specific person in the  context and not even 
identify the person or even indicate that she was in  the context. It is 
a bit doubtful that there was some particular person  identified to all 
Israel as "the virgin." But this book was written for the  nation of 
Israel. Not only that, it was written for future generations, as  Isaiah 
elsewhere speaks of events in the future and of people who will live  in 
the future. He addresses generations that go into exile to Babylon and  
later return to Israel.
See my previous comment.
HH: If you believe in the NT, then it was written 
for future  generations for many centuries to come (1 Pet 1:10-12). So it 
would seem to  be poor writing, if the woman was well-known, not to 
identify her for all  these people, who were not there in Isaiah's time 
and would perhaps not  otherwise know who he was talking about,
Now you are using 1 Pet 1:10-12 to help translate 7:14?

HH: I can only go by what the text says, and there is no indication in  
the text that Isaiah knew the person he was talking about or that the  
readers did. The generic use of the definite article seems to make  
assumptions about Isaiah or his audience knowing the person  unnecessary.
"I can only go by what the text says". First consider what preceded.  Raymond 
Brown would
find your "no indication" above "fantastic". Is your position now that  the 
definite article in
7:14 is probably used generically?

Joseph Wallack


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