[b-hebrew] Definite Article 7:14

Harold Holmyard hholmyard3 at earthlink.net
Sat Jul 14 23:25:39 EDT 2007


Dear Joseph,
> HH: What difference does that make to  the discussion one way or the other?
> JW:
> 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?
>   

HH: I don't fully accept your logic. A writer is still trying to 
communicate to his readers, or in those days, his hearers. But trying to 
respond to your request for a text like Isa 7:14 where there is dialogue 
and a use of the definite article to refer to a somewhat unidentified 
person or thing, how about "the lion" in 1 Kings 20:36. You see, this is 
not just the genus lion. This is a specific lion:

1Kings 20:36 Then said he unto him, Because thou hast not obeyed the 
voice of the LORD, behold, as soon as thou art departed from me, "a 
lion" shall slay thee. And as soon as he was departed from him, a lion 
found him, and slew him.

HH: Or "the servant girl" below, who is not previously identified in the 
context but is a specific person. We don't even know whose servant she was:

2Sam. 17:17  Jonathan and Ahimaaz were staying at En Rogel. "A servant 
girl" was to go and inform them, and they were to go and tell King 
David, for they could not risk being seen entering the city.

HH: Or how about "the young man" who spoke to Moses. He is unidentified 
in the previous context:

Num. 11:27 A young man ran and told Moses,  "Eldad and Medad are 
prophesying in the camp.


>>  
>> JW: I'm beginning to fear that at the present rate  of discussion the 
>>     
> Messiah  
>   
>> 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.
>  
> JW:
> Peter, this is Exegesis.
>   


HH: Joseph, this is Harold. Secondly, exegesis is the way to answer many 
questions about meaning.
>  
>
>   
>> 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 
>>     
> that  
>   
>>  the Hebrew Definite article is used. My position is that for starters this 
>>     
>   
>   
>> indicates a defnite and therefore, known person to the Hebrew speaker,  
>>     
> Isaiah.
>
> 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  
> person. 
>  
> JW:
> If the person is known to Isaiah this Implies that Isaiah knows the  name.
>   


HH: No, it doesn't. The person can be known as an abstraction, as a 
quantum of revelation from God. And your reasoning may ignore the 
difference between the Hebrew use of the definite article and that of 
English.
 
>  
>  
> HH:
> 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.
>  
> JW:
> The definite article Implies (as opposed to "proves") that Isaiah knows the  
> who and the name.


HH: No, it doesn't. That is the very point at issue. If it does, then my 
interpretation is impossible. You're jsaying that the definite article 
ordinarily implies that he speaker knows the person. But even in English 
we could speak somewhat poetically: "The soldier in Iraq will keep his 
diary. He will write to his family and express his hopes. But he will 
die, and his family will mourn. It is inevitable as long as this war 
lasts."
>  
>   
>> 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 
>>     
> likely 
>   
>>  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. 
>  
> JW:
> Do you think Isaiah knew it was a double prophecy?
>   


HH: I believe he could have, because of the use of Immanuel, and the 
fact that the prophets looked ahead and saw the glory of the Messiah. 
Remember that Isaiah was a very poetic prophet. Isaiah 7 is linked with 
chapter 8 by Immanuel, but while in chapter 7 he is associated with 
defeat by Assyria, in chapter 8 he is associated with the defeat of 
Israel's enemies, including Assyria. And chapter 8 moves smoothly into 
chapter 9. The child whose name included the word "God" in chapter 7 
reappears in chapters 8, and then a child is revealed in chapter 9 whose 
name is "God." This child brings the defeat of Israel's enemies.
>  
>  
> HH:
> 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.
>  
> JW:
> You keep answering "possible" when I ask "probable". When you do that are  
> you refusing to give a "probable" or conceding my "probable"?
>   

HH: I've given my interpretation of what I think is probable.
>
>   
>> JW: I understand you think it possible that this person  
>> is  unknown to the Hebrew hearer. Do you think that likely?  Finally, if 
>>     
> you 
>   
>> 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.
>  
> JW:
> You again answer a question I didn't ask.
>   


HH: I've already said that it is not crucial which way it's translated: 
"the" or "and." It's the interpretation that matters. I think it's best 
that we translate it as "a," since English doesn't use the definite 
article exactly like the Hebrew.
>  
> 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.
>  
> JW:
> See my previous comment.
>   


HH: I am explaining what I see as most probable. That's what you asked.

>  
> 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,
>  
> JW:
> Now you are using 1 Pet 1:10-12 to help translate 7:14?
>   


HH: The Bible, including the New Testament, has been understood as God's 
word for the past two thousand years. God is the ultimate inspirer of 
what is written in it.  Prophets wrote it. They quote one another, 
explain one another, and reveal God's dealings with mankind, including 
those through his prophets.
>
>
> 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.
>  
> JW:
> "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?
>   

HH: There is nothing in the preceding context that singles out any woman 
at all who is a virgin. I don't know what Raymond Brown would say, but 
you aren't quoting him. What is his theory, please? I believe Isaiah was 
saying to the king that the virgin will conceive. The class of virgins 
will conceive. It includes at least one who will conceive a child. 
Sufficient time will pass for someone who is now a virgin to conceive. 
Isaiah is speaking broadly, referring to the people in Israel called 
virgin. The prophecy gets more specific as it goes along but is general. 
That class of people will have some of its members who conceive, and 
some who bear a child, and one or more who names her son Immanuel. This 
prophecy concerns the latter. One of the class now called virgin will 
give this name to a son she will have, a not unnatural name to give in 
Israel, God's chosen people.

Yours,
Harold Holmyard
>
>
>
>   




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