Matthew 1:20-23 says "an angel of the L-rd appeared to him (Joseph) in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the L-rd had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “G-d with us”)."
1. Let's discuss each point in more detail to prove the statements. עִמָּנוּ (Imanu) mean "with us", and אֵל (el) means mighty and powerful. אֵל (el) often used to describe G-d and is part of other words as well. The verb "to be" is implicit in the expression עִמָּנוּ אֵל. So, the two-word expression עִמָּנוּ אֵל (Immanu-el) means "G-d IS with us."
The term Immanuel is found three times in Isaiah.
In Y'shayahu / Isaiah 7:14 the term עִמָּנוּאֵל is clearly a personal name: "....and she will name him Immanu'el." In Y'shayahu / Isaiah 8:10, it is clearly a phrase "G-d is with us!" and not a personal name: "Devise a plan but it will be scotched; say your piece but it will not succeed, because G-d is with us!" In the case of Y'shayahu / Isaiah 8:8 it seems to again be referring to a person (and is his name): "....and its wingspan will extend across the entire width of your country, Immanu'el !"
Y'shayahu / Isaiah 7:14 says "she shall call his name Immanuel." Matthew says she (Mary) names him Jesus, but THEY will call him Immanuel. Whoever "they" might be this is not a fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy which clearly says SHE (the mother) will name him Immanuel. This may seem unimportant -- but it turns Matthew's "fulfillment" into a false claim of prophetic fulfillment.
2. There is no prophecy that a virgin will conceive and give birth to a son. This could be a very, very long discussion as this is a key argument on the part of missionaries. It is silly, too, because if Jesus WERE a virgin birth he would have no claim to being the messiah. The messiah must be of the tribe of Judah -- and tribal status is only passed through the biological father impregnating a Jewish woman and thus passing on the tribe. If Jesus was a virgin birth he had no tribe and thus could not be the messiah.
Missionaries insist that the Hebrew הָעַלְמָה ha-al'mah (the young woman) means virgin. There are literally books and websites galore trying to convince people that ha-al'mah (the young woman) means virgin. The Hebrew word for "virgin" is בתולה / b'tulah. The Hebrew for "young woman" is עַלְמָה al'mah (the הָ / ha prefix means "the"). Young women may or may not be virgins, and a virgin may or may not be young! The two words are not interchangeable.
The mistranslation to "virgin" seems to stem from the Greek word παρθενος / parthenos which is often (but not always) translated as "virgin." At one time the Greek word παρθενος / parthenos was used to describe an unmarried woman -- virgin or no virgin. It also did not infer youth (as does the Hebrew word עַלְמָה / al'mah ). The Christian Septuagint / LXX used the word παρθενος / parthenos to speak of refers Dinah in B'reshit / Genesis 34:3, right after she was raped by Shechem and was no longer a virgin.
As far back as the first century of the common era Jews tried to correct Christians on "virgin" in Isaiah 7. Justin Martyr (100 CE, so VERY EARLY Christian) wrote in "Trypho the Jew" that Jews of his era said:
"You (Jews) and your teachers venture to affirm that in the prophecy of Isaiah it is not said, 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive,' but, 'Behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son."
Ergo this debate has gone on nearly since the beginning of Christianity, with Jews trying to correct this Christian translation error and Christians ignoring us. Since most pagan religions had virgin births the early Christians most likely did not want to be corrected, and with the passage of time many missionaries now believe that Jews "changed" the meaning of the word הָעַלְמָה ha-al'mah (the young woman) -- which is easily shown to be untrue since Hebrew words are based on root words and their is a corresponding word for "young man"!
Still, by focusing on the word ha-al'mah (the young woman) missionaries are obsessing over the wrong word. The focus should be on the next word -- הָרָה harah. It is easy enough to debunk the virgin birth "prophecy" claim of Y'shayahu / Isaiah without focusing on the word הָעַלְמָה ha-al'mah (the young woman).
In Y'shayahu / Isaiah 7:14. הָרָה harah is the adjective "pregnant." (not "will conceive"). The words הִנֵּה הָעַלְמָה הָרָה hinneh ha-almah harah mean "there [pointing to her] is a pregnant young woman"
Since Isaiah was literally pointing out a pregnant woman to King Ahaz 700 years before Jesus this prophecy has nothing to do with Jesus or the messiah being "born of a virgin." הָעַלְמָה ha-al'mah (the young woman) says nothing about the young woman being a virgin or not being a virgin (although most pregnant women are not virgins).
Leaving , mistranslated as "virgin." (הָעַלְמָה ha-al'mah) untranslated, save for noting that the prefix ha- (which is normally the definite article "the") is being used here with poetic license in the sense of the demonstrative pronoun "that", lending emphasis to "that al'mah over there", i.e. the "al'mah" the prophet was pointing to as he spoke.
The words in question are הָרָה harah and וְיֹלֶֽדֶת v'yoledet.
The word : וְיֹלֶֽדֶת v'yoledet (the fourth word in the prophet's statement) is the feminine singular present participle of the root ילד (to give birth), and means "[she] is giving birth"....
If the woman is about to give birth in front of Ahaz and Isaiah how can this be a prophecy about Jesus who would not be born for another 700 years?
Isaiah is saying literally: "she is about to give birth [at any moment]", and used the present participle just to indicate immediacy. The word after v'yoledet, i.e. בֵּן bén, simply means "a son."
The word in Isaiah 7 is not virgin -- but even if it were "virgin" the prophecy is clearly not about the messiah or Jesus. The woman was giving birth, or very close to it, 700 years before Jesus.
To understand the prophecy of Y'shayahu / Isaiah 7:14 read the chapter starting with the first line. The chapter is a warning to King Ahaz of Judah (who lived 700 years before Jesus). Isaiah tells King Ahaz that he needn't fear the two kings he is worried about.
Talking to King Ahaz the prophet Isaiah points to a pregnant young woman in the room and tells King Ahaz that before the unborn child is very old the two kings feared by Ahaz will be defeated. THIS is the prophecy. I could go into length to explain that the Hebrew is speaking of a pregnant woman, not a virgin who will have a child -- but that is really not important. (That must be quite a shock to missionaries!). Virgins get pregnant all the time -- and it is even possible for a virgin to get pregnant without intercourse. That is NOT the prophecy.
Knowing the background (King Ahaz is worried that he may be defeated by two kings and the prophet assures him that there is nothing to worry about) read on: "Therefore, HaShem, of His own, shall give you a sign; behold, the young woman is with child, and she shall bear a son, and she shall call his name Immanu'el. Cream and honey he shall eat when he knows to reject bad and choose good. For, when the lad does not yet know to reject bad and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread, shall be abandoned." Y'shayahu / Isaiah 7:14-16
Those two kings are indeed defeated as Isaiah foretold Read Melachim Beit / II Kings 16:5 "Then Rezin the king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to wage war, and they besieged Ahaz, but could not wage war [with him].. . "
The prophecy of Y'shayahu / Isaiah 7 is fulfilled in Melachim Beit / II Kings 16.
Ahaz, the very king of Isaiah 7 for whom Isaiah is making the prophecy about the child saw Rezin and Pekah be destroyed - just as Isaiah prophesied in chapter 7: "the land whose two kings you dread, shall be abandoned." Y'shayahu / Isaiah 7:16
As the missionary: "Which two kings did Jesus dread?
Ask the missionary: "Which lands of those two kings were abandoned during Jesus' lifetime"?
The answers are of course: none and none.
What of the child who is to be born in Y'shayahu / Isaiah 7:14-16? The importance was not his birth, but the fact that before the child was very old those two kings would be destroyed. Again, this is in the text: "Cream and honey he (the child) shall eat when he knows to reject bad and choose good. Y'shayahu / Isaiah 7:15. By the time the child is eating solid food (not just breast milk) and knows the difference between good and bad behavior those kings will be gone.
The child's importance is only to give the King a time frame of when his enemies will be destroyed. I suggest you read Yeshayahu/Isaiah 7:14 and Almah with child or not with child.
3. Matthew's claim that Mary will "give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” is biblically impossible. The Hebrew verb לְהוֹשִֽׁיעַ l'hoshiy'a (to “save”) and יְשׁוּעָה y'shu'ah (“salvation”, i.e. being “saved”) along with מוֹשִֽׁיעַ moshiy'a (a “savior”, i.e. one who “saves”) can not have anything to do with saving a person from sin. The Hebrew words are all connected with rescuing another person who is under attack by a third person and is in danger of being harmed by him, and usually is only used in the context of engaging in physical combat with the attacker. For this reason Hebrew “translations” of Matthew 1:21 are so much gibberish when one considers the Hebrew words in question. To read more on the topic of salvation, please read this blog post.
The bible makes it clear that each of us is responsible for our own sins. The idea that someone can "save" or "rescue" you from your sins is not biblical. The T'nach makes it clear that no one can die for the sins of another. Read D'varim / Deuteronomy 24:16 "Fathers shall not die [through the testimony] of their sons, and sons shall not die [through the testimony] of their fathers, since [in any case] every man shall die for his sins."
4. The prophecy in the T'nach (Y'shayahu / Isaiah 7:14) was for King Ahaz who lived 700 years before Jesus -- ergo a prophecy about for him had nothing to do with Jesus, or his birth.
King Ahaz (who lived 700 years before Jesus) is worried that he may be defeated by two kings and the prophet assures him that there is nothing to worry about) read on: "Therefore, HaShem, of His own, shall give you a sign; behold, the young woman is with child, and she shall bear a son, and she shall call his name Immanu'el. Cream and honey he shall eat when he knows to reject bad and choose good. For, when the lad does not yet know to reject bad and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread, shall be abandoned." Y'shayahu / Isaiah 7:14-16
In Melachim Beit / II Kings 16:5 "Then Rezin the king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to wage war, and they besieged Ahaz, but could not wage war [with him].. . " those two kings are defeated as Isaiah had predicted, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Y'shayahu / Isaiah 7.
5. Jesus was never called Immanu'el -- he was called Jesus. Prophecy is an exact science and G-d doesn't get it 'nearly right' - He gets it EXACTLY right". Every detail of a prophecy has to be satisfied precisely.
Isaiah says the MOTHER will name the child Immanu'el. Matthew says that the mother will name her child Jesus (not Immau'el) but that "they" (unidentified) will "call him" Immanu'el.
This means that Matthew's angel got it wrong.
Because Matthew changed Isaiah's prophecy from "and she will name him Immanu'el" to "and they will name him Immanu'el" Missionaries today will insist that Jesus "fulfilled" this prophecy because Christians call Jesus "Immanu'el" (and indeed they do -- particularly at this time of year in a few of their holiday songs).
This may satisfy Matthew, but it does not satisfy Isaiah or Hebrew knowledgeable people. In English, "calling" a person something can mean referring to him by that name as well as formally naming him -- but in Hebrew וְקָרָאת שְׁמוֹ v'karaat sh'mo.... (literally "and she will call his name") can only refer to a formal naming ceremony.
And Jesus' formal name was NOT Immanu'el. Ergo Matthew twisted two important points here: the baby in Matthew's nativity tale fails to meet the prophet Isaiah's prophecy for two reasons just when it comes to the name itself.
There are many reasons Y'shayahu / Isaiah 7 does not work as a prophecy for Jesus -- but Mary's lack of naming the child Immanu'el per the prophecy is such a glaring and obvious prophecy failure that it alone would refute the "virgin birth" contention. In this post five reasons have been shown -- including the fact that the true prophecy was for a king who lived 700 years before Jesus -- and it was fulfilled in his lifetime.
If you search the internet you will find site after site arguing that the word in Isaiah 7 can mean "virgin" (it cannot, and does not). That is immaterial. It really does not matter if the word DID mean virgin. That point is the wrong one to even discuss. Read Y'shayahu / Isaiah chapter 7 (the entire chapter) and it is clear that Jesus was not born in the days of Ahaz, for whom the message was given. "And the L-rd continued to speak to (King) Ahaz, saying "Ask for yourself a sign from the L-rd, your G-d: ask it either in the depths, or in the heights above." Yeshayahu / Isaiah 7:10-11.
King Ahaz lived 700 years BCE. If the sign was for him (as G-d Himself said) then how could this be a prophecy that Jesus would be born from a virgin? King Ahaz had been dead 700 years before Jesus -- so Jesus' birth could in no way be a sign for King Ahaz! In other words this is a VERY SPECIFIC prophecy for one person (Ahaz) and trying to fit it to another (Jesus) is deceit and nothing more.
Sophiee Saguy has been countering false missionary claims about Judaism and the T'nach (Jewish bible) for nearly twenty years. You may find her on FaceBook and at the Messiah Truth forum.