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“The virgin shall conceive”… and the point is?

The opening narrative in Matthew’s gospel, after tracing Jesus’ human paternity through Joseph, is all about the virgin birth. And the point of all that is what exactly? The legitimacy and justice surrounding his paternity is certainly one focus of Matthew’s attention. But if that is all there is to his argument, we would have to say that it involves an abuse of the text he quotes from Isaiah 7. As a competent Jewish scholar, Matthew must have been aware that the original Hebrew text used a word that describes the mother as a young unmarried woman rather than a sexual virgin as in the Greek translation. Why not give Matthew a break here and credit him with a wider reading of Isaiah’s text, by reading it in the context of the preceding six chapters? As soon as we do that a much different reading of both texts emerges. The deep message for readers familiar with Isaiah’s vision is no longer about Jesus’ paternity but setting the agenda for the social and economic revolution he was to launch within the life of Israel and the wider world. Have I caught your interest yet?
You can listen to my exposition of these two texts here…
Howard Pilgrim
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