Questions about Jesus' Birth
A reader writes:
I have 3 Catholic issues that I’m scratching my head over, and I was wondering if you had an answer to them. I’ve read several of your books, so I’m fairly sure you do have an answer, I hope to counter these arguments lodged against the veracity of the Bible and our faith with sound knowledge. Since you are probably one of the if not the most knowledgeable Catholics on the planet, I look toward you for wisdom. There, that should be adequate buttering up ;), now to the questions.
Oh dear. Such buttery just instills deep performance anxiety and the conviction that you vastly overestimate me. I’m not a Scripture scholar and much of what I know or think I know is stuff I pick up from reading real Scripture scholars and then trying to remember it and translate it into ordinary English. Don’t take me for an expert.
1. In Isaiah 7:16, it is purported that the destruction of 2 countries will occur before Jesus attains adult status. What 2 countries are these, are they “Jewish” countries, and does it actually happen as stated or in another fashion?
Isaiah 7:14 and the passage surrounding it are called the Emmanual Prophecy. The thing to know about this passage is that it has both and immediate and (technical term alert) proleptic application. That is, Isaiah is speaking both to contemporary events and (by the power of the Holy Spirit) that prophecy also foreshadows what is yet to come and be completely fulfilled in Christ. So Isaiah is speaking about the birth of Hezekiah, but Hezekiah is (as a “son of David”) a foreshadow of the coming Ultimate Son of David, Jesus. I discuss this at length in here. Not every detail of the prophecy is intended to be a prediction of the political situation in the time of Jesus.
2. Romans 1:3 and Acts 2:30 note Jesus having direct lineage to David (hard to reconcile with Joseph being his foster father, not biologically linked). How do we argue that Jesus is directly a descendent of David without the actual bloodline? Does Joseph’s foster status suffice?
Evidently it does. Clearly, the implication of the angel who speak to Joseph and calls him “son of David” is that Jesus is reckoned his son and therefore a son of David. And just as clearly, the claim was broadly accepted, not only by the apostles, but by lots of Jews. Otherwise, there is no sense to the crowd saying “Hosanna to the Son of David.”
3. It is argued that Jesus be called Immanuel (Matthew 1:23), yet critics state his family never calls him this, nor, it seems, does anyone else. I think that could be argued in that we don’t have transcripts of every conversation between Jesus and the people around Him, but do you know of a better argument?
Again, the Emmanuel Prophecy is not a Jeanne Dixon prediction that, at some point, somebody is going to nickname Jesus “Immanuel”. It is, rather, taken by Matthew to point out that Isaiah’s prophecy of “God with” the House of David (a promise rooted in God’s promise to David and his sons in 2 Samuel 7) is only fully fulfilled when the Son of David and the Son of God become one and the same person. In Jesus, God is now “with us” in a way that radically transcends the way he was “with” David and his sons in the Old Testament. God the Son has become a son of David and is now with us forever.
Hope that helps!