New American Bible Revised Edition Review part 2

A review of Isaiah 7:14, translation and annotations.

The 1970 Old Testament NAB:

7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

In the above Biblical verse, the traditional understanding of the Church about this verse is presented. The sign from God is the miraculous virgin conception of Jesus. Of course, Mary did not name Jesus ‘Immanuel’. The expression ‘shall name him’ is figurative; it is not his literal name, but a name that describes Him as a person: ‘God with us’. It is a fitting expression indicating that this virgin conception is also the Incarnation. Thus God reveals His salvific plan through Scripture.

Annotation for this verse in the NAB 1970: “The sign proposed by Isaiah was concerned with the preservation of Judah in the midst of distress (cf Isaiah 7:15, 17), but more especially with the fulfillment of God’s earlier promise to David (2 Sam 7:12-16) in the coming of Immanuel (meaning, “With us is God”) as the ideal king (cf Isaiah 9:5-6; 11:1-5). The Church has always followed St. Matthew in seeing the transcendent fulfillment of this verse in Christ and his Virgin Mother. The prophet need not have known the full force latent in his own words; and some Catholic writers have sought a preliminary and partial fulfillment in the conception and birth of the future King Hezekiah, whose mother, at the time Isaiah spoke, would have been a young, unmarried woman (Hebrew, almah). The Holy Spirit was preparing, however, for another Nativity which alone could fulfill the divinely given terms of Immanuel’s mission, and in which the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God was to fulfill also the words of this prophecy in the integral sense intended by the divine Wisdom.”

The annotation is devout and doctrinal; it expresses the traditional understanding of the Church about this verse. This annotation treats Sacred Scripture as the work of the Holy Spirit. The future plan of God is expressed in the verse.

NAB 2010 (the NABRE)

7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel.

The 2010 NAB uses ‘young woman’ in place of ‘virgin’. A young woman who becomes pregnant is not a miraculous sign. This translation obscures the traditional understanding of the passage. The translation also conflicts with the understanding of this very verse as expressed in the Gospel of Matthew by the Holy Spirit. The infallible Spirit expresses, in Matthew, that this verse refers to a virgin who is with child. The translators of the NABRE disagree.

But worse still is the rephrasing of the sign itself. The traditional phrasing is “the virgin shall be with child.” The sign from God is that a virgin will be with child. This sign is miraculous and undeniable. But the NABRE changes the text to read: “the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel.” So the NABRE changes the sign from a miraculous virgin conception, to a pregnant woman who decides to name her son Emmanuel. The sign is no longer the pregnancy at all, but merely her choice of a name. But the Virgin Mary did not choose to name her child Emmanuel. This translation decision is not only scholarship without faith, it is scholarship opposed to faith.

The annotation (NAB 2010) is also problematic: “Isaiah’s sign seeks to reassure Ahaz that he need not fear the invading armies of Syria and Israel in the light of God’s promise to David (2 Sm 7:12-16). The oracle follows a traditional announcement formula by which the birth and sometimes naming of a child is promised to particular individuals (Gn 16:11; Jgs 13:3). The young woman: Hebrew ‘almah designates a young woman of marriageable age without specific reference to virginity. The Septuagint translated the Hebrew term as parthenos, which normally does mean virgin, and this translation underlies Mt 1:23. Emmanuel: the name means ‘with us is God’. Since for the Christian the incarnation is the ultimate expression of God’s willingness to ‘be with us’, it is understandable that this text was interpreted to refer to the birth of Christ.”

The annotation is written as if the author were not a Christian, as if he were outside of Christianity observing that the interpretation given to the text by Christians is ‘understandable’. The annotation does not see this interpretation as absolute truth from Divine Revelation, but merely a result of a particular point of view. The wording of Matthew on this point is presented as if it were due to the choice of the human authors of the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament) and the choice of Matthew to rely on that version of Isaiah, not as the work of the Holy Spirit.

The words of Isaiah in this verse are presented by the annotation as if Isaiah were not prophesying from the Spirit of God, but merely seeking to respond to a political situation. The ‘promise to David’ cited by the annotation can be interpreted as referring to Christ. But it can also be interpreted as referring to a succession of merely human rulers: “I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. And if he will commit any iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and with the wounds of the sons of men.” (2 Sam 7:14).

The promise of a child is treated by the annotation as no different than other traditional announcements, such as that of Ishmael and that of Samson (Gn 16:11; Jgs 13:3). There is no indication in the annotation that the author believes that Isaiah 7:14 is the work of the Holy Spirit announcing the Incarnation of Christ.

There seems to be a process in the works of Catholic Biblical scholars, in translating, editing, and commenting on Sacred Scripture, whereby, as each decade passes, the works become more and more secular, less and less faithful, with a continual progression of errors, ever greater in number and in severity. Scripture translations have continually become ever more loose, with ever more distortions added to the text. Annotations have become secular, faithless, even tending toward heresy. This process must be reversed or grave harm to the whole Church on earth will result.

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