24 December 2014
And His Name Shall Be Called…
by Dr Mark Keown
As I listened to a most excellent pre-Christmas sermon last Sunday on Isa 9:6, I opened my logos software and looked at the Greek OT version of Isa 9:6 to see how the Greek translators had dealt with the Hebrew text. The versions we have in our English bibles are based on the Hebrew, and read something like this: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (ESV). This text seems to claim that the Davidic Messiah will have these four names. The two on the middle stand out as very much in tension with Jewish monotheism and anticipate a Messiah who is much more than just a man, but will be called by others Mighty God and Everlasting Father, names reserved only for God. I wondered how the LXX dealt with this.
I was very interested to find that the Jewish LXX translators a couple of centuries or so before Christ seem to have had a real problem with this passage. The LXX reads something like this: “For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, whose government is upon his shoulder: and his name is called the Messenger of great counsel: for I will bring peace upon the princes, and health to him.” The first clause is rewritten to shift “Wonderful Counselor” to “Messenger of the Great Council.” The final three clauses are completely removed. The Greek translators clearly had quite an issue with this, finding it distasteful that the Messiah would be so entitled. So, they cut it out.
This shows how unready people were for a Messiah who would be more than a man and a redeemer of Israel. So when Jesus came, most rejected him. As I travelled Israel earlier this year, I saw this first hand. For most, Jesus is a myth and/or a false prophet and Messiah. Faithful Jews worship at the western wall, grieving for the temple, crying out for God to send his Messiah who will, it is believed, rebuild the Temple. They fail to see he has come and is the Temple, and he invites them into to worship God freely through his blood shed for them. Like the LXX translators, they simply did not have a theology big enough (or small enough!).
So, here we are, some 2800 years after Isaiah wrote this, and some two and a half millennia from the translation of the LXX, and one labelled the Davidic Messiah by his followers is now worshiped by over 2 billion people and is worshiped as Wonderful Counseler, Almighty God the Son, and Prince of Peace. Although it is not often you hear people called him “everlasting Father,” we would usually reserve that for God. Still, he has come, and Isaiah’s prophecy has come to pass.
Clearly, the prophet saw something more than a Davidic Messiah in Israel’s future. And he has come. That is what Christmas is about. God has sent his Son of whom it is then said in Isa 9:7, “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” That is our hope this Christmas. This Jesus, who is all that Isaiah saw and more, has come, and now rules.
So, whatever we face, let’s all marvel at the amazing story we are swept up in – the story of a God who so loved the world that he came to us in the form of his son and was born as a baby in ignominy and is now our Lord. Let us not be as the translators of the LXX and delete the bits that bite but rather worship him, calling him Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.
Shalom to you all this Christmas from all at Laidlaw College.