This blog post is for the purpose of responding to the claims made by Kaleef K. Karim at Discover The Truth – Isaiah 9:6 Messiah God? (a site which purports to be ‘Calling Humanity back to Islam’ which should give you an idea of the author’s views).
It’s been a long time since I did an exhaustive and time-consuming point-by-point rebuttal, and I do enjoy it.
In blockquotes are Discover The Truth’s original postings. I respond in non-blockquoted text.
Note I do not believe Isaiah 9:6 is anything to do with Jesus being God or if it is a future Prophecy of him, I believe Isaiah 9:6 is referring to Hezekiah.
The King Messiah Project points out that Hezekiah was 39 years old at the time Isaiah uttered this passage. Hardly fits a the ‘child is born’ aspect. He also lost favour in God’s sight and his lineage eventually did not inherit the throne of David.
Apart from that, multiple other criteria revealed throughout Isaiah 9 simply do not fit a mortal, fallible king who rules over times of sin and strife!
1. Here is what Isaiah 9:6 says:
What does the word “El” mean? Does the word “El” refer to God alone?
As Kaleef K. Karim rightly demonstrates following the above, El does not always and only refer to God. This is actually a very minor matter that he blows up for exaggeration, I will deal with this further down this section.
Ezekiel 32:21 The strong (El) among the mighty (gibor) shall speak to him out of the midst of hell with them that help him: they are gone down, they lie uncircumcised, slain by the sword.
The above verse 32:21 is used in plural. Since the words “El” and “gibor” are used simultaneously together, are the people referred to Divine like Yahweh?
To summarize, he argues that because El gibor is used in Ezekiel 32 to refer to humans, this shows that the use of El gibor in Isaiah 9 is not necessarily a reference to God.
However he avoids bringing up the very next chapter of Isaiah, which clearly uses El-Gibor to refer to God:
And it shall come to pass in that day, [that] the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. The remnant shall return, [even] the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God (El gibor) – Isaiah 10:20-21 KJV
Kudos to this site for pointing that out, as well as bringing up another clearly divine reference for El gibor in Jeremiah 32:18.
Isaiah 10 is a much stronger comparison and basis for deciding on Isaiah 9, as it appears in the same book of prophetic visions by the same author… And just one chapter ahead too!
Thus there is a clear rationale for interpreting Isaiah 9’s use of El gibor as refering to the divine God.
(In fact this reminds me of the tactic used by another Muslim apologist and polemicist against Christianity, Ahmad Deedat, who similarly quoted Bible passages while omitting closely following passages that would immediately defeat his own argument.)
Just to note though that Ezekiel 32 actually uses El gibor next to each other the same way that Isaiah 9 and Isaiah 10 have them. See the Interlinear link below.
Finally, context is always important. If you read immediately after Isaiah 9:6 you will find:
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. – Isaiah 9:7 NIV
Now what merely human king could possibly rule with no end and forever?
Isaiah 9:6 and Ezekiel are both the same except in Ezekiel 32:21 it is used in plural. If Christian Missionaries are so truthful and consistent why don’t they write in their Trinitarian Bible Translations “Mighty Gods” in capitals for Ezekiel 32:21?
Like I said, context is important when it comes to interpreting – and even translating – the Bible, since words in the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek can have several meanings.
For example, in Mark 10:7 most English translations use the word ‘wife’. The actual Greek word used is goonay which means ‘woman’ and in suitable cases means ‘wife’. However in Mark 10:7, the context of the passage, i.e. marriage clearly justifies the usage of ‘wife’ rather than ‘woman’.
This is a complete non-issue even in our modern everyday usage. For example, if I were to write down “Let’s eat at a buffet” and later “The strong winds buffet us”, you would not translate both instances of the word to mean ‘food’!
In fact, the interpretation of the Quran itself is subject to the same word having different meanings depending on the context. So, tu quoque.
Compare Strong’s References:
Compare Interlinear (original Hebrew arrangement with English translation below each word):
2. Isaiah 9:6 is not talking about a future prophecy
How can Isaiah 9:6 be a prophecy of Jesus if the incident already took place before the coming of the Messiah (Jesus)? Read the words at the start: “has been born to us, a son has.” It doesn’t make sense does it? Something that happened before Jesus, but somehow Trinitarians try to say “this is a Prophecy of Jesus” is a ridiculous claim.
First off, there is no ‘past tense’ in Hebrew, but rather ‘Perfect’ (completed) and ‘Imperfect’ (to be completed). That said, there is also a special ‘Prophetic Perfect’ that uses ‘Perfect’ because the prophet sees the future, from the vantage point of which the event already happened‘.
Kudos to King Messiah Project and Nazarene Space for explaining the above.
Even taking the entirety of Isaiah 9 to be a reference to a bygone historical event is not a problem, as I hold that Biblical passages can have multiple applications – historical, general and prophetic – and even more than one application simultaneously.
For example, Genesis 3:15 can be taken to be historical (Eve angry at the Serpent for tricking her), general (most people hate snakes instinctively) or prophetic (Jesus crushing the power of sin). I take it to be all three simultaneously.
Hence there is no issue with Isaiah 9 with regards to its prophetic application.
3. Christian and Non-Christian Scholars, see what they have to say on Isaiah 9:6:
This section gives quotes from several references to argue that El gibor does not (or does not always) refer to God. I’ve already addressed comprehensively this in my response to Point 1.
Kaleef K. Karim also cites 16 Christian denominations that contributed to a Bible translation that renders El gibor as ‘mighty hero’.
All the above is an example of the logical fallacy argumentum ad auctoritatem – just because so-and-so say so, doesn’t mean they are absolutely, indisputably correct and we must agree with their conclusions!
Or would Kaleef K. Karim accept a similar argument from an atheist who cites so-and-so professors or historians who believe that the Quran is not divinely inspired? I daresay not. Hence, argumentum ad auctoritatem is discouraged for those who live in glass houses.
Plenty (dare I say, most) of the other Bible translations render El gibor as ‘mighty God’ – what about their authority?
And how about this authority (the following blockquote is from Nazarene Space and not Discover The Truth):
In fact the Targum Jonathan to Isaiah 9:6-7 clearly identifies the figure spoken of in Is. 9:6-7 as the Messiah.
“The prophet says to the house of David, A child has been born to us, a son has been given to us; and he has taken the law upon himself to keep it, and his name has been called from of old, Wonderful counselor, Mighty God, he who lives forever, the Messiah, in whose days peace shall increase upon us”
(Targum Jonathan Is. 9:6)
And we read in the Midrash Rabbah:
Rabbi Jose the Galilean says: The name of the Messiah too is
“peace”; as it is written: “God the mighty, the everlasting Father,
the ruler of peace” (Quoting Is. 9:5-6 (6-7))
(PEREK HA SHALOM; NUMBERS RABBAH XI, 16-20)
He said to him: ‘I have yet to raise up the Messiah,’ of whom it is written, For a child is born to us (Isa. IX, 5). Until I come unto my Lord unto Seir (Gen. XXXIII, I4). R. Samuel b. Nahman said: We have searched all the Scriptures and we have nowhere found [it stated] that Jacob ever came together with Esau at Seir. What then is the meaning of, ‘Unto Seir’? Jacob [meant] to say to him: ‘I have yet to raise up judges and saviours to exact punishment from you.’ Whence this? For it is said, And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau (Obad. I, 21). Israel asked God: ‘Master of the Universe, how long shall we remain subjected to him?’ He replied: ‘Until the day comes of which it is written, There shall step forth a star out of Jacob and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel (Num. XXIV, 17); when a star shall step forth from Jacob and devour the stubble of Esau.’
(Midrash Rabbah – Deuteronomy I:20)
And we read in the Zohar:
“As for the expression El Gibbor, the whole verse in which this occurs in an epitome of the holy supernal faith. The word “Wonderful” alludes to the supernal Wisdom, which is wondrous and concealed beyond the reach of all; “Counsellor” is the supernal stream which issues forth perennially and counsels all and waters all; “El” refers to Abraham, “Gibbor” to Issac, and “Everlasting Father” to Jacob, who lays hold of both sides and attains perfection. The “Prince of Peace” is the Zaddik, who brings peace to the world, peace to the House, peace to the Matrona.”
So even the ancient sages understood Isaiah 9:5-6 (6-7 in some editions) to refer to a FUTURE MESSIAH.
Hence there are many ‘Christian and non-Christian scholars’ who apply Isaiah 9 to the Messiah, God with us.
4. Jesus: “prince of Peace?”
Kaleef K. Karim cites several instances where Jesus states He did not come to bring peace, or encourages rather violent-seeming things.
This is quite straightforward to sort out (and also addresses arguments that Jesus had no kingdom, etc):
A) Jesus’ focus is primarily on the spiritual, i.e. the peace He brings is between God and humanity.
B) Jesus’ role is not fully completed; He is scheduled to return to judge and rule over a millenium of peace, in the end followed by eternal peace. Emphasis, in the end. As long as peace comes in the end and is henceforth unbroken, it fits the idea of ‘peace with no end’.
In specific, Matthew 10 and Luke 12 as a whole have Jesus warning that to follow Him woukd be no cakewalk – but to follow Him nonetheless, as He would be faithful and acknowledge those who stick with Him through the trials to come.
Luke 22:36 meanwhile does have Jesus mention ‘buying swords’ – but verse 37 immediately following after explains that this is only to fulfill a Messianic prophecy. Other parts of Luke 22 show Jesus clearly avoiding and forbidding violence – although He clearly had the power to inflict it. Kudos to Anwering Islam for stating is clearly and succintly. Further corroboration is even at Wikipedia. Meanwhile, LoveYourEnemies.org takes it to be a justification of limited self-defence with many, many warnigns and caveats.
Once again, Kaleef K. Karim omits the important context that serves to clarify the excerpts – even one single verse following his chosen excerpt. Tut, tut. Ahmad Deedat would be proud.
He does come somewhat closer on Luke 19’s parable of the ten minas though – except as I mentioned as my Point A, Jesus is speaking of the spiritual doom and punishment that will be meted out before the throne of judgment.
And as mentioned in my Point B, many in the physical world will actually violently attack Christ during the Second Coming and after the Millenial Reign (led by the devil himself) – they will receive their physical and spiritual punishment as is just. And in the very end, there will be everlasting peace. For if they were not judged and winnowed out, how would there be peace for the rest of the world?
5. There is “one God” and there is none else besides Him:
The old Testament rejects the “Trinity”, it clearly states there is no god besides God, there is nothing equal to God.
Kaleef K. Karim cites several passages to argue that God is one and only.
This is not a problem for the Trinitarian, as we believe that God is one and only, while simultaneously being three persons. For how this could possibly make sense, first consider that the human mind cannot fully comprehend things like infinity and timelessness, and second consider that three as one exists in our everyday world.
After all, even Jesus said:
Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. – Mark 12:29
But He also allowed this:
Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. – Matthew 28:9
How do we reconcile both divergent actions unless Jesus is God but God is still one?
Even if you do not include the New Testament passages that proclaim Jesus’ divinity (such as His forgiving sins) or are absolutely non-Trinitarian, it is still possible for you to believe that the Messiah is divine – Oneness doctrine simply holds that Jesus is a manifestation of the one God.
Hence, all the passages Kaleef K. Karim cites here fail to argue against Oneness doctrine type belief – his argument is designed to refute Trinitarianism, after all.
See also related:
Historically Corroborated: Jesus Fulfilled 129 Messianic Prophecies Made in Isaiah 335 Years Earlier
Why the Holy Spirit is Considered God (and So is Jesus)