Isaiah 9:6: The Septuagint and Hebrew and Dead Sea Scrolls Version
The NIV reads of this passage:
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Nowhere in the NT does any NT writer claim this is a verse talking about Jesus. For example, Matthew never alludes to it. Here is a table of all Original Testament references / allusions to Isaiah in the NT http://www.levendwater.org/companion/append80.html This passage is not one of them. Why is this never observed by the apostles to pertain to Jesus?
We know today it is often cited to say this tells us Jesus was God the Father. The verse actually only says that the child will be "called" by this name, and does not tell us anything about his intrinsic nature by having such a name. Just like Isaiah means "Yah(weh) saves" = Iasai = saves + iah = Yah, but does not imply Isaiah was Yahweh.
But putting that issue to one side for a moment, we must recognize that we never hear of this verse from Matthew, John, etc. That should be the clue that perhaps a misunderstanding has developed that this verse is talking of the intrinsic nature of the child rather than discusses his name.
Here are some facts to consider.
This photo below is the Dead Sea Scroll version of Isaiah 9:6.
Isaiah 9:6 [Source: Benner, http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/31_selections.html ]
Translation by Scholar Jeff A. Benner
Benner with over 10 Bible-exposition books to his credit tells us that the underlined terms above allow us to see that prior to the Masoretic text, the Dead Sea Scrolls from 1000 years earlier read very differently.
The key words in the NIV version "Mighty God" and "Everlasting Father" and "Prince of Peace" are the ones to focus upon.
The words "Mighty God" in the NIV comes from the Masoretes in the 900s AD who wrote it out as two words -- El and Gibbor which means El (God) and Gibor (Warrior). From this, many of us believed it was a prophecy calling a child "Mighty God." But Brenner shows that the much earlier Dead Sea Scrolls, which is presumptively more valid, has it as one word -- Elgibor. This would imply the Masoretes erred in transcribing this.
What then is the importance that the DSS has Elgibor as one word? Benner says such a conglomerate term thus signifies simply a name, without any intention to identify someone as God. The name of this child to be born was simply Elgibor just like Isaiah is a conglomerate name "Yahweh Saves" (Isai = saves, Iah / Yah = Yahweh). Just as one is not saying Isaiah is Yahweh, one would not be saying the child prophesied about in Isaiah 9:6 is God Yahweh. Elgibor is a name, and nothing more.
What about the term "Everlasting Father" as the NIV has it?
Scholar Jeff Brenner says this too is an error. It is not "everlasting" in the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS). In fact, the entire key passage, Brenner translates from the DSS to say: "Elgibor the father of Ad, ruler of Hashalom (i.e., Jerusalem)."
Scholar Jeff Benner says that "Ad" is misinterpted as "Eternal," and literally it means a person named Ad.
This word is often used in the phrase (l'olam v'ed). While this is usually translated as "forever and ever" it literally means "to eternity and again". The word (ad/ed) never means "eternity". These two words would best be translated as "father of Ad (a name)" (link)
What about "Prince of Peace?" Another mistake, Brenner's evidence would prove. The Masoretes in the 900s AD are missing "Ha" in their version. However, it is present in the Dead Sea Scrolls from over a milennium earlier. Missing this, the Masoretic text would read "Ruler / Prince of Peace." But once one restores the "Ha" from the Dead Sea Scrolls, Brenner points out that Hashalom is simply an abbreviation for Jerusalem, not "ruler of Peace (Salem)."
Thus, applying Brenner's corrections, the passage in the Dead Sea Scrolls version reads simply:
For a child is born unto us; and the government is upon his shoulder; And his name is called El Gibbor father of Ad, ruler of Jerusalem.
So in the DSS, Ad is a name of the father of the son; El-Gibbor is a name of the child; and the Masoretes lost the "ha" before Shalom, and thus lost the link that signified only "Jerusalem," allowing it to be misread as "Prince of Peace." If this was the state of the Hebrew in 33 AD, no wonder neither Matthew nor anyone else read into this verse an application to Jesus.
An Alternative View
A different view accepts the Masoretic text, and treats the Dead Sea Scrolls, even though older, as incorrect. We would then propose the following: Jesus' name was YAH-SHUA - Salvation of Yah. This is reflected by Matthew 1:21's explanation, as well as by the pronunciation history of Jesus' name. See my article "Yahshua."
If so, Jesus' name fulfills Isaiah 9:6. Matthew already told us that He (God) called the child YAHSHUA for he will save "my people." (Matt 1:21 OGM.) This fulfills Isaiah 9:6 that He (God) called him by the name of the Mighty-God; Eternal Father; Prince of Peace -- that is, YAHWEH. The name given Jesus had the name YAH in it -- an abbreviation of YAHWEH. Hence, by giving Jesus that name by the angelic instruction to Joseph, this fulfilled that God called him by a name signifying Yahweh's own name. Then Isaiah 9:6 would amount to a prophecy of the name, not anything intrinsically about the child Himself being Yahweh. The issue whether the Father indwelled Jesus / Yashua is a different question. (Jesus says in John 14:10 that the Father dwelled in Himself.)
Incidentally, none of the gospels or letters in the New Testament reference or allude to Isaiah 9:6, so we have no help there to explain its meaning.
In Depth Study: Sources of Isaiah 9:6 To Examine
After the Dead Sea Scrolls, the next oldest extant manuscript is the Septuagint (LXX) tracing from 257 BC. Up front, we think this has mistranslated the original Hebrew. The Septuagint is a Greek translation. It renders Isaiah 9:6 as reading the child will be called the Angel of Great Counsel. Brenton’s translation is:
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 (Aggelos) of great counsel: for I will bring peace upon the princes, and health to him.
Notice this does not say He is the ruler of peace. It says God will bring peace to the princes. Nor does this say he is Everlasting Father. This helps support Benner's case that such terms in the 257 BC Septuagint were not understood by the time of the Dead Sea Scroll version in Hebrew ca. 250 BC.
Hence, the Septuagint is very different version of Isaiah 9:6 indeed than the DSS or Masoretic text.
[Source: Isiaiah 9:6 by Christian Churches of God, Australia.]
This can be verified by looking at the online version of the Septuagint Interlinear. One has to know first to look at Isaiah 9:5 as there is an earlier textual legacy that has numbered one less verse in Isaiah to this point. So at the following link is Isaiah 9:6 in the Septuagint Interlinear, showing you in English the word-for-word translation - identified as 9:5. http://en.katabiblon.com/us/index.php?text=LXX&book=Is&ch=9&interlin=on
One can clearly see that it says Aggelos. Angel or Messenger, and not Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and not Prince of Peace, etc.
Is this Septuagint Greek edition a reflection of the correct original? It appears not. This appears to be another Septuagint mistranslation. (For a list of Septuagint errors exposed at our website -- Psalm 102:33-35; Psalm 45:6-7; Deut 34:43; and Gen 15:6, see our "Topical Index" under "Septuagint" where links to those discussions are listed.)
Regardless, what is clear is that the Septuagint appears flawed in verse 6. It refers to an Angel / Messenger which is apparently missing in the original, as reflected by the Dead Sea Scrolls Isaiah. The Septuagint also drops Mighty God and Everlasting Father (Masoretic text) as well as Ad or Jerusalem (the Dead Sea Scroll text) The Septuagint does show, however, an emphasis on his "name" which will take upon importance as we proceed.
Soncino Press 1950: Latest Jewish Translation
The modern Jewish versions below emphasize in 9:6 that the NAME of the child is being identified which is slightly different from the Abegg Flint DSS which says "he will be called." Yet, that difference in translation below is key to interpreting the Masoretic version more correctly.
The Jewish press, Soncino Books of the Bible - Isaiah (Rev. A. Cohen editor) (Soncino Press 1950), seeks to reveal the importance of the 'name' reference. (I borrow the research here done by the Christian Churches of God presented at this link). The Soncino text renders Isaiah 9:5 as:
For a child is born unto us; and the government is upon his shoulder; And his name is called Pele-joez-el-gibbor-Abi-ad-sar-shalom.
(In a footnote, the Soncino Press says as to "is born ... is given" that a past tense is preferred: "Better, in agreement with Hebrew, 'has been born ... has been given.' See Jewish Home at 8.)
This Jewish press says these hyphenated words represent a conglomerate single name. Such a name denotes a relationship of the person who enjoys that name to the words in the conglomerate name. The Soncino Press says the hyphenated words as a name mean in context:
Wonderful in counsel is God the mighty, the Everlasting Father, the Ruler of Peace. The child will bear these significant names in order to recall to the people the message which they embody (Arbarbanel) (Soncino Isaiah fn. to 9:5).
As Benner pointed out the Masoretes did not conglomerate El and Gibor, but the modern Jewish press accepts it should be understood as a single name. The Socino Press likewise believes one should understand as part of the same conglomerate the entire series of attributes about Everlasting Father to Ruler of Peace.
Let's delve into Soncino's explanation a bit more.
The long hyphenated name is exactly like what we see in Isaiah 8:1. Socino press says the name in Hebrew at Isaiah 8:1 is a conglomerate name: Mahershalalhashbaz. See this name at King James of 8:1 versus how other translations break out the component names of the conglomerate name. See http://bible.cc/isaiah/8-1.htm In Isaiah 8:1 the conglomerate name when separated means: Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey. See NASB version at the bibble.cc link.
Isaiah 9:5/6 in the text Socino is using the same -- a conglomerate name of several component names. If Socino's text is the valid Bible passage, this is a HINT that Jesus will be known by a similarly conglomerate name, which I contend is YAH + SHUA. And Matthew was breaking out the conglomerate parts to tell us Jesus had the name YAH + SHUA, which is a fulfillment of Isaiah 9:6.
Jewish Home's Important Analysis
Let's consider another Jewish source for yet another view. One Jewish commentator -- Jewish Home.org -- says 9:5 should be translated either as :
For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us, and the authority was placed upon his shoulder, and [He, the] Wondrous Adviser, Mighty God, Eternal Father/Patron, called his name: Ruler of Peace; or
For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us, and the authority was placed upon his shoulder, and [he] called his name: Wondrous Adviser, Mighty God [or, Mighty Hero], Eternal Patron, Ruler of Peace;
Option A avoids of course that a child is called God. But B is, this Jewish author agrees, a possible alternative translation.
In support of Option A is that it appears in an old midieval Hebrew Bible known as the 'Leningrad Codex' which shows that the subject of the verb phrase -- "and He called" -- is "The "Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty Strong, Everlasting Father." See this discussion link with a transliteration of the Leningrad Codex.
In either case, the same verb VAYIQERA is rendered in the KJV as "AND HE CALLED" in Leviticus 1:1 and Genesis 1:5. 4:26. 5:9. But the KJV unjustifiably changes the exact same verb tense here in 9:6 to be a future tense - "and he shall be called...." This misleadingly takes away the emphasis is on the NAME -- It truly says He (God) called this child by a name. The mystery is then what is that name? We are never thinking that the NATURE OF THE BEING (whether divine or human) of the child is at issue. God has us waiting in the verse to know by what name is he called.
Compare: "...And he called (Hebrew: VAYIQERA) his name Enos..." (Genesis 4:26 KJV) . "And he called (Hebrew: VAYIQERA) his name Noah ..." (Genesis 5:29 KJV)
Here, assuming Option B is correct, it presents no blasphemy if properly understood. The child's name which by God calls him is Mighty God and Eternal Father. It is the name the child is called by which means "Mighty God and Eternal Father." It does not mean God or the Eternal Father is a child. That is a leap some read into a name, but YAHWEH is a name affixed to many names, such as ISAIAH (Yah-Saves), but we do not think ISAIAH is Mighty God or Everlasting Father, as mentioned earlier.
Then in conjunction with this mistake in the KJV ("shall be called"), this Jewish author notes that in Christian translations, the conglomerate word at issue is individually separated by definite articles, while this "Jewish" translation which it proposes does not do so:
The Jewish translation lists four names/titles, none of which is modified with a definite article the (as in the Hebrew text). The Christian translation lists five, the first two of which are split out of the first Hebrew one and are without a definite article, and each of the last three is capitalized and has a definite article.
This author also carefully examines the verb for CALL. In Hebrew, va'yiqRA. (Id., at page 7.) It says this should be rendered as "and he called." The King James changes this to "and shall be called," in both the future and passive tense. This is clearly an error, and misleading, as already mentioned.
This Jewish author concedes that Jewish translators render "mighty God" as "mighty God" and it is not a deliberate Christian mistranslation. Id., at 10. He claims the "Eternal Father" could instead be "Eternal Patron," which is hardly convincing or much different. Id. Especially when one considers this is a conglomerate word, and "Mighty God" is unquestionably the right rendering of one part of the conglomerate name.
What is a valid point of this Jewish author is that it is anomolous to think the child has these attributes in the name, that is that the child is God. Rather, it is the name by which the child would be known. In other words, the child has that name that means these things. The Jewish author comments:
[N]o true prophet of Israel nor any true Israelite would ascribe terms such as The mighty God or The Everlasting Father to a person. Moreover, it is documented in the Hebrew Bible that significant names of children of prophets never describe the child itself. Rather, such names carried with them messages for the people, as is the case with Isaiah’s sons, (sheARyaSHUV), a remnant shall return, (immanu’EL) is God is with us, and (maHER-shaLAL-HASH-BAZ), quicken-booty hasten-plunder, and with Hosea’s children, (yizreEL), God will sow, (LOruhaMAH), [She Was] Not Pitied, an (LO -aMI), [You Are] Not My People. Id, at 13-14.
Thus, while the Jewish critic has his own reasons to pick apart the possibility that Mighty God or Everlasting Father was not intended, he did not make a convincing case on that issue. He appears even in the end to concede that is not possible with the term MIGHTY GOD. He agrees all Jewish translations [other than the Dea Sea Scrolls] agree with the Christian one on that one title (El Gibbor). But here on the issue of the NAME, we do find this Jewish critic's point is persuasive -- namely that Jesus was given a name that means Mighty God, and Everlasting Father. Since Yahshua has Yahweh's name in it, it still fits.
However, if the Dead Sea Scrolls has the correct version, then as Benner relates all such discussions are moot.
Compare Jeremiah 23:5-6
In the Messianic Prophecy of Jeremiah 23:5-6, a similar expression is used about a name as in Isaiah 9:6. It says:
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will raise up for David[a] a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.
6 In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
The LORD Our Righteous Savior [Yahuzadak = Yahweh, the Righteous] (NIV)
This speaks therefore of the name by which the branch of David will be known: Yahweh Our Righteous Savior. This is not remarkable because Jewish names often had Yahweh's name as part of them, but this did not signify the individual was Yahweh Himself. To repeat again, the name Isaiah - Ish-Yah means Yahweh saves - yet at the same time it does not imply Isaiah the prophet is indeed Yahweh.
This passage in Jeremiah 23:5-6 helps us remember that Isaiah 9:6 was similar: "he called his name Mighty God, Everlasting Father," etc. For now we can see that to call the seed of David Yahweh Our Righteousness or Mighty God, Everlasting Father does not imply the seed of David is Himself Yahweh, Everlasting Father, or Mighty God. He will serve as the agent or arm of Yahweh, the Mighty God, etc., because this Servant will bear His name.
Under the standard texts, the name by which He (God) called the child is Mighty God, the Everlasting Father. This is true of anyone who has YAH or YAHWEH in their name. There is nothing implied in this that the child itself is the Mighty God or Everlasting Father. "He called his name" does not imply that he was apart from Yahweh's indwelling presence the "Mighty God" or "Everlasting Father." Those are very divergent meanings.
Now we know this name of Jesus in its transliterated and masculinized form -- JESUS. But the Hebrew original YAHSHUA always had YAH in the first part (until the last few hundred years when pronunciation changed for the letters used to spell out this sound). It was pronounced in classic Greek as YAHSUS (YAH was preserved); in Latin, YAESUS; in Teutonic and Gaulic "YAIZOOS," and even in early Norman and old English, it was known as YAH-Soos, as outlined in our article on "Yahshua."
Thus the child was always known by the name of YAH -- the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace, even while His entire name meant "Salvation of Yah."
However, if Benner is correct, and the DSS allows a clear correction, then this verse of Isaiah 9:6 has none of the meanings which we have supposed from the Masoretic text. If the Dead Sea Scrolls are more valid, then Isaiah 9:6 speaks of a person named "Elgibor" and he was the "Father of Ad" and was "ruler over Jerusalem." It would then have nothing to do with Jesus. And this would explain why none of the NT writers ever alluded to Isaiah 9:6 as fulfilled in Jesus.