Isaiah 7;14, ‘Almah’ and ‘Immanuel’ in context of Igbo and Hebrew languages

Sampson Iroabuchi Onwuka

Isaiah 7; 14

The book of Isaiah is popular for several portions of its 66 chapters. Two of the more outstanding portions of Isaiah that may have created much problem with Christians and Jews are (1) Isaiah 7; 14; the theme of the Virgin Conception of Christ; Emmanuel ‘God with us’, and the other is (2) Isaiah 53 ‘Suffering Servant’ who will take away the sins of the world. In fact the greatest summary of Christian teaching and formation of Catholic doctrines of holy incarnation of Christ and the doctrine of ‘immaculate conception’ is based on these two chapters. It will make perfect sense to interpret much of the Bible in context of Hebrew than any else.

Isaiah 7; 14

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, a Virgin (Almah) will be with child and bear a son, and shall be called Immanuel”
The main event in this verse is the word ‘Almah’ which is believed by both Christian and Jewish teachers to be a word for a Virgin and a Maiden, a term the Jews and Christians believe to same as true. Christian throughout their very existence, do believe that this verse, Isaiah 7:14 is a Prophesy concerning the coming of the messiah, which Christ Jesus essentially fulfilled. Christians have maintained that this passage, referred to Christ, that Christ was the messiah as portion of the Scripture said, and according to the teachings of the Apostles – many of whom saw Christ alive, for instance John the Disciple of Christ whom Jesus ‘loved’ as the Scriptures said, believed that Christ was the son of God.


This St. John has been removed as the author of the St John gospel. It is this Saint John’s gospel that sponsored all kinds of interpretation about the person/s of Christ and about the issue of the divine Logos. And we shall discuss, the person/s of Christ has always been the bone of contention between what Christians considered Christ’s Immaculate Conception, derived as it were from the promises evident in the Bible and the person/s of Christ which without these references in Old testament is really of little if any consequence to much of Christian believe and faith in Christ.


Nothing, forces us to broach the subject any clearly than the incident of very nature and interpretation of the word ‘Almah’ in the above portion Isaiah 7; 14, considering in the circumstance how and why it was basis for Christian futuristic expectation of a Messiah…given the eons  More than anything, Christians believe and Christians argue that the word ‘Almah’ and the theme of the statement and the theme of the Virgin birth of Christ, is about the coming messiah > the promised one, who the Jews believe is not Jesus Christ. They also believe that the ‘statement’ above does not refer to Christ or any one from the future and such the Christian claims about Christ is considered by Jews as untrue and inaccurate in spite of the account.

But Jews however believe that the citation of ‘almah’ in the verse above refers to a single event of a woman giving birth to a child and nothing more. Prove of this they mention is that the prophet at the time of the incident was referring to the Kingdom of Hezekiah of Northern Israel in about B.C 722.


Jewish Rabbi at least the returning 200 years – referring to the era following the revival of Jewish Intellectual life by Ralph Hirsh (Samson Ralph Hirsh), has led many to contend that Christ was another great prophet and a great suffering servant of God but not particularly the messiah. Some Jews equally believe in this claim and it is a term that is not unlike the claims made by Muslims that Christ Jesus was a prophet. We read that a great opposition exists for this on either side of the Christian and Jewish divide, and many of the foreboding reasons for these sets of disagreement is rooted in the contention, that Christ as the four synoptic gospels claim, is the promised one in the Old Testament.


All of the disciples of Christ who saw Christ in his life, called him the promised one – it’s actually a statement that must be understood in the context of what the disciples of Jesus Christ – of mostly Jewish background – meant by the suffering servant of God, or what they meant by the ‘Son of God.’ And the tradition of interpreting Christ as a prophet which was how his disciples saw him, has been passed on from St. John who as the Scriptures say Christ loved, who saw Christ in his life and heard Jesus Christ teach, how he lived and died. St. John was met by a certain Ignatius – who as they claim but probably not true – was the Bishop of Antioch and both of these men were possibly met by another pastoral bishop of the early Churches by name Polycarp of Smyra (80-167). The most verifiable source of connection between these people who met Christ’s followers in life and latter day ‘ Ecclesiastical Bishop’ was Clement of Alexander. The whole theme of the Eusebius’ ‘Ecclesiastical History of the Church, is that ‘Christ Jesus was the promised messiah, the incarnate logos and word of God made flesh. That this tradition is also the history of the Church as handed down through the ages, beginning with the Disciples of Christ till the age when Rome Empire took over the church.


Yet the Greek versions of these statements about Christ also have sponsored its own learning curve. For sure, a lot of redeeming argument exist concerning the plurality of the word Virgin in context of Isaiah 7;14 and to the more sponsored faith that Christ as the Son of Mary would not have escaped the controversy over his persons and over his ideas from the early years were he even man.


That word ‘almah’, which we now take into cognizance is a word reduced to the corruption of the ever changing printing press, as such weighs itself against the ‘mold’ of the word ‘Almah’ in the years that the Disciples of Christ lived. In one language, these Disciples of Christ are within some reason to suggest that ‘Christ’ was the son of God. There are reasons why this statement may be accurate, yet it is for the fact that these Disciples of Christ who are from Jewish background may have also misunderstood Christ. It now seen that the case of Christ may have suffered the corruption of translation, and we may now seem that the Disciple of Christ spoke of Christ with due respect to his person as a prophet (and not just any prophet but a Suffering Servant of God). These ministers of Christ saw Christ as most perhaps a suffering servant of God. But the realized interpretation of Christ as one of the Prophets to the suffering servant of God, then to the risen savior follows a pattern of birth, life, passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. Half of the time, the problem was a matter of language.


In a sense, the very basis of Christ as a Savior is a base that is not unfamiliar with ‘suffering servants’ of God in Bible. In other words, the Jewish contention of Jesus Christ is in terms of his Virgin Birth only, yet without the people of Christ via immaculate conception – as expedited to us in the New Testament – His divinity can be doubtful and contested. Or so it seems. Christians – like many peoples of the world, who the Greeks call ‘humanum’, believe that the passions of Christ and the experience of the Holy Spirit is worthy of devotion. In Igbo, the word ‘ahumadu’ means ‘human flesh’, for instance ahum>my flesh, my body. There is an Igbo word that also refers to human beings in terms of all flesh. This statement will natural mean in Igbo ‘uhu-m’madu’ means ‘all flesh’, both of which does not mean all humans in direct sense of the word.


To be fair, we may add that this Greek term ‘humanum’ refers to human kind, and in language if not in words, these terms can be localized in Igbo as ‘umu-uwa’ ‘Peoples of the world’ or a second Igbo word ‘umu-uwa-dum’ meaning ‘all peoples of the world’ or simply ‘all the world’. We notice Igbo and Greek exchanging tackles in words, meaning and sound of the word in terms of Greek ‘humanum’ and the Igbo ‘umu-uwa’. It will amount to little controversy to indicate that these Greek terms ‘exousia’ referring to divine and collective appearing or the a form of parousia, is close in meaning to its Igbo word ‘izu-puta’, perhaps the Greek term ‘eschata’ “of things remembered” or “of things which come last” or the “ re-collective” is not far from the English word ‘etchetera’, which altogether is not far from the Igbo word ‘echetara’ which literary means “of things remembered” – perhaps at last.

The word ‘almah’ is from a period that is at least 700 years before the birth of Christ, and the meaning of the word ‘almah’ and its translation may have seen a fair share of mislabel and may have forced people to take sides even in the days of Christ. But assuming we insist that the Gnostic who parallel the history of these ‘words’ regarding the mother and the birth of Christ as the coming messiah, were not really referring to a young woman but a Virgin, then the incident about Virginity of the woman becomes a primary issue and almah as a young woman will win out outrightly, but will prebend to Christian expectations for the mother of God only in terms of what Isaiah 7; 14 really meant in 722 BCE.


The error about this Child birth of Christ may have started with copyist, especially pre-Gnostic or eventual Gnostic or other Messiah seeking groups such as the Eboin, Essene, who by the apartment of the second (deturo) and third Isaiah was discovered among their keeping. In praise of these desert dwellers, we yield to the pressing matter of the hymn concerning the suffering servant of God in Isaiah 53, who these Jews in the Sinai peninsula and desert frontiers believe to the prototype of a savior – not unlike their leaders – who will restore the desecrated Jerusalem as the holy city of God.


Isaiah made insertion fitting to the theories of their Knossus (Gnostic) faith, made matters elaborately sane to the realized and disputable degree that we read from Isaiah the word ‘almah’ which looks a term referring to then and now, to a form of futuristic event in the context of Detero Isaiah – particularly Isaiah 53. This Isaiah 53 was a hymn among the Gnostic who were either still waiting for the coming messiah as at 170 CE or had managed to retain relatively ancient papyrus that speaks of Christ as both prophet, suffering servant of God and Messiah. Perhaps, it was based on their knowledge of who Christ was, or perhaps like Isaiah 53, the whole canticle – yes canticle, called book of Isaiah – refers to a prototype of Christ.


Apparently, the definition is from early years of Christ’s life and is riddled with many perspectives. And this perspectives lead to a legacy of confusing differentials between the schools of translation and interpretation. In the whole evolution of the process of translation and interpretation, we may look at some other languages of the world such as Igbo of Nigeria as an instrument for analyzing the complex grammatical situation with Hebrew. But the point must be made that Hebrew words such as ‘almah’ ‘Immanuel’, etc, at the time of its writing in Isaiah in 722 BCE often if not always changes over thing. When there is a Phenomenon like the time of Christ or the phenomenon regarding the many eye witnesses of the appearing of Christ, there is always room for interpretation. It is only with the surviving version of these Afro-Asiatic languages such as Igbo can we make inroads into the fragile nature of the argument.


Beginning with the term ‘ phenomenon’, we shall build some argument around this word from both the English and Greek languages, and we shall place enough emphasis on some of the general make-up of the word in Hebrew and how the Greek ‘phenumenal’ is essentially close to Igbo, and from its Igbo dialectic we widen on the meaning of these words in terms of Christ. Since phenomenon refers to Christ, or was used in terms of Christ, it makes sense to gravitate additional reasons for how Christ was understood by his disciples. From this infraction, we gyrate on the rest based on the meaning of the word ‘unu’. Let us begin with a term that is closer at heart than we think. The word is a kind of thanks and greeting in Hebrew, and that means ‘kalunu’ literary meaning, ‘greetings to all you’ or ‘greetings from all us’. This word ‘kalunu’ is easily Nigerian Igbo. The Igbos greets ‘kaa’ ‘ndewo’ for a person but ‘kaanu’, means ‘I greet you all’. Ndewo-nu also means ‘I greet you all’. But some Igbo dialects say ‘kalunu’ for ‘greetings to all of you’.


Hebrew reference in Isaiah 52 and 53 such as “nunu” “nu” meaning “others, we, you” especially the last English term ‘y-ou’ – without the (y ) – ou is also available in Greek ‘eu’ ‘ou’ – where ‘oui’ is closer to ‘we’. Yet in Igbo, like in Hebrew, as in English, and in Greek, the word ‘nunu’ or ‘nu’ meaning ‘you’ is also similar to Igbo word ‘unu’ meaning ‘you people’, ‘these people’ etc. For instance ‘unu ndi mgbassa ozi oma’ is Igbo for ‘you the messengers of good news’ and in Greek, we remember the classic version of evangelion – which is not Greek at all – to be same and equal to the word ‘eu meggaliziomia’ ‘messengers of the good news’ c/c (Oxford Guide to Ideas and Issues of the People, Oxford Guide to people and places in the Bible, Michael Coogan, Bruce Metzer, et al).


But in terms of pneumenal or phenomenon  the term may in fact be same with the Igbo words such ‘Ihie unu mere’ or ‘ihie unu n’eme’. The saying, ‘ihie unu n’eme’ is also similar to another Igbo saying ‘ife/fe unu n’eme’, literally meaning, ‘things you do’. The saying is quite different from another Igbo saying, ‘ife neme’ – perhaps relevant to this type of writing ‘Iphe neme’ meaning in Igbo, ‘things that are happening’, like a phenomenon  saving that the English word ‘phenomenom’ if broken in bits will resolves itself as ‘phe-no-me-nom’, which will be closer to Greek ‘phenumenal’ and in terms of Igbo, may yet resolve itself as ‘i-phe-(u)nu-neme’ >phe-nu-neme’ > meaning ‘the- things- ‘you’ – are doing’ > ‘things-‘you’- do’. Apparently, ifeneme is close to the context of ‘what’s happening’ – present continues events, e.g,’ …things as they unfold’.

So Christ was ipheneme (ifeneme>ihie neme) of his time, and they were other things which Paul may have allued to regarding the events as they were unfolding.

So we can show that the word pnenumenal is relative close to an Igbo word. Here we stray from dialectics to exercise the portmanteau which anyone can censor as they see fit.


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