10 December 2007

Immanuel: a Christmas sermon

by Dan Phillips

My pastor and church graciously afford me an opportunity to preach during most Christmas seasons. Yesterday, I had the joy to preach on:The link above will take you to the sermon. My aim was to set Immanuel in the context of the entire Bible, rather than viewing a single text or story in isolation. Here is the outline:

I. First Moment: the ____________

II. Second Moment: the __________________

III. Third Moment: the ____________

A. The Crisis

B. The Challenge

C. The Child

IV. Fourth Moment: the __________

A. Who Is This?

B. What Did He Do?

C. What Will He Do?

I hope it proves a Christ-exalting blessing to such as choose to listen. There are also potentials for interpretive points-of-argument in this, among our sharp and varied readership. (Hel-lo, hinges on Isaiah 7:14, one of the perennially highly-contested passages.) My schedule today is such that I may not be able to interact as I'd prefer, at least earlier-on, but I'll do what I can.

Dan Phillips's signature


Kay said...

Trouble down t'format-mill, Dan. My eyes!!!

DJP said...

Oh, dear. It checks out on mine. I'll look on another pc. Sorry.

FX Turk said...


Brilliant sermon.


Never use WORD to format HTML.

James Scott Bell said...

Another fine and meaty sermon, Mr. P. (And, preaching occasionally myself, I love your comeback to the frequent question "So how did it go?" May I purloin it?)

BTW, you're more softspoken in your preaching than in your posting. Remember that the next time we disagree!

David A. Carlson said...

Whats the controversy over 7:14?

For this reason the sovereign master himself will give you a confirming sign. Look,this young woman is about to conceive and will give birth to a son. You, young woman, will name him Immanuel.

Pretty clear.

DJP said...

It seems to be working in Firefox, but not Internet Exploder. I'll have to get to this asap, maybe not immediately

DJP said...

There. Better?

I'll have to reinsert graphic later.

David A. Carlson said...

working now

DJP said...

dac -- Whats the controversy over 7:14? ...Pretty clear

Gosh, if I'd just known you, I could have spared myself all those decades of laboring over Hebrew, and all those hours of study!


Mike Riccardi said...

I can't listen to the file for a while, but I noticed that DAC's translation avoids the use of the word "virgin." Is that what you're trying to communicate, Dan?

DJP said...

Well yes, apart from the translation and interpretation of every individual word, and of the verse as a whole, it's really pretty simple.

pastorbrianculver said...

still trying to get it to work on my computer! I'll keep trying. Sounds like it is pretty good from the comments!

Stefan Ewing said...

This year for Christmas, our pastors are doing a sermon series on some of the Old Testament prophecies.

Last week, it was God's promises to Eve and Abraham in Genesis.

This week, it was Isaiah—including 7:14—and Jesus Christ's being both fully God and fully man. Good stuff, it was.

Thanks to the errant teaching of one Bishop Spong, I bought the "young woman" rendering of almah for years. It was good to hear someone preach unapologetically on the supernatural nature of Christ's birth.

So silly question, but why was Jesus not actually named Immanuel? No commentary I've read explains why the angel told Mary to call Him Jesus (Mt 1:21; Lk 1:31) and not Immanuel (Is 7:14; Mt 1:23).

Daryl said...

Just a follow up on the virgin vs young woman thingy. I always thought that "How can this be for I have never been with a man" pretty much rendered moot the translation of that one word.

(Now I'll shut up and go listen to the sermon...:) )

Stefan Ewing said...

Dan: Please forgive me if you answered my question in your sermon...I just don't have the time right now to listen to it.

Stefan Ewing said...


Or that Matthew and Luke both independently attest to this one key point, even though their birth narratives have very little in common on most other points (although they do complement and not contradict each other).

Why, it's almost as if "scholars" were more interested in denying the virgin birth of Jesus Christ (and its implications for us, praise the Lord!), than carrying out objective, rational textual investigation....

Daryl said...

"Why, it's almost as if "scholars" were more interested in denying the virgin birth of Jesus Christ (and its implications for us, praise the Lord!), than carrying out objective, rational textual investigation...."

Nooooooooooooo, it couldn't be, could it??? :)

DJP said...

'sokay, Stefan, I don't really get into it in the sermon.

Sometimes a child was given a nickname other than his daily name (2 Samuel 12:24-25); also there are numerous prophetically-attached names which may be better thought of in our culture as titles or descriptions than call-by names.

Solameanie said...


Shall I attempt a Derrida-type deconstruction just for grins?

On second thought, no. C.S. Lewis warned against putting one's mind into a devilish thought pattern (as he did while writing Screwtape). I've come close to having a stroke several times too many this week as it is. Instead, I'll just say..

Great stuff.

DJP said...

Thanks for everyone's kind comments. This sermon was a bit of a wrestling-match in the crafting. God is gracious and good, His word is a wonder, and His Son an infinite marvel.

Daryl said...


You did your homework and it showed!! Well done.

I'm always amazed at how the story demonstrates God's faithfulness by running unbroken from Genesis to Revelation and you really demonstrated that.


David A. Carlson said...

I wouldnt say my version avoids the use of the word virgin so much as accurately translate the passage.

Or at least that is what Dan Wallace thinks.

Strong Tower said...

How is it that it accurately translates the passage?

If the word can mean virgin, and it can, and the contextual definition in the NT is virgin, and it is, then the best translation of the Hebrew is virgin, not young woman.

djp may be a scholar, but we can read well enough to scholarly render the word. But, if you want to wrangle about words to no profit, I think I'll put my money on djp.

Mike Riccardi said...


I just finished listening. I gotta tell ya, I really had no idea where everything was tying in till about the last 10 to 15 minutes... and I thought the way you crafted everything was great. It was using the whole of the revelation of God in His Word to exalt the person and work Christ throughout all of history.

I especially appreciated seeing all the different ways that God "dwelt" or "tabernacled" with His people before Christ's incarnation, and then how in Christ He has permanently tabernacled with us.

Immanuel. God with us. Amen brother.

Rick Potter said...


I'll have to say that this sermon is one of the top 10 sermons I have ever heard.

Thanks so much.


Rick Potter said...

Also - is there a transcript?

I'd love to have a copy.


David A. Carlson said...

Like a said ST, that is Dan Wallace's position on the verse, not mine. If I had to put money on djp or dw, I think dw is more likely correct. And it is not unprofitable to correctly interpret scripture. Not ever.

From the NET Bible commentary:

Traditionally, “virgin.” Because this verse from Isaiah is quoted in Matt 1:23 in connection with Jesus’ birth, the Isaiah passage has been regarded since the earliest Christian times as a prophecy of Christ’s virgin birth. Much debate has taken place over the best way to translate this Hebrew term, although ultimately one’s view of the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ is unaffected. Though the Hebrew word used here (עַלְמָה, ’almah) can sometimes refer to a woman who is a virgin (Gen 24:43), it does not carry this meaning inherently. The word is simply the feminine form of the corresponding masculine noun עֶלֶם (’elem, “young man”; cf. 1 Sam 17:56; 20:22). The Aramaic and Ugaritic cognate terms are both used of women who are not virgins. The word seems to pertain to age, not sexual experience, and would normally be translated “young woman.” The LXX translator(s) who later translated the Book of Isaiah into Greek sometime between the second and first century b.c., however, rendered the Hebrew term by the more specific Greek word παρθένος (parqenos), which does mean “virgin” in a technical sense. This is the Greek term that also appears in the citation of Isa 7:14 in Matt 1:23. Therefore, regardless of the meaning of the term in the OT context, in the NT Matthew’s usage of the Greek term παρθένος clearly indicates that from his perspective a virgin birth has taken place.

Mike Riccardi said...

What does NET mean anyway?

Apparently, of the 9 times almah is used in the OT, it's always clearly referring to a virgin. If those who translated it into Greek thought it best translated by the Greek word for virgin before Christ's birth (thus with no agenda to read anything into the text), that should tell us something.

To be honest, though, I don't think either rendering damages a case for the virgin birth given the entirety of Scripture.

Anonymous said...

Dan: Exceptional sermon. A masterful display of thrift, as there is not one frivolous word. Thank you for the edification.

Strong Tower said...

This is the Greek term that also appears in the citation of Isa 7:14in Matt 1:23. Therefore, regardless of the meaning of the term in the OT context, in the NT Matthew’s usage of the Greek term παρθένος clearly indicates that from his perspective a virgin birth has taken place.

And this is our proper interpretation. It does not matter what the normal usage is. Like all technical writing, terms are defined by the author. Those working terms, as they are called, are controlled by the definition that the author imposes upon them. It is therefore, the proper interpretation of Isaiah, unless, someone wants to argue that it was not the Holy Spirit that was authoring through the apostles, the meaning of parqenos and by extension the proper meaning of alma in the context of revelation. And here is that meaning: "But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit...And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus...How will this be, since I am a virgin...The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God."

Commentaries are great and should be quoted with understanding. The point of the commentary is clear. Even if the meaning in context is of the some non-virginal young woman in the kings court having a child, the prophetic meaning is not determined by that immediate context, but by further examination of Scripture. In this case there is no doubt that the meaning is a virginal woman who has never had sexual relations with a man, just as the commentator says. So, the best translation for understanding is virgin, and not young woman.

DJP said...

Rick, Garet, and others: again, thanks for your gracious and kind encouragement. Glory to God.

Sorry, Rick, no transcript.

Mike, if you don't mind my saying, it isn't accurate to say that all nine usages clearly refer to a virgin. Some are unclear, but the 2-3 that are clear, clearly do refer to unmarried girls. They're all cited in an article I wrote titled To Tell the Truth, Virginia.

Mike Riccardi said...

I don't mind your saying, Dan. Thanks for letting me know. I remember now that you said that in the sermon. I guess that part just didn't register. My apologies to dac, as well.

threegirldad said...

Mike R: What does NET mean anyway?

New English Translation

DJP said...


Not-an Excellent Translation

(The notes are better than the translation)

David A. Carlson said...

Not Excellent Translation?



Make your own call.

DJP said...

I just did make my own call. What's your point?

David A. Carlson said...

perhaps I was making a suggestion to your other faithful readers who are unfamiliar with the NET Bible?

Why so defensive djp?

DJP said...

What are you talking about? I post something, you reply to me, I reply to you.

Are you trying to make a point, or just noise? I'm really not tracking.

David A. Carlson said...

Several commentors asked what the NET bible was

You said the not (an) excellent translation

I suggested other commentors may wish to make thier own decision (perhaps that was not sufficiently clear to whom that was addressed?)

I was responding to multiple posts, all in regards to the same subject.

not real complicated, just a pretty straight forward suggestion to those unfamilar with the NET.

DJP said...

OK. Having studied Hebrew and Greek for well over thirty years, and having taught both, I've offered my opinion. That people should make up their own minds is not a contrary view.