Written By Thomas Perez. December 26, 2011 at 4:56pm. Copyright 2011.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Various Thoughts Concerning Isaiah 9:6
1. The Trinitarian View
God is viewed as One. He is viewed as God the Father, God the Son, & God the Holy Spirit. Three Persons, yet co-existing as One God. Or God in 3 persons.
2. The Oneness View
God is seen as One God filling certain roles, just as a man may be an employee, a husband, and a father, all at the same time. God is then One Person, indivisible, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is the belief that in Jesus, all the power of the Godhead dwells bodily-via His Deity. Another term for this is “Sabellianism,” named after the third-century teacher Sabellius. It is also known as “Patripassianism,” a term which implies that the Father suffered on the cross.
Modern-day modalists are found most frequently in Pentecostal groups, like the United Pentecostal Church International and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. They rely heavily on Isaiah 9:6, which calls the Messiah not only “Mighty God” but also “Everlasting Father,” and on John 10:30, in which Jesus said “I and the Father are one.”
3. The God Only View
This view is the understanding that God is One, not a Trinity of Persons, and not a God who reveals Himself as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, but is instead only seen as The Father-Spirit who sent a son – small “s” in this instance is intended. He is seen as an Eternal Spirit by but not as a revealing separate Holy Spirit in Person (as in the Trinitarian sense) nor is He seen as a fulfilling role or mode (as seen by Oneness Believers). This is the viewpoint taken by Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Science, Mormonism, and believe it or not, ‘Martin Zender’ – self proclaimed Bible scholar??
However, there are some area’s of doctrine that Martin Zender teaches that I can whole heartily give a thumbs up to. But his denial pertaining to the Deity of Christ is a nothing more than old worn down arguments & propositions. Really, when you think about it carefully; in his denial of such – he is also indirectly denying that God can ever become a man if He wanted to. But we would have to do a separate study pertaining to Isaiah 7:14 & Matt 1:23 wouldn’t we?…But don’t worry I’m working on it. If He considers that thought (that God can become a man) impossible by miracle standards, then he ought to consider contemplating the thought that God can change rocks & stones into sons and daughters of Abraham. In his attempt to destroy the doctrine of the Trinity – he blasphemes the Deity of Christ Jesus and the Gospel in his futile attempt to prove his point And all the while declaring that he is defending the Gospel?
While I prefer the Oneness belief over the Trinity – I, nevertheless, consider that view an opinion. And I would say, if one were to study Church history properly, without throwing the year 325 AD into the mix all the time; then perhaps one can begin to understand the bigger picture….the bigger picture as to what the Councils were trying to convey.
Let us now examine the Isaiah 9:6 controversy.
Argument From the Hebrew Language Concerning Isaiah 9:6
Some have said…
The name Pele-joez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom (Hebrew: פֶּלֶא יֹועֵץ אֵל גִּבֹּור אֲבִיעַד שַׂר־שָׁלֹֽום) is a prophetic name or title which occurs in Isaiah 9:6 in the Hebrew Bible. It is one of a series of prophetic names found in Isaiah ch.7-9, including most notably Emmanuel “God with us”, and Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Hebrew: מַהֵר שָׁלָל חָשׁ בַּז) – “He has made haste to the plunder!” – in the previous chapter (Isaiah 8:1–3), which is a reference to the impending plunder of Samaria and Damascus by the king of Assyria. The meaning of Pele-joez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom is variously interpreted as “Wonderful in counsel is God the mighty, the Everlasting Father, the Ruler of Peace” (Hertz 1968), or “his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (KJV).
The name is translated in the Latin Vulgate and most English Bibles. Though the name could be left untranslated, (James R. Beck Jesus & personality theory: exploring the five-factor model p11 1999 “When translators come to Isaiah 9:6, they could also leave the name of the promised Messiah in its transliterated state, in which case the name would be even longer than that of Isaiah 8:1: Pele-joez-el-gibbor-Abi-ad-sar-shalom.”) and is so in the Jewish Publication Society of America Version (1917), though this caused discussion among the translators and led to an English translation in the New Jewish Publication Society of America Version (1985) – (Ernest S. Frerichs The Bible and Bibles in America Scholars Press, 1988 p100 “Samuel Schulman of the JPS translation committee urged his colleagues to follow the same practice, since “it calls attention to the fact, that we wish to avoid any possible Christological interpretation of the phrase. . And the government is upon his shoulder; And his name is called ° Pele-joez-el-gibbor-Abi-ad-sar-shalom That is, Wonderful in counsel is God the Mighty”)
The Latin Vulgate reads that his name will be called “Admirabilis consiliarius, Deus fortis, Pater futuri saeculi, Princeps pacis” (the Douay-Rheims version translates this as ‘Wonderful, Counselor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace’).
In Christian interpretation, based partly on the proximity of a quote of Isaiah 9:2 found in Matthew 4 (R. T. France The Gospel of Matthew 2007 p142) “It also emphasizes the link between His Galilean location and the dawning of the light, which in the Isaiah context is the prelude to the great messianic prophecy of the child “born to us” who is called “wonderful counselor “the name is taken as referring to Jesus and Messianic prophecy. The full verse “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” is quoted in the libretto of Handel’s Messiah.
The uncommon term “El-gibbor” is typically translated as “Mighty God.” (R. T. France The Gospel of Matthew 2007 p142 “It also emphasizes the link between his Galilean location and the dawning of the light, which in the Isaiah context is the prelude to the great messianic prophecy of the child “born to us” who is called “wonderful counselor,..” Gibbor Gesenius, Franz Delitzsch Biblical commentary on the prophecies of Isaiah 1877) And (W. O. E. Oesterley The Evolution of the Messianic Idea: A Study in Comparative Religion. London: Pitman, 1908).
Many reach a wrong conclusion because in most of our English translations, the phrase “el gibbor” [or as many prefer, EL gibbowr] is rendered as a separate name/title, usually with capitalization, “Mighty God”, “the Mighty God”, or sometimes “a Mighty God”. Thus the claim is often made that since there is only one “God”, thus Jesus is here being called the Supreme Being. Of course, one has to either deny or ignore the dual usage of the Hebrew word EL, as well as the context of Isaiah 9:6, which distinguishes the only true God from the one whom the only true God gives as a son. Our Trinitarian and Oneness believers are quick to point out that the same phrase is used of Yahweh in Isaiah 10:20,21 (some also point to Jeremiah 32:18).
Some claim that this phrase is only used of Yahweh in the Old Testament scriptures. As we shall see, this is misleading, to say the least. The same Hebrew phrase is used also in Ezekiel 32:21, although gibbor is plural in this verse, (elei gibborim) to accommodate the fact that more than one is being spoken of. In this verse, as far as we know, no English translation renders the Hebrew word EL as “God”, but rather with its general meaning of “might”, “power”, “strong”, etc. The King James Version renders the Hebrew phrase (two Hebrew words) in Jeremiah by using five English words: “The strong among the mighty”. In other words the King James translators recognize that the word EL here is not referring to the Supreme Being, but rather that it is being used of generic “strength”, thus they rendered it as “strong”. Similarly, the World English Bible translation renders the verse as:
The strong [ELIE] among the mighty [GIBBORIM] shall speak to him out of the midst of Sheol with those who help him: they are gone down, they lie still, even the uncircumcised, slain by the sword.
Jay Green’s interlinear (word-for-word) rendering is: shall speak to him The strong [EL – Strong’s #410] of the mighty [gibbowr – Strong’s #1368] from the of midst Sheol.
Here we have the phrase El GIBBOR, although it is plural in the Hebrew, it is the same basic phrase of Isaiah 9:6, speaking pictorially of the kings who had already lost their rulership to the king of Babylon, as though they were in a death-like condition in sheol. The New Living Bible translates this phrase as “mighty leaders”. The New Century translation renders it: “the leaders of the mighty ones.” Rotherham renders it: “the chiefs of the mighty.” The Geneva Bible renders it: “The most mighty & strong.” The Bishop’s Bible translates it: “The mightie worthies.” Wycliffe renders it: “The myytieste of stronge men.” Most translations render it something like “the strong among the mighty”.
Using these translations of Ezekiel 32:21 as a pattern, EL GIBBOR in Isaiah 9:6 could also be rendered “Mighty and Strong”, or “Mighty One of Strength”, especially since the context shows that the one being spoken of is not the only true God, Yahweh. However, with the reasoning often presented, that EL GIBBOR can only apply to Yahweh, then by this same manner of reasoning we should conclude that all the kings pictured as speaking from sheol are Yahweh the only true God. The fact is that the reasoning is false; EL, when used of others than Yahweh, takes on a general meaning of strength, might, power, etc., and thus EL GIBBOR can be used of others without designating them as the Supreme Being.
The exponents of this view claim that if we notice the above texts carefully and critically, all will agree that the context in every case shows the meaning of the Hebrew word EL to be powerful one or mighty. And we also have the statement in the last three quotations that Yahweh is the Supreme “EL” [the Supreme Being] and rules over all other ones called “el” – powerful ones or mighty ones. And it should be noted that Yahweh (Jehovah) is the name applied to none other than the Supreme Being – our Father, and him whom Jesus called Father and God. (John 17:1,3: 20:17; Psalm 110:1; Matt. 22:43-45; 26:64; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44; Acts 2:34; 7:55: Rom. 8:34; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:13; 10:12,13; 1 Pet. 3:22) The meaning then of the words “Mighty God” in our text, is: “He shall be called the Mighty One of Strength. And so he is, for to him the Father has given all power in earth and heaven. (Matthew 28:19, and 11:27) “He is Lord of all” – next to the Father for “The head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) All the things subjected to him, however, is with the evident exception of the Supreme Being who has given him this power. (1 Corinthians 15:27) Jesus and his God are one in mind, purpose, etc., because Jesus willingly submitted his own will to that of his God and Father (John 5:30) just as we also must willfully submit our own will, mind, spirit to that of the Father if we would be made heirs and sons of God.
What about Isaiah 10:21 and Jeremiah 32:18? Yes, this phrase is applied to Yahweh in these two verses, and we believe that in Isaiah 9:6, it is also applied to Yahweh, the one who sent Jesus. (Isaiah 61:1) But even if one applies EL GIBBOR in Isaiah 9:6 as separate name or title to Jesus, it would not mean that Jesus is Yahweh, but only that Jesus is a mighty one, as shown above. Of course, Yahweh, being the Almighty, is most certainly a Mighty One of Power, so the title is applicable to him. Surely the phrase EL GIBBOR *can* be used of Yahweh. This does not mean that it cannot be also used of the Messiah as the one anointed by Yahweh. (Psalm 2:6; 45:7; Isaiah 61:1; Acts 2:36; 4:27) Isaiah 9:7 shows that Yahweh is the one who causes the name of Isaiah 9:6 to be called upon the Messiah, thereby distinguishing between Yahweh who send the son from the son who is sent.
This does not mean that the same title, if applied to Jesus, means that Jesus is the Supreme Being, any more than it means that kings spoken of in Ezekiel 32:21 are Yahweh. The big difference of application to Yahweh from its application to the Messiah is that the position of the Mighty One of Power in Isaiah 9:6 is a position and name given to Jesus by Yahweh, the only true Most High. Add to this the fact Yahweh is distinguished in the context from the Messiah being spoken of in Isaiah 9:6. (Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:1-5; Luke 1:32; John 5:22,23,27) Jesus is not the Most High; Jesus is the Son of the Most High.
While the rendering of the words indicate “EL” giving “el”…As quoted earlier; “Surely the phrase EL GIBBOR can also be used of Yahweh – In this they must admit! Yet to prove or enhance their ideology they also claim that EL GIBBOR can also be used of the Messiah as the one anointed “by” Yahweh.” By using the term “by” they are insinuating that “EL” is separated from the person being sent. Hence we have the mixture of the ever popular verse of John 3:16 with that of Colossians 2:9 & I Tim 3:16.
Yet, some would claim that Even if these verses refer to God, it does not mean Messiah is God, they are given as a name, not as a character. The question whether this refers to Messiah or not should not be asked, since many ancient Jewish commentators clearly see this as referring to the Messiah. The most important question to ask is, “Does this verse reveal the nature of Messiah, being God”?
The whole conclusion to the matter is this: the meaning of the Hebrew word ‘El’ is the powerful one or mighty. And we also have the statement in the last three quotations that Yahweh is the Supreme “El” [the Supreme Being – according to them] and rules over all other ones called “el” – powerful ones or mighty ones. However, this is where the error begins. They take the one-sided approach; not such as in the meaning of the terminology; Pele-joez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom (Hebrew: פֶּלֶא יֹועֵץ אֵל גִּבֹּור אֲבִיעַד שַׂר־שָׁלֹֽום) but rather the conclusions upon which some would rest their faith in.
At this injunction one should remember that “El” has declared that there is none by His side, there are no other “El” beside Him, there are no other “el” beside Him either – great or minor. There are no other God’s or god’s beside Him. It is also recorded that God is the only Saviour (Isa 43:10-11, 45:21-22, Isa 45:5, 60:16) and writings.
But yet we are all in full agreement that Jesus is the Saviour and Redeemer of men. So why would “EL” go against His own word? UNLESS JESUS IS “EL.” Moreover, why would some render unto EL – who is “Father” – the verses in Isa 42:8, Ex 20:5, 4:4 that He is a jealous God and will not share His glory? when this is referring to Yahweh, not EL. Yahweh shares not his glory, but EL does – since it is said and written that Jesus reveals the Father – “He who see me sees the Father.”
The very term “Beside Him” there is no Saviour contradicts want Jesus said of Himself when He declared, “And you shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of Heaven”. But if we are to believe that the Scriptures contain no contradictions when properly interpreted through the fine art of hermeneutics, the term “beside Him” indicates that Christ Jesus is God – For it is written that Jesus sits at the right hand of God. Numerous passages in the New Testament tell us Jesus sits at the right hand of God (Acts 2:34, Psa 110:1). According to Acts 7:55, Stephen looked up into the heavens while being stoned to death and “saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.“ What does this phrase mean? Does this mean that there are two physical or spiritual manifestations of God in Heaven, God and Jesus, with the latter perpetually stationed on the right hand of the former? Is this what Stephen saw?
A physical interpretation of “the right hand of God” is incorrect. First, no man has seen God at any time, nor can a human see Him (John 1:18, I Tim 6:16, I John 4:12). God is a Spirit and as such He is Invisible (I Tim 1:17). He does not have a physical right hand unless He chooses to manifest Himself in a human form as He did in the Incarnation. We know Stephen did not literally see God apart from Jesus. If he saw two persons, why would he ignore one of them, praying only to Jesus? (Acts 7:59-60). If he saw separate physical manifestations of the Father and the Son, why did he not see the Holy Spirit as a 3rd person?
A careful reading of Acts 7:55 will support the statement that Stephen did not see God apart from Jesus. Verse 55 does not say Stephen saw the Spirit of God, but tells us that he saw “the glory of God” and Jesus. In verse 56 Stephen said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.” The only visual image or person Stephen actually saw was Jesus Christ.
Other problems arise if we take “the right hand of God” in a physical sense. Is Jesus sitting on the right hand of God as recorded in Acts 2:34, or is Jesus standing on the right hand of God as recorded in Acts 7:55-56? Is Jesus sitting on top of God’s outstretched right hand or is Jesus sitting next to God’s right hand? Is Jesus in the Father’s bosom? (John 1:18). What about Rev 4:2, which describes one throne in Heaven and One who sits on that throne? Does the Father sit on the one throne and does Jesus sit beside it? What about the fact that Jesus is the One seated on the throne? (Rev 4:2, 8 with 1:8, 18).
Moreover, a denial of His God-ship – so to speak, is a denial of His Incarnation & Deity – that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. For the word reconcile means to redeem that which was lost – the word redeem insinuates a Redeemer, thus echoing the words of that very same prophet, ‘Isaiah’ who declared that Jehovah is our Only Redeemer (Isa 60:16).
Yes, I have spoken from the Oneness viewpoint.
Note: The verses expressed above in the argument above can be found an compared in another study I conducted entitled, “How to Answer Those Who deny That Jesus Christ is God Almighty“
The Hezekiah Argument
Edersheim (1883) notes that this verse is applied to the Messiah in the Aramaic Targum. (Alfred Edersheim The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah 1883). In rabbinical interpretation, such as Joseph Herman Hertz (1968) citing Rashi and Luzzatto, the name is taken as referring to the ‘crown prince.'(Joseph Herman Hertz The Pentateuch and Haftorahs 1968) “This clearly indicates that the ‘crown prince’ is the person referred to. pele-joez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom. i.e. Wonderful in counsel is God the mighty, the Everlasting Father, the Ruler of Peace (Rashi and Luzzatto)”This clearly indicates that the Rashi, having applied Emmanuel to Hezekiah also applies the Pele Yoez, “Wonderful Counselor” prophecy to Hezekiah, saying that God “called the name of Hezekiah “Prince of Peace”. (Géza Vermès Studia post-biblica 1959 p62; reprinted in Scripture and tradition in Judaism: Haggadic studies 1983 p62)
In the Greek Septuagint the name is translated, “Messenger of Great Counsel” as a description of the prince: “he shall be named Messenger of Great Counsel, for I will bring peace upon the rulers, peace and health to him.” Septuagint LXX Is.9:5 [i.e.9:6] ὅτι παιδίον ἐγεννήθη ἡμῖν υἱὸς καὶ ἐδόθη ἡμῖν οὗ ἡ ἀρχὴ ἐγενήθη ἐπὶ τοῦ ὤμου αὐτοῦ καὶ καλεῖται τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ μεγάλης βουλῆς ἄγγελος ἐγὼ γὰρ ἄξω εἰρήνην ἐπὶ τοὺς ἄρχοντας εἰρήνην καὶ ὑγίειαν αὐτῷ translation Tessa Rajak Jewish perspectives on Hellenistic rulers 2007 p261 “Because a child was born for us, a son also given to us, whose sovereignty was upon his shoulder; and he shall be named Messenger of Great Counsel, for I will bring peace upon the rulers, peace and health to him.” NB translation accords with that, or may be following Géza Vermès Scripture and tradition in Judaism: Haggadic studies. p62 1959, 1983.
The Jewish interpreters see the meaning here much different from Christians. Some interpreters see these verses fulfilled in Hezekiah, the royal son, who sat on the throne of David, where his father Ahaz sat.
Hezekiah being the one prophesied here can-not be the case, since Isaiah is commonly thought to have been written between the 8th & 7th cent (740 – 681 B.C.). Isaiah was recorded and written during the time of Hezekiah, not before. Isaiah’s career began in c.740 B.C. & ended in c. 681 B.C. Isaiah also predicted the Fall of the Babylonian Empire 100 years before its rise. Contemporaries include: Micah, Amos, Jonah, & Hosea.
During these times there were many prophets, both major and minor. For example, Ahijah; who is considered a minor prophet, predicted the rise and conquest of Israel under the Neo-Assyrian Empire under Tiglath-Pileser III and Shalmaneser V during the reign of Jeroboam II and Pekah 732 BC and 721 BC respectively, (I Kgs 14:14-16, 2 Kgs 15:29). Sometime later in 705 BC – 701 BC, Sennacherib, king of Assyria attacked Judah and Jerusalem (2 Kgs 18:13-16) during the reign of Hezekiah, a godly king as recorded in (2 Kgs 19:14-19, 2 Chron 24:26, 32-33, 29:20-36). However, Sennacherib did not succeed in taking Jerusalem captive or destroying it as the prophet Isaiah predicted because of Hezekiah’s prayer (2 Kgs 19:5-7, 20-37, Isa 37:21-38). This period is often referred to as the Assyrian Crisis. During the reign of Hezekiah, this same prophet, ‘Isaiah’, according to ‘Halley’s Bible Handbook’, “Predicted the rise and fall of another kingdom called ‘The Babylonian Empire’ a hundred years before its rise” (293). The prediction is most likely from the very mouth of Isaiah himself (Isa 13, 14:4-22, 21:1-10).
I use the term ‘from the very mouth of Isaiah’ because according to Moreover, according to the ‘The Nelson Study Bible’, “Critical scholars have concluded that there were two or three different authors for the book of Isaiah. The first being called the so called Proto-Isaiah (or “first Isaiah”) covering chapters 1-39 (which obviously includes Isaiah 9:6, 7:14). The second is called Deutero-Isaiah (or “second Isaiah”), which covers Isaiah’s message to the discouraged exiles in Babylon – chapters 40-55. The rest of the book, chapters 56-66 addresses the controversies that surrounded the postexilic community in the second half of the 6th cent BC. Thus, this last section is called the Trito-Isaiah (or “third Isaiah”) (109).
Other Jewish interpreters clearly see Isaiah 9:6 as messianic in nature, the names referring to the Messiah according to the Talmud and Midrash, upon which I do agree. Abraham ibn Ezra, a Jewish scholar born in 1089 A.D. in Spain, wrote a commentary on the Bible to help Jews understand the Bible from a literal perspective.
Abraham ibn Ezra agrees the names refer to the Messiah. Michael Brown’s work, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus volume III quotes Ibn Ezra’s views on this verse, he has the following footnote regarding the names of Messiah, quoting from Talmudic and midrashic sources.
“The names applied in Isaiah 9:6 (5) reflect both the character and nature of Messiah. Isaiah 7:14, and 9:6-7 shows the Messiah to be, “Son of Man” and “Son of God’, who died for the sins of the world, to reconcile man and God”. Did not Jesus say, “I will draw all men to me” – in this case the argument of final reconciliation between God and Man is established
The reason we know this verse is clearly messianic is because it refers to the everlasting throne of King David. This characteristic is unmistakable in Scripture. To deny these verses as messianic, would be to deny scripture itself. Lets examine the nature of the this child’s authority.
1. Government will be upon His shoulder
2. Increase of His government and peace There will be no end
3. Upon the throne of David
4. Over His kingdom
5. Establish it with judgment and justice
6. Even forever
First, if this verse is not talking about the Messiah, then whom is it talking about? The Messiah according to scripture will do everything mentioned here. Just ask yourself these questions,
1. Can there be two eternal kings, sitting on one throne of King David?
2. If the government is on His shoulder for eternity what does the Messiah do?
3. Since this person is over David’s kingdom, who whose kingdom is Messiah over?
No, clearly this is Messianic in nature, the eternal nature of the throne makes this verse non-sense if applied to another person other then Messiah. The Lord, through Nathan the prophet proclaimed to David, about his descendent, his throne would be eternal.
13 “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2 Sam. 7:13
Jeremiah refers to the descendent of David as the “Branch” clearly understood by Jewish interpreters to refer to the Messiah. (See also Isaiah 11:1, Zechariah 3:8, Zechariah 6:12)
Jeremiah 23:5-6 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: The Lord our Righteousness.
“He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever (II Sam. 7:13).
Look for the upcoming study “Son of God & son’s of God: Just What Does the Term Mean? Whats the difference?” Which will most likely cover the Isaiah 7:14 & Matthew 1:23 controversy.