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PROPHECY AND CHRISTOLOGY IN OLIVI'S COMMENTARY ON ISAIAH 7:14 Isaiah 7: 10-17 presents a dispute between King Achaz and the prophet. The latter tells the king to request a divine sign, but Achaz refuses. The prophet also criticized the wavering stance of Achaz and his advisors; they had delayed in taking a stand for or against the Syrian-led coalition, and finally joined it1. Achaz had refused a sign verifying the truth of Yahweh's pledge to the Davidic house and therefore the prophet chided the king, and on Yahweh's behalf proclaimed the Immanuel 'sign." The text reads: The Lord will give you a sign in any case: It is this: the young woman is with child and will give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel. On curds and honey will he feed until he knows how to refuse the bad and choose the good (Isa. 7:14-15).2 Through the centuries scholars have debated not only the import of the "sign," whether it refers to salvation or disaster or both, but they also debated the precise meaning of the "sign." However, all agreed that verses 14-15 need not be seen as the presentation of a sign at all. They simply announce the imminent birth of a royal child and predict his survival. Certainly the name given to the child is symbolic; it expresses Yahweh's saving presence with the Davidic house. It is interesting that the prophet does not stop with the naming of the child but continues to describe how he will grow up (verse 15). It is this detail which 'Cf. A. S. Herbert, The Book of the Prophet Isaiah: Chapters 1-39 (Cambridge: The University Press, 1973), 64; J. H. Hayes and A. Irvine, Isaiah: His ), 133135 . 2In the third question of his introduction to Isaiah Olivi asks: "Tertio quaeritur qua translatione fuerit plus utendum, an scilicet translatione Septuaginta vel Hieronymi vel aliorum interpretum, scilicet Aquilae, Symmachi etc.," Peter of John Olivi on the Bible: Principia quinqué in Sacram Scnpturam, Postilla ¡? Isaiam et in I ad Corinthios. Appendix: Questio de oboedientia et sermones duo de S. Francisco, ed. David Flood, O.F.M., and Gedeon GaI, O.F.M. (St. Bonaventure, New York: Franciscan Institute Publications, 1997), 182 (=Super Isaiam). Like Augustine and Gregory, Olivi recommends using both translations, i.e. die Septuagint and Jerome. Thus, he comments on the book of Isaiah based on bodi diese translations. In my exposition of Isaiah 7:14, I use The New Jerusalem Bible (Doubleday and Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1985). 149 Franciscan Studies, 57 (1999) 150Zdzislaw Kijas, OFM Conv. seems to be of greater consequence than the name of the child himself, for it focuses on his identity as a royal prince as well as on his survival. That he is born of "the young woman" and expresses the likes and dislikes of normal children is not a sign that illustrates or guarantees the truth of the prediction itself. Through the centuries scholars have tried to explain how "the young woman" and "the Immanuel" are to be characterized as a sign. For the Christian scholars of the Middle Ages there was no question about the identity of "the young woman" designated by the Septuagint. She was clearly understood as "virgin" and was associated with the Virgin Mary. Meanwhile the "Immanuel" was understood to be neither the son of the prophet nor some other son, but the Messiah, Jesus Christ. In the theological texts of the thirteenth century, we find many references to this reading of Isaiah 7:14. Jewish scholars of that time presented a different reading of Isaiah 7:14. They rejected Jerome's interpretation of the verse and refused to accept the postulate that the person of "Immanuel" had any connection with the advent of the Christ. They also argued that the prophecy had to be related to Isaiah's own times and could not logically be separated from the context of the events narrated there. "They insisted on the relation between the verse and the attacks of Rezin, King of Aram, and of his ally Pekah ben Ramaliah, King of Israel, against the kingdom...


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