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Why do English Bible translations say, "a child IS born" or "WILL BE born" in Isaiah 9:6 when the original Hebrew translation says, "WAS born" (happened already)?

Jewish rabbis claim the original Hebrew verb tense was in perfect (happened already),  "....a child WAS born.....a son WAS given....."   They claim that modern English translations that say "....a son IS born..." or "...a son SHALL BE born..." is incorrect.  Why the change in verb tense?

Isaiah 9:6

ESV - 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Clarify Share Report Asked September 15 2018 Mini E Chiang

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Mini Tim Maas Retired Quality Assurance Specialist with the U.S. Army
I have not studied Hebrew grammar, but my understanding is that Isaiah is speaking in this verse in a tense known as the "Prophetic Perfect". Normally, use of the perfect tense of a verb refers (as it does in English) to a completed or past action. However, Hebrew (again, as I understand it) does not have this same structure, or time orientation.

When the Prophetic Perfect is used, the speaker is referring to the events of which he is speaking as if he were in the future, where the events he is referring to have just happened, and he has already seen them. The English translation of the verbs in the passage cited (as in other similar passages) using verbs in the present or future tense is intended to convey this orientation.

Other examples of the use of this idiom include Isaiah 5:13 (where the prophet is speaking of Judah's future captivity as if it has already occurred); Isaiah 10:28-32; and Amos 5:2.

September 25 2018 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

My picture Jack Gutknecht ABC/DTS graduate, guitar music ministry Baptist church
Compare Isaiah 9:6 with Isaiah 9:1 Net Bible

("The gloom will be dispelled for those who were anxious. In earlier times he humiliated the land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali; but now he brings honor to the way of the sea, the region beyond the Jordan, and Galilee of the nations."--Isa 9:1)

tn (textual note) Hebrew: Just as in earlier times he humiliated…, [in] the latter times he has brought honor.” The main verbs in Isaiah 9:1-4 (especially Isaiah 9:1b-4) are Hebrew perfects. The prophet takes his rhetorical stance in the future age of restoration and describes future events as if they have already occurred. To capture the dramatic effect of the original text, the translation uses the English present or present perfect.

Edward J. Young writes about Isaiah 9:6, "We must note again how impressive this fact was to Isaiah. He speaks of the birth as though it had already occurred, even though from his standpoint it was future. We know that Isaiah is not speaking of a past occurrence, for the simple reason that to do so would not yield a good sense. Whose birth, prior to Isaiah’s time, ever accomplished what is herein described? To ask that question is to answer it. Furthermore, we must note that the Child whose birth is here mentioned was also the One whose birth had been foretold in chapter 7."

October 12 2019 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

20180803 152352 Kevin Brown
Hi, you've got to remember several things. 1.The book of Isaiah is an 8th century b.c. inspired book of scripture. 2800 years and It's God breathed, and God is looking forward and backward in our little world since he is outside time constraints. 2. Our language changes with every generation. We don't even speak English, we speak American. 3. The Hebrews don't have vowels in their words, which poses problems for translators. 4.It has to be read in the context of the timeline, before and after to get the meaning accurate. 5.If you don't like the translation it's in, then you have to do like I'm doing, and start searching for the most accurate translation. I have a problem with - a or the - in the scripture of Daniel 9:27. (a covenant or the covenant) Most translations have "a covenant," but translations 2 say "the covenant," and the problem is that one of them is the KJV and I like that translation. 

So my quandary continues. Good luck with yours. God Bless.

May 15 2020 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Dale's black and white Dale Casselman Christian/Circus Clown
It is because it has already been ordained by God, and therefore it is done already. Just as prophesy can be certain that something will come to pass, because God has ordained it to come to pass. It is considered done with God.

Remember, God is not bound by time, and He sees what is. I mean, sure He sees it all start to finish. But, once ordained by God, it is finished.

We are bound by time and space, therefore we see these things as coming and going, in retrospect to our position.

Hope that helps. It has nothing to do with the original Hebrew Latin or Greek.

November 24 2020 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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