Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth…

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The difference between us is that you say Israel was restored, and I do not. It certainly does not make sense to say that OT prophecy about a restoration of Israel in the sight of the nations of the ancient world took place. Plainly the nations saw the destruction of Israel, its capital, temple, land, government - in fact everything that constituted a nation at that time. The persecution and growth of the church was not a grounds for the nations to think that Israel was restored and continued, and nowhere in the New Testament is the church presented as such. We therefore have to ask in what sense can Jesus’s words about his followers “judging” the 12 tribes of Israel be understood? And what did Jesus mean by saying it was not for the disciples to know the times or seasons? Since there is not a single further reference to a restoration of Israel in the NT, we clearly have to take a different view of his meaning from a literal restoration - unless he was mistaken.

I take the view that the nativity stories were probably a later addition to the gospels, and the NT as a whole, hence no development of the incarnation. There seems to have been no awareness of the birth or early life of Jesus elsewhere in the NT. But anyway, the incarnation isn’t really part of what I was commenting on in your piece. I just thought the virgin conception was rather more than a prophetic sign. If a sign, a sign of what?

My main point about Ahaz and Isaiah 7 was that in context, the “sign” of Immanuel (the boy) was spoken against Ahaz, not for him, for not trusting or obeying the prophet’s words. It was a sign in a historical context. It was not a sign of a Messiah who would come several hundred years later. Matthew is taking the prophecy out of context and applying it to a new context which Isaiah had certainly not intended. We would call that a misreading of prophetic fulfilment. In his day, Matthew was engaging in 2nd temple exegesis, which was a way of interpreting scripture which his audience, Jews especially, would have understood and applauded. I don’t think it has anything to do with a supposed parallel between Assyria and Rome - which wasn’t borne out by events anyway.

The only way your understanding of a restoration of Israel makes sense is if it is yet to happen, since plainly it has not happened. Everything that constituted Israel as a nation state in the ancient world finished in AD 70. Even the Jews who survived and were scattered no longer called themselves Israel (in any literal sense). It would have been a contradiction in terms. From the church’s point of view, it never called itself Israel, because it wasn’t, and just as Jesus brought something entirely new and unforeseen as a way of fulfilling the OT and its prophecy, so the church continued to bring something entirely new and unforeseen as a way of fulfilling the OT and prophecy. To say otherwise is to be blind to reality and the most outstanding characteristics of Jesus himself, his followers, and the church.