The Christmas season is filled with many holiday traditions and religious celebrations, including the visit of many to churches for annual Christmas Eve services. In the mix of homilies and seasonal sermons, one text that often is cited is the prophecy of Isaiah 7, said to be fulfilled by the virgin birth in Matthew 1:23. Yet when reading the original context of Isaiah 7, many have had trouble with Matthew’s claim that it was indeed a prophecy, as the birth of the child originally functions to reassure the king in his particular state of distress over the threat of invasion.
While there are staunch defenders of the view that Matthew is claiming a direct fulfillment of Isaiah’s predictive prophecy, others have understood the passage differently. What is in question is not the virgin birth, which is a necessary component of the Christian gospel, but rather Matthew’s hermeneutical appropriation of the Old Testament.
Jim Hamilton, professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has argued that what Matthew envisioned in employing a fulfillment formula is not a “direct” fulfillment, but rather a typological fulfillment. I have found this article to be largely persuasive, and in the spirit of Christmas have linked to it below.