"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
The Trinitarian Claim
Trinitarians claim the name given to the child-son Messiah in this verse is also descriptive of that child and therefore this verse is prophetically identifying Jesus as "Mighty God."
What the Evidence Will Show
The evidence shows that the name given to the child-son mentioned in this passage is not intended to describe or identify the child but intended to describe and glorify the One giving Israel this child-son, the one God of Israel, God the Father. And it is for that reason that the name includes the words "Eternal Father." The evidence will show that it was common for the Israelites to give names to children and places which did not describe the child but which rather honored their God and that the immediate context and the wider context in Isaiah shows this is most definitely the case here at Isaiah 9:6.
Many Debated Issues
Most people are unaware that there are several issues in this verse, most of them related to the Hebrew grammar, which are debated between Christians and also between Jews and sometimes between Jew and Christians. The following list shows some of the issues which are discussed.
- The tense of the Hebrew verbs (sometimes an issue among Christians)
- The lack of a definite article before the name (sometimes an issue among Christians)
- How the entire name should be understood and translated (usually not an issue among Christians)
- The translation of the Hebrew word Gibbor (sometimes an issue but only among Christians)
- The translation of the Hebrew word EL (an issue mainly among Christians)
- How the Jewish Septuagint (LXX) translation bears upon the intended meaning of this verse.
- How the ancient Jews understood this verse (i.e. Targums).
- Whether this verse is only about Hezekiah, only about Jesus, or whether it should apply to Hezekiah as well as Jesus.
- This verse is not mentioned anywhere in the New Testament although Matthew quotes the verses immediately preceding Isaiah 9:6 and he also quoted Isaiah 7:14.
- Who does the name describe? (1) God (not the child-son Messiah), or (2) the child-son Messiah? (an issue among Christians as well as between Christians and Jews).
The main issues discussed in this article are: (1) The meaning and translation of the Hebrew word EL, and (2) the intent of the name given to the child-son.
The Hebrews words EL and GIBBOR
The Hebrew words which are translated as "Mighty God" are the words EL GIBBOR. The Hebrew word EL is the word translated as "God" and the Hebrew word GIBBOR is the word translated as "Mighty" in major translations. The word GIBBOR is a Hebrew word which is often used to refer to the strength, heroic greatness, or might of someone in the sense of having a great or renowned reputation. The Hebrew word EL is a direct reference to the God of Israel in the majority of cases where the word EL is used in the Hebrew Scriptures. Since the Hebrew word EL is most often translated as "God" in many places in English Bibles, and as theos in the Jewish Septuagint, Trinitarians therefore claim it should also be translated as "God" in this passage. Indeed, they will often go as far as suggesting this Hebrew word is equivalent to our English word "God."
EL in the Hebrew Scriptures
The Hebrew word EL is used to refer to God for the majority of occurrences where we find this word in the Hebrew Scriptures. This is not surprising since God is the most mentioned character in the Bible and one of his names is "EL." However there are some facts that Trinitarian apologists usually do not disclose. This word is not always used to refer to God. El is used to refer to other gods, men, mountains, and trees. We would certainly not use the English word "God" to refer to men, mountains, and trees. This fact demonstrates that the Hebrew word EL is not equivalent in meaning to the English word "God."
A review of pertinent Scriptures illustrates how the Hebrew word EL is used in the Hebrew Scriptures to refer to the might, power, or strength of men, mountains, and trees.
"And Laban said to Jacob... It is in my power/might to do you harm."
"Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and fail with longing for them all the day; and it shall not be in the power/might of your hand to prevent it" (Deuteronomy 28:32).
"Now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children are as their children; yet we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have already been enslaved; but it is not in our power/might to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards" (Nehemiah 5:5).
"A Psalm of David. Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones, Give unto the LORD glory and strength" (Psalm 29:1).
"Your righteousness [is] like the mighty mountains" (Psalm 36:6).
"The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches" (Psalm 80:10).
"God (elohim) has taken stands in the assembly of the mighty ones (el); he judges in the midst of the gods (elohim)" (Psalm 82:1).
"Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power/might to do it" (Proverbs 2:27).
"I will give it into the hand of a mighty one of the nations" (Ezekiel 31:11).
"The strong/mighty (el) among the mighty (gibbor) shall speak of them."
"Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil upon their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power/might of their hand" (Micah 2:1).
Notice very carefully how the Hebrew word EL is used to describe a man's great strength as his "might" or "power," or to refer to other gods as "mighty ones" or "powers" or to refer to a cedar tree or mountain as "mighty." This word is used to refer to anything which is mighty or strong or powerful including God. Now if we are honest with ourselves here, we can see plainly that EL is not equivalent to the English word "God." It does not have the same field of intended meaning as the more specific English word "God" and they are therefore not equivalent terms. The English word "God" is not used to refer to men, mountains and trees. The Hebrew word EL can be used to refer to men, mountains, and trees. The English word "God" is a much more restrictive word and has a much more specific intention than the Hebrew word el.
The Hebrew words ELOHIM and EL are believed by scholars to mean, "strength," "might," or "power." Where the English word "God" can only be used with the intention of referring to God or gods with the specific intention of indicating divinity, the Hebrew word EL does not itself imply deity otherwise we would have to say that men, mountains and trees are deity. It has a much wider field of intended use and is something similar to our English word "power." While we can ascribe the word "power" to many people and things, we can also understand that God is "The Power" and "The Power of powers" (see Daniel 11:36). Or we can understand God is "the Mighty One" and other gods which people may wrongly worship are "mighty ones." The Greek word for "power" is "dynamis" from which we get our English word "dynamite." Mary refers to God as "The Power" at Luke 1:49 (dynatos) and a cognate of that word is used at 1 Timothy 6:15 (dynastes) which alludes to the idea of God as the "Power." To the Jews, God was "the Power" and Jesus was to sit at the right hand of "Power" (Matthew 26:64) which is a reference to sitting at the right hand of God the Father. In the mind of the Hebrew speaking Jews, their Creator was "the Mighty One" or "the Power", that is, EL.
The reason we often translate the Hebrew word EL as "God" is not because the Hebrew word EL is equivalent to the English word "God," or because this word itself means "God," but because this Hebrew word was often used in the Old Testament as an appellation to refer to God, and when we know by the context that it is a reference to the Supreme Being, we translate it as "God." In other words, we can translate it as "God" when He is obviously the "el" in question. However, this does not thereby mean that el means "God." "God" is not a literal translation of the word el since we cannot use the word "God" of men, mountains, and trees. A literal translation of el when it refers to God is "Mighty One." This fact is clearly shown below where Trinitarians themselves are translating the Hebrew word el as "Mighty One" when it is referring to God himself.
In the same way, we could take a book written in German that was about Adolf Hitler and translate it into English. Whenever we seen the word "Dictator" we could translate this into English as "Hitler." It is perfectly appropriate to do so as long as the context makes it absolutely clear the dictator in view is indeed Adolf Hitler. We do not have a license to translate the word "dictator" as "Hitler" when a text is actually referring to "Mussolini." He is not Hitler and the word "dictator" does not mean "Hitler." And this is precisely what happens when you translate the Hebrew word el. As long as it is referring to God it is quite appropriate to translate it as such. However, this does not thereby mean the Hebrew word el means God. Other things are el too. EL was an appellation the Jews used to refer to their Creator as "the Mighty One." If we translated the Hebrew word el into English as "mighty" every single time it occurs in the Bible it would be perfectly literal and perfectly accurate.
EL translated as "Mighty One" by Trinitarians.
The Trinitarian deception here is made manifest when it is observed that Trinitarian translations are very inconsistent and sometimes translate el as "the Mighty One" instead of "God" when it is referring to God Himself. This clearly proves the word el carries the primary meaning "might" or "power" and not "God." As proof of that fact, note the differences in the following Trinitarian translations of Joshua 22:22 and Psalm 50:1.
| Joshua 22:22|
The Mighty One, God, the LORD, the Mighty One, God, the LORD ! (NASB)
||The LORD God of gods, the LORD God of gods (KJV)
The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God. (RSV).
The God of gods--Jehovah, the God of gods--Jehovah (Young's Literal)
The Mighty One, God, Jehovah, the Mighty One, God, Jehovah. (ASV).
The God of gods, Jehovah, the God of gods, Jehovah. (Darby)
The Mighty One, God, the LORD! The Mighty One, God, the LORD! (NIV)
The LORD, the God of gods. (NASB)
The Mighty One, God, the LORD, has spoken (NASB)
||The God of gods, the Lord hath spoken (Douay-Rheims))
The Mighty One, God the Lord, speaks (RSV).
The God of gods--Jehovah--hath spoken (Young's Literal)
The Mighty One, God, Jehovah, hath spoken (ASV).
God, Elohim-Jehovah, hath spoken (Darby)
The Mighty One, God, the LORD ,
The LORD, the God of gods has spoken. (NASB)
Now here is a very critical question. If indeed Trinitarians have seen fit to translate the word el as "Mighty" when it is a direct reference to Yahweh God, why do they refuse to translate this word in the very same manner at Isaiah 9:6?
EL - The Babylonian King Nebuchanezzar
At Ezekiel 31:11, we are told God will deliver Israel over to the "EL" of the nations. Here Trinitarians refuse to translate the Hebrew word el as "God" because the word is referring to the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Note how Trinitarians translate this selfsame word el in this particular passage:
I have therefore delivered him into the hand of the mighty one of the heathen (KJV).
I will give it into the hand of a mighty one of the nation (RSV)
therefore I will give it into the hand of a despot of the nations (NASB)
I handed it over to the ruler of the nations (NIV).
Interesting isn't it? We must ask ourself why Trinitarians are so conveniently inconsistent. They demand that el should be translated as "God" at Isaiah 9:6 but will also refuse to translate the very same word as "God" at Ezekiel 31:11. Or put another way, they have no problem translating this word as "mighty" at Ezekiel 31:11 but refuse to do the very same at Isaiah 9:6. Carefully consider why.
In the very next chapter of Ezekiel, the words el gibbor are used in plural form. Here again the term is a reference to men and Trinitarians are quite careful to make sure they do not translate the passage as "Mighty Gods will say" but have instead something like "the leaders will say" or "the strong among the mighty ones" or some similar concoction.
The fact that Trinitarians translate the Hebrew word el to be convenient to their doctrine illustrates their so-called evidence is not evidence at all but a personal desire to promote their doctrine by dishonest means wherever they think they can get away with it.
Notice carefully how Isaiah 9:6 says "His name shall be called." Gabriel was an angel. His name is formed from the same two root words forming the two words we have in Isaiah 9:6, "gibbor" and "el." We would not then assume Gabriel is "God" because he has this name. Why then should we assume Jesus is God because he is named as such in this verse? The same is true of many Biblical characters. Elijah is formed from EL and a shortened form of YAHWEH that also appears in the book of Revelation. Shall we therefore conclude that the words "YAH" and "EL" indicate that Elijah is God? Samuel means "the name of EL." We would not assume he is God either. We must be careful with ascriptions applied to persons in the Old Testament. Names or titles containing the word el, and the like, do not necessarily identify that individual as the Supreme Creator Deity. And this is precisely the case in Isaiah 9:6.
The Septuagint Witness
Jewish Greek scholars translated this passage from Hebrew into Greek before the time of Christ and this translation is called "the Septuagint."
"For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, whose government is upon his shoulder: and his name is called the Angel/Messenger of great counsel: for I will bring peace upon the princes, and health to him" (LXX).
These Jewish scholars did not see this verse describing anyone as "God" in any respect. Rather they saw the verse describing an angel/messenger. The Greek Septuagint was a translation held in high esteem among Greek speaking Jews before the time of Christ. We know for certain this Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament was also heavily quoted by Jesus and his apostles who wrote the books of our New Testament. It was also the version used by the early Christians. We must also remember these Jewish scholars translated this passage before the time of Christ and so we can be sure they did not have an anti-Christian agenda. And very obviously, these Jewish scholars did not have any notion this passage was ascribing deity to anyone.
Now it is granted that the Septuagint translation does not attempt to translate the Hebrew text as literally as possible. Their translation of Isaiah 9:6 does not attempt to be a word for word translation. The Jewish scholars of that time were more concerned about presenting the intended concept and meaning of the verse rather than providing a word for word translation. And these unbiased ancient Jewish scholars did not perceive the Hebrew text to be describing someone as "God."
The Testimony of the New Testament Writers
Trinitarians would like us to all believe the New Testament writers wanted to indicate "Jesus is God" to their readers. If that is the case, one has to wonder why we cannot find even one of these writers ever mentioning Isaiah 9:6. If indeed these writers wanted us to know that "Jesus is God," and if indeed Isaiah 9:6 said the Messiah was "God," this verse more than any other would reinforce such a teaching. But we find not one single quotation of this verse in the New Testament.
Trinitarian apologists also conveniently forget that Matthew quotes the verses immediately preceding Isaiah 9:6:
"He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,
that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen."
(Matthew 4:13-16; see Isaiah 9:1-2).
Trinitarians like to claim that Matthew was promoting the deity of Jesus at Matthew 1:23 and Matthew 2:2. So then why did he not quote Isaiah 9:6? I think we all know that if Matthew had been working with the same mindset as one of today's Trinitarians he would have definitely not stopped short of quoting Isaiah 9:6. If anything he would have quoted Isaiah 9:6 and not the passage he did quote. However, he didn't because he wasn't promoting the idea that Jesus was God because he had never conceived of such an idea nor did he ever think Isaiah 9:6 asribed deity to the Messiah.
Another glaring inconistency in Trinitarian claims concerns their interpretation of the words they translate as "Eternal Father" in this same verse. In Trinitarianism, Jesus is not the Father. We must ask ourselves why Trinitarians would demand that Isaiah is promoting the theological idea that Jesus is "Mighty God" but they do not also consistently demand that Isaiah is promoting the theological idea that Jesus is the "Eternal Father." In order to try and escape the implications of this problem, Trinitarians spin an interpretation that Jesus is the Eternal Father, not as a person, but in a metaphorical sense. Interesting isn't it? Again we see that Trinitarian translations and interpretations are by design rather than by objective fact. While it is quite true that Isaiah did not intend to convey that Jesus is God the Father, Trinitarians do not approach the words el gibbor with the same consistency.
Lack of Scholarly Evidence
It is quite traditional for Trinitarians to appeal to "the scholars" (i.e. Trinitarian scholars) when such a problem is in view. We must remember that most major Bible translations are Trinitarian translations. Indeed, most major translations have "Mighty God" in this passage. Trinitarian apologists would like it very much if we simply accepted this "scholarship" as if it were an unquestionable fact and inquire into this matter no further. However, scholarship does not mean translating words as one desires but conveying the intended meaning of the writer, who in this case is Isaiah. Anyone can translate a verse to say what they would desire it to say. But to be true scholarship means they must have a reason for translating the verse as they do especially if they translate the very same word differently in other places.
While Trinitarian scholars translate this word el as "God" here in this passage, they do not translate this very same word el as "God" in several other passages of Scripture. We must ask ourselves "Why?" Any appeals to their scholars is rather worthless without also providing a scholar's justification for translating it as they do. The mere will of a scholar to translate it as such does not amount to viable evidence. They must demonstrate what Isaiah intended. They must also demonstrate their choice of translation is the only possible translation of the word el in this verse. If they cannot demonstrate this fact, this verse becomes entirely worthless as evidence for the Trinity since another possible translation would remain outstanding. This writer has never seen such evidence from Trinitarian scholars.
These scholars must also explain why they have translated this word el as "the Mighty One," or some similar term, in other verses where it is a direct reference to God but refuse to do so at Isaiah 9:6. Such evidence shows quite clearly that el can be translated in this way. What proof exists that el should not be translated as "mighty" or "power" or some similar term, in Isaiah 9:6 as they themselves translate it in several other passages? If scholars can present no reason for refusing to translate el as "Mighty", they have nothing but their own desire to translate it as they wish.
These are questions Trinitarians will want to avoid. Obviously, the evidence shows they translate el in a way that is convenient to their needs. When they want it to be a reference to deity they translate it as "God." And when they don't want it to be a reference to deity, they refuse to do so. When they want this word to be referring to God himself as "the Mighty One" they will translate el as such. And when el refers to men, mountains and trees, it would be far too inconvenient and revealing to consistently translate the word el as "God." And most importantly, it would be far to inconvenient for them to translate this word as "mighty" at Isaiah 9:6 as they have done in several other places of the Scriptures.
The Ancient Hebrew Reader
A good perspective to use on such an issue is to put yourself in the shoes of an ancient Hebrew reader and ask yourself what he would see when he reads the Scriptures. Would you know anything about the English word "God"? No you wouldn't. But you are quite familiar with the Hebrew term el. And you are not surprised when this term is used of men, mountains, and trees, in addition to Yahweh your God.
Think about this very carefully. A Hebrew reader who sees the word el in reference to a tree and understands this word to be the very same word he identifies his Creator. He is reading along through the Scriptures and finds this very same word used to describe other gods, men, mountains, and trees. What happens when he comes to these verses? Does he pause and change definitions for the word el from one verse to the next? Does he stop and think "God" in one context but think "might" or "power" in another? Of course not. He would have absolutely no reason to do so. Or does he simply know the Hebrew word el means "might" or "power" when it refers to God and when it refers to anything else? Intelligent and reasonable people can see the truth of this matter.
Summation of the Facts
- Scholars of the Hebrew language, including Trinitarian scholars, indicate the word el means "might", "strength", "power."
- Trinitarian scholars do not translate el as "God" in several verses of Scripture but as "might", "strength" or "power."
- Trinitarian scholars do translate el as "Mighty One" and not as "God" when the verse in question is indeed referring to God.
- The ancient Jews in an era before the birth of Christ did not translate this verse to mean the Messiah was "God" or any similar idea.
- Trinitarian scholars can offer no reason for refusing to translate the word el at Isaiah 9:6 as "Power" or "Mighty" or some similar term.
The Hebrew word el means something similar to our English words "strength", "might", or "power" where this word is used in the Old Testament to refer to the Creator God as "The Power," or "The Mighty One," just as the word is also used of the King of Babylon, the strength of men, and trees and mountains. In the same way, the cognate elohim is used of God, Moses, and the dead man Samuel. The Hebrew word el, does not, and cannot contain the concept of deity in the constellation of ideas associated with that word. Otherwise we have men, trees and mountains, and King Nebuchadnezzare described as "God" in the Bible. A proper understanding of Isaiah 9:6 recognizes the words el gibbor are intended to convey the idea that the Messiah is a "mighty warrior" or "powerful warrior" or "powerful mighty one" or "Mighty Power" or a similar idea. And if nothing less, there is so much evidence that demonstrates the words in question have so many different interpretation and translation possibilites, that these facts render the Trinitarian argument so pitifully disputable that one wonders how their apologists can present it with a straight face. The Trinitarian can offer no proof that this Hebrew word should be not be translated as "Mighty" or "Power"
here in this verse, just as they themselves have translated this word in many other places of Scripture.
Call for Discernment
Why are Trinitarians so enthusiastic about translating the word EL as "God" at Isaiah 9:6 but so loath to do so in several other verses of the Bible? Why do Trinitarians inconsistently so unwilling to translate the Hebrew word EL as "mighty" or "power" here at Isaiah 9:6 when they are so eager to do so in several other places of the Bible? Indeed, scholars say the meaning of the word El is "mighty" "power" "strength" yet this fact is ignored by Trinitarian translators. Since Trinitarians have themselves translated the Hebrew word EL as "mighty" or "power" in several places of Scripture, they have absolutely no justification for refusing to translate this word as "Mighty" at Isaiah 9:6. Hence their claim that Jesus is called "God" here is groundless and completely false.
The very fact that Trinitarians themselves suspiciously translate EL as "God" in one place, and as "mighty" or "power" in another, does it self render their evidence as useless. Moreover, we have seen that they themselves refuse to translate it as "Mighty" or "Power" here at Isaiah 9:6 when they have no qualms about translating it as such when it refers to God. If they have no misgivings about translating the word as "Mighty" when it refers to God why do they such misgivings when it refers to the Messiah? There can only be one reason. It would no longer be possible to claim this verse is evidence for their doctrine.
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty Power, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."