A "virgin" or a "young woman?"

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by USN2Pulpit, Nov 17, 2003.

  1. USN2Pulpit

    USN2Pulpit
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    Isaiah 7:14 (KJV) reads, "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."

    The phrase from Hebrew translated "a virgin" is in hebrew "haa' almaah." My question is this: This word (in my limited understanding) can mean a young woman or a virgin. And in the KJV, it has been used in other places to mean "damsel," "maid," or "virgin." How do we know that "a virgin" is the intended use here? Is it because of the corroboration of the New Testament, Mary being a virgin?
     
  2. NaasPreacher (C4K)

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    The Holy Spirit translates it for us in Matthew 1v23. In context parthenos must be translated virgin.
     
  3. Pastor Larry

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    1) Because the word used can mean virgon.
    2) Because the context is a miraculous sign, for which a normal birth to a young woman would not qualify.
    3) Because the NT makes it explicitly clear that a virgin is what Isaiah was talking about.
     
  4. Bartimaeus

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    Evangelist Jewell Smith (Kentucky) tells a story about a recent (last 20 years) incident concerning a rare manuscript of Isaiah. I cannot quote the story word for word nor can I qualify my statements, I am only going on memory. He said he knew of a manuscript of Isaiah being found and being put up for sale. I believe it was the Hassidic Jews (if I spelled that right) that came looking to purchase it. He stated that the one qualification that they used was Is. 7:14. He said they looked for the reference to a virgin not a young maiden to qualify it as authentic and correct.
    Jewell Smith at one time, and at the time he taught my college class on the scriptures, had the largest single private collection of old Bibles and Manuscripts in the United States. He was a tremendous speaker and teacher and I thank the Lord for him. I do not even know if he is still in the land of the dying or if he has graduated to the land of the living. Maybe some of you know who I am speaking of and can help me on some of this information.

    Thanks ----Bart "the dueling society was a polite society"
     
  5. BrianT

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    Yes, that's the main reason people want to see "virgin" in Isa 7:14. However, there are quite a few (myself included) that believe that contextually, Isa 7 is about a prophecy that is relevant and fulfilled in Ahaz's time (read the whole chapter), and that Matthew uses a Jewish-accepted Midrashic technique to apply the passage to Christ (just as he did in applying "out of Egypt have I called my son" to Christ in Matt 2:15, which is a "fulfillment" of Hos 11:1, which wasn't primarily or contextually about Christ either). Thus, "young woman" would be acceptable (and even preferable) in Isa 7:14 if it refers to a prophecy that was fulfilled in Ahaz's time, and the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to use the alternate meaning ("virgin") to apply "fulfillment" of it to Christ. (Note that "young woman" and "virgin" were basically synonyms in Matthew's day anyway, as young women were assumed to be virgins unless they were married or prostitutes.)

    Note that this understanding of Isa 7:14 does NOT detract from the virgin birth of Christ in the slightest, so don't jump on me. ;) I also know that this view is quite unpopular (for some reason I don't understand), so I won't say much more as I've already beat this to death recently with Pastor Larry. Perhaps someone can find that old thread if you're interested... [​IMG]
     
  6. Dr. Bob

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    Agree with the premise that the NT is the best commentator on the OT. The Greek quotation is exact (as is the Greek language). Hebrew is very inexact and more figurative/descriptive in nature and the NT clarifying it is common.
     
  7. go2church

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    I think you have to be careful not read the New Testament back into the Old Testament. In Isaiah 7:14 it should read young women and it does apply to the current situation Isaiah is writing to. In the New Testament it is used and should read virgin. It says what it says and there isn't any problem believing the virgin birth and seeing that Isaiah 7:14 should read young women. In this case it seems to me that you can have your cake and eat it too!
     
  8. TomVols

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    Could it be that it is more literal to say "young woman" but more accurate to translate as "virgin" in Isa 7:14?
     
  9. Johnv

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    The context is taken into consideration, the word should be "virgin". The implication is a young woman who has not yet had sex.
     
  10. Barry and Helen Setterfield

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    I find this discussion of interest. I have a number of translations in my possession, and one of them is a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek made about 250 BC. The important point about this is that the translators were themselves Jewish experts not only in the Tanach (Old Testament), but were also fluent in Greek. The translation from ancient Hebrew into Greek was not coloured by the theological climate that pertained after the Birth of Christ, so their understanding and hence translation of the text is of key interest to us in this discussion. In this Greek translation, the word used in Isaiah 7:14 to describe this woman is the word PARTHENOS - that is, VIRGIN. There is no other possible translation for this word. This was the expert Jewish mind on the matter. Parthenos is virgin in the New Testament as well. It is the word used for 'virgin' in both Testaments.

    Several other points need also be made. The definite article is used in this description in both the Hebrew and the Greek. In other words it reads "Behold! THE Virgin will conceive and bear a son..." In all human history, there has only one who qualifies as being called THE virgin.

    The other point that has also been raised is that this was a direct prophecy to Ahaz. As such, the logic runs, this passage must be referring to the birth of Ahaz' son Hezekiah. I have a record of some Jewish thinking on this matter. Some Rabbis consider that the entire sweep of Isaiah 7 to 9 considers this Child that was prophesied in 7:14 to be the same Child that is mentioned in Isaiah 9:6 as He is within the same context and the same prophetic announcement. Rabbi Zevi Ben Avraham stated that to ascribe the attributes of the Child in 9:6 to Hezekiah would be as ridiculous as "a child taking his first steps in his father's trousers!" On this basis, then, it seems that at least one section of Jewish opinion links Isaiah 7:14 with 9:6 purely from the continuity of the prophetic passage. Since 9:6 plainly does not describe Hezekiah, then both verses must be speaking of Someone far greater.

    I trust that this helps with the discussion of this passage.

    Barry Setterfield
     
  11. AllenLim

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    Just a thought... Could it be that the virginity is implied? I mean given the culture of the times, wasn't it likely that the "young woman" was also a "virgin"?

    If so, were the terms used interchangeably?

    p/s I could be completely wrong in which case... errrr.... have a good laugh [​IMG]
     
  12. Helen

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    Allen, that is what the fight is actually about -- the word "alma" which means virgin by implication because it means 'young girl.' That is why Barry said that when the Jews themselves, more than 200 years before Christ, chose to translate that word in Isaiah into the Greek "parthenos", which can ONLY mean "virgin", that this was probably the deciding point on the meaning of the word in Isaiah.

    So no, you were not running off on the wrong track; you were exactly right as to the cause of the argument by those who are not aware of the meaning the ancient Jews themselves chose!
     
  13. BrianT

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    Not quite Helen. For if the prophecy in Isa 7, in context, is about a maiden in Ahaz's time and the primary fulfillment was to happen in Ahaz's time, that young woman could be a "virgin" at the time the prophecy was given. Thus, the LXX can still read "parthenos", while the context is still about Ahaz.

    In my thinking, the question is not really about what is the proper word in Isa 7:14, but rather about what type of "fulfillment" Matthew is inspired to find in the passage.
     
  14. BWSmith

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    I think a lot of incorrect questions are being asked that are forcing misleading answers.

    Here is what is important to ask with regard to the Jew-vs-Christian word games revolving around Isaiah 7:

    Q) What is the purpose of "fulfilled prophecy" claims, as employed in Matthew's gospel?

    A) Validation of remarkable events through the assertion that prophets of the past have predicted them in their writings, and people who have not expected these events are not paying attention.

    Q) What did "almah" mean to Isaiah of Jerusalem when he wrote it?

    A) Unequivocally "young woman" and not "virgin" (Heb. betulah), although these are more terms of betrothal and neither directly specifies "virginity" in the sense of that English word.

    Q) What did the translators of the LXX (which Matthew used) mean when they wrote "parthenos" as the proper translation of "almah"?

    A) Apparently, they (Hellenized Jews living a few hundred years before Christ) interpreted "almah" as "virgin" (not young woman) and rendered it "parthenos". This interpretation was fully Jewish and went unchallenged for centuries.

    Q) Therefore, what did Matthew mean in drawing the connection between Isaiah 7 and the virgin birth of Christ?

    A) Matthew took an already-established Jewish interpretation of Isaiah 7 and connected it by its plain meaning, with no twisting of the passage required to force it to fit a Christian agenda.

    Q) Did Matthew inherit the wacky, pagan idea that a virgin birth would be a prophecy for the Messiah?

    A) Apparently not. There is no evidence that Isaiah 7 was ever used as a messianic prophecy before the Christian era.

    To sum up:

    Jewish apologists are correct that the original Hebrew of Isaiah 7 did not connote anything about chastity.

    However, Jewish apologists are incorrect (and dishonest) in asserting that their interpretation is and always has been "the" interpretation and the Septuagint (THE text of the diaspora) was a "mistake". The Septuagint represented a different Jewish interpretation. Eventually, anti-Christian polemics forced them to disown their own LXX and tighten the meaning of "almah" to a more anti-Christian interpretation.

    (It's the polemic equivalent of Presbyterians and Pentacostals agreeing tentatively that the Holy Spirit bestows tangible gifts on the congregation, but once the Pentacostals start performing healing services, the shocked Presbyterians deny ever having agreed on spiritual gifts.)

    So was the virgin birth predicted to those paying attention? Yes, if you consider that the Holy Spirit was working through the diaspora interpreters. (This further supports the inevitability that rabbinic Judaism would never accept Christ's revelation.)

    Whether the virgin birth actually happened is a separate issue, but what is relevant is that the parthenos interpretation in the LXX is both very old and very Jewish, and not the product of shifty-eyed Christian apologists desperately twisting the Hebrew Bible to validate the Lordship of Jesus.
     
  15. Barry and Helen Setterfield

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    In addition to the many other helpful comments made on this matter, there is one that emerges from a little digging in the Scriptures themselves. As noted above, there are those that feel that these comments refer specifically to Ahaz, his (probably virgin) bride, and the birth of Hezekiah. But an additional factor emerges when 2 Chronicles 28:1 is considered in the (oldest, or Alexandrian)LXX. This appears to give a more correct rendition of ages in this case, even though the following comments apply directly to the translations we have today. There in the LXX we are told that Ahaz was 25 when he came to the throne (our versions have it as 20). The passage also points out that Ahaz ruled for 16 years (same in all versions). This means that his reign ended when he was 41 (36 for our modern versions). All versions agree that Ahaz' son Hezekiah took over the throne at that point and that Hezekiah was 25. This means that Hezekiah was born when Ahaz was 16 on the LXX. In all versions, this means that Hezekiah was born before Ahaz began his reign. The conclusion is therefore that, at the time of the prophecy, Ahaz' wife was not a virgin, and Hezekiah was not the subject of the prophecy. Since no other son of Ahaz has been considered as a fulfillment of the prophecy, it becomes apparent that the prophecy points to something beyond Ahaz and Hezekiah. Furthermore, the inclusion of the definite article rendering it THE Virgin, must also point beyond the local situation.

    I hope that assists in assessing this passage.

    Barry Setterfield
     
  16. BrianT

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    Interesting info, Barry, and great research with the LXX - that's going in my files. [​IMG] However, I don't think anyone is saying that the prophecy MUST be about Ahaz's wife and Hezekiah. I've read ideas that maybe it was a woman espoused to Isaiah himself, another maiden in the room (a servant or something), or someone else.

    Note that the purpose of the prophecy, contextually, is to reassure Ahaz that the enemy kings conspiring against him would not be successful. Speaking about the prophesied child, Isaiah says "For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings." (verse 16) The opposing country was forsaken for both those opposing kings WAY before Jesus was born.

    Also, verse 14 says the child's name was "Immanuel". Christ's name was "Jesus", as given by the angel to Mary.

    I believe that in Ahaz's day, there was a child born, named "Immanuel", and that before that child was very old, the opposing kings were eliminated. It seems to me that I have to believe that, or else I have to believe that the prophecy was a lie to Ahaz.

    Actually, I really don't think so. Context. If I'm in my garage with my brother, and there is only one car present, and I say "THE car", I mean the car that is present and I certainly don't mean to imply that in all human history, there has only one that qualifies as being called THE car. [​IMG] For a more Biblical example, Rebekah is called "THE virgin" in Gen 24:43 (which was also a prophecy, no less). Deut 32:25 (also a prophecy) talks about God destroying "THE young man and THE virgin, THE suckling also with THE man of gray hairs" with the sword. Even Israel is called "THE virgin" in several passages.

    Don't misunderstand me, I do see some messianic content in the passage, but more of a "type" than a primary reference. God know the end from the beginning, and I believe he gave the Immanuel prophecy to Isaiah knowing (intending) Matthew would find "fulfillment" of that in Jesus - similar to Hos 11:1/Matt 2:15 like I mentioned earlier.
     
  17. Daniel David

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    I would just like to point out that the prophecy wasn't to Ahaz. The Lord offered Ahaz a chance to request a sign. He declined that opportunity.

    The Lord then said to the house of David...

    Then the Lord determined what the sign would be. A virgin will conceive, and that child will be the fulfillment of the promise to the house of David, made with David back in 2 Samuel.
     
  18. Nomad

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    I've always assumed that there was a dual fulfillment of this prophecy, one in the time of Isaiah (as the larger context suggests) and the other in the virgin birth of Jesus 700 years later. Dual fulfillments are not uncommon in OT prophecy.
     
  19. Rock

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    If Mary was a "Young Woman" ,but not a virgin, would you still be saved?
     
  20. Pastor Larry

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    Not exactly. Those same translators, in Gen 34, called Dinah a parthenon after she had been raped. Therefore, this is not the best argument to use. There are many good reasons why Isa 7:14 should be translated as "virgin;" this is not among them.
     

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