Is 7.14: Virgin or Young Woman?

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by Marcia, Jul 24, 2006.

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  1. Marcia

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    Someone posted this about the NET Bible on the NET Bible thread. I do not want to discuss the topic of inspiration of translations (which I do not accept) so much as the interpretation of this term, almah, which I thought means young woman or virgin. If anyone wants to discuss whether translations can be inspired, please start another thread.

    Doesn't the word here mean young woman, because it's a prediction of an actual birth that happened in the OT, but it is applied and quoted in the NT to refer to Mary, meaning virgin in that case? Please explain if you know!

     
  2. Salamander

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    The arguement that "young woman" be accepted disproves the idealologies of "updated English " and to be better understood ,since the idea of any young woman can mean she is not a virgin.

    The use of "young woman" actually attacks the voracity of the Scriptures by the ideal superimposed by MV advocates.

    Now, if we could just all "get along":tongue3:
     
  3. Pastor Larry

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    Actually I do know :D ... It was not a prediction of a birth that happened in the OT. The word may mean young woman who is not a virgin, but in Isa 7:14, it means virgin because 1) that was the only way it would be a sign, and 2) Matthew said it meant virgin.

    What other evidence do we need?
     
  4. Marcia

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    According to the NET Bible notes, the word translated as "sign" in Is. does not always mean a miraculous event as Isaiah uses the word elsewhere to indicate something that is not miraculous.
     
  5. Marcia

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    To be fair to the NET Bible, I think I should post their explanation for using "young woman" instead of "virgin"
    I do hope some people who have studied this and/or know Hebrew and Greek can respond.
     
  6. Marcia

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    Isn't God predicting to King Ahaz the birth of a son to him? It seems that is what is being said. This is from the NASB.

    It doesn't seem as though verses 15 and 16 would apply to Jesus.
     
  7. GeneMBridges

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    Marcia, this usually come up around Christmas, and those of us doing apologetics with skeptics/atheists get it all the time. So, this is a response I wrote I think last year that is framed to this being used as an objection to the virgin birth enunciated by an atheist.

    Alan Segal: "We can guess that the doctrine originated largely among Gentiles known to Luke and not among the Jews known to Matthew; in any event, it was not a universal Christian response to Jesus' birth."

    Really? Let's check this:

    Ignatius, who himself came from a church that was in contact with more than one apostle (Antioch) mentions the virgin birth when writing to other churches that had been in contact with more than one apostle (Ephesus, Smyrna). Aristides, also writing in the early second century, speaks of the virgin birth as something that characterizes the beliefs of all Christians.

    "But let us now return to where the Jew is introduced [in the writings of Celsus], speaking of the mother of Jesus, and saying that 'when she was pregnant she was turned out of doors by the carpenter to whom she had been betrothed, as having been guilty of adultery, and that she bore a child to a certain soldier named Panthera;' and let us see whether those who have blindly concocted these fables about the adultery of the Virgin with Panthera, and her rejection by the carpenter, did not invent these stories to overturn His miraculous conception by the Holy Ghost: for they could have falsified the history in a different manner, on account of its extremely miraculous character, and not have admitted, as it were against their will, that Jesus was born of no ordinary human marriage. It was to be expected, indeed, that those who would not believe the miraculous birth of Jesus would invent some falsehood. And their not doing this in a credible manner, but their preserving the fact that it was not by Joseph that the Virgin conceived Jesus, rendered the falsehood very palpable to those who can understand and detect such inventions." (Against Celsus, 1:32)

    Though Celsus rejects the virgin birth account, as we would expect, he attributes the virgin birth claim to Jesus Himself (Against Celsus, 1:28). Why would Celsus do that, if a large percentage of people credibly claiming to be Christians rejected it? (Origen refers to them as a small minority: Against Celsus, 5:61.) Perhaps Alan Segal should base his conclusions on evidence we actually have, not what he admits to being a "guess."

    We may find fascinating that Isaiah's Hebrew word alma (young girl) was translated by the Septuagint as parthenos (which can mean either 'young girl' or 'virgin'). And we may see this as important for understanding how the doctrine of the virgin birth may have taken root—perhaps the idea followed naturally from hearing the Christmas story proclaimed in Greek.

    Or maybe it's an accurate translation of the Greek word itself.

    1, Almah refers to one who has not yet borne a child and as an abstraction refers to the adolescent expectation of motherhood. It is never, ever used of a non-virgin.

    New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, William A. VanGemeren:


    The lexical relationship between hl;WtB] (bethulah) and hm;l][' (almah) is that the former is a social status indicating that a young girl is under the guardianship of her father, with all the age and sexual inferences that accompany that status. The latter is to be understood with regard to fertility and childbearing potential. Obviously there are many occasions where both terms apply to the same girl. A girl ceases to be a hl;WtB] (bethulah) when she becomes a wife; she ceases to be an hm;l][' (almah) when she becomes a mother.


    2. Bethulah means only a woman that still lived under her father's sponsorship, roof, and legal authority. In that day and age, this would sometimes imply virginity, but it would not have been the main focus of the word at all.

    From Louw-Nida:

    "virgin, i.e., a mature young woman that has never had sexual intercourse, and under the authority and protection of the father (Ge 24:16; Ex 22:15[EB 16]; Est 2:2)…young women, i.e., a class of young female, though the class may be virgins, the focus is on the youth group (Dt 32:25; Ps 148:12; Jer 31:13; Am 8:13), cf. also 1436…unit: tB' hl;WtB]...dear one, one cared for, loved one, formally, virgin daughter, a young woman who is loved by the father, with the associated meaning of being pure, innocent, and under the protection and care of the father (2Ki 19:21(2xs); Isa 23:12; 37:22, 22; 47:1, 1; Jer 46:11; La 1:15; 2:10, 13(2xs)

    Parthenosos:

    Louw-Nida:

    "an adult male who has not engaged in sexual relations with a woman - ‘virgin, chaste.’ ou|toiv eijsin oi} meta; gunaikw`n oujk ejmoluvnqhsan, parqevnoi gavr eijsin ‘these are men who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins’ Re 14.4. It is very rare that the same term can be applied to a man who has not engaged in sexual relations with a woman as is used in speaking of a woman who has not had sexual relations with a man. In fact, in English the use of ‘virgin’ as applied to a man seems strange. In many languages there is simply no term for a man who is a virgin, since such a state is regarded as being rather unthinkable. However, the first part of this statement in Re 14.4 indicates clearly the state of the persons in question.

    "a female person beyond puberty but not yet married and a virgin (though in some contexts virginity is not a focal component of meaning) - ‘virgin, young woman.’ hJ parqevno" ejn gastri; e{xei ‘a virgin will conceive’ Mt 1.23…In Ac 21.9 (touvtw/ de; h\san qugatevre" tevssare" parqevnoi ‘he had four virgin daughters’) the emphasis seems to be upon the fact that the daughters were not as yet married. (See 34.77.) Similarly, in Mt 25.1-11 the ten parqevnoi are unmarried girls desirous of participating in a wedding party, and the emphasis would seem to be more upon their being unmarried rather than upon their being virgins.

    From [BDAG]:

    "1. virgin Mt 25:1, 7, 11; 1 Cor 7:25 , 28, 34; Pol 5:3; Hv 4, 2, 1; s 9, 1, 2; 9, 2, 3; 5; 9, 3, 2; 4f; 9, 4, 3; 5f; 8 a1. After Is 7:14 (hr;h; hm;l]x'h; ; Mt 1:23 . Of Mary also Lk 1:27a, b; Of the daughters of Philip parqevnoi profhteuvousai Ac 21:9.—On 1 Cor 7:36-8 cf. gamivzw 1 and s. (parq. often means [virgin] daughter… refers to one’s ‘sweetheart’; as well as the fact that parq. can mean simply ‘girl’ [e.g., Paus. 8, 20, 4]). —The Christian Church as parqevno" aJgnhv (aJgnov" 1) 2 Cor 11:2 2. Also used of men who have had no intercourse w. women; in this case it is masc. gender chaste man

    [FONT=&quot]The reason Matt. translates "almah" as "parthenos" is because "parthenos" is the appropriate word, nothing more, nothing less.

    [FONT=&quot]For more detail see: http://www.christian-thinktank.com/rberry1.html (The skeptic is the one who is writing in bold).

    See here too for LOTS of detail: http://www.christian-thinktank.com/fabprof2.html

    (Scroll down for the traditional view...Miller is covering several views here, before he gets to that one).
    [/FONT][/FONT]
     
  8. Keith M

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    Not necessarily so, Salamander. Your generalization is far too broad. I am staunchly against the KJVO myth, yet when I examine a "modern version" as you call it, Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23, John 1, and John 3:16 are always considered. I do not blindly support every reading of every so-called "modern version," no more than I support every reading found in the KJV.
     
  9. robycop3

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    i have been told by a rabbi that an 'almah' is a "high-quality" young woman, & that her virginity is a gimme if she's single. The implication that the almah of Is. 7:14 is a virgin is clear, since no man is mentioned, and since many newlywed almahs conceive, a married almah conceiving would be no special sign. He said while any virgin could be a 'bethuwlah", only young women of high character could be an almah....a bethuwlah could be an idol-worshipper or other evildoer.

    This is bearing in mind that this rabbi doesn't believe the Messiah has yet been born.
     
  10. Pastor Larry

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    There's nothing in the text that indicates the son would be born to Ahaz.

    These verses reference a time frame for what is to come. Remember, to Isaiah, the virgin is currently pregnant. The text does not say "will conceive" but "is pregnant." She is a virgin and pregnant at the same time. Since, in Isaiah's mind, the virgin is pregnant, he establishes the time frame off of that.

    There was no virgin birth in Isaiah's time. And Matthew says it was a virgin birth. Whatever it might be, it cannot be both.
     
  11. Hope of Glory

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    This is the way the difference has always been explained to me, and it was explained to me by a Jewish professor from Israel. See Genesis 24:16 and I think it helps clarify the difference. In Genesis 24:16, it's a bethule, and it has to be clarified that neither had any man known her.
     
  12. Marcia

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    I appreciate the responses very much but still have questions on this.

    Why would King Ahaz be given this prophecy about Jesus? It seems that what Isaiah said would have to make sense to him; God is not nonsensical. How do the last 2 verses apply to Jesus?

    Can't the prophecy mean that a virgin/high quality young woman would conceive and bear a son, meaning the son of Ahaz, and also be used as the prophecy for Jesus in Matthew?

    Don't you all believe in double-fulfillment prophecies? I was taught this in my church and at seminary, and I see other examples of this in the Bible.

    Also, please note what I posted earlier about the word "sign" and how it does not always mean a miracle in Isaiah.
     
  13. Brandon C. Jones

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    Marcia I happen to agree with the editors of the NET BIble as well. My Hebrew prof., totally disagreed with the "double fulfillment stuff" and he said the sign only referred to the birth of Christ. I am still unconvinced by these arguments as they seem to be theologically-driven rather than the product of grammatical-historical exegesis of Isaiah 7. A son was born to Isaiah (chapter 8 I believe), and while the child was still an infant/toddler Assyria conquered Israel-just as the prophecy promised. As to Isa 7:14 being fulfilled by Christ too, I think it's wise to study the meaning of "fulfilled" when NT authors quote the OT (cf. Acts and the prophecy in Joel...or the New Covenant in Jer with Heb 10, etc.) and perhaps our understanding of the usage of "fulfilled" could shed some light on what the NT writers meant when using this word regarding OT passages. This is a sticky issue in biblical theology, but a fulfilling one ; ).

    BJ
     
  14. Pastor Larry

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    He wasn't. In the text, the prophecy is not given to Ahaz, but to the ruling house. It was given to the ruling house as a confirmation of hte Davidic covenant. Remember, the threat was that the Davidic ruler would be removed from the throne (vv. 1-9). If that succeeded, teh Davidic covenant would have been broken. So God offers Ahaz a sign, which he refuses out of spiritual prialliance with Assyria for protection.

    But in the v. 14, the sign is given to "you" plural ... the ruling house, not Ahaz. He had already rejected the sign.

    As I said, the last two verses are about the time frame from the birth of pregnant virgin. In Isaiah's mind, the virgin is pregnant. Often, prophecy has a telescoping feature, where far events appear close. Isaiah is operating off that perspective. Thus, he gives the time frame from that view, even though the birth would not actually happen for 700 years.

    Yes, if a pregnant virgin is involvedin both cases. The "almah" can only mean one thing. It is either a pregnant virgin or not. It cannot be both. Since there was no pregnant virgin in the time of Ahaz, and since Matthew under hte inspiration of the Spirit says it was a reference to Jesus, we should take it as a reference to Jesus.

    I have never actually seen one of these that is demanded. I have seen people try to prove them, but they all fall short of actual double fulfillment. Language is univocal. It only means one thing in context ... whatever the author intended and what the original reader/hearer would have understood. It is the same way we use language today.

    [FONT=&quot]To determine the nature of the sign, whether miraculous or non-miraculous, further consideration must be given to the nearer context of the sign.[FONT=&quot][1][/FONT] In the larger context of Isaiah, [/FONT]toa[FONT=&quot] is used both of miraculous as well as non-miraculous events and, therefore, provides no real help.[FONT=&quot][2][/FONT] The immediate context sheds some light on the possibilities for Ahaz’s request should he have chosen to make one. In v. 11, he was given a generous range from which to ask: “Let it be as deep as Sheol or as high as heaven.” This “unfettered latitude of request”[FONT=&quot][3][/FONT] seems to indicate that a miraculous sign was at least a possibility if not an expectation. Delitzch says, “If this was to be attested to Ahaz in such a way as to demolish his unbelief, it could only be affected by a miraculous sign.”[FONT=&quot][4][/FONT] Presumably to Delitzsch, anything less than miraculous could simply have been written off by Ahaz as coincidence. To the mind closed to God, common occurrences or the accomplishment of humanly-devised plans appears only normal.

    [/FONT][FONT=&quot]It seems reasonable to conclude that a miraculous sign was not demanded to be requested by Ahaz . However, the virtually limitless phrase, “Let it be as deep as Sheol or as high as heaven,” certainly opens the possibility if not the expectation of a miraculous sign. It is hard to imagine that God, having offered a sign of any magnitude as a confirmation would have then sent a sign that could have been easily accounted for by something other than supernatural intervention. [/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot][1][/FONT]Among those arguing for miraculous are Young, Isaiah, 1:291; Alexander, Prophecies of Isaiah, 1:172. J. Alec Motyer, Isaiah, TOTC, ed. D. J. Wiseman (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 77; arguing for non-miraculous are R. E. Clements, Isaiah 1–39, The New Century Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), p. 87; Wildberger, Isaiah 1–12, p. 305; Gray, Isaiah I–XXVII, pp. 121–22; E. Hammershaimb, “The Immanuel Sign,” Studia Theologica 3 (1951): 135.

    [FONT=&quot][2][/FONT]7:11, 14; 20:3; 38:22; 66:19.

    [FONT=&quot][3][/FONT]Robert L. Reymond, “Who is the hmlu of Isaiah 7:14?” Presbyterion15 (Spring 1989): 2.

    [FONT=&quot][4][/FONT] Delitzsch, Isaiah, 1:214.



    In sum, given the context, a miraculous sign was most likely. There is no reason to suggest otherwise.
     
  15. Salamander

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    Argueing the semantics of the hebrew and the Greek by wahtever translations prior always ends up being determined by which rabbi one "goes with" on the subject. Most people don't get that involved except the "scholars" who pretty much like to argue semantics.

    The text is clear. The text is found in English. Teh text in Isaiah and Matthew both point to an event that would leave no doubt about Jesus being the Messiah due to His birth alone as the Only begotten Son of God.

    I know that is a theology subject, but Doctrine is established and profitable, while argueing semantics accomplishes very little.:praying:
     
  16. greek geek

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    Okay, here's another person's two cents worth…
    Before I state my view, I want to make it clear that I am a Hebrew student, pert near graduation with a ThM too. I do not claim to be an expert (by no means!), but the Hebrew language is a passion of mine and I study it dilegently. And I do believe that semantics are important….although sometimes people handle them incorrectly and base views on semantics that cannot support the view.

    I have studied this verse before, and I have heard both sides of the arguments before. So here's what I've learned and where I stand.
    Almah does not necessarily mean virgin nor does it exclude that the referred to is a virgin. In Hebrew it means 'young woman'. And in its context it can refer to a virgin.

    The Lord had just told Ahaz to ask God for a sign, of which Ahaz refused (not a smart thing to do). The sign was given (mostly) to Ahaz. When the Lord tells him to ask for a sign the singular is used in referring to Ahaz. When Ahaz refuses the Lord says "Listen now, O house of David…" the following plural "you" in verse 14 refers back to "house of David." "House of David" can refer to the whole lineage of David (2 King 17.21, 1 King 12.20). Or it can also refer to one person, such as David himself in 1 Samuel 20.16, where Jonathan makes a promise with David, but it is referred to as "house of David." Here Ahaz represents the whole lineage of David, as he is ruling. Further support that the prophecy was mainly for Ahaz is verse 16 where the prophecy once again uses the singular "you", the same is also true of 17.

    Most of our problems with this passage come from our understanding of how the New Testament uses the Old Testament.

    Take for instance Matthew 2.15 "He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON." (caps are from the nas translation)
    This is a quote from Hosea 11.1 which refers to Israel's exodus from Egypt not the Messiah, yet Matthew uses it to support the fulfillment of prophecy that happened in Jesus Christ.

    Or Matthew 2.18 "aA VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE." (again, caps are from nas translation)
    A quote from Jeremiah 31.15-17 that is, in its context, talking about the weeping of the Israelites because they have been dispersed among the nations. Jeremiah was not prophesying about Herod killing babies, but the pain of exile.

    We need a better understanding of how the NT writers used the OT. The typical understanding is far to simplistic and does not hold up. I believe that the NT writers were right in how they used the OT in the NT….but it's not as cut and dried as we tend to think. (Which is a subject for a different thread.)

    I believe that the prophecy about the almah was in reference to a female that was living at that point in time. The sign was given to Ahaz, and therefore would be something the he would see. A child was born sometime after this prophecy and before the child reached "adulthood" the prophecy given to Ahaz in the verses following verse 14 came true. As Ahaz saw this child grow (whoever's child it was) he would have been continually reminded of this sign…and he did see the fulfillment of it in his lifetime. After all why would God tell Ahaz…."some kid will born many years from now and before he reaches adulthood you will see the following judgement…" That really doesn't make since. God was giving Ahaz a sign and told him that he would see its fulfillment

    The prophecy also served a double role, in that it later received a later fuller fulfillment in the birth of Christ, who is the only one to be born of a virgin.

    ...there's my two cents.
     
  17. Ed Edwards

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    Amen Brother Greek geek -- Preach it! :thumbsup:
     
  18. Marcia

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    I thank all who posted, especially Brandon C Jones, Pastor Larry, and Greek Geek, who took time to post thoughtful responses with lots of info. It's very informative and helped me. I really appreciate it, guys! :thumbs:
     
  19. Hope of Glory

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    I think the same holds true for many (if not most) prophecies, particularly those in the Revelation.
     
  20. TC

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    Totally disengenius slam against all MV's

    The only other English translation that use young woman instead of virgin (that I know of) is the liberal NRSV. IMO - slamming all modern versions because of one or two is not very honest on your part.
     
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