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Author Topic: "Almah" in Hebrew, "Parthenos" in Greek: The Case of Isaiah 7:14  (Read 15295 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: December 12, 2008, 04:08:39 AM »

So, I had a recent discussion, and I was given a Hebrew lesson on Isaiah 7:14.  The Masoretic uses the word "almah" and the Dead Sea Scrolls also use the word "almah."  According to Jews have said for centuries, the word "almah" really means "young woman," not virgin, which in Hebrew would be "bathulah".  Yet the Jewish fathers who wrote the Septuagint clearly uses the Greek word for virgin, "parthenos."

Why have the Septuagint fathers translated the word "almah" into "parthenos"?

Thank you in advance for your help in this question.

God bless.
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« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2008, 05:13:37 AM »

It is translated as "parthenos" because that is an accurate translation.

See this paper, "What Does Almah Mean?" by William F. Beck, a Lutheran.
http://www.wlsessays.net/files/BeckAlmah.PDF

Some additional resources:
http://www.christian-thinktank.com/fabprof2.html
http://www.oodegr.com/english/ag_grafi/parthenos1.htm
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« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2008, 05:48:39 AM »

So, I had a recent discussion, and I was given a Hebrew lesson on Isaiah 7:14.  The Masoretic uses the word "almah" and the Dead Sea Scrolls also use the word "almah."  According to Jews have said for centuries, the word "almah" really means "young woman," not virgin, which in Hebrew would be "bathulah".  Yet the Jewish fathers who wrote the Septuagint clearly uses the Greek word for virgin, "parthenos."

Why have the Septuagint fathers translated the word "almah" into "parthenos"?

Thank you in advance for your help in this question.

God bless.

Because 'almah had the connotation of virginity.  Maedchen in German had much the same, meaning "girl," "maiden."  Much like "jaryah" "slave girl, servant," in Arabic had the opposite connotation. Shocked

The translation predates the Church, so they can't accuse us of fixing the text.

As a side note, their is talk of the translation "pais" "boy, slave/servant," being a shift of the suffering servant, etc. to being understood as the child/son of God.
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« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2008, 07:00:00 AM »

Why would a "maiden" becoming pregnant be a "sign" from God?
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« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2008, 08:21:24 AM »

The translation predates the Church, so they can't accuse us of fixing the text.

Right.  This was THE passage that Christians used in attempting to talk with unbelieving Jews.  The Greek Old Testament was translated by Jews, for Jews, several hundred years before the Advent of Christ or the founding of the Church.  Furthermore, it was held by many to be an inspired translation, due to a legend of a miraculous degree of correspondence between translation manuscripts.  It was used by hellenized Jews in the Diaspora -- Jews who had been hellenized LONG before Christianity came around -- and thus was THE Bible of those large sections of Judaism, including those Jews who eventually came to believe in Jesus as their Messiah.

The choice, then, to see "almah" as "virgin" was not ours -- that of Jews who had seen their Messiah and wanted justification for it -- but rather theirs -- Jews who hadn't yet done so and had no vested interest in such a translation.
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« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2008, 10:59:23 AM »

Many Orthodox believe that the Masoretic text is not the original Hebrew text. I am not qualified to give an explanation on that though. However, it is obvious from the quotes that Christ used the Septuagint.
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« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2008, 11:26:48 AM »

Many Orthodox believe that the Masoretic text is not the original Hebrew text. I am not qualified to give an explanation on that though. However, it is obvious from the quotes that Christ used the Septuagint.
It's not. It diverges from the Hebrew text St. Jerome used 500 years earlier, from the Dead Sea Scrolls 400 years before that, and scraps a century earlier.  In all of the above, the Septuagint's Vorlage often agrees with these earlier versions.

One easy proof is Pslams 9 and 10 of the Masoretic: in the Hebrew they are a poem, with the verses going in alphabetical order.  As the present Masoretic text cuts off in the middle of the alphabet at the end of 9, to resume with the rest of the alphabet in 10, the original text was obviously one Psalm, as it is in the LXX.

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« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2008, 12:04:37 PM »

I've updated the "almah" tag, and the "Is 7:14" tag, to link to other threads with helpful information on this topic.
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« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2008, 12:06:59 PM »

I've updated the "almah" tag, and the "Is 7:14" tag, to link to other threads with helpful information on this topic.

Some quotes from the "Help on Isaiah 7:14" thread:

I know this is an old topic, but it's one that may be re-visited by some guest or newbie on this site, so I figured I'd bolster the argument a bit with some Patristic references (courtesy of the "Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament X (Isaiah 1-39)", S. McKinion (ed.), InterVarsity Press, 2004, pp. 60-64).

What Does Almah Mean? JEROME: Isaiah tells of the mystery of our faith and hope: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel."  I know that the Jews are accustomed to meet us with the objection that in Hebrew the word almah does not mean a virgin but "a young woman."  And, to speak truth, a virgin is properly called bethulah, but a young woman, or a girl, is not almah but naarah!  What then is the meaning of almah?  A hidden virgin, that is, not merely virgin, but a virgin and something more, because not every virgin is hidden, shut off from the occasional sight of men.27  AGAINST JOVINIANUS 1.32.28

27 For Jerome, the argument is over the proper understanding of the Hebrew word almah.  He contends it is used to speak of a virgin who is hidden to men.

28 NPNF 2 6:370.

From the same source:

Virgin and Sign THEOPHYLACT: The Jews say that it is not written  in the prophecy "virgin" but "young woman."  To which it may be answered that "young woman" and "virgin" mean the same thing in Scripture, for in Scripture "young woman" refers to one who is still a virgin.  Furthermore, if it was not a virgin that gave birth, how would it be a sign, something extraordinary?  Listen to Isaiah, who says, "For this reason the Lord himself shall give you a sign," and immediately he adds, "Behold, the virgin."  So if it were not a virgin that would give birth, it would not be a sign.  The Jews, then, alter the text of Scripture in their malice, putting "young woman" instead of "virgin."  But whether the text reads "young woman" or "virgin," it should be understood in either case that it is a virgin who will give birth so that event may be a miraculous sign.  EXPLANATION OF MATTHEW 23. 29

29 EBT 21.

From the same source:

The Birth is a Sign. CHRYSOSTOM: What precedes this passage also gives us its meaning.  He does not simply say, "Behold, the virgin will conceive."  First he said, "Behold, the Lord will give you a sign," and then he adds to it, "Behold, the virgin will conceive."  If the one who was to give birth was not a virgin but the conception occurred in the natural manner, then what sort of sign would this be?  A sign must be extraordinary and strange, or how else could it be a sign?  HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW 5.3 42

42 PG 57:57

Funny thing, I wrote on this quite extensively in an old blog of mine a few years back during Christmas time. It was a two part blog, the second part dealt with refuting Rabbinic Judaism's interpretation of isaiah 7:14....Let me paste it here for all to read and I hope it helps with the discussion here (Note: I wrote this during my Protestant days so ignore the parts where I say that "Chrsitains only follow the Bible" part in my intro....I don't hold the doctrine of "sola scriptura" anymore"):

" The Rabbinic Jewish viewpoint concerning the virgin birth of the Messiah

If there is one viewpoint that Christians and Messianic Jews need to take into serious consideration and be able to discuss, is that of our fellow Rabbinic Jewish brothers and sisters. We both share the same love and passion for the Tanakh and revere the message of the  Lord G-D Almighty through the Torah and the entire Tanakh. Problem being that we both see things a bit differently and the birth of the Messiah is definitely one of them. After thousands of years, we are still discussing these issues and us Christians must come to the discussion table in humility with our Rabbinic Jewish brothers and sisters and listen to them no matter how different our views on YHWH, the Lord G-D Almighty, the Law and his Messiah might be. Our roots are the same; we stem from the Ancient Biblical Jewish faith and we regard the Torah and the Tanakh as scripture and accept the truth of the revelation of the One True G-D of Yisrael. Both of our faiths took very different paths after the destruction of the Second Temple around 70 A.D. Christians simply follow the Bible, containing both the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament (Note - the Orthodox and Catholic Churches contain the Pseudapigraphical writings in their Bibles as well) with occasional discussion on passages found in the earliest traditions trasmitted from the early church fathers (note - tradition is not considered scriptural and its discussion from the pulpits are virtually absent in various North American mainline churches; only a few denominational churches such as the Catholic, Orthodox and some Anglican Churches practise it), whereas our Rabbinic Jewish brothers and sisters follow the Tanakh, the Talmud and the Mishnah, collections of oral tradition pertaining to scripture, compiled by the early rabbis, which go (some believe) as far as the time of Moses. I will be focusing on both Christian, Rabbinic Jewish and Messianic Jewish scholarship on this issue since all three of these sides claim to worship the Living G-d of Yisrael and is only fair to entertain ideas from all sides to see which one is more potent in their criticism and/or argument.     

Now, the passage in dispute is found in the Hebrew Scriptures. The passage is found in Isaiah 7:14 as it says:

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel." (Christian NIV Translation, Isaiah 7:14)

"Assuredly, my Lord will give you a sign of his own accord! Look, the young woman is with child and about to give birth to a son. Let her name him Immanuel." (Jewish JPS Translation, Isaiah 7:14)

Our Rabbinic Jewish brothers and sisters say that the term "virgin" here does not refer to the state of one's sexual history, but that of age. The word used in the Hebrew Scriptures in this specific passage is "almah" which means "young girl" and not specifically a virgin. If Isaiah meant a virgin (sexually speaking) he should've used the word "bethulah", which more or less means a person who remained sexually untouched i.e. virgin. Also this prophecy was intended for King Ahaz, of Judah during his battle with the Arameans (Syrians) and the Israelites. This prophecy is too late to be intended for Jesus, who comes into the picture about 700 years after the event. These points are rather interesting and are, bluntly speaking, much saner forms of objection as opposed to the one dealt with above. This point of view has some rather strong ground to back itself up with but it sadly sometimes takes a very one-sided view to the diversity of word usage in the ancient Hebrew language and misses on some of the minute details, which could make the biggest difference. Also this objection fails to analyze the information, seen in the oldest surviving record of Hebrew scriptures, the Greek Septuagint, which can provide us with a wealth of information as to how one read these passages in that day and further find out whether Matthew and Luke, two of the 3 Synoptic Gospel writers were bending the truth to further their own claims of the (false) messiahship of Yeshua. Most of the proponents of this theory simply ignore the wealth of evidence, seen in the Septuagint and in other early records of scripture like the Targums and the Midrashim (commentary) of some of these verses.

This objection will be divided into four main areas namely:

1) Lexical data revolving around three main words: Almah, Bethulah and Parthenos (Greek)

2) Understanding of Rabbinic Jewish Rabbis about this particular verse

3) A closer look at the grammatical structure of the sentence(s) of the passage in question and other surrounding 
    passages.

4) The expectations (or lack thereof) of first century Jews for a Messiah and their different concepts.

Lexical data revolving around the three words: Almah, Bethulah and Parthenos

Let us first take a look at the two Hebrew words – Almah and Bethulah and see their usage in the Hebrew Scriptures. While our Rabbinic Jewish brothers are right in claiming that “bethulah” means virgin in the sexual sense, there is in fact no single word in the Bible that corresponds only with virginity. Messianic Jewish scholar, Michael L. Brown in his 3 volume work titled “Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus” discusses this as he says:

“Actually, there is no single world in Biblical Hebrew that always and only means “virgin” (called in Latin virgo intacta). As for the Hebrew word betulah, while it often refers to a virgin in the Hebrew Scriptures, more often than not it has no reference to virginity but simply means “young woman, maiden”. In fact, out of fifty times the word betulah occurs in the Tanakh, the NJPSV translates it as “maiden” – rather than “virgin” – thirty-one times! This means that more than three out of every five times that betulah occurs in the Hebrew Bible. It is translated as “maiden” rather than “virgin” by the most widely used Jewish translation of our day. Not only so, but the Stone edition of the Tanakh, reflecting traditional Orthodox scholarship, frequently translates betulah as “maiden” as well. Even in verses where the translation of “virgin” is appropriate for betulah, a qualifying phrase is sometimes added, as in Genesis 24:16: “The maiden (na’arah) was very beautiful, a virgin (betulah) whom no man had known.” Obviously if betulah clearly and unequivocally meant “virgin” here, there would be no need to explain that this betulah never had intercourse with a man. Just think of normal English usage; we would never say, “The young woman was a virgin, and she never had sexual intercourse in her life.” How redundant! What other kind of virgin is there?” (Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus. Volume Three: Messianic Prophecy Objections, Michael L. Brown, Baker Books, 2003, pgs. 21-22)     

Having mentioned the general ambiguity between both words regarding the virgo intacta nature of the passage, we must turn to the word almah one more time and notice the social elements this word accompanies. The book titled “Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels” which is a work of various Christian scholars, in which the entry titled “Birth of Jesus” is present, there is some valuable information that one ought to consider before making any decisions. It says that,

the term almah is never used in the OT of a married woman, but does refer to a sexually mature woman. There are no texts in the OT where almah clearly means one who is sexually active, but it is possible that Song of Solomon 6:8 (cf. Prov 30:19) implies this. It would appear then that almah normally, if not always, implies a virgin, though the term does not focus on that attribute. Fourth, several of the Greek translations of the OT (i.e., Aq, Sym, Theod) translate almah with neanis;  however, the LXX clearly translates it with parthenos. It is probably correct to say that if almah did not normally have overtones of virginity, it is difficult if not impossible to see why the translators of the LXX used parthenos as the Greek equivalent.” (Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ‘Birth of Jesus”, 1992) (Note – the term LXX refers to the Septuagint) 
 
In fact, as the above source clearly indicates, many Jewish scribes later (after First Century C.E.) changed the Greek term ‘parthenos’ to another term ‘neanis’ since the other term was ‘too Christian’. However, the earliest copies of the Hebrew scriptures contains the word ‘parthenos’ in the passage of Isaiah. These “corrections” were seen elsewhere as well as documented in the book titled “Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading, & Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism & Early Christianity” written by M. J. Mulder and Harry Sysling, both experts in the fields of Tanakh studies. They go on to say that:

"Apparently Aquila made a special effort to replace renditions which had become 'Christian' terms. Thus the translation of mascah (christos) was replaced with aleimmenos. Partly because of this, his translation was well-liked among Jews, while avoided by Christians." (Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading, & Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism & Early Christianity, 2005, Hendrickson Publishers, pg. 184)

Having mentioned that, there are two instances where the term “almah” is/can be/may be understood in a sexual manner: That of Proverbs 30:19 and Song of Solomon 6:8-9. We need to deal with these two verses to better clarify what it is exactly they are referring to. The passage of Proverbs 30:19 goes like this:

“There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a maiden (almah).”

This verse is talking about the four things that are considered amazing to the writer. The fourth one, being the act of a male courting a single woman and then getting married later on. This is attested to in the Bible Commentary titled “Bible Knowledge Commentary” as it says:

"What do the ways of an eagle in the sky . . . a snake on a rock . . . a ship in the ocean, and a man with a woman have in common? Some writers say the ways of these four are mysterious; others say their ways are nontraceable; others suggest that they each easily master an element that is seemingly difficult. Another suggestion is that they each go where there are no paths. “The way of a man with a maiden ” refers to a man’s affectionate courting of a woman." (Bible Knowledge Commentary, 1985, Victory Books)

Now if one has to reply back saying that the woman need not have been a virgin while the man was courting her, he/she has accidentally or purposely stated an anachronism. I am not saying that it is not possible AT ALL for the woman to have not been a virgin upon time or courting but it is HIGHLY (and I do mean HIGHLY) probable that she was a virgin at the time of courtship. We are dealing with a culture thousands of years old and we sometimes do make judgments on these societies and peoples through a 21st century postmodern lens. That is a methodological blunder in conducting research on ancient societies. The assertion of the loss of virginity in this specific passage is in actuality “stretching it” and the person that asserts this, needs to bring forth strong evidence to support his/her belief (which has not happened till today). Until then, we have to go according to the social understanding of the time and make a fair conclusion that the almah, being referred to in this specific passage is in fact a virgin, at the time of courtship.

The second passage refers to the one found in the Song of Solomon in Song of Solomon 6:8-9 as it says:

“Sixty queens there may be, and eighty concubines, and virgins (almaoth) beyond number; but my dove, my perfect one, is unique, the only daughter of her mother, the favorite of the one who bore her. The maidens (banoth, lit. 'daughters') saw her and called her blessed; the queens and concubines praised her.”

Richard Niessen, in his article titled “The virginity of the Almah in Isaiah 7:14”, published in the Bibliotheca Sacra in the April-June issue in 1980, discusses this as he says that:

"Apparently three categories of women are mentioned here for the sake of completeness. The queens were quite obviously married, and the concubines were like the common-law wives of today. The almaoth are apparently in contrast to these two groups of wives and as such would be unmarried women. They were in the service of the queens and destined to be chosen eventually as wives by the king. Thus it would be quite natural to expect them to be virgins. This is confirmed by the events in Esther 2. King Xerxes had gathered together a great number of virgins (bethulah, tanknote: from their father's households) for the purpose of selecting a new queen (2:1–4 ). Purity was so essential that the women were to go through a process of ceremonial purification for an entire year (2:12–13 ) before going into the king’s chamber. Their biological virginity was not open to question; it was assumed.” (The virginity of the almah in Isaiah 7:14, Bibliotheca Sacra, 1980)

So we see, that from the available material of scriptural data and scholarly opinion on the matter, we do see that the word almah, while not containing any explicit references to virginity was the general term applied for women of sexual maturity and still remained virgins. Having mentioned that, we need to take one final look of the term Bethulah before we move on to the Greek word parthenos. Eugene A. Nilda, a key figure in the development of Bible translation (Christian) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Nida) and Johannes P. Louw, his partner who wrote a commentary on the word betulah, describes it as such:

"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…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

So again, some points need to be made. Betulah, while still capable of bearing the characteristic of virginity, generally refers to the social position of an unmarried female i.e. living in her father’s house and is under his protection; whereas the term almah, while not explicitly referring to a virgin, has characteristics of a woman that has reached sexual maturity and is generally considered a virgin. This is probably why the translators of the LXX (Septuagint) used the Greek equivalent for virgin (Virgo intacta) as opposed to any other Greek words that would produce ambiguity within the text. We now turn to the Greek word – parthenos.

The word parthenos is almost always described as virgin but not all the time. It must be noted that there are exceptions to this word as well as noted in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary on the New Testament, as it says:

“"The LXX renders the word by parthenos which almost always means "virgin." Yet even with this word there are exceptions: Genesis 34:4 refers to Dinah as a parthenos even though the previous verse makes it clear she is no longer a virgin. This sort of datum prompts C.H. Dodd …to suggest that parthenos means "young woman" even in Matthew 1:23 and Luke 1:27. This will not do; the overwhelming majority of the occurrences of parthenos in both biblical and profane Greek require the rendering "virgin"; and the unambiguous context of Matthew 1 (cf. vv. 16, 18, 20, 25) puts Matthew's intent beyond dispute…the later (second century A.D.) Greek renderings of the Hebrew text of Isaiah 7:14 prefer neanis ("young woman") to parthenos (so Aq., Symm., Theod.), we may legitimately suspect a conscious effort by the Jewish translators to avoid the Christian interpretation of Isaiah 7:14." (Expositor’s Bible Commentary on the New Testament, 1982)

Having mentioned the understanding of all three words – the connection between almah and parthenos is more stronger and a valid case can be made in that the individual described in the passage of Isaiah 7:14, possibly refers to someone who was born from a virgin. We now move to Rabbinic tradition(s) from rabbis to see if there was any midrashim or commentary made on this particular passage.

Understanding of Rabbinic Jewish Rabbis about this particular verse

The one commentary on this passage that is very interesting is that of noted medieval rabbi Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, popularly known as “Rashi” (1040-1105). Rashi’s last half of the commentary on this passage, translated by Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg says: “And some interpret that this is the sign, that she was a younger girl {‘almah”} and incapable of giving birth.” (Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg, Judaica Press Complete Tanach with Rashi, CD-ROM ed., Davka Corporation and Judaica Press, 1999) While Rashi’s interpretation of almah is dubious due to the information present above, his understanding of the capability or incapability of giving birth deserves serious attention. In the passage, we see the prophecy of a birth being foretold while Rashi sees the individual that is being described as one that is incapable of giving birth. Rashi, here is implying the presence of a supernatural birth. Does this lead to a “virgin birth”? Most definitely not, but the very fact that one of Judaism’s best rabbis understood the birth of this child to be simply supernatural or out of ordinary is worth considering.

By looking at this piece of commentary, we can then see that Rashi’s portrayal of the birth of the child does not fit either with King Ahaz or Isaiah, whose wives gave birth normally. Who then fits the picture of a person who was born of a “supernatural birth”? This leads us to our third section, which focuses on the grammatical structure of the passages that surround the passage of Isaiah 7:14, which can provide us with an understanding of this particular passage.

The grammatical structure of the sentence(s) of the passage in question and other surrounding passages

There are certain minute details that need to be observed in order to gain a better understanding of the general context in which the passage in dispute is being uttered in. There are two points namely:

a) The definite article – What I mean by this is that the Hebrew text, refer to the woman as “The virgin”. Where am I going with this? Well, from the book, used by both Christians and Jews titled “Genesius’ Hebrew Grammar” the definite article in this particular passage is discussed as it says:

Peculiar to Hebrew is the employment of the article to denote a single person or thing (primarily one which is as yet unknown, and therefore not capable of being defined) as being present to the mind under given circumstances. In such cases in English the indefinite article is used." (Genesius’ Hebrew Grammar, pg. 126)   

By understanding the basics of Hebrew grammar, the definite article used in the Hebrew, indicates the child to be unknown to both Isaiah or King Ahaz, thereby eliminating any possible chance of this child being that of King Ahaz’s or Isaiah’s.

b) The word “you” in the disputed passage is a plural pronoun – This point deals with an extremely minute detail that is often passed and unlooked, but fortunately has been brought to attention in recent times by some really good scholarship. Before the disputed passage of Isaiah 7:14, King Ahaz was offered help from God, but he refused since he did not want to “put the LORD to the test” (Isaiah 7:12). Immediately after that verse, we see Isaiah appearing and revealing to “you” the prophecy. Let us read the passage in its greater context to gain a better understanding:

The Lord spoke further to Ahaz: Ask for a sign from the LORD you God, anywhere down to Sheol or up to the sky. But Ahaz replied, “I will not ask, and I will not test the LORD.” Listen, House of David,” {Isaiah} retorted, “is it enough for you to treat men as helpless that you also treat my God as helpless? Assuredly, my Lord will give you a sign of his accord! Look, the young woman is with child and about to give birth to a son. Let her name him Immanuel.” (Jewish JPS Translation, Isaiah 7:10-14)

Now, this is straight from the Jewish Tanakh and I would like the readers to notice a few things here. One, once Ahaz refused to accept help from the Lord, Isaiah butts in and addresses the House of David – not Ahaz or himself in particular. Two, the prophecy of the child is intricately connected with the rejection of King Ahaz and the House of David’s lack of faith in the Lord G-D of Yisrael and the flow of the two halves are indisputable. For one to even think of two separate messages being seen in the passage is near impossible. The harmony within this small portion of scripture is undeniable. Dr. Jaggelli, Professor of Old Testament/Tanakh Interpretation and Language at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina talks about this in his online article titled “The Interpretation of Old Testament Prophecy”. He says that:

“Ahaz had just refused the Lord’s gracious offer of a miraculous sign to persuade him to believe what God had said about the military danger he faced (vv. 10–12). Because of Ahaz’s unbelief, God turned to the “house of David” (v. 13). The “you” of verse 14 is plural. God was no longer addressing Ahaz. The promise of Immanuel was for the entire Davidic dynasty. Simply by failing to identify a plural pronoun, one can miss the proper interpretation of a whole section of prophecy.” (http://www.dbts.edu/journals/1997/Proph.pdf)

The inclusion of the plural pronoun, therefore changes the dynamics of the prophecy of this tiny passage. This passage, no more looks “local” in anyway and seeks to fulfill something on a much more grander scale. We, as Christians see this prophecy being fulfilled “immediately” by either through King Ahaz’s son or Isaiah’s son, but due to their failures the ultimate fulfillment is realized only through his Mashiach, his Annointed One, his Beloved One, the “monogenes” (One of a kind) Son of the Almighty G-d. This leads us to the concept of the Messiah in itself and what forms it took in 1st century Judea and were Jewish people looking forward to a Messiah at that time?

Different concepts of the Messiah and the expectation (or lack thereof) of the Messiah in 1st century Judea.

As we look into the concept of the Messiah prevalent in that day, the first issue one must be clearly aware of is that there was no “one” concept of a Messiah. 1st century Judaism was not like the Rabbinic Judaism we see today. It was very different and contained a variety of sects such as the Essenes, the Zealots, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Christians so on and so forth, who had their own understanding of who the Messiah was. So to try and pinpoint an “orthodox” notion of a Messiah in 1st century Judaism is next to impossible, simply because there was no such thing as the “status quo” notion of what a Messiah should’ve been in that day. A couple of scholars will back me on this. John J. Collins, Holmes Professor of Old Testament/Tanakh at Yale University (check his CV at http://www.yale.edu/divinity/cv/JCOLLINS.pdf ) discusses the concept of the Messiah during the Maccabean Period around the second century B.C.E in his article titled “Messiah in the Maccabean Period” in the book “Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era” as he says:   

The notion of a transcendent savior figure under God is perhaps the most significant development in Jewish messianism (broadly defined) in the second century B.C.E." and "There are some traces of messianism in the Maccabean period (164bc-63bc). It is evident , however, that messianism was neither widespread nor prominent during this period and that there was no one 'orthodox' notion of 'the Messiah.' The traditions on which Davidic messianism was based were preserved, but these in themselves did not ensure any lively expectation. The presence or absence of messianism was primarily determined by the political attitudes and circumstances of the different groups within Judaism. Those who placed their hopes in the institutions and leaders of their day, whether the High Priests, the Ptolemies, or the Maccabees, had little interest in messianism. Apocalyptic groups developed the idea of a transcendent savior figure, either as an alternative or as a complement to earthly messianism. Only with the rise of the Qumran community do we find a group with a strong and developed interest in messianism, and then again in the first century BCE in the Psalms of Solomon." (p. 101)   

James H. Charlesworth, George L. Collord Professor of the New Testament Language and Literature and specializes in Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old and New Testaments, the Dead Sea Scrolls and many more. He “has worked on the computer-enhanced photographing and translating of the Qumran scrolls in order to make available for the first time both an accurate text and an English translation of these documents.” (http://www.ptsem.edu/PTS_People/Faculty01/charlesworth.htm) In his book titled “The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity” he goes on to say that:   

We have numerous early Jewish sources that portray the Messiah, variously, as one who will serve as the eschatological high priest (the Dead Sea Scrolls, the T12P), or as the consummate benevolent and all-powerful king (PssSol 17). Numerous functions are sometimes attributed to the Messiah: He will judge the wicked (PssSol 17, 4Ezra 12, 2Bar 40), destroy them (PssSol 17, 4Ezra 12, 2 Bar 72; cf. Is 11), deliver God's people (PssSol 17, 4Ezra 12, cf. Zech 9), and/or reign in a blessed kingdom (PssSol 17, 18; 2Bar40; cf. Ps. 2)." (p. 7)

The late Jewish scholar, Baruch M. Bokser, professor of Talmud and rabbinical studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, talks about the diversity of opinions on the Messiah in the early days of Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity in his article titled “Messianism, the Exodus Pattern, and Early Rabbinical Judaism” in the book “Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era” as he says:

Jews in the first two centuries held diverse views regarding the traditional hopes for the future. Rabbinical circles, although apparently not preoccupied with the problem, did discuss the relationship of past redemptions to the future one(s), and masters differed over the place of the prophetically envisioned later days or messianic period within the scheme of the future" ...in seeing how these early rabbinical circles differentiated between aspects of traditional messianic beliefs, we can appreciate how they responded in a positive and creative fashion to the inherited views of the future." (p. 256-257)

Lastly, another Jewish scholar who has made his strong criticisms against Christianity in the past has displayed the existence of varied beliefs in 1st century Judaism, which he calls “early Judaism”. This Judaism, he concludes, allowed the belief of the concept of a Messianic God-Man! without compromising the unity of God (hint hint Muslims..). Just so that his reputation is not disputed, he is considered by critic and sympathizer alike to be one of the finest religious scholars the world has today. He “was educated at Harvard University, the Jewish Theological Seminary (where he received rabbinic ordination), the University of Oxford, and Columbia University. Neusner is often celebrated as one of the most published authors in history (he has written or edited more than 900 books.) He has taught at Columbia University, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Brandeis University, Dartmouth College, Brown University, University of South Florida, and Bard College. Neusner is a member of the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton, and a life member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University. He is the only scholar to have served on both the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. He also has received scores of academic awards, honorific and otherwise.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_Neusner) He goes on to mention this in his article “MIshnah and Messiah” in the same book titled “Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era” as he says:

“We focus upon how the system laid out in the Mishnah takes up and disposes of those critical issues of teleology worked out through messianic eschatology in other, earlier versions of Judaism (emphasis mine). These earlier systems resorted to the myth of the Messiah as savior and redeemer of Israel, a supernatural figure engaged in political-historical tasks as king of the Jews, even a God-man facing the crucial historical questions of Israel's life and resolving them: the Christ as king of the world, of the ages, of death itself." (p. 275)

So as we can see, the concepts of the Messiah in 1st century Judea was so varied and diverse that it simply cannot be deduced from the available data displayed from some of the finest scholars in their fields that a) the Messiah was never anticipated or b) the concept of a “divine” Messiah was never seen in 1st century Judea. It is the direct opposite that is seen." "


...........I hope this helps.....

In Christ,

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« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2008, 05:00:55 PM »

Many Orthodox believe that the Masoretic text is not the original Hebrew text. I am not qualified to give an explanation on that though. However, it is obvious from the quotes that Christ used the Septuagint.

Not try to sidetrack this, but as a Jew in Judaea of the day, one would expect that Jesus used the Hebrew, or maybe the Aramaic.

Everyone in the Christian translational community understands that the MT is not the "original Hebrew". All you have to do is read the textual notes in any modern bible to see that. However, I don't think that helps one here. As I said the last time we went through this, the DSS do testify to the ancient state of this passage, and while I cannot state how it reads in them, I think it is an extremely safe bet that if it differed from the MT, we would all be aware of it, because it would be a Really Big Deal if it did. Therefore, at best, a Hebrew basis difference for the LXX is at best supposition; at worst, it comes across as a bit of special pleading.

I think the long quoted passage is probably pretty close to the truth: that almah as "young maiden" has become fixed after the fact, and that it really has/had a larger meaning which could, in context, imply virginity. Not all the cases given are as persuasive as others, but together they tend to indicate that "young maiden" is probably too specific.

And again, I come up to the problem of interpretation in context. What was this supposed to be telling Ahaz?
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« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2008, 05:30:39 PM »

Why would a "maiden" becoming pregnant be a "sign" from God?

Because maiden carried the connotation of being unmarried and presumably a virgin and  just as it does in the English language.  The Melkite translation of the Akathist has the refrain: "Hail O Bride and Maiden ever pure!"  Archbishop Jospeh Raya (of blessed memory) was not questioning the Theotokos' virginity by using maiden.

Those scholars who make much of the fact that almah means maiden also know full well that a maiden was presumed to be a virgin so one wonders why they make as much out of it as they do.

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« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2008, 05:55:16 PM »

Many Orthodox believe that the Masoretic text is not the original Hebrew text. I am not qualified to give an explanation on that though. However, it is obvious from the quotes that Christ used the Septuagint.

Not try to sidetrack this, but as a Jew in Judaea of the day, one would expect that Jesus used the Hebrew, or maybe the Aramaic.

Would one necessarily? Since Greek was the lingua franca of the day, and since there were enough Jews that did not speak Aramaic or read Hebrew that there was the necessity of creating the Septuagint in the first place, and since the Evangelists or their immediate successors were conversant enough in Greek to write the Gospels in Greek and choose the Septuagint text as the the one from which to quote, knowing its full implication, I think it is safe to say that Christ's preaching, if it were in Aramaic (it very well may have been in Greek too) was equivalent to the Septuagint meanings since they were the ones selected to be included in the Gospels.

St Paul certainly knew Greek and he quoted from the Septuagint.

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« Reply #12 on: December 12, 2008, 06:04:17 PM »

Many Orthodox believe that the Masoretic text is not the original Hebrew text. I am not qualified to give an explanation on that though. However, it is obvious from the quotes that Christ used the Septuagint.

Everyone in the Christian translational community understands that the MT is not the "original Hebrew". All you have to do is read the textual notes in any modern bible to see that. However, I don't think that helps one here. As I said the last time we went through this, the DSS do testify to the ancient state of this passage, and while I cannot state how it reads in them, I think it is an extremely safe bet that if it differed from the MT, we would all be aware of it, because it would be a Really Big Deal if it did. Therefore, at best, a Hebrew basis difference for the LXX is at best supposition; at worst, it comes across as a bit of special pleading.


If the MT is acknowledged to not be the original Hebrew then why is it given precedence over the Septuagint (it seems) by scholars?

The fact that the DSS have it that way is a good argument in favor of its ancientness, but the more ancient Septuagint rendering must not be discounted.

I have no problem with the idea that there is supposition involved; no one (I think) is saying that this is a slam dunk case, simply a theory is presented that is plausible but probably ultimately unverifiable as to how the difference arose. For me it's not such a big concern since the Septuagint is the inspired Word of God that the Orthodox Church holds as the received text. Why it is different than the Hebrew text ultimately does not matter to me since it has priority over the Hebrew text no matter what, and that is based on my presuppositions as an Orthodox Christian, which I freely admit.
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« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2008, 06:22:11 PM »

Why would a "maiden" becoming pregnant be a "sign" from God?

Another right on the money and succint observation from ozgeorge.
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« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2008, 08:43:24 PM »

Why would a "maiden" becoming pregnant be a "sign" from God?

Another right on the money and succint observation from ozgeorge.

But then he went to med school. Shocked
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« Reply #15 on: December 12, 2008, 08:48:36 PM »

Many Orthodox believe that the Masoretic text is not the original Hebrew text. I am not qualified to give an explanation on that though. However, it is obvious from the quotes that Christ used the Septuagint.

Not try to sidetrack this, but as a Jew in Judaea of the day, one would expect that Jesus used the Hebrew, or maybe the Aramaic.

We don't need to "expect"": in a few places the Gospels record Christ's own words in Aramaic or Hebrew.

That being said, archaeology has revealed that Greek was more widely spoken than hereto suspected in the Holy Land.

Quote
Everyone in the Christian translational community understands that the MT is not the "original Hebrew". All you have to do is read the textual notes in any modern bible to see that. However, I don't think that helps one here. As I said the last time we went through this, the DSS do testify to the ancient state of this passage, and while I cannot state how it reads in them, I think it is an extremely safe bet that if it differed from the MT, we would all be aware of it, because it would be a Really Big Deal if it did. Therefore, at best, a Hebrew basis difference for the LXX is at best supposition; at worst, it comes across as a bit of special pleading.

I think the long quoted passage is probably pretty close to the truth: that almah as "young maiden" has become fixed after the fact, and that it really has/had a larger meaning which could, in context, imply virginity. Not all the cases given are as persuasive as others, but together they tend to indicate that "young maiden" is probably too specific.

And again, I come up to the problem of interpretation in context. What was this supposed to be telling Ahaz?

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« Reply #16 on: December 12, 2008, 09:12:34 PM »

If the MT is acknowledged to not be the original Hebrew then why is it given precedence over the Septuagint (it seems) by scholars?

Because it isn't the original Hebrew either, seeing as how it isn't Hebrew at all.

Or maybe not. I'm not a translator myself, but as I understand it, the root issue is that all the OT sources have significant problems. The MT is obviously damaged; the LXX has obvious mistranslations; the DSS are fragmentary. It is in fact clear that to some degree, the LXX does represent an earlier version of the text than the MT, because the DSS agrees with the former against the latter. But some of the time, it seems to be just wrong.

And remember, the problem in this specific case isn't the text, really, but rather, how the text is translated. The LXX is important as a testimony to that translation, whereas the MT doesn't testify at all, because it (most likely) is the text. The contrary side here is provided by modern Jews, not by the Hebrew text. It's a much more straightforward argument that they are incorrect, especially if it can be shown that there are problems with applying this interpretation in other places in the text, than to postulate an ancient Hebrew text which does not survive.

As to why recent "liberal" translations prefer "young woman", it's because they are swayed by German theological precepts that are hostile to the miraculous in general and to the incarnation in particular.

Obviously it is impossible to effectively argue against a dogmatic faith in an inerrant version, since that faith must cover over any apparent defects in that text. But as an argument to others, such a precept is counterproductive.
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« Reply #17 on: December 12, 2008, 09:22:28 PM »

The fact of the matter is that Almah means "virgin," or at least as close to signifying "virgin" as the Hebrew language comes. This is not a Masoretic vs. LXX issue. Like Keble says, "The contrary side here is provided by modern Jews, not by the Hebrew text. It's a much more straightforward argument that they are incorrect, especially if it can be shown that there are problems with applying this interpretation in other places in the text, than to postulate an ancient Hebrew text which does not survive."
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« Reply #18 on: December 16, 2008, 11:22:50 PM »

If the MT is acknowledged to not be the original Hebrew then why is it given precedence over the Septuagint (it seems) by scholars?

Because it isn't the original Hebrew either, seeing as how it isn't Hebrew at all.

Or maybe not. I'm not a translator myself, but as I understand it, the root issue is that all the OT sources have significant problems. The MT is obviously damaged; the LXX has obvious mistranslations; the DSS are fragmentary. It is in fact clear that to some degree, the LXX does represent an earlier version of the text than the MT, because the DSS agrees with the former against the latter. But some of the time, it seems to be just wrong.

And remember, the problem in this specific case isn't the text, really, but rather, how the text is translated. The LXX is important as a testimony to that translation, whereas the MT doesn't testify at all, because it (most likely) is the text. The contrary side here is provided by modern Jews, not by the Hebrew text. It's a much more straightforward argument that they are incorrect, especially if it can be shown that there are problems with applying this interpretation in other places in the text, than to postulate an ancient Hebrew text which does not survive.

As to why recent "liberal" translations prefer "young woman", it's because they are swayed by German theological precepts that are hostile to the miraculous in general and to the incarnation in particular.

Obviously it is impossible to effectively argue against a dogmatic faith in an inerrant version, since that faith must cover over any apparent defects in that text. But as an argument to others, such a precept is counterproductive.


To be clear, I don't discount the historical investigation and methods that you are always so careful to follow.  I don't think that Orthodoxy believes in any kind of biblical inerrancy in the commonly-understood definition; in the first volume of the Philokalia there is a passage I read once where the author suggested that God allowed minor discrepancies and errors to exist in Scripture so people would not focus too much on the literal details and miss the spiritual meaning.

I don't think, however, that engaging argument that acknowledges a faith claim presupposition is counterproductive; I believe it is simply honest.  Biblical scholars attempt to be "neutral" and "just follow the text" (at least that was what my Biblical professor claimed) but as you acknowledge above, they are usually influenced by certain German theological precepts. I am influenced by Orthodox precepts.  They posit a JEDP, and I posit an "original" Hebrew text now lost.  Ultimately, if said text existed or not, is irrelevant IMO.  I think these types of debates and investigations are good for establishing what we know not to be true based on evidence--I don't think a true faith claim can or should cover up something that is demonstrably false.  These types of discussions help to clarify the boundaries of the presupposition.

I just find the whole discussion interesting if nothing else.
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« Reply #19 on: December 17, 2008, 10:02:26 AM »

If I remember correctly, most of the manuscripts found in the Qumran caves were in agreement with the MT. Cave 4, however, contained many Hebrew fragments - the most notable being from the Book of Jeremias - that agreed with the LXX, lending credence to the notion that the LXX was based on an entirely different (perhaps much older) set of Hebrew manuscripts.
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« Reply #20 on: December 17, 2008, 03:44:03 PM »

Just to weigh in here.  As a neo-Aramaic speaker and a student of classical Syriac.  Almah would come from the Aramaic root Aleyma.  This does not translate into a virgin.  It's use in classical Syriac denotes a young person.  The literal translation for virgin, as noted above is Botulta (female emphatic) in Syriac and would be the same in Aramaic.  It could mean an unmarried person though and therefore indirectly denote a maiden.  I think if the writers wanted to mean a literal virgin they would have definitely used the more direct Botulta in place of Aleyma.  I've attached an image for Aleyma direct from a Syriac dictionary for reference.

As for the language of Jesus, I think the final answer comes from our New Testament which attests to him speaking Aramaic of the Western Palestinian dialect.  These are a few examples taken from Wikipedia of Aramaic phrases of Jesus some of which have no corresponding phrases in Hebrew Talitha qoum, Mammon, Maranatha, Eli Eli lema sabachthani and the countless personal and physical place names that are mentioned in the bible which are Aramaic.

He might have been familiar with Greek because of its gaining importance and would in most likelihood have known some ancient Hebrew (which at that point had become more of a liturgical language) being supplanted by Aramaic at that point. 
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« Reply #21 on: December 17, 2008, 05:45:24 PM »

Just to weigh in here.  As a neo-Aramaic speaker and a student of classical Syriac.  Almah would come from the Aramaic root Aleyma.  This does not translate into a virgin.  It's use in classical Syriac denotes a young person.  The literal translation for virgin, as noted above is Botulta (female emphatic) in Syriac and would be the same in Aramaic.  It could mean an unmarried person though and therefore indirectly denote a maiden.  I think if the writers wanted to mean a literal virgin they would have definitely used the more direct Botulta in place of Aleyma.  I've attached an image for Aleyma direct from a Syriac dictionary for reference.

As for the language of Jesus, I think the final answer comes from our New Testament which attests to him speaking Aramaic of the Western Palestinian dialect.  These are a few examples taken from Wikipedia of Aramaic phrases of Jesus some of which have no corresponding phrases in Hebrew Talitha qoum, Mammon, Maranatha, Eli Eli lema sabachthani and the countless personal and physical place names that are mentioned in the bible which are Aramaic.

He might have been familiar with Greek because of its gaining importance and would in most likelihood have known some ancient Hebrew (which at that point had become more of a liturgical language) being supplanted by Aramaic at that point.  

Well, while this is somewhat helpful (in that you have studied the linguistic and dialectical descendants of Christ's language), the desired information is "how was the word interpreted 2,000+ years ago," not how is it interpreted now.  Your interpretation of the word has been affected by 2 millenia of changes.

If someone could study how the LXX translates each and every occasion of the word almah, that would be more helpful, in that it would give a consistent and ancient interpretation of the word (pre-dating Christ by a number of centuries).  It should be noted that use of almah comes from a more ancient Hebrew, as a part of the book of Isaiah, and certainly pre-dated Christ by many centuries.
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« Reply #22 on: December 17, 2008, 06:27:26 PM »

The interpretation of the word hasn't changed.  Syriac is already an approxiamtely 2000 year old language and being a dialect of Armaic which dates to approx 1200BC+.  Written Syriac today is the same as what it was 2000 years ago.

The book of Isaiah was written in approx 700BC which are actually the years that Aramaic started gaining traction within the other semitic people of the near east.

That's why I was trying to point out that the root of the word Aleymah is most likely Aramaic.  It's Aramaic definition is youth.

As a comparison; Mary mother of God is clearly called "Bthulto Maryam" in the Peshitta Syriac bible.  This translates literally into Virgin Mary.  She isn't called "Aleymtha Maryam" or young, maiden Mary.  Bthul is a very clear and ancient Semitic word which is found in almost all the Semitic languages that directly translates to "Virgin".  Even Akkadian, that goes back 2000-3000BC has the word.
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« Reply #23 on: December 18, 2008, 03:23:25 AM »

Thank you all for your input, especially Symeon (see, I found a reason to like you now  Wink, j/k...I always respect you) and Cleveland for the old posts.

And I don't want to neglect other people here as well who contributed, but I mean it when I say ALL, including you Leb Aryo.  Welcome to OC.net  Smiley Glad to see a fellow OO.
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« Reply #24 on: December 18, 2008, 04:11:19 AM »

No problem. The feeling is mutual.  Wink
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« Reply #25 on: December 18, 2008, 05:42:57 AM »

The interpretation of the word hasn't changed.  Syriac is already an approxiamtely 2000 year old language and being a dialect of Armaic which dates to approx 1200BC+.  Written Syriac today is the same as what it was 2000 years ago.

The book of Isaiah was written in approx 700BC which are actually the years that Aramaic started gaining traction within the other semitic people of the near east.

That's why I was trying to point out that the root of the word Aleymah is most likely Aramaic.  It's Aramaic definition is youth.

As a comparison; Mary mother of God is clearly called "Bthulto Maryam" in the Peshitta Syriac bible.  This translates literally into Virgin Mary.  She isn't called "Aleymtha Maryam" or young, maiden Mary.  Bthul is a very clear and ancient Semitic word which is found in almost all the Semitic languages that directly translates to "Virgin".  Even Akkadian, that goes back 2000-3000BC has the word.
As does the Peshitta for Isaiah 7:14.

The Dead Sea Isaiah Scroll has 'almah, agreeing with the Masoretic, but interprets Emmanuel as a name, as in the LXX.  So the same verse corresponds neither to the Masora or the LXX in toto, assuming 'almah is not "virgin."  The critical edition of the Masora points out that all the post Christian translations, Theodotion, Symmachus and Aquila all translate it as "young woman."  But the earliest, Aquila was said to be a Christian apostate, Symmachus was a Christian (though a Ebionite heretic) who wrote a refutation of the canonical Matthew (odd since it is said elsewhere that the Ebionites only accepted Matthew (in Hebrew/Aramaic) sort of a reverse of the Marcionites), and Theodotion appears well after the interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 became a polemical point between the Christians and Jews and a cause of the latter to abandon the LXX (and hence the translations of the three).
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« Reply #26 on: December 18, 2008, 07:58:36 AM »

That's why I was trying to point out that the root of the word Aleymah is most likely Aramaic.  It's Aramaic definition is youth.

Cognates are never so rock-solid as that; there is always an element of risk in appealing to them.
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« Reply #27 on: December 18, 2008, 08:04:56 AM »

The interpretation of the word hasn't changed. 

I don't know about that; there are very few words in this life that have not changed in nearly 3,000 years.

Cognates are never so rock-solid as that; there is always an element of risk in appealing to them.

Uh-huh.
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« Reply #28 on: December 18, 2008, 09:15:43 AM »

Quote
there are very few words in this life that have not changed in nearly 3,000 years.

I can think of many, but a good example of a Biblical word which has remained completely unchanged in its interpretation over several thousand years is the Greek word oinos .  A present-day Greek and a Greek from Homer's time would both tell you it's wine, i.e. fermented grape juice. One in the eye for those who claim Biblical authority for total abstinence.  Wink
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« Reply #29 on: December 18, 2008, 09:30:58 AM »

Quote
there are very few words in this life that have not changed in nearly 3,000 years.

I can think of many, but a good example of a Biblical word which has remained completely unchanged in its interpretation over several thousand years is the Greek word oinos .  A present-day Greek and a Greek from Homer's time would both tell you it's wine, i.e. fermented grape juice. One in the eye for those who claim Biblical authority for total abstinence.  Wink

(I don't know why I'm in an argumentative mood lately...)
Well, you're partially right, in that modern Greeks can often identify oinos, however the modern word of krasi (and krasaki, the diminutive) has generally replaced it amongst those not educated before 1950.
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« Reply #30 on: December 18, 2008, 11:29:06 AM »

(I don't know why I'm in an argumentative mood lately...)
Well, you're partially right, in that modern Greeks can often identify oinos, however the modern word of krasi (and krasaki, the diminutive) has generally replaced it amongst those not educated before 1950.
Just to be equally argumentative: Those same Greeks who call wine "krasi" also call alcohol "oino-pnevma" ("spirit of oinos/wine").
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« Reply #31 on: December 18, 2008, 12:11:41 PM »

Quote
there are very few words in this life that have not changed in nearly 3,000 years.

I can think of many, but a good example of a Biblical word which has remained completely unchanged in its interpretation over several thousand years is the Greek word oinos .  A present-day Greek and a Greek from Homer's time would both tell you it's wine, i.e. fermented grape juice. One in the eye for those who claim Biblical authority for total abstinence.  Wink

(I don't know why I'm in an argumentative mood lately...)

You have bin hanging around Greeks for too long. Wink


Quote
Well, you're partially right, in that modern Greeks can often identify oinos, however the modern word of krasi (and krasaki, the diminutive) has generally replaced it amongst those not educated before 1950.



Communal wine is still referred to as "οίνος της Ευχαριστίας", However table wine is called "κρασί" If I'm not mistaken. Mavrodafni, is a sort of port wine and is used in the Eucharist. You would know better than I. It is closely related to Cognac but is still considered a wine. It traditionally has a higher alcohol content and that may be why it is referred to as "οίνος".
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« Reply #32 on: December 18, 2008, 01:03:07 PM »

I don't think, however, that engaging argument that acknowledges a faith claim presupposition is counterproductive; I believe it is simply honest.  Biblical scholars attempt to be "neutral" and "just follow the text" (at least that was what my Biblical professor claimed) but as you acknowledge above, they are usually influenced by certain German theological precepts. I am influenced by Orthodox precepts.  They posit a JEDP, and I posit an "original" Hebrew text now lost.  Ultimately, if said text existed or not, is irrelevant IMO.  I think these types of debates and investigations are good for establishing what we know not to be true based on evidence--I don't think a true faith claim can or should cover up something that is demonstrably false.  These types of discussions help to clarify the boundaries of the presupposition.

I don't think we are as far apart as it may appear; I think the differences are mostly strategic. On one level, we are at the same starting point, because my reference to Matthew is also based in the church, more particularly in the church's endorsement of it as a sacred text.

Where we diverge, I think, is again at this issue of evangelization. The point, after all, is to open up the mind to the doctrine of the virgin birth and to the continuity of Judaism into Christianity. In any such discussion there is a virtual potential convert looking over our shoulder, to whom it is to be hoped our arguments would be convincing, or at least not off-putting. And perhaps the most off-putting argument is one that smells of rationalization.

On one level there is no longer serious doubt that the LXX represents a translation of of Hebrew text that at times differs from the MT. The DSS have established that, if nothing else. The devil is in the details: when we look at a particular passage, and find that the LXX deviates from the way most Hebrew readers would naturally translate it, it makes a great deal of difference how we explain the discrepancy. Explanations that derive from doctrines backfire when let out into the world. I think we are actually both agreed that the LXX isn't wrong to have used parthenos, but one shouldn't put too much of a strain on the likelihood of the various explanations. Positing a difference in the text has to work against the DSS as a more or less contemporary testimony that text did say almah. To me it seems less of a stretch to posit that, in context, readers of the time would have taken almah to imply virginity. One could even take the weaker approach that the Matthean passage reveals how the passage is to be interpreted, even if what it says in the original context is not so specific. The thing is that saying that there had to be a different Hebrew because the LXX has to have been justified in making the translation it does is really pushing the limits of special pleading.

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« Reply #33 on: December 18, 2008, 01:26:03 PM »

The interpretation of the word hasn't changed. 

I don't know about that; there are very few words in this life that have not changed in nearly 3,000 years.

Cognates are never so rock-solid as that; there is always an element of risk in appealing to them.

Uh-huh.

Cleveland, I'm coming at the definition of the word from a different angle than what you think I'm saying.  I'm going off of the ancient definition of the word, which means youth.  Not  the definition of the word from today's neo-Aramaic vernacular (which still means the same thing btw)

I can also appreciate the risk of appealing to a cognate, but the other side of the coin is this.  If the ancient writers wanted to write "Virgin" in a direct fashion they would have wrote Btulah which is a direct translation of "Virgin" in all Semitic languages including ancient Akkadian, Hebrew, Aramaic, Chaldean, Arabic etc.
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« Reply #34 on: December 18, 2008, 06:45:00 PM »

(I don't know why I'm in an argumentative mood lately...)
Well, you're partially right, in that modern Greeks can often identify oinos, however the modern word of krasi (and krasaki, the diminutive) has generally replaced it amongst those not educated before 1950.
Just to be equally argumentative: Those same Greeks who call wine "krasi" also call alcohol "oino-pnevma" ("spirit of oinos/wine").

Krasi is indeed the modern Greek word for wine, but oinos (and its derivatives) is still understood by all modern Greeks. Modern Greek still retains the words oinopoleion (wine shop), oinopneuma (as mentioned by ozgeorge), oinologos (wine scientist, or, in its English form, oenologist), etc.
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« Reply #35 on: December 18, 2008, 06:52:29 PM »

Krasi is indeed the modern Greek word for wine, but oinos (and its derivatives) is still understood by all modern Greeks. Modern Greek still retains the words oinopoleion (wine shop), oinopneuma (as mentioned by ozgeorge), oinologos (wine scientist, or, in its English form, oenologist), etc.

I'm well aware of all the derivative words that continue to exist (I don't think they will in, say, 50 years, though).  It almost proves my point, in fact, that oinos is now only used as a component of derivative words and yet is no longer used in the common context that gave birth to the derivatives; every modern Greek knows that thyra are "doors," but because the use is essentially restricted to Liturgy, its meaning has essentially morphed into a sort-of "archaic throwback word for doors, maintained because we try to change the text of the Liturgy as little as possible."
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« Reply #36 on: December 18, 2008, 07:09:59 PM »

Krasi is indeed the modern Greek word for wine, but oinos (and its derivatives) is still understood by all modern Greeks. Modern Greek still retains the words oinopoleion (wine shop), oinopneuma (as mentioned by ozgeorge), oinologos (wine scientist, or, in its English form, oenologist), etc.

I'm well aware of all the derivative words that continue to exist (I don't think they will in, say, 50 years, though).  It almost proves my point, in fact, that oinos is now only used as a component of derivative words and yet is no longer used in the common context that gave birth to the derivatives; every modern Greek knows that thyra are "doors," but because the use is essentially restricted to Liturgy, its meaning has essentially morphed into a sort-of "archaic throwback word for doors, maintained because we try to change the text of the Liturgy as little as possible."

Such words disappearing in 50 years? That would be a stretch even for English, the most mongrel language on earth. The Greek retention of derivatives of older words such as oinos, thyra (e.g. thyroros - doorman, parathyro - window), etc has nothing to do with maintaining liturgical integrity. Many such words do not exist in the Bible, yet they still form part of the Greek language as it is spoken today.

Let us not forget that the two great languages which are foundational to so many other languages are Greek and Latin. Though modern Greek vernacular has allowed the seeping in of Anglicisms (as much because it is seen to be "cool"), it is one language which does not need them (with a tiny few exceptions, such as sandwich) to express "modern" concepts. Greek and Latin have provided the world with the language of science, medicine, and technology. So do you really think the Greeks will abandon such venerable old words like oinos and thyra in their standard language in a couple of generations?
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« Reply #37 on: December 18, 2008, 07:28:06 PM »

Such words disappearing in 50 years? That would be a stretch even for English, the most mongrel language on earth. The Greek retention of derivatives of older words such as oinos, thyra (e.g. thyroros - doorman, parathyro - window), etc has nothing to do with maintaining liturgical integrity. Many such words do not exist in the Bible, yet they still form part of the Greek language as it is spoken today.

Let us not forget that the two great languages which are foundational to so many other languages are Greek and Latin. Though modern Greek vernacular has allowed the seeping in of Anglicisms (as much because it is seen to be "cool"), it is one language which does not need them (with a tiny few exceptions, such as sandwich) to express "modern" concepts. Greek and Latin have provided the world with the language of science, medicine, and technology. So do you really think the Greeks will abandon such venerable old words like oinos and thyra in their standard language in a couple of generations? 

I think it is indeed possible; there are a number of Italian, French, and English words and constructions which have replaced existing and sufficient Greek words and phrases.  While Greek will naturally have a greater degree of retention than many other languages because of the continual study of Ancient, Koine, Katharevousa, et al., and the ever-presence of Greek words in the aforementioned fields (science, etc...), it will also (a la English) continue its habit of picking up popular words or phrases from other languages and integrating them into the lexicon.  I think it is indeed more difficult now than at any other time to argue that many words within a language can and will change.  In the context of the OP, any word which has shown multiple interpretations (like almah) is almost certainly going to be one of them.
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« Reply #38 on: December 19, 2008, 12:17:29 AM »

I can also appreciate the risk of appealing to a cognate, but the other side of the coin is this.  If the ancient writers wanted to write "Virgin" in a direct fashion they would have wrote Btulah which is a direct translation of "Virgin" in all Semitic languages including ancient Akkadian, Hebrew, Aramaic, Chaldean, Arabic etc.
You seem to know quite a bit about the motives of the ancient writers.  What makes you so certain you're correct?  Can you read they're minds, or are you just projecting onto them your opinion of what they would do?
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« Reply #39 on: December 19, 2008, 12:32:11 AM »

With the word "Almah."  We must, of course, decide which meaning makes most sense in context.I'll trust Matthew 1:23.
  If we look at the word "logos" in Greek. It also has an extraordinary range of meanings as well. Many more than "Almah." In a biblical context it is most often translated as "word" in English, yet in Greek, In certain context it can mean. meaning, reckoning, thought, or a spoken phrase or an idea or that which conveys something which, to the hearer, is meaningful and, thus, can move them.  It can be an accounting or a story, a tale, narrative, or fable. It can refer to a theory, a rule of law or of conduct, a scientific hypothesis or lawful observation regarding reality or nature. Within the individual it can refer to a mental argument or a  pondering of the reasons for/against. Thus, it also means thinking or the faculty of reason.  More generally, it may refer to speech, talk, spoken stories or tales, and, even, rumors or everyday conversation. I hope it doesn't go anywhere to soon. Wink
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« Reply #40 on: December 19, 2008, 12:39:13 AM »

I can also appreciate the risk of appealing to a cognate, but the other side of the coin is this.  If the ancient writers wanted to write "Virgin" in a direct fashion they would have wrote Btulah which is a direct translation of "Virgin" in all Semitic languages including ancient Akkadian, Hebrew, Aramaic, Chaldean, Arabic etc.
You seem to know quite a bit about the motives of the ancient writers.  What makes you so certain you're correct?  Can you read they're minds, or are you just projecting onto them your opinion of what they would do?

Peter, I obviously can't read what the ancient writers had in their minds or anybody else.  I'm pretty familiar with Semitic languages though and we can all infer from their words what they're saying in their writing.  Not what's in their minds but what they're saying when they put pen to paper.  I would say that in this particular case the translation is wrong for the reasons I mentioned above.  Maybe you should read what I said.  Aleymah means a youth (you could say a youth is a person that isn't mature sexually) but it still means youth in Aramaic, while Btul is a direct translation into virgin in all Semitic languages.
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« Reply #41 on: December 19, 2008, 12:45:04 AM »

For an Orthodox believer, the final word goes to the Fathers, most certainly including the writers of the liturgical material for the feasts and other hymnody (such as Theotokia) for the Mother of God. These men (and at least one woman) knew their scripture backwards. Anything else on the virginity or otherwise of the Mother of God is idle speculation. 'Nuff said.
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« Reply #42 on: December 19, 2008, 05:56:46 PM »

LBK, I think we should also pay attention to what the ancient prophets were saying as well.  I was reading a very interesting book"Lectures on the Comparative Grammar of the Semitic Languages" by William Wright, Cambridge 1890 and it had the Hebrew and Syriac Aramaic definitions of the word side by side, if anybody was interested in taking a look.  It's been digitized thanks to Google

The Hebrew letters are "ain" a heavy A sound "lemadh" L and ending with "mem" M, the three dots underneath are the vowel signs for "segol" which is E as in red.  Read phonetically in Hebrew it's Ehlem with a heavy beginning E from the letter "Ain".  Same in Syriac Ain, Lomad, Yud, mim and an Olaph at the end to make it an emphatic state Elaymo or "the youth".
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« Reply #43 on: December 19, 2008, 06:08:09 PM »

The problem, of course, is that Scripture has used bethulah to signify someone who is clearly not a virgin, while this is never the case with almah.
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« Reply #44 on: December 19, 2008, 06:20:07 PM »

The problem, of course, is that Scripture has used bethulah to signify someone who is clearly not a virgin, while this is never the case with almah.

Symeon, hmm, that sounds weird.  Where does it use Btulah for non-virgin?
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