SV: [b-hebrew] "virgin" vs. "young woman"in Isaiah 7:14

Søren Holst sh at
Fri Apr 1 13:35:30 EST 2005


By all means the LXX rendered 'almah as parthenos (which in most cases DOES mean virgin) in the pre-christian period, and thus chose a word with a narrower semantic field for its translation. I see no reason to doubt it. I'm not out to say christians were in bad faith when interpreting Isaiah or anything like that.

But I'm afraid I don't see why 'almah should mean "unknown one" just beacuse the verb lehe'elim means "to ignore". There are plenty of cases, where words have identical triliteral roots without being semantically related.

Nor do I see why "unknown one" should mean virgin, just because Gen 4:1 (and plenty of other passages) have the verb yada' in the sense of "have intercourse". This is very interesting speculative interpretation, but it's certainly not linguistics.

As I pointed out previously, a woman referred to as an 'almah, would certainly be expected to be a virgin if not yet married. So virgins are included in the category of 'almah, and therefore the biblical passges with 'almah are not rendered nonsensical if we follow the LXX in narrowing the semantic field of the word. But if I check all occurrences of 'almah and betulah, I find no instance where 'almah must be translated as "virgin" in order for the text to make sense -- the situation is quite different for betulah, as may be seen from Gen 24,16.


> -----Oprindelig meddelelse-----
> Fra:	b-hebrew-bounces at [SMTP:b-hebrew-bounces at] på vegne af Karl Randolph
> Sendt:	1. april 2005 19:55
> Til:	Hebrew
> Emne:	Re: [b-hebrew] "virgin" vs. "young woman"in Isaiah 7:14
> Søren:
> (LMH (also (LM in 1 Samuel 17, 20) when referring to a person indicates that the person is unknown. The root (LM has the meaning of being unknown, in hiphil the causitive meaning, i.e. to hide.
> When taken in the context of Genesis 4:1 (in American English that same wording was still used when I was young), the > "> unknown one> ">  is by necessity a virgin, making (LMH the technical term for > "> virgin> "> . Either that, or the term refers to a stranger.
> (I think the term> '> s use in Proverbs 30:10 refers to > "> the unknown> "> , not a person. The only arguments presented that I have seen that it refers to a person are not linguistic, but tradition. Hence I find them unconvincing.)
> If the present copies of the LXX are accurate copies of the original, then the LXX translated Isaiah 7:14 as > "> virgin> "> , i.e. before the NT interpretation.
> I am not going to argue the theological implications of this verse (e.g. some say that the virgin to whom Isaiah referred, was one standing near to Isaiah at the time he made the statement, with no expectation that she remained a virgin until after the birth of the child), but as a linguist, I see no good argument that (LMH was not the technical term for > "> virgin> "> , more so than BTWLH.
> Karl W. Randolph.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Søren Holst" <sh at>
> > 
> > Eugene,
> > 
> > Sorry if this sounds arrogant, but as far as I can see, there isn't 
> > really any "issue" as far as the text is concerned: Hebrew "'almah" 
> > means a young woman, and since young women may be virgins (if 
> > unmarried, they ought to, in traditional society like that 
> > reflected in the Bible), it may easily be used of a virgin, but it 
> > does not "mean" virgin (as opposed to a young woman who has had 
> > sexual intercourse), and there's an end of the issue.
> > 
> > ...
> > 
> > sincerely
> > Soren, Copenhagen
> -- 
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