[b-hebrew] Definite Article 7:14

JoeWallack at aol.com JoeWallack at aol.com
Sun Jul 8 17:03:22 EDT 2007

In a message dated 6/25/2007 7:50:26 AM Central Daylight Time,  
peter at qaya.org writes:

Seriously, and if we are talking translation rather than exegesis, it  
doesn't work in English to translate "the young woman", or "the virgin".  
According to English usage of the article, this would imply a young  
woman previously identified in the text, and there is no such young  
woman, so the sentence is effectively ungrammatical. In English we have  
to say "a young woman", or perhaps "this young woman" referring to only  
one present at the time although not previously mentioned - which is a  
possible understanding of the Hebrew article.

I say this despite  many English translations using "the" here.

Sorry about the delay. I had to take the bus to pick up the cat from the  vet 
at the veterinary shop. Than I took the bus to drop off the paper on the use  
of the Hebrew definite article with the Professor at the University. What you 
 wrote above reminds me of the classic line from Ghostbusters,  "Actually, 
it's more of a guideline than a rule." 
Again, the starting point here is what is being communicated in the Hebrew.  
We all seem to agree that the Hebrew definite article is the Hebrew definite  
article and almost always, if not always, communicates something definite in 
the  Hebrew. By usage we know that the overwhelming English translation is 
"the" so  you would need a compelling reason not to use "the". As I've indicated 
by  example above, your point above is not an English rule in any case and 
easily  countered by specific contexts. 
You are also proof-texting as you haven't even considered the full context  
of 7:14 here. If I claimed at this point that the combination of use of the  
Hebrew definite article along with a prophecy to the immediate Hebrew audience  
forces a translation of "the" ( a position that a relatively high percent of  
correspondents here probably have) and the proper question than is not whether 
 "the/a" is the proper translation but rather if "a" is even a possible  
translation, you would be likewise unimpressed. 
As to existing translations, until modern times, Jewish translations  
generally had "the" while Christian translations generally had "a" suggesting  that 
religious affiliation was the most important factor in the translation.  This 
polemical war has already been fought and won/lost though as the majority  of 
Christian translations now have "the", including the NKJV. Interestingly, the  
NASB translators decided on "young woman" for 7:14 but were vetoed by the  
American Bishops who retained "virgin". This is why I don't find authority  
authoritative here.
Joseph Wallack

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