[b-hebrew] Definite Article 7:14
kwrandolph at gmail.com
Mon Jul 16 08:51:36 EDT 2007
You are guilty of pushing a particular reading for what historically
have been ideological reasons.
On 7/15/07, Tory Thorpe <torythrp at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Cow dung. There is simply no basis for the "generally should connote
> a virgin" in your first sentence apart from a particular theology.
> The commentary does not take Eigenbegrifflichkeit into account at
> all, else the commentators would not have said "but not married" as
> if almah cannot be used to describe a married woman, which is totally
> The word almah simply connotes youth, as does the masculine form, in
> the TaNaK. But saying that youth is associated with virginity, while
> true in almost every culture, is not a given in one where pre-teen
> and teenage marriages are the norm. A female or male Israelite is no
> longer considered an elem/almah after a certain age, not necessarily
> after marriage or after they have had sex (cf. BDB s.v. elem, "young
> man," almah, "maid or newly married").
Not all of us agree with BDB. Therefore you can't just cite BDB, you
need to give your own reasons as well.
Back when I was in college, I read somewhere, I don't remember where
but the author gave no indication of being a Christian, that in
ancient times and among some in the Middle East as late as a few
generations ago, it was considered a special honor to be served by
virgin(s), but woe betide the man if, after the service, it was found
that the virgin was no longer one. Likewise, a woman who was a virgin
could serve even in cultic worship, but that she lost her suitability
for such service upon marriage and loss of virginity. So references to
"virgins" in the service of kings and in the temple are for virgins in
the modern sense.
It is my understanding that there was no problem among Jews with the
understanding of (LMH meaning "virgin" until after the Christian claim
that Jesus was born of such. The belief that Messiah would be born of
a virgin continued among some Jews as late as the 1400s AD (mentioned
in Rafael Patai "The Messiah Texts", I'm citing from memory having
read the book decades ago, Amazon
> You keep reading "virgin" into almah without demonstrating that the
> woman in Isa. vii 14 was that. Yet we know she is described as being
> pregnant when Isaiah spoke to Ahaz because of the verbs. All you are
> doing is forcing the text into a straight jacket because you seem
> incapable of thinking of almah as anything but a physical virgin.
You are reading the modern Israeli tenses into Biblical Hebrew. Is
that wrong use affecting your understanding?
> Tory Thorpe
The reasons that I and many others claim that (LMH means "virgin" are
both linguistic and ideological:
It is from the same root as "to be unknown" used in the Hiphil in the
sense of hiding (causing to be unknown), contrasting to the use of
knowing in reference to sexual activity.
Within Tanakh, it is used only of young, unmarried people, who,
according to the expectations of that time, were supposed to be
In this passage, Isaiah changes his focus from Ahaz alone to the
"House of David" which included several kings who, like Ahaz, were
apostate. Thus the fulfillment of the prophecy is not necessarily
The claim that Mariam the mother of Jesus was a virgin at the time she
got pregnant and gave birth.
By prior agreement, we are enjoined from pushing the ideologic reasons
(the only reason I mention them above is to admit that they exist and
that they are not linguistic), but we can mention the linguistic
reasons which, contrary to your claims, is not "pushing our ideology".
For you to deny that the linguistic reasons exist can only be
understood as pushing your ideology, but you can mention the later use
of (LMH to refer to other than virgins as a linguistic defense for
your understanding. That there are competing linguistic reasons means
that we cannot insist that one reading must be the only one used. It
can be an indication that the word changed meaning over time. There
are some times we must agree to disagree, and for reasons of comity
not to push our reasons beyond mentioning them.
Karl W. Randolph.
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