[b-hebrew] virginity

Tory Thorpe torythrp at yahoo.com
Tue Jul 17 08:41:55 EDT 2007

On Jul 17, 2007, at 12:12 AM, K Randolph wrote:

> Tory:
> You wrote, "Yes, well, Karl sees christian doctrine forcing changes in
> the meaning of Hebrew words among native Hebrew speakers, ..." This is
> libel, take it back. It is libel because it is a deliberate and
> willful broadcast of a falsehood.

It is not a falsehood. It is the claim you made: "there was no  
problem among Jews with the understanding of (LMH meaning "virgin"  
until after the Christian claim that Jesus was born of such... It can  
be an indication that the word changed meaning over time."

>> I disagree that the reading "young woman" in Isa. vii 14 is
>> ideologically driven. In fact, I have never heard or read any modern
>> Hebrew scholar make that claim.
> Who and how do you define "modern  Hebrew scholar"? Your definition
> may be too restricted.

That's a long list. And though it includes all of my Jewish American  
and Israeli professors, it also includes non-Jewish Christian  
scholars like R. E. Brown: "It [almah] puts no stress on her  
virginity" (The Birth of the Messiah [1977], p. 147); "two passages  
demonstrate how poorly it [almah] would underline virginity: in Cant  
6:8 it refers to women of the king's harem, and in Prov 30:19 an  
almah is the object of a young man's sexual attention" (p. 147, n.  
43); "No more than betulah is parthenos so clinically exact that it  
necessarily means virgo intacta. The Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon  
gives several instances of the secular use of parthenos for women who  
were not virgins" (p. 148, n. 45); "the MT of Isa. 7:14 does not  
refer to a virginal conception in the distant future. The sign  
offered by the prophet was the imminent birth of a child...naturally  
conceived" (p. 148).

>> This reading allows for physical virginity.
> This is like when talking about an old crone you simply call her a
> "mature woman". A mature woman includes any woman from 18 and older,
> while crone is a subset of elderly women. Yes, you are technically
> correct, but far from accurate.

At what age were girls considered "mature" in preexilic Israel?

>>> 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
>> I have this book and I've been searching but cannot find where a
>> belief in a virginal conception and birth of the Jewish Messiah was
>> maintained in Judaism from ? down to the 15th century. And you must
>> understand, saying there was "no problem among Jews with the
>> understanding of (LMH meaning 'virgin' until after the Christian
>> claim that Jesus was born of such" is unfounded and highly offensive.
>> It reminds one of a similar libelous claim that Jews altered their
>> Bible in response to Christian claims.
> This inference is libellous.

You made reference to a book to back up your claim that Jews  
understood almah to mean "virgin" from ? down to the 1400s. The book  
makes no such claim, which does not inspire much faith in your other  

> As for my statement, I will quite willingly take it back if you can
> show me pre-Christian Jewish references that state directly that (LMH
> cannot mean "virgin", indicating that it is wrong for such a
> translation.

Who said the word could not be used in reference to a virgin?

>>> The reasons that I and many others claim that (LMH means "virgin"  
>>> are
>>> both linguistic and ideological:
>> The reason for reading "young woman" is simply linguistic and does
>> not exclude your ideology. That's why the reading "young woman" is
>> nonpartisan.
> It is partisan. First because it is too inclusive, Young women who are
> virgins are only a subset of young women. not all of them. Secondly,
> because it is too inclusive, it can then be used for understandings
> that were not intended by the author, understandings that historically
> have been driven by ideological considerations.

You mean like the birth of Jesus?

>> If you translate almah as "virgin" in Isa. vii 14 you leave no room
>> for much else.
> But isn't that what the author intended? If so, then to water down his
> meaning to something, well, meaningless, is not only inaccurate, but
> to insist on an inaccurate translation is partisan.

It is not meaningless. Almah, and its masculine form, denotes an age- 
group. Most young people within this group, especially girls, would  
be virgins; but in the biblical text the qualifying expression "who  
had not known man" or "whom no man had known" has to be added to  
remove any doubt.

> In closing, you jumped into this discussion claiming, "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 false." This
> statement is not only false, as it denies that there are linguistic
> reasons that some of us recognize for the reading of "virgin" for
> (LMH, a claim that you are backtracking on now that I show linguistic
> reasons for such a rendition, but it leaves no room for a reading of
> "virgin" as the correct emphasis of the prophecy by Isaiah. The only
> reasons I can see for your statement is partisanship and proselytism.

This is nonsense. I do not accept your linguistic reasons at all. The  
idea that almah is, to use your words, "from the same root as 'to be  
unknown' used in the Hiphil", with the implication of sexual  
inactivity, is novel and frankly unconvincing. But you are certainly  
free to believe in this.

Tory Thorpe

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