[b-hebrew] virginity

Bryant J. Williams III bjwvmw at com-pair.net
Tue Jul 17 12:49:52 EDT 2007

Dear Isaac,

In a article by Bruce Waltke, TWOT, Vol. 1, pp. 137-138. In commenting on an
article by Gordon Wenham, "Betulah 'A Girl of Marriageable Age,'" VT
22:326-348, Waltke says,

    "But Wenham does call into question the conclusion that word must mean
'virgin' in Deut 22:13-21 because he offers a plausible interpretation
assuming the general meaning "nubile adolescence." In the first place,
'betulim,' tokens of virginity (vv 14, 15, 17, 18) is morphologically the
regular form for abstract nouns in biblical Hebrew designating age groups
(cf. NE'URIM, "youth"  ZEQUNIM, "old age"). Moreover, according to him, the
"tokens of virginity" called for by the elders are not the sheets of the
wedding night but garments stained by blood during her last period, and by
producing these the girl's parents count refute the jealous husband's
complaint that his wife was with child by another man while she was still in
her Father's house. Finally, he argued that this interpretation admirably
suits the sentence that if such tokens could be produced she should be
stoned to death "because she wrought folly in Israel by playing the harlot
IN HER FATHER'S HOUSE" (Deut 22:21). Thus the "tokens" served  as a test.
proving that she was not pregnant when was married. If she was not pregnant,
she was presumed to be a virgin. If this interpretation of 'betulim' is
correct then this would further sustain the thesis that 'betula' is a "girl
of marriageable age," since the onset of menstruation would be the clearest
sign that she had attained that age.

    Since Wenham has presented a strong case that the interpretation test
not one of virginity but of chastity, one must concede that 'betulim' or
'betula' does not speak of virginity in this disputed text."

Furthermore, Waltke comments, "Like Greek PARQENOS, Latin VIRGO, German
JUNGFRAU, Betula originally meant "young marriageable woman" but since she
was normally a virgin it not difficult for this meaning to become attached
to the word. This more technical meaning is a later development in Hebrew
and Aramaic and is clear it meaning by the Christian era. When the change
took place is not clear.

    What is clear is that one cannot argue that if Isaiah (7:14) in his
famous oracle to Ahaz had intended a virgin he could used betula as more
precise term that alma."

It would seem, then, that Waltke and Wenham agree that since betula is a
young girl of marriageable age, then alma would necessarily mean about the
same, but closer to the "ladies in waiting." These "ladies in waiting" would
also be of marriageable age and, possibly, married (young woman). This would
mean that alma would include the daughters of the queens and concubines of
the harem which would fit quite well with the context of Song of Solomon 8.

The fact that alma is used in Isaiah 7:14 gives enough ambiguity to the
prophecy to allow the angel in Matthew 1 to refer to this passage as a
fulfillment of it in the dream to Joseph, Son of David.

En Xristwi,

Rev. Bryant J. Williams III
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Isaac Fried" <if at math.bu.edu>
To: "Uri Hurwitz" <uhurwitz at yahoo.com>
Cc: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 4:20 AM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] virginity

> Uri,
> It would be interesting to hear from you what you think the bible
> means by BTULAH and BTULYIM. According to Deuteronomy 22:13-21 the
> life of a woman may depend on this definition.
> Isaac Fried, Boston University
> On Jul 16, 2007, at 8:14 PM, Uri Hurwitz wrote:
> > Now that the discussion took a clear anatomical turn,one
> >   may ask whether  such  anatomical aspects really belong
> >    in a list dealing with linguistic matters?
> >
> >   Uri Hurwitz
> >
> >
> > ---------------------------------
> >  Get your own web address.
> >  Have a HUGE year through Yahoo! Small Business.
> > _______________________________________________
> > b-hebrew mailing list
> > b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> > http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/b-hebrew
> >
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