[b-hebrew] virginity

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Tue Jul 17 20:50:26 EDT 2007


On 7/17/07, Tory Thorpe <torythrp at yahoo.com> wrote:
> 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."
It's normal that languages change. English has changed quicker than
most, as it has changed so much in the last 400 years that many modern
people find high literature from that period often difficult to
understand. German has changed much less. So what's wrong about
claiming that the meanings of many Hebrew words may have changed
meaning from when Hebrew ceased to be spoken as a native tongue to
centuries later when they were again used in the Mishnah and later?

But I never claimed, not even remotely, that "christian doctrine
forcing changes in the meaning of Hebrew words among native Hebrew
speakers," and your defense of this libel only compounds this libel.

> >> 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).
You didn't answer the second aspect of my question, namely, what
merits a person to be called a scholar? Would you include someone who
has evaluated word meanings so much that he has written a dictionary
from Hebrew to English? Does it include someone who has read Tanakh
through, cover to cover, around 20 times, as he knows Hebrew so well?
Or is your list restricted only to those who are professors at secular
universities, showing that they have passed a political correctness
test of discipleship to their mentors, rather than showing independent
thought? (No offense intended for anyone on this list, so please don't
take it as this question is at least in part rhetorical as I grew up
in academia.)

As for the specific passages that you list above, the only one that
has not been answered recently is Proverbs 30:19 where there is
question whether or not it was pointed correctly by the Masoretes.
Pointed differently, it would mean "(into the) unknown" fitting the
context of the actions exhibited by an eagle riding the thermals while
hunting, the actions of a ship in response to wind and waves, the
actions of a snake crossing a smooth boulder, likewise the actions of
a man as he faces the unknown (the future). All the other verses
either I, or someone who writes better than I, have already answered
you showing why your claims are not convincing.

> >> 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?
The example above is drawn from the English language. You should have
recognized that.

> >>> 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
> assertions.
Just because you can't find it doesn't mean that it isn't there. I
don't have the book available to me so I could point you to the page,
but it was just a small comment that is easily missed, the only reason
I noticed it was because I was surprised to find it.

> > 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?
You did. Look below at where I quoted you.

There is a big difference between "young woman" and "virgin". Not all
virgins are young, and only some young women are virgins. If Isaiah
intended that "virgin" be understood, then to translate the term as
"young woman" is incorrect.

> >>> 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?
Yours is a red herring response. If "virgin" was intended by Isaiah,
then to translate the term with "young woman" is incorrect and
partisan for the reasons above.

> >> 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.
The word is used too seldom for us to insist that it was restricted to
a certain age group. Here's one example where it would be nice to have
access to a native speaker of Hebrew to clear up the question, but as
the last undisputed native speaker died well over two millennia ago,
that forces us to use secondary sources. (Modern Hebrew spoken in
Israel today is a different language, with a different grammar, many
of the words have different meanings not counting the many loan words
and neologisms.)

> > 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.

Whether you accept those linguistic reasons (I did not invent them) or
not is not the question, the question is do those reasons exist and
are they linguistic? The answer to both is Yes.

> ... The
> idea that almah is, to use your words, "from the same root as 'to be
> unknown' used in the Hiphil",

Is it too little for me to ask you at least to quote me accurately?

> ... with the implication of sexual
> inactivity, is novel and frankly unconvincing.

They are not novel because I did not originate the ideas. I first
heard about them decades ago  in a lecture from someone who was citing
others, but I don't remember who he cited. But after investigating the
claims, I found them convincing, hence repeat them.

> ... But you are certainly
> free to believe in this.
This is certainly not what you stated in the quote above, where you
called such ideas 吹牛皮.

> Tory Thorpe
In closing, you have not presented a single incontrovertible example
that backs up your claim above, i.e. "... as if almah cannot be used
to describe a married woman, which is totally false." In view of your
failure to back up your claim, this discussion has degenerated to one
of libel and misquoting. Unless you provide such evidence, I will not
respond to you again on this issue.

Karl W. Randolph.

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