[b-hebrew] virginity

Tory Thorpe torythrp at yahoo.com
Wed Jul 18 01:08:50 EDT 2007

On Jul 17, 2007, at 8:50 PM, 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.

And you really attempting to justify your remarks with banalities  
like that? Your original claim was not simply that normal changes  
have occurred in Hebrew but that Jews changed the meaning of a word  
in their own language as a result of the Christian teaching that  
Jesus was born of a virgin. You do not offer any evidence whatsoever  
to back up this claim. It is repugnant.

> 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?

What's wrong is that you have not offered an ounce of proof that the  
term almah changed meaning among Jews since the advent of Christianity.

> 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 see. I should not have said "native Hebrew speakers" since you do  
not acknowledge any among Jews until the 20th century. Let me correct  
this: "Karl sees christian doctrine forcing a change in the meaning  
of a Hebrew word, namely almah, among Jews." Doesn't sound any less  
offensive to me, and don't let your tendencies to pedantry change the  

>> 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?

It would depend on the quality of the work.

> Does it include someone who has read Tanakh
> through, cover to cover, around 20 times, as he knows Hebrew so well?

I recall you saying you did this. So what? I've read the holy TNK  
from cover to cover, and much more than 20 times. In fact I know many  
who have (very common actually), and some who have committed the  
entire Torah to memory; but not one of them shares your odd beliefs  
about our language.

> 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?

Sounds like you had a very bad experience at university. Why are you  
wasting your time with scholarship when you aren't prepared to be  
scholarly? Those who I would count as Hebrew scholars should have  
been apparent to you from my own remarks and the citations from Dr.  
Brown's book: it includes secular scholars and anyone of any faith  
who is prepared to be scholarly and work independently of their  
religious or political biases, otherwise they are incapable of being  
useful scholars. You seem willing to fall over your biases.

> 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.

It is not an issue of Masoretic pointing. For b'almah the LXX read  
"in youth" in its vorlage (I personally think the Gk mistakes  
neanis). Thus the less speculative approach is one that questions the  
spelling here in the MT, not the pointing. The only real reason I can  
see for raising doubts about the pointing is because of an ideology  
that seeks to define almah _only_ in terms of a physical virgin even  
if that means accusing the Jews of changing the meaning of almah  
since the advent of Christianity. You're just not interested in what  
happened in the past or with the transmission of the text. You have  
other interests.

>> >> 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.

I'll take that as "I don't know".

>> 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.

Well, I am still looking. You sure you have the right book? Anyway,  
you shouldn't really be making a sensational claim, i.e. belief in a  
virgin birthed Messiah held by Jews from ? down to the 1400s, and  
attribute this to an author, when you are not ready to point to the  
chapter and the page number of the book where the statement  
supposedly appears.

>> 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.

If Isaiah had intended physical virginity to be clearly understood he  
would have undoubtedly wrote "woman/girl whom no man had known..."  
which is the manner in which the Hebrew author of Jdg. xxi 12  
expresses physical virginity so as to remove any possibility of doubt.

>> >>> 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.

It is not a red herring. You have not provided even a sub-atomic  
particle of unambiguous evidence that Isaiah had in mind physical  
virginity in Isa. vii 14, or that the word almah had this meaning  
among Jews until the advent of Christianity. And you are kidding  
projecting your partisanship onto me and every other serious scholar  
(see definition of serious scholar above) who reads almah as "young  
girl" in Isa. vii 14 and elem as "young man" (not "virgin"!) in 1 Sa.  
xx 22.

> The word is used too seldom for us to insist that it was restricted to
> a certain age group.

But yet it is somehow not used too seldom for us to insist that it  
was restricted to girls who were physical virgins? This is so trivial  
it's silly.

> 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.

In a parallel universe, perhaps. But in this world you are light  
years from proving your case.

> 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.

Again with the he said she said but I don't remember because it was  
so long ago. If that is how you think scholarship works, you lack the  
basics of how to do scholarship. The idea you champion is outside  
mainstream views, and novel as far as scholarship is concerned, no  
matter if it was introduced years ago by someone whose name you can't  

>> ... 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.

That was me trying to be kind to your (someone's) theory. You are  
free to believe whatever cow dung you choose. Just because I  
considered it cow dung doesn't mean I deny you the right to entertain  

> 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."

I certainly have. The alamot in Song of Sol. vi 8 were part of the  
royal harem (as is recognized by Dr. Brown et al) which would make  
many if not all of these young girls (lesser) royal wives, "married  
women" forbidden to other men, in the context of the ancient Near  
East. I will not say this again.

Tory Thorpe

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