[b-hebrew] virginity

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Thu Jul 19 05:23:01 EDT 2007

Dear Isaac,

I know that you take pride in not accepting anything that linguists say about languages, but what would you, as a professor of mathematics, say if a historian, who (like myself) had no real knowledge of mathematical theory, came up with some totally new idea that threw what all mathematicians since Newton have done into the dustbin. You, or at least most mathematicians, would say, "let him acquire at least a basic knowledge and appreciation of present theory, and then start deconstructing it". This does not mean that the "uninitiated", that is, someone from outside the field, could not have very useful insights. Indeed, it sometimes takes a fresh, non-traditional look at things to put scholarship back on track. But there are limits to this as well.

The fact that ghayin is one of the basic consonants in Semitic languages, ancient and modern, is well recognized by linguists. It is not something that "some Arabs" have developed by talking funny, but rather something "some Hebrews" have lost over time. Hebrew, like any other language, developed over time and did not do so in a linguistic vacuum.

I do accept Dave's warning about not automatically accepting the semantic meaning of Ugaritic "glmt" as being the same as biblical 'almah. The words are definitely cognates and probably have similar meanings, but even if the "glmt" of 13th century Ugarit means "a young, married woman", the word could have had a different meaning to Isaiah in 8th century Jerusalem. 


Yigal Levin
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Isaac Fried 
  To: Yigal Levin 
  Cc: b-hebrew 
  Sent: Thursday, July 19, 2007 7:20 AM
  Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] virginity


  I know that some Arabs pushed some Ayin so deep into their throat that they choked on it and had to spit it back out as a fuzzy G or an R. (ALMAH could equally well be GALMA, CALMA, $ALMA, TALMAH. SALMAH is already taken for a full dress, and KALMAH does not connote well, as does BALMAH.

  Isaac Fried, Boston University

  On Jul 18, 2007, at 11:46 PM, Yigal Levin wrote:

    Dear Isaac,

    The G in "glmt" is really a Gh, the letter "ghayin", related to 'ayin but 
    pronounced deeper in the throat. This letter still exists in Arabic. The 
    ancient Hebrews kept the distinction between the two even though they used 
    the same sign for both of them, somwhat like Shin and Sin. So that some 
    'ayins are orriginally ghayins. For Example, this is why the city name 'Azza 
    in Hebrew became Gaza in Greek - because that how in was still pronounced in 
    Hellenistic times (and is still pronounced in Arabic). That's why 'Amorah is 
    "Gommorah". In this case, the Ugaritic proves that the 'ayin in 'almah is 
    really a ghayin.

    Yigal Levin

    ----- Original Message ----- 
    From: "Isaac Fried" <if at math.bu.edu>
    To: "Tory Thorpe" <torythrp at yahoo.com>
    Cc: "B Hebrew" <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
    Sent: Thursday, July 19, 2007 6:34 AM
    Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] virginity


      It appears to me that the "Ugaritic" word glmt = galmat? you are
      quoting below is from the root GLM, 'to have shape, to have body, to
      be compact'. The word ends in the personal pronoun AT for the woman
      itself. The word GOLEM, 'fetus', of Psalms 139:16 is one of the words
      derived from this root. The root GLM is of the root family BLM, KLM,
      CLM, SLM, $LM [hence the name $ULAMIT of Songs 7:1, in which both the
      U and the IT are personal pronouns] and TLM.

      Isaac Fried, Boston University

      On Jul 18, 2007, at 9:45 PM, Tory Thorpe wrote:

        Dear Bill,

        On Jul 18, 2007, at 6:03 PM, Bill Rea wrote:

          Tory wrote:-

            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

          This is an assumption on your part. As such you can't elevate an
          assumption to a fact. The Judges 21:12 can easily be read otherwise.
          To insist that the author must have added ``whom no man had known''
          to remove doubt is a reasonable assumption but no more reasonable
          than believing the author was engaging in repitition for literary

        It is more than merely an assumption when one considers, for example,
        the annunciation formula in the Hymn of Nikkal from Ugarit: hl glmt
        tld bn, "Look, the almah will give birth to a son" (UT 77:7). This is
        strikingly similar to Isa. vii 14. Ugarit and ancient Israel shared a
        conventional idiom, but used it differently. Cyrus H. Gordon always
        rendered glmt (= almah) in Ugaritic texts by "maid" and never
        "virgin" since another text from Ugarit puts glmt in parallelism with
        'att ("wife"), thus showing that the two are synonymous terms. The
        implication is that the etymological counterpart of Ugaritic glmt in
        BH may also be applied to a young wife. Gordon wrote: "almah means a
        'young woman' who may be a virgin, but is not necessarily so" (JBL 21
        [1953], p. 106). I don't think its possible to be more nonpartisan
        than that given the evidence currently available. Nothing has really
        changed since H. Schultz, Old Testament Theology (Edinburgh, 1892),
        II p. 414, agreed with the rabbinic understanding that almah has to
        do with years of age, not marital status or chastity per se.

        One needs to evaluate your assertion that the negative expressions in
        Gen. xxiv 16 and Jdg. xxi 12 were added by the biblical author merely
        for literary effect against the evidence from Sumerian and Akkadian.
        Similar negative expressions are used in these languages; there is no
        single word for "virgin". There is no one word for "virgin" in
        Ugaritic or in Mishnaic Hebrew. I would also add Biblical Hebrew
        because of the way betulah is defined in the Mishnah and in the
        cognate languages of the ancient Near East. In this instance at
        least, I could cite others, the Mishnaic Hebrew illumines the BH. For
        other examples, see R. Gordis "Studies in the Relationship of
        Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew" Louis Ginzberg Jubilee Volumes (New
        York, 1946), pp. 173-200; idem, "Biblical Hebrew in Light of Rabbinic
        Usage" in Sepher Tur-Sinai (Jerusalem, 1961), pp. 149-167.

        Tory Thorpe
        b-hebrew mailing list
        b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org

      b-hebrew mailing list
      b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org

      No virus found in this incoming message.
      Checked by AVG Free Edition.
      Version: 7.5.476 / Virus Database: 269.10.6/902 - Release Date: 15/07/2007 

    b-hebrew mailing list
    b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org


  No virus found in this incoming message.
  Checked by AVG Free Edition. 
  Version: 7.5.476 / Virus Database: 269.10.6/902 - Release Date: 15/07/2007 14:21

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list