[b-hebrew] virgin vs. young woman

JAMES CHRISTIAN READ JCR128 at student.anglia.ac.uk
Thu Jul 19 15:51:27 EDT 2007


Has anyone considered that maybe neither parthenos nor
alma have a one to one mapping to neither 'virgin' nor
'girl' but rather a mix of both?

As any linguist knows there is rarely a 100% one to one mapping between words of any two languages. English is 
a particularly difficult language to translate into 
because of its history.

The following etymology of English 'virgin' is taken from 
here: 
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=virgin

virgin (n.) Look up virgin at Dictionary.com
    c.1200, "unmarried or chaste woman noted for religious piety and having a position of reverence in the Church," from O.Fr. virgine, from L. virginem (nom. virgo) "maiden, unwedded girl or woman," also an adj., "fresh, unused," probably related to virga "young shoot." For sense evolution, cf. Gk. talis "a marriageable girl," cognate with L. talea "rod, stick, bar." Meaning "young woman in a state of inviolate chastity" is recorded from c.1310. Also applied since c.1330 to a chaste man. Meaning "naive or inexperienced person" is attested from 1953. The adj. is recorded from 1560 in the lit. sense; fig. sense of "pure, untainted" is attested from c.1300. Virginity is attested from c.1303, from O.Fr. virginite, from L. virginitatem (nom. virginitas), from virgo.


In English, virgin is a word with quite a high register 
due to its Latin origin which is rarely used in everday
conversation. How often do we hear this on the streets 
of London? 'Look at those beautiful virgins'. 

Such remarks would usually spark reams of hysterical 
laughter from your average Engishman (or English speaking 
person in general). But such was not the case in the 
days that Latin was the lingua franca. Talking about 'virginem' was probably an everday event (especially 
for young single blokes hoping to score one). Although 
their state of virginity was probably a secondary, 
albeit thoroughly understood, aspect of the word while 
it's primary aspect was that of a young girl (of marriagable age (generally understood or at least hoped 
to be a 'virgin'))).
 It's really quite ironic that the 
the discussion in general about meaning can equally be 
applied to the Latin from which we get our overly too 
specific word (virgin) to provide an adequate translation. 
English 'virgin' can equally be applied to men for one 
which completely disqualifies the term for any kind of 
100% one to one mapping of any kind.

In such cases where words clearly have no such one to 
one mapping it is an exercise in futility to deal with 
words as if they were single entities with one and only 
one meaning devoid of any kind of context.

I've been in the Ukraine for a while and I've noted tha t
they have two words, literally but not entirely 'girl' 
and 'woman'. The word for woman 'zhinka' is used also 
for English 'wife' (much the same as hebrew) and 
context renders clear which aspect of the word is 
emphatic. The word for 'girl', 'divchina', is used for 
girl/young woman and secondarily, in limited contexts, as
'virgin' (similar to hebrew). The word 'divchina' is 
by far most commonly used as equivalent to English 
'girl' but I have heard it used in contexts where the 
aspect most clearly being emphasised is that of 'virginity'.

Is it not possible that the same could be happening 
here in the hebrew? That while the word has both aspects,
 the primary one being that of 'girl/young woman' (do 
we really say 'young woman' in English? or girl?), there
are contexts where the aspect being emphasised is clearly 
the second one, that of 'virginity'?

As a final point, doesn't anyone find it a little 
hard to believe that a Hebrew (Matthew), who wrote 
in Hebrew (according to Origen), whose agenda was to 
prove to Hebrews (with an equal command and understanding 
of the Hebrew word in question) a particular point would 
risk distancing himself from his intended audience by 
using the word in a way in which contradicts its 
generally accepted meaning?  as equivalent to English 
'girl' but I have heard it used in contexts where the 
aspect most clearly being emphasised is that of 'virginity'.

Is it not possible that the same could be happening 
here in the hebrew? That while the word has both aspects,
 the primary one being that of 'girl/young woman' (do 
we really say 'young woman' in English? or girl?), there
are contexts where the aspect being emphasised is clearly 
the second one, that of 'vi




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