[b-hebrew] virgin vs. young woman

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Fri Jul 20 13:21:54 EDT 2007


You make a good point.

Probably the most common usage of "virgin" in English today is not in
relation to people at all, but in cases such as 'Virgin Olive Oil'
printed on products, and in names of companies and places. In the case
of products, that it is pure, not adulterated, i.e. high quality.
(Yes, "adulterated" used deliberately here.)

But just as you note that in English that "virgin" is very seldom used
to refer to a person, and not all of those times in relation to sexual
purity, so in Hebrew (LM or (LMH is used very sparingly in Tanakh to
refer to a person, only 10 times for both. The usual term is N(R or
N(RH, which includes the teens to early twenties; in other words, a
person could be considered a "boy" or "girl" until marriage.

However, in English, the reason that a reference to "those virgins"
would spark laughter today is because of the general immorality so
prevalent in modern society; in previous times when there was a higher
standard of morality and it could be assumed that most young men and
women went to the altar as virgins, the reference to a group of young,
unmarried  women as a "group of virgins" may have raised eyebrows, but
would not have been the cause of mirth.

There is one crucial difference between "virgin" and (LMH, and that is
the root meanings. Whereas "virgin" comes from a root meaning of
purity, unadulterated by experience or impurities mixed in, (LMH comes
from being unknown in a society where "knowing" was a euphemism for
sexual activity, a euphemism found not only in Tanakh, but also in
Matthew and Luke. How this works out in understanding and translation
is a question before us.

How "parthenos" was used in Greek is not the question before us, other
than to note that in the New Testament it was used to refer to a
person who had not had sex, also to the state of virginity. I refuse
to be drawn into a generalized discussion of Greek usage outside of
this context.

I also don't buy the theory that Hebrew lost the distinction between
the ayen and ghayen, rather I think the evidence points to the theory
that Hebrew never had that distinction until it was introduced to
Hebrew during and after the Babylonian Captivity at the earliest. We
discussed this in greater detail before, in reference to the sin/shin
distinction. Therefore it cannot be argued that (LMH cannot be from
the root (LM meaning "unknown".

You made a good point that needs to be kept in mind.

Karl W. Randolph.

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