[b-hebrew] virgin vs. young woman

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Sat Jul 21 16:46:27 EDT 2007

I'll add this to Karl's comment: the traditional Jewish marriage contract, 
the Ketubah, reffers to the bride as a "betulah", unless she had been 
previously married (in other words, a divorcee or a widow), in which case 
she's referred to as "ishah". Today, when most brides are certainly not 
"virgins" in the "pure" sense of the word, this often causes some joking, 
but I have yet to see either the couple or the rabbi who would dare suggest 
that the wording be changed.

Something like wearing a white dress...

Yigal Levin
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "K Randolph" <kwrandolph at gmail.com>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Friday, July 20, 2007 8:21 PM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] virgin vs. young woman

> James:
> 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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