How do we define and defend 'Virgin birth of Jesus' on messainic prophesy--Isaiah 7:14

(Sanjib ghosh) #1

I wouls like to understand regarding Virgin birth of Jesus ,specifically word virgin in - Isaiah 7:14.

I was meditating last few days specifically on this verse and

As I found there is no such word in hebrew which can define word virgin, but actual hebrew mentioned alma or bethulah.

‘The LXX is a translation of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek. This translation was made around 200 B.C. by 70 Hebrew scholars. In Isaiah 7:14, they translated the word almah into the Greek word parthenos . According to A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, parthenos means virgin. This word is used in the New Testament of the Virgin Mary (Matt. 1:23; Luke 1:27) and of the ten virgins in the parable (Matt. 25:1, 7, 11). If the Hebrews translated the Hebrew word almah into the Greek word for virgin, then they understood what the Hebrew text meant here.’

Why would Isaiah choose to use the word almah and not bethulah?

so, how we would clear on that ,what do you all think?

(Dean Schmucker) #2

The context is that King Ahaz has found himself in a world of hurt, armies surrounding him, suggesting that defeat is immanent. Isaiah asks Ahaz to ask for a sign, but he refuses. In that context came the messianic prophecy. What kind of sign would it be for a young girl to conceive and bear a son? That would be no big deal at all. Alma can mean young girl, but in this context, the LXX got it right, as a virgin conceiving would indeed be quite a sign.

(Sanjib ghosh) #3

Dear @manbooks,
Thank you so much for response.
Yes, your are right that about young girl but Matthew 1:23 is quoted as virgin.
So, question about the word Hebrew alma refers young woman for this context , how Matthew referring as virgin !

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(SeanO) #4

@san As it turns out, the Jewish translators of the Septuagint actually translated the Hebrew word ‘almah’ to a Greek term that did explicitly mean virgin, so it is not only Christian translators who understood the term in this way. In addition, even using ‘betulah’ may not have put the point beyond debate, since that word also appears to have some flexibility in its range of meaning. And finally, whether or not this word means ‘young woman’ or ‘virgin’ does not impact the fact that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy - Mary indeed was a young woman and Jesus is Immanuel, God with us.

In his book Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic?, which I highly recommend reading if you have these types of questions, Michael Rydelnik also makes a strong defense of the term almah meaning virgin.

Hope that is helpful :slight_smile:

The use of the article (frequently untranslated in modern English versions) with the word almah indicates that the Lord had a specific woman in mind

Cyrus Gordon has argued that ancient (pre-Mosaic) Ugaritic, which is cognate to Hebrew, used the word parallel to amah of a virgin goddess

the Septuagint translation of alma with the Greek word parthenos (‘virgin’) is evidence that in the pre-Christian era, the word was understood as referring to virginity

wherever almah is used in the Hebrew Bible…the word is used either of a virgin or in an indeterminate, neutral sense. Based on this study, it appears that Isaiah chose his words based on precision. While the Hebrew betulah could refer to a virgin of any age, almah would refer to a virgin that has just arrived at puberty. She is a maiden in the truest and purest sense. So, there does not seem to be cause to abandon the traditional interpetation of almah as a ‘virgin’ except for an antisupernatural or antimessianic bias

In the few verses where almah appears, the word clearly denotes a young woman who is not married but is of marriageable age. Although almah does not implicitly denote virginity, it is never used in the Scriptures to describe a “young, presently married woman.” It is important to remember that in the Bible, a young Jewish woman of marriageable age was presumed to be chaste.

The commonly held view that “virgin” is Christian, whereas “young woman” is Jewish is not quite true. The fact is that the Septuagint, which is the Jewish translation made in pre-Christian Alexandria, takes almah to mean “virgin” here. Accordingly, the New Testament follows Jewish interpretation in Isaiah 7:14. Therefore, the New Testament rendering of almah as “virgin” for Isaiah 7:14 rests on the older Jewish interpretation, which in turn is now borne out for precisely this annunciation formula by a text that is not only pre-Isaianic but is pre-Mosaic in the form that we now have it on a clay tablet.

Therefore, even if the prophet Isaiah had used the word betulah , it could have been argued that he did not intend to say that this woman had never had sexual relations with a man.

Traditionally, “virgin.” Because this verse from Isaiah is quoted in [Matt 1:23](javascript:{}) in connection with Jesus’ birth, the Isaiah passage has been regarded since the earliest Christian times as a prophecy of Christ’s virgin birth. Much debate has taken place over the best way to translate this Hebrew term, although ultimately one’s view of the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ is unaffected. Though the Hebrew word used here (עַלְמָה, ʿalmah) can sometimes refer to a woman who is a virgin ([Gen 24:43](javascript:{})), it does not carry this meaning inherently. The word is simply the feminine form of the corresponding masculine noun עֶלֶם (ʿelem, “young man”; cf. [1 Sam 17:56; 20:22](javascript:{})). The Aramaic and Ugaritic cognate terms are both used of women who are not virgins. The word seems to pertain to age, not sexual experience, and would normally be translated “young woman.” The LXX translator(s) who later translated the Book of Isaiah into Greek sometime between the second and first century b.c., however, rendered the Hebrew term by the more specific Greek word παρθένος (parthenos), which does mean “virgin” in a technical sense. This is the Greek term that also appears in the citation of [Isa 7:14](javascript:{}) in [Matt 1:23](javascript:{}). Therefore, regardless of the meaning of the term in the OT context, in the NT Matthew’s usage of the Greek term παρθένος clearly indicates that from his perspective a virgin birth has taken place.

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(Sanjib ghosh) #5

Dear @SeanO,
Thank you.
Yes , you are right , that the truth is that Jesus fulfilled the prophesy.
Thanks for all the links you sent.
I gone through few articles before ( which included your one also) , they are explaining the fact as you expressed.

But in order to face the non believers, what will be our view as apologist?
should we then acknowledge before them that 7:14 refers young woman not virgin! .
Does Matthew 1:23 referring , contradict with Isaiah!
Sorry just trying to be cleared before I answer them .

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(SeanO) #6

@san There is no contradiction between Matthew and Isaiah. Matthew was following a perfectly legitimate translation of Isaiah by the Septuagint. I recommend reading Michael Rydelnik’s book and studying up a bit more on the arguments that suggest that almah does mean virgin. I actually believe almah does mean virgin, but I do not think that our faith stands or falls on that point. And that is how I would communicate to a skeptic.

Actually friend, there are some great reasons to believe that almah does mean virgin. For example, the Jewish translators of the Septuagint translated it as virgin before the time of Christ, the pre-Mosaic Ugaritic texts used a parallel to amah to mean virgin and the Biblical usage of the word almah suggests this as a legitimate translation. Therefore, there is no contradiction here - Matthew was following the translation of the Jewish writers of the Septuagint. If you want to dig deeper, I really recommend the book The Messianic Hope by Michael Rydelnik. He discusses the evidence that alma does mean virgin. Ultimately though, my faith in Christ does not rely on the translation of this one word. Jesus is God with us, born of a virgin, regardless of the translation of the word almah.

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(Sanjib ghosh) #7

Dear @sean,
Praise God,
Thank you for confirming,
Yes I will read and also it’s undoubtedly for us that what we believe
Thank you for all your supported source material.

(SeanO) #8

@san Sure thing - praying that the Lord Jesus would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in knowledge of Him and guide you as you share these truths with others :slight_smile:

(Dean Schmucker) #9

I guess for me its the context. Though Almah only means “young girl” and not necessarily"virgin", I believe virgin right here, for it would be no sign to the king for a natural birth to occur. But a virgin conceiving is metaphysical.

(Sanjib ghosh) #10

Dear @manbooks,
Thank you , yes , this assumption might help to understand.
Thank you

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