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Virgin birth prophecy in the old testament (second)


Do the Hebrew Scriptures Say that a Virgin will Give Birth?


In Isaiah 7:14 the Hebrew word "almah" appears. This is perhpas the
most controversial word in all of the Hebrew Scriptures. Does it mean
"virgin" or does it mean "young woman." If it means "young woman" then
is the virgin birth of the Messiah only a Christian fantasy having no
foundation in Scripture? The controversy over the Septuagint
translation of Isaiah 7:14 appears very early. The International
Standard Bible Encyclopaedia relates that: 
"When Christians began to cite the Alexandrian version [LXX] in proof
of their doctrines, the Jews began to question its accuracy. Hence,
mutual recriminations which are reflected in the pages of Justin's
Dialogue with Trypho. 'They dare to assert,' says Justin (Dial., 68),
'that the interpretation produced by your seventy elders under Ptolemy
of Egypt is in some points inaccurate.' A crucial instance cited by
the Jews was the rendering 'virgin' in Isa 7:14, where they claimed
with justice that 'young woman' would be more accurate."

It appears from the early Jewish argument here that the question is
not whether the LXX had the term "parthenos" (virgin) but whether it
was an accurate translation. That is, the Jews were not accusing the
Christians of creating a corrupted text but rather the text already in
use by the Jews was inaccurate. The use of parthnos in Matthew 1:23 is
clearly a quote from this pre-Christian era LXX in which parthenos was

The legend of how the LXX was created has long been recognized as
being unhistorical [Hody, De bibliorum textibus originalibus (1705),
"Septuagint" International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia]. The Aristeas
letter has been shown to contain unhistorical elements and be the
source of the legend of the creation of the LXX. As you have stated,
the Torah was translated first with the rest of the TeNaKh being
translated later - though all before the Christian era. The
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia says concerning this:
"There is little doubt that the next books to be translated were the
Prophets in the narrower sense, and that Isaiah came first. The style
of the Greek Isaiah has a close similarity, not wholly attributable to
imitation, to that of the Pentateuch."
"The language is that of the people, not a literary style suitable to
a work produced under royal patronage. The importation of Palestinian
translators is likewise fictitious. Dr. Swete acutely observes that
Aristeas, in stating that the translation was read to and welcomed by
the Jewish community before being presented to the king, unconsciously
reveals its true origin. It was no doubt produced to meet their own
needs by the large Jewish colony at Alexandria. A demand that the Law
should be read in the synagogues in a tongue 'understanded of the
people' was the originating impulse."
So the idea that the LXX, excepting the Torah, was translated by
non-Jews has no foundation. The LXX was translated by Jews for
Jews. This seems the most logical and straightforward understanding
and not that it was created by non-Jewish Greek scholars.

The following discussion on the word "almah" is based on the "Lexical
Aids to the Old Testament" of the New American Standard Bible, which
is derived from Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Harris,
Archer, Waltke: editors) and Old Testament Word Studies (William

The Hebrew word "almah," which appears in Isaiah 7:14 is thought by
modern lexicographers to be derived not from "alam" (Strong's #5957)
but from the Hebrew root aleph*lamed*mem which means, "to be ripe" and
thus, by extension, implies one who is of marriageable age. In
Classical Greek the word parthenos simply meant "a young woman" or
"girl" and had no specific meaning of virginity. It later acquired the
meaning of "virgin" as we define it in English. Thus, the meaning of
the word adequately translates "almah." But almah and parthenos are
general words, which leave a possible meaning of "virgin" possible. So
why didn't Isaiah use the more specific term "bethulah" that
technically means "virgin"? I think it is so that it could apply both
appropriately to both the "near" and "far" fulfillment of the
prophecy. We see the use of words in Hebrew to intentionally leave
ambiguity. For example, in the book of Jonah the word "haphak" is used
in the warning to Nineveh that in "forty days Nineveh will be
overturned ("haphak")." Haphak fundamentally means "change." It can
mean change for the worse, as in "destroy" or it can mean to change
for the better, as in "transform." God announced, through Jonah, that
things would change in Nineveh - for better or worse. Other Hebrew
words, such as "shachath," which strictly means to "ruin" or
"destroy," could have been chosen if the only intended meaning was
"destruction." But haphak contains a hope of repentance for
Nineveh. So in Isaiah 7:14 almah gives enough vagueness to accommodate
the near fulfillment in the eighth century BC with a young woman
giving birth to the far fulfillment in the first century AD with the
virgin birth of Jesus.