Christian reading

Issue N7

answers for a jew, valeriy sterkh

Answers for a Jew

Does the prophesy of Isaiah refer to a maiden or a virgin?

Question: Isaiah 7:14 talks about a maiden or a young woman. But why do Christians translate the Hebrew word "Alma" as "Virgin"?

Answer: Isaiah 7:14 was first applied to Jesus by Matthew: «Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin [παρθένος] shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us» (Mt 1:18-23).

Let's compare it with the prophesy in Isaiah: «Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin [παρθένος] shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel [heb. "Emmanuel" = God with us]» (Is 7:14; compare Is 8:8-10).

Both the Greek text of the Gospel and the Greek translation of Is 7:14 use the same word παρθένος (virgin). This is how the Hebrew word "alma" is translated in both cases. One can certainly argue about the nuances of translating "alma" as "maiden" or "virgin", but in reality, there is not much semantic difference between the words "maiden" and "virgin". Practically, they are the same. To limit the translation of the word "alma" to "a young woman" is a later invention of Judaism, which has very little in its favor.

The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Old Testament ordered by Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the king of Egypt, in the 3rd century BNE. This translation was completed by 72 Jewish scribes; thus, each Semitic tribe was represented by 6 people. The Septuagint translates "alma" as παρθένος. It makes perfect sense to trust the ancient Jewish scholars who certainly knew how to translate "alma", and had no reasons to distort the meaning of the prophesy.

Some interpret the prophesy from the first book of Moses in much the same way: «And I will put enmity between thee [great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan (Rev 12:9)] and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel» (Gen 3:15), so the Victorious One who will defeat the Devil will be born without the seed of a man.

Besides, Mary's eternal virginity is also based on Ezekiel's prophecy: «Then said the LORD unto me; This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut» (Ezek 44:2).

(to be continued)