"Almah" (Isaiah 7:14)


Even though the Septuagint translates “almah” to Greek parthenos which generally means “virgin” the Hebrew word for virgin is actually “betulah” and is used elsewhere in Isaiah. I would think that to interpret a Scripture where the meaning of “virgin” is the emphasis then “betulah” would fit whereas “almah” can refer to a married woman who may not necessarily be a virgin. I.e. “almah” seems not to be the word to use when intention is to mean “virgin” specifically but “betulah” is (and “betulah” translates to “parthenon” not “parthenos” in Greek).


What sort of sign is it when a married woman gives birth to a son? I could count the thousands daily.

Maybe almah was chosen to reveal a specific interaction, non-human interaction. On the one hand a virgin on the other able to deliver “God with us”. Maybe the Greek translators knew things we don’t. It all depends on how we espouse the phenomenon.

Have you been to the parthenon? It doesn’t look like a virgin. Though it does seem that it is dedicated TO a parthenos, therefore it is OF a parthenos. Hence a parthenon.


Have you heard of the Orthodox tradition of who Simeon is? You know, the old man who met the Holy Family in the Temple during the Presentation of Jesus?

Well, some people say he was one of the seventy-two translators of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures.

As he hesitated over the translation of this line and was going to correct it to γυνή (woman), an angel appeared to him and told him that he would not die until he had seen the Christ born of a virgin.

This would make him well over two hundred years old at the time of the meeting described in Luke!

Cray cray, right?

The point is, seventy-two scholars translated the Hebrew scriptures into Greek independently, and all seventy-two translated Almah to mean virgin.


Umm, “parthenon” is the accusative singular form of “parthenos”, as in II Cor. 11:2.

Edit: For the record, the name “Parthenon” is spelled with an omega, not an omicron, like “parthenon”, which makes it the genitive plural of “parthenos”. In this case (according to the Wiki article), it refers to unmarried women’s apartments (“of the virgins”).

(That was my one new thing learned for today – now I can go back to bed :stuck_out_tongue: )


From what I understand, in the context, the prophet was telling King Ahaz that a sign will be given to him (in his day, not 700 years later) that a woman would have a child and the child was described as part of the sign. In the context, the word “almah” would then have no special meaning except to be more specific that it would be a young (married :shrug:) woman (perhaps as opposed to an older woman or unmarried woman :shrug: )

Still, if the emphasis was “virgin” then I would think “betulah” would be used.

Jewish scholars say that using Isaiah 7:14 to support Christian doctrine is a misapplication of it.


Can you show anywhere in the OT where almah is used to refer to a married woman?

Most biblical scholars agree that almah is a young maiden, which presumably would be a virgin. However, in the prophesied event, the young maiden WAS married. :wink:

Not even Jewish scholars can point to a contemporary event (in Isaiah) that corresponds to this prophecy with any plausibility.

Your argument also flies in the face of Matt 1:23. Scripture is inerrant. :wink:



Not the key to the point.

This is fine, but wouldn’t “betulah” be the language needed in order to support translating it as virgin and emphasizing the virgin aspect?



And while we are bound to hear the “a normal birth is no sign” defense, the fact is that Isaiah 7:14 is not a prophecy of a miraculous virgin birth. The sign was in the timing, that by the time this child has reached a certain age, the nations of Israel and Aram (the two belligerent states threatening Judah at the time) would have been decimated (which happened soon enough, by Assyria).

This sign does not require a virgin birth; only a normal one, but within a particular timeframe. That is where the sign lies. Who this child is, we are not told. Some speculate it was Ahaz’s son Hezekiah, or some other unknown young woman who did name her child Immanuel, but about whom we otherwise know nothing about.

We do not necessarily have to read Jesus into this particular passage by itself. We find him as the fulfillment of it based on the reading in Matthew (where the Greek DOES say “parthenos”, virgin).

Translating Isaiah 7:14 as “maiden” or “young woman” in Isaiah, when working from the Hebrew, is a perfectly sound and accurate translation. Translating it as such in Matthew is not.


Since I have the software to make the task easy, and the time to do the compilation, here are all the occurrences of the Hebrew word almah in the Old Testament:

Gen. 24:43: Abraham’s servant Eleazar is praying and asking for a sign, that the almah (translated parthenos in the LXX) will water his camels as well, when he asks for a drink.

Ex. 2:8, referring to Miriam, translated neanis, “little girl”, in the LXX

Ps. 68:25, “among them were the maidens playing timbrels,” again translated translated neanis.

Prov. 30:19, “the way of a man with a maid,” translated neotes, “female youth”.

Song of Solomon 1:3, “therefore do the virgins love thee,” translated neanis.

Song of Solomon 6:8, “fourscore concubines and virgins without number,” translated neanis.

And finally, Isaiah 7:14, which has already been dissected.

So, the answer to the bolded question in your first paragraph is “No.”


:confused: Are you saying that the author of Matthew rewrote this Hebrew Scripture passage based on new revelation? I.e. All agree that Isaiah 7:14 stated “young woman” (or similar) and then at the time of Matthew, it was revealed that Isaiah 7:14 no longer stated “young woman”? :confused:


It’s all Greek to me!:smiley:


Whether it was based on new revelation or not, I don’t know. All we know is that the LXX (which Matthew quotes), has parthenos in the passage, which is correctly and exclusively translated as “virgin”.

It really boils down to Hebrew says this, Greek says that. The English word you choose depends on the source material you’re translating from.


Hey, it’s all Greek to me!!!




It really depends on whether parthenwn is a derogatory description developed by those external to the cult. A very common literary device.

If the parthenon singular is used to describe it, then it is a temple to the virgin goddess. If the parthenwn plural is used to describe it then it is simply just a brothel.


That makes sense. Good sincere discussion. :slight_smile:

I have read from Jewish commentary that this is due to wording of the Septuagint (centuries prior to OT). So the key seems that “parthenos” is simply a translation that may not best capture/reflect the true meaning of the original Scripture, not to mention that “parthenos” is also seen in a context where it clearly does not mean virgin.

It is apparent (IMHO) that to properly reflect the original/true prophesy of Isaiah, the correct translation in Matthew is “young woman” (who may or may not be a virgin) and not “virgin”.

Therefore, it is errant to relate this passage to assert Mary’s virginity. I’m not debating her virginity here, I am simply saying that it is errant to relate this passage to her virginity and it is also errant to assert that this prophecy specifically requires a virgin birth.


Absolutely not.

Matthew’s passage is lifted straight from the LXX, and in the Greek of Matthew (and the LXX), the word parthenos is used. One may debate whether or not the LXX rendering is a proper translation of the Hebrew, but the fact is, it says what it says.

Therefore when translating Matthew’s Gospel, “virgin” is the only acceptable word.

Therefore, it is errant to relate this passage to assert Mary’s virginity. I’m not debating her virginity here, I am simply saying that it is errant to relate this passage to her virginity and it is also errant to assert that this prophecy specifically requires a virgin birth.

I use this passage only in the context of Matthew’s Gospel to affirm/defend the Virgin Birth, not this passage in isolation because there is a reasonable objection to it in and of itself. This only highlights the importance of interpreting Scripture in its entirety, not passages without their necessary context. Matthew’s framing text is absolutely essential in the proper interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 as quoted. But Isaiah 7 within the book of Isaiah itself is a prophecy of something different entirely: national deliverance from Israelite and Syrian besiegers, not the promise of a Messiah or the coming of Jesus.


Yes, but propagation of errors is not an accomplishment. :slight_smile:


Your assumption that this is an error is just that: an assumption. You are accusing St. Matthew of propagating an error. That would be a mistake in itself.

Isaiah 7:14 is what it is in the LXX and in the Masoretic texts we have.

The prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 ABSOLUTELY relates to the Virgin Birth of the Messiah. To say it doesn’t is another mistake.


Well, I thought we already established:

1. The correct translation from the original Hebrew is “young woman” (or similar).

2. The Greek did not capture the true/exact meaning (e.g. “parthenos” may have been the best word available).

3. Many NT English translations today are based on this less than accurate Greek.

So, I am proposing that for all NT translations to accurately reflect the true meaning of Isaiah 7:14 then the term “young woman” (or similar) and not “virgin” should be used.



Because the New Testament is written in Greek and there is no dispute that the passage in Matthew 1:23 is in fact consistent across all the best Greek authorities, the only acceptable English word in Matthew is “virgin”, nothing else. Matthew needs to be translated on Matthew’s own merits, as Isaiah is translated on its own. For the NT, English translations are made from the Greek because only the Greek is authoritative. This includes the entirety of the Gospel of Matthew and all the OT quotes cited in Greek. One does not go to the Hebrew when translating the OT passages quoted in the New Testament; they are translated directly from the Greek autograph.

“Young woman” IS acceptable in a translation of Isaiah from the Hebrew. “Virgin” is the only acceptable translation if one is translating from the LXX. “Virgin” is the only acceptable word when translating Matthew from the Greek.

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