Virgin Mary not a Virgin?


Can anyone help me with this one? Perhaps someone familiar with the Greek?

The Translator’s Responsibility

“The Virgin Birth and Virgin Mary are, pardon the pun, pregnant with social symbolic significance in most, if not all, parts of the world. Whether you believe in them or not, they are solid social constructs, rehearsed endlessly in art, humour, everyday life, and language. And yet their birth is due to a relatively simple mistake in translation. The Old Testament talks about almah ‘young woman,’ not bethulah ‘virgin.’ However, the scholars in the 3rd century BC translated the Hebrew almah as parthenos in Greek. Thus the ‘young woman’ in Hebrew metamorphosed into a ‘virgin’ in Greek—and she has remained a virgin ever since in translations across the world. The notion of ‘virgin birth’ was born, thanks to a mistranslation.”


The Old Testament talks about almah ‘young woman,’ not bethulah ‘virgin.’ However, the scholars in the 3rd century BC translated the Hebrew almah as parthenos in Greek.

Actually the Dead Sea text of Isaiah uses “bethula” (virgo intacta) and NOT “alma” (young female).

And any Bible scholar will tell you that the LXX was based on an older text than the present Hebrew Massoretic text, which was not stabilized until the 12th century after Christ, which is rather late, don’t you think?


Perfect! Thank you!! :slight_smile:


Virgin Mary is truly a virgin. Virgin of heart (pure), without stain.:slight_smile:


The Church’s belief in the virgin birth is based on more than a “mistranslation” (young woman vs virgin). From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

“According to St. Luke (1:34-35), “Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” The intercourse of man is excluded in the conception of Our Blessed Lord. According to St. Matthew, St. Joseph, when perplexed by the pregnancy of Mary, is told by the angel: “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost” (1:20).”

Here you have Mary herself saying she knows not a man; and the angel saying the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit. This is more than a “mistranslation,” this is revelation.

The OP’s quoted excerpt is rather condescending, with the use of puns and saying that this central belief of the Church, and all Christians, is due to a “relatively simple mistake”, as if there is no theology behind the concept to support it.


:thumbsup: Excellent information. Thank you for sharing that with us!


In researching this myself on the Internet, I find many sources which say the DSS uses “bethula” here, and many more which state that the DSS uses “almah” here. What I can’t seem to find is and actual transliteration of the DSS to see for myself which it actually has. Can you point me to such a source?


First off, if the passage in question from Isaiah 7:14 should say “young woman” it wouldn’t tell us whether Mary would conceive as a virgin or not because she was indeed a young woman! So right there, you know anyone who tries to use this against Mary’s virginity is playing in bad faith.

Also, the RSV-CE Bible has a footnote on Isaiah 7:14 reading:
young woman: The Hebrew word 'almah is not more explicit. The Greek translates this as parthenos, “virgin,” and may be regarded as a witness to later Jewish tradition as to the meaning of the prophecy. The virginal conception is, of course, unequivocally stated in the Gospel where this prophecy is quoted (Mt 1:23; cf. also Lk 1:35)


Here’s how Rev. Michael Duggan gives the history in the book “The Consuming Fire: A Christian Introduction to the Old Testament” (emphasis mine):

*We not that, when quoting Isaiah 7:14, **the evangelist [Matthew] prefers the narrowness of the Septuagint **(Greek) translation to the breadth of the Hebrew original. The unknown scribe who translated the text into Greek sometime after 250 B.C. in Alexandria rendered the Hebrew term for “young woman” (‘almah) by the term “virgin” {parthenos). The Jewish tradition in Egypt of the third century B.C. was inspired to contemplate an unprecedented divine intervention in the birth of the Messiah. The insistence on a virginal conception that the Greek text asserts allows Matthew to demonstrate that not only Jesus’ title as Immanuel but also the manner of his birth fulfills the Scripture. We have seen that the original prophet was thinking of a young married woman who conceived a child around 734 B.C. at the beginning of Judah’s war with Israel and Damascus. By deciding to quote the Septuagint, Matthew associated himself with a tradition that proclaimed the promise of the Messiah in a manner far more marvelous than Isaiah had imagined.
Couple thoughts.

  1. Notice in the first sentence how Matthew was quoting from the Septuagint, therefore those who appeal to the earlier Hebrew translation do so in opposition to Matthew’s preference!

  2. Notice how the “final” version of Isaiah contained “virgin” in 250 B.C. (most Old Testament books went through multiple edits before reaching final form and even had multiple authors).

  3. Notice the role Tradition played in the Septuagint translation!

  4. Rev. Duggan claims that Isaiah thought he was prophesizing about an imminent birth…I don’t know if that is true or not because prophets would often prophesize what was revealed to them, and their personal understanding may or may not accompany the prophecy (can anyone else confirm this?..that is my understanding)


I hate to state the obvious, but aside from scholarly knit picking, I would ask the obvious

How could Mary be so open to God’s will to be already connected to someone or something else other than God???

She was so open to God’s will she could not have ever refused it.

Would part of that had room to inculde anyone but God?

I think not.


The problem here is that the Hebrew that says Young Woman is NOT the original Hebrew. It is ferom the medieval masoretic text, which many early |Christians say was deliberately altered


I’ve also heard that it would in fact be better to translate that word as ‘maiden’ although that is not used much in English today it has the same meaning of both unmarried woman (which implies youth) and virgin.


I am not a biblical scholar, but I do believe that scripture clearly reveals that Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit. My question concerns the doctrine of EVER virgin. I know that the mention of brothers of Jesus does not necessarily mean biological brothers. However, what is the Church’s response to Matthew 1:25 (NAB) “He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and named Him Jesus.” ?:blessyou:


Read “objection #4” here.

Read about Mary as “EVER” Virgin here.


Here is a site I found. I don’t know anything about it. I just put it forward in response to post # 7.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.


I know that what we are always told in church during the homily that it is important to consider the time in which the Bible is written. This being the case, could it be that “young woman” and “virgin” are in fact one in the same because at that time and in that culture it was unheard of for a “young woman” to have relations with a man. If what I say is correct, then discussing the translation is a moot point. For example, I was reading Dr. Seuss to my daughter the other day, and they used the word “lollipop.” I explained to her that “lollipop” is another word for “sucker” which is the word I’ve always used for the hard candy on a stick. (Crude example, but it sorta works.) So, who knows - whenever that guy wrote “young woman,” he could very well have meant “virgin.”



Surely the Gospel writers knew what Isaiah meant - and they made the point very heavily that Mary indeed conceived never having had relations with any man.

This would not be necessary unless it were understood that Isaiah specifically referred to a virgin rather than young woman.


Have you seen the text yourself? If not, what is your secondary source?



Can we go over why it is important that she IS a virgin?

 It is my understanding that as it is with other saints who pledge their virginity to God, Catholics / human beings who die virgins are given a special place in heaven.  I don't want to say that they get "special treatment" but I think that this may be the case.  Mary is not just any saint; she is the highest saint in Heaven, so if for no other reason than to be an example to other saints, she should and did stay a virgin.  Joseph was okay with this because he knew his primary job was to protect Mary and Jesus from harm.  This is why Joseph is called the Protector of the Church.  He was also a widower who had at least one child, so it's not like he missed out on the chance to beget children.  (Neither did Mary for that matter.)  Mary did not have a problem with being a perpetual virgin because she was born without original sin.  Therefore she had no concupicence, or desire to sin.  Not to say her life was a walk in the park, I'm sure it wasn't, but being without original sin I'm sure was a plus.  She uses these gifts every day as she prays for us; she does not take them for granted by any means.  I would imagine that if a woman is going to be the mother of God, God the Father would want to keep her as pure as he could.  Yet another reason for her virginity.  Oh yeah - my priest also says that Jesus and Mary are the New Adam and the New Eve.  Adam and Eve sinned, so it was up to Jesus and Mary to undo everything in perfect reversal that they did in order to save this world.  If you'll notice, Eve came from Adam when God took Adam's rib and went to work making her.  Therefore, in order to reverse that, God made it so that Jesus, a man, came from Mary, a woman, His Mother.  Adam and Eve both sinned, so God also had to make it so that Jesus and Mary were both sin-less.  Thus, Mary's Immaculate Conception and Jesus's dual human/Divine nature.  

I’m not much on finding stuff in the Catechism and stuff like that, but I pay attention when I go to Church on Sunday. That’s where I get my information. If someone else wants to back me up, that would be great. :slight_smile:


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