Re: Parthenos

On Sun, 25 Sep 1994, David Coomler wrote:

> On Sun, 25 Sep 1994, Larry Swain wrote:
> > For starters, I am not convinced that Matthew did "misinterpret" a LXX 
> > version of Is. 7.14.  I think that he deliberatly interpreted it.  
> Could you clarify that, please?

Certainly.  To me, the idea of a "misinterpretation" is  that Matthew 
somehow made a mistake.  I don't think he did.  See below on your next 

David wrote:
> Would you say that Matthew's reading "virgin" is the result of linguistic
> change--resulting, for example, in Trypho the Jew's comment that the word
> in Isaiah 7:14 is not properly _parthenos_ but rather _neanis_?  Or would
> you say it is a deliberate interpretation to fit a given theological format?

There is a possibility that it is linguistic.  There is a semantic shift 
in the second century in the use of parthenos to denote virginity in our 
more restricted sense.  If we accept the traditional guild dating of 
Matthew in the 80s, this is close enough to this semantic shift as to be 
an example of it.  I do not think that this is primarily what lies behind 
Matt's use however.  Trypho's comment I think is based perhaps on Aquila 
who translated 7.14 as neanis .

So that leaves a theological statement.  I think that this is precisely 
what is going on.  Matt shows at the end of chap 2 that he is capable of 
reading into a text of the Hebrew Bible something that was not there in 
the original, why should we be surprised when he does so here?  I am 
thinking in particular of the "He shall be called a Nazarene".  Matthew 
is demonstrating something about Jesus and so turns to an authoritative 
source to bolster the unusualness of what he is saying-a young woman who 
has not had sexual relations is found to be pregnant and He is "Son of 
David, Son of Abraham, " and "he shall save His people from their sins" 
meaning that any sexual taint on his mother would eradicate everything 
that Matthew confesses about Jesus throughout the rest of the gospel.

Larry Swain
Parmly Billings Library

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