[b-greek] Re: Is 7:14 and PARQENOS

From: Will Pratt (prattw@nevada.edu)
Date: Tue Apr 10 2001 - 11:24:38 EDT

At 09:19 PM 4/8/01 EDT, RHutchin@aol.com wrote:

> 1. PARQENOS is a poor choice for the translator to use to
> translate almah
> since it does not accurately convey the meaning of almah in
> Isaiah 7:14; if
> so, what is the better Greek word (or term) that the translator
> might have
> used;
> 2. PARQENOS is the best choice available for the translator to use since
> there is no unique word in the Greek that corresponds to almah,
> bests conveys the essential meaning of almah as used in Isaiah 7:14; or
> 3. We do not know one way or the other, so the translation can
> be viewed as
> good or bad depending on one's exegetical inclinations.

I'd incline to a variant of 3. It seems fairly obvious what Matthew meant
to say. Whether he was accurately translating the passage in Isaiah depends
upon the source from which he was quoting.

If from the LXX as we know it, then given the apparent meaning of PARQENOS
in NT Koine, his interpretation was accurate within the understanding of the
word in his time. If from the Hebrew text, then it would seemed he skewed
his translation to fit his theology. There is fairly clear evidence that at
the time Matthew was written, the word specifically meaning "virgin" in
Hebrew and Aramaic was BTWLH/BTLTH. When the Christian Aramaic Peshitta was
translated from Greek, the translators consistantly used BTLTH (betoltah) to
translate PARQENOS. And we now know, thanks to the DSS, that Isaiah 7:14
used the word (ALMFH well over a century before Christianity, so it would be
(ALMFH that would have been translated if Matthew used the Hebrew bible.

What we don't know is who made the translation of Isaiah into Greek and when
they did so, and the exact meaning of PARQENOS when they did. In classical
Greek, PARQENOS seems clearly to have meant "young woman" without necessary
implication of virginity. In the NT it seems clearly to mean a virgin. But
how did the LXX translators construe it? So far as I can tell, we don't
know how the word was used in the Koine of the 3rd century BCE. If the
translators understood it in the classical Greek sense, then it was an
accurate translation of (ALMFH.

In the light of all we don't know, the best approach would seem to be to
note that Matthew used the word PARQENOS, perhaps in quotation from the LXX,
and meant it to be interpreted as "virgin", but that we don't know how the
LXX translators understood the word, and that the plain-language,
non-exegetical translation of (ALMFH is "young woman".


William L. Pratt, Ph.D., Curator of Invertebrates, Barrick Museum
Mail Stop 4012, Univ. Nevada, Las Vegas 89154-4012
(702) 895-1403; Fax (702) 895-3094; prattw@nevada.edu

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