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

From: RHutchin@aol.com
Date: Fri Apr 13 2001 - 18:15:51 EDT

This message dated 4/13/01 is from Dave Washburn:

<< > Roger wrote--
> My personal exegetical opinion is that an almah is a young girl that one
might want to pursue for marriage and the related term, bethulah, is used
when one wants to make the point that a young girl is not a harlot.
> Dave Washburn replied--
> Um, in that culture, wouldn't a "young girl that one might want to pursue
for marriage" be assumed to be a virgin?
> RH Response--
> I agree. There is the assumption of virginity. However, does the term
convey the certainty of virginity? On this point, the articles I have read
all seem to waffle. Almah may imply virginity but it does not guarantee it.

I think this is a non-issue. If there is the cultural assumption of
virginity built into the word's usage, why is it necessary for us to try
and demand linguistic certainty as well? Linguistic meaning
doesn't happen in a vacuum; cultural factors affect semantics
thoroughly, in fact it could be argued that words mean what they
mean because a society chooses to use them that way and there's
no such thing as an "inherent meaning." Witness the subtle
reversal of meaning of the word "bad" in colloquial American over
the past 30 years; in many contexts, it now means "good." If, in
that culture, a "young woman of marriageable age" was assumed
to be a virgin if she ever hoped to gain a husband, then it would
seem that virginity is at least implicitly guaranteed in the word's
usage. It is only those who have an ax to grind regarding the
Christian interpretation who seem to try and read the implication of
virginity out of the word. But this is how the culture used the word,
so really there's no issue here that I can see.

> RH
So, let's charge Mr. Washburn with the task of translating Is 7:14 into
Greek. Further, let's require that he do so in a way that conveys the idea
that the virginity of the almah is a certainty and not just to be assumed.
How would he translate Is 7:14? Would he consider the text in Matthew suffic
ient to accomplish this purpose or would he think that a different
translation is required ?

Why reinvent the wheel? The LXX and Matthew's renderings are
good enough for me. The question, if there is one (see above)
seems more one of emphasis; was Isaiah out to emphasize the
woman's youth, her singleness, her virginity, what? The LXX used
PARQENOS, which at least suggests that this translator thought
the emphasis was on virginity (attempts to explain this word away
have been unconvincing to me so far). Matthew was obviously
emphasizing virginity, but even if Isaiah was emphasizing the fact
that the woman was unmarried, the implication of virginity is still
there because that's how the culture understood the word. No
problem, no need for another translation. As I said, if one looks at
the word in its cultural context, this is a non-issue.

Dave Washburn
"You just keep thinking, Butch. That's what you're good at."


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