Matthew and the young woman
Matthew's Testimony : Part 1

Of Greeks and Gifts

It has been pointed out previously that the one and only foundation for the doctrine of 'virgin birth' is a passage in Matthew Chapter 1, verse 23, quoting Isaiah 7:14.

There can be no doubt that the Hebrew of Isaiah 7:14 reads "hineh ha-almah harah"

There can be no doubt that the correct translation of the Hebrew is "Behold, the young woman shall conceive" or "behold, the young woman is pregnant." (The Hebrew word for virgin is invariably 'bethulah', hence to translate Isaiah 7:14 as a 'virgin will conceive' is definitely incorrect. Jewish Encyclopaedia, Vol 10. p.425. Vol. S, p.543).

In Matthew's Greek gospel where Isaiah 7:14 is quoted (1:23), we find the word 'parthenos' (virgin) used to translate the Hebrew word 'almah' (young woman).

The Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint (LXX), also uses the word 'parthenos' (virgin) to translate the 'almah' of Isaiah 7:14 and it is this Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament that is most often used to prove that there was an expectation of a 'virgin birth'.

What the Christian Churches have is TWO Greek translations on which to base their doctrine of 'virgin birth' so first let us examine the Septuagint.

The three most important manuscripts of the Septuagint are the Vatican, "Codex Vaticanus" (fourth century); the Alexandrian, "Codex Alexandrinus" (fifth century), now in the British Museum, London; and that of Sinai, "Codex Sinaiticus" (fourth century), found by Tischendorf in the convent of St. Catherine, on Mount Sinai, in 1844 and 1849, now part at Leipzig and in part in St. Petersburg.

Many scholarly works, both ancient and modern, attest to the fact that the origin and transmission of the Septuagint (LXX) is shrouded in mystery, embellished with fable, unreliable as to textual integrity, and poorly rendered from the Hebrew. For authorities see *

But, in any case, the Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament is not relevant to our discussion of Matthew.

Why? Because we have it on the authority of Jerome that:

"Matthew, who is also Levi, and who from a publican came to be an apostle first of all the Evangelists, composed a gospel of Christ in Judaea in the Hebrew language and characters, for the benefit of those of the circumcision who had believed. Who translated it into Greek is not sufficiently ascertained. Furthermore, the Hebrew itself is preserved to this day in the library at Caesarea which the martyr Pamphilus so diligently collected. I also was allowed by the Nazarenes who use this volume in the Syrian city of Beroea to copy it. In which it is to be remarked that, wherever the Evangelist makes use of the Testimonies of the Old Scriptures, he does not follow the authority of the seventy translators but of the Hebrew." (Catal. Script. Eccl.)

WHAT ARE THE FACTS?

  • We have the Hebrew text of Isaiah which uses the word 'almah' - young woman
  • We have the Hebrew Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah which uses the word 'almah' - young woman
  • We have the fact that the Dead Sea Scrolls are older than any extant Greek manuscripts
  • We have the testimony of Jerome that Matthew quoted the Hebrew 'almah' and NOT the Septuagint 'parthenos'.

THE CONCLUSION?

There was never any prophecy or expectation of 'virgin birth in the Old Testament. Hence, no fulfilment of a non-existent prophecy in the new!

* 1. Vander Heeren, A., The Septuagint Version: The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII, Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company, Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight.
2. Brenton, Sir L.C.E., English translation of the Septuagint, originally published by Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd., London, 1851.

Comments

Michael

"the one and only foundation for the doctrine of 'virgin birth' is a passage in Matthew Chapter 1, verse 23, quoting Isaiah 7:14"

"What the Christian Churches have is TWO Greek translations on which to base their doctrine of 'virgin birth'"

These are incorrect statements. The doctrine also finds support in Luke 1:34-37 and Luke 3:23.


Vynette

Michael,
After my present series of posts on Matthew, I will start a series on Luke. Then you will discover the reasons why I said:

"the one and only foundation for the doctrine of 'virgin birth' is a passage in Matthew Chapter 1, verse 23, quoting Isaiah 7:14"

"What the Christian Churches have is TWO Greek translations on which to base their doctrine of 'virgin birth'"

Vynette

RubeRad

I'll say it again (just like on your last post); taking Matthew's whole passage in context:

18Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us).

Taken together, it is obvious that :

* Matthew considers Mary to be a virgin

* Matthew considers the Holy Spirit (God), not any man (in particular, not Joseph) to be Jesus' biological father

* Matthew interprets Isaiah's 'alma' in the sense of virgin.

As an inspired NT author, Matthew has the authority (given by the Holy Spirit) to establish this as the appropriate interpretation of the Hebrew.

And Luke is just as clear that Jesus was born of a virgin.

If you are trying to say that there is no way that a non-Holy-Spirit-inspired human could read JUST the OT and deduce that the messiah would be born of a virgin, I'll grant you that. And add thank God for his providence in inspiring Matt & Luke to write the correct interpretation.

But you cannot say that the N.T. (in Greek or Hebrew or English or Swahili) does not clearly state that Jesus was born of a virgin.

If you are arguing that the N.T. writings are not inspired, and abused the O.T. to create an incorrect interpretation, well, that's another issue altogether.

RubeRad

One more point: considering Isaiah in isolation, I actually think it is quite reasonable to interpret alma as virgin in that context. Look at the whole verse (ESV) Isaiah 7:14:

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the 'alma' shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."

Read that sentence with 'virgin', and it makes sense. Read it with 'maiden' or 'young girl', and it is ridiculous! What kind of a sign is it that a young girl should name a son 'Immanuel'? Teen pregnancy is certainly not a 20th (21st!) century invention. And anybody can name their kid anything they want (and are perhaps more likely to if there is a prophecy about it).

Now a VIRGIN conceiving and bearing a son, THAT's a sign!

Vynette

To RubeRad

You said:"But you cannot say that the N.T. (in Greek or Hebrew or English or Swahili) does not clearly state that Jesus was born of a virgin."

I do say it! And in following posts I will demonstrate beyond all 'reasonable' doubt that they were saying the exact opposite for very compelling reasons. Suspend judgement until you see the evidence.

You said: "One more point: considering Isaiah in isolation, I actually think it is quite reasonable to interpret alma as virgin in that context. Look at the whole verse (ESV) Isaiah 7:14:"

Examine the entire Chapter 7, not just the single verse 14, and you will see that the child Immanuel was to act as a living 'clock'.

More on Matthew and Luke in coming posts.

Michael

RubeRad makes an excellent point, the context of Matthew demands that it be intpreted as the Virgin birth.

Any other interpretation is seriously questionable.

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