What do advocates do when they can’t present doctrinal justification from the Hebrew Scriptures? They just circumvent the problem and turn to the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures commonly referred to as the Septuagint (LXX standing for the seventy-two Jewish scholars allegedly engaged upon the translation).
The Septuagint rendered the Hebrew word almah (young woman) of Isaiah 7:14 as the Greek word parthenos (allegedly a biological virgin).
Although laborious, it is necessary to put this Greek translation to the test. It allegedly came into existence at some point between the 3rd and 1st Centuries BC, but its transmission is so shrouded in mystery and embellished with fable that its true origins are highly questionable. It was certainly in existence in the 2nd Century AD because its poor rendering of the Hebrew spurred such men as Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion to make fresh translations of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek.
All three men correctly rendered the almah of Isaiah 7:14 as the Greek word neanis (young woman or damsel). Now that an almost complete copy of the Book of Isaiah has been found amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls, one which pre-dates the oldest copies of the Septuagint by some 400–500 years, there is no doubt that their translation is the correct one: “Behold, the young woman is pregnant…” These translations were all known to church fathers such as Origen, Jerome and Eusebius.
The Septuagint’s rendering of almah as parthenos generated long centuries of disputes, disputes which continue to this day. However, it’s all been an exercise in futility because parthenos had varied usage in ancient Greek and never carried the narrowly defined meaning of strictly biological virginity.
The Septuagint itself in Genesis 34:2–4 twice describes Dinah after her rape by Shechem as a parthenos and the word was also used in classical Greek literature to refer to women who had not retained their virginity biologically.
The Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon (LSJ) is the most comprehensive and up-to-date Greek dictionary in the world. It is an essential library item in universities and used by every student of ancient Greek. The main dictionary covers every surviving ancient Greek author and text discovered up to 1940, from the Pre-Classical Greek of the 11th-8th Century BC (for example Homer and Hesiod), through Classical Greek (7th-5th Century BC) to the Hellenistic Period, including the Greek Old and New Testaments.
There are four citations under parthenos. Two use parthenos to refer to a woman who had already borne a child (Homer, Iliad 2.514; Aristophanes, Clouds 530). The other two references are to young women who had slept with men (Pindar,Pythian 3.34; Sophocles, Trachiniae 129). According to the Bauer–Danker–Arndt–Gingrich Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG), the primary meaning of parthenos is “gener. of a young woman of marriageable age, w. or without focus on virginity…,” hence BDAG gives essentially the same meaning as the LSJ.
When we move forward to address “proof-texts” commandeered from the Greek New Testament, the importance of possessing a clear understanding of what the word parthenos does, and does not mean, will become obvious.
Until the remarkable discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, beginning in 1946, the oldest complete copy of the Hebrew Bible, in the Hebrew language, was the Aleppo Codex dating from around 935 AD. Amongst these scrolls, which contain fragments of every book of the Bible except for the Book of Esther, was found one almost complete copy of the Book of Isaiah, known as The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa). The Great Isaiah Scroll contains all 66 Chapters that we find in the biblical book and has been dated to ca. 125 BC. It pre-dates the oldest extant copies of the Greek Septuagint by some 400–500 years and confirms that Isaiah spoke of an already pregnant young woman (almah) in 7:14. Hence, attempts to justify the Virgin Conception/Birth using this verse are fraudulent now, and always have been.
The three oldest manuscripts of the Septuagint that we now possess date from no earlier that the 4th Century AD, viz. Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus.