An exhaustive look at almah/bethula (Part 1)

June 13, 2009 at 7:26 pm (Christ myth theories, theories on Jesus's parents)

Isaiah 7:14 (King James Version)

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (New International Version)

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (New American Standard Bible)

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel…”

Isaiah 7:13-17 (The Message)

So Isaiah told him, “Then listen to this, government of David! It’s bad enough that you make people tired with your pious, timid hypocrisies, but now you’re making God tired. So the Master is going to give you a sign anyway. Watch for this: A girl who is presently a virgin will get pregnant. She’ll bear a son and name him Immanuel (God-With-Us). By the time the child is twelve years old, able to make moral decisions, the threat of war will be over. Relax, those two kings that have you so worried will be out of the picture. But also be warned: God will bring on you and your people and your government a judgment worse than anything since the time the kingdom split, when Ephraim left Judah. The king of Assyria is coming!”

Isaiah 7:14 (Amplified Bible)

Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold, the young woman who is unmarried and a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel [God with us].

Isaiah 7:14 (New Living Translation)+

All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

Isaiah 7:14 (English Standard Version)

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

Isaiah 7:14 (Contemporary English Version)+

But the LORD will still give you proof. A virgin is pregnant; she will have a son and will name him Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (New King James Version)

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (New Century Version)+

The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and she will name him Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (21st Century King James Version)

Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (American Standard Version)

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (Young’s Literal Translation)

Therefore the Lord Himself giveth to you a sign, Lo, the Virgin is conceiving, And is bringing forth a son, And hath called his name Immanuel,

Isaiah 7:14 (Darby Translation)

Therefore will the Lord himself give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and shall bring forth a son, and call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (New International Reader’s Version)

The Lord himself will give you a miraculous sign. The virgin is going to have a baby. She will give birth to a son. And he will be called Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (New International Version – UK)

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (Today’s New International Version)+

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

As you can see, in none of these is almah translated as “young woman”. However, in the translations denoted with a plus sign (+), the footnotes indicate that the meaning could be translated as “young woman”. From the Wikipedia article:

In Bibles, almah is typically translated as virgin, maiden, young woman, damsel or girl. For theological reasons, the meaning and definition of this word (especially the definition of “virgin”) can be controversial, particularly when applied to Isaiah 7:14.

For a more thorough comparison of the meanings, Wikipedia also has that covered as well.

As for the direct Hebrew translation, I have yet to come across a directly translated Hebrew verse that didn’t translate the verse as “young woman”. The Hebrew script says this:

The direct translation:

Therefore the L-rd Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the young woman is with child, and she shall bear a son, and you [or, she] shall call his name Immanuel.

The translation we recieve (the King James Bible) comes from both the Greek (New Testament) and the Hebrew Masoretic text.

According to Google Translate, the word virgin is translated to be בתולה in Hebrew. As you can see, those exact characters do not appear in the above pic. Now, when I backwards translated it, the result was virgo, the zodiac symbol for the Virgin Lady. Upon further browsing, mythology points out that there were other goddesses that are associated with Virgo. One, Isis, is even said to have given birth to Horus through virgin conception.

Other virgin births include:

The introduction of a virgin birth is by far no new thing to religions. The virginity of a woman was by far the most treasured thing in the past. For some reason, this made women to be categorized like objects that were seen as clean or unclean. After all, who wants a woman who sleeps around? Unfortunately, this is the worst fallacy in the history of sexism. An “unclean” woman could never be seen as marriageable, right? This is complete nonsense in every aspect of the word. This is sexist. Virginity should not be an aspect to look for upon marrying someone. Commonality and compatibility should be at the top of the list. It would be a crime to not marry the woman you love because she had been considered unclean. Rape was seen as a measure of cleanliness. If a girl was raped, her future with marriage was over. This sexism thankfully doesn’t exist in most secular countries today, but the fact is that it did one day, and was backed up Biblically for centuries.

Let’s dive into the statistics of the definitions. Of the six translated meanings, only 2 are primarily used today. But, for the sake of this article, let’s go with the notion that all 6 have an equal chance of being right. This means that virgin and young woman both have, equally, a 16.67% chance of being the correct definition. Let’s also point out the other facts:

  • The word “almah” appears seven times in the Old Testament. In addition, there are two additional inferences.
  • The word “bethula” is a surefire reference to virgin.
  • The Old Testament was based off the Hebrew Masoretic Text, whereas the New Testament was based off of the Greek texts. Because of this, many of the Greek texts were based off of the Greek translation of the Old Testament, adding further errors in transition.

If you’ve never heard of the saying “every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square”, I must say the following might be anomalous. Because the word “bethula” always means virgin, and because “almah” doesn’t always mean virgin, then the square-rectangle problem applies here. Virgin will always be translated as “bethula” to ensure no discrepancy, and sometimes “almah”. But, because “almah” doesn’t always mean virgin, then if we are talking about virgins then we must, to ensure no confusion, translate the word in Hebrew to “bethula”. We have an 83.33% chance of confusion as to the literal translation when it comes to “almah”, but when it comes to “bethula”, there lies no indiscernibility. Because the Hebrew word is “almah”, and not “bethula”, we cannot fully trust either definition to be correct. However, we can say that virgin has far less of a chance of being the correct translation.

If you need any further reasons to disbelieve, let’s look to conventional logic (source):

  • There is no reliable evidence. (The same can be said of many Biblical stories.)
  • The earliest references are late and sparse. (Galatians 4:4 says nothing about virgin birthing.)
  • It’s the same old myth. (As pointed out above.)
  • Is it more likely to be a lie, or to be true? (More likely to be a lie, as pointed out above.)
  • We would never, ever, believe this today. (Of course, nothing in the Bible would be considered believable today if it was reported on the news.)
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