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PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 9:51 am    Post subject: Isaiah 7:14 Reply with quote #100

Why does the LXX put 'virgin' where the Hebrew has 'young woman' ?
Why does Matthew quote from the Greek translation and not the Hebrew original ?
Dennis


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rgoode
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote #103

Liddell and Scott list the meaning of Parthenos as 'maid', 'maiden', 'virgin', 'girl'. The BDAG defines it as 'a young woman of marriageable age, with or without focus on virginity.' Viginity appears to be the connotative rather than primary meaning. I am not sure whether this answers your question as to why the LXX (the Greek language version of the Jewish Scriptures - the Septuagint) opts for this word. The production of the LXX is a strange affair with some books being incredibly literal trnaslations and others being paraphrases with huge differences and additions (as in Daniel). Emanuel Tov has done some very interesting work in this area. Perhaps others might like to add any suggestions.

The LXX appears to have been widely read during Late Antiquity in all areas of Judaism and not simply the Diaspora. A collegue of mine argues that it was the main form of Jewish scriptures in use at the time, with the Hebrew scriptures only being retained by the minority! Matthew quotes the LXX in other places, so I don't think that he is simply cherry picking translations here.
Richard


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 4:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote #104

Checking the situation with the NSRV, I see that it translates Isaiah 7: 14 as "young woman" but the translators obviously lost their nerve when it came to Matthew 1: 23 where they go back to the discredited translation "virgin". I find this totally inconsistent and I wish they had followed their Isaiah translation in Matthew as well.
Dennis


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rgoode
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote #105

You've put your finger on the really tricky problem of translating here. I am not too sure if the reading of 'virgin' in Matt can be called 'discredited'. Arguments range back and forth over this, but I think that Matt is trying to draw on a miraculous-birth motif for his infancy narrative. In which case, using 'virgin' is consistent - with this specific context. It is a question of trying to get inside the evangelist's head and identifying how he read Isaiah. If I were the translator, I would really be in two minds here.
Richard


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True54Blue



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2007 4:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote #107

Richard, you have quoted BDAG’s beginning comments with regard to the usage of parthenos dating back to Homer but have missed their primary definition which is “in our lit. one who has never engaged in sexual intercourse, virgin, chaste person.” 'Our literature' means the NT and early Christian literature. While it is possible that a particular young woman would not be a virgin the general idea in the Hebrew OT and the LXX is that young girls will be virgins although the Hebrew word alma which is translated as parthenos in the LXX does not inherently have the sense of “virgin.” TWOT states that “There is no instance where it can be proved that almâ designates a young woman who is not a virgin” (672). For this reason many English translations still word this Isaiah passage as “virgin.”

Dennis originally asked why the LXX translated alma as parthenos. We will never know the mind of that Jewish translator c. 200 BC, but we must conclude that he obviously thought that this Greek word best expressed the meaning of the Hebrew word (all other things being equal). The bigger question that you are getting at is why Matthew insists on quoting the LXX and referring to Mary as a virgin. This is evident not just from the word but the overall meaning of the paragraph which requires her to be a virgin. This is hardly surprising because it is clear that the gospel writers and early church knew/understood Mary to be a virgin. In Luke Mary is called a parthenos at 1:27 and Mary refers to herself as a virgin at 1:34 but without using parthenos. She refers to herself as a “manless woman.” Matt 1:18-25 contains the same theme. In both cases, the authors are making the point that it is humanly impossible for Mary to be pregnant because she has never had sexual intercourse. Apparently Matthew thought that the best way to convey this meaning was by using the word parthenos which meant virgin to his readers.

In conclusion, it is very clear from the context and overall understanding of early Christianity that Mary was a virgin and therefore any translation that chose “young woman” over “virgin” in Matthew would be employing a strange translation methodology. In addition, BDAG points out that Christians employed parthenos as a technical term for virgin in the NT and their early writings.

A couple of sources of food for thought are:

Carter, Warren. “Evoking Isaiah: Matthean Soteriology and an Intertextual Reading of Isaiah 7-9 and Matthew 1:23 and 4:15-16.” Journal of Biblical Literature 119, no. 3 (2000): 503-520.

Menken, Martinus J. J. “The Textual Form of the Quotation from Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23.” Novum Testamentum 43, no. 2 (2001): 144-160.

Tom


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rgoode
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2007 6:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote #114

Thanks Tom for your, as ever, considered and informative reply.
I apologise if I appear to have been muddying the waters. You are perfectly correct, the primary NT and early Christian use of parthenos does refer to 'virgin' - as you correctly state is listed in the BDAG. Its Matthean use heavily influencing (certainly its post-gospel) Christian use. For me, the genius of the early church lay in its skill and creativity (in its most positive sense) in developing existing terminology into a rich and precise vocabulary through which to articulate its tradition; parthenos being just one example.

What I possibly did not make clear in attempting to respond to Dennis' question is the identification of its pre-'in our lit.' life. Its an area that is outside my area of knowledge and so valued your post and recommended readings. As you say, we can never know what is going through the mind of the LXX translator, although the more we study these processes the more we can know. It would be interesting to know how much Matt's use has consequently served to emphasise the 'virgin' over the 'young woman' and how much was already there.
Richard


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