by Beth Piepenburg
Some say that the word virgin in Isaiah 7:14 was mistranslated as young maiden, and was fulfilled shortly thereafter. If so, then why does Matthew use this particular Scripture in reference to Mary? By looking at historical context, language, and Biblical astronomy, we can validate Matthew’s use of the word virgin.
Why did Isaiah prophesy this verse? When King Rezin of Syria and King Pekah of Northern Israel conspired against King Ahab of Judah, the prophet Isaiah meets Ahab and gives him a word to not fear these two kings. Isaiah informs Ahab that these two kings have conspired against Ahab to set a puppet king to him, and that it won’t stand nor come to pass. Being a critical time for the Davidic dynasty, Isaiah gives a prophetic word to Ahab that if he would trust the Lord, then he would be established. Ahab fails to trust the Lord, and used the temple gold and silver to request help from Tiglathpileser III of Assyria for help. Although Syria and eventually Northern Israel would be destroyed, Ahab’s reign held many problems including his pagan worship.
When Isaiah delivers the prophetic word to Ahab, the Lord challenges Ahab to ask for a sign, which Ahab refuses to do. Then Isaiah turns to everyone present, and addresses the House of David, to give them a sign of hope, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Fifteen year old Hezekiah, Ahab’s son, would one day rule and continue the lineage of David. God’s purpose of a future Savior could not be thwarted by the fickleness of Ahab.
almah = young female, maiden (H.)
bethulah = a virgin (H.)
parthenos = a virgin maiden (G.)
virgo = virgin (L.)
ܒܬܘܠܬܐ = chaste girl, virgin (S. Peshitta.)
Concerning whether the word virgin or young maiden is correct, some claim the Hebrew word almah was originally used and mistranslated by the Greek Septuagint. While almah means young maiden, the high expectation of a young maiden entering marriage would be to keep her virginity before marriage. In one sense, the difference of the words is a minor point, but in the sense of a prophetic word given centuries beforehand and referenced by Matthew, the difference is a moot point. Because scribal copies of prophetic Writings were less scrutinized than the Torah, variant copies surfaced. Although the Great Isaiah scroll from the 1st century BC and the Masoretic Text of the 9th century AD uses almah, yet the Greek Septuagint had translated this passage with the word parthenos. Was the Greek Septuagint translation, which was agreed upon by seventy Jewish scholars and approved by the High Priest, correctly rendering parthenos from an earlier Hebrew text using bethulah? Were the later editions of the Hebrew/Aramaic substandard? Or did these Jewish scholars feel that parthenos would convey the best context of the original Hebrew word?
To further validate the point, both Mt. 1:23 and its chiastic counterpart Mt. 1:18 indicate that Joseph and Mary abstained in their marriage relationship prior to the birth of Christ, because of the importance of Mary remaining a virgin. Since Matthew would have access to the commonly used Septuagint and the Aramaic scrolls, he would be aware of any differences. Remember, Matthew’s audience is the Jewish nation.
From an astronomical position, the first sign of the Jewish Mazzaroth is Bethulah or Virgo, as we know the constellation. Bethulah is the Virgin holding the ear of barley (firstfruits) in her left hand and the Branch in her left hand. The dominant star in the ear is Spica, the Seed, which can mean stream, or ear of grain, usually barley. The other stars in the Branch are Zavijava = the gloriously beautiful, Subilon = a spike of corn, and Vindemiatrix = the son or branch who comes. So, the stars and grain symbolism in the constellation of Virgo, which validates a Son who will be the firstfruits.
At sunset on September 11, 3 BC, the seventh Chodesh (new moon) of the year appeared, situated in the constellation of Virgo. With this particular Chodesh came the celebration of Yom Teruah, the Day of Trumpets. Before dawn arrived, Jupiter was very close to Regulus in the Constellation of Leo, creating an effect of a very bright “star”. On this day, Mary would have most likely conceived the Lord Jesus Christ. As the last three fall feasts conclude the end of the agricultural season of farming, so the sounds of the trumpets on this particular Yom Teruah would announce the end of the age of Old Testament times.
While some focus on nitpicking over the word virgin and guessing at interpretations, we can be assured that Matthew’s use of the word virgin can be validated by historical context of Isaiah, language, and Biblical astronomy.
Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2013. All rights reserved.