The virgin birth, or not.

“Isaiah 7:14 was originally about a “young woman” (alma in Hebrew), not a “virgin.” The Greek translation known as the Septuagint (and abbreviated LXX) mistranslated the Hebrew word as the Greek parthenos, which does mean “virgin,” so the Greek text of Isaiah talks about a virgin even though the Hebrew doesn’t…” – God Didn’t Say That: Bible Translations and Mistranslations and

” The first issue is the text of Isaiah 7:14. The Hebrew there reads: “an alma … will bear a son and call him `Emmanuel.’” It has long been known that alma does not mean “virgin.” Rather, the Hebrew word applies to any young woman. So the English translation of that line should read along the lines of “a young woman … will bear a son…” (The evidence is widely known and readily available, including in my And God Said.)

Unfortunately, the Septuagint — the highly influential ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament — got the translation wrong here, translating the Hebrew alma as the Greek parthenos, which (probably) did mean “virgin.” It was an easy mistake to make, because most young women back then were virgins, and most virgins were young women. It would be like translating “teenager” as “high-school student” in a society where most teenagers were in fact in high school.

Based on this mistranslation, though, most modern translations — going back to the KJV and including the recently published NIV — translate “a virgin … will bear a son” here. (The NIV has a footnote, “or young woman.”)The new NAB (“NABRE”) is a notable exception. That version now has, “the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel.” Their choice to go with “young woman” reflects the correct understanding of the original Hebrew (though I do have problems with their phrasing of the rest of the line). –

Joel M. Hoffman

“Most scholars agree that ‘virgin’ is probably a mistranslation of the Hebrew word for young woman.” – Giles Frazer

Christianity and Hellenistic philosophy

“Christianity and Hellenistic philosophies experienced complex interactions during the first to the fourth centuries.

“As Christianity spread throughout the Hellenic world, an increasing number of church leaders were educated in Greek philosophy. The dominant philosophical traditions of the Greco-Roman world then were Stoicism, Platonism, and Epicureanism. Stoicism and, particularly, Platonism were readily incorporated into Christian ethics and Christian theology.

Christian assimilation of Hellenic philosophy was anticipated by Philo and other Greek-speaking Alexandrian Jews. Philo’s blend of Judaism, Platonism, and Stoicism strongly influenced Christian Alexandrian writers like Origen and Clement of Alexandria, as well as, in the Latin world, Ambrose of Milan.

One early Christian writer of the 2nd and early 3rd century, Clement of Alexandria, demonstrated Greek thought in writing,

“Philosophy has been given to the Greeks as their own kind of Covenant, their foundation for the philosophy of Christ … the philosophy of the Greeks … contains the basic elements of that genuine and perfect knowledge which is higher than human … even upon those spiritual objects.” (Miscellanies 6. 8)

The Church historian Eusebius suggested, essentially, in his preparation for the Gospelthat Greek philosophy, although in his view derivative, was concordant with Hebrew notions. Augustine of Hippo, who ultimately systematized Christian philosophy, wrote in the 4th and early 5th century,..

It was not until the fusion of Platonic and Aristotelian theology with Christianity that the concepts of strict omnipotence, omniscience, or benevolence became commonplace. The Platonic Theory of Forms had an enormous influence on Hellenic Christian views of God…

Hellenic Christians and their medieval successors then applied this Form-based philosophy to the Christian God. Philosophers took all the things that they considered good, Power, Love, Knowledge and Size, and posited that God was “infinite” in all these respects. They then concluded that God was omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent. Since God was perfect, any change would make him less than perfect, so they asserted that God was unchanging, or immutable.

Anselm of Canterbury, a priest, monk, and philosopher defined God as the “Being than which no greater can be conceived.” Almost 200 years later, Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologiae, article 3, wrote succinctly: “By ‘God’, however, we mean some infinite good”.

With the establishment of the formal church, the development of creeds and formal theology, this view of God as Omni-Everything became nearly universal in the Christian World.”


Bart D. Ehrman

Jesus Before The Gospels: How The Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, And Invented Their Stories Of The Savior

“…Paul gives no indication of knowing about a virgin birth; he certainly knew James I think, and if there was a tradition at that point, it seems that he would have been told about it. That makes me think that the tradition originated after Paul’s day. And after Mark’s. (Bart Ehrmann blog letter)

Paul creates a virgin birth dilemma for Christians. Paul is the earliest textual witness to Christianity, yet he never once mentioned a virgin birth. Quite the contrary in fact. We have to address the fact Paul wrote that Jesus was “born of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3). If this is to be taken literally, then Jesus was born from David’s genetic line through natural conception. To be born of David’s *seed* (sperma in Greek) “according to the flesh” makes that clear. Furthermore, it’s quite peculiar that the only mentions of Jesus’ birth by Paul (Rom. 1:3 and Gal. 4) conspicuously omits even a hint of the virgin birth or the suggestion that Jesus’ conception and birth was anything but natural.”

(Letter to Bart Ehrmann)

John Dominic Crossan’s



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