“a virgin”, “the virgin”, “The Virgin” or “a young woman”? Is the King James Bible in error?
At our Facebook King James Bible Debate club a typical bible agnostic and Bible corrector named Bob writes in and says the following:
“Here are two major errors in the King James Translation: Matthew 1:23 Behold, A virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us."
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."
The perversion in both of these verses are "a virgin" in both Mat 1:23 and in Isaiah 7:14. In both the Masoretic Hebrew and Textus Receptus Greek Text it has "The Virgin" which is a huge difference. (end of allegations by Bob)
My response: First of all it should be noted that Mr. Bob himself does not have nor does he believe that ANY Bible in any language IS or ever was the perfect, inspired and infallible words of God. I asked Bob that since he seems to be such a stickler for “the” Greek, if he would kindly give us a link to what he thinks is “the” inspired Greek text. He never got back to me on this.
He did say that the texts should read “The Virgin” instead of “a virgin” or even “the virgin”, and I pointed out to him that there is NO Bible that translates either of these verses the way HE thinks they should have been translated. He then told us that he does his own translating. So, I then told him that he should just go all the way and write his own bible version. That is the only way people like him will be satisfied with their “bibles”.
The reason the King James Bible and many other translations have translated both passages as “a virgin” instead of “the virgin” is because if they had put “THE virgin” into either of these texts, then in English it would mean that there was ONLY ONE VIRGIN in all of Israel. The definite article “the” in Greek is not always used the same way we use definite articles in English.
There are numerous places in the synoptic gospels where the same event is being told, and in one the Holy Ghost will use definite articles, and in the same event in another synoptic gospel there are none. So even God does this “in the Greek”.
One language is not the same as another. I teach high school Spanish and I love the language. But Spanish has grammatical constructions where they must use a definite article and we do not in English. For example, in Spanish to say I like ice cream, they would say Me gusta EL helado. They use a definite article, but we do not in English. The same thing happens with indefinite articles like “a” and “an”. In Spanish they would say Soy profesor, or Ella es dentista. These expressions have no indefinite article and it would be incorrect Spanish to put one there. However in English we say I am A teacher and She is A dentist.
Let’s look at some other translations and see how they have done it. It is obvious that many other Bible translators have agreed with the way these two verses have been translated in the King James Bible.
King James Bible 1611 printing -"Therefore the Lord himselfe shal giue you a signe: Behold, a Uirgine shall conceiue and beare a Sonne, and shall call his name Immanuel."
Note: You will notice that the original 1611 has a lot of capitalized words that we no longer capitalize in modern English. This may have been due to the influence of the German language, which still capitalizes a lot of nouns that we do not in modern English.
Notice that not only was Virgin in capital letters, but so is the word Sonne. Both words are in lower case today. For example, here is 1 Corinthians 12:28 as it looked in the 1611 printing - "And God hath set some in the Church, first Apostles, secondarily Prophets, thirdly Teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helpes in gouernmets, diuersities of tongues."
However in modern English we do not capitalize the words "church, apostles, prophets, nor teachers." The German Bible looks like this in Isaiah 7:14 - "Darum so wird euch der HERR selbst ein Zeichen geben: Siehe, eine Jungfrau ist schwanger und wird einen Sohn gebären, den wird sie heißen Immanuel." The German Bible capitalizes the words Sign, Virgen and Son.
King James Bible (modern printing) - “Behold, A virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. “
Geneva Bible 1587 - “Behold, A virgine shalbe with childe, and shall beare a sonne, & they shal call his name Emmanuel, which is by interpretation, God with vs.”
Bishops’ Bible 1568 - “Behold, a virgin shalbe with childe, and shall bryng foorth a sonne, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, whiche is by interpretation, God with vs.”
Tyndale 1526 - “Beholde a mayde shall be with chylde and shall brynge forthe a sonne and they shall call his name Emanuel which is by interpretacion God with vs.”
Wycliffe 1395 - “a virgyn shal haue in wombe, and she schal bere a sone, and thei schulen clepe his name Emanuel, that is to seie, God with vs.”
The Beza New Testament 1599 - "Beholde, A virgin shall be with childe, and shall beare a sonne"
Mace N.T. 1729 - “A virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel," that is to say, God our Saviour. “
Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible 1902 (critical text version)- “Lo! A Virgin, shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, - and they shall call his name Emmanuel; which is, being translated, God with us.”
Lamsa’s translation of the Syriac Peshitta - “Behold, a virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which is interpreted, Our God is with us. “
Douay - Rheims 1582 - “Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
Revised Standard Version 1946, 1973 - (Critical text version) “"Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (which means, God with us).
J.B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English 1962 (Critical text version) - “All this happened to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet—‘Behold, A virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’. (“Immanuel” means “God with us.”)
ISV 2014 (International Standard Version -Critical text version) - “See, A virgin will become pregnant R13 and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel," which means, "God with us."
Common English Version 2011 -(another Critical Text version) - “Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, And they will call him, Emmanuel.(Emmanuel means “God with us.”)
Good News Translation 1992 - (critical text) “ A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel (which means, God is with us).”
Contemporary English Version 1995 (American Bible Society - Critical text version) - “A virgin will have a baby boy, and he will be called Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.”
21st Century KJV 1994 - “Behold, A virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel” (which being interpreted is, “God with us”).
The Revised English Bible 1989 (another Critical text version) - “A virgin will conceive and bear a son...”
"A virgin will conceive"
Other older English Bibles that also read "A virgin shall conceive" are The Bill Bible 1671, Whiston's Primitive N.T. 1745, John Wesley's N.T. 1755, The Worsley Version 1770, The Thomas Haweis N.T. 1795, The Clarke N.T. 1795, The Improved N.T. 1809, The Revised Translation 1815, The Pickering N.T. 1840, The Morgan N.T. 1848, The Hewett N.T. 1850, The Commonly Received Version 1851, The Murdock Translation 1852, The Clarke N.T. 1913, The Phillips New Testament 1962, The Good News Translation 1992, The Word of Yah Bible 1993, The 21st Century KJV 1994 , The Revised Webster Bible 1995 and The Contemporary English Version 1995.
Other very modern English translations that also read "A virgin" in Matthew 1:23 are The Koster Scriptures 1998 - "a maiden", World-wide English N.T. 1998, God's First Truth 1999 - "a maid", The Tomson New Testament 2002 - "A virgin", The Resurrection Life N.T. 2005 (Vince Garcia) "A young virgin", The Revised Geneva Bible 2005 - "A virgin", The Christogenea New Testament 2009 - "A virgin", The Faithful N.T. 2009 - "A virgin", The Conservative Bible 2010 - "A virgin", The Easy English Bible 2010, The Jubilee Bible 2010 - "A virgin", The Common English Bible 2011 - "A virgin", The Work of God's Children Bible 2011 - "A virgin", The Bond Slave Version 2012 - "A virgin shall be with child", The Voice 2012 - "A virgin will conceive and bear a Son", The Far Above All Translation 2014 - "A virgin", The Translator's Bible 2014, and The Modern English Version 2014 - "A virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son"
Spanish Reina Valera 1960, 1995, 2011 - “He aquí, UNA virgen concebirá y dará a luz un hijo, Y llamarás su nombre Emanuel, m que traducido es: Dios con nosotros.”
Portuguese Almeida Corregida E Fiel, and Portuguese Biblia Sagrada - “Eis que A virgem conceberá, e dará à luz um filho, E chamá-lo-äo pelo nome de EMANUEL”
Others have translated it as THE virgin, which would mean that there was only ONE virgin in the whole land of Israel at that time. All bible translations often “add” a definite article when not there in the Greek text, and often omit the definite article when it is in the Greek text. The Greek definite article is not always used like it is in English. In fact, the Holy Ghost Himself will sometimes have the definite articles there in the Greek when relating an event, but when relating the SAME event in one of the other synoptic gospels, they are omitted.
The emphasis in these two passages is not so much on the virgin, as it is on the virgin birth. I believe this is one of the main reasons the King James Bible translators and many others translated it as "a virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son".
Versions that differ from the KJB
NKJV - “Behold, THE virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,"
ESV 2001 edition - “Behold, THE virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel"
Holman Standard - “See, THE virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated "God is with us."
NIV - “THE virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" F4 - which means, "God with us."
NASB - “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US."
NET version - “Look! THE virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.”
And then we have some odd balls, as usual.
THE YOUNG WOMAN/ THE MAIDEN
New Life Bible 1969 - “He said, "THE YOUNG WOMAN, who has never had a man, will give birth to a Son. They will give Him the name Immanuel. This means God with us." (Isaiah 7:14)
Goodspeed’s American Translation 1943 - “THE MAIDEN will be pregnant and will have a son, And they will name him Immanuel.”
The Greek Definite Article
Let’s take a look at the ESV 2001 edition and see how they handle the definite articles in Greek and how they translate them or not into English. This is typical of all bible translations.
The letters DA will indicate a place where the definite article appears in the Greek text followed by the ESV (a Critical text edition) but they did NOT translate it; and THE in capital letters will indicate where there is NO definite article in the Greek text, yet the ESV translators put it in their English translation.
Let’s simply look at just one chapter in the gospels - Matthew chapter 2.
2:1 “Now after DA Jesus was born in Bethlehem of DA Judea, in THE days of Herod the king, behold wise men from THE east came to Jerusalem, 2:2 saying, “Where is he DA born king of the Jews? For we have seen DA his star in DA (Literally "the east") when it rose (paraphrase) and have come to worship him.
2:5 DA they told him in Bethlehem of DA Judea
2:6 And you Bethlehem, in THE land of Judea...who will shepherd DA my people DA Israel.
2:9 After DA listening...the star that they had seen when DA it rose (paraphrase)..to rest over THE place where the child was.
2:11 the saw the child with DA his mother Mary...and opening DA their treasures
2:12 they departed to DA their own country by another way.
2:13 Now when they had departed, behold, and angel of THE Lord appeared to DA Joseph...take the child and DA his mother...Herod is about to search for the child DA to destroy him.
2:15 to fulfill what THE Lord had spoken
2:16 killed all the male children DA in Bethlehem
2:18 Rachel weeping for DA her children
2:19 But when DA Herod died, behold, an angel of THE Lord appeared in a dream to DA Joseph..
2:20 take the child and DA his mother and go to THE land of Israel
2:21 and he arose and took the child and DA his mother and went to THE land of Israel.
2:22 heard that Archelaus was reigning over DA Judea in place of DA his father Herod...the district of DA Galilee.
Now, let’s compare how various Bible translations have handled Isaiah 7:14
Isaiah 7:14 - A VIRGIN shall conceive, and bear a son
King James Bible - “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. “
The Great Bible 1540 - "Behold, a vyrgin shall conceaue and beare a sonne"
Matthew's Bible 1549 - "Beholde, a vyrgyn shall conceyue and beare a sonne, and shall call hys name Emmanuel."
Bishops’ Bible 1568 - “Therefore the Lorde hym selfe shall geue you a token: Beholde, A virgin shall conceaue and beare a sonne, and shall call his name Emmanuel.”
Coverdale 1535 - “And therfore the LORDE shal geue you a token of himself: Beholde, A virgin shal coceaue and beare a sonne, and shal call his name Emanuel.’
Wycliffe 1395 - “For this thing the Lord hym silf schal yyue a signe to you. Lo! a virgyn schal conseyue, and schal bere a sone; and his name schal be clepid Emanuel.”
English Revised Version of 1881 (critical text edition) - “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. “
ASV (American Standard Version 1901 (critical text edition) - “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
NASB 1972-1995 (critical text version)- “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.”
World English Bible 2000 - “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Rotherham’s Emphasized bible 1902 (critical text version) -”Wherefore let My Lord Himself give you a sign, - Lo! a Virgin, being with child and giving birth to a son, thou wilt call his name Immanuel.”
Lamsa’s translation of the Syriac Peshitta - “Therefore the LORD himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virginshall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. “
Douay-Rheims 1582 - “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel.”
21st Century King James Version 1994 - “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”
The Complete Apostle's Bible 2005 - "behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son, and you shall call His name Emmanuel."
The Mebust Bible 2007 "Behold, A virgin shall conceive and bear a son"
The Names of God Bible 2011 - "A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son"
NIV - THE virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son
Holman Standard - “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: THE virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel. “
NKJV 1982- “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, THE virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. “
Geneva bible - Therefore the Lorde himselfe will giue you a signe. Beholde, THE virgine shall conceiue and beare a sonne, and she shal call his name Immanu-el.
Catholic St. Joseph NAB 1970 - “THE virgin shall be with child...”
THE (A) YOUNG WOMAN
Common English Bible 2011 (critcal text version) - “THE YOUNG WOMAN is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son,
NET version - Dan Wallace and company - “Look, THIS YOUNG WOMAN is about to conceive and will give birth to a son. You, young woman, will name him Immanuel.
The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907 - "Behold, A young woman shall conceive..."
JPS 1917 - “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, THE YOUNG WOMAN shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Hebrew Names Version - “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold AN ALMAH shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanu'el.
The Complete Jewish Bible - “Therefore Adonai himself will give you people a sign: the young woman will become pregnant, bear a son and name him 'Immanu El [God is with us].”
RSV 1946, 73 - Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, A young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman'u-el.
The NRSV 1989 - “Look, THE young woman is with child and shall bear a son...
ESV 2001 - “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. “ Notice that among these revisions of one another, not one of them agrees with the other.
Bible in Basic English 1961 - “a young woman is now with child, and she will give birth to a son”
Catholic Jerusalem bible 1968 - THE MAIDEN is with child and will soon give birth to a son
Catholic New Jerusalem 1985 - “THE YOUNG WOMAN is with child and will give birth to a son.”
The Voice 2012 - "See, A YOUNG MAIDEN WILL CONCEIVE. She will give birth to a son"
John Calvin also translated the passage in Isaiah 7:14 into Latin and did it the same way the King James Bible translators did. - "Ecce virgo concipiet, et pariet filium".
He them comments on the word used here saying: "Although the word hmle, (gnalmah,) A virgin, is derived from Mle, (gnalam,) which signifies to hide, because the shame and modesty of virgins does not allow them to appear in public; yet as the Jews dispute much about that word, and assert that it does not signify virgin, because Solomon used it to denote a young woman who was betrothed, it is unnecessary to contend about the word. Though we should admit what they say, that hmle (gnalmah) sometimes denotes a young woman, and that the name refers, as they would have it, to the age, (yet it is frequently used in Scripture when the subject relates to A virgin,) the nature of the case sufficiently refutes all their slanders. For what wonderful thing did the Prophet say, if he spoke of a young woman who conceived through intercourse with a man? It would certainly have been absurd to hold out this as a sign or a miracle. Let us suppose that it denotes a young woman who should become pregnant in the ordinary course of nature; everybody sees that it would have been silly and contemptible for the Prophet, after having said that he was about to speak of something strange and uncommon, to add, A young woman shall conceive. It is, therefore, plain enough that he speaks of A virgin who should conceive, not by the ordinary course of nature, but by the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit. And this is the mystery which Paul extolls in lofty terms, that God was manifested in the flesh. (1 Timothy 3:16.) "
Likewise John Gill comments: "the Messiah is here meant, who was to be born of A pure virgin; as the word here used signifies in all places where it is mentioned, as ( Genesis 24:43 ) ( Exodus 2:8 ) ( Psalms 68:25 ) ( Song of Solomon 1:3 )... to which may be added, that not only the Evangelist Matthew renders the word by (paryenov) , "a virgin"; but the Septuagint interpreters and best agrees with the Hebrew word, which comes from the root (Mle) , which signifies to "hide" or "cover"; virgins being covered and unknown to men; and in the eastern country were usually kept recluse, and were shut up from the public company and conversation of men: and now this was the sign that was to be given, and a miraculous one it was, that the Messiah should be born of A pure and incorrupt virgin; and therefore a "behold" is prefixed to it, as a note of admiration; and what else could be this sign or wonder? not surely that A young married woman, either Ahaz's or Isaiah's wife, should be with child, which is nothing surprising, and of which there are repeated instances every day;... And shall call his name Immanuel; which is, by interpretation, "God with us", ( Matthew 1:23 ) whence it appears that the Messiah is truly God, as well as truly man: the name is expressive of the union of the two natures, human and divine, in him; of his office as Mediator, who, being both God and man, is a middle person between both; of his converse with men on earth, and of his spiritual presence with his people. See ( John 1:14 ) ( 1 Timothy 3:16 ) .
The King James Bible is right in that it was to be A virgin who would conceive and bring for a son. This was indeed a sign. But there was NOT ONLY ONE virgin in the land of Israel in the days of Isaiah nor when the Lord Jesus Christ was born as a man. Again, the emphasis is on the virgin BIRTH, not the virgin.
DIFFERENCES IN THE USE OF THE DEFINITE ARTICLE IN GREEK AND ENGLISH
Example of where the modern versions translate “the” virgin as “a virgin”.
1 Corinthians 7:34
In the King James Bible we read: “There is difference also between A wife and A virgin.”
Yet the underlying Greek text has the definite article before both “wife” and “virgin”. It looks like this - μεμερισται η γυνη και η παρθενος
That little word “ η “ is the definite article.
Yet also reading “a wife” and “a virgin” are the NKJV 1982 - “a wife and a virgin”, the Holman Standard 2009, the Geneva Bible, the ISV (International Standard Version) 2014, Modern English Version 2014, Names of God Bible 2011, Dan Wallace’s NET version 2006 - “An unmarried woman or a virgin”, the NIV 2011- “an unmarried woman or virgin”, World English Bible 2000, and The Mounce Reverse-Interlinear New Testament 2011 - “an unmarked woman or a virgin”.
Another example of where the definite article occurs before the word “virgins” is found in the Greek text, yet is not translated is in 1 Corinthians 7:25.
In the King James Bible we read: “Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the Lord”. Yet the Greek text has the definite article before the word “virgins”. It looks like this - των παρθενων
Not only does the King James Bible “omit” the definite article and says merely “virgins” but so too do the following bible translations - NASB 1995 - “Now concerning virgins” - “concerning virgins”, NIV 2011, NKJV 1982, Holman Standard 2009, ISV 2014, Mounce Reverse-Interlinear N.T. 2011, NET 2006, God’s Word Translation 1995, Names of God Bible 2011, The Voice 2012, Modern English Version 2014, and the Tree of Life Version 2015.
The ESV totally misses it here, and instead of “virgins” it has “the betrothed”. Yet it footnotes “Greek virgins”
Notes about the Hebrew word "gal-mah" (or, almah)
The Hebrew word gal-mah # 5959 is only used 7 times in the Hebrew Bible. In the King James Bible we read:
“the VIRGIN cometh forth to draw water” Genesis 24:43 speaking of Rebekah, who became Isaac’s wife.
And we are clearly told in this same chapter that she was a virgin. "And the damsel was very fair to look upon, A VIRGIN, neither had any man known her" (Genesis 24:16) and "...and it shall come to pass, that when the VIRGIN cometh forth to draw water..." (Genesis 24:43)
“the MAID went and called the child’s mother.” Exodus 2:8
“the DAMSELS playing with timbrels” Psalm 68:25 speaking of the young maidens in Israel.
“and the way of a man with a MAID.” Proverbs 30:19
“therefore do THE VIRGINS love thee” Song of Solomon 1:3
“and VIRGINS without number” Song of Solomon 6:8
“Behold, a VIRGIN shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
In Jewish culture, all "maids" were virgins. If a woman was not a virgin when she married, then, under Jewish law, she was to be stoned to death. See Deuteronomy chapter 22.13-29 for a full description of these events.
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