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A Christian Defends Matthew by Insisting That the Author of the First Gospel Used the

Septuagint in His Quote of Isaiah to Support the Virgin Birth


Rav Singer,
Why did you say Christians mistranslate the scripture by saying almah doesnt mean virgin,
when their translation of virgin comes from the Septuagints parthenos, not the Hebrew
almah? Parthenos does mean virgin.
They didnt mistranslate but used a different text. This is pretty well known, did you not know? I
dont think this is a very good thing to have on your page.
Your inquiry will undoubtedly make an enormous contribution to our website because contained
within your question are some of the most commonly held misconceptions regarding Matthews
rendering the Hebrew word alma as virgin in Matthew 1:23. Placing your question on our
website will therefore benefit countless others who are confused by the same mistaken
presuppositions imbedded in your question.
Your assertion that Matthew quoted from the Septuagint is the most repeated argument
missionaries use in their attempt to explain away Matthews stunning mistranslation of the
Hebrew word alma. This well-worn response, however, raises far more problems than it
To begin with, your contention that parthenos does mean virgin is incorrect. The Greek word
parthenos can mean either a young woman or a virgin; for this reason the Greek word
parthenos can be found in the Septuagint referring to someone who is not a virgin. For
example, in Genesis 34:2-4, Shechem raped Dinah, the daughter of the patriarch J acob, yet the
Septuagint refers to her as a parthenos after she had been defiled. The Bible reports that after
Shechem had violated her, his heart desired Dinah, and he loved the damsel (LXX: parthenos)
and he spoke tenderly to the damsel (LXX: parthenos). Clearly, Dinah was not a virgin after
having been raped, and yet she was referred to as a parthenos, the very same word the
Septuagint used to translate the Hebrew word alma in Isaiah 7:14.
Moreover, the Septuagint in our hands is not a J ewish document, but rather a Christian one.
The original Septuagint, created 2,200 years ago by 72 J ewish translators, was a Greek
translation of the Five Books of Moses alone. It therefore did not contain prophetic Books of the
Bible such as Isaiah, which you asserted that Matthew quoted from. The Septuagint as we
have it today, which includes the Prophets and Writings as well, is a product of the church, not
the J ewish people. In fact, the Septuagint remains the official Old Testament of the Greek
Orthodox Church, and the manuscripts that consist of our Septuagint today date to the third
century C.E. The fact that additional books known as the Apocrypha, which are uniquely sacred
to the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church, are found in the Septuagint should raise a red flag
to those inquiring into the J ewishness of the Septuagint.
Christians such as Origin and Lucian (third and fourth century C.E.) had an enormous impact on
creating and shaping the Septuagint that missionaries use to advance their untenable
arguments against J udaism. In essence, the present Septuagint is largely a post-second
century Christian translation of the Bible, used zealously by the church throughout the centuries
as an indispensable apologetic instrument to defend and sustain Christological alterations of the
J ewish scriptures.
The fact that the original Septuagint translated by rabbis more than 22 centuries ago was only of
the Pentateuch and not of prophetic books of the Bible such as Isaiah is confirmed by countless
sources including the ancient Letter of Aristeas, which is the earliest attestation to the existence
of the Septuagint. The Talmud also states this explicitly in Tractate Megillah (9a), and J osephus
as well affirms that the Septuagint was a translation only of the Law of Moses in his preface to
Antiquities of the Jews.
Moreover, J erome, a church father and Bible translator who could
hardly be construed as friendly to J udaism, affirms J osephus statement regarding the
authorship of the Septuagint in his preface to The Book of Hebrew Questions.
Likewise, the
Anchor Bible Dictionary reports precisely this point in the opening sentence of its article on the
Septuagint which states, The word Septuagint, (from Lat septuaginta =70; hence the
abbreviation LXX) derives from a story that 72 elders translated the Pentateuch into Greek; the
term therefore applied originally only to those five books.
In fact, Dr. F.F. Bruce, the preeminent professor of Biblical exegesis, keenly points out that,
strictly speaking, the Septuagint deals only with the Pentateuch and not the whole Old
Testament. Bruce writes, The J ews might have gone on at a later time to authorize a standard
text of the rest of the Septuagint, but . . . lost interest in the Septuagint altogether. With but few
exceptions, every manuscript of the Septuagint which has come down to our day was copied
and preserved in Christian, not J ewish, circles.
Regarding your assertion that Matthew was quoting from the Septuagint, nowhere in the Book
of Matthew does the word Septuagint appear, or, for that matter, is there any reference to a
Greek translation of the Bible ever mentioned in all of the New Testament; and there is good
reason for this. The first century church was well aware that a J ewish audience would be
thoroughly unimpressed by a claim that J esus virgin birth could only be supported by a Greek
translation of the Bible. They understood that if J ews were to find their Christian message
convincing, they would need to assert that it was the actual words of the prophet Isaiah that
clearly foretold Marys virgin conception, not from the words of a Greek translation. Therefore,
in Matthew 1:22-23, the author of the first Gospel insists that it was spoken of the Lord by the
prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child . . . . Matthew loudly makes the point that
it was specifically the prophets own words that proclaimed the virgin birth, not the words of any
Isaiah, of course, did not preach or write in Greek, and therefore the word parthenos never left
the lips of the prophet throughout his life. All 66 chapters of the Book of Isaiah were spoken and
then recorded in the Hebrew language alone. Matthew, however, was attempting to place in the
mind of his intended J ewish reader that it was the words of prophet Isaiah himself which
declared that the messiah would be born of a virgin. Nothing of course could be further from the
Furthermore, this contention becomes even more preposterous when we consider that the
same missionaries who attempt to explain away Matthews mistranslation of the Hebrew word
alma by claiming that Matthew used a Septuagint when he quoted Isaiah 7:14 also steadfastly
maintain that the entire first Gospel was divinely inspired. That is to say, these same Christian
missionaries insist that every word of the New Testament, Matthew included, was authored
through the Holy Spirit and is therefore the living word of God. Are these evangelical apologists
therefore claiming that God needed a Greek translation of the Bible and therefore quoted from
the Septuagint? Did the passing of 500 years since His last book cause God to forget how to
read Hebrew that He would need to rely on a translation? Why would God need to quote from
the Septuagint?
Matthews mistranslation of the Hebrew word alma was deliberate, not the result of his unwitting
decision to quote from a defective Greek translation of the Bible. This is evidenced by the fact
that the context of Isaiah 7:14 is not speaking of the birth of a messiah at all.
This fact remains
obvious even to the most casual reader of the seventh chapter of Isaiah.
For Matthew, the prophets original intent regarding the young woman in Isaiah 7:14 was
entirely superseded by his fervid desire to somehow prove to the J ewish people that the virgin
birth was prophesied in the Hebrew scriptures. Bear in mind that the author of the first Gospel --
more than any other writer in the New Testament -- shaped and contoured his treatise with the
deliberate purpose of promoting Christianity among the J ews. In essence, Matthew was writing
with a J ewish audience in mind. He understood that in order to convince the J ewish people to
embrace J esus as the messiah, it was essential to demonstrate his claim of the virgin birth from
the J ewish scriptures. Luke, in contrast, was writing for a non-J ewish, Greek audience and
therefore makes no attempt to support his version of the virgin birth from the Hebrew Bible.
In his attempt to promote numerous Christian creeds among the J ews, Matthew was faced with
a serious quandary. How would he prove that J esus was the messiah from the J ewish
scriptures when there is no relationship between the J esus of Nazareth of the New Testament
and the messianic prophecies of the J ewish scriptures? How was he going to merge newly
inculcated pagan myths, such as the virgin birth, into Christianity with a Hebrew Bible in which a
belief in a virgin birth was unknown?
In order to accomplish this daunting task, verses in the Hebrew scriptures were altered,
misquoted, taken out of context, and mistranslated by the author of the Book of Matthew in
order to make J esus life fit traditional J ewish messianic parameters, and to make traditional
J ewish messianic parameters fit the life of J esus. In essence, he had to claim that it was the
Hebrew prophets themselves who foretold that J esus was the messiah. It is therefore no
coincidence that no other writer in the New Testament misuses the J ewish scriptures with
abandon to the extent that Matthew does throughout his Gospel.
The irony of all this Bible manipulation is that the first Gospel was written for the sole purpose of
convincing a J ewish audience that J esus was the promised messiah. Yet, if the Book of
Matthew had never been written, the church would almost certainly have been more effective in
its effort at evangelizing the J ews. In essence, had promoters of Christianity avoided the kind of
scripture tampering that can be found in virtually every chapter in the Book of Matthew, the
church might have enjoyed far more success among the J ews as did previous religions that
targeted the J ewish people for conversion.
For example, the priests of Baal did not attempt to bolster the validity of their idol worship by
misquoting the texts of the Hebrew Bible, as Matthew did. Yet, the Bible reports that Baal
gained enormous popularity among the J ewish people. In contrast, once the nation of Israel
was confronted with a corruption of their sacred scriptures by authors and apologists of the New
Testament, their apostasy to Christianity for the most part became unpalatable and the J ewish
people throughout history remained the most difficult nation for the church to convert.
Consequently, whereas the Gospels of Mark, Luke, and J ohn enjoyed overwhelming success
among their targeted gentile audiences, the Gospel of Matthew played an enormous role in the
ultimate failure of the church to effectively convert the J ews to Christianity, at least the
knowledgeable ones.
Best wishes for a happy Purim.
Sincerely yours,
Rabbi Tovia Singer

J osephus, preface to Antiquities of the Jews, section 3. For J osephus detailed description of events
surrounding the original authorship of the Septuagint, see J osephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XII, ii, 1-4.

St. J erome, preface to The Book of Hebrew Questions, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Volume 6.
Pg. 487. Hendrickson.
The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Excerpt from Septuagint, New York: Vol. 5, pg. 1093.

F.F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments, p.150.

The seventh chapter of the Book of Isaiah begins by describing the military crisis that was confronting
King Ahaz of the Kingdom J udah. In about the year 732 B.C.E. the House of David was facing immanent
destruction at the hands of two warring kingdoms: the northern Kingdom of Israel and the Syrian
kingdom. These two armies had laid siege to J erusalem. The Bible relates that the House of David and
King Ahaz were gripped with fear. In response these two warring armies, God sent the prophet Isaiah to
reassure King Ahaz that divine protection was at hand -- the Almighty would protect him, their deliverance
was assured, and these two hostile armies would fail in their attempt to subjugate J erusalem.
It is clear from this chapter that Isaiahs declaration was a prophecy of the unsuccessful siege of
J erusalem by the two armies of the Kingdoms of Israel and Syria, not a virgin birth more than 700 years
later. If we interpret this chapter as referring to J esus birth, what possible comfort and assurance would
Ahaz, who was surrounded by two overwhelming military enemies, have found in the birth of a child
seven centuries later? Both he and his people would be long dead and buried. Such a sign would make
no sense.

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