Virgin is the rendering, in the A. V., of two Heb. terms, concerning the distinctive use of which some exegetical and theological controversy has arisen. The word בּתוּלָה, bethulah (from בָּתִל, to separate), occurs forty-nine times in the Old Test., and is translated by παρθένος in the Sept., except in two instances. It is rendered once by νεᾶνις (1Ki 1:2), and once by νύμφη (Joe 1:8). See Ex 22:15-17; Le 21; De 22; De 23; Jg 21, etc. It properly denotes a virgin, maiden (Ge 24:16; Le 21:13; De 22:14,23,28; Jg 11:37; 1Ki 1:2); the passage in Joe 1:8 is not an exception, as it refers to the loss of one betrothed, not married עִלמָה, almah (from עָלִם, to conceal), also properly signifies a virgin, a maiden, a young woman unmarried, but of marriageable age. It occurs seven times, in four of which it is rendered νεᾶ νις, puella (Ex 2:8; Ps 68:25; Song 1:3; Song 6:8), in one (Pr 30:19) νεότης and in two (Ge 24:43; Isa 7:14) παρθενος. The same word mi also rendered virgo in the Vulg. in these two passages in Ex 2:8, puella; in Ps 68:26, juvencula; in Song 1:3; Song 6:8, adolescentula; and in Pr 30:19 adolescentia, after the Sept. The Syriac follows the, Sept. in Isa 7:14, but in all the other passages agrees with Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, who translate עלמה by νεᾶνις, not only in Ps 68:25; Ge 34:31; Ex 2:8; Pr 30:19 (in which, they agree with the Sept.), but also in Isa 7:14. Justin Martyr (Dial. c. Tryph.) complains of the partiality of the Greek translators in rendering עלמה here by νεᾶνις (a term which does not necessarily include the idea of virginity), accusing these Jewish writers of wishing to neutralize the application to the Messiah of this passage, which the Jews of his time referred to Hezekiah. Jerome says that the Punic for virgo is alma, although the word עלמה is but twice so rendered in the Vulg. Gesenius (Com. in Isaiah) maintains, notwithstanding, that νεᾶνις, not παρθένος, is the correct rendering. in Isa 7:14, while he at the same time agrees with Justin that the prediction cannot possibly refer to Hezekiah, who was born nine years before its. delivery. Fürst (Concordance) explains עלמה by "puella, virgo, nubilis illa vel nupta, tenera et florens setate, valens ac vegeta; " but Hengstenberg (Christology), although admitting that עלמה does not necessarily mean: a virgin (which he conceives is plain from Pr 30:19), maintains that it is always applied in Scripture to an unmarried woman. Matthew (Mt 1:23), who cites from the Sept., applies the passage Isa 7:14 to the miraculous birth of Jesus from the Blessed Virgin. Prof. Robinson (Gr. and Eng. Lexicon) considers παρθένος here to signify a bride, or newly married woman, as in Homer (11. 2, 514):
ΟÞς τέκεν Α᾿στυόχη...παρθένος αἰδοίη ("Them-bore Astyoche, a virgin pure" Cowper);
and considering it to refer apparently to the youthful spouse of the prophet (see Isa 8:3-4; Isa 7:3,10,21), holds that the sense in Mt 1:23 would then be: Thus was fulfilled in a strict and literal sense that which the prophet spoke in a wider sense and on a different occasion. Though the prophet already had a son, it is by no means improbable that his former wife was dead, and that he was about to be united in marriage to another who was a virgin. The prophet predicted the birth of a male child which should occur within the appointed period from one who was then a virgin, an; event which could be, known only to God; and this event should constitute a sign, a proof or demonstration, to Ahaz of the truth of his prediction concerning Syria and Israel. In this remarkable event the prophet directed the minds of the king and people onward to the birth of the Messiah from a virgin, and to him the name "Immanuel" should be more appropriately given. Hence the evangelist Matthew, considering the former event as the predicted type of the latter event, applies the passage to the miraculous birth of Jesus from the Virgin. SEE IMMANUEL; SEE ISAIAH.
The early Christians contended also for the perpetual virginity of Mary against the Jews, who objected to the use of the term ἕως (until, Mt 1:25) as implying, the contrary; but the fathers triumphantly appealed" against the Jewish interpretation to Scripture usage, according to which this term frequently included the notion of perpetuity (comp.
Ge 8:7; Ps 61:7; Ps 110:1; Isa 46:4; Mt 28:20; and see Suicer, Thesaur., and Pearson, On the Creed, art. 3). Although, there is no proof from Scripture that Marry had other children, SEE JAMES; SEE JUDE, the Christian fathers did not consider that there was any impiety in the supposition that she had (Suicer, ut sup.). But, although not an article of faith, the perpetual virginity of Mary was a constant tradition of both the Eastern and the Western Church. The most distinguished Protestant theologians have also adopted this belief, and Dr. Lardner (Credibility) considered the evidence in its favor so strong as to deserve that assent which he himself yielded to it. SEE PERPETUAL VIRGINITY OF MARY.
The word παρθένος, virgin, occurs in Mt 1:25; Lu 1; Ac 21; 1Co 7:2; 1Co 11:2; and Apoc. 14:14. In 1 Corinthians and Apoc. it is applied to both sexes, as it frequently is by the fathers, who use it in the sense of coelebs. It is sometimes metaphorically used in the New Test. to denote a high state of moral purity. Kitto. So also, among the Hebrews, the population of a place or city was sometimes personified as a female and called virgin; thus the inhabitants of Tyre (Isa 23:12), of Babylon (Isa 47:1), of Egypt (Jer 46:11), and of Judah and Israel, i.e. the Hebrews (La 1:15; Jer 14:17; Jer 18:13; Jer 31:4,21; Am 5:2). SEE DAUGHTER.