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VIRGIN, VIRGINITY

vur'-jin; vur-jin'-i-ti: (1) bethulah, from a root meaning "separated," is "a woman living apart," i.e. "in her father's house," and hence "a virgin." Bethulah seems to have been the technical term for "virgin," as appears from such a combination as na`arah bhethulah, "a damsel, a virgin," in Dt 22:23,28, etc. An apparent exception is Joel 1:8, "Lament like a virgin bethulah .... for the husband of her youth," but the word is probably due to a wish to allude to the title "virgin daughter of Zion" (the translation "a betrothed maiden" is untrue to Hebrew sentiment). and the use of "virgin" for a city (Isa 37:22, etc.; compare Isa 23:12; 47:1) probably means "unsubdued," though, as often, a title may persist after its meaning is gone (Jer 31:4). The King James Version and the English Revised Version frequently render bethulah by "maiden" or "maid" (Jdg 19:24, etc.), but the American Standard Revised Version has used "virgin" throughout, despite the awkwardness of such a phrase as "young men and virgins" (Ps 148:12). For "tokens of virginity" ("proofs of chastity") see the commentary on Dt 22:15 ff. (2) `almah, rendered in the Revised Version (British and American) by either "damsel" (Ps 68:25), "maiden" (so usually, Ex 2:8, etc.), or "virgin" with margin "maiden" (Song 1:3; 6:8; Isa 7:14). The word (see OHL) means simply "young woman" and only the context can give it the force "virgin." This force, however, seems required by the contrasts in Song 6:8, but in 1:3 "virgin" throws the accent in the wrong place. The controversies regarding Isa 7:14 are endless, but Septuagint took `almah as meaning "virgin" (parthenos). But in New Testament times the Jews never interpreted the verse as a prediction of a virgin-birth--a proof that the Christian faith did not grow out of this passage. See IMMANUEL; VIRGIN BIRTH. (3) parthenos, the usual Greek word for "virgin" (Judith 16:5, etc.; Mt 1:23, etc.). In Rev 14:4 the word is masculine. In 1 Cor 7:25 ff the Revised Version (British and American) has explained "virgin" by writing "virgin daughter" in 7:36-38. This is almost certainly right, but "virgin companion" (see Lietzmann and J. Weiss in the place cited.) is not quite impossible. (4) neanis, "young woman" (Sirach 20:4). (5) Latin virgo (2 Esdras 16:33).
The Old Testament lays extreme emphasis on chastity before marriage (Dt 22:21), but childlessness was so great a misfortune that death before marriage was to be bewailed (Jdg 11:37,38). Paul's preference for the unmarried state (1 Cor 7:29 if) is based on the greater freedom for service (compare Mt 19:12), and the Greek estimate of virginity as possessing a religious quality per se is foreign to true Jewish thought (such a passage as Philo Mund. opif., section symbol 53, is due to direct Greek influence). Some have thought to find a trace of the Greek doctrine in Rev 14:4. But 144,000 lst-century. Christian ascetics are out of the question, and the figure must be interpreted like that of Jas 4:4 (reversed).
Burton Scott Easton
Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'VIRGIN, VIRGINITY'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE; 1915.

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