His birth of the Virgin Mary
The Bible teaches the doctrine of Christ’s virgin birth.42 The prophet Isaiah 700 years before Christ was born of the Virgin Mary predicted: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Look, the virgin will conceive and have a Son, and His name will be Immanuel!”23 Almah, the Hebrew word Isaiah by the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit used for “virgin” can only be translated “virgin.” Nowhere in the Bible or in any Hebrew or Semitic literature does Almah mean anything different from virgin.43
There has been only one virgin birth in all history. When Isaiah wrote that an Almah (virgin) would conceive and have a Son, Isaiah was not first referring to some woman living during his time but only to the Virgin Mary.44
42 "Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 1:26-38; Isaiah 7:14.
43 ''The Revised Standard Version of the National Council of Churches translates Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. "Here the translators of the Revised Standard Version permitted their modern liberal theology to dictate how a particular passage ought to read.
The word almah is the Hebrew word which the RSV here designates as "a young woman."
While the etymological meaning of almah is a sexually mature girl, sound exegesis does not base the meaning of a word on its etymology. Almah is the feminine of elem which occurs twice in the Old Testament. In 1 Samuel 17:56, Saul called David, when he came back from fighting Goliath, an elem. He was then about twenty years old and unmarried; later Michal became his first wife. After that, David is never called an elem. Nowhere is elem used of a married man.
Almah Nothing But Virgin
Almah occurs nine times in the Old Testament. In two places (Ps. 46:1; 1 Chronicles 15:20) we have the plural alamoth. There is no passage where Almah is not a virgin. Nowhere in the Bible or in any Hebrew or Semitic literature does almah mean anything different from virgin. Jastrow's dictionary shows that almah has no implication of marriage even in later Hebrew. The International Critical Commentary (ICC) cites Proverbs 30:19 as evidence that the word does not mean virgin; and then the ICC on Proverbs 30:19 cites Isaiah 7; 14 as the only proof that the word means a married woman. Some have argued that if Isaiah had meant a "virgin" he would have used bethulah. However, in Joel 1:8 bethulah is used of a woman who has had a husband. Almah alone seems to insure the thought that this is an unmarried woman.
lf they make the claim that the Hebrew text does not state a virgin whereas almah means a young maiden, . . . in the case of Christians, the answer is easy from St. Matthew (1:22,23)andLuke(1:27), both of whom apply the passage in Isaiah to Mary and translate the word almah "virgin," whom we believe rather than the whole world. For God the Holy Spirit speaks through St. Matthew and St. Luke, of whom we firmly believe that He understands the Hebrew language and words.
Luther also wrote: “If a Jew or a Hebraist could prove to me that almah could possibly mean a married woman in the Scripture, he shall get a hundred gold coins (Gulden) from me (God knows where I’ll find them)." George Stoeckhardt, one of Lutheranism's most scholarly exegetes, who quotes this statement of Luther, adds: "Since then Hebrew philogy has made great strides; but, if Luther lived today, he could still make that challenge without losing any money."
Almah was translated "virgin" by the Septuagint (200 B.C.), the Vulgate (400 A.D.), Luther (1534-46), the King James Version (1611), the British Revision (1881-85), and the American Standard Version (1901). Such great Christian scholars as Luther, Stoeckhardt, Ludwig Fuerbringer, Robert Dick Wilson, Walter A. Maier all insisted on "virgin." Now the RSV (1952) translates "a young woman" and even a Lutheran Advisory Committee on English Bible Versions says that "young woman" is a justifiable translation.
The Dead Sea Scroll
In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah a little strip has been worn away at Isaiah 7:14. But there on the brittle margin stands haalmah untouched. May that be a sign to us. And may this amazing discovery of the Isaiah manuscript, as it wipes off the blackboard of modern comment a whole host of speculations, be a proof to us that "the grass dries up and die flower withers, but the Word of our God will stand forever," Isaiah 40:8. In His Word God has defined haalmah as "the virgin." We may wither, but that will stand!
Otten, op. cit., pp. 23-29. The author relied on "What Does Almah Mean? by William F. Beck. Christian Handbook on Vital Issues, published by Christian News, pp. 537-548. See also the section on Messianic Prophecy in the CNE, pp. 2665-2677. CNE, 263.
44 Otten, op. cit., pp. 56-58.