Addressing the Use of "Almah"

In these web pages I strive to only present the strongest points, whether they be for or against Christianity. This is because the process of finding the truth can only be clouded by inaccurate statements. One of these murky issues is the use of the Hebrew word "almah" in the old testament. Some have said that the word was mistranslated in the Septuagint as "virgin" when it should have been "young woman". Then, as the story goes, the New Testament was written with the Septuagint as a reference, and Jesus was born of a virgin. Here's a quote:
As many have noted, the Hebrew word translated as "virgin" in this verse is "almah," which is more accurately translated simply as "young woman." The Hebrew word "bethulah" means "virgin." In the book of Isaiah, "bethulah" appears four times (23:12, 37:22, 47:1, 62:5), so its author was aware of the word. In the New American Standard translation of the Bible, all other appearances of "almah" are translated simply as "girl," "maid," or "maiden" (viz: Genesis 24:43, Exodus 2:8, Psalms 68:25, Proverbs 30:19, Song of Solomon 1:3, 6:8). (Response to the Fabulous Prophecies of the Messiah).
I personally have backed off of this point of view, partly because I feel that I can not make any definitive judgement on the use of a language that I do not know, and mostly because of good arguments to the contrary. Here is one that was presented to me by Marc LiVecche (
Evidence demonstrates that, based on the words used, there is no conclusive evidence that "bethulah" would have been a more precise word. (This information is taken from Basic Theology, by Charles Ryrie, Victor Press) Ryrie goes further to say that "almah" "is not a techinical word for virgin but refers to a young woman, one of whose characteristics is virginity. (Genesis 24:43) There is no instance where it can proved that almah designates a young woman who is not a virgin". Ryrie cites other direct references to Mary's virginity. But also remember the indirect: Joseph was going to leave the woman when he found out she was pregnant. Why would he unless he knew it couldn't be his? I think we can say that the Bible holds that Mary was a virgin at conception.
For an interesting discussion of this topic by people who are more knowledgable than I, see the exchange between Jim Lippard, Rob Berry, and James D. Price:

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