Was Mary a Virgin or Young Woman?

The Prophet Isaiah, by the Word of the Lord, stated the following prophecy concerning the one who would be the mother of Immanuel. 

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel…”

— Isaiah 7:14 

There has been some controversy in the religious world over this Hebrew term, almah, here translated as “virgin.” The term, almah, as defined by the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Dictionary as, “virgin, young woman. 1a) of marriageable age. 1b) maid or newly married.”

Was Mary a Virgin? | Oak Grove Church of Christ

Does Scripture Define Mary as a Virgin?

Therefore, it is a general term describing a young woman of a certain age, who could be either newly married (not a virgin) or still unmarried (a virgin). Some translations have controversially translated almah, in Isaiah 7:14 as “young woman.”

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel…”  

— Isaiah 7:14 (New Revised Standard Version)

This prophecy was fulfilled in Matthew 1:18-25 with Mary’s conception and the birth of Jesus. The New Testament clearly indicates that Mary was a virgin.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph before they came together*, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. …

25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.

— Matthew 1:18, 25

(New Revised Standard Version)

Does the NRSV indicate that Mary was a virgin? Some have the misconception that the NRSV does in fact deny that she was a virgin, because of how it translated Isaiah 7:14. But notice how the NRSV translates Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel when he declared that she would conceive.

Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be since I am a virgin*?

— Luke 1:34 New Revised Standard Version 

While the translation of the word almah into “young woman” is a valid translation in certain contexts, it likely is not a valid translation here. Yet, since the same translation indicates from Mary’s own words that she was in fact a virgin, it is clear that there can be no misconception as to the progeny of the Son of God.

*Bold for emphasis

by Jack W. McNiel

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