Five items appear below:
1    Isaiah's Virgin #92 Anonymous
2    In Reference to "Isaiah's Virgin" #93 Dean Dowling
3    Reply to Dowling On "Isaiah's Virgin" #94 Anonymous
4    Five Unambiguous Virgins #95 Dean Dowling
5    One Unambiguous Virgin #96 Anonymous



(Investigator 92, 2003 September)


The Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament says the birth of Jesus fulfilled a prophecy:

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the LORD by the prophet, saying, "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." (Matthew 1:22-23 King James Bible)

The prophecy is in Isaiah 7:14:

Therefore the LORD Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (King James Version)

Dean Dowling, a skeptic and former university lecturer, writes:

But the myth that Mary was "semper virgo" is also mainly due to a translation error…
The Hebrew used the word "alma" which means young (unmarried?) woman. But when the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into the famous Greek Septuagint in 270 B.C. "almah" was erroneously translated into the Greek "parthenos" (our "virgin").

The Greek gospellers Matthew (1:22ff) and Luke (1:27ff) read the Greek Old Testament and wishing fulfilment of prophecy recorded a virgin birth…

Christians try to slip out of this by saying "almah" can also mean "virgin". But the Hebrews have an explicit word for "virgin" which is "bethulah". Isaiah uses "bethulah" five times elsewhere when referring to virgin and presumed virgin. So why didn't the Hebrews use their explicit word for virgin instead of "almah"? (Dowling 2000)

Another objection is that Isaiah 7 seemingly implies the "young woman" was alive in Isaiah's day. Matthew apparently not only substituted "virgin" for "maiden" but also took Isaiah 7:14 out of context by applying it to Jesus.

Many Christians get around this problem by claiming that parts of Isaiah have two fulfilments:

It is more likely that this prophecy had a double fulfillment.
(The Life Application Study Bible 1996, Footnote on p. 1057)

The controversial Hebrew word used here sometimes means "virgin" and sometimes "young woman." Its immediate use here refers to Isaiah's young wife and her newborn son (Isaiah 8:1-4). This, of course, was not a virgin birth. God's sign was that before this child was old enough to talk (verse 14) the two invading kings would be destroyed. However, the Gospel of Matthew (1:23) tells us that there was a further fulfillment of this prophecy, in that a virgin (Mary) conceived and bore a son, Immanuel, the Christ.
(The Way The Living Bible Illustrated 1971 – Footnote)


In my explanation of Isaiah (Investigator 89) I argued that Isaiah intended one fulfilment for his prophecies.

I also argued that Isaiah's prophecies are in two categories:

1    Prophecies for the immediate future from Isaiah;
2    Prophecies for the distant future.

I listed the verses in Isaiah that applied to the distant future:
2:1-4 11:1 – 12:6 28:16-29  50:4 - 51:6
4:2-6 13:6-16 35:1-10 52:13 – 53:12
7:14-15 16:4-5 40:3-5 54:1-17
8:8-15 24:1-23 42:1-9 55:1-13
9:1-7 25:6-9 45:8-17; 23-25 60 & 61
10:22-23 27:6-9 49:1-13 65:13 – 66:24

Note that the distant-future list includes Isaiah 7:14 – the prediction about the "almah" and her son Immanuel.


The actors in Isaiah 7 are:

Isaiah Prophet
Shear-jashub Isaiah's son
Ahaz King of Judah
Rezin King of Syria
Pekah King of Israel

The named kings are historical, so this aspect is not a problem.

The context of chapter 7 is that Rezin and Pekah planned to conquer Judah. This naturally worried King Ahaz.

Isaiah with his young son went to Ahaz. Isaiah predicted the invasion would fail and within 65 years Israel itself (referred to as "Ephraim" in verses 2 and 8) would cease to be "a people".

The 65-year prophecy came about by means of three Assyrian invasions. Israel ceased to be "a people" after the third invasion when Israel was colonised by foreigners. This was in the 22nd year of the reign of King Manasseh of Judah – 65 years after Isaiah's prophecy.

After mention of the 65 years Isaiah continues:

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, "Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be as deep as Sheol or high as heaven." (7:10-11)

A sign to show what? Or to reassure King Ahaz of what? Apparently that Judah i.e. the Jews will not experience the fate of Israel; the Jews will not cease to be a people.

However, King Ahaz did not want a sign. (7:12)


Ahaz refused the sign. Nevertheless Isaiah gave a sign – but not to Ahaz since he has refused.

The sign is to "YOU" where "YOU", in Hebrew, is plural.

This is where the Jehovah's Witness New World Translation is useful. It distinguishes the singular "you" by using lower case letters and the plural "YOU" by using upper case.

In present-day spoken English the pronoun "you", with singular and plural not distinguished, often does not mean "you". That is, "you" often does not refer to the person(s) addressed. Rather, "you" often means "I", "my", "us", "we", "they", "anyone who", "everyone who", "whoever", etc.

The following sentences were spoken to reporters or interviewers:

"We went on a bushwalk and food was given to you for four days."

"As a young girl you dream of being a ballerina; and you hold it up as an ideal."

College Principal:
"You don't have students from 11 to 25. You have students to 60."

Woman shopper:
"You get the feeling that just because you're a woman they think they can overcharge."

Female about her wages:
"You only have a little bit left to enjoy yourself… We should get more pay for what you do."

Youth worker:
"We teach these kids to be proud of who you are. When someone talks to you about a particular topic I follow it up..."

The point is that in English usage – and in biblical usage – "you" does not always mean the person(s) addressed.

Back to Ahaz. Why did Isaiah switch from "you" (singular) to "YOU" (plural)?

To show that the sign was not to Ahaz but to "YOU [people]."

That is, the sign of Immanuel was for Jews of the future.

In verses 16-17 Isaiah switches back to his time and addresses Ahaz using "you" (singular):

For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted… (RSV)

It initially seems that "the child" in 7:16 refers to the son of the "almah". But this is mistaken.

The Jerusalem Bible reads, "For before this child knows…" Isaiah is here talking about his own son – "this child" – standing next to him. The rest of Chapter 7 continues discussing events for the near future relevant to Ahaz.

In chapters 8:9-15 and 9:1-7 Isaiah again focuses on the distant future and tells more about Immanuel i.e. "God with us":

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.

In short, Isaiah is dealing with two periods of time. Each period is a time of crisis when Judah faces extinction. Both periods have a "sign" that the Jews will survive. The first period has Isaiah and his sons. (8:18) The second period has the "almah" and Immanuel.


The Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance lists fifty occurrences of "bethulah" in the Old Testament. In the King James Bible "bethulah" is translated "virgin" 38 times and maid or maiden(s) 12 times. (p. 284)

"Almah" occurs seven times in the Old Testament and appears in the King James Bible as "virgin" (4 times), "maid" (twice) and "damsel" (once). (p. 943)

Did Isaiah prophesy about a virgin or maiden? In Israel a maiden or young, unmarried, woman was, by Law, supposed to be a virgin. Therefore, either word – "bethulah" or "almah" – implies virginity if context suggests the maiden is law-abiding or has God's approval.

A prophecy in Genesis is relevant here. In Genesis God said to the "serpent" that tempted Eve:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you in the head, and you shall bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15)

"Seed" means "offspring" or "descendant(s)". A "bruise" to the heel is a non-fatal wound from which the recipient will recover. A "bruise in the head" is either fatal or decisive. The prophecy, therefore, refers to a descendant of Eve who would be temporarily defeated by the "serpent" – the supernatural source of evil – but who would recover and destroy the "serpent".

The "seed" of the serpent are not descendants by birth but converts who copy the "serpent" in becoming rebels against God.

Genesis 3:15 is thus a prophecy of someone who ultimately defeats the supernatural source of evil. An ordinary human of ordinary birth could not do this because humans cannot even defeat evil in themselves:

Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Psalm 106:6)

Therefore the prediction implies that the descendant of Eve who defeats the "serpent" would require a dual origin – human and divine – which in turn meant a virgin birth to preclude a human father.

Therefore, both Genesis 3 and Isaiah 7 imply a virgin birth.


The Septuagint, the most influential of the Greek translations of the Old Testament, was commissioned by Ptolemy Philadelphus (308 – 246 BCE), King of Egypt. The translating took about 100 years.

When the translators came to Isaiah 7 they had to decide whether to translate "alma" as virgin or maiden. They chose virgin.

The Septuagint is proof that over 200 years before Jesus came, Jewish scholars understood the Old Testament as predicting a virgin birth for the future savior and ruler of the world.

Matthew used the word "virgin" because:

(1) that's what the Old Testament foretold and
(2) the Septuagint got it correct.


Dowling, D Witch-Hunts And The Christian Mentality. Investigator No. 71 March, 2000. pp. 53-54.
The Bible Revised Standard Version, 1952.
The Companion Bible, 1972. Samuel Bagster & Sons, Great Britain, p. 930.
The Way The Living Bible Illustrated, 1971.Tyndale House Publishers, Illinois, USA. p. 574.
Wigram, G W Englishman's Hebrew & Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament. Samuel Bagster & Sons, London. pp. 284, 943.


Dean R. Dowling B.Sc

(Investigator 93, 2003 November)

Imagine trying to use reason, logic, facts, evidence and truth against the Moslem suicide bombers who have studied the Koran for years, know it backwards and are quoting it as they detonate themselves and others and believe they are going straight to Paradise.

Similarly, "Anonymous" goes to inordinate lengths to justify the Hebrew "almah" be translated as "parthenos" (virgin).

I'm not going to waste my time and nervous energy to check that there are 50 occurrences of "bethulah" in the Old Testament and King James translated it 38 times as "virgin" etc as it would drive me around the bend.

But do the present Jews believe their yet to arrive Messiah in the First Coming will arrive by a virgin birth? And why didn't, doesn't Yahweh, God, Allah send an angel to get it right and correct any "misinterpretations", "out of context" ambiguous mistakes?

As I pointed out in the Investigator No. 71 March 2000 the virgin translation error was pointed out in a dialogue letter between a Jew, Trypho and a Christian, Justin in 150 A.D. True or false?

I used to think all religious belief was because of the brain-washing of their young children, but I'm beginning to think it is even more depressing than that – the need for any and all religious belief is hard-wired in the brain (the God-spot in the frontal lobes?). Every civilisation from time immemorial has believed in some form of Gods. Even the intelligent ancient Athenians believed in the real existence of their Gods. The second charge against Socrates was impiety (failure to believe in the Gods) and Pericles' mistress escaped a like charge because of Pericles' oratory skills.

In the recent 2003 Adelaide Festival of Ideas I asked this question:

"I'm an atheist, but I'm at an age when I could drop off the twig, but I'm having difficulty trying to decide which is the true religion. The Jews and Moslems don't believe in the Resurrection (the Koran 4:157, "Jesus did not die on the Cross, but was made to appear so") and the Jews don't believe in the Virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14). Can the panel help me decide which religion to go to?"

No reply, except one who said something like look up the Internet.

The infinite capacity for the religious mentality for deception and self-deception is so utterly crushing. The religious mind so needs to believe in a personal God to hold their hand to get through this life and the promise of life after death in Heaven that they will believe in any religious Jack and the Beanstalk fairytales to satisfy this deep need.

The Jews, Christians and Moslems are killing and maiming each other, believing in their separate Gods which do not exist.

Professor Richard Dawkins' statement that all religious belief is a form of insanity does not help?



(Investigator 94, 2004 January)

Neither word – neither Almah nor Bethulah – was used exclusively of virgins:

[Almah]…is always used in Hebrew of an unmarried female, whereas another term, bethulah, frequently rendered "virgin" in the King James and other versions, did not refer exclusively to a sexually unsullied female. For example, in Joel 1:8, the prophet instructs the people to "lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth."  (Harrison, R K 1987 Encyclopedia of Biblical and Christian Ethics, p. 430)

Therefore dictionary definitions by themselves do not conclusively tell us whether Isaiah 7:14 intended "virgin" or "maiden".

That's why I (in #92) considered more context than the one verse.

Compare this to Mr Dowling going to a church where the minister says, "Let me introduce you to this young lady; she's a teenager; her name is Sue." Suppose Mr Dowling wants to know whether Sue is a virgin. He won't find out by checking "teenager" or "lady" in a dictionary. But he might find out if given more context.

Suppose Sue is unmarried, the Church insists on sexual abstinence before marriage, and the minister tells Dowling, "Sue grew up in the faith and has always been a good example". From all of this Dowling has reason to conclude that Sue is a virgin even though the phrase "young lady" does not refer exclusively to virgins.

That's the procedure I used in Investigator.

In Isaiah the Prophet (#89) I listed sections of Isaiah that prophesied about a ruler/saviour in the distant future. In Isaiah's Virgin (#92) I argued that Immanuel, the son of the "almah", refers to that ruler/saviour. Then, from further context – such as the "almah" needing to be law-abiding to be so positively referred to – I concluded that "almah" in Isaiah 7:14 referred to a virgin.

The Septuagint, therefore, was correct to translate "almah" into the Greek for "virgin" and the New Testament was correct to quote it.

The intriguing thing is that the translators of the Septuagint probably used reasoning similar to mine and thus referred to a virgin birth almost two centuries before Jesus. Isaiah, of course, did it seven centuries before Jesus.


Dean R. Dowling.
B.Sc (Retired physics)

Replying to Anonymous, Investigator No. 94, January 2004. Hitler said people are stupid and repetition is necessary.

The Revised Standard Version Bible (1971) explicitly uses "a young woman shall conceive" in Isaiah 7:14 with a minor footnote "or virgin".

There are five unambiguous explicit virgins in Isaiah 23:4; 23:12; 37:22; 47:1. Can Anonymous supply the 5th?

I repeat: Why doesn't God send angels to tell the Church authority to correct any ambiguous mistranslations or out of context mistakes?



(Investigator 96, 2004 May)

Mr Dowling's re-stated query in Investigator 95 p. 5 was answered in #94 where I explained how a word's more precise meaning can often be determined by considering extra context. That's, doubtless, what the translators of the Septuagint did when they unambiguously translated the Hebrew "almah" into the Greek for "virgin" (Isaiah 7:14) two centuries before the doctrine of the "virgin birth".

Dowling's second question asked why God doesn't send angels to clear up misinterpretations. That would be great wouldn't it – we'd get disputes in physics that last for decades cleared up in minutes and avoid expensive scientific research! This, however, is a different topic to the "virgin" topic. It was partly answered in discussions about theodicy but could be worth doing separately another time.


Investigating the Bible's accuracy: