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The Busted Halo Question Box
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Caitlin Kennell Kim
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Fr. Rick Malloy, SJ
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Fr. Tom Ryan, CSP
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Neela Kale
Culture, Moral Theology
Ann Naffziger, M.A., M.Div.
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Our readers asked:

What does the word parthenos mean and how does it refer to Mary?

Ginny Kubitz Moyer Answers:

Parthenos is a Greek word meaning “virgin.” It relates to Mary because the evangelist Matthew, in describing Mary’s miraculous pregnancy, says, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.’” (Matthew 1:22-23) The quotation that Matthew references here is from the Old Testament book of Isaiah, 7:14.

In the original Hebrew, Isaiah uses the word “almah,” which means a young woman of marriageable age. When the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew to Greek approximately two hundred years before Christ, the word “almah” was rendered as “parthenos” (virgin). This Greek translation is the one used by Matthew.

The differences in this translation have made some question the entire issue of Mary’s virginity. In fact, though, belief in the Virgin Birth does not hinge on this one word. Both Matthew and Luke, writing independently of one another, are quite clear that Mary was a virgin at the time she became pregnant.

 
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The Author : Ginny Kubitz Moyer
Ginny Kubitz Moyer is the author of the award-winning book Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area and blogs at randomactsofmomness.com.
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