Virgin Birth

From BibleStrength

Both the concepts of a Virgin Birth and Priestly Celibacy began with Roman Catholicism and are based on an un-Biblical interpretation of the Greek word parthenos and Hebrew word almah as virgin, when all the evidence shows these words should instead be translated as widowed/divorced. Verses shown on this page will be shown with the transliterated original Greek and Hebrew text.

Old Testament

Isaiah 7:14

In the famous Isaiah 7:14 passage, it is the word almah which is translated 'virgin'.

Jews have for centuries criticized the Virgin Birth as contrary to what the book of Isaiah says, since another Hebrew word exists for virgin, bethuwlah, and were the intended meaning virgin, then bethuwlah should have been used. The criticism has been made since at least the 14th century A.D. per the Dialogue with Trypho and serves as a major point of contention between Jews and Christians since rabbis have long taught that almah means young woman.[1]


The word almah is a rarely used word in the Old Testament, found just 7 times in all:[2]


However, the word bethuwlah is found in 50 verses, including some where the word clearly means virgin, unlike with almah:


What the word almah actually resembles is the word almanah, meaning widow, and appears to be a variation of the word. Almanah is found in 55 verses of the Old Testament, and translated as widow by the KJV in 53 of them.[3] It is used twice in contrast to bethuwlah to compare widows to virgins, and even used in conjunction with another word that clearly means divorced, garash:

Furthermore, in the Hebrew alphabet, almah much more closely resembles almanah than it does bethuwlah. Almah has 4 letters, and 3 of those match the 5 letters in almanah, appearing in the exact same succession, and the last letters in both words, Aleph and Ayin, are close enough in appearance to be easily mistaken for one another. They resemble our "X" and "Y" respectively.

New Testament

As is apparent, the evidence against almah meaning 'virgin' in the Old Testament is quite strong. But if the New Testament at least said Jesus was to be born of a virgin, one could at least understand Christianity's commitment to proving a virgin birth prophecy. However, as will be shown, the Greek word translated virgin in the New Testament, parthenos, does not mean virgin either, but clearly means widow.


As seen below, it is the Greek word parthenos that is used to parallel the word almah from Isaiah 7:14 and translated in the KJV as 'virgin' in both places. This is what Mary is called, a parthenos.

So to prove a Virgin Birth is Biblical, the Christian must first prove that parthenos means 'virgin' in the New Testament, or it makes no sense to oppose the Jewish belief on what it means in the Old Testament. However, as will be shown, parthenos was incorrectly translated as virgin, not just in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament as well.

The Greek word parthenos is found just 14 times in the New Testament within 13 verses.[4] The other 11 verses are as follows:

So aside from the two passages previously quoted that correspond to the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy, the other 11 passages can be categorized as follows:

  • 3 verses in Matthew 25 dealing with women who took lamps to meet a bridegroom.
  • 1 verse in Acts 21 concerning 4 daughters who prophesied.
  • 5 verses in 1 Corinthians 7 relating to the passage Catholicism uses for priestly celibacy.
  • 1 verse in 2 Corinthians 11 speaking of Paul's desire to present Christians as chaste to Christ.
  • 1 verse in Revelation 14 speaking of men not defiled with women that follow Jesus.

Priestly Celibacy and 1 Corinthians 7

5 of the 13 verses in the New Testament where parthenos, the Greek word translated virgin in the Virgin Birth prophecies corresponding to Isaiah 7:14 and Mary, are to be found in 1 Corinthians 7. This is the same passage that Catholicism uses to justify priestly celibacy.[5] So both the doctrines of a Virgin Birth and Priestly Celibacy revolve around this one single chapter showing that parthenos does in fact mean virgin.

However, a straightforward reading of 1 Corinthians 7 repeatedly shows that what's being discussed is not virgins, but widows. The following is the entire Interlinear text of this crucial chapter, with the word parthenos bolded:


When reading the chapter one should repeatedly ask themselves what subject Paul is addressing, and what exactly he is talking about. It should become clear that the entire chapter's theme deals with divorce, and whether it is alright for those who divorce to remarry.

  • In vv. 1-2, Paul says "Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." Clearly the subject matter deals with a case where lack of marriage (or re-marriage, as will become apparent) is not desirable, but still allowed and supported.
  • In vv. 3-5, Paul urges marital commitment with words such as "Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife." and "Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time". If the discussion involves virgins instead of widows, such urging would make little sense.
  • In vv. 6-9, Paul says he gives this by permission not God's command, since he wishes all were like himself. He then says to the "unmarried and widows" it is good for them to be like him but if they aren't able it's better to marry burn [with desire?]. If Paul were never married as Catholics contend, and addressing perpetual virginity, then it would make no sense for him to clearly mention widows here when referring to himself... unless he was not a virgin but a widower refusing to remarry.
  • In vv. 10-11, Paul commands wives not to leave their husbands and vice versa. He also commands that those who divorce should not remarry save to their original spouse. If the topic is virgins, this again makes no sense for Paul to mention, as it deals with marriage and divorce, not perpetual virginity.
  • In vv. 12-16, Paul addresses divorce of Christians to unbelieving spouses, starting with "If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away." Paul states divorce should only be allowed if the unbeliever insists upon leaving, specifying "But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace." Again, it should become increasingly clear that the subject matter of this chapter is not virgins at all, but widows/divorced.
  • In vv. 17-24, Paul uses analogies to drive home his prior point that Christians should not divorce unbelieving spouses, making the following points: (1) "But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk." (2) "Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised." (3) "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called." (4) "Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather... Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men." (5) "Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God." All of this serves to reinforce Paul's previous theme that Christians should not abandon the original calling they were in before becoming Christians, and his previous point that Christians should not divorce unbelieving spouses simply because they are unbelievers since as he stated in vv. 14 and 16, "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy... For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?"
  • In vv. 25-26, Paul first uses the Greek word parthenos which Catholics insist means virgin for purposes of both the Virgin Birth and Priestly Celibacy. Paul again alludes to verse 1 and "the things whereof ye wrote to me" this time calling it the "present distress", stating, "Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be." Clearly the Corinthians wrote about a specific issue that Paul is addressing in this chapter, as he keeps referring to it as a special matter they contacted him about.
  • In vv. 27-28, Paul addresses divorce yet again, saying "Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife." He then says if they remarry they have not sinned; that they will have "trouble in the flesh" and he wishes to spare them it. If parthenos means virgin, then it makes no sense for Paul to immediately begin discussing those bound to or loosed from wives. This is the first major clue that parthenos does not mean virgin but widow.
  • In vv. 29-31, Paul states that "the time is short" and "the fashion of this world passeth away". Because of this, he says (1) those with wives should be as those not having them, (2) those weeping as though they didn't weep, (3) those rejoicing as though they didn't rejoice, (4) those buying as though they didn't possess, and (5) those using the world as not abusing it.
  • In vv. 32-35, it becomes clear Paul's point in vv. 29-31 was that those married care about things of the world and how to please their wives, and Paul wants the parthenos (contrasted with wives in v. 34) to be able to "attend upon the Lord without distraction."
  • In vv. 36-38, Paul states of a parthenos that if she is to "pass the flower of her age, and need so require" they "sinneth not: let them marry". Presumably, if about to pass child-bearing age, or because of physical desires, the woman wishes to remarry, Paul condones it, but expresses again his belief that it's better not to do so, stating "he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better".
  • In vv. 39-40, one can see a second MAJOR clue that parthenos does not mean virgin, but widow. Paul states, "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God." If Paul had been addressing virgins all along as parthenos it would make no sense for his final concluding point to be that a spouse is not bound by the law once their spouse dies and is allowed to remarry, and that it's his opinion it's better not to remarry. These crucial last two verses perfectly explain what Paul's point all along was, that those divorced, "parthenos", are allowed to remarry, but he thinks it better that they not do so to better focus on God like himself.

As seen from the entire chapter, a straightforward reading shows the entire chapter including the key concluding verses to repeatedly reinforce a theme of whether the divorced - either through death of a spouse (v. 39) or an unbelieving spouse leaving (v. 15) - should be allowed to remarry. Paul repeatedly states he thinks they are better off not doing so, and having just one spouse during a lifetime like himself, but states if they insist they "sinneth not: let them marry".

Revelation 14:4 and Marriage

However, 1 Corinthians 7, while key to understanding that parthenos means widow and not virgin, is not the only New Testament passage that reveals this. Revelation 14:4, like 1 Corinthians 7:25-26, if read with parthenos as virgin would contradict numerous other parts of the Bible where marriage is said to be blessed by God.

Now, Catholicism believes parthenos here refers to virgins. However, if 'virgins' are those "not defiled with women" it means every Biblical commandment stating God blesses marriage would contradict these verses:

Furthermore, being the "husband of one wife" is a direct commandment for all Biblical leaders according to Paul:

Ultimately, If Paul were to have discouraged marriage as 1 Corinthians 7:25-26 would mean if read with parthenos as virgin instead of widow, then he would include his own teachings among the "doctrines of devils... forbidding to marry" that he warned Timothy about!

Paul would also have contradicted his own statement to Timothy saying he wanted younger women to marry and bear children - it was only widows that Paul discouraged marriage for:

To take it even one step further, it would mean Jesus' teaching that God created people as male and female in the beginning for the purpose of marriage and becoming one flesh was wrong. Indeed, God making different genders to begin with would make little sense if marriage is reduced to the level of defilement:

To take it even further, if marriage is reduced to being "defiled with women" as one must read Revelation 12:4 if considering parthenos to mean virgin, then it means Paul's teaching of marriage between husbands and wives as representative of Christ's relationship to the Church is wrong.

As should be increasingly apparent, because of 1 Corinthians 7:25 and Revelation 12:4, one cannot commit to a reading of parthenos as meaning virgin without devaluing the very concept of marriage, and causing contradictions with other Bible passages which state God blesses marriage, that marriage is a requirement for Biblical leaders, that forbidding to marry is a doctrine of devils, and that marriage is holy and symbolic of God's relationship with His people.

Forbidding to Marry or Eat Foods Are Doctrines of Devils

According to 1 Timothy 4:1-5, forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from foods would be the two signs of those who'd departed from the faith, giving into seducing spirits and devil doctrines, hypocrites.

It is difficult to find a better example than Catholicism of departing from the Christian faith by forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from foods.


I realize that not only Catholics but many Christians will be opposed to recognizing the truth of this, that the words almah in the Old Testament and parthenos in the New Testament were incorrectly translated 'virgin' by Catholicism. It means that key Biblical figures, Mary and Paul, were not virgins as conventionally thought, but previously married widows. It also means that Priestly Celibacy is un-Biblical.


  1. Martyr, Justin. Dialogue with Trypho. Ch. LXVII. Retrieved from
    Horner, Timothy J. (2001). In Studia Patristica. Vol. XXXVI. pg. 249. Peeters Publishers. Retrieved from
  2. Brown, Driver, Briggs and Gesenius. "Hebrew Lexicon entry for `almah". "The KJV Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon". Retrieved from
  3. Brown, Driver, Briggs and Gesenius. "Hebrew Lexicon entry for 'almanah". "The KJV Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon". Retrieved from
  4. Thayer and Smith. "Greek Lexicon entry for Parthenos". "The KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon". Retrieved from
  5. Brom, Robert H. (2004, August 10). Celibacy and the Priesthood. Catholic Answers. Retrieved from