Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Virgin, maiden or young woman?

In his address at Mass yesterday evening at the Oxford Oratory Fr Jerome spoke about the passage in Isaiah 7:14 which speaks of a young woman who will conceive and give birth to Immanuel, which has of coursetraditionally been identified with the events of Christmas. Critics are keen to point out that the original Hebrew says 'young woman' not 'virgin', and that this is then seized upon to "disprove" the Virgin Birth or Christianity.

As Fr Jerome pointed out to us this fact has been one of which Christians and their critics have been aware since at least the Dialogue of St Justin Martyr with Trypho circa 130, so this is no new discovery. Furthermore the Septuagint, itself seen as inspired, renders the word as 'Virgin', and that two centuries before the birth of Christ. There is nothing exceptional about a young woman conceiving - that is the course of nature; an older woman like St Elizabeth is noteworthy; a vigin - now that is exceptional.

1 comment:

Mike Cliffson said...

Is this chestnut STILL running when ida thought the moss had grown cold on its feet?

Your post has all it needs, yet since I meet folks as trundle it out

meanter say, in the English maidens we still sometimes talk, esp sing about, I think we know when the question is virginity or single female yuf.
Cf "../.. never shall have my maidenhead, you coal black smith"
Them as isn't redblooded males might find Isiah, etc ambiguous.......Oh soooooooorry, Im getting close to evil catholic hate speech