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Was David a Virgin when his soul was pregnant?

December 22, 2013

Was David a Virgin when his soul was pregnant?

This is, of course, as we all would agree just a silly little question. And yet it is seriously my attempt to bring some attention to the way in Bible reading and translation we highlight gender and sex and motherliness so dogmatically. Some of my facebook friends in a particular theology group have gone on and on for hours and literally days arguing this one:

“The virgin birth, is it essential?”

Galileo said that the heart cannot rejoice in what the mind rejects. I think that millennials are going to have a harder time accepting the previous generations’ obstinate views of a faith that is contrary to science. Pew reports that 76% of Americans believe in it but only 66% of young people 18 and below.

I accept the virgin birth but I don’t think it would be a deal breaker for me if it turns out that he had an earthly father. If he did, so what? (There is that matter of NT scripture though…) Nor do I think that assent to the view is an essential part of coming to faith in God.

So, “So what?”

As Christians around the world on this fourth advent Sunday, the one before Christmas, focus on the Magnificat of the Virgin Mother Mary, I myself also recall the Magnificat in the Greek Psalms.

Here’s a bit on that from a post at another blog:

How, really, can one compare King David’s Psalm 34:1-3 and this bit of Mother Mary’s Magnificat found in Luke 1:47-49?

Well, let’s assume we really want to do that first. Okay, well then, we go to Luke’s Greek. He has her starting in like this:

ἡ ψυχή μου
τὸν Κύριον

Yes, her words have gender, and her words for herself and to herself and about herself are female.

My dear feminine motherly soul
the LORD

And yes, yes, the Roman Clementine Vulgate only makes this femininity abundantly clear, which is important, since, as we all know, Latin, like Greek, has other gender options, not only the feminine. So we hear Mary begin this way:

anima mea

Mary the wo-man, of course, is not a man. S-he’s not a he. S-he, this wo-man is a fe-male, not a male.

David, of course, is a man. So let’s hear his language. In Hebrew, he starts in this way:


The Alexandrian Jewish translator for his Septuagint renders him starting in in Greek this way:

ἐν τῷ κυρίῳ
ἡ ψυχή μου

Well, hmm. Well, sure. David’s word for himself, the nephesh, is a feminine noun. This is not his sex. It’s the gender of his grammar. Let’s not get carried away here. Everybody knows he has something, some body part, that Mary lacks. Maybe Luke is making his singing Mary mimic the Septuagint translator’s psalmist David. Well, hmm. They’re both feminine, the nouns that is. Psyche just does what nephesh does. It doesn’t mean, necessarily, that David’s soul, like Mary’s must be, is fe-male.

Never mind that the Roman Clementine Vulgate with its Versio Gallicana makes him saying:

In Domino
anima mea

Jerome is just trying to follow that Alexandrian Jewish fellow with his fancy Hellene. Yes, that’s true. They both have David continuing by saying:

Magnificate Dominum mecum

μεγαλύνατε τὸν κύριον σὺν ἐμοί

See how unclear this is? And, besides, Jerome makes David compel his fellow singers, real men of biblical manhood, to taste and see that the LORD “sweet

When it’s a man and we know its a man in the context, then we read the words differently. When it’s a woman and we know she is a virgin and is pregnant – an anomaly – so Mark-Ed and Un-Usual and Ab-Normal and Fe-male-ish and Wo-man-ish, then we read her OOOh So differently.
Read the rest here.

(And read Suzanne McCarthy’s post here.)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    December 22, 2013 6:16 pm

    Sounds like Psalm 42:1 which ought to feature a doe, but in the KJV featured a hart.

  2. December 23, 2013 12:38 pm

    Yes, and thanks again for your great post on this very issue.


  1. Biblical Studies Carnival XCIV: December 2013 | Cataclysmic
  2. Words on the Word | Septuagint Studies Soirée #5

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