The Wizard of AZ (James White, Arizona Cardinal Fan), says: “Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain”
After his feeble attempt to get the audience to focus on the billows of smoke he puffed in the November 18 debate when Gerry Matatics sent his dog (Aseneth) to pull away the curtain from the charade that Svendsen was perpetrating on the audience, still James White, the wizard that he is, is now ranting and raving for you not to pay attention to what was exposed at the debate.
He states on The Dividing Line Thursday morning, 11-20-03, 11AM:
Bob Sungenis Roots for the Cardinals
Robert Sungenis Responds:
Thank you Dr. White, for two things: First, allowing your readers to get a closer look at your, shall we say, obnoxious character, but most of all for admitting that the reference to a non-New Testament source between the single centuries surrounding the New Testament which shows “heos hou” continuing the action of the main clause of a Greek sentence does in fact exist.
Despite all your colorful analogies to the Phoenix Cardinal’s hapless season, those, like me, who know you quite well, realize that your above rant is tantamount to admitting that Svendsen’s case concerning “heos hou” has been put into the dust bin of history, never to rise again.
But here is the sad fact. In your radio debate, after Gerry gave you a number of Greek scholars who told Gerry that there was absolutely no difference between “heos” and “heos hou,” you then rebutted Gerry’s evidence by asking Gerry whether any of those scholars had ever read Svendsen’s book, the very document that you acknowledge above contains the whopping flaw of Svendsen’s analysis of the Greek phrase “heos hou!”
But that’s not all. Perhaps you haven’t been privy to the boasts that Eric Svendsen has been making the last few years about his so-called “discovery” of the “heos hou” phrase, and, in fact, perhaps you weren’t privy to the boast he made on the Internet about the same subject just a few days before your “debate” with Gerry Matatics. If there is anyone saying that the “heos hou” issue is the most important matter in his research on the perpetual virginity of Mary, it is Svendsen himself.
Yet on your radio program, we have Svendsen’s major thesis being exposed for the charade that it is, yet instead of reprimanding Svendsen for coming on your program with his shoddy exegesis of extra-biblical Greek literature, you complain to us that it is our fault for focusing on one aspect of the debate. Incredible.
Unfortunately for you, after watching you for the last ten years, I’m well aware of your antics and ploys. The above rant is vintage James White. You’re becoming so predictable I find myself yawning in deep anticipation of what your next excuse is going to be to stay out of the Catholic Church. Even when the major thesis of your colleague’s dissertation is dismantled on your own radio program right before your very eyes, you still try to turn this around to your advantage by claiming that we are now obsessed with only “one issue” (which you know isn’t true, since we have addressed a myriad of issues dealing with the perpetual virginity of Mary many times in the past, and will continue to do so), and you fail to give even the slightest indication that you have, or intend, to admonish Svendsen for his fallacious research.
Both of you ought to be ashamed of yourselves, not only for the lame attempt at misdirecting the public to the very thing you now acknowledge in your above Arizona Cardinal tirade, but your conduct on the radio program was just short of reprehensible.
Now, for those of you who want to know what is now transpiring in the minds of White and Svendsen in order to cover themselves, we have word that White is trying to claim that the example of the story of Aseneth that Matatics cited during the debate is “out of the range.” I could have guessed as much. White had two choices: (a) either refute the meaning of “heos hou” in the Aseneth story, or (b) say that the Aseneth story does not fit into the parameters of between 100 BC and 100 AD. He is choosing the latter. So let’s examine the evidence.
Here is what C. Burchard, the man from whom Matatics divulged the evidence about the Aseneth story (and which was given to Matatics courtesy of John Pacheco), says of the date of Aseneth:
It is hard to decode this into dates, but we are probably safe to say that the book was written between 100 BC and Hardian’s edict against circumcision, which has to do with the Second Jewish War of AD 132-135. If Joseph and Aseneth comes from Egypt, the Jewish revolt under Trajan (c.a.d. 115-117) is the latest possible date....It does not appear to have originated in Egypt, since Aseneth, and not another woman such as Ruth or Rahab (Josh 2), is the heroine of the story. (Citation courtesy of John Pacheco)
Hence, the dates Burchard gives are 100 BC to 117 AD, which is in the margin of the dates Svendsen had been touting for a “heos hou” that did not continue the action of the main clause of a Greek sentence.
Now, of course, we would also expect Eric Svendsen to get in on the act of trying to discredit the Aseneth story. Hence, he wasted no time in trying to confuse the issue by citing other scholars who question Burchard’s dating of the story. Here is the email that Svendsen sent to White (which I obtained from one of my colleagues):
Second, for those of you wondering about my response to Matatic’s alleged exception to my heos hou thesis – and Robert Sungenis' rather foolish and premature endorsement of it – I will have a full response sometime next week (I left for out of town immediately after the DL program Tues. night, and will be out of town until Friday evening). But, let me assure you, Matatic's quotation is no exception to my thesis. Here are the contents of an email I sent to James White earlier tonight:
Okay, now let’s analyze what Svendsen is claiming. First, since Svendsen claims to have examined “every reference” in the arbitrary era he chose (100 BC to 100 AD), and thus he should have known that there were some scholars who were giving a date of 100 BC - 117 AD to the Aseneth story, then why didn’t Svendsen mention this fact in either his dissertation or his book? Obviously the answer is that either Svendsen was not aware of Burchard’s evidence (and thus Svendsen’s study is not the exhaustive one he purports it to be) or because Burchard’s dating does not agree with Svendsen’s arbitrary thesis.
Second, let’s take a close look at the contrary evidence Svendsen brings forth. Here is the breakdown of when these scholars say Aseneth was written:
A.D. Battifol..................................4-5th century AD
20th century scholarship.......................2nd-3rd century AD
20th century scholarship (accd to Goodacre)..100 BC to 135 AD
R. Kraemer.....................................4-5th century AD
G. Bohak.......................................1st century BC
M. Goodacre....................................2nd century BC
Does this information really help Svendsen? No, not at all. Svendsen’s only escape is to try to make this evidence a confusing assortment of guesses so that he can claim that an unsettled date of Aseneth does no harm to his thesis. But, in fact, the dates expose Svendsen’s chosen pararmeter (100 BC to 100 AD) for the arbitrary opinion that it really is. Here’s how:
You will notice that of the six entries above, four of them assume an AD date, while two assume a BC date. Of the four AD dates, the “20th century scholarship accd to Goodacre” concurs with C. Burchard’s date of 100 BC to 117 AD, and thus that doesn’t help Svendsen, in fact, it thoroughly works against him. (I wonder why Svendsen didn’t mention that fact in his email to White?)
The other three AD dates won’t help Svendsen either. For if the story of Aseneth was written in the 2nd to 5th centuries, this would mean, according to Svendsen’s thesis about the usage of “heos hou” (i.e., the meaning of “heos hou” which continues the action of a Greek main clause, which, you remember, means that a “heos hou” which continues the action means that Joseph and Mary did not have sexual relations even after Jesus was born) was present in Greek literature before Matthew wrote his gospel, then suddenly disappeared from Greek literature when Matthew wrote his gospel, and then suddenly reappeared in the 2nd to 5th centuries in Greek literature!! If you believe that, my uncle has some swamp land in Florida he would love to sell you. I don’t know of ANY linguistic or philological studies that have claimed that a word can mean one thing, then change its meaning, and then go back to the original meaning. If Svendsen knows of any such studies, his novel research requires that he cite such evidence. Without it, Svendsen’s thesis about “heos hou” is a total pseudo-intellectual sham.
Now let’s look at the BC dates Svendsen brings forth. First, the entry by Bohak obviously doesn’t help his case at all, simply because Bohak’s “1st Century BC” dating agrees with Burchard's parameters of 100 BC to 117 AD! (I wonder why Svendsen didn’t mention that fact in his email to White?).
So that leaves Svendsen with the “2nd Century BC” date from Goodacre on which his theory sinks or swims, so let’s look closely at this. First, Goodacre himself admits, according to Svendsen’s quote, that he is the odd man out, since “20th century scholarship” agrees that the story of Aseneth was written between “100BC and AD135”!
In fact, of all the scholars Svendsen lists, Goodacre is the only one to posit a 2nd century BC date. Moreover, his novel date comes from his 1994 dissertation. In scholarly circles, a dissertation written less than 10 years ago hardly qualifies as definitive evidence, since such recent ideas have yet to pass through the scrutiny of peer review, especially since Goodacre is the only one of all the scholars opting for a 2nd century date.
But let’s assume for the sake of argument that the story of Aseneth is a 2nd century document. That means that it was written between 199 BC and 100 BC. Now, does common sense allow you to believe that the use of “heos hou” in the story of Aseneth (which continues the action of the verb in a Greek sentence and thus supports that Joseph and Mary had no sexual relations), suddenly would change its meaning from say, 150 BC (which is the average between 199 and 100) to 100 BC (which is the beginning date of Svendsen’s arbitrary parameters), a period of only 50 years? No, common sense tells you that this is not likely at all.
If Svendsen contends otherwise, what evidence does he have to prove his case? None at all! Really think about this. As we noted earlier, Svendsen presents no evidence from philological studies that a word can mean one thing, then change that meaning, and then go back to the original meaning. Second, Svendsen has no direct testimony from any Greek author or witness who say, specifically, that “heos hou” changed its meaning in the period under discussion (100 BC to 100 AD).
The only thing Svendsen has is that there are two possible meanings to “heos hou,” and he is trying to convince the uneducated public that if the frequency of “heos hou” which continues the action of the main verb is less than what it was previously, then this means that “heos hou” has changed its meaning! This is pure poppycock. No scholar in their right mind would ever sanction such an unsupported scenario. The most they would ever give Svendsen is to say that the meaning of “heos hou” that continues the action of the verb doesn’t appear, but they would never say that “heos hou” changed its meaning from two possibilities to one possibility.
Before we leave this topic, those interested in further analysis of why, linguistically or grammatically speaking, the word “hou” may have been added to “heos” on some occasions, you can read my new article at www.catholicintl.com/epologetics/SvendsenHeosHou.asp
The Meaning of Sunerchomai ("Come Together") in Matthew 1:18
Now let me deal with the issue White raises above concerning “Matatics (sic) self-destruct on the level of not even being able to read a lexical entry properly and that doesn't even create a blip on his radar screen.” I gather that White is referring to the entry of sunerchomai in BAGD (the Greek lexicon by Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker). Let me say at the outset that it is White who is misreading or misunderstanding the entry, reading into it what he wants to see.
Although it is true, as BAGD says, that Xenephon, Diodorus, Pseudo Apollodorus, Philo and Josephus use sunerchomai in a “sexual sense,” nevertheless, sunerchomai, itself, does not necessarily refer to a coital act. It merely refers to the “meeting” of a male and female which may, or may not, result in coitus. For example, in the Xenophon reference BAGD cites, it reads:
"Moreover, surely you don’t suppose that human beings beget children on account of sex, since the streets as well as the houses are full of those who will release one from this. And it is visible that we examine also from what sort of women we might get the best offspring, and it is with these we come together to produce offspring." (Xenophon, Memorabilia, 2.2.4, tr. Amy Bonnette, Cornell University Press (NY), 1994, p. 143)
The citation could easily be interpreted to mean that the men first congregate with the women, that is, “come together” (Greek: sunerchomai), and of these women they meet, each of them will eventually choose which woman he wants to mate and produce offspring. We know this is a viable interpretation, since the passage speaks in the plural (“with these we come together”) not the singular. Obviously, coitus does not take place in a plurality, only the meeting together with the women takes place in a plurality.
We see practically the same thing in the reference to Pseudo-Apollodorus that BAGD cites. It reads:
Clio fell in love with Pierus, son of Magnes, in consequence of the wrath of Aphrodite, whom she had twitted with her love of Adonis; and having met him she bore him a son Hyacinth, for whom Thamyris, the son of Philammon and a nymph Argiope, conceived a passion, he being the first to become enamored of males. But afterwards Apollo loved Hyacinth and killed him involuntarily by the cast of a quoit. And Thamyris, who excelled in beauty and in minstrelsy, engaged in a musical contest with the Muses, the agreement being that, if he won, he should enjoy them all, but that if he should be vanquished he should be bereft of what they would. So the Muses got the better of him and bereft him both of his eyes and of his minstrelsy." (Pseudo-Apollodorus, 1.3.3, http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Aabo%3Atlg%2C0548%2C001&query =1%3A3%3A3#fn1)
Here we notice that Clio first “met” (Greek: sunerchomai) with Pierus before she bore him a son. Granted, one could easily make the argument that the “meeting” is in the context of sex, and eventually led to sex, but it does not establish that sunerchomai, in itself, means sexual intercourse. At best, it is a euphemism that people interpret as referring to coitus (and who wouldn’t, since there are not too many cases in which people marry and don’t engage in coitus), but the word itself does not mean coitus.
The use of the Greek sunerchomai is very similar to the phrase “sleep with” we use today. In one sense, “sleep with” is a euphemism for two people having illicit sexual intercourse. In another sense, its literal meaning merely refers to two people sleeping together. It depends on the context of the passage to tell us which one is being used. But in any case “sleep with” does not MEAN sexual intercourse, since euphemisms do not determine the definition of words.
The long and short of it is that Svendsen cannot base the meaning of sunerchomai in Matthew 1:18 on its euphemistic usage in classical Greek, for he has no way of knowing whether Matthew 1:18 intends a euphemistic usage or a literal usage. The literal usage, of course, would mean that Joseph and Mary came together to live with each other as husband and wife, but it does not mean that they had sexual intercourse.
Now let’s get back to BAGD. This lexicon also cites 1 Cor 7:5 as evidence, but admits that the use of sunerchomai here is a textual variant. The only other New Testament reference BADG cites is Matthew 1:18. Unfortunately for Svendsen, as we noted above, Matthew 1:18 neither says Mary and Joseph had a sexual intercourse nor had a relationship in the “sexual sense,” and thus, BADG cannot use Matthew 1:18 as proof of the very thing they are trying to prove!
Incidentally, we must point out that BAGD wouldn’t have too much problem positing Matthew 1:18 as evidence of their “sexual” definition of sunerchomai, since BAGD is written by four Protestants that, in the case of words with two possible meanings, would have little problem siding with the meaning that coincides with Protestant beliefs. What Protestant do you know who would have any objection saying Joseph and Mary had sexual intercourse?
In any case, if BAGD has no other evidence from the New Testament that sunerchomai is used in Koine Greek either in reference to sexual intercourse or exclusively for sexual intercourse, then they have absolutely no basis propping up the sole reference of Matthew 1:18 as evidence of their thesis!
Louw and Nida (two more Protestants) do the same thing in their lexicon, going so far as to translate Matthew 1:18 as “before they had sexual intercourse, she was found to be pregnant.” They cite no other New Testament usage of sunerchomai referring to “sexual intercourse” to back up either their definition or their crude translations of Matthew 1:18, nor do they cite any classical Greek literature that uses sunerchomai specifically as sexual intercourse as opposed to a euphemism for sex.
Frieberg (another Protestant) does the same in his Greek Lexicon. He first says sunerchomai is a euphemism for “sexual intercourse,” and then proceeds to cite only Matthew 1:18 to prove his definition, the very verse of Scripture he knows is in contention!
Liddell and Scott also state that sunerchomai is
“...of sexual intercourse, s. toi andri Hp.Mul.2.143; s. gunaixi X.Mem.2.2.4, cf. Pl.Smp.192e, Str.15.3.20; s. eis homilian tini, of a woman, D.d.3.58; freq. of marriage-contracts, BGU970.13 (ii A.D.), Pgnom.71, al. (ii A.D.), etc. : abs., of animals, couple, Arist.Ha541b34.”
You will notice some of the same references here as BAGD cites, namely Xenophon, Diodorus, and BGU. But like BAGD, Liddell and Scott can cite no classical Greek reference that specifically says that sunerchomai IS sexual intercourse, as opposed to a euphemism for what we expect to happen between two married people under normal circumstances. You will see above that Liddell and Scott cite Hp. Mul. 2. 143 as containing the clause “sunerchomai toi andri” (that is, “coming together with the man or husband”), but it does not say that she and the man had sexual intercourse. The reference to Diodorus refers to a woman “sunerchomai eis homilian tini” (that is “coming together into some company”), but it is not specific about sexual intercourse.
Be that as it may, here is something very interesting. Liddell and Scott mention the same meaning for sunerchomai that refers to “marriage contracts” that we found in BAGD. The work cited is BGU970, which is the Aegyptische Urkunden aus den Koniglichen Museen zu Berlin, Griechische Urkunden, I cited earlier. The specific reference to BGU970.13 can be found on the internet at: (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3aabo%3apap%2cBGU%3a970%3a13&vers=original&word=sune%2frxomai#word1). It brings up “The Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri BGU.”
The date of this papyrus, as you will see, is 75-79 AD. Very interesting! Isn’t that date in the same proximity as when Mary and Joseph “came together” after the birth of Jesus? Yes, indeed it is. The importance of this is that “marriage contracts” do not always necessitate sexual intercourse, especially among Jewish people. Moreover, Liddell and Scott’s reference to PGnom. 71 will offer no help to Svendsen, since the date for that piece is 150 AD. As it stands, sunerchomai, in certain contexts, means nothing more than “coming together...in a marriage contract.” (I thank Dave Palm for this added insight).
Thus, when BAGD says that sunerchomai refers to: “...marriage contracts in the papyri, pros gamon tini sunelthein [sunelthein is the past tense infinitive of sunerchomai] means ‘marry,’” this doesn’t prove anything for White, since the question is not whether sunerchomai means “marry,” but whether sunerchomai in Matthew 1:18 means “sexual intercourse.” If the two spouses have taken a vow of chastity, obviously, sunerchomai cannot refer to sexual intercourse in that given instance.
Or when BAGD cites BGU 970, 113 this does not help White either, since the statement “sunerchomen to progegrammeno mou andri” simply refers to a previously written document which states that a wife became married to her husband, but mentions nothing about sexual intercourse.
In fact, the usage of sunerchomai as meaning “marry” but not necessarily “sexual intercourse” fits the case of Joseph and Mary quite well, since Matthew 1:18 says that Mary and Joseph were initially “betrothed” to each other, not married. The aorist participle mnesteutheises shows that Joseph and Mary were betrothed prior to the recorded events. That being the case, even if we took the papyri evidence that BAGD cites wherein sunerchomai refers to a marriage contract, this does nothing to hurt the Catholic interpretation of Matthew 1:18-25, since we can easily say that Joseph and Mary were married after Mary bore Jesus. In any case, such a usage of sunerchomai in Matthew 1:18 does not mean that Joseph and Mary engaged in sexual relations. The papyrus says it refers to a “marriage contract,” not “sexual intercourse.”
We should also mention that, as much as these lexicons appeal to extra-biblical sources to prove their claims that Matthew 1:18 is speaking of sexual intercourse between Joseph and Mary, the fact remains that, like classical Greek, THERE IS NO VERSE in the New Testament that uses sunerchomai in reference to sexual intercourse. This is significant, since there are over 30 references to sunerchomai in the New Testament. Again, the only possible exception to this is 1 Cor 7:5, but that is a textual variant supported only by one papyrus, two uncials and one minuscule. Unfortunately for Svendsen, we don’t base doctrine on textual variants, especially when there is no other verse in the New Testament that supports it.
The LXX isn’t much help for White or Svendsen either. Of the LXX’s eight uses of sunerchomai: Jb 6:29; 40:31; Pr 29:13; Ez 33:30; Tb 5:10; 12:1; 2Mc 3:24; Ws 7:2, the last (Wisdom 7:2) is the only possible exception, but even then the language is not conclusive, and is highly euphemistic (as we see in the translations of the Douay Rheims, the Jerusalem Bible, the New Jerusalem Bible, the New English Bible).
There is also no room for White and Svendsen if they appeal to paralambano (“to take to himself”), appearing in Mt 1:20, 24. It is used 49 times in the New Testament, but never in reference to sexual relations.
The upshot is this: White and Svendsen have no specific passage to prove that sunerchomai refers specifically and only to sexual intercourse, let alone sexual intercourse in Matthew 1:18.
One of the major problems that crops up here is that Protestants analyzing Matthew 1:18 have little or no understanding of the ancient custom of taking a vow of chastity while married, since their short 475 year history has no example of people doing such things in their religion. When a Protestant thinks of marriage, he automatically thinks that sex must occur, but that is not necessarily the way Jewish or even early Christian people thought.
For example, we have this investigation from "The Perpetual Virginity of Mary," by Br. Anthony Opisso, M.D.:
"Living a celibate life within marriage was not unknown in Jewish tradition. It was told that Moses, who was married, remained continent the rest of his life after the command to abstain from sexual intercourse (Ex 19:15) given in preparation the seventy elders abstained thereafter from their wives after their call, and so did Eldad and Medad when the spirit of prophecy came upon them; indeed it was said that the prophets became celibate after the Word of the Lord communicated with them (Midrash Exodus Rabbah 19; 46.3; Sifre to Numbers 99 sect. 11; Sifre Zutta 81-82, 203-204; Aboth Rabbi Nathan 9, 39; Tanchuman 111, 46; Tanchumah Zaw 13; 3; Petirot Moshe 72; Shabbath 87a; Pesachim 87b, Babylonian Talmud)."