Our Blessed Mother & The Saints

Eric's Top Ten Errors

by John Pacheco

Presented below are Eric Svendsen's top ten blunders with, or deficiencies in, his thesis. Most of them were taken from the main article of this production. They are reproduced here for our viewing audience who may not have the time to read the 30+ page article.

#10 - In doing research on this question, including the academic and scholar survey which I conducted, without prejudice I came across no source (other than Svendsen's book endorsements and his doctoral committee) which lent the least bit of support to his thesis. Not one. In fact, I challenge him to supply the endorsements of TWO noted scholars who still endorse his work AFTER reading my response. I challenge Eric Svendsen to post his doctoral dissertation on his website for closer scrutiny along with ALL scholars who support his work, including those listed on his doctoral thesis committee.

#9 - In the "Acknowledgements" to his book, Svendsen describes D.A. Carson as "my former mentor, whose excellence in scholarship and style of writing continue to inspire me." Yet, curiously Eric does not seem to share Dr. Carson's view of what constitutes "semantic obsolence". Indeed, Carson readily admits that the Septuagint had a "profound influence" (Exegetical Fallacies, p. 63) on the writing of the New Testament.

In point of fact, Svendsen borrowed the phrase "semantic obsolence" from Carson's book, a book which, in the relevant sections, does nothing but assume the close connection between the Septagint with New Testament literature! In the section entitled "Semantic Obsolence", Carson makes these observations in his book:

"So also in the biblical languages: Homeric words no longer found in the Septuagint or the New Testament are of relatively little interest to the biblical specialist..." (p.34)

"It follows, then, that we should be a trifle suspicious when any piece of exegesis tries to establish the meaning of a word by appealing first of all to its usage in classical Greek rather than its usage in Hellentistic Greek." (p.36)

One can easily see how the Septuagint and New Testament are all but treated as one corpus against "Homeric" and Classical Greek. There is no significant distinction between the Septuagint and New Testament Greek made by Carson. Yet, Svendsen relies on such a manufactured distinction in order to mitigate against the influence of the Septuagint against his thesis. The only thing which Svendsen borrowed from Carson was the phrase "semantic obsolence" without, of course, sharing Carson's view of true semantic obsolence!

Interesting, no?

#8 - For Svendsen and the Reformers, Matthew 18:22-34 is undoubtedly directed toward an eternal and not temporal setting. In this passage, the unforgiving servant neither displays nor is given room for repentance. This makes the wicked servant’s consequent punishment one of eternal damnation; since those who go to Purgatory are only those who must suffer the residual punishment remaining from already confessed sin. Hence, the whole context of Matthew 18 is one of portraying the unforgiving servant as a wicked man who never had a thought to doing what was right or forgiving his debtor.

A number of commentators have confirmed this view. John Calvin, for instance, says this about Matthew 18:34:

"Delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that he owed." The Papists are very ridiculous in endeavoring to light the fire of purgatory by the word 'till'; 48 for it is certain that Christ here points out not temporal death, by which the judgment of God may be satisfied, but eternal death."44

This poses huge problems for Eric Svendsen's thesis, however. Matthew 18:34 becomes at least one instance in the New Testament where Protestant commentators have consistently maintained that the action before hes hou continues. Yet, Eric insists that the action in the main passage ceases. In other words, the prisoner will be released from the prison. Unfortunately for Eric, he has just gone along way in conceding the Catholic teaching of a place of purgation.

#7 - If we were to extrapolate the percentage of occurrences from the Septuagint (calculated to be 9.6%) to the fifteen occurrences 33 of the relevant hes hou population in the New Testament, we would expect to find approximately 1.44 instances (9.6% * 15) of hes hou where the action in the main clause continues. From a statistical point of view, even if no such instances were found in the New Testament, this would not be significant enough to draw a conclusion on Matthew 1:25. The significance of this is nothing short of devastating to even considering the question itself as a thesis. It is a statistically irrelevant question!

#6 - In 1999, Svendsen debated Gerry Matatics on Our Lady's perpetual virginity in 1999. In this debate, Svendsen actually addressed the use of achri and achri hou. However, his conclusions were curiously the opposite of what the New Testament has yielded. He states the following:

"The phrase achri hou…has a different meaning than achri by itself. The addition of the particle hou changes that meaning in the same way that the addition of the particle hou changes the meaning of hes." [58:20-58:39].

As the results in Appendix 1 demonstrate, however, this assertion is not at all valid. This appears to be (yet again) an almost inconceivable blunder on Svendsen's part.

#5 - Svendsen conceded occurrences in the second century BC (100-200 B.C.) in order to manufacture "a range of relevancy" for his thesis from the period 100 B.C. to 100 A.D. So what is the implication for Svendsen's thesis? What Svendsen would therefore have us believe is that hes hou always implies a cessation of the action in the main clause within the range he has selected i.e. 100 B.C. to 100 A.D., but not outside of this range. Not only is his thesis unsustainable within the period he has chosen (100 B.C. to 100 A.D.), but Svendsen would imply that hes hou will revert back to its more liberal usage outside of his thesis range - both before 100 B.C. and after 100 A.D.! We will leave the assessment of such scholarship to our readers. One cannot help but conclude that Svendsen's flagrant population control is more of an exercise in gratuity than it is authentic scholarship.

#4 - If we re-calibrate the period of search from Svendsen's arbitrary period of 100 B.C. - 100 A.D. to 50 B.C. - 150 A.D. (100 years surrounding the Gospel of Matthew - 50 A.D.), we would quickly find results which are not supportive of Svendsen's thesis:

"And Aseneth was left alone with the seven virgins, and she continued to be weighed down and weep [hes hou] until the sun set. And she ate no bread and drank no water. And the night fell, and all (people) in the house slept, and she alone was awake and continued to brood and to weep; and she often struck her breast with (her) hand and kept being filled with great fear and trembled (with) heavy trembling." 58

Clearly, this one example would prove Svendsen’s thesis false. Burchard says that:

"...It is hard to decode this into dates, but we are probably safe to say that the book was written between 100 b.c. and Hadrian’s edict against circumcision, which has to do with the Second Jewish War of a.d. 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 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." 58

#3 - And not only do we find the aforementioned evidence omitted from Svendsen's research, but even in his own book, we find evidence that contradicts his thesis! Svendsen's writes:

"Examples such as these abound. All five instances of hes hou in the pseudepigraphical book The Apocalypse of Moses have this meaning….

"But when I die, leave me alone and let no one touch me until the angel of the Lord shall say something about me; for God will not forget me, but will seek his own vessel which he has formed. But rather rise to pray to God until I shall give back my spirit into the hands of the one who has given it."

Here it seems reasonable to suppose that in both instances the action in the main clause would cease after the action in the subordinate clause, so that in both cases, the meaning is only 'until [but not after]’." (WIMM, p. 69)

In the first instance of until, it is quite debatable indeed whether the action in the main clause ceases once "until" is reached. On the contrary, as the evidence will show, the action (i.e. "not touching him") actually continues into the subordinate clause. There is no hint at all to suggest that after the angel "says something about him", that his audience would be allowed to touch him. In fact, the presumption should really be that no one should touch him ever again, because, in the next part of the sentence Adam says that God will "seek his own vessel" as if to suggest that his body is God's alone. Although he talks about his spirit in the next sentence, a vessel is normally associated with a body. If it is his body he is talking about, then the action in the main clause does continue. And this is precisely the most cogent understanding if we were to keep reading for the next several chapters...

#2 - In Svendsen's bibliography, he lists The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke by Raymond Brown. In this work, Raymond Brown essentially concurs that Svendsen's position on hes hou has no scholarly basis.

"Leaving aside post-Reformation quarrels, we must seek to reconstruct Matthew’s intention, first from the immediate context and then from the whole Gospel. How does "not know her until" fit into the immediate context? In English when something is negated until a particular time, occurrence after that time is usually assumed. However, in discussing the Greek hes hou after a negative...K. Beyer, Semitishce Syntax im Neuen Testament (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck, 1962), I, 132(1), points out that in Greek and Semitic such a negation often has no implication at all about what happened after the limit of the "until" was reached."?"18 (emphasis added)

Why has Eric Svendsen not satisfactorily addressed one of the few scholarly sources which has even considered this issue? He only briefly mentions the consensus of Catholic and Protestant scholars who, in the work, Mary in the New Testament, actually contradict his thesis. See WIMM, p.53-54.

#1 - At one point in his rebuttal to Matatics during the 1999 Perpetual Virginity debate which can be accessed here, Svendsen says:

"One point he kept hammering home is that you won’t find any distinction in any lexicon between hes and hes hou. Well, that’s not surprising since lexicons do not handle grammatical constructions. They handle words. You’ll find hes. You’ll find hou. You won’t find hes hou or any other grammatical construction."

Click here to listen to Eric's 33 seconds
of infamy for yourself! [57:39-58:12]

It is truly puzzling how someone who has completed a doctoral dissertation on this subject, and who has studied this issue as intensely as Eric Svendsen has done, can turn around and make such an amateurish blunder. Of all of the Lexicons consulted, all of them included hes hou, and none of them make the partisan distinction which Svendsen does. Not one. Here is a sample only. Note the highlighted text in yellow.

1) Arndt, Danker, Bauer: A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, University of Chicago Press, Chicago MI, 2000:

2) The New Greek Thayers Greek-English Lexicon, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody MA, 1981:

3) Luow, Johannes P. & Nida, Eugene A., Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, United Bible Societies, New York NY, 1988:

4) Liddell, Henry Geoge & Scott, Robert, A Greek-English Lexicon, Clarendon Press, Oxford ENG, 1968:

5) Lampe, GWH (Gen. Editor): A Patristic Greek Lexicon, Clarendon Press Oxford ENG, 1987:

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