Our Blessed Mother & The Saints

Farewell to Hes Hou

Eric Svendsen has now posted what appears to be his final response to our exposition of his sham-thesis. We are rather grateful for this because this particular horse has been dead now for several weeks and the carcass is beginning to stink up the joint. It's time for all of us to move on to other ventures. For me, it means engaging more of my time in the culture war now bearing down on the Catholic Church; for Eric it means seeking a refund from the college of knowledge that knighted him with his "doctorate". Before doing so, however, let me take a few moments to interact with the final last gasps from his sham-thesis on hes hou. Svendsen's comments are in red; mine are in blue.

On the contrary; as I have pointed out several times-and what Sungenis continues to misrepresent-is that although 20th-cent. scholarship gives a date range of 100 BC and AD 137, we should not take this to mean that all scholars of the 20th century believe J&A was written just any time between 100 BC and AD 137. That’s nonsense, and Sungenis badly misunderstands this point. Rather, what this means is that several dates have been posited by 20th-century scholars, but that only some (actually just a few) scholars have dated it in the first century BC, and some (again, just a few) scholars have dated it in the first century AD, but the vast majority of 20th-century scholars place J&A somewhere near mid-second century AD-right at AD 137 to be precise-a date that does not fall within my time frame at all.

OK, folks. Let's follow this geometry. Like all Protestant beliefs and creeds, they are perfectly malleable to time or circumstance, namely, if you find yourself in a difficult circumstance, change the time! Let's survey Eric's ever shifting opinions:

Option #1: The "no consensus" option: "The fact is, there simply is no consensus on the dating of this document because of the uncertainly of the issues surrounding authorship, provenance, etc. The current views for dating swing widely from the 2nd cent BC to the 5th cent AD. The twentieth-century consensus that resulted in this document being included among the OT Pseudepigrapha is now being challenged. The long and short of it is, there is no longer any consensus on the date." (November 18, 2003) [http://pub84.ezboard.com/fntrmindiscussionboardfrm9.showMessage?topicID=567.topic]

Option #2: The "I'm-OK,-you're-OK-it-doesn't-have-any-impact-on-my-thesis-even-if-you-are-right" option: "I’ve already addressed the folly of this “challenge” above. And, contrary to Sungenis’ suggestion above, I’m quite comfortable with a 100 BC dating of J&A, a 50 BC dating, or even a 1 BC dating, not to mention an AD 100 dating-dates all within the parameters of the now-challenged 20th-cent. scholarship. Just because that particular reference might be dated during this time frame (even though it doesn’t happen to show up in a search of the literature of that time frame), does not thereby imply some staggering epiphany. The plain fact of the matter is, even if it were composed within the time parameters estimated by 20th-century scholarship it has very little bearing on the conclusions of my thesis. If we see the phrase appearing in 100 BC, all that proves is that it is the final instance of a usage for the phrase that I readily concede in my book it once had. If we find it in 50 BC, all that proves is that it is the sole instance of that usage-a late carryover, as it were-in the first-century BC. If we find it in 1 BC, all that proves is that it represents the sole instance of that usage as a very late carryover in the first-century BC. What cannot be denied in any of these scenarios is that hes hou (when it means until) never means in any undisputed instance what the Roman Catholic needs it to mean in Matt 1:25. That fact stands no matter what. The issue is not so much a grammatical “rule” as it is “common usage” of the day." (Early December, 2003)[http://www.ntrmin.org/sungenis_and_heos_hou_3.htm]

Option #3: The "137 A.D." option: "...the vast majority of 20th-century scholars place J&A somewhere near mid-second century AD-right at AD 137". (December 24, 2003) http://www.ntrmin.org/sungenis_and_heos_hou_4.htm

So after we've all settled down from the uproarious laughter that Eric's excuses have generated, let's get down to a little inquisition:

In option #1, Svendsen tells us that there is a supposed wide swing in dating the document, then in option #3 he reverses his course and instead is pretty confident that the "vast majority" of scholars place "J&A somewhere near mid-second century AD-right at AD 137". Indeed, right at 137 A.D., Eric?

i) Where is the evidence for this precise dating of 137 A.D. in which the "vast majority of scholars" supposedly place the work? Further, please explain why a range of centuries (100 B.C. to 137 A.D.) is invariably given when the dating of this work is discussed?

ii) How can Mr. Svendsen insist that the VERY 137 A.D. SOURCE (Christoph Burchard) - a source which was kindly provided to Mr. Svendsen by yours truly since he had no clue as to its relevance to this discussion - be used to butress his contention, especially when we consider that this same source does not, in fact, specify this year as the probable date of composition but includes it as part of a wide range i.e. 100 B.C.-137 A.D.? There is an 85% probability that the work falls within 100 B.C to 100 A.D.

iii) Please show us how a mere 37 years can change the meaning of preposition or a conjunction. Not a noun or adjective, mind you. A preposition or a conjuction. For instance, has "until" restricted one of its meaning in the English language in hundreds of years?

iv) Please further explain how hes hou can have one meaning before 100 B.C., lose that meaning between 100 B.C. to 100 A.D., and then magically re-appear after 100 A.D. Ask yourself if this is: a) an exercise in authentic scholarship or b) an exercise in comical gratuity for the purpose of pure anti-Catholic polemic.

The second reason this is laughable is that Sungenis has highly commended and touted the comments of the scholars adduced by his sidekick Pacheco regarding the use of hes hou. Yet many, if not most, of these scholars are-you guessed it-flaming liberals. One of these scholars is Jason BeDuhn, a self-proclaimed Manichean. In fact, in earlier days Pacheco denounced this same scholar for endorsing the New World Translation, writing articles against him with such titles as "BeDuhn takes a beating," and "BeDuhn pummeled by Pacheco," and "BeDuhn KO'd by Catholic" (notice the unmitigated arrogance and exaggerated sense of self importance reflected by these titles as well). Other liberal scholars cited by Pacecho and touted by Sungenis include Francis J. Moloney (having interacted with his works, I can verify that he would side with Fitzmyer over Sungenis any day of the week), Kim Paffenroth (who, I have already noted, is openly a fan of heavy metal music, the WWF, and Xena the Warrior Princess), as well as Walsh, North and Hamm, all of whom are Jesuits, a group notorious for spearheading liberalism in Roman Catholicism. Every one of these scholars would be considered “liberal” from Sungenis’ standpoint. Yet he has absolutely no problem relying on their comments regarding hes hou. Hence, Sungenis’ gratuitous dismissal of Fitzmyer, McKenzie and Meier, on the basis that they are “liberal” scholars, is nothing short of hypocritical. If he rejects their views of the use of adelphos based on the notion that they are “liberal,” then he must, on those same grounds, reject the views of Pacheco’s scholars in regard to hes hou. He won’t do that, of course, because Sungenis does not operate on the basis of scholarship or principled conviction. Rather he’s an opportunist; and as such, he will say anything he thinks might advance his cause, whether or not it happens to be true or consistent with other beliefs he claims to hold.

Speaking of hypocrisy, Mr. Svendsen, you take the proverbial cake on this one. The Catholic Church does not rely on any scholars to determine the truth. We rely on our Apostolic tradition which has been preserved by the Magisterium of the Church. Brown, Fitzmyer, Meier, etc. are not the Magisterium. You, on the other hand, frequently appeal to them in order to attack Christian tradition, and are blown hither and thither with every wind of doctrine or with every new technological toy you can find. Of course, that is only the case some of the time. When it suits you, you slither out of your scholarly costume and slip into your tin suit to play "defender of the faith" against your own liberal protestant modernists who seek to destroy even the basic rudiments of the Christian faith. But most of the time, you do not have the slightest hesitation in appealing to liberal scholars when they suit your own ends (i.e. liberal Catholic scholars who attack the dogmas of the Catholic Church or liberal Protestant scholars who give blind endorsement to your sham-thesis). You take the most absurd and irrelevant swipes at the liberalism of the above scholars, without acknowledging the most simple truth on the matter. Just in case you missed it, here it is: when we are discussing a simple grammatical construction in Greek, then it doesn't really matter if the scholar is Protestant or Catholic, conservative or liberal. If you can find consensus across sectarian and political boundaries, then the question is basically decided insofar as "modern scholarship" goes. And that is really what we have here in the case of hes hou. We have a wide spectrum of the most liberal to the most conservative experts in the Greek language giving you a virtual unanimous decision. I think that says quite a bit. So, I really don't understand your silly and rather voluminous rant against the "liberal" scholars that I cited. They really only seek to bury your thesis even deeper because they have no interest in our little squabble. They would have otherwise never heard of the hes hou canard or Eric Svendsen. Prof. Jason Beduhn, "the self-proclaimed Manichean" which you mentioned above, would be in a better sectarian position to judge fairly on this question than either a conservative Protestant or conservative Catholic. In fact, if anything, the liberal scholars which I cite are more likely to be open to anything which overturns a Catholic dogma!

No; my “claim” is that there is no clear instance of the Roman Catholic usage of hes hou in the time frame of this literature, and this passage is no exception. Both Sungenis and Palm make an issue of this by asserting either (1) I didn’t know the date of 4 Maccabees (I did), or (2) I wrongly classified 4 Maccabees with the LXX in my book (I didn’t). I both knew the date, and classified it correctly. The reason it is included in the LXX portion of my work is because 4 Maccabees is included in Rahlfs Septuaginta, which is the scholarly standard for LXX text, and which I used in my research (are Sungenis and Palm unfamiliar with Rahlfs?). Four Maccabees can rightly be classified either with the Septuagint or with the non-biblical literature of the period under discussion. Since I dealt with the LXX material first, I included it in that section. It would have been redundant to address it again in the non-biblical literature section, unless the passage provides a clear example of the proposed Roman Catholic usage-it doesn’t. As I pointed out in my book, due to the ambiguities involved in the exegesis of this passage, this instance of the phrase does not help the Roman Catholic case in the least.

You know, I am almost inclined to believe Eric here. Let me explain. In Svendsen's book on pages 64-65, you will read Svendsen's treatment of some of the LXX passages. After discussing five passages which allow for continuation of the action in the main clause, Svendsen then starts to tackle 4 Maccabees. When I first read his treatment of the five passages of the LXX, I thought it was fairly done and presented. Then I read his analysis of 4 Macc 7:3, and I kept thinking to myself, "why is he spending so much time on trying to so clumsily debunk a passage in the Septuagint which is largely irrelevant to his thesis range"? Since I was not particularly interested in challenging this passage because I believed it was outside of his artificial range, I passed on revisiting it. After all, what would be the point of finding another instance in a period in which he fully conceded the action in the main clause continued? Of course, now that Robert Sungenis and Jacob Michael have placed this passage squarely in Svendsen's range, the light has indeed dawned on this show. You see, folks, Eric Svendsen did likely know that 4 Maccabees 7:3 fell right within his range, and that is why he tries mightily to cast doubt on the continuation of the action in the main clause with his contorted and desperate explanations. Of course, try as he may, the passage is a clear and unassailable example which destroys his thesis.

"For like a most skillful pilot, the reason of our father Eleazar steered the ship of religion over the sea of the emotions, and though buffeted by the storms of the tyrant and overwhelmed by the mighty waves of tortures, in no way did he turn the rudder of religion [hes hou] until he sailed into the haven of immortal victory." (4 Maccabees 7:1-3)

No need for long commentaries here. Just ask yourself one simple question: did Eleazar turn the rudder?

Since I have responded to this objection in my previous article, I won’t spend much time on it here. The point I was making in the debate is that lexicons are not set up to deal with the intricacies of Greek constructions.

Not so fast, doc. That was not the point you made in the debate. You said:

"You’ll find hes. You’ll find hou. YOU WON'T FIND hes hou or any other grammatical construction."

This particular statement goes well beyond merely maintaining a confusion between grammars and lexicons. Svendsen knew of the EXISTENCE of hes hou in the lexicons, but he still said that no instance of hes hou was to be found in them. And not only did he say that hes hou did not appear in the lexicons, he also said that you won't find "any other grammatical construction"!!! I'm afraid that we cannot let you pass here, Mr. Svendsen. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Go directly to jail. And there is no free "Get Out Of Jail" card either.

Yes, lexicons “make reference” to some grammatical constructions; but they do not deal with them as separate entries. None of the lexicons to which Palm refers treats hes hou as a unique entry, and no one can open a lexicon and find an entry for this phrase. Instead, lexicons treat it as a subentry of heos.

Yes and the fact that they have not made it a separate entry indicates what? Support for your thesis? Not. It actually helps my contention that there is no demonstrable difference in this particular case. That's why the lexicons continue to treat it as subentry. And until there is a wide consensus on the matter, it will stay that way. Here's a pa'diction for you, folks: don't hold your breath on seeing Svendsen's baseless distinction being inserted into the lexicons.

They do the same with achri hou, placing it as a subentry of achri, even though New Testament scholarship has detected a very distinct difference in meaning when achri is accompanied by the particle hou and used with the subjunctive. Such a construction always denotes an eschatological goal. This nuance, of course, cannot be found in any lexicon, even though it is recognized as legitimate by New Testament scholars such as Marshall, Bruce, Barrett, Jeremias, Wainwright, Adamo, Bromiley, Nelson, Higgins, and others.

Did you examine hes hou with a mood or tense? No, you did not. Just out of curiosity, Eric, what range did these scholars use in order to form their conclusions on achri hou? Was it 100 B.C.-100 A.D.? Did they ignore the Septuagint's influence as you have? Did they go past 100 A.D in allowing second century usage to impact their conclusions? Please...share their methodology with us. We're absolutely dying to hear it. I've already showed you that achri hou BY ITSELF (irrespective of mood or tense) has no special characteristic. If you want to reformulate your thesis by considering moods and tenses, then, by all means, go for it. I'll be waiting for you, sweetheart.

Palm responded by asking three questions. Question # 1: "First, give us a methodologically and linguistically sound reason why your date range was not centered on the writing of St. Matthew's Gospel, rather than on the birth of Christ." To which I responded: That's easy. Because later usage is irrelevant to the point, but earlier use shows us the etymological changes that led to the current usage. I could have stuck to the NT period itself and that would have been completely acceptable to the issue of usage, but I wanted to note the kinds of changes in the phrase that led up to its usage in Matthew's day. All subsequent usage is, of course, completely anachronistic to first-century usage and is therefore irrelevant. How is it you don't know this, Mr. Palm?

Is this some kind of joke, Mr. Svendsen? Is this what they've been teaching you at Sally Struthers school of Greek grammar, Mr. Svendsen? Pray, tell us, what magic aura lies around the year 100 A.D. for Koine Greek, after which the language obviously shifts markedly and no further comparisons can even be contemplated. On second thought, spare us, OK? Just cite one scholarly source which makes the artificial distinction between 100 A.D and 137 A.D. Just one, Eric.

Much has been said by the RC side regarding their need desperately to clutch onto just any example of hes hou--doesn't matter to them what time frame it is--that will save them from a glaring exegetical dilemma. It is obvious that what they are doing is attempting to pry open any escape hatch imaginable so that they don't have to live with the horrible ramifications of hes hou. Who could blame them?

Oh, but it does matter which time frame it is, Eric. That's one of the main problems with your thesis. While it is a joke methodologically, it does not even work within your arbitrary range. You even bungled that! If you are going to be gratuitous, Mr. Svendsen, then, at the very least, do it right!

But let's turn the tables on them momentarily and see if they are honest enough to come to grips with a few things. My questions are directed specifically to David Palm:

(1) Can you provide just one instance of hes hou, unambiguously dated in Matthew's own day, that clearly bears the meaning you need it to mean in Matt 1:25?

Well, let's stick to the one we've just talked about: 4 Maccabees 7:1-3.

(2) If you can't find any--or even if you can find only one--what does that really imply for your position on Matt 1:25? (Please choose only one):

(a) It is a highly likely interpretation, hands down over all other options.

(b) It is the likely interpretation, having more weight than the other options.

(c) It is a possible interpretation, having no more or less weight than any other option.

(d) It is an unlikely interpretation, but it is still a possible one.

(e) It doesn't matter; as long as it can have that usage, it does have that usage in Matt 1:25 because Rome says it does.

I personally favour option C. Why? Because Matthew is writing to protect the doctrine of the Virgin Birth. He is not particularly concerned with Mary and Joseph's sex life. And this opinion seems to be shared by the joint (liberal) Catholic-Protestant work, Mary in the New Testament, not to mention those who participated in the Scholar Survey. They explicitly reject the use of hes hou has anything to do with Mary's virginity.

(3) Using methodologies from NT exegesis only, can you explain what you think the difference is between adopting a position that is "highly likely" based on the exegetical evidence, one that is "probable" based on that same evidence, one that is "possible," and one that is "unlikely"? Further, can you explain what the acceptable criteria would be for distinguishing these categories?

Well, I would put a much higher premium on the context of a passage rather than relying on a grammatical particle to decide the question. And it appears that there are many scholars who concur. Let's revisit two poignant citations from the survey:

"I have not done the necessary research to align myself with one or the other side in this debate. In general, I am very wary of arguments that depend heavily or exclusively on linguistic or syntactical uses to prove a point. Context is so heavily involved in making meaning that we would be ill-advised to try to establish an ironclad rule for the use of particles--at least unless we had a staggering number of examples." - Dr. Robert F. Hull Jr., M.Div, Ph.D, Professor of New Testament, Emmanuel School of Religion.

"One should always be suspicious of a linguistic argument that is coincidentally being used to further a sectarian position. Omitting LXX texts from consideration is especially arbitrary. It seems an enormously fine distinction to distinguish different ways a preposition is used to connect two clauses, then count the number of occurrences to draw a conclusion about its meaning in one particular instance - prepositions are the most notoriously ambiguous and flexible words in any language. This makes it doubly seem ideologically and not exegetically driven." - Dr. Kim Paffenroth, M.T.S., Ph.D

In the case of Matt. 1:25, the context of the passage clearly favours a neutral rendering of the passage as far as Mary's perpetual virginity goes. As already mentioned, Matthew is concerned with preserving the Virgin Birth and that is all. His usage of hes hou neither supports nor detracts from the Church's teaching.

(4) What significance is there for the exegesis of a NT text when a theologically insignificant word or phrase that consistently bears a certain connotation in NT and Hellenistic usage shows up in the passage that is undergoing exegesis?

But that is simply a ridiculous way of approaching exegesis. Once the grammatical possibility of the phrase in question has been established, then the grammatical argument becomes essentially muted. We then turn to context to argue our respective positions. We certainly do not determine the meaning of a passage by appealing to the fact that a grammatical construction is used 80-90% of the time. In the case of Matthew 1:25, the context of the preservation of the Virgin Birth is certainly strong enough to override any gratuitous appeals to grammatical probability.

What do we normally do with such a word or phrase? Which option below best describes NT exegetical method? (Choose one):

(a) In NT exegesis, we normally apply the consistent meaning we find elsewhere unless something in the context of the passage itself prevents us from applying that meaning.

But the "consistent meaning" cannot be applied by appealing to the probability of a grammatical construction alone. Mr. Svendsen simply wishes to pump up the importance of grammar at the expense of context. In fact, context is 95% of the exegeting game once the grammar has been established as a possibility. So what are we left with in the case of Matthew 1:25? Svendsen wins the probability game in regards to grammar, but he loses in context. So who do you think ends up on top? Do the math.

(b) In NT exegesis, we normally look around in literature outside the immediate time period to see if we can find another meaning; and if we find one, we would normally prefer that rare and anachronistic meaning over the consistent usage we find in the NT and Hellenistic writings.

No, that's not what we do at all. Instead, we construct a comical range of relevance and ignore the usage prior to and after this range. Then when our thesis has been blown to smitherenes many times over EVEN within the arbitrary range we've constructed for ourselves, we attempt to either push the evidence's dating past our silly borders or we refuse to interact with the critiques of our exegesis.

Palm can’t answer this one without making it exceedingly clear to everyone that all the hoopla he has created over my thesis is, in reality, completely moot. The purpose of this question is obviously to bring the real issues to the fore, and to snap Palm back to exegetical reality. The only correct answer from an exegetical standpoint is (d). In fact, I purposefully made option (d) generous. The fact is, even with only one contrary example (keeping in mind that Roman Catholic apologists don’t even have one they can claim with certainty), the real status of the Roman Catholic interpretation is “highly unlikely”-bordering on impossible-not merely “unlikely.” What this means for New Testament exegesis is that the Roman Catholic interpretation of Matt 1:25 isn’t a viable exegetical option. It is one that cannot be adopted because the evidence of usage exegetically works so strongly against it.

Baloney. I've already discussed this above. The correct choice is not Option D, but rather Option C as many scholars - even liberal ones - readily admit. Exegesis, Mr. Svendsen, is not a grammar game; it is a context game. Once you understand that, perhaps you will understand that your thesis really is, as you say above, "completely moot". The whole intent in embarking on your sham-thesis was to show us that hes hou, understood as continuation, was a grammatical impossibility. You were looking for a grammatical certitude so you could attack a Catholic dogma. Everybody knows that this is what you were trying to do. Even your drones are not so obtuse as to believe you just stumbled on to this remarkable discovery. Now that your little pretense has been completely obliterated, you are right back at Square 1 with context trumping grammar. Sorry. Them's the breaks. You really didn't think that you could go on in perpetuity with your cyber-sham, did you? Did you?

Palm states this as though it were some remarkable thing that a scholar, examining the literature of a narrowly defined time period, would not include documents that fall outside that time period. I also didn’t include the Didache, the letters of Pliny, Ignatius, Polycarp, Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Hermas, Tatian, Theophilus, Athenagorus, Clement of Alexandria-indeed, any second-century document. And why should I? All of these documents-like Joseph and Aseneth-fall outside of first-century usage. My thesis was not a survey on all literature of the ancient world. I specified in my research what the parameters of the research would be. The only relevant material to this issue are documents leading up to the first century and documents of the first century itself. All later documents are anachronistic in determining first-century usage. Hence, for a Roman Catholic apologist to come along after the fact and exclaim, “Aha! Lookie! Lookie! He didn’t include this mid second-century document in his research of first-century literature! Aha!,” is, to put it very bluntly, just plain bone-headed. Roman Catholic apologists, including Palm, think they’ve made a wonderful point here. But, in reality, the only thing such an objection shows is the incompetence and/or inexperience of the person raising the objection.

Nevermind that we have given him other "continuation instances" which he himself cites in his book, it seems that Svendsen never tires of the same old "magic" 100 A.D. boundary. Eric Svendsen's brand of "scholarship" would have you believe that there is something down right magical about 50 years after the composition of Matthew's gospel. It's so magical and glorious, you see, that he just has to keep it a secret from us. C'mon, Eric, tell us: Why is 100 A.D. so linguistically significant to render early second century usage anachronistic to late first century usage? Please be precise.

The fact that TLG excludes this document from first-century literature is indeed sufficient for the scholar. That’s what TLG is for. It isolates ancient literature in a given time period, allowing the scholar to examine every occurrence of a grammatical construction within that time period. At least when I was conducting my research (mid 1990s), there was no other tool that allowed the scholar to do that (there may be others today, but I know of none). There were very few Internet sites with full texts of ancient literature-and those that were available were either unsearchable or not in the original languages. Indeed, TLG is the single most accurate tool for not missing any relevant document. The reader should note the alternative Palm is suggesting here. He is demanding that I should have read every single ancient document in the original language-not only within the parameters of my time frame, but also several centuries on either side-rather than rely on TLG, a completely searchable, unpartisan tool that returns much more accurate results much more quickly. No scholar today would choose to spend years manually looking up a phrase (that’s how long it would take) that can be retrieved within seconds by TLG.

No. The usage of the TLG is something that any Cyber Cletus can avail himself of. My goodness, Eric, I even did that at the local library. True scholars, on the other hand, have a much broader scope and depth in their research than your regular internet jock has. Take, for instance, the following scholar's comments from my original critique:

The Thesaurus Linguae Graecae database on CD-ROM to conduct his research, which, although housing virtually all ancient Greek texts from the 8th century B.C. to 600 A.D, does not take into account the epigraphic and papyrus data. One scholar put his reservations this way: "I am familiar with the TLG CD-ROM disk E; the only problem with it is that it includes only literary texts, and I think it likely (a) that literary texts after 100 A.D. might well show the impact of the Atticist archaizing tendencies of reversion to 'purist' grammar of an earlier era; but the epigraphic evidence and especially the papyri…are much more likely to show evidence of variation from some 'normal' usage taught by schoolmasters. This is a well-known fact, so I would be wary of an argument based solely upon the literary texts included in the TLG database. As for inscriptions, they too ought to be checked, although I think any official inscriptions are more likely to reflect official grammatical usage."

Not only do we find the above deficiency in Svendsen's work, but we have something else that is very, very embarassing indeed. The J&A text is a very popular work with which true scholars are very familiar. In fact, it was a scholar here in Ottawa who alerted me to the J&A text! But then again, he is a true scholar with two real doctorates from Rome. Furthermore, it is incumbent on Svendsen, when constructing such an artificial range, to ensure that the datings of works on either side of his boundaries do not encroach on his thesis. Let us not forget how easy it was for him to quickly execute his favourite "Google" search, and find out that indeed J&A encroached on his thesis. Yet, he didn't even bother to do something so elementary and basic when writing his thesis and book. My goodness, the levels of what qualifies in the anti-Catholic delusional world as "scholarship" these days never ceases to amaze.

Quoting Palm: "Similarly, in the Apocalypse of Moses, the question is not whether they *can* touch him after the Angel "says something", but whether the use of hes hou automatically means that they do." My response: No, that is not the question. The question is, Is this an example of a clear, unambiguous instance of the phrase that supports your meaning? In the conclusion of this section of my book, I write: "there are nevertheless no clear examples of this usage for at least a century and a half before Matthew wrote his gospel." Are you contending that this is a clear example where the action of the main clause continues after the until has been reached? If not, then your point is moot.

Yes, we are contending that "this is a clear example where the action of the clause continues after the until has been reached!" Read my paper, Eric, and i-n-t-e-r-a-c-t. Otherwise, zip it.

Quoting Palm: "But on the contrary, the immediate context implies that they will not and the larger context shows that they do not." My response: Patently false. Your suggestion is ridiculous. The immediate context implies no such thing, and the broader context implies no such thing either. It is rather assumed that Adam's body would be buried--hence "touched"--after the fact. In fact, we are specifically told that he was buried in the second passage from AoM that I cited in my book, and that you here ignored.

Eric, I hate to break this to you BUT Adam's body was NOT touched by his followers - a crucial fact that you need in order to substantiate your position. In point of fact, we read later that it was the Angels of God who buried Adam, and, it looks like, your thesis as well.

Re: Matthew 18:34 - Try to think through your argument before posting it, Mr. Palm. Whether the torture ceases or doesn't cease is completely irrelevant to the meaning of hes hou in this passage. If it ceases, then the action of the main verb also ceases once the “until” is reached. If it doesn't cease, that is only because the “until” is never reached. In no instance does the action continue after the “until” is reached-which is the meaning required for your view. Is this really all you have? That's it? Please tell me you have something more, Mr. Palm--some staggering display of exegetical prowess on your part that dismantles my thesis. Please tell us you have more than this.

Eric doth protest too too much. While it is true that Matt. 18:34 does indeed imply a cessation of the action in the main clause - it would not make any sense otherwise - the context of the passage (at least from the Protestant perspective) clearly maintains that, in the end, the action in the main clause does not cease. The fact that the historical context of a passage (i.e. a debtor's prison) precludes cessation of the action simply exonerates my contention: context trumps artificial grammatical "rules".

Rather, what I acknowledge in my book is the same thing that any New Testament scholar would acknowledge; namely, that if a certain understanding of a phrase can be found as common usage of the literature of the day, then it becomes a “strong” exegetical option for any given passage, assuming the context allows it. Obviously, pointing to one or two disputed instances, out of the seventy-some occurrences of hes hou in this time period, does not make an exegetical option “strong”-I would never allow such an absurd proposition to stand, nor would any New Testament scholar. The best status such an option could obtain is a “weak” exegetical option.

First of all, we are not talking about "one or two disputed instances". We are talking about four clean instances and counting...

Secondly, you did not say that "if a certain understanding of a phrase can be found as common usage of the literature of the day, then it becomes a 'strong' exegetical option." On the contrary, you simply said "this usage" as if to imply only one:

“[I]f this usage for the phrase can also be found in literature contemporaneous to Matthew's gospel (i.e., the first century AD), then there can be little objection to seeing this same usage in the passage in question, and Mary's perpetual virginity becomes a strong exegetical option.” (WIMM, 77).

You did this, of course, in order to leverage your thesis. After all, if your opponents cannot find even a single instance of continuation, then that makes your thesis air-tight, right? And you were hoping to play that tune in perpetuity, weren't you, Eric? Sure you were. And now that we've found four instances (and counting) that debunk your thesis, all of a sudden, finding one instance wasn't that big of a deal after all. How "Svendgratuitous" of you!

Statements such as those asserted by Palm in his article and in the NTRMin Discussion forum make it abundantly clear that what we are dealing with here is someone who is clueless about New Testament exegetical practices. Let’s be very clear about this. Although it is the view that I favor, it’s not necessary to posit that the phrase hes hou dropped a nuance or two over the course of the time frame under discussion to show that the Roman Catholic view of Matt 1:25 still falls into the category of “highly unlikely.”

That's right, Eric. Keep back-peddling. You need to back-peddle to save yourself. Very entertaining. Please continue...

It is enough to show that that particular nuance of the phrase is so rare as to render the Roman Catholic interpretation of this passage virtually untenable. Indeed, no one can deny that much about the phrase, as I have already shown in my competency challenge earlier. Hence, if Palm thinks he has finally escaped the exegetical knife by suggesting that his proposed usage never completely passed from the scene, he is sorely mistaken. Sound exegesis never depends on rare usages, unless the context requires it. As I’ve already shown, there is nothing in the context of Matt 1:25 to demand anything but the normal usage of the phrase. And so Palm’s flailing objections amount to nothing more than a smokescreen to take our eyes away from the real issue; namely, that the Roman Catholic understanding of Matt 1:25 is at best a highly unlikely exegetical option.

Rare? It seems that everywhere we turn, we begin to find more and more instances which contradict Svendsen's thesis. Who knows, folks? The amount of attention this thing is getting, I would not be surprised to find many more instances which contradict Svendsen's thesis. We have at least five now. But, then again, none of this means much to Svendsen. He is much more concerned with the statistics of grammar to worry about the role of context in exegesis. For him, it's his pet thesis which settles the issue.

Actually this is wrong. Using a best case scenario (one that is most favorable to the Roman Catholic view), the percentage of occurrence for the proposed Roman Catholic usage is 7% in the period before 100 BC, and less than 1% in the period between 100 BC and AD 100. That’s quite a difference.

1%? How do you figure, Eric? Not by my count.

Nevertheless, here is something that I am willing to grant to Palm-nothing new really, since it is also something I allowed in my book, not to mention in the competency quiz I issued to Palm. Let's grant for the sake of argument that the Roman Catholic proposed meaning of hes hou really didn’t fade entirely out of existence in the time period under consideration.

That's funny. If I didn't know better, I would think this is a grudging concession.

Let's grant the possibility that it has always been a rare usage (although the evidence indicates that it is even rarer in the New Testament era than in the LXX era). The possibility of this must be acknowledged, and I freely acknowledge it on page 53 of my book.

Yes, you do so in your book, but then you go on to construct a ridiculous study which effectively guts this interepretation as a possibility. Can anyone who has read your rantings really believe that you left open this option as a legitimate possibility?

Granting this possibility and the accuracy of Palm’s statistics above, does this help the Roman Catholic case for Matt 1:25? Absolutely not. Whereas Palm thinks this helps his case, it actually militates against it. If indeed Palm admits that his proposed meaning for hes hou is a rare usage in any age (which is essentially what he has conceded in his statistics above), then what does that really mean for his understanding of Matt 1:25?

It means that the usage of hes hou as a continuation of the action in the main clause is indeed possible. Having therefore established that FACT, we then turn to the wider context of the passage to determine whether it is the case or not. Next question.

But, respond they will; and whether they have something meaningful to contribute or not doesn’t seem to be terribly important to them-that’s the nature of a false teacher, after all.

Oh, please. Spare us, O wise and truthful scholar! As if you would concede anything we had to say was "meaningful".

When that happens, the reader is advised to exercise a bit of critical thinking and ask himself whether this is truly a response to my thesis, or merely an answer (Roman Catholic epologists are usually short on the former and long on the latter). Further, is it a response to my thesis, or to some distortion of it?

We have refuted your thesis - thoroughly. It's over, Eric. You can't dress up as Mr. Scholar next Halloween. We know who you are. You're just another internet jock who happens to know a little Greek on the side. That's all. The difference between you and me is that I have no pretensions to being a bona fide scholar.

As for me, I’ll be pressing on to higher things; things that are much nobler than continuing to dialogue on this issue with those who always seem compelled to voice nonsense opinions on things about which they are not even qualified to speak. I have learned at least one lesson in this regard. If I address this issue again, it will be with a worthy audience; an audience other than the denizens of Roman Catholic epologetics.

Mr. Svendsen, your sham-thesis and your pretentions of belonging to scholarly circles are now well acknowledged and documented. You won't be pressing on to "higher things" on this issue or any issue, for that matter - not unless, of course, you pay certain scholarly circles to do so. On the contrary, your sham-thesis will float into the deep black hole of cyber space, never to be used again by fair-minded and honest people. The only thing which you have succeeded in doing is showing just how desperate anti-Catholics can be, as well as providing an instrument with which to identify them. If nothing else, we are immensely grateful for your participation in both exercises.

John Pacheco
The Catholic Legate
January 6, 2004

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