by John Pacheco
"He has lost his case, definitively and publicly, but, like some kind of pathetic energizer bunny, he doesn't seem to realize it, because he keeps going, and going, and going . . Attempts at damage control, cleverly disguised as verbose chest-thumping, emanated from the Svendsen camp in the days and weeks after the debate, but to no avail. His thesis was shattered and was seen (or rather, heard) to be shattered on that radio program. To make that point even clearer to those who either cannot or will not accept it, Catholic apologist David Palm [see below], himself a convert to the Faith from Evangelicalism, dashed off a commentary on what happened and why...I think you'll find that, once again, another Protestant attempt to disprove a Catholic teaching failed to deliver the goods." - Patrick Madrid, Envoy Encore Blog, 12-08-03
On Tuesday November 18, Catholic Apologist Gerry Matatics was invited to participate in James White's live webcast, The Dividing Line, with Eric Svendsen. The subject under discussion dealt with Mary's Perpetual Virginity and the many issues surrounding this topic.
In anticipation of the show, I provided Gerry with my paper on heõs hou. When this particular question came up for discussion, Gerry enlightened The Dividing Line audience with two specific examples from my paper which flatly contradicted Svendsen's thesis. Gerry was even kind enough to plug this website so that sincere inquirers of the program can learn about the kind of "scholarship" being advanced by men like James White and Eric Svendsen for over a decade now.
For Gerry's gracious referral to my website, he received a contemptuous scoff from White. Mr. White even had the audacity to refer to me as a kind of Catholic "Jack Chick".
Let me take a few moments to review some of the more amusing points during the debate with respect to my indirect involvement in it. (Please click the headings to listen to the audio clips from the debate. Time counter is approximate.)
1) Jack and John [30:51-31:10, 37:55-38:07; 31 sec]
When Gerry informed the listening audience that he obtained the pertinent information regarding heõs hou from my article, White and Svendsen responded in typical condescending tone. In classic ad hominem fashion, instead of addressing the evidence and observations that I presented (and therefore suspending derision at least until my article was read), Svendsen scoffed when my website address was mentioned and White referred to me as a kind of Catholic "Jack Chick". Apparently this honour is given for my alleged "unscholarly and unfair" discussions of apologetic issues. I told Gerry that he should expect this. And that is what he got.
But you see, it matters not how much they attack my abilities or presentation. The more they attribute "Chickian" qualities to me, the more they must explain why such a "Chickian" apologist as myself was able to easily demolish a sham thesis that both Mr. White and Mr. Svendsen have been advancing for close to a decade now. And get this: I don't even know Greek! My goodness, if I am Jack Chick, what in heaven's name does that make them?!?!
It remains to be seen whether Mr. White will cling on to Svendsen's Sinking Ship in the future. Presumably, he was relying on Svendsen's research into the matter. (Still, I don't understand how James did not immediately dismiss Svendsen laughable methodology in the first place - even without seeing the "evidence"). I guess time will tell whether he cuts the cord or whether he insists on going down with Eric's ship. Look for White to quietly distance himself from the argument in the future.
2) Gundry et. al [27:25-29:36; 2 min 9 sec]
There are a couple of things to note in this clip. In this section of the debate, Gerry is rhyming off all of the scholars that he has talked to which refute Svendsen's thesis - all of them very prominent. The first one he mentions, as opposing Svendsen's thesis, is Robert Gundry, the eminent scholar at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. The ironic thing here is that in Svendsen's book, he concedes the same thing - albeit in a footnote. Here is the text of this observation from my article:
Not only do Brown et. al. also refer to the K. Beyer's opinion in Mary in the New Testament which refutes Svendsen's thesis, but Svendsen himself even concedes the scholarship arrayed against him:
"Protestants scholars who take this view include Robert Gundry, Matthew,: A Commentary from His Handbook on a Mixed Church Under Persecution, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 25, who says, "By itself heõs hou, which belongs to Matthew's preferred diction (4,2) does not necessarily imply that Joseph and Mary entered into normal sexual relations after Jesus' birth"; Richard B. Gardner, Matthew (Believers Church Bible Commentary; Scottsdale, P.A.: Herald Press, 1991), 41,...states that "the language of the text leaves open the question of how Joseph and Mary related to each other after Jesus' birth..." (WIMM, p.286-287)
It's truly amazing how Mr. Svendsen is not at all phased with the scholarship arrayed against him. He just keeps rollin' with the punches. (I also list a number of scholars who reject Svendsen's thesis in Appendix 2 of my article.)
But perhaps the most amazing thing of the clip from this segment, at least from my perspective, is this comment from James White. What delicious irony it is that White has the audacity to dismiss my article without even reading it while at the same time demanding that bona fide scholars read Svendsen's work in order to form a proper judgment!
3) Achri Hou [36:00-36:45; 45 sec]
Here, Svendsen brings up the same argument which he brought up against Matatics in their 1999 debate on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary: "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 heõs" [58:20-58:39].
But as I pointed out in Appendix 1 to my main piece, there is no difference between achri or achri hou just like there is no difference between heõs and heõs hou. Eric needs to learn how to use that Logos Bible Software more efficiently.
Because of space limitations in this venue, I cover Eric's sidestep of the subjunctive qualification in my rebuttal to his article. You care read about it here.
4) Adam and Eric [39:40-40:28; 48 sec]
After this clip, Eric went stone cold for much of the rest of the debate. He wasn't expecting anyone to challenge the examples he gave in his book which he thought all supported his thesis. That's why he asked Gerry if he was aware that the example was already cited in his book. Unbeknownst to Eric, the citation from the Apocalypse of Moses cited in his book actually disproves his thesis! Here is the text from my "Eric's Top 10 Errors" page:
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...
If the Aseneth reference (see below) is the "magic bullet", this reference is surely the "silver one". Then again, the original article has so many bullets flying around that it is hard to decipher just which one takes Svendsen's thesis out first.
5) Two Hundred Year Range and the Magic Bullet [40:28-42:41; 2 min 15 sec]
Before getting into the substance of this clip, I want to remark on James White's implicit admission that Svendsen's thesis is no longer valid. Svendsen's thesis says that there are NO instances of continuation of the action in the main clause through the 'until' for ALL relevant literature between 100 B.C. and 100 A.D. Near the end of this clip, after Gerry enlightens the listening audience that there is indeed an instance which contradicts Svendsen's thesis, White, sensing the hammer that has just fallen, diverts the issue and asks Gerry: "And can you show us any of that in the New Testament" (1:36-1:38)?
Here, White engages in prompt damage control. His desperation is equally understandable as it is crystal clear since Svendsen's thesis is NOT just about the New Testament, but non-biblical literature from 100 B.C. to 100 A.D. as well. By retreating to the scope of the New Testament alone, White is implicity conceding that Svendsen's thesis, as stated, can no longer be sustained. (The reason, of course, that Svendsen originally widened his search to include non-biblical literature outside of the writing of the New Testament was to strengthen his thesis. He did this in order to add the "evidence" drawn from the non-biblical literature to the scant New Testament examples in order to butress his argument against Mary's perpetual virginity.)
The listener will notice that once White asked this question, Gerry jumped all over it, at once recognizing that White was not willing to uphold Svendsen's thesis. After a short little skirmish, White ends up by saying to Gerry: "You're really filibustering and I think everyone can see that." Well, I don't know about Gerry filibustering, but it is clear that everyone can see that James White just hung Svendsen's thesis out to dry.
"And Aseneth was left alone with the seven virgins, and she continued to be weighed down and weep [heõs 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." (Burchard, C. "Joseph and Aseneth." In The Old Testament Pseuepigrapha. Vol. 2, Expansions of the "Old Testament" and Legends, Wisdom and Philosophical Literature, Prayers, Psalms, and Odes, Fragments of Lost Judeo-Hellenistic Works, ed. James H.Charlesworth, pp. 215. New York: Doubleday, 1985.)
The above text is being called the "magic bullet" that downed Eric's sham-thesis. Not surprisingly, Svendsen has questioned the dating of the above text by citing these sources:
Svendsen then comments: "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...." (Edited by: NTRMin at: 11/19/03 9:43 pm http://pub84.ezboard.com/fntrmindiscussionboardfrm9.showMessage?topicID=567.topic)
Well, no, there is consensus on the dating. Svendsen needs to read the bolded sections above (emphasis mine) from his own citations! They state quite clearly that the CONSENSUS is against him, even if he may find a few scholars who challenge the dating. So that means that the Orchard reference which I cited is exactly within the CONSENSUS on this question. Moreover, most of the scholars (except one) who challenge the dating above don't put it further than 100 years from Svendsen's thesis (i.e. 100-200 B.C or 100-200 A.D.), which can hardly be a source of consolation for him.
All of this, of course, assumes that Eric's arbitrary and imprecise range of research is valid or acceptable. As discussed in my article, the very idea of such a range is simply gratuitous and comical, considering the grammatical range of the New Testament koine Greek over many more centuries than Svendsen chose for his "work". Besides, he even mismanaged his 200 year range. As I pointed out in my article (and Gerry repeated in his interview), Svendsen should have chosen 100 years before and after the writing of Matthew's gospel (50 B.C. to 150 A.D.) and not 100 years within the Birth of Christ (100 B.C. to 100 A.D.). If he had chosen this range, then the scholars he cites above who favour a 100-200 A.D. dating of Aseneth end up providing even more bullets which, in the words of Gerry Matatics, "blows his thesis to smitherenes."
The Catholic Legate
December 8, 2003
Feast of the Immaculate Conception