[b-greek] Heos Hou

From: John Pacheco (bocciapacheco@sprint.ca)
Date: Wed Nov 28 2001 - 13:54:42 EST

Greetings everyone,

I am currently doing some research on the Greek phrase 'heos hou' for a
book I am writing on the role of Mary in the New Testament. The
particular question revolving around this phrase 'heos hou' (translated
predominantly as 'until' in English) concerns Matthew 1:25 and Mary's

"...but kept her a virgin until (heos hou) she gave birth to a Son; and he
called His name Jesus.”

Certain persons have proposed that since this phrase never intends a
continuation of the main clause in ALL 20 temporal instances in the New
Testament (see below), then Matthew 1:25 also NECESSARILY implies a
reversal in the main clause. While they admit that 'heos' alone does not
always imply a reversal - as the NT confirms, the combination of 'heos
hou' does when used in the NT text. In other words, Joseph kept Mary a
virgin until the birth of Christ but that she lost her virginity

I would like to solicit some professional opinions (50 words or shorter)
on this question - to either deny or affirm this proposition - for use in
my book.

Please be advised that I am just beginning to learn Greek. My questions
here are very specific.

#1 - I am only concerned in the validity of the argument that there is a
substantive, linguistic and grammatical difference between 'heos' and
'heos hou' - despite the NT's exclusion of its use for a continuation of
the action in the main clause.

#2 - The proponents of this argument essentially have narrowed their
search (and base their conclusions on) all searchable Greek texts from 100
B.C.-100 A.D. During this time period, there is no instance, they claim,
of this phrase which continues the action of the main clause into the
subordinate clause. There is evidence, however, that 'heos hou' does
continue in the LXX and after 100 A.D., essentially outside of their
period of search. My question here, then, is: is this a valid

Would any of you be so kind as to give your (citable) opinion on these
matters? Your opinion would be very much appreciated.

Yours very truly,

John Pacheco

Instances of "Heos Hou" in the NT:

"Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to
court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the
guard, and you be put in prison…” (Matthew 5:25)

This passage indicates concurrence.

“He told them another parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which
a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all
leavened." (Matthew 13:33)

This passage indicates a reversal since the he flour will no longer be
hidden once it is leavened.

“Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him
to the other side, while He sent the crowds away.” (Matthew 14:22)

Although the RSV translates ‘heos hou’ as ‘while’ in this verse, that is
not the only rendering and it may not be the most accurate. In fact, the
main clause in the passage involving the disciples is a termination or
cessation of an action followed by another action. Jesus first sends his
disciples out into the sea before he sends the crowd away. In this case,
‘heos hou’ is better translated as ‘before’ instead of ‘while’. There is
not concurrence between Jesus’ dismissal of his disciples and his
dismissal of the crowds. The verb “dismiss” or apolush in the Greek is
in the subjunctive mood; that is, it is preceded by the subjunctive
‘should’. Translating it ‘while he should dismiss’ is not correct. The
contingency of the subjunctive suggests "until" or ‘before’ is meant in
this passage, not "while." Strong’s concordance confirms this rendering.

Although many translations insert ‘while’, some do not. Here is a sample
of translations:

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of
him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. (NIV).

And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to
go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.

Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to
the other side, while He sent the crowds away. (NASB)

Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other
side, while he dismissed the crowds. (NAB)

“And immediately he compelled the disciples to go on board ship, and to go
on before him to the other side, until he should have dismissed the
crowds.” (Darby Translation)

And immediately Jesus constrained his disciples to go into the boat, and
to go before him to the other side, till he might let away the
multitudes..” (Young’s Literal Translation)

And forthwith Jesus obliged his disciples to go up into the boat, and to
go before him over the water, till he dismissed the people. (Douay Rheims)

“And straightway he constrained the disciples to enter into the boat, and
to go before him unto the other side, till he should send the multitudes
away. (ASV)

“And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, "Tell no
one the vision, until the Son of man is raised from the dead.” (Matthew

This verse suggests a reversal of the main clause since the Apostles would
likely tell people of the vision after the Resurrection.


Both of these passages suggest reversal since the jailer will likely
release the prisoner once his debt has been paid - presumably by the time
he spends in prison.

5) “Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsem'ane, and he said
to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go yonder and pray."” (Matthew 26:36)

This passage suggests a concurrent action. Jesus prays at the same time
his disciples are instructed to sit.

6) “And he answered him, 'Let it alone, sir, this year also, till dig
about it and put on manure.” (Luke 13:8)

Although this as a concurrent meaning, the RSV translation does not use
‘while’ but rather ‘until’ which seems to indicate either reversal or even

7) “He said therefore, "What is the kingdom of God like? And to what
shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took
and sowed in his garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of
the air made nests in its branches." And again he said, "To what shall I
compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven which a woman took and hid
in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened."” (Luke 13:18-21)

This passage indicates cessation or reversal since the woman cannot take
out the leaven out of the flour after it was leavened.

8) "Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does
not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds
it?” (Luke 15:8)

This passage suggests a cessation of sweeping the house once the coin is

9) “As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to
settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge
hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell
you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper."
(Luke 12:59)

This passage seems to indicate a reversal in the main clause since you
will get out once you have paid the last copper.

10) “And he said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover
with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is
fulfilled in the kingdom of God."” (Luke 22:15-16)

11) “…for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of
the vine until the kingdom of God comes." (Luke 22:18)
These passages suggest a reversal of the main clause - Our Lord will eat
the passover when it is fulfulled in the kingdom of God, and He will drink
of the vine when the kingdom of God comes.

12) “And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in
the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

This particular example can be taken either as a reversal or even a
continuation of the main clause. It is not clear whether Jesus meant that
the Apostles were to leave Jerusalem after they were clothed with His
power or remain there indefinitely. In fact, the Scripture is clear that
the Apostles did stay in Jerusalem after Pentecost (Cf. Acts 1:12ff). In
any case, Jesus did not mean for the Apostles to leave Jerusalem

13) “The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his
sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his
sight…” (John 9:18)

After the blind man’s parents were questioned, the Pharisees did believe
that the blind man did receive his sight. Therefore, a reversal is
suggested here as well..

14) “Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I
say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times.”
(John 13:38)

As the Gospel later testifies, this passage represents a reversal of the
main clause.

15) “Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them
entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of
purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of
them.” (Acts 21:26) KJV
Again, this likely indicates a reversal of the main clause.

16/17/18) “When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by
an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. There were
more than forty who made this conspiracy. And they went to the chief
priests and elders, and said, "We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath
to taste no food till we have killed Paul…But do not yield to them; for
more than forty of their men lie in ambush for him, having bound
themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him;
and now they are ready, waiting for the promise from you.” (Acts
This is clearly a reversal of the main clause. The Jews would eat after
they had accomplished their goal of murdering Paul.
19) “But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of
the emperor, I commanded him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.”
(Acts 25:21)

A continuation of the main passage is insuated here since Paul is still to
be kept in custody ever after he is sent to Caesar. On the other hand, it
may also suggest a reversal since the ‘custody’ that is being spoken of is
Festus’ direct custody of Paul. Once Festus releases Paul to Caesar, Paul
can no longer be said to be in Festus’ direct custody - although he is
still under Roman custody.

20) “And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to
pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day
dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19)
That was a reference to the second coming of Christ, after which it will
no longer be necessary to turn to the word of the prophets…since the
presence of Christ himself is superseding such need. This usage of ‘heos’
in this passage, therefore, indicates cessation.

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