[b-greek] Re: Heos Hou

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Fri Nov 30 2001 - 22:06:00 EST

I have reformatted this to eliminate the high ASCII characters left from
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altered the transliteration to standard BG format.

At 1:54 PM -0500 11/28/01, John Pacheco wrote:

>I am currently doing some research on the Greek phrase hEWS hOU for a
>book I am writing on the role of Mary in the New Testament. The
>particular question revolving around this phrase hEWS hOU (translated
>predominantly as 'until' in English) concerns Matthew 1:25 and Mary's
>"...but kept her a virgin until (hEWS hOU) she gave birth to a Son; and he
>called His name Jesus.

This seems a very strange euphemistic formulation of the text (KAI OUK
EGINWSKEN AUTHN hEWS hOU ETEKEN hUION), more literally: "and would not have
sex with her until she had given birth to a son."

>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 'hEWS' alone does not
>always imply a reversal - as the NT confirms, the combination of 'hEWS
>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

This seems to me to be very awkwardly phrased, so that I'm not altogether
sure that I understand it. I suppose and will assume that you mean these
unnamed persons are claiming that the action indicated by the verb which
the hEWS hOU clause qualifies is halted or nullified by the factor
indicated by the verb in the hEWS hOU clause. I'm not sure that it
necessarily follows in the case of Mt 1:25 that Joseph MUST have had sex
with Mary after she had given birth to her son; all that the text actually
affirms that he didn't have sex with her in the period BEFORE that time. I
think it's probably implicit here that he DID start having sex with her
after that point, but the Greek text doesn't necessarily assert that.

>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.

Here's a stab at it: a hEWS hOU temporal clause indicates a a terminal
point for an action or state of being that delimits a verb in a main clause
upon which it depends. hEWS hOU means essentially, "up to the point in time
that ... "; whether hEWS hOU is translated into English as "until" or
"while" depends upon whether the verb in the hEWS hOU clause somehow
indicates completion; with an aorist indicative or subjunctive that is
generally the case. Yet in either case, whether the hEWS hOU is better
Englished as "while" or "until," its meaning in Greek is really always "up
to the point in time that ..."

AUTOU EN THi hODWi. "Come quickly to reconciliation with your adversary, up
to the point in time that you are with him on the road ..." Here hEWS is
usually translated as "while"--and that's appropriate because the verb of
the hEWS hOTOU clause is in the present tense, so that hEWS hOTOU EI means
"pending the time that you continue to be with him." But Mt 1:25 OUK
EGINWSKEN AUTHN hEWS hOU ETEKEN hUION, "He continued not to have sex with
her up to the point in time that she had given birth to her son." Here the
aorist verb ETEKEN indicates a completed action as a terminal point for the
action of OUK EGINWSKEN, a point after which he was free to have sex with
her, whether or not he did so.

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

This is really pretty tricky,isn't it? It means you're dependent upon
someone else's judgment when you really need to be pretty confident of
what's being asserted.

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

The difference is there, but it's not such that the line between the usage
of the two isn't sometimes rather fuzzy. One of your passages with hEWS hOU
is Mt 14:22 with which you find some difficulty (HNAGKASEN TOUS MAQHTAS
TOUS OCLOUS): I would try to convey the force of this as "He pressed upon
his disciples to board the boat and precede him to the opposite shore,
until such time as he had dispersed the throngs." But consider Mark's
PLOION .. hEWS APOLUEI TON OCLON; here hEWS seems almost to be working in
the same way: "He pressed upon his disciples to board the boat ... pending
the time he was dispersing the throng." It's easier to see that hEWS here =
English "while", whereas it's harder to see hEWS hOU in the Matthaean
passage working quite the same way, because the verb is an aorist
subjunctive and suggests a terminal point of successful dispersion of the
throngs. hEWS is "for the time ongoing up to some point" while hEWS hOU is
"for the time up to a point at which/when."

>#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 hEWS 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

It would be less awkward if you'd identify these unnamed proponents of your
argument. On the surface the argument seems very dubious; I would doubt any
uniformity of practice in speech and writing at all levels during this
200-year period coupled with a corresponding flexibility before 100 B.C.
and after 100 A.D. I would wonder whether the evidence adduced includes
epigraphic and papyrus data as well as literary sources for this
assertion--I'd have to be shown the evidence.

Rather than comment on the twenty passages (at least one has been omitted
(your {C}?); I found 22 instances, your 21 (including Mt 1:25) and also Mt
18:24 (your {C}? Your comment seems to refer to it but you've evidently
deleted it from the text you sent us.)

I just want to comment on a couple of your passages where hEWS hOU seems to
suit the English "while"

some question as to whether hOU properly belongs in the passage. I think
that with the aorist subjunctive it does; the main verb is an aorist
imperative. Perhaps the sense is equivalent to "Sit here while I go yonder
and pray" but I rather think that the force of the aorist subjunctive is
"up to the point at which I have finished praying [i.e. until I've said my

Here too there's an aorist subjunctive marking a terminal point for the
continuation of the particular guarding that Felix commands. I think the
sense here is, "I gaved orders that he be held in custody until I had him
conveyed to Caesar {= arranged his conveyal]."


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
Most months: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad@ioa.com
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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