About six years after I first posted a compilation of quotes from the Fathers of the Church, Popes, saints, scholars, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and more on the “conversion of the Jews” (see the compilation here), Bob Sungenis has given a response to the evidence I presented. Unfortunately, in the process, he didn’t interact with the other, more recent material David Palm and I had already presented that addresses most of the arguments he made (see here, here and here). Far more unfortunately, Bob continues to evidence how little respect he has for the Fathers of the Church and our current Holy Father – in stark contrast to the lofty esteem in which he holds his own personal opinions (my response to his characterization of the Holy Father’s book, Jesus of Nazareth Part II, may be found by clicking here).
From the outset, I think it’s important to re-state that, unlike Bob, I’ve never claimed to be a scholar or an expert theologian. But I do have one distinct advantage over him. While he trusts and relies almost exclusively upon his own exegetical skills, I simply trust and rely upon what the greatest and most faithful Catholics throughout history have believed and taught. Really, the only thing that’s original in my presentations is a defense of that traditional teaching against Bob’s attacks upon it.
The most noteworthy thing about his most recent response is that Bob doesn’t even attempt to disprove that the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, Popes, saints, and greatest Catholic scholars over the past two millennia believed in and taught a special, future conversion of the Jewish people. To the contrary, he implicitly admits throughout his article that they did believe in and teach it. Virtually his entire article is an exercise in Protestant, Fundamentalist-style argumentation designed to dismiss that traditional, positive belief and teaching about the Jewish people. This is just another facet of what we’ve described as Bob’s “theology of prejudice”.
Table of Contents/Summary
(In order to skip directly to a particular section, you may click on any link below.)
The Holy Spirit draws all men to Christ. But men like Bob can drive them away.
A multitude of Fathers and Doctors of the Church believed in a future, special conversion of the Jews. Bob has led a vociferous campaign against it. But exactly two Fathers mention the possibility that the Antichrist might be a Jew and Bob eagerly characterizes it as “unofficially declared” by the Church. Is there prejudice involved here? You decide.
Bob is obviously unhappy the Catechism teaches that the conversion of all Israel will follow after the full number of the Gentiles has come in. He obfuscates by refusing to deal with the official Latin translation of the Catechism and the dictionary definition of the English phrase “in the wake of”.
By his flippant dismissal of the continuous witness of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, Bob effectively admits that they really do teach a future, special conversion of the Jewish people.
Bob says God can and will do mass conversions…unless those converts are Jews.
Bl. Pius IX joins three other Popes in teaching the belief of a future, special conversion of the Jewish people. He even uses a passage of Scripture that Bob insists cannot support this belief. Once again, it’s Bob against the Church on Jewish issues.
Ignoring both the most recent New Testament research and the views of Greek speaking Fathers of the Church, Bob insists that his view of this Greek phrase is the only correct one.
For years Bob has attacked the belief in a future return of Elijah. He’s ridiculed the view of numerous Fathers and Doctors of the Church as being based on “blunders” and even “exegetical duplicity”. But a detailed look at the topic illustrates that the views of the Fathers and Doctors are eminently solid, while it’s Bob himself who blunders.
Are Catholics really supposed to follow an alleged consensus of the Fathers on pastoral matters as Bob claims, or only on doctrinal matters of faith and morals as the Magisterium teaches?
Before responding to his arguments, I’d like to address some statements of a personal nature that Bob made about me. I believe these comments highlight something very important. He said that I’ve “made it [my] life mission to convert the Jews.” 1 But he’s wrong on at least two levels. First, it has never been my “life mission”, as though Jewish evangelization is the primary focus of my life. Second, I’ve never made any effort to “convert the Jews.” But I have had the honor and privilege of walking alongside and helping some individuals – who happen to be Jewish – on their way to recognizing Y’shua Hamashiac (Jesus the Messiah) and becoming fully re-grafted back onto their own tree (cf. Rom 11:24).
No human being “converts” anyone, let alone an entire people. Conversion is fundamentally a work of the Holy Spirit. This may seem like a quibble over semantics, but I don’t believe it is – especially in Bob’s case. Sinful, imperfect tools that we are, we should always humbly keep in mind that we are perhaps more likely to impede the working of the Spirit than to aid it. For a few reasons, I believe this tends to be particularly true in regard to Jewish people.
In his article, Bob stated that I’m an “ardent champion” of the Catholic teaching that there will be a special, future conversion of the Jewish people to the fullness of the faith. I’m not sure I would describe myself as an “ardent champion”, but I think it’s important to recall the reason that I became interested in defending this Catholic teaching in the first place.
I began researching the support for the Catholic teaching that there will be a special, future conversion of the Jewish people because I found Bob’s extremely aggressive opposition to it very odd in light of his simultaneous, eager acceptance and public promotion of the much more sparsely attested belief that the Antichrist would be a Jew from the tribe of Dan (see here). He rushed to oppose the well-attested, positive theological belief involving Jews and rushed to support the sparsely attested, negative one. The double standard seemed obvious.
He jumped to publicly proclaim that the Church had "unofficially declared" (whatever that’s supposed to mean) that the Antichrist will be a Jew from the tribe of Dan and that “the Fathers have much to say” about this. Yet, what was his support for that bold claim? Exactly two Fathers, no magisterial documents at all, and perhaps most interestingly in light of his absolute insistence on a painstaking exegesis of anything positive involving Jews — he did exactly zero scriptural exegesis of the relevant passages. Why did the man who has been known as “Bible Bob” care so little about scriptural exegesis in this case? I would suggest that it’s because he’s happy to accept the belief that the Antichrist will be a Jew and therefore he needed very little to convince him.
Another clear illustration of Bob’s prejudice is the fact that he cited an alleged “prophecy” of St. Nilus in support of the belief that the Antichrist would be Jewish. But in a context that didn’t involve Jews he had previously admitted that he knew this source was extremely dubious (see here). And then he produced four pages of quotes from Sts. Anselm, Hildegard, Bridget, Vincent Ferrer, Thomas Aquinas, Bellarmine, Pius X, and the Catechism. But remarkably, only one of these, St. Anselm, actually mentioned Jews at all, but not in support of Bob’s claim that the Antichrist will be of Jewish ancestry. From the rest, there’s not a single mention of anything to do with Jews or Judaism (see here).
On the other hand when the issue is something positive for Jews, like their eventual restoration alongside the Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation, Bob aggressively adopts anti-Catholic, fundamentalist Protestant-style tactics in order to deny it. He’s been caught completely misrepresenting the scope of the patristic, scriptural and magisterial evidence on this issue, see: here and here. He’s even been caught cropping out portions of patristic quotes to obscure the very words that show that they believed in this future conversion (see here).
To date, Bob has never even attempted an explanation or defense of the clear double standards and deceptive practices evident here. And based on a long history, it seems likely he’ll ignore it all again.
That is the context in which this discussion about “the conversion of the Jews” should be viewed.
Neither David Palm nor I have ever claimed that a future, special conversion of the Jewish people is a dogma of the Catholic faith. But, contrary to Bob’s continued public campaign, it has certainly been consistently taught in Catholic Tradition and is worthy of belief. In its support are no less than twenty-one of the most prominent patristic witnesses, an extensive line-up of medieval witnesses, five Popes, and at least fourteen Doctors of the Church. Additional attestation may be found in the Catechism (no. 674), the 1909 and 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, and a multitude of renowned modern Catholic scholars ranging from Lapide to Lagrange.
In an effort to obfuscate the Catechism’s teaching in section 674, Bob makes the following argument:
R. Sungenis: Mr. Forrest is simply reading into the text what he wants to see. Of course, God suspends the coming of the Messiah until all Israel is saved. I’ve never said anything different. But if “all Israel” refers to all the Jews from Abraham to the end who become saved and who are members of the Church, then of course “all Israel” is saved before Christ returns, but it is not necessarily the exclusive future group of Jews in the distant future that Mr. Forrest wants to see. The metaphor “in the wake of” does not support Mr. Forrest’s interpretation. If a surfer is “in the wake of” a wave it means he is in the wave, not behind the wave.
Bob has made the same argument about “in the wake of” in his CASB III (p. 469) and recently at the Catholic Answers Forums, where he snidely remarked to David Palm, “I never saw a wake that was behind the skier. Go back to the drawing board, Mr. Palm.”
Unfortunately, Bob keeps ignoring the official Latin text of the Catechism, even though we’ve repeatedly brought it to his attention. The official Latin text proves that he’s flatly wrong that “in the wake of” means “at the same time as”. The official Latin runs, Ingressus plenitudinis Iudaeorum in salutem messianicam, post plenitudinem gentium. Translated literally, this means: "The ingress of the fullness of the Jews in the Messianic salvation, after [post] the fullness of the gentiles..." In Latin, “post” means "after", as in, for example, post hoc, ergo propter hoc ("after this, therefore because of this"). So the official Latin text definitively renders Bob’s interpretation impossible and proves our interpretation to be correct.
But Bob is even completely wrong about what it means to be “in the wake of” something, physically, in the English language. The “wake” always follows after something. And surfers ride “on the crest and face of a wave”, not “in the wake of a wave” (see here). The only “surfers” that surf “in the wake of” something are surfing in the wake of a boat, not in the wake of a wave (and the same is true of water skiers). The wake, in this case, is the wave that is caused by and follows after the boat. To ride this wave that follows after the boat is called “wake surfing” (see here). One can also see this same concept at work in “no wake” zones on waterways – where a boat is required to go slow enough so as not to create waves that follow out from behind it (see here).
Note the following definition:
A wake is the region of recirculating flow immediately behind a moving or stationary solid body, caused by the flow of surrounding fluid around the body. (Here)
And the same dynamic holds as a temporal expression. In this sense, the phrase “in the wake of” means “after something; as a result of some event”. Click here to see proof from “The McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms” and “The Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms”. This highlights yet another of Bob’s “definitions difficulties” (see here and here for more examples). As such, the only one “reading into the text what he wants to see” here is Bob.
But perhaps the most troubling aspect of this specific discussion is the fact that, despite the arguments he’s making now, Bob has previously illustrated that he knows perfectly well that “in the wake of” means “following after” or "as a result of". In his review of E. Michael Jones's book on the Jewish people, Bob himself used the phrase "in the wake of" to mean exactly this:
R. Sungenis: "In the wake of the new consensus, a new movement was born – Neo-conservatism, or as David Brooks candidly put it in the Wall Street Journal: “Neo means new and con means Jew”.
Besides the fact that Bob completely fouled up this “quote” from David Brooks (see here for more on that), he plainly used the phrase “in the wake of” here to convey that Neo-conservatism came into being after and as a result of the “new consensus”. The reaching of the consensus preceded and led to the birth of the movement. And this usage agrees with the dictionary definitions I provided above. As such, Bob’s snide remark to David Palm about this issue at the Catholic Answers Forums becomes all the harder to swallow.
In light of the official Latin text and the accepted definition of “in the wake of”, CCC 674 plainly teaches that the acceptance of Christ by “all Israel” is something that will follow after the full number of the Gentiles has come in, exactly as we’ve stated all along. This renders impossible Bob’s view that Jews will only come to Christ as a continuing trickle, concurrently with the conversion of the Gentiles and terminating at the same time with the Gentiles – which is exactly why he’s been fighting so hard to obfuscate the plain meaning of CCC 674.
In his response to the extensive compilation of quotes I provided, Bob blithely dismissed the traditional teaching and beliefs of Fathers and Doctors of the Church, saints, Popes and renowned Catholic scholars using the phrase "Again, no exegesis, just assertions" an incredible forty five times. That's after dismissing about three or four other witnesses using different words to say the same thing, that they don't do enough exegesis to meet Bob’s personal standards.
Bob has never provided any evidence from a single Father, Doctor, approved theologian, or magisterial source to support his idiosyncratic view that the only time we should heed a broad consensus of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church is if they provide sufficient exegesis to satisfy our personal demands. But in his view “no exegesis, just assertions” is all he needs to say in order to summarily dismiss forty-five citations.
What Bob’s flippant dismissal really proves is that belief in a future, special conversion of the Jewish people is a fixture in Catholic Tradition. Bob doesn’t really deny that – he just sets up his own private interpretation as the ultimate standard.
Of course, even if he did manage to provide such evidence for his claim, that would only create serious problems for the patristic evidence for his favored belief in geocentrism because none of his patristic citations on that issue provide any exegesis of the Scriptural evidence.
Another serious problem for Bob is the fact that his own exegesis of the key passage on this issue, Romans 11, is fundamentally flawed. As David Palm has pointed out on multiple occasions, Bob has repeatedly asserted (even in his CASB series) that the “context” of Romans 11 is the destruction of Jerusalem. This is a manifest impossibility because the destruction of Jerusalem occurred in 70 A.D. – at least twelve years after the writing of Romans, indeed, three years after St. Paul himself was dead (see more: here). This fundamental, elementary error regarding the context of Romans 11 completely distorts the rest of his interpretation of that chapter. His assertions on the meaning of “All Israel” are also incorrect (see here), other exegetical details are demonstrably wrong and his interpretation of “this mystery” (Rom 11:25) effectively turns St. Paul on his head (see here).
R. Sungenis: “God doesn’t save nations, He saves people from the nations.”
And previously, in regard to a special, future conversion of the Jewish people, he’s also written:
R. Sungenis: "A universal conversion would simply be totally adverse to everything God has ever done…Ever since the beginning of time, there have only been a percentage of the world's people who have sought and remained with the Lord. God simply does not do such universal conversions… He does not coerce people to believe in Him on massive scales…" (link)
So, in the context of dealing with Jews, Bob is clear and adamant: God just doesn’t “do” mass conversions. He only saves individuals. Period.
Bob has insisted on the exact opposite when Jews were not the subject:
R. Sungenis: "Naturally, if a major portion of the Russian people and government converted and joined the Catholic Church, the "errors" of Russia would be no more…The truth is that if the Church had mentioned ‘Russia' in the 1984 consecration, we would have seen millions of Russians embrace the Catholic faith…True followers of Fatima are waiting for the time when Russia will mightily embrace Catholic Christianity….but that vision is too grand for the liberals and modernists who infest the Vatican apparatus…According to them, miraculous conversions are a pipe dream." (Sungenis Responds to Zugibe)
To Bob, there is no doubt that a miraculous conversion of the Russian people would occur if only the Church mentioned “Russia” in the 1983 consecration. In fact, his conviction is so strong that he condemns those at the Vatican who don’t believe it as “liberals and modernists”. The double standard is glaring. Bob also seems to have forgotten about the conversion of the entire Aztec people after the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe. How was this possible if God doesn’t “do” miraculous, mass conversions? Bob has never expressed any concerns about God’s “fairness” to the Aztecs and Russians who lived “pre-miraculous conversion”. But when Jews are involved, he feels compelled to publicly object.
It’s also noteworthy that Bob has previously claimed that an unusual, future conversion of the Jewish people is objectionable because it "inevitably consigns millions of other Jews to the horrors of disbelief who lived prior to the en masse conversion." The problem is that according to his own theology, virtually all Jews right up until the very end of time - without any reprieve - are consigned to the "horrors of disbelief” (i.e. Hell). In Bob’s eyes, this is what constitutes being “fair” to the Jewish people.2 Bob's theology in regard to Jewish people certainly tells us far more about Bob's mindset and heart than God's.
I cited Blessed Pope Pius IX, with the following quote:
Histoire Complete de l’Idee Messianique, Feb. 14, 1877 “Because, according to the prophecy of Osee, the sons of Israel have remained for a long time without king and without prince, without sacrifice and without altar, may that other word of the same prophet soon begin to be accomplished: And after this the children of Israel shall return and shall seek the Lord their God and David their king!” (Note: this is also significant as Pius IX’s reference here is to Hosea 3:5. In contrast to Bob’s absolute denials of any such connection, the Pope saw it in reference to the return of Israel to Christ.)
And Bob responded:
R. Sungenis: Hosea 3:1-5 is referring to the First Coming of Christ, not the Second, and Pius IX does not say which Coming he has in view, so Mr. Forrest is being presumptuous.
I’m tempted to say in response to Bob: no exegesis, just assertions. But it’s worse than that in this case because Bob’s flatly wrong that it’s not clear to which “Coming” the Pope was referring and also that Hosea 3:1-5 can only refer to the First Coming.
Note what Pope Pius IX wrote in 1877 – almost two millennia after the First Coming of Christ: “May that other word of the same prophet soon begin to be accomplished.” Therefore, he cannot have had the First Coming in view. He was referring to the return of the Jewish people to the fullness of the faith, embracing Christ, a future conversion of the Jewish people.
Further, Hosea says, "Then the people of Israel shall turn back and seek the Lord, their God, and David, their King; They shall come trembling to the Lord and to his bounty, in the last days." (v. 5)
Of Hosea 3:1-5, renowned scholars Fr. Haydock and Dom Bernard Orchard have the following to say:
The prediction of Israel’s post-exilic restoration foreshadows the Messianic age with all its spiritual blessing. This is borne out by the fact that the kind of the restoration is called simply David, an appellation of the Messias….and by the indefinite time-indication “in the last days” which usually denotes the Messianic times. (Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, p. 648)
Ver. 2: The unbelieving Jews, who refrain from idols, receive some temporal advantages, but not….faith of the blessed Trinity and the observance of the Decalogue whereby they might obtain eternal life. Towards the end of the world they shall be converted.
Ver. 4: …C. – But this was only a figure of what they endured since they rejected Christ….this wretched state will probably continue till they at last embrace the yoke of Christ, the true king of ages.
Verse 5: “David their king”. That is, Christ, who is of the house of David. Ch. - After the captivity, the Jews submitted to Zorobabel. Yet this only foreshewed a more sincere conversion to Jesus Christ. In fact, the house of David never regained the throne, (C.) and it is not clear that Zorobabel had any authority over the people. H.- Christ is the literal object of this prediction. (Comprehensive Catholic Commentary, p. 1114)
So, again, it seems that the only one being “presumptuous” here is Bob – both for trying to confuse the plain statement of a Pope and for unjustifiably limiting the application of a prophetic passage of sacred Scripture.
R. Sungenis: “Romans 11:26 does not say ‘and THEN they (the Jews) also shall come,’ it says ‘and thus all Israel shall be saved.’ This is quite a difference in the Greek language.”
Previously he has written, "Paul does not say 'and THEN all Israel will be saved.' He says 'thus all Israel will be saved.' This is a Greek adverb that means 'in this way,' or 'in this manner.'"
Bob has repeatedly presented this as a critical argument in support of his interpretation of Romans 11 in regard to a special, future conversion of the Jews. He insists that “kai houtos” can only be understood his way – even going so far as to ridicule Fathers and Doctors such as Sts. Jerome, Gregory the Great, and John Chrysostom (a native Greek speaker!) for not adopting his translation of this phrase.
But, two years ago, David Palm proved that Bob is simply wrong on this point. Recent research has shown a number of ancient texts that use this phrase with exactly the meaning that Bob rejects. A computer analysis proved that a large majority of native Greek-speakers in the patristic age understood the phrase “kai houtos” in exactly the sense in which Bob insists is impossible. To see the evidence that Bob is wrong on this point, click here.
For years Bob has attacked the belief in a future return of Elijah. He’s ridiculed the view of numerous Fathers and Doctors of the Church as being based on “blunders” and even “exegetical duplicity”. But a detailed look at the topic illustrates that the views of the Fathers and Doctors are eminently solid, while it’s Bob himself who blunders. Click here to read David Palm’s new, detailed treatment of this issue.
Patristic Consensus on…Pastoral Matters?
R. Sungenis: “Mr. Forrest has had no problem in distancing himself from Chrysostom, as have many other pro-Jewish Catholics. But, in fact, Chrysostom was representative of the consensus of Fathers on the Jews. There was no dissension among the Fathers regarding the Jews. The point is this: Mr. Forrest allows himself to reject the consensus of the Fathers when those Fathers are critical of the Jews, but when there is even less of a consensus on whether the Jews will have a mass conversion in the future, Mr. Forrest gloms onto them like Vasoline [sic] on feathers.”
Here, Bob fails to distinguish between a subjective pastoral matter and an objective doctrinal one. It’s a novel idea to appeal to a "consensus" of the Church Fathers on a pastoral matter such as how a Catholic should approach, view and interact with Jews who have not been baptized. According to the Magisterium, the binding nature of a “consensus of the Fathers” relates to doctrinal teachings on matters of faith and morals.
And while Bob expresses outrage at the thought that a Catholic could believe that a Church Father's subjective pastoral approach to Jewish issues would be wrong today and contrary to the mind of the Church (even he has admitted that the Church has adopted a very different pastoral approach now), he has dismissed and otherwise ridiculed their express views on actual doctrinal matters such as the "Conversion of the Jews." Ironically, Bob has denigrated none other than St. John Chrysostom's command of the Greek language because he disagreed with Chrysostom's doctrinal statements on this issue (recall, St. Chrysostom is a Doctor of the Church). This is all the more remarkable when one considers that Chrysostom's native tongue was Greek. And Bob has even gone so far as to impugn St. Augustine's honesty with charges of "exegetical duplicity" in regard to this same issue. (Click here for some rather remarkable examples.) As such, it seems clear that Bob's great respect for and deference to the Fathers – Sts. Chrysostom and Augustine in particular – exists only when they agree with him.
1 Bob also claimed that he “did what he could” “several years ago” to help a Jewish friend of mine to convert – which is false. About twelve years ago a friend and I attended one of Bob’s debates against James White. We spoke with Bob relatively briefly before the debate and had dinner with him and a group of other Catholics afterwards. Although my friend shared with Bob that he was Jewish and considering the Catholic faith, Bob showed almost no interest and hardly said a word about it - which both my friend and I found odd at the time. In retrospect, Bob’s lack of interest in discussing my friend’s possible conversion at that time was providential.
2 Bob has also previously made the argument that God never lifts a hardening once he has placed it. However, ironically, the proof that he’s wrong can be found in one of the very examples he has cited to support his argument. His argument from the Greek grammar is also incorrect. See here.