Sungenis on Romans 11

Sungenis on Romans 11:

Theological Bias in Biblical Exegesis

by David Palm (03/20/10)

 Table of Contents

 Mishandling Romans 11

 

The Magisterium

On the Election of the Jews

On the Conversion of the Jews

 

Sacred Scripture

This Mystery

Until the Fullness of the Gentiles

A Partial Hardening

All Israel

Will Be Saved

 

Related Problems

After St. Paul Was Dead?

Tampering With the Fathers

Does Sungenis Understand the Rules of Greek Grammar?

Does Sungenis Understand the Rules of English Grammar?

καὶ οὕτως

By Sungenis Alone?

 

End Notes



Mishandling Romans 11

In his writings and postings on Jewish issues, Bob Sungenis has an extreme, anti-Jewish point of view that is significantly reflected in his theology.  To be sure, Bob has made a few legitimate theological points regarding Jewish issues  as well—points that have also been made by others.  But he has also made and continues to make numerous technical-sounding “theological” assertions regarding the Jewish people that range from the dubious to the blatantly false.  Some of these have been previously documented (see e.g. "The Theology of Prejudice").  While I have neither the time nor inclination to answer all of the many technical theological arguments Bob makes about Jews, it seems perhaps worthwhile to provide a somewhat detailed critique of a few, for the sake of those who do not have the time and/or ability to do so themselves.  Hopefully, these examples will help illuminate how Bob misuses and/or misunderstands Catholic theology and the Greek language in the service of advancing his extreme anti-Jewish views.

Perhaps it would be worth mentioning at the outset that I have a Master's degree in New Testament studies and studied Greek for four years at the graduate school level.  I also taught Koine Greek at the college level for a year.  While I do not claim to be an "expert", I believe I have an adequate understanding of the language to evaluate Bob's arguments and to state that Bob is either not the trustworthy Greek expert that he portrays himself to be or that he blatantly misuses the Greek language in order to promote his negative personal theological views relating to the Jewish people.

I would like to examine some of the arguments made in support of Bob's major contentions.  The first is that the Jews are not in any way still God's chosen people—there is no special on-going relationship between God and the Jewish people:

The Jews, as a race, are no longer the “chosen people” of God since that designation was true only in the Old Testament when the nation of Israel had a special relationship with God because of the legal standing afforded by the Old Covenant (Dt 10:15; Is 43:20; 2Cor 6:14).[1]

Bob also insists that there will be no special, future conversion of the Jews.  He states categorically:

the “hardness” of the Jews at large must continue right up until the last day when Christ returns, which means that we cannot expect an en masse conversion of Jews during that time. We can only expect, as Paul already stated in Romans 11:5, 14, 23 that the “remnant” of Jews will be saved, the remnant from the Old Testament and the remnant from the New Testament.[2]

Let us look at some of the arguments Sungenis puts forward to try and support these positions.

The first example of Bob's anti-Jewish bias driving his interpretations is his insistence that God has no special, ongoing relationship with the Jewish people.  Bob completely rejects the idea that the Jewish people are still “chosen” by God in any sense.  But it is plain that this is not a view that Sungenis derives from a dispassionate exegesis of Scripture or from the teaching of the Catholic Church.  Rather, Bob's pre-existent, negative bias leads him to make tenuous and/or flatly false arguments.

 

The Magisterium

 On the Election of the Jews

Let us begin first with the teaching of the Church.  Perhaps the most significant evidence in its favor is to be found in section 16 of Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, which says:

Ii tandem qui Evangelium nondum acceperunt, ad Populum Dei diversis rationibus ordinantur. In primis quidem populus ille cui data fuerunt testamenta et promissa et ex quo Christus ortus est secundum carnem (cf. Rom. 9, 4-5), populus secundum electionem carissimus propter patres: sine poenitentia enim sunt dona et vocatio Dei (cf. Rom. 11, 28-29).[3]

Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways.  There is, first, that people to which the covenants and promises were made, and from which Christ was born according to the flesh (cf. Rom: 9:4-5):  in view of the divine choice, they are a people most dear for the sake of the fathers, for the gifts of God are without repentance (cf. Rom 11:28-29).[4]

Here, the Council Fathers explicitly apply the divine election (electionem) to the Jewish people as a whole, to "those who have not yet received the Gospel" and not merely to a subset of Jews who have embraced Christ, as Bob contends.  And they cite Rom 11:28-29 as the Scriptural authority for this teaching.  "Divine election" is, of course, simply another way of stating that the Jewish people are still "chosen" by God.  Similarly, Nostra Aetate 4, states:

Even so, the apostle Paul maintains that the Jews remain [manent] very dear to God, for the sake of the Patriarchs, since God does not take back the gifts he bestowed or the choice he made.[5]

Footnote 11 of this document is to Rom 11:28-29 and Lumen Gentium.  Again, the Council Fathers singled out the Jews and directly applied Rom 11:28-29 to them in the present tense.  This is echoed also by the citation of the same biblical text in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC §839).  Paragraph 1963 of the Catechism also addresses the "chosen people" (a phrase which it only uses in reference to the Jewish people) in the present tense.

This view is supported by another very interesting text, the Postulatum pro Hebraeis that was presented to and signed by most of the bishops attending the First Vatican Council.  Although not officially promulgated and therefore not strictly magisterial, the document nevertheless witnesses to the beliefs of the very bishops who defined the dogma of papal infallibility.  On the specific topic before us, the Postulatum to which they ascribed states, almost 30 years before the first Zionist congress:

The undersigned Fathers of the Council humbly yet urgently beseechingly pray that the Holy Ecumenical Council of the Vatican deign to come to the aid of the unfortunate nation of Israel with an entirely paternal invitation; that is, that it express the wish that, finally exhausted by a wait no less futile than long, the Israelites hasten to recognize the Messiah, our Savior Jesus Christ, truly promised to Abraham and announced by Moses; thus completing and crowning, not changing, the Mosaic religion.

On one hand, the undersigned Fathers have the very firm confidence that the holy Council will have compassion on the Israelitesbecause they are always very dear to God on account of their fathers, and because it is from them that the Christ was born according to the flesh.[6]

Here, even the Fathers of the First Vatican Council interpret St. Paul to have been referring to the very same group of people as "enemies" in respect to the Gospel yet "beloved" of God for the sake of the Patriarchs of Israel - again, directly contrary to Sungenis' view.  

And although not magisterial, the Holy Father (then Cardinal Ratzinger) has made clear that he considers the Jewish people still "chosen" by God:

            Q:  God has not, then, retracted his word that Israel is the Chosen People?

            A:  No, because he is faithful. 

In the process of studying this issue, I did encounter one statement that initially seemed to contradict this view, the consecration prayer to the Sacred Heart promulgated by Pope Leo XIII.  One popular translation reads thus:

Be Thou King of all those who are still involved in the darkness of idolatry or of Islamism, and refuse not to draw them all into the light and kingdom of God. Turn thine eyes of mercy towards the children of that race, once Thy chosen people: of old they called upon themselves the Blood of the Savior; may It now descend upon them a laver of redemption and of life.[7]

The phrase “once Thy chosen people” could be interpreted to imply that the Jews are no longer “Thy chosen people.” But the actual issue here seems to be one of imprecision in translation rather than substance.  The original Latin reads thus: Respice denique misericordiae oculis illius gentis filios, quae tamdiu populus electus fuit, which translated literally would be, "Finally, turn eyes of mercy toward the children of that race, which for so long has been an elect [chosen] people."  In the popular English translation previously cited, the word tamdiu has been translated as "once".  But "for so long" is a more accurate rendering.  And "for so long" does not imply a termination of the divine election.  Certainly the perfect indicative fuit indicates that the choosing took place in the past—that's undisputed—but it leaves untouched the question of whether that choice continues into the present.  At the very least this text does not contradict the magisterial texts cited above.

 

On the Conversion of the Jews

With respect to a future, special conversion of the Jewish people, Bob's bias again shows itself plainly.  His extremely tendentious approach to the testimony of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church on this point has been documented at great length.  He is forced to admit that far more than “only two” Fathers and Doctors (as he originally claimed) held to this belief.  Indeed, he is forced to acknowledge that this was a prominently held position, with St. Cyril of Alexandria in the East stating that, "Everybody who knows Holy Scripture is aware that, in the course of time, this people will return to the love of Christ by the submission of faith . . .", St. Augustine in the West that, "It is a familiar theme in the conversation and heart of the faithful, that in the last days before the judgment the Jews shall believe in the true Christ, that is, our Christ", and Pope St. Gregory the Great stating that, "We know, my friends, that at the end of the world even Judea will be brought to faith in the Redeemer. Paul testifies to this by saying: 'Until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, and thus all Israel is saved'."

Generally when Fathers and Doctors and sainted Popes proclaim a belief that is held across the length and breadth of Christendom, Catholics call that handing on sacred Tradition.  But Sungenis continues to do everything he possibly can to deny this.  He tries to pit one Father against another, seeks every possible ground on which to discredit their individual testimonies, tries to impugn their reliability by reference to unrelated issues, highlights any possible ambiguity even if the very same Father or Doctor makes his views clear in other passages, ridicules their exegetical skills (even impugning their honesty with charges of "exegetical duplicity"), and seeks to exploit any perceived weakness.  In short, on this matter, Sungenis' methodology seems more that of an anti-Catholic propagandist than a faithful son of the Church.[8]

But despite these tactics, the belief that in the future there will be a special conversion of the Jews to Christ is expressed by so many Fathers and Doctors of the Church that such scholarly works as the Catholic Encyclopedia state matter-of-factly that, "According to the interpretation of the Fathers, the conversion of the Jews towards the end of the world is foretold by St. Paul in the Epistle to the Romans (11:25-26)".[9]

Bob's bias shows itself again in his treatment of magisterial texts.  On the future of Jewish people, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

The glorious Messiah's coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by "all Israel", for "a hardening has come upon part of Israel" in their "unbelief" toward Jesus.  St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: "Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old."  St. Paul echoes him: "For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?"  The "full inclusion" of the Jews in the Messiah's salvation, in the wake of "the full number of the Gentiles", will enable the People of God to achieve "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ", in which "God may be all in all" (CCC §674).

Of course, in English the expression "in the wake of", when used metaphorically to describe a temporal relationship, means "following after".  But for Sungenis this can't be, so he seeks to remold this metaphor:

Interestingly enough, the Catechism’s metaphor that the full inclusion of the Jews “in the wake of” the full number of the Gentiles would not disagree with the view presented in this commentary on Romans, since it implies that the “fullness of the Gentiles” salvation can occur at the same time as “all Israel is saved,” rather than the latter coming chronologically after the former. (CASB III, p. 469)

This interpretation is fatuous as it stands—"in the wake of" as a temporal metaphor in English does not mean "at the same time as"—but the official Latin text of the Catechism renders it impossible.  The phrase in question runs, Ingressus plenitudinis Iudaeorum in salutem messianicam, post plenitudinem gentium, literally, "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").

Bob has also tried to blunt this reference to CCC §674 by claiming that it doesn't necessarily refer to a special, future conversion of the Jews.  He has done the same sort of thing with the reference to Israel's conversion in Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma.  As he does with the Fathers, Doctors, Saints, and Popes, Bob tries to make what Ott wrote appear to be vague and/or conflicted.[10]  But the fact is that Ott puts the conversion of the Jews under the heading "signs of the second coming."  What kind of "sign" would there be in Bob's view?  According to his minimalist view, there is nothing but a continuation of the status quo—a trickle of individual Jewish converts with the Jewish people as a whole remaining hardened and completely estranged from God—right up until the Second Coming.  This is like Scripture deconstructionists who argue that "the virgin shall conceive" in Isa 7:14 is really just "the young woman will conceive".  What kind of sign is that?  A sign, by definition is something unusual, readily noticeable—it is something SIGNificant.[11]

And in the CCC too, this information is placed under the section dealing with what will occur leading up to the Second Coming.  Everything else listed there is something that a person could perceive—Christ's return itself, the "final trial" of the Church that will "shake the faith" of her members, and the coming of Antichrist.   And the recognition of the Messiah by "all Israel" is right square in the middle of that section.   So, Bob would have the reader believe that it alone is something that is merely a continuation of the status quo.  If so, then why would the Church even bother to put it in the Catechism here?   According to Bob's unusual interpretation, Romans 11 isn't really that big of a deal.  Very odd, then, that the Church found it important enough to include along with the Great Tribulation, the Great Apostasy, and the Antichrist as signs of the Second Coming.

 

Sacred Scripture

Now, let's turn our attention from Bob's biased approach to magisterial texts, to the way in which these biases affect the way he handles the text of Scripture.  There are many instances in which he is forced to propose views on the text that are exceedingly tenuous.  These instances are, in fact, so numerous that the sheer length of the rebuttal would be excessively tedious for the reader.  I would like to highlight a number of them, while bidding the reader to understand that these represent only a sample of the many problems in Bob's exegesis.

Speaking of the Jews in Rom 11:28 St. Paul says, "From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers".  But because in Sungenis' view it's impossible for Jews to be in any way "chosen"—at least in a positive sense[12]—he splits this sentence up, so that it refers to two totally different groups of Jews:

There are Jews that are “enemies of the gospel” but there is a smaller group of “elect” Jews who are “beloved of God.” If this is not the case, then Paul is using two entirely different definitions of the word “election” in the same context, one individual and one national. But a national or ethnic “election” of Israel is never the meaning Paul uses in his epistles.[13]

He seeks to provide evidence of his claim with an allegedly significant nuance of the Greek text: "The pronoun 'they' in verse 28 is not in the Greek. The Greek literally reads: 'According to the gospel, enemies on your account; according to the election, beloved on account of the fathers'".[14]

First, one should keep firmly in mind that Bob's over-all interpretation of this passage is contrary to the interpretation given by the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium §16 and Nostra Aetate §4 (see above).  Second, the evidence Bob proffered in this instance doesn't prove anything of interpretive significance.  Although Bob is correct that the pronoun "they" is not in the Greek, this fact does nothing to support his idiosyncratic exegesis of the passage.  It is an elementary rule of Greek that the verb "to be" is frequently implied by the author and thus must be supplied by the reader.[15] That is why all English translations (as well as French, Italian, etc.) supply the words "they are" in v. 28.  As such, there is no interpretive significance to the lack of these words in the Greek.

In fact, the strict parallelism of the verse and the lack of any hint that two different groups are in view strongly militates against Sungenis' view.  The Greek of the verse runs thus:

 

κατὰ μὲν             τὸ εὐαγγέλιον                                 ἐχθροὶ                 δι' ὑμᾶς,

according to    the Gospel      [they are]        enemies          for your sake

κατὰ δὲ               τὴν ἐκλογὴν                                      ἀγαπητοὶ          διὰ τοὺς πατέρας:

according to    the election     [they are]        beloved           for the sake

of the fathers

 

The parallelism that St. Paul was establishing is obvious.  Equally obvious is that the two predicates—the enemies (ἐχθροὶ) and the beloved (ἀγαπητοὶ)—are grammatically parallel, agreeing with each other in case and number.  Therefore all evidence is that they share the same subject.  There is no hint in the text that there are two separate groups in view here; actually, the Greek grammar runs against it.[16]

If St. Paul had intended to reference two distinct Jewish groups in this context, there are any number of ways he could have done so.   The fact that he did not choose any of these ways makes it clear that only one group, the Jewish people at large, is in view.  And there is nothing unexpected here.  St. Paul had already referred to the Jewish people at large as God's people: "God has not rejected His people who He foreknew [οὐκ ἀπώσατο ὁ θεὸς τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ ὃν προέγνω]" (Rom 11:2).  St. Paul points to the example of the remnant of 7000 faithful Israelites in the OT who had not bent the knee to Baal as proof that God had not rejected His people then—but note well that both the faithful and the unfaithful remained part of God's people.  Similarly, St. Paul points to the remnant of Jews who embrace Jesus Christ in St. Paul's (and our) day as proof that God still has not rejected His people—and again, both the obedient and the disobedient remain part of His people (see Rom 11:30-31).  St. Paul presents the remnant, both then and now, as proof that "His people" has not been rejected.  The remnant of Israel is not, as Bob would have it, presented as the whole of those who are "His people".[17]

To be sure there is, according to St. Paul, a spiritual Israel which is much broader in scope than Israel "according to the flesh"; as the Apostle says, "For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel" (cf. Rom 9:6ff and the "Israel of God", Gal 6:16, which is the Catholic Church.)  But this fact does not automatically obliterate any and all distinction between spiritual Israel and Israel according to the flesh.  Those who would make a blanket substitution between the Church as the New Israel and fleshly Israel, as if the latter is entirely eclipsed by the former, are invited to exchange "the Church" for "Israel" and the relevant pronouns in Romans 11.  This exercise renders the entire chapter completely incoherent and thereby proves that the Apostle did indeed have a distinction in mind between spiritual Israel and Israel according to the flesh in that passage.

The fact is that there are many passages in the New Testament which speak of fleshly Israel as an entity which continues to exist even as the Church has been established as the spiritual Israel (Acts 2:22, 36; 3:12; 4:10; 13:16; Phil 3:5; et al.).  And to return to Romans 11, according to St. Paul, the Jewish people who do not believe in Christ as a whole remain the "natural branches" (τῶν κατὰ φύσιν κλάδων, literally "the branches according to nature"; Rom 11:21) and the olive tree is spoken of as "their own" [τῇ ἰδίᾳ ἐλαίᾳ], even in their separated state (Rom 11:24).  The Gentiles, the "wild olive shoot", are grafted on to their tree.  And it seems clear from the flow of the passage as a whole and from the building climax that St. Paul lays out, precisely that at some point the remnant will become the "fullness", the "some" will become "all". He specifically contrasts the remnant [λεῖμμα] of v. 5, the "some" [τινες] of v. 17, and the "in part" [ἀπὸ μέρους] of v. 25 with the "fullness" [πλήρωμα] of v. 12 and "all Israel" [πᾶς Ἰσραὴλ] of v. 26.[18] Now there is a remnant, there are some, a "part" of the Jewish people being saved. But when the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, then the "fullness", "all Israel" will be saved.[19]

 

This Mystery

Sungenis' treatment of the phrase "all Israel"—that it means nothing more than the sum total of the trickle of individual Jewish converts who embrace Christ over time—can at best be called eccentric.  For one thing, it renders almost completely vacuous St. Paul's insistence that the salvation of "all Israel" represents a "mystery" (τὸ μυστήριον τοῦτο), which in Scripture is part of the deep counsels of God revealed only by Him (cf. Mat 13:11; 1 Cor 2:7; Eph 3:3f.)[20]  Sungenis takes what St. Paul declared to be a divinely revealed mystery of God's unfathomable wisdom and mercy and renders it more a demonstration of unrelenting, merciless judgment.  Whereas St. Paul exults in the wonder of this marvelous work of God—"O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!" (Rom 11:33), Sungenis would have us believe that the expression of God's great love for the Fathers of Israel is that He deigns to save a trickle of Jews in the future, stopping just short of irrevocably damning every last one of them -  including those Jews who have yet to even be born -  to Hell.  Sungenis' explanation of the "mystery" of Israel's salvation does little to illuminate the words of St. Paul, but perhaps much to illuminate his own attitude towards the Jewish people.


Until the Fullness of the Gentiles

Sungenis' exegesis of the passage also runs into the relative difficulty that St. Paul states that, "a partial hardening has happened to Israel until [χρις ο] the fullness of the Gentiles has come in" (Rom 11:25).  But the use of the word "until"—especially in conjunction with St. Paul's qualification that the hardening is only "partial"—naturally implies that after the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, the partial hardening will be removed.  Sungenis counters this by noting that "until" does not always indicate that the action of the main clause is reversed or terminated:

As I said in my essay, the word "until" is the Greek achri hou. Achri hou can either terminate or continue the action. It works just like the heos hou phrase in Mt 1:25. Catholic doctrine holds that the heos hou clause continues the action of the verb, and thus Mary continued her virginity even after the birth of Jesus. Consequently, if achri hou in Romans 11:25 continues the action of the verb, then that means Israel's blindness will continue indefinitely, that is, right up to the end of time. If achri hou terminates the action of the verb, then the [sic] Israel's blindness will stop at some time, that is, at the fulness of the Gentiles.

To this John Pacheco replied:

Agreed. "Achri hou" can mean that the action in the preceding clause either continues or ceases to continue after "until". There is no grammatical basis for insisting on either meaning. But this does not help either your position or mine. It is a neutral point. The meaning of "achri hou" must be understood by the context of the passage.

But I cannot agree with Pacheco that this is a "neutral point".  Rather, the use of "until" in Greek (be it ως, ως ο, χρι(ς), or χρι(ς) ο) normally implies the termination and even reversal of the action of the verb in the main clause.  Catholics can readily admit this fact without any hesitation because we argue that there are excellent reasons in Matt 1:25 for not seeing this termination/reversal in that specific instance.[21]  But the burden of proof really is on us.  Similarly, given the normal use of "until", the natural understanding of St. Paul's statement in v. 25 that, "a partial hardening has happened to Israel until [χρις ο] the fullness of the Gentiles has come in" is that the partial hardening will cease when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  The burden of proof is on Sungenis to give compelling reasons why the normal meaning of "until" should be rejected and he has not done so.

 

A Partial Hardening

Sungenis' insistence on the permanence of this hardened state of some of the Jews leads him to deploy further flawed arguments.  He states:

The use of γέγονεν in its perfect tense shows that the partial resistance or hardening began in the past (Rm 11:7-10) and persists in the present (Rm 11:5), and will continue into the future. Пώρωσις is not merely callousness, but a heart turned to stone, hardened like petrified wood (Mk 3:5; Ep 4:18). The verbal form is πωρόω appearing in vr. 7 (cf. Mk 6:52; 8:17; Jn 12:40; 2Co 3:14). Most significant is the fact that in these passages the hardening is never lifted. It is permanent because it serves as a final divine judgment upon the stubbornly unrepentant (cf. Ac 7:51; Mt 13:13; Rm 9:18).[22]

There are several serious problems with this argument.  First, the conclusion Sungenis draws from the use of the perfect tense goes well beyond what that tense actually indicates.  The perfect tense does not, in itself, convey an action that "began in the past . . . persists in the present . . . and will continue into the future", as he claims.  It does, "denote the continuance of completed action" (BDF §340), but this means only that the action continues to the point at which the author is writing—the tense does not, by itself, establish that the action will certainly "continue into the future".  Sungenis is making an extravagant claim about Greek grammar according to his theological bias.

Second, one of the passages cited by Sungenis speaks generically of "the Gentiles" [τὰ ἔθνη] who have been "excluded from the life of God" on account of "the hardness of their heart" [διὰ τὴν πώρωσιν τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν] (Eph 4:17-18).  Strangely, Sungenis does not wax poetic on the utter desolation and permanence of the hardening of "the Gentiles" in the same way he does of "the Jews".  He does not remain consistent and formulate a theology in which the bulk of "the Gentiles" are permanently and irrevocably hardened until the end of time, with only a trickle of converts at any given time summing up to the "fullness of the Gentiles".  Why are Jews singled out for such an utterly dismal prognosis?

But even more importantly, Sungenis is simply wrong when he states that, "in these passages the 'hardenings' are never lifted".  One of the very passages he cites, Mark 6:52, states, "for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened [αὐτῶν ἡ καρδία πεπωρωμένη]."  Here we have the very same verb he highlights, πωρόω, and we even have it in the perfect tense (πεπωρωμένη is a perfect participle).  But the Gospel is speaking of our Lord's own disciples, who had gotten into the boat before Him (see Mark 6:45).  Would Sungenis have us believe that the hardness of heart of the disciples, "will continue into the future" and "the hardening is never lifted.  It is permanent because it serves as a final divine judgment upon the stubbornly unrepentant"?  Sungenis has been insisting for years that God never lifts a hardening, but the very Scriptures that he cites as evidence refute his claim.

 

All Israel

Sungenis further insists that the "all" in the phrase "all Israel" must be taken strictly.  To Mark Cameron he states, “What you accept and what the text demands are apparently two different things. The text says ‘all Israel’, not some. If, as is the case, you see ‘all Israel’ and figure that this must be something more than a remnant, then by what authority do you then retreat from the meaning of 'all'?"[23]  And to Jacob Michael he stated:

He just arbitrarily decides that “all” cannot mean what “all” normally means. He is such a stickler for proper definitions and applications when he thinks the evidence is on his side . . . . but here in Rm 11:26 Mr. Michael knows that it would be rather absurd to insist that every single Jew should be expected to convert. Thus, if the word won’t fit, then he reserves himself the right to change the definition of the word.[24]

But in another context that did not involve Jews or Jewish issues, Bob argues exactly the opposite: "If you are referring to the change from 'many' to 'all', Scripturally speaking there is no difference between the two . . . In key soteriological texts, Scripture often interchanges the meaning of 'many' with 'all'.  In effect, Scripture neither always intends 'many' to exclude 'all' nor always intends 'all' to include all."[25]

It is precisely the evidence that should have precluded Bob from maintaining his absolutist view on the phrase πᾶς Ἰσραὴλ [all Israel].  There is nothing "arbitrary" about limiting its scope.  New Testament scholar J. D. G. Dunn notes that, "There is now a strong consensus that πᾶς Ἰσραὴλ must mean Israel as a whole, as a people whose corporate identity and wholeness would not be lost even if in the event there were some (or indeed many) individual exceptions."[26]  This is supported by many uses of the phrase "all Israel" in the Septuagint and extra-biblical literature. See 1 Sam 7:5; 25:1; 1 Kings 12:1; 2 Chron 12:1; Dan 9:11 in the Septuagint and Jub. 50:9; T. Levi 17:5; T. Jos. 20:5; T. Ben. 10:11; Ps. Philo 22:1; 23:1; and Mishnah m. Sanh. 10:1 in extra-biblical literature.[27]  This common use of the phrase illustrates that this does not mean necessarily each and every individual without exception but, as Fr. Fernand Prat, S. J. says, "It is clearly a question here of the Messianic salvation and the totality is to be understood as meaning the mass of Israel as a nation, some individuals excepted."[28]  And this must be reserved to a future time, since in St. Paul's day, as now, there is only a remnant of Jews who embrace Christ as their Messiah.

 

Will Be Saved

But Sungenis has insisted that there is "no such definitive marker in the text" that St. Paul is speaking of a future time in v. 25.[29]  This ignores St. Paul's use of the future passive verb σωθήσεται.  This is a straightforward future tense: "all Israel will be saved" (σωθήσεται)."  Note too the contrast of this with v. 14, where St. Paul says that at the present time he is only able to help save “some of them” (and uses the Greek present tense): σώσω τινὰς ἐξ αὐτῶν.  "Some" are being saved now, but "all" in the sense of "the mass of Israel as a nation" will be saved in the future.  That certainly sounds a lot like a future, special conversion of the Jews.  Now as Michael Forrest has pointed out, if St. Paul had actually intended to convey that only a trickle of Jews would be saved throughout Church history -- concurrently with the salvation of the Gentiles -- and that in the end this would constitute the salvation of "all Israel" (as Bob believes) then he could have written that, "a hardening has come upon Israel in part until the full number of the Gentiles comes in, and thus all Israel will have been saved, …."  (using the future perfect tense).  Bob countered with the argument that, "the Future Perfect does not exist in the New Testament Koine Greek, as confirmed by several lexicons. Thus, the form 'will have been saved' would never be used in Koine Greek."  But, after consulting with  the Greek department at Columbia University, Forrest rightly countered that, "it certainly was not commonly used, but it is going too far to say that it did not even exist, or that it was entirely unavailable. . . . Regardless, the availability of the future perfect form of 'save' in Greek is really irrelevant, because a periphrastic form was readily available to convey the same force and nuance: 'sesosmenos estai'".[30]  Again, Bob was caught making incorrect assertions about the Greek language, assertions that simply miss the point.

So in summary, yes, there is a divine choice/election that applies to the Jewish people as a whole, although it must be emphasized that this election is not unto salvation—rather, it is God's special, abiding love for them "for the sake of the fathers".  The whole thrust of Romans 11 is that God has a special, abiding care for the Jewish people which, while not salvific in itself, brings blessing to the people as a whole and salvation, first to a "remnant", but ultimately to "all Israel".[31]

There is no evidence that Bob's eccentric view has any place in the Catholic exegetical tradition.  But the exegesis I have presented in brief above accords with a broad consensus of older and more modern Catholic commentators and translators (cf. e.g. Cornely, Fillion, Lagrange, Prat, Theissen, Byrne, Légasse, et al.), along with a broad selection of non-Catholic exegetes as well.[32]  As we have seen above, it harmonizes perfectly well with the teaching of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, as well as with magisterial statements.[33]  In view of the analysis above, Bob's attempt to break out the "enemies" and the "beloved" of Rom 11:28 into two separate groups of people is without any real justification.  Perhaps his personal view here is at least in part a carry-over from his time in Protestant circles.  As Protestant scholar H. A. W. Meyer has stated:

The Reformers were induced to depart from the literal sense of the apostle, not by exegetical, but by dogmatic considerations, and also by their bad opinion of Jewish depravity ("a Jew or Jewish heart is as hard as stock, stone, iron, or devil, so as in no way to be moved," etc., Luther, 1548, who passed a milder judgment at an earlier period).[34]

 

Related Problems

 

After St. Paul Was Dead?

Unfortunately, these many examples of mistreatment of magisterial documents and highly tenuous exegetical arguments are far from isolated incidents of negative bias in Bob's theology as it pertains to the Jewish people.  Other eye-opening examples that have been highlighted in the past include Bob's repeated insistence that part of the "context" of Romans 11 is the fall of Jerusalem:

Rm 11:24 must be interpreted within these specific parameters, but this is an easy task once one understands the context of Rm 11:1-4.  As we noted earlier, the logical question one would ask after the Temple curtain was miraculously torn in two at the exact moment of Christ’s death on the cross (Mt 27:51), followed by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Romans, is:  Do the Jews have any future with God at all?  Can any of them be saved any longer?  We saw above that the answer is “yes”, but it is a qualified “yes”, since only a remnant will be saved.  The rest will remain in unbelief….[35]

The problem, of course, is that the fall of Jerusalem occurred in A.D. 70, at least twelve years after Romans was written and 3 years after St. Paul was dead!  This is an elementary blunder which I have previously pointed out, but Sungenis has repeated it at least five times—including at least twice in his "Catholic Apologetics Study Bible" volumes.[36]  It is little wonder Sungenis struggles to exegete Romans 11 correctly when he repeatedly insists that part of its essential context is an event that took place after the author was dead.  Regardless of how Sungenis may eventually attempt to explain away this glaring, elementary error, the reader must simply keep in mind that, no matter what he says, it is a logical impossibility for events that took place after an author was dead to form part of the context for his writings.  One would have thought that this would be obvious.

 

Tampering With the Fathers

Another instance of Bob's highly biased behavior on this matter is when he was caught cropping a patristic quote to nip out just the part that refers to a future conversion of the Jews:

I also find that you have shortened the St. John Chrysostom quote in a way that reduces any suggestion of a future conversion ("does not apply it to some distant event in the future"). You quote Chrysostom as saying: "God’s covenant will be fulfilled not when they are circumcised...but when they obtain the forgiveness of sins...it will certainly come to pass."

But the full quote is this: "God’s covenant will be fulfilled not when they are circumcised, nor when they do other deeds of the law, but when they obtain the forgiveness of sins. If this has been promised but has not yet happened in their case, nor have they enjoyed the forgiveness of sins in baptism, it will certainly come to pass." This language of fulfillment of the covenant that "has been promised but has not yet happened in their case" (which you omitted) sounds more like "a distant event in the future."[37]

Similarly, in at least three additional instances, Mark Cameron, Michael Forrest, and Ben Douglass have caught Bob selectively quoting from the Fathers in order to bolster a view unfavorable to the Jews.  The latter two men pointed these mistakes out to Sungenis well before the publication of CASB2, but Sungenis ignored their correction and went to print with the errors.[38]

 

Does Sungenis Understand the

Rules of Greek Grammar?

We have already seen that Sungenis is very quick to point to Greek tenses if he thinks they will allow him to score points (see the discussion above concerning his mishandling of the perfect tense in the discussion on "hardening").  So, to John Pacheco he states, "you quoted from Romans 11:31 to try to prove your point ("so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.") but the verse is in the PRESENT TENSE and refers to THAT time."[39]  But elsewhere he admits that, "The ironic thing is, even if the Greek text of Romans 9:4 employed a verb in the present tense, it doesn’t require what we understand in English as a present action. In Greek, the present tense can refer either to the past, present or future."[40]  So again we see that Sungenis will deploy contradictory arguments, depending upon what best serves his purposes at the time.

 

Does Sungenis Understand the

Rules of English Grammar?

Now, speaking of grammar, Bob has even invented rules of English grammar to prove himself right in regard to his "Jewish theology."  In his Q & A section, Bob responded to the statement that, "When Pope Paul VI issued the Missale Romanum of 1969, the only prayer for the Jewish people in the Roman liturgy was completely revised for Good Friday to reflect a renewed understanding of the Jews as God’s chosen people, 'first to hear the word of God.'"  Bob's response was to claim that the text "does not say 'the Jews ARE God's chosen people.'  By using the particle 'as,' the reference is completely to the past."[41]  Put simply, Bob would have everyone believe that the particle "as" has the force of conveying the past tense.  This is nonsense.  And the fact that Bob could state something so nonsensical in such a factual way ought to naturally make one seriously question the veracity of his "grammatical" arguments in the Greek, where far fewer people are sufficiently equipped to detect such errors.

 

καὶ οὕτως

Another example of Bob's exegetical bias is his insistence that the Greek phrase καὶ οὕτως must be understood in only one way, his: "notice that 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.'"[42]  Bob has repeatedly presented this as though it is a critical argument in support of his interpretation of Romans 11 in regard to a special, future conversion of the Jews.  But, as Dunn rightly points out, whether καὶ οὕτως is understood temporally ("and then") or modally ("in this way") does not mitigate against a future, special conversion of Jews in Rom 11:25.[43]  Regardless,  Bob continues to insist that it can only be understood his way.  He has even gone 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.[44]

I think that it is difficult to eliminate the temporal aspect entirely from such verses as Acts 7:8; 28:14; 1 Cor 11:28; 14:25; and 1 Thess 4:17 which contain καὶ οὕτως.  And although certain scholars have stated what Bob asserts, namely that καὶ οὕτως is never used in a temporal sense, that assertion can no longer be sustained in light of more recent research.  As J. M. Scott argues in his detailed study:

Although . . . the most natural interpretation of καὶ οὕτως in context is the temporal one, most scholars . . . have rejected this intepretation because the adverb οὕτως is allegedly never used in a temporal sense.  This objection can no longer be sustained for several reasons.  First, there are plentiful examples of the temporal sense of οὕτως and even of καὶ οὕτως.  Pieter W. van der Horst has recently shown on the basis of examples from classical, Judeo-Greek, and early Christian literatures that (καὶ) οὕτως is often found in the temporal sense.  We may add to his list a number of examples from Josephus that clearly illustrate the temporal sense of καὶ οὕτως (cf. Ant. 4.287; 5.209; 6.83; 7.366; 9.202; 13.41; 17.72; 18.43).  It should no longer be asserted that the temporal interpretation of Rom 11:26a is impossible on lexical grounds.[45] 

In fact, even native Greek speakers in the centuries immediately following the writing of the New Testament specifically saw in Rom 11:25 exactly what Bob insists cannot be there:

. . . the Greek Patristic literature in the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae CD-ROM ... shows that kai houtos in Rom 11:26 was most commonly (73% of 60 citations!) understood in the temporal sense of "and then." For Greek Patristic texts frequently substitute for kai houtos some other expression, such as tote or meta touto . . .[45]

In other words, the large majority of native Greek-speakers in the patristic age understood the phrase καὶ οὕτως in exactly the sense which Sungenis insists is impossible.  And he has presented this erroneous assertion as a critical part of his argument regarding the "conversion of the Jews."

 

By Sungenis Alone?

One final example will have to suffice.  Back in 2006, Bob stated that, "not one Catholic exegete in all of Church history (at least that I can find) has done a detailed and comprehensive grammatical and syntactical analysis of Romans 11:25-27."[46]  And now, after having completed and published his CASB3 volume on Romans, he has repeated that claim:

In fact, I dare say that much of the meticulous Greek analysis I have given to Romans 9 and 11 in my commentary (CASB III: The Epistles of Romans and James, published in 2008 by CAI Publishing, Inc.) has never been done in any Catholic exegesis of the issue. If it has, I am unaware of it.[47]

And further on he says,

If the authors can cite even one of these theologians who has done a detailed and exhaustive exegesis on the key passages that we have covered above, all of us should consider what they have to say. Unfortunately, we don’t find any such significant studies.[48]

Yet in February of 2008, after just a few hours of research, we documented at least sixteen full-length scholarly Catholic commentaries and numerous technical monographs; we have documented more of each since then.[49]  We published that list long before Bob had published his CASB3.  If Bob was and still is "unaware" of "any Catholic exegesis of the issue" and he doesn't "find any such significant studies", it is because he has failed to do even the most basic research on the topic.[50]

Candidly, such a complete failure of scholarship cannot be easily explained without lapsing into ridicule.  It is made all the more difficult to excuse when one recalls that Sungenis, a man who procured an illegitimate "doctorate" so that he could “show the world” that he has the same credentials as legitimate scholars[51], has had the temerity to ridicule the intellectual integrity, honesty and acumen of even Fathers and Doctors of the Church when he disagrees with them.  He has reacted similarly to renowned scholars such as Dom. Bernard Orchard, once making the following ludicrous statement: "The quote you have from Dom Orchard misses this, of course, since he didn't know Greek."[52]  Mark Cameron quite rightly protested:

Now this is absurd! Dom Bernard Orchard is one of the most important Catholic New Testament scholars of the 20th century. Among his many works are "A Synopsis of the Four Gospels in Greek." You couldn’t even get a good degree from an English university without a good knowledge of Greek back when Dom Orchard started his career -- let alone become the leading Catholic Biblical scholar.[53]

And in 2008, Sungenis even took Pope Benedict XVI to task over his exposition of Gal 2:11ff., stating that "he is quite incorrect", he "is simply shortsighted", he has advanced a "non-traditional exegesis" which "falls right in line with the liberal hermeneutic" and which contains more than one "exegetical blunder".  But in this disrespectful (and erroneous) attempt to correct the Pope, Bob advanced several more of his own blunders.[54]

And now he makes the audacious claim that his own "meticulous" work on Romans 11, "has never been done in any Catholic exegesis of the issue".  But it is plain that he has done little or nothing to even locate, let alone interact with, the numerous scholarly exegetical works produced by Catholic scholars over the past 150 years.  In spite of all this, Bob has had the temerity to compile lists of exegetical questions that he demands others must answer before he will be satisfied.  Perhaps before effectively setting himself up as the absolute standard by which all exegesis and orthodoxy must be measured, he should, rather, humbly immerse himself in the works of his superiors and then endeavor to faithfully pass on to others what he has learned.  

In closing, I have critiqued a few of Bob’s technical-sounding arguments simply in order to illustrate that they are often dubious and sometimes blatantly false – in spite of the absolute surety with which he so often states them. Yet, I did so simply as his peer. It is important to remember that the ultimate proof that Bob is wrong is that he contradicts the teaching of the Church, as illustrated in the first half of this essay (Lumen Gentium, Nostra Aetate, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as many Fathers, Doctors, and Popes).

And for what reason?  Mark Cameron asks this very salient question in his "dialogue" with Bob on Romans 11:

My other question is, given the broad consensus I have found in Catholic sources saying that there will be such a future conversion of Jews to the faith, some from sources that you must have seen before in your wide reading, why are you so keen to deny this teaching?[55]

One is indeed forced to ask, why is Bob straining so hard, making such untenable arguments that do not comport with the Fathers, Doctors, Popes, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and various magisterial texts?  What is driving him?

Based on an extensive historical record, the answer to that question is clear.  In sum, Sungenis has repeatedly given evidence that his anti-Jewish prejudice seriously taints his theology, even in his alleged areas of greatest strength such as biblical exegesis and analysis of the Greek language.  As such, readers should remain very cautious and highly skeptical of his exegetical and doctrinal claims when Jews are involved in any way.  As we have seen too often, one must essentially choose between the Church and Bob Sungenis.

 

End Notes



[4] A. Flannery, Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents. Northport: Costello Publishing Company, Inc., 1984., p. 367.

 

[5] Ibid., p. 741

 

[8] See citations and documentation of Bob's treatment of these witnesses in my article "The Ongoing Role of the Jews in Salvation History".  On his dismissive approach to the Fathers we wrote:

When it comes to preserving his interpretive bias, however, Bob is unshakeable, and un-teachable; even the witness of the Church Fathers, Doctors, and Sainted Popes to the contrary will be met with protestations from Bob like the following:

  • "some of the Fathers were poor at exegeting Scripture." (Will Enoch and Elijah Return to Preach to the Jews?, p. 3)
  • "As a result of [Augustine's] exegetical duplicity [!], Augustine and his followers subsequently produced many forced interpretations of Ap 11:5-8 and Rm 11:25-26 to make room for both a Jewish conversion and a Jewish evangelism to the Gentiles." (
  • ibid., p. 17)
  • "Some of [the Fathers] did not even know the languages of the Bible, Greek and Hebrew." (ibid., p. 3)
  • "with the tools of biblical exegesis we have today, as well as the exegetical knowledge and easy access of Greek and Hebrew not available to some of the Fathers, contemporary exegetes of Scripture have a distinct advantage in discovering the truths of Holy Writ that were not always available to the Fathers." (ibid., p. 4)
  • "Of the dozen or so Fathers that speak about a future conversion of the Jews, only superficial and question-begging assertions are made of Rm 11:25-27, and often with some obvious blunders." (ibid., p. 11)
  • "Gregory’s treatment of both Rm 11:25 and Is 61:7 contain obvious blunders" (ibid., p. 20)
  • "Gregory interprets the Greek word [houtos] as 'and as follows,' ... But as we noted previously, [houtos] does not mean 'then' or 'afterwards'" (ibid., pp. 20-21)
  • "Here we see Jerome interpreting the Greek adverb [houtos] as if it were the word 'then.' It seems that the Fathers were so conditioned by the Chiliasts that went before them, even when the definitions of Greek words were staring them in the face, that they didn't see the real meaning of the word." (ibid., p. 21, fn. 34)
  • "As we will see, not one Father addressed the exegetical details of the passages in question, much less could any of them come to firm conclusions about their interpretations." (ibid., p. 20)
  • "Not knowing Hebrew, Chrysostom and Augustine often end up in unsupported exegesis by relying only on the LXX" (Intense Dialogue on Romans 11)
  • "In fact, Chrysostom incorrectly turns the Greek 'houtos' in Romans 11:26 from its function as an adverb modifying how Israel will be saved into a future time element for the salvation." (Judaizers in the Catholic Church)

("CASB2's Missing Imprimatur: The Real Reason the Bishop Said 'No'?".)  Note that the first nine statements above, including the snipe about St. Augustine's "exegetical duplicity" have been reproduced in CASB3, pp. 439ff.

 

[9] S.v. "General Judgment".  It is noteworthy that the Catholic Encyclopedia, like Ludwig Ott and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, lists the "Conversion of the Jews" as one of the notable signs that indicate the coming of the Last Judgment.  The article "Eschatology" says that, "St. Paul looked forward to the ultimate conversion of the Jewish people as a remote event to be preceded by the conversion of the Gentiles (Romans 11:25 sqq.). Various others are spoken of as preceding or ushering in the end, as a great apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:3 sqq.), or falling away from faith or charity (Luke 18:8; 17:26; Matthew 24:12), the reign of Antichrist, and great social calamities and terrifying physical convulsions".  And in the article "St. Paul" written by the renowned Pauline scholar, Fr. Fernand Prat, the Catholic Encyclopedia states, "Although the coming of Christ will be sudden, it will be heralded by three signs: * general apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:3), * the appearance of Antichrist (2:3-12), and * the conversion of the Jews (Romans 11:26)".

 

[10] See his discussion of Ludwig Ott with Mark Cameron in "Intense Dialogue on Romans 11".

 

[11] Note that Michael Forrest advanced this argument in significant detail as early as September of 2006 (see the section on the Catechism of the Catholic Church).  Bob has simply ignored this important point over the years.  It remains highly significant that Ludwig Ott, the contributors to the Catholic Encyclopedia, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church group this future, special conversion of the Jews as a visible sign of the impending Second Coming, establishing it as something both generally visible and out of the ordinary.  This directly contradicts Sungenis' view.

Another allusion to this future reconciliation of the Jewish people with their Messiah is found here: "The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about again. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly cultivator. Yet the true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ, without whom we can do nothing" (CCC §755; emphasis mine.)

 

[12] This is true at least for any positive choosing.  As far as negative choosing, that seems fine to Sungenis.  As we wrote in "By Sungenis Alone":

On the one hand, Sungenis claims, “The Jews are no different than any other group of people on the face of the earth. There are no ‘special relationships’ with God based on one’s ethnic background or heritage.” (Article, page 2) But on the other hand he claims:

"The whole tenor of the New Testament is that God is finally rejecting the Jews (except for a remnant)...God is giving up on the Jews. In the language of John 6:44, God is no longer going to draw them to Jesus. In fact, God will become active in keeping them in unbelief by blinding them to the truth (Romans 11:8). That is the kind of God we have; a very dynamic God...and the Jews will die in their unbelief. (Article)

"the ‘hardening’ God has cast upon the Jews at large for their general unbelief will remain until the end of time…" (CASB 2, p. 139)

"The unbelief of the Jews, by God's design, will continue right up until the end, and only a remnant out of Jewry will be saved." (Article).

As such, it seems clear that what Sungenis really means is that there are no special positive relationships with God based on one’s ethnic background or heritage. Because he seems quite comfortable insisting that the Jewish people have a special negative relationship with God, wherein they will be actively hardened by Him until the Second Coming to the point that only a trickle of them will ever be saved at any time. Furthermore, this would also seem to contradict his claim in MRBR that “God showed mercy to the Jews and thus still allowed them to come to salvation, the same as everyone else in the world.” (emphasis added). If the Jews, as a people, will be actively hardened until the end of the world without reprieve; if God has rejected them, one can hardly say that their condition relative to salvation is “the same as everyone else in the world.” Again, it appears that if something is negative about Jews, Sungenis readily embraces it. If it is positive, he rushes to oppose it. (http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/03/by-sungenis-alone_29.html#39)

 

[14] Ibid.

 

[15] No Greek scholar would take seriously the contention that there is significance in the lack of the pronoun "they" in Rom 11:28.  This feature of Greek grammar is well documented for both Koine and classical Greek.  So Blass, Debrunner, and Funk:  "The verb ειναι [einai] as a copula can be omitted in the NT as in Greek and other Indo-European tongues from the earliest times (pure nominal sentence). . . . As in classical Greek, the most common form of the copula, the 3rd sing. εστιν [estin], is by far the most frequently omitted, though no fixed usage developed"  (Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. rev. ed. trans. and ed. R. W. Funk. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1961, §127.)

A. T. Robertson:  "Naturally this copula is not always considered necessary. It can be readily dispensed with when both subject and the real predicate are present. This indeed is the most frequent ellipsis of all in all stages of the language, especially the form εστί [esti]. . . . Cf. Ro. 11:15 f. for several further examples, which could be easily multiplied not only for εστί and εισί, but for other forms as well . . . (Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research. 3rd. ed. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1919, 395.)

H. W. Smyth:  "The copulative verb ειναι [einai] is often omitted, especially the forms εστί [esti] and εισί [eisi]" (A Greek Grammar for Colleges. New York: American Book Company, 1920, §944.)

 

[16] Like his mentor and former employer, the notorious date-setting Harold Camping, Bob tries to wow and cow his opponents through the use of the Greek language.  Sungenis had this to say about his former colleague:

As for biblical languages, when it is to his advantage, Camping is quick to commandeer the Greek language for support.  For example, in his exegesis of Romans 11:26 in 1994 Camping harps on the error of the premillennialists who translate the Greek advert "houtos" as "then" instead of "so" (p. 539)  Camping has castigated these interpreters for years because they ignored the exact meaning of "houtos."  Though in this instance Camping has stumbled onto the lexical meaning, he would claim that he is actually abiding by the "biblical" meaning of "houtos."  By "biblical" he means that when he looked up all the ways his King James Bible translated "houtos", it never translated it as "so," thus, it cannot mean "so."  What Camping fails to understand is that the King James translators could not translate "houtos" as "so" because the lexical meaning of "houtos" in Greek would not allow such a definition, not because they gave preference to the "biblical" definition of the word.  The disregard or ignorance of the Greek language, coupled with a distorted concept of how we received the Bible and its translations, consistently leads words and is the main reason he sees nothing wrong with alternating the lexical meaning with his "word studies."  By the same token, one wonders why Camping does not give the premillenialists license to alter the lexical definition of "houtos" based on how they feel the Bible is using the term. (Shockwave 2000: The Harold Camping Debacle, Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Press, 1995, p. 114)

Now if anybody can completely follow this explanation, please explain it to me.  But the bottom line is that, even here while lambasting Camping for getting the Greek wrong, Bob seems to blunder.  He says twice that the KJV doesn't translate it as "so", but this is an extremely common translation of "houtos" in the KJV.  For an incredible list of parallels between Sungenis and Camping, from Sungenis' own critique of his former employer, see "Harold Camping vs. Bob Sungenis".

 

[17] And the same can be said even of the Church as the new Israel.  While there are many baptized Catholics who are not faithful to the New Covenant—and thus may not attain salvation—they are still correctly identified as belonging to God's New Covenant people.

 

[18] Cf. Dunn, Romans 9-16, p. 681.

 

[19] As John Pacheco has rightly posed to Bob, "Furthermore, v.23, v.24, v.25, v.27, v.28, v.29, v.30, v.31 are all talking about the hardened Jews. Why should I believe that v.26 is not?" ("Romans 11 and the Jewish Return: The Original").

 

[20] St. John Chrysostom says, "Meaning by mystery here, that which is unknown and unutterable, and has much of wonder and much of what one should not expect about it" (Homily 19 on Romans).  As Prat expands upon this: "St Paul calls this a mystery: that is to say, conformably to his language, a plan of redemption which was the secret of God, because it proceeds from his free will; but which cease to be a secret since God has revealed it to his confidants to be everywhere proclaimed." (The Theology of St. Paul. trans. J. L. Stoddard. London: Burns, Oates, and Washbourne, 1926, 266n4).  Cf. Fillion, "le mot μυστήριον désignait toujours une chose cachée; dans les écrits de saint Paul, il représente une chose d'abord secréte, puis révélée" (Louis-Claude Fillion, La Sainte Bible: Texte Latin et Traduction Francaise, Commentee d'Apres La Vulgate et Les Textes Originaux. 8 vols. Paris, Letouzey et Ané, 1888-1904, vol. 8, p. 84).

 

[21] See my writing on this in "The Non-Rule of Mr. Svendsen" under the section "Svendsen's Quizzy".

 

[22] CASB3, p. 112.

 

[24] From an essay entitled "Jacob Michael and the Jews", no longer available on-line.

 

[26] Romans 9-16, p. 681.

 

[27] Ibid.  C. E. B. Cranfield notes that, "Various commentators also refer to the Mishnah tractate Sanhedrin 10, in which the statement, 'All Israelites [so Danby, but Hebrew is 'All Israel'] have a share in the world to come', is followed by a considerable list of exceptions" (Romans. vol 2. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1975, pp. 576-7).

 

[28] Prat, Theology, 1:266-7n4; emphasis his.

 

[30] "A periphrastic Future Perfect, expressing a future state, occurs in Matt. 16:19; 18:18; Luke 12: 52; Heb. 2:13."; E. W. Burton, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek. 3rd ed. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1898, p. 46 
 

[31] D. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996. p. 737f.

 

[32] Père Lagrange, for example, states that Rom 11:28 references precisely, "L'élection du peuple juif comme peuple de Dieu [qui] était en elle-même irrévocable" (Saint Paul Epitre Aux Romains. Paris: Librairie Victor Lecoffre, 1922, p. 287.)  And Fr. Prat summarizes the teaching of Romans 11 succinctly: "Paul's reply is given in two words: the apostasy of the Israelites is neither absolute nor final.  In other terms, those who are unbelieving to-day can be believers to-morrow; in any case, at the end of the world Israel will repent and will come back to the Church as a whole. . . . as far as the ultimate conversion of Israel is concerned, hope is a certainty" (Theology, p. 265f.).

 

[33] See my article "The Ongoing Role of the Jews in Salvation History".  Note especially my documentation of Bob's use of an essentially Protestant/modernist approach to the Fathers and Doctors to evade the evidence against him.

 

[34] H. A.W. Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Epistle to the Romans. vol. 2. trans. J. C. Moore and E. Johnson. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1874.  Lagrange notes that Luther, in his early writings, grudgingly went along with the exegesis of the text which saw a special, future conversion of the Jews, because he could not deny the authority of the Fathers ("parce qu'il suit l'autorité des Pères"; Romains, 285.)  Later, as mentioned above, after he unshackled himself from the authority of the Catholic Church and hence from the authority of the Fathers, he abandoned this view based on his personal prejudice against Jews.  Now, however, Luther's idiosyncratic views on Rom 11:26 have been largely abandoned in scholarly Protestant circles: "Les exégètes protestants actuels sont revenus à l'exégèse normale" (Lagrange, ibid.)

 

[35] CASB3, p. 437f.

 

[36] In addition to the reference in CASB3, he has also stated this in CASB2 in two different forms.  Although Bob adopts a dating in the late first century A.D. for the writing of the Apocalypse (c. A.D. 95-7) he nevertheless seeks to apply even passages of that book as part of the "context" of Romans 11.  In a section of CASB2, entitled "Romans 11 and the Future of Israel" he writes:

After God judged the nation of Israel in the first century AD, a most provocative question arose: can the Jews still be saved, especially since Jesus himself refers to certain Jews as the “synagogue of Satan” twice in the Apocalypse (Ap 2:9; 3:9). . . . Rm 11:24 must be interpreted within these specific parameters, but this is an easy task once one understands the context of Rm 11:1-4.  As we noted earlier, the logical question one would ask after the Temple curtain was miraculously torn in two at the exact moment of Christ’s death on the cross (Mt 27:51), followed by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Romans, is: Do the Jews have any future with God at all?  Can any of them be saved any longer?  We saw above that the answer is “yes”, but it is a qualified “yes”, since only a remnant will be saved.  The rest will remain in unbelief . . . " (CASB2, pp. 136 and 138.)

So Bob would have us believe that not only the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 but also certain passages in the Apocalypse (dated by him c. A.D. 95) form the context of Romans 11, which was written at least forty years earlier, c. A.D. 55.  Again, he has St. Paul writing to answer questions that would arise from events that took place after he was dead.  Sungenis has also made this erroneous argument in an article in The Latin Mass magazine. In his review of Roy Schoeman’s book Salvation is From the Jews in the Fall 2005 issue of The Latin Mass, Sungenis says,

The very reason Romans 11 was written is that, after God rejected and decimated the Jews in the first century, the question of whether any Jew could still be saved came to the fore, which is the very reason St. Paul opens the chapter with: “Has God foresaken the Jew?” (p. 54; emphasis added.)

Notice again that Sungenis links St. Paul's writing of Romans 11 with the decimation of the Jewish people at the Fall of Jerusalem.  But he also asserts that God “rejected . . . the Jews in the first century”.  This is a plainly erroneous statement. Bob would not have had to go any further than verse 1 of Romans 11 to get the answer to that question: “God has not rejected His people, has He? By no means!” (Rom 11:1). St. Paul’s poses his question using the Greek particle μὴ, which means that he expects the answer "No". And this answer he supplies himself in the very next sentence—the emphatically negative answer, μὴ γένοιτο can be rendered in English as, “Absolutely not!”, “By no means!”, etc. So according to St. Paul, God had not rejected his people the Jews in the first century, whereas Sungenis said that He had.  See further documentation in "The Theology of Prejudice".

 

[38] Cameron points out to Sungenis how he had selectively quoted Theodoret concerning a future conversion of the Jews:

Mark: And even from this one source, you have been selective. You quote Theodoret as saying "all Israel" means "all those who believe," but another quote from the very same homily, also quoted in the ACCS, says this: "Paul insists that only a part of Israel has been hardened, for many of them believe. He thus encourages them not to despair that others will be saved as well. After the Gentiles accepted the gospel, the Jews would believe, when the great Elijah would come to them and bring them the doctrine of the faith. The Lord himself said as much: ‘Elijah will come and will restore all things.’"

So, even if Theodoret understands "all Israel" as meaning "all the faithful," he still believes that there will be a future conversion of the Jews to be grafted back into the true spiritual Israel of the Church.

On another issue, Sungenis had branded as "novel" the interpretation of the olive tree of Romans 11:17-24 as Israel.  He claimed that the olive tree was Christ and that "this was also the constant teaching of the Fathers" (CASB2, p. 149), going so far as to publicly castigate Jewish converts for saying that the olive tree was Israel. One should first notice what he said to Mark Cameron about such claims concerning the consensus of the Fathers: "Statements such as 'According to the interpretation of the Fathers' mean absolutely nothing unless the person writing such a statement tells us which Fathers believed said doctrine, with references" ("Intense Dialogue").  But, although Bob did present a few citations from the Fathers as a "representative sample" of his claim that Christ is the olive tree, it turns out that he had missed in the very context of those citations where those Fathers made it quite clear that they did not believe that Christ is the olive tree.  Rather, in the very chapter and book from which Bob quotes, St. Augustine says that the olive tree is "the holy stock of the Hebrews".  And from the very sermon and paragraph from which Bob quotes, the same Father states that the olive tree is, "that people founded by the Patriarchs".  Ben Douglass provided Sungenis with all this information in an e-mail dated January 14, 2007 - while he was still Sungenis' vice-president, by the way - and reminded him of it again on January 20, stating:

St. Augustine read the root of Romans 11 as Israel, and he says so in the immediate vicinity of the passages you quoted to argue that the root is Christ and not Israel. Again, you're lobbing softballs at your critics, and it's a good thing I caught this before they did. There could hardly be a clearer illustration of Forrest's thesis that your use of the Fathers is highly tendentious when the subject is Jews and Israel.

This was a few months before CASB2 was released. Yet, Sungenis allowed the book to go to print without correcting this obvious error and it remains in his published work.  Similarly, Bob quotes a passage from St. John Chrysostom in which he applies the metaphor of an olive tree to the Church, but ignores the passage in which this Doctor of the Church actually interprets Romans 11:17ff.  There he interprets the olive tree not as Christ but as "Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, the prophets, the patriarchs, all who were of note in the Old Testament".  Michael Forrest brought this to Bob's attention in September of 2006, but Bob refused to change CASB2 to reflect this truth.  See complete documentation in "The Theology of Prejudice: The Olive Tree or 'Root' of Romans 11".

 

[39] "Romans 11 and the Jewish Return: The Original"; his emphasis.  In this particular exchange, Sungenis goes on to insist that the use of the word "now" [νῦν] in v. 31 makes it certain that St. Paul does not have the future in view.  Sungenis fails even to interact with commentators who have plausibly argued in favor of an "eschatological now", or a "now" based on the imminence with which St. Paul seems to expect the Parousia.  But more importantly, Sungenis does not inform his readers that the second νῦν, upon which his argument hinges, is a highly disputed reading and its exclusion is supported by excellent manuscripts.  As Bruce Metzger says, "Once again external evidence and internal considerations are rather evenly balanced.  A preponderance of early and diverse witnesses favors the shorter reading" (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1971, p. 527; cf. also the very good discussion in Moo, Romans, 711.)  The second nunc does not occur in the Vulgate, indicating that the second νῦν did not appear in the Greek manuscripts that St. Jerome utilized.  Since it may very well not be part of St. Paul's original text, it is tenuous to place any great weight on this single word.

 

[40] From Bob's essay, "Jacob Michael and the Jews", now no longer on-line.

 

[42] "Are Jews in the Family of God?", p. 27.  Of the temporal interpretation of the word he elsewhere states, "Paul's original Greek does not allow such an interpretation" ("Will the Jews Convert in the Future?"; my emphasis.)

 

[43] Dunn, Romans 9-16, p. 681.  St. Paul has just stated that the conversion of the Gentiles will be a matter provoking jealousy among the Jews (Rom 11:11, 14).  And thus καὶ οὕτως may very well be modal, "referring to Paul's conviction that conversion of the Gentiles will be the means of provoking Israel to jealousy and converting them; cf. particularly 1 Thess 4:17" (ibid.).  Cf. also A. Theissen, "The conversion of the Gentiles is meant to rouse the jealousy of Israel and thereby bring her back in due time to the one true Church of God on earth" (A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. ed. B. Orchard. London: Thomas Nelson, 1951, p. 1072)

 

[44] "In fact, Chrysostom incorrectly turns the Greek 'houtos' in Romans 11:26 from its function as an adverb modifying how Israel will be saved into a future time element for the salvation." ("Judaizers in the Catholic Church").  "Gregory interprets the Greek word [houtos] as 'and as follows,' ... But as we noted previously, [houtos] does not mean 'then' or 'afterwards'" (Will Enoch and Elijah Return to Preach to the Jews?, pp. 20-21). "Here we see Jerome interpreting the Greek adverb [houtos] as if it were the word 'then.' It seems that the Fathers were so conditioned by the Chiliasts that went before them, even when the definitions of Greek words were staring them in the face, that they didn't see the real meaning of the word." (ibid., p. 21, fn. 34)

 

[45] J. M. Scott, "And then All Israel Will Be Saved", in J. M. Scott [ed.], Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Perspectives [Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2001], p. 491); emphasis mine.  Scott's citation to van der Horst is to "'Only then will all Israel be saved'; a Short Note on the Meaning of καὶ οὕτως in Romans 11:26," Journal of Biblical Literature 119 (2000) , 521-39.

 

[46] From Bob's essay, "Michael Forrest and the Jews", now no longer on-line.

 

[48] Ibid., p. 38

 

[49] See the list in "The Theology of Prejudice".  Additional full-length commentaries missed by Bob include Louis-Claude Fillion, La Sainte Bible: Texte Latin et Traduction Francaise, Commentee d'Apres La Vulgate et Les Textes Originaux. 8 vols. Paris, Letouzey et Ané, 1888-1904 and Stanislaus Lyonnet, S. J. Quaestiones in Epistolam ad Romanos. Rome: Pontifico Istituto Biblico, 1955.  I did locate one Catholic exegete--Fr. François Refoulé in his 1984 work Et ainsi tout Israel sera sauvés--who shares at least some of Bob's eccentric views of the text.  But in the introduction to that work it states plainly that Fr. Refoulé's work is "une interprétation nouvelle de ces chapitres..."

 

[50] This is a significant problem with the CASB volumes.  There is no indication that Bob has interacted with any other scholarship on the issues he tackles.  His too-often idiosyncratic views are presented with almost magisterial certainty, but remain unchallenged by opposing views primarily because Bob has not bothered to undertake basic research.  He relies almost exclusively on his personal exegesis of Scripture.

 

[51] That Sungenis' "doctorate", obtained from what can reasonably be described as a New Age diploma mill, is bogus by any reasonable academic standard is well documented in "Doctoring the Record" and "Just What the Doctor Ordered?".  What makes Sungenis' claim of this bogus degree all the more incredible is that one of his stated purposes in going to Calamus "University" was in protest of declining standards at accredited institutions.  Sungenis would therefore have his readers believe that he somehow took the high ground in response to this decline, while claiming a "doctorate" from a New Age "institution" whose academic standards are embarrassingly low, to say the least.  Accreditation standards were put in place precisely to guard against this kind of academic chicanery.

 

[56] "Are Jews in the Family of God?", pp. 33 and 35.

 

[57] See the copious documentation presented at http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com and http://www.sungenisandthejews.com.  For one more specific example, see Sungenis and the CASB 2 (Apocalypse of St. John): More Source-Reference Problems: "rather than being an example of how Sungenis is "solid" on biblical issues unrelated to the Jews, the CASB 2  turns out to be another example of how Sungenis has a bad habit of bypassing scholarly standards - even in his biblical work - when he thinks he is right on any given issue."