Heos Hou

Why can't we use ‘heos hou’ of Genesis 26:13 (LXX) where he "grew until he became very wealthy" which does not have to mean that he ceased to have his wealth increase after he had become wealthy? Yes it does not demand that he DID continue to grow in wealth, but it seems reasonable to argue that the usage here was definitely NOT intending or enforcing the notion that his wealth ceased to further grow after he became wealthy.

You can use them, and they are good examples — all of them.

Notwithstanding, let me add some information to the ongoing ‘heos hou’ debate:

‘Heos’ is a relative adverb. ‘Hou’ is a relative pronoun. When used together, ‘heos’ changes to a preposition which governs the relative pronoun. Essentially, this means that hou really has no effect on the meaning of the couplet, the operative word in the couplet being ‘heos’. If you want an English equivalent, heos hou might be translated as "until which" or "until which time" or "until such time as," or something similar to these.

1) ‘heos hou’ is used 17 times in the New Testament (Mt 1:25; 13:33; 14:22; 17:9; 18:34; 26:36; Lk 13:21; 15:8; 22:18; 24:49; Jn 13:38; Ac 21:26; 23:12; 23:14; 23:21; 25:21; 2Pt 1:19) and ‘heos hou’ is used 81 times in the LXX (Greek translation of the OT Hebrew)

2) ‘heos an’ is used 19 times in the NT (Mt 2:13; 5:18; 5:26; 10:11, 23; 12:20; 16:28; 22:44; 23:39; 24:34) and 95 times in the LXX

3) ‘heos otou’ is used 4 times in the NT (Mt 5:25; Lk 13:8; 22:16; Jn 9:18) and 14 times in the LXX

4) ‘heos’(without a couplet) is used 106 times in the NT and 1564 times in the LXX

According to Burton's Grammar (a popular Greek Grammar used by Protestants) it states the following regarding ‘heos hou’:

"In the New Testament ‘heos’ is sometimes followed by ‘hou’ or ‘otou’. Heos is then a preposition governing the genitive of the relative pronoun, but the phrase ‘heos hou’ or ‘heos otou’ is in effect a compound conjunction having the same force as the simple ‘heos’. The construction following it is also the same, except that an never occurs after ‘heos hou’ or ‘heos outo’."

It is clear from this Protestant Greek grammar, that there is no difference between ‘heos’, ‘heos hou’ or ‘heos otou’. They all have the same force and the same meaning

The only other contingency here is the use of ‘heos an’. This is a special case in Greek. When the clause introduced by heos depends on a verb of future time, and refers to a future contingency, it takes the Subjunctive mood with the use of ‘an’, both in classical and New Testament Greek (Mt 5:18).

Or, when the clause introduce by heos depends on a verb of past time and refers to what was at the time of the principal verb conceived of as a future contingency, it takes the Subjunctive mood without an in the New Testament (eg., Mt 18:30). Thus, the particle ‘an’, which really has no English equivalent, is merely a linguistic sign of the Greek Subjunctive mood, and thus has no effect on the meaning of ‘heos, ‘heos hou’, or ‘heos otou’.

Lastly, no determination of the meaning of ‘heos’, ‘heos hou’, ‘heos otou’, or heos an can be made without the context of the passage being involved. As ‘heos’ can be used either to terminate or to continue the action of the main verb (as its linguistic equivalent "until" does in English and many other languages, including Hebrew), so does ‘heos hou’, ‘heos otou’ or ‘heos an’.

Of the above references, ‘heos’, ‘heos hou’, ‘heos otou’, and heos an are used a total of 1,900 times in LXX and NT Greek. Although the preponderance of these usages are clearly designed to terminate the action of the main verb, in a significant number of cases, heos and its associated conjunctions is clearly designed to continue the action of the main verb.

The decision on whether heos terminates or continues the action of the main verb depends on several factors, e.g., whether one or the other makes logical sense; agrees with the context; agrees with the grammatical construction of the passage; does not contradict other known facts; etc. In conclusion, two things cannot be asserted regarding ‘heos’ and ‘heos hou’:

(1) that ‘heos’, and ‘heos hou’, (as well as ‘heos otou’, ‘heos an’) always terminate the action of the main verb; and (2) that ‘heos’ and ‘heos hou’ are used differently in Greek grammar.

Robert Sungenis
Catholic Apologetics International
November 23, 2000

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