Share on facebook
Share on twitter

MARY AND JOSEPH’S “COMING TOGETHER”

COMPILED BY WILLIAM ALBRECHT I simply opened up the largest relevant Greek data base in the world or TLG (Thesaurus Linguae Graecae) to see if there was any meat on the bones of these claims. To make it simple, the best dictionary or lexicon to consult on matters like the use of “come together” (synerchomai) is the latest edition of the massive Liddell-Scott dictionary.[1] There we find that the relevant explanations of how this verb is used in the Old and New Testaments is rather consistent with how it was used in earlier ages. Basically, for our purposes, there is the literal + metaphorical meaning (no. 1) “two things/persons: ‘x’ & ‘y’ physically or symbolically come together [that were before apart].” Next, there is the metaphorical + sexual innuendo (no. 2): “When one person comes together with another person,” they have sexual intercourse. Notice in the literal meaning: the subjects of the sentence (x + y) in the plural do the coming together always in a non-sexual way. For example no. 1, the literary paradigm imitated in Matthew’s rather good Greek is just like Plato, Charmides (written before 350 BC): I do not suppose there is anyone else here who could readily point to a case of any two Athenian houses coming together (oikiai synelthousai) into the same one (eis tauton)which would be likely to produce handsomer or nobler offspring than those from which you are sprung. For your father’s house, which comes from Critias, son of Dropides, has been celebrated by Anacreon and Solon and many other poets, so that it is famed by tradition among us as preeminent in beauty and virtue (Stephanus page: 157e2)[2] TWO HOUSES COMING TOGETHER! Above there is no innuendo so that two houses coming together means two people having sex, but a metaphor exists to underline two extended families’ genetic lines become one lineage by production of offspring. If Plato wanted to concentrate on a man and woman having physical sex, he should have used “come together” + with in a very different construction, just as the Bible does later in Greek. For now, a second example may be useful whereby a literal house, in which an extended family dwells, shall hold members of that household who will be encompassed under the broader household of Patriarch Jacob (which produced twelve “tribes”) and, by extension, shall be as if it reattached to Jacob or Israel when he was himself a smaller house or family, as occurs in LXX Jeremiah 3:17And in those days, a house of Juda will come (syneleusontai oikos Iouda) unto the house of Israel (epi ton oikon tou Israêl) and they will possess upon the aforesaid from the North land and from all the lands upon the earth, which I have made an inheritance unto their fathers. Here, the notion is much the same, namely, that one group of extended family of Judah (according to the tribal division of LXX Numbers 1:1-3) will be identified more strenuously with the extended family of the tribes directly from Jacob’s seed. These examples are not chosen at random but rather they are clearly the paradigms for St. Matthew. Plato’s Greek usage of the verb in question is standard in the centuries that follow until the first century AD. The LXX or Greek Old Testament prophetically predicts that one house of Jacob will fulfill the promise of Yahweh to Patriarch Jacob to produce a king and wonderchild who will rule over all nations and be a blessing for them. Let us return to the Gospel of Matthew and notice the parallelism: Now the birth of Jesus the Messiahtook place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they came together (prin ê synelthein),[3] she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18-19) Now, if my reading is correct, “son of David” and “they came together” are simply Jewish reference to the “house of David” or Joseph’s house and Mary’s house being joined by Mary physically entering into Joseph’s home in marriage (this will be certified by attestation of Philo the Jew shortly). Sure enough, we see verses later the following: And [the Magi] came into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother (kai elthontes eis tên oikian eidon to padion meta Marias tês metros autou)(Matthew 2:11) Above, the Magi came into Joseph’s house to discover that Mary was already inside Joseph’s house. The two houses had become one. 1.1 Old Testament Usage of “To Come Together” Before I discuss the special Greek construction that means physical sex, let us survey the best edition of the LXX or Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) and a critical edition of the Greek New Testament (Nestle-Aland 28th edition; this agrees with the latest edition of the UBS): (1.) The Greek Old Testament (whose Biblical citations nearly account for all those used by Matthew) used “come together” only twenty-three times. (2.) There is not one single instance where (like Matthew 1:18 grammar and construction) that two subjects/persons coming together mean anything remotely sexual. Let us see 24/25 instances of “come together” in the Old Testament. I will deal with no. 25/25 below because it is the metaphorical + sexual construction that is in no way the same as Matthew 1:18 and is entirely opposed to Matthew’s usage. All the examples in no. (3.) below are the paradigms for use that Matthew could have imitated (especially Jeremiah 3:18) from the Bible: (3.) “Sons of Levi came together” (Exodus 32:26); tribes came together (Joshua 9:2); kings came together (Joshua 11:5); The nations came together (Judith 1:6); The inhabitants of lands came together (Judith 1:11); A dog came together with travelers (11:4); Two men came together in travel (Tobit 12:1); A Father and son come together to travel (Tobit 5:10); An angel and a man will come together (Tobit 5:22); A dog came together with two travelers (Tobit 11:4); a bunch of like-minded men came together (1 Maccabees 9:14); Thousands of Jews came together with a Maccabee (1 Maccabees 12:47); all the military forces came together (1 Maccabees 15:10); all those who dared came together (2 Maccabees 3:24); the author of proverbs will come together will people (Proverbs 23:35); the lender and borrow came together (Proverbs 29:13); Job orders the unjust to come together with the just (Job 6:29); the rich came together (Job 40:31); the inhabitants of cities will come together (Zachariah 8:21); Jeremiah 3:18 (as cited above); and invitation for us to come together to listen to the words of the Lord (Ezekiel 33:30); The people came together (Susanna 28:1). Even if we concede (wrongly) that “to come together” with two subjects coming together into one (sexually) might exist allegedly sometimes, nevertheless 24/24 examples in the Old Testament exclude it. The Gospel of St. Matthew speaks just like 1st century Greeks or Hebrews were accustomed to talk when using “to come together” in the New Testament. Let us, therefore, look at the New Testament: (1.) A scholarly or critical edition of the New Testament knows 23 cases of “to come together.” (2.) Using the other 22 cases (other than Matthew 1:18) to interpret the range of meaning for Matthew 1:18, we see that 0/23 can mean sex or physical relations between a man and woman. (3.) Two other examples (besides Matthew 1:18) exist in Matthew 3:20; Matthew 14:53. As expected –like Matthew 1:18– Matthew 3:20 says: “He comes into the house: and the crowd came together.” The second instance speaks of the priests and elders and scribes “coming together,” which is of course not homosexual but rather at the palace of the high priest (so basically at his house). This is what Matthew 1:18 means, just as the other 2 passages exemplify. (4.) the other 20/20 examples fair no better: The crowds came (Luke 5:15); women come together with Jesus! (Luke 23:55); people come together with a crying woman (John 11:33); The Jews come together in the Temple (John 18:20); listeners come together to question (Acts 1:6); it is necessary for men to come together (Acts 1:21); the crowd comes together (Acts 2:6); the crowd came together (Acts 5:16); Peter comes together with a crowd (Acts 9:39); brethren come together with an apostle (Acts 10:23); many people come together (Acts 10:27); the faithful men come together with Peter (Acts 10:45); the Spirit comes together with people (Acts 11:12); a group comes together (Acts 15:38); We speak to women who came together with each other (Acts 16:13); a gathering together of the church (Acts 19:32); the disciples came together with others (Acts 21:16); the priests come together (Acts 22:30; 25:17); a crowd gathered together for a trial (Acts 25:17); a crowd of Jews coming together (Acts 28:17); Paul does not praise for coming together with the greater but with the lesser ones (1 Corinthians 11:17); coming together in assembly (1 Corinthians 11:17); coming together in assembly (1 Corinthian 11:18); coming together for the Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 11:20); coming together to eat (1 Corinthians 11:33); coming together in judgment (1 Corinthians 11:34); the whole church comes together (1 Corinthians 14:23); an order that brethren should come together (1 Corinthians 14:26). (5.) Especially amusing is the orgiastic interpretation of Luke 23:55 (required by Alpha & Omega Ministries) where the meaning of “to come together” “in its natural sense” (to use a phrase of repeated by Turretinfan) would mean that Jesus had orgiastic experiences with his women followers. Of course, this is the stuff of Dan Brown novels in English, but not the sense of the Greek. Slightly less audacious is the allegedly possible interpretation in John 18:20 that the Jewish men came together for an orgy in the Temple! The two leading critical editions of the New Testament definitively exclude “synerchomai” (come together) from 1 Corinthians 7:5. Not only this, the earliest patristic and Latin witnesses all unanimously disagree with this reading. I also highlight for the English reader that it would be impossible to guess by using “the natural sense” of any English translation that Wisdom is speaking cleverly in Greek sex talk. First, one has to know the Greek subject man/woman + come together + dative man/woman construction to see what is happening here. To appeal to a “natural [English] reading” of a Greek text is absurd. Next, I close out this section by sharing with you that I went to “the machine” (Thesaurus Linguae Graecae) and decided to do the painful task of searching in one final swoop for all derivative words (lemmata) from the verb “come together” (synerchomai). It was painful, let me tell you. There are, predating St. Matthew’s infancy narrative exactly 762 cases in the largest database of Greek literature. I looked through all of them. What did I find? Well, I could not find one case from the 6th century BC until 1st century AD Matthew 1:18 where “come together” with two subjects (men/women/animal/plant) means “have sex” or “copulate” or “breed” or any reproductive kind of statement.[4] For example, in Jewish literature, the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs (Testament 4, chapter 10, section 5 & 4.12.5 & 11.3.1) uses the construction somewhere around 100 years prior to Matthew 1:18: “He came together with her.” But when it uses “come together” without this construction (Testament 8, chapter 1, section 2) it means merely that the “sons came together.” Philo the Jew (writing around AD 40) writes in exactly the same way and consistently so. For example: And if anyone says that Cain came together (synelêlythenaiwith his sister (adelphêi) to wife, putting the impiety of such a connection out of the question, he will speak falsely; for Moses represents the daughters of Adam as born late. [5] Either fathers or brothers or grandmothers or grandfathers, or someone among these, have the custom to come together unto the marriage (tôn eis ton gamon synelthontôn). But also the gift of friends occupies a position at the house (ton oikon) [during the same marriage]. (Callicratidas, 3rd century, Fragment) Matthew’s near contemporary writer who uses (as one would expect) a similar Greek. This historian (like Matthew’s historical narrative of the conception and birth) uses the exact Greek construction of  Matthew 1:18: “Before coming together” or “Before they came together” (prin ê synelthein). For the Historian Diodorus the Sicilian (who shares linguistic and vocabulary features with St. Paul, too), this means: The soldiers flanking Peukestes learned that a camp was seen in the middle of the route, he made up his mind to withdraw to the most distant part of the territory in which they were wintering, for he was afraid that they might be overtaken by the enemy before [the time when] the allied force came together (prin ê synelthein) from all directions.[6]

  1 Corinthians 7:5   Reading:
  Sabatier Old Italian (Pre-Vulgate): Volume 3b (New Testament), year 1751, pp. 677-67826   Do not deceive each other, unless by chance for a time, so that you give space to prayer and again <be ye>27 with respect to the very same thing [aforementioned] (et iterum ad idipsum <estote>), lest Satan tempt you because of your intemperance…
  Variant in Sabatier: Cyprian, Testimonies, Book 3   … And again return to the very same thing (et iterum revertimini ad idipsum)
  Variant in Sabatier: Jerome, Against Jovinian, Book 1   … And again with respect to the very same thing return (et iterum ad idipsum revertimini)…
  Variant in Sabatier: Augustine, Enchiridion   And again with respect to the very same thing be ye be ye (et iterum ad idipsum estote)…

[1] Henry George Liddell, Henry Stuart Jones, and Robert Scott, A Greek-English lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006). [2] See W.R.M. Lamb (trans.), Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 8 (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1955). [3] The New King James is more correct to translate this as “before they lived together [in the same house].” Compare this the very similar mode of speaking in Aristotle’s, Politics, Bekker page: 1252b2. [4] The closest statement that I found in TLG is from Aristophanes the Grammarian, in his History of Animals (chapter 2, section 274), who speaks about the Lion and partridge, who –after each one “comes together in erotic love (es erôta ksynethontôn)”– conceives (tiktetai) its common kind. I cannot find this statement applied to humans and it requires “into love” to understand a new sense of “come together.” Otherwise, Aristophanes uses the subject + come together + dative construction about half-a-dozen times. [5] Philo of Alexandria, On the Posterity of Cain, in The works of Philo: complete and unabridged, trans and ed. C. D. Yonge (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995), 135. [6] See https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Diodorus_Siculus/19B*.html. For another parallel example of “prin ê synelthein,” see Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica, book 20, chapter 109, section 5: But when he learned that Seleucus was coming down from the upper satrapies with a great force, he sent some of his friends into Greece to Demetrius, bidding him come to him with his army as soon as possible; for, since all the kings had united against him, he was taking every precaution not to be forced to decide the whole war in battle before the army in Europe came together (prin ê synelthein) him.

Related articles

Muhammad

Allah