The Apostle Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew letters or Hebrew. Perhaps this was really the Aramaic language in Hebrew letters. Of the Hebrew Matthew there is no doubt, although few Christians are aware of this. The original Hebrew version was maintained by a group known as the Ebionites. The Aramaic text in Hebrew lettering was preserved by the Nazarenes. Jerome confirms this latter fact. The Nazarenes also made a Greek translation, but this is not the same as our traditional Greek text. Jerome made a translation into Latin and Greek of the Nazarene version in Hebrew text. However, despite his referring to this translation several times, the Catholic Church failed to preserve Jerome’s two translations. In the two dozen quotes by Jerome himself from his translation of the Hebrew Matthew found in his commentaries, we find the variants are slight yet interesting. Then a Hebrew version of Matthew known as the Shem Tob emerged in the middle-ages, and Professor Howard of Mercer University recently published this edition. It has clues that it traces back to the original true gospel of Matthew. This version ironically was preserved in a Jewish critique of Matthew as an appendix to the critique. It was used to point to flaws in Christianity. Yet, it actually repairs a mis-citation in the Greek version upon which we rely that has Jesus saying the 30 pieces of silver prophecy was in Jeremiah. The Hebrew Matthew which Professor Howard brought to light has Jesus correctly citing Zechariah (which correction to Zechariah also appears in the variants mentioned in the early church from the Hebrew Matthew). Thus, on its face, the version found by Professor Howard was not likely skewed to embarass Christianity. All the differences are relatively minor yet again are interesting. Hence, the Hebrew Matthew is a legitimate alternative source of variants to consider in repairing inadvertent copy/translation errors.
Mathew Originally Wrote A Hebrew Version of His Gospel
Edward Gibbon wrote of a tradition that preceded the Greek editions of Matthew that form our current English New Testament. Gibbon wrote: “But the secret and authentic history has been recorded in several copies of the
Gospel according to St. Matthew, which these sectaries long preserved in theoriginal Hebrew, as the sole evidence of their faith…” (Gibbon,The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire(1837) at778.) As of 1837, Gibbon could say the Hebrew Matthew is “most unaccountably lost.”Id., at 778 fn. 5. This may no longer be the case, for two reasons.
First, Scholarly digging or “text excavation” has found dozens of variants mentioned during 100-400 by early church commentators wherein a significant restoration of the Hebrew Matthew is possible. Finally, we may be able to see a glimpse of the Hebrew Matthew through the medieval text of the Hebrew Matthew attached to the Shem-Tob text, as discussed below.
2. Proof of An Original Version of Matthew in Hebrew / Hebrew Text
The following are the many examples that supports Gibbon’s statement about a Hebrew version of Matthew.
Papias [disciple of Apostle John] “Matthew collected the oracles (ta logia) in the Hebrew language, and each interpreted them as best he could.” – Papias (quoted by Eusebius, H.E. 3.39.16). The passage is quoted in Helmut Koester,The Ancient Christian Gospels(1990) at316.) Hegesippus (ca. 170 AD) “[Hegesippus] adduces some things out of the Gospel according to the Hebrews and the Syriac, and particularly out of the Hebrew language.” (Eusebius,Eccl. Hist.iv.22, quoted inE.B. Nicholson,The Gospel of the Hebrews(1879) at6.)Irenaeus on the Hebrew original of Matthew’s Gospel:“Matthewalso issued a writtenGospel of the Hebrewsin their own language while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome and laying the foundations of the Church.” (Irenaeus,Against Heresies3.1.1) [Wikipedia] (quoted in Eusebius,Hist. Eccl.5.8.2. per Helmut Koester,The Ancient Christian Gospels(1990) at317.)Pantaenus the PhilosopherAccording to Eusebius on Matthew’s Gospel: “Pantaenus was one of those, and is said to have gone to India. It is reported that among the Christians there that he had found theGospel of Matthew. This had anticipated his own arrival, for Bartholomew, one of the apostles, had preached to them, and left with them the writings ofMatthew in Hebrew, which they had preserved till that time. After many good deeds, Pantaenus finally became the head of the School in Alexandria, and expounded the treasures of divine doctrine both orally and in writing. (Eusebius, Church History. 5.10.3) [Wikipedia]. (For Greek parallel, seeText Excavations.)Hegesippus (Jewish Christian) on Gospel of the Hebrews:“… And from theSyriac Gospel of the Hebrewshe [Hegesippus] quotes some passages inHebrew…” (Eusebius, Church History. 3.22.6) [Wikipedia]Origen (b. 184 C.E.) on the Hebrew version of Matthew:The very first account to be written was byMatthew, once a tax collector but later an apostle of Jesus Christ.Matthew published it for the converts from Judaism and composed it in Hebrew letters.[Wikipedia] (quoted in Eusebius,Hist. Eccl.6.25.4, per Helmut Koester,The Ancient Christian Gospels(1990) at317.) See similar translation atText Excavations.Origen(ca. 184-200 CE) “As having learnt by tradition concerning the four Gospels, which alone are unquestionable in the Church of God under heaven, that first was written according to Matthew, who was once a tax collector but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, who published it for those who from Judaism came to believe, composed as it was in the Hebrew language.” – Origen (Eusebius, H.E. 6.25.4)Eusebius on the Hebrew Version of Matthew:“They (the Apostles) were led to write only under the pressure of necessity.Matthew, who had first preached theGospel in Hebrew, when on the point of going to other nations, committed the Gospel to writing inhis native language. Therefore he supplied the written word to make up for the lack of his own presence to those from whom he was sent.” (Eusebius,Eccl. Hist. 3.24.6) [Wikipedia] (also quoted in Helmut Koester,The Ancient Christian Gospels(1990) at317.) “And he himself used testimonies from the first epistle of John and similarly from that of Peter, and set out also another record about a woman who was charged for many sins before the Lord, which the gospel according to the Hebrews has. And let these things also be necessarily observed by us on top of the things that have been set out.” (Eusebius,History of the Church3.39.17 (de Santos 9; Lagrange 13), quoted inText Excavations.) Eusebius took very seriously a passage in the Gospel according to the Hebrews where it has the one receiving the five talents being guilty of sinning with harlots etc. Eusebius sees a manner of reading Jesus that allows the primary criticism of Jesus is against that one, and the prison is left for the one who hid the talent. Eusebius wrote: “But since the gospel written in Hebraic characters which has come to us levels the threat, not against the man who hid the talent, but against him who had lived unsafely (for it had three servants, the one eating up the belongings of his master with harlots and flute-girls, another multiplying it by the work of trade, and the other hiding the talent, then made the one to be accepted, another only blamed, and the other to be closed up in prison), I wonder whether in Matthew, after the end of the word against the one who did not work, the threat that follows was said, not about him, but about the first, by epanalepsis,* the one who ate and drank with the drunkards.” (Eusebius, Theophany 4.12 (de Santos 11; Lagrange 18) quoted inText Excavations.) * Epanalepsis is the taking up of a former topic after a latter topic has intervened. Eusebius on the Hebrew version of Matthew in Ecclesiastical History 3.25 speaks of spurious works, and then mentions this gospel: “And nowadays some have reckoned among theseThe Gospel according to the Hebrewswhich they of the Hebrews who have received Christ love beyond any other.” (Quoted in Edward B. Nicholson,The Gospel of the Hebrews: Its Fragments Translated and Annotated(London: Kegan Paul, 1879), reprintedGeneral Books, 2009)at14.) Also, the Christian scholar,Révillesaid “Eusebius regarded our Greek Matthew as a translation from the Matthew.” (Albert Réville, Eduard von Muralt,Etudes critiques sur l’evangile selon St. Matthieu(D. Noothoven van Goor, 1862) at46.)Epiphanius (b. 309 C.E. – Bishop of Salamis) on the Hebrew version of MatthewThey have theGospel of Matthewcomplete inHebrew, for this gospel was preserved among them as it wasfirst written in Hebrew script.(Epiphanius, Panarion 29.9.4) [Wikipedia] Epiphanius on the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew :
They too accept theGospel of Matthew, and like the followers of Cerinthus and Merinthus, they use it alone. They call it theGospel of the Hebrews, for in truthMatthew alonein the New Testament expounded and declaredthe Gospel in Hebrew using Hebrew script.(Epiphanius, Panarion 30.3.7) [Wikipedia] And [the Nazoraeans] have the gospel according to Matthew very complete in Hebrew. For among them this is clearly still preserved, just as it was written from the beginning in Hebraic letters. But I do not know if it has taken away the genealogies from Abraham to Christ. (Epiphanius,Panarion 29.9 (de Santos 14; Lagrange 19), quoted atText Excavations.)Jerome (400 A.D.) on Hebrew Gospel of Matthew:: “Matthew, who wrote his Gospel in Hebrew speech, put it thus, ‘Osanna barrama.’” (Jerome’s Letter to Damascus 20 on Matthew 21.9) GHeb-14 Pantaenus (ca. 180 AD), church leader of Alexandria, Egypt Pantaenus was one of those, and is said to have gone to India. It is reported that among the Christians there that he had found theGospel of Matthew. This had anticipated his own arrival, for Bartholomew, one of the apostles, had preached to them, and left with them the writings ofMatthew in Hebrew, which they had preserved till that time. After many good deeds, Pantaenus finally became the head of the School in Alexandria, and expounded the treasures of divine doctrine both orally and in writing. (Eusebius,Church History. 5.10.3) Albert Réville advised to compare Eusebius’s account with that of Jerome who wrote inIllustrious Men36: He (Pantaenus) discovered in India that Bartholomew among the twelve apostles preached the comingof our Lord Jesus Christ from the Gospel of Matthew which was written in Hebrew letters, and he(Pantaenus) brought it back to Alexandria.(Albert Réville, Eduard von Muralt,Etudes critiques surl’evangile selon St. Matthieu(D. Noothoven van Goor, 1862) at47.) Incidentally, the quote from Eusebius about Pantaenus was highlighted by a recent scholar.In his ground-breaking book,A History of Christianity in Asia(1998), Samuel Moffett mentions that Pantaenus, a church historian and missionary who traveled to India in 180 A.D., discovered the copy of the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew that Bartholomew had taken with him. After providing the quote from Eusebius, Moffet comments:”There is a shock hidden in that matter-of-fact statement. …The surprise, of course, is the mention of Bartholomew as the pioneer to the East.” Moffett points out that Bartholomew was primarily known only as an apostle in Armenia, Arabia and Persia. See Moffett,id., at37. In this quote, Eusebius provides proof he also went to India. Jerome does likewise.Eusebius said some in his day accepted the Hebrew Matthew as canonical: “… which some reject, but which others class with the accepted books. And among these some have also placedthe Gospel of the Hebrews, with which thoseHebrewswho accept Christ are especially delighted. All these may be reckoned among the disputed books. (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.25.5) [Wikipedia] Jerome probably did view it as truly that of Matthew because he says he translated it in this passage: GHeb-46 Jerome [ca. 392 AD] Whoever has read the Song of Songs knows the spouse of the soul to bethe Word of God. And whoever accepts the Gospel circulating under the title ‘Gospel of the Hebrews,’which we most recently translated,in which it is said by the Saviour, “Even now my mother, the Holy Spirit, carried me away by one of my hairs,” will not hesitate to say that the Word of God is sprung from the Spirit, and that the soul, which is the spouse of the Word, has for a mother-in-law the Holy Spirit who among theHebrewsis called by the feminine gender, RUA. (Jerome, Commentary on Micah 7.6 [book ii], quoted and translated in E.B. Nicholson,The Gospel according to the Hebrews(1879) at17.)Cf.[Wikipedia] (an inferior translation). Nicholson comments on this that “It is pretty clear that Jerome thinks people ought to believe the Gospel according to the Hebrews.” (E.B. Nicholson,The Gospel according to the Hebrews(1879)at18.)Jerome mentions translating it again in another passage: In the Gospel which the Nazarenes and the Ebionites use whichwe have recently translated from Hebrewto Greek, and which most people callThe Authentic Gospel of Matthew, the man who had the withered hand is described as a mason who begged for help in the following words: “I was a mason, earning a living with my hands. I beg you, Jesus, restore my health to me, so that I need not beg for my food in shame.” (Jerome, Commentary onMatthew2) [Wikipedia] Jerome repeats once more he translated this work into Greek as well as Latin (both now tragically lost): Also,the Gospel called of the Hebrews,recentlytranslated by meinto Greek and Latin, which Origen often uses, states, after the resurrection of the Saviour: “Now the Lord, after he had given His grave clothes to the servant of the priest, appeared to James, for James had sworn that he would not eat bread from that hour in which he had drunk the Lord’s cup until he should see Him risen from the dead.” And a little further on the Lord says, “‘bring a table and bread.’” And immediately it is added, “He took bread and blessed and broke and gave it to James the Just and said to him, ‘My brother, eat your bread, for the Son of Man is risen from the dead.’” (Jerome, On Illustrious Men, 2) [Wikipedia] Jerome clearly believes Matthew wrote the work in the possession of the Ebionites: “In this last he bore witness to the Gospel whichI have recently translated.” (Jerome, On Illustrious Men 16) [Wikipedia] (“Eusebius, Epiphanius, Jerome, etc., wrote the gospel, written by Matthew, was in Hebrew letters.”(Albert Réville, Eduard von Muralt,Etudes critiques surl’evangile selon St. Matthieu(D. Noothoven van Goor,1862) at53.) Jerome similarly speaks inThe Prologue of the Four Gospels: Primus omnium Matthaeus est, publicanus cognomento Levi, qui evangelium in Iudaea Hebreo sermone edidit, ob eorum vel maxime causam qui in Iesum crediderunt ex Iudaeis, et nequaquam legis umbra succendente evangelii vertitatem servabat.First of all is Matthew, a publican with the cognomen of Levi, who published a gospel in Judea in the Hebrew speech, especially on account of those who had believed in Jesus from among the Jews, and with the shadow of the law in no way succeeding he served the truth of the gospel. (Text Excavation) Jerome also wrote to the Bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus about the Hebrew Matthew as deliberately done in Hebrew to guard for only the most religious to see: A difficult work is enjoined, since this translation has been commanded me by your Felicities, which St. Matthew himself, the Apostle and Evangelist, did not wish to be openly written. For if it had not been Secret, he would have added to the evangel that which he gave forth was his; but he made up this book sealed up in the Hebrew characters, which he put forth even in such a way that the book, written in Hebrew letters and by the hand of himself, might be possessed by the men most religious, who also, in the course of time, received it from those who preceded them. But this very book they never gave to any one to be transcribed, and its text they related some one way and some another. (“St. Jerome,” vol. 445; Dunlop, Sod: The Son of Man at 46.) This is not too dissimilar to the apocryphal work known as the Epistle of Peter And James where it is written: “Hear me, brethren and fellow-servants. If we should give the books to all indiscriminately, and they should be corrupted by any daring men, or be perverted by interpretations, as you have heard that some have already done, it will remain even for those who really seek the truth, always to wander in error. Wherefore it is better that they should be with us, and that we should communicate them with all the fore-mentioned care to those who wish to live piously, and to save others.” Finally, Jerome gives specifics about what the underlying text really was written in: Inthe Gospel of the Hebrews, written in the Chaldee andSyriaclanguagebut in Hebrew script, and used by the Nazarenes to this day (I mean the Gospel of the Apostles, or, as it is generally maintained,the Gospel of Matthew, a copy of which is in the library at Caesarea), we find, “Behold the mother of the Lord and his brothers said to him, ‘John the Baptist baptizes for the forgiveness of sins. Let us go and be baptized by him.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘in what way have I sinned that I should go and be baptized by him? Unless perhaps, what I have just said is a sin of ignorance.’” And in the same volume, “ ‘If your brother sins against you in word, and makes amends, receive him seven times a day.’ Simon, His disciple, said to Him, ‘Seven times in a day!’ The Lord answered and said to him, ‘I say unto thee, until seventy times seven.’ ” (Jerome, Against Pelagius 3.2) [Wikipedia].Jerome does again in this quote, explaining how later he translated it into Greek:Matthew,also called Levi, who used to be a tax collector and later an apostle, composed the Gospel of Christ, which wasfirst published in Judea in Hebrew scriptfor the sake of those of the circumcision who believed. This Gospel was afterwards translated into Greek (and the Greek has been lost) though by what author uncertain. TheHebrew originalhas beenpreservedto this present day in thelibrary of Caesarea, which Pamphilus diligently gathered. I have also had the opportunity of havingthis volumetranscribed for meby the Nazarenes of Beroea, Syria, who use it.It should be noted that wherever the Evangelist — whether on his own account or in the person of our Lord and Saviour — quotes the testimony of the Old Testament he does not follow the authority of the language of the Septuagint but the Hebrew. Therefore these two forms exist, “Out of Egypt have I called my Son,” and, “For He will be called a Nazarene.” (See also margin of codex 1424 – This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophets, “Out of Egypt have I called my Son.”) (Jerome, On Illustrious Men 3, De Santos 18) [Wikipedia;E.B. Nicholson,The Gospel according to the Hebrews(1879)at18.] See alsoText Excavationsfor Latin.While Jerome was very partial to the Hebrew Matthew, and it was maintained by the Nazarenes who also appear to be the Ebionites in Epiphanius’ writings, Jerome never equates them to the Ebionites, and is harsh against the Ebionites as legalists: The matter in debate, therefore, or I should rather say your opinion regarding it, is summed up in this: that since the preaching of the gospel of Christ, the believing Jews do well in observing the precepts of the law, i.e. in offering sacrifices as Paul did, in circumcising their children, as Paul did in the case of Timothy, and keeping the Jewish Sabbath, as all the Jews have been accustomed to do. If this be true, we fall into the heresy of Cerinthus andEbion, who, though believing in Christ, were anathematized by the fathers for this one error, that theymixed up the ceremonies of the law with the gospel of Christ, and professed their faith in that which was new, without letting go what was old. Why do I speak of theEbionites,who make pretensions to the name of Christian? In our own day there exists a sect among the Jews throughout all the synagogues of the East, which is called the sect of the Minei, and is even now condemned by the Pharisees. The adherents to this sect are known commonly asNasarenes; theybelieve in Christ the Son of God, born of, the Virgin Mary; and they say that He who suffered under Pontius Pilate and rose again, is the same as the one in whom we believe. But while they desire to be both Jews and Christians, they are neither the one nor the other. I therefore beseech you, who think that you are called upon to heal my slight wound, which is no more, so to speak, than a prick or scratch from a needle, to devote your skill in the healing art to this grievous wound, which has been opened by a spear driven home with the impetus of a javelin. For there is surely no proportion between the culpability of him who exhibits the various opinions held by the fathers in a commentary on Scripture, and the guilt of him who reintroduces within the Church a most pestilential heresy. If, however, there is for us no alternative but to receive the Jews into the Church, along with the usages prescribed by their law; if, in short, it shall be declared lawful for them to continue in the Churches of Christ what they have been accustomed to practice in the synagogues of Satan, I will tell you my opinion of the matter: they will not become Christians, but they will make us Jews.(Jerome, CE 404, Letter 75 – Jerome to Augustin)
Length Differences Recorded By Early Church
The Hebrew Matthew was said to have 300 fewer lines than the Greek Matthew in the original manuscripts. Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople, produced a catalogue of New Testament books, followed by that of the antilegomena (which contains the Revelation of John) and that of the apocrypha. Next to each book is the count of its stichoi (lines). The following is an excerpt.
New Testament (writings) the following are gainsaid: 1. The Revelation of John 1400 lines 2. The Revelation of Peter 300 lines 3. The Epistle of Barnabas 1360 lines 4.The Gospel of the Hebrews 2200 linesApocrypha of the New Testament: 1. The Circuit of Paul 3600 lines 2. The Circuit of Peter 2750 lines 3. The Circuit of John 2500 lines 4. The Circuit of Thomas 1600 lines 5. The Gospel of Thomas 1300 lines 6. The Didache 200 lines 7. The 32 (books) of Clement 2600 lines It is important to note that theGospel of the Hebrewsis 2200 lines, 300 fewer thanGreek Matthew.(Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople, in hisStichometry). SeeStichometry of Nicephorus
Ebionites & The Gospel according to the Hebrews
Epiphanius in the 300s speaks of the Ebionites of his day, and they relied exclusively upon the Gospel according to the Hebrews:
“He goes on to speak of the Ebionites: ‘ And these too receive the Gospel according to Matthew; for this. they too, as also the Kerinthians and Merinthians, use to the exclusion of the rest. And they call it ” according to the Hebrews,” to tell the truth becauseMatthew alone in the New Covenant set both the exposition and preaching of the Gospel in Hebrew speech and Hebrew characters.”Presently he goes off at a tangent into a long story of a Jew named Joseph, who found in a library’ the Gospel according to John translated from Greek into Hebrew speech, and the Acts of the Apostles—nevertheless after these reading also that according to Matthew, which was an original Hebrew work.’ He then observes that he has been led into this digression by the mention of Matthew’s Gospel, and comes back to speak of the Ebionites.” (E.B. Nicholson,The Gospel According to the Hebrews(1879) at10, citing Epiphanius,Haer. xxx.3.)
What If We Could Recreate the Original Hebrew Matthew?
How important could it be if we discovered the original Matthew? That we could reconstruct it from fragments and perhaps even find a late discovery of a valid manuscript?
Prof. Hugh Schonfield provides an insight on the importance of such a discovery:
“ The Gospel according to the Hebrews is a literary outlaw with a price on its head; but in spite of the scholarly hue and cry it still evades capture. Neither monastic libraries nor Egyptian rubbish heaps have so far yielded up a single leaf of this important document…. For behind Hebrews lies the unknown potentialities of the Nazarene tradition, which may confirm or contradict some of the most cherished beliefs of Orthodox Christianity. It is useless for certain theologians to designate Hebrews as “secondary” on the evidence of the present fragmentary remains preserved in quotation….  Judged by ancient testimony alone it is indisputable thatHebrews has the best right of any Gospel to be considered a genuine apostolic production;…  Here is obviously a most valuable witness, perhaps themost valuable witness to the truth about [Yeshua]… whom even a jury composed entirely of orthodox Christians could not despise, and who ought to be brought into court.  But the witness is missing, and all that we have is a few reported statements of his taken long ago…  it may be argued that there has been dependence not of ‘Hebrews’ on the Synoptics but vice versa — that‘Hebrews’ was one of the sources on which one or more of them drew.”(Hugh Schonfield,According to the Hebrewsa new translation of the Jewish life of Jesus (the Toldoth Jeshu), with an inquiry into the nature of its sources and special relationship to the lost Gospel according to the Hebrews(Duckworth, 1937)at13-18.)
One of the main arguments against belief in a Hebrew Matthew is that scholars prior to the discovery of the Dead-Sea Scrolls convinced themselves that in Christ’s time everyone spoke Aramaic on a daily basis, and hence Matthew would not have written in Hebrew. These scholars believed Hebrew was supposedly a dead language. Thus, they ask how could a gospel be written in Hebrew? For example, Gustaf Dalman in his work
The words of Jesus considered in the light of post-Biblical Jewish writings(1902) at56summarily dismisses any notion of a Hebrew original of Matthew because everyone supposedly knows no one spoke Hebrew anymore in Christ’s time:
The existence of a primary gospel [of Matthew] in the Hebrew language has to be considered antecedently improbable, because no ocassion was discovered for the use of this language.
Dalman goes so far as to preposterously disavow the importance of all of Jerome’s positive statements, and then cast a baseless doubt that Jerome held his belief in a Hebrew Matthew to the end: “it may now be regarded as an established fact that Jerome was mistaken, and that he himself latterly perceived his error in believing that the original of Matthew in Hebrew still existed in his day.” (
However, nothing at all supports that claim about Jerome backing off from his full support that the Hebrew he found in the Hebrew Matthew appeared the original text. Dalman makes this claim despite Dalman acknowledging Jerome questioned the Greek translation which says a ‘veil’ at the Temple was instead of a lintel. Jerome believed it was a Greek translator’s error now that Jerome had seen the Hebrew Matthew. Jerome recognized the Hebrew Matthew said a lintel fell, not a curtain was rent at the Temple. And the Hebrew word for
lintelis virtually identical in appearance tocurtain. Hence, a Greek translator could easily make a mistake which mistake can be cleared up by examining the Hebrew Matthew. (Dalman,id., at56.) Dalman mentions this but then brushes it aside as unimportant to establish Jerome’s belief in a Hebrew original. Nor does Dalman ever establish Jerome lost faith that the Hebrew was more original. Dalman’s book, as we examine it, is highly polemical and one-sided in its analysis — all designed to discount anything but our Greek texts.
A further example of the disregard for a Hebrew Matthew beginning over 100 years ago is Nicholson’s work of 1879 entitled
The Gospel according to Matthew.He takes it for granted that the Hebrew Matthew was actually written in Aramaic. He does so despite Jerome quotingmaharas a Hebrew, not Aramaic, word, that meanstomorrowso as to highlight the variance in the Lord’s prayer over “daily bread” versus “tomorrow’s bread” in the Hebrew Matthew. He does so despite Jerome’s pondering how the Hebrew oflintelcan be misread ascurtain, surely indicating he is looking at a Hebrew, not Aramaic, text.
What these scholars erred in is (a) just because Aramaic was spoken daily did not mean Hebrew was dead; and (b) just because Aramaic was spoken daily did not mean Jesus did not speak sometimes in Hebrew, especially in the synagogue and in religious discussions. The Shem-Tob gives us some idea of when Jesus would speak Hebrew. From the cross, Shem-Tob says Jesus spoke in the “holy language” His cry to God “Elohim, Elohim,” etc. Thus, for moments of religious significance, Jesus spoke in Hebrew.
The Aramaic Priority Myth began to crumble with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls showed vibrant communities within Judaism writing in Hebrew in the 200 years leading up to Christ, and according to Eisenman and the Dead-Sea-Scrolls-tour, up through the entire early epoch of 70 AD.
But there was always trouble in this avowal of Aramaic as the primary language of religious expression. The Biblical evidence was completely overlooked by these Aramaic-proponents going back to the 1800s.
Milton Fischer, professor of Old Testament at Philadelphia Theological Seminary and the seminary’s former president, recently explained what they overlooked in the NT an article entitled “Did not Paul speak to Jews at Jerusalem in Hebrew?”
Fischer pointed out that these scholars missed this well-known passage of Scripture in the Book of Acts dealing with Paul’s arrest by the Romans and his defence before the Jews:
“And when he (the chief captain) had given him license, Paul stood on the stairs. … And there was a great silence, hespoke to them in the Hebrew tongue. … And when they heard that hespoke in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence” (Acts 21:39 through Acts 22:2).
How could this be true if Hebrew was a dead language? The audience understood Hebrew, and not just the speaker. Obviously, Paul used Hebrew when a religious purpose was involved, just like the Shem-Tob reveals Jesus did in His last words on the cross, referring to Jesus speaking in the “Holy language.”
Furthermore, a paper in 1966 already pointed out another flaw in the Aramaic-only proposition — the emergence of Mishnaic Hebrew thereafter. This paper was presented to the Leeds University Oriental Society in 1966, and entitled “Qumram to Edessa.” In it, J.C.L. Gibson wrote, “No doubt that Jews of the homeland continued to speak Hebrew in the everyday life still in the Christian epoch – otherwise how can we explain the emergence of the late form of Hebrew known as Mishnaic Hebrew?”
New Variants From Hebrew Matthew Mentioned by ‘Fathers’
There is a variant on ‘seek and you will find.’
ClementAlso in theGospel of the Hebrewsit is written, the saying, “He that is amazed will prevail, and he that prevails shall rest in peace.” (Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis [Miscellanies] 2.9)ClementHe who seeks will not give up until he finds; and having found he will be amazed; and having been amazed, he shall prevail and having prevailed, he shall rest in peace. (Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis [Miscellanies] 5.14) [Wikipedia]
The following is a unique variant:
OrigenAnd Jesus said, “Because of the weak, I was weak, and because of the hungry I was hungry, and because of the thirsty I was thirsty.” (Origen, Commentary onMatthew13:2) [Wikipedia]
A variant on some items in chapter two of Matthew appear in this quote by Jerome:
JeromeMatthew,also called Levi, who used to be a tax collector and later an apostle, composed the Gospel of Christ, which wasfirst published in Judea in Hebrew scriptfor the sake of those of the circumcision who believed. This Gospel was afterwards translated into Greek (and the Greek has been lost) though by what author uncertain. TheHebrew originalhas beenpreservedto this present day in thelibrary of Caesarea, which Pamphilus diligently gathered. I have also had the opportunity of havingthis volume transcribed for me by the Nazarenes of Beroea, Syria, who use it.It should be noted that wherever the Evangelist — whether on his own account or in the person of our Lord and Saviour — quotes the testimony of the Old Testament he does not follow the authority of the language of the Septuagint but the Hebrew. Therefore these two forms exist, “Out of Egypt have I called my Son,” and, “For He will be called a Nazarene.” (See also margin of codex 1424 – This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophets, “Out of Egypt have I called my Son.”) (Jerome, On Illustrious Men 3) [Wikipedia]
A very interesting variant on Matthew 15 (the young rich man) appears in Origen:
OrigenIt is written in a certainGospel that is called of the Hebrews: The second rich youth said to him, “Rabbi, what good thing can I do and live?” Jesus replied, “Fulfill the law and the prophets.” “I have,” was the response Jesus said, “Go, sell all that you have and distribute to the poor; and come, follow me.” The youth began to fidget, for it did not please him. And the Lord said, “How can you say, I have fulfilled the law and the prophets, when it is written in the law: You shall love your neighbor as yourself and many of your brothers, sons of Abraham, are covered with filth, dying of hunger, and your house is full of many good things, none of which goes out to them?” And he turned and said to Simon, his disciple, who was sitting by Him, “Simon, son of Jonah, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Origen, Commentary onMatthew15:14) [Wikipedia]
There is even a variant on the Lord’s prayer:
Jerome ( b. 331 C.E.)“In theHebrew Gospel of Matthewit states, ‘Give us this day our bread for tomorrow.” (Jerome, On Psalm 135) [Wikipedia]
Jerome researched this question on the Lord’s prayer, and found the Hebrew underlying this was rich:
JeromeIn the so-calledGospel of the Hebrews, for “bread essential to existence,” I found “mahar”, which means “belonging to tomorrow” [or “of tomorrow”]; so the sense is: “our bread for tomorrow,” that is, of the future, “give us today.” (Jerome, Commentary onMatthew1; 6:11) [Wikipedia];Hans-Josef Klauck,Apocryphal Gospels(2003) at47.
Klauck explains that scholars now favor that the original of this passage did have this meaning: “Recent exegesis takes seriously the possibility that this may have been the original meaning of the fourth petition in the Lord’s prayer.”
Id., at 47.
There is also a variant on the ‘man with the withered hand’:
JeromeIn the Gospel which the Nazarenes and the Ebionites use which we have recently translated fromHebrewto Greek, and which most people callThe Authentic Gospel of Matthew, the man who had the withered hand is described as a mason who begged for help in the following words: “I was a mason, earning a living with my hands. I beg you, Jesus, restore my health to me, so that I need not beg for my food in shame.” (Jerome, Commentary onMatthew2) [Wikipedia];Hans-Josef Klauck,Apocryphal Gospels(2003) at47(citing Matthaeum 12:13.)
There is a variant on ‘if your brother has aught against thee’ as follows:
JeromeInthe Gospel of the Hebrewsthat the Nazarenes read there is counted among the most serious offences, “He that has grieved the spirit of his brother.” (Jerome, Commentary on Ezekiel 6) [Wikipedia] In Matthew 5:22, many Greek texts read “angry with his brotherwithout a cause….” In Gospel Codex 1422, it has marginal notes of the variants in what it calls the ‘Jewish gospel”i.e., To Ioudaikon. For Matthew 5:22, it says “in the Jewish gospel” the word for “without a reason” is missing.(Hans-Josef Klauck,Apocryphal Gospels(2003) at48.).
This variant has gained respect, and now the NIV omits “without a cause.”
Another variant is in Matthew 12:40. According to Codex 899, instead of Jonah being “three days and three nights” in the belly of the whale, and so would be the “Son of Man would be three days and three nights in the grave,” the words “three days and three nights” are not present in the “Jewish Gospel.” It says: “The Jewish gospel does not read three days and three nights.”(Hans-Josef Klauck,
Apocryphal Gospels(2003) at48.) Klauck things this is deleted to match the resurrection account which does not match this expression. Alternatively, the Jewish version of Matthew could be the original and that’s why it is more accurate.
Another variant is for Matthew 27:65. One of the codices mention a gloss from the “Jewish gospel” reads:
And he [Pilate] delivered to them armed men that they might sit over against the cave and guard it day and night.(Hans-Josef Klauck,Apocryphal Gospels(2003) at48.)
Another variant was used by Jerome without attribution to the Jewish gospel, but the codices mention in the margin how the “Jewish gospel” has a reading that matches what Jerome quotes in
Adversus Pelagiano3:2. This is Matthew 18:21f:’
Yes, I say to you up to seventy times seven.For even in the prophets after they were annointed with the Holy Spirit, (the) wordof sin was found.(Hans-Josef Klauck,Apocryphal Gospels(2003) at48.)
The meaning of this, Klauck points out, is that despite having the holy spirit, these men too had to keep repenting of sin. They were not “preserved from the possibility of sin, and hence required forgiveness again and again.”
Id.This also fits well with the next verse that begins an account about reparations.
In 1870, the
Gospel of the Holy Twelvewas found, and it claimed a great antiquity. In Chapter 57 verse 14 — in its reprint as the Gospel of the Nazarenes (ed. Alan Wauters and Rick VanWyhe, 1997) it reads similarly: “Then Peter came to ham and said, Lord, how often do I allow my brother to sin against me and forgive him? Seven times? Jesus said to him I don’t tell you seven times, but seven times seventy.For in the Prophets likewise sinful behavior was found, even after they were Anointed by the Holy Spirit.”
Another variant from a gloss in ancient codices mention of the “Jewish gospel” is placed at Matthew 7:5 altough the text fits at Matt. 7:21-22. “If you are in my bosom and do not do the will of my Father in heaven, I will cast you out of my bosom.” This matches Matt. 7:21 which similarly says entrance into heaven is conditional on doing the will of the Father.(Hans-Josef Klauck,
Apocryphal Gospels(2003) at49.)
Another variant is at the scene of the cross. Haimo of Halberstadt in the 800s quoted the Gospel of the Nazarenes:
As it is said in the Gospel of the Nazarenes: “At the word of the Lord many thousands of the Jews who were standing around the cross became believers.”(Hans-Josef Klauck,Apocryphal Gospels(2003) at49.)
A unique variant is in Origen on the Holy Spirit as Jesus’ mother:
OrigenAnd if any accept theGospel of the Hebrews, in which the Savior says: “Even so did my mother, the Holy Spirit, take me by one of my hairs, and carry me to the great mountain Tabor.” The problem of explaining how it is possible for the “mother” of Christ to be the Holy Spirit, which came into existence through the Logos, must be dealt with. However, this is not difficult to explain, for if “whoever does the will of the Father in Heaven is brother and sister and mother”, and if the name “brother of Christ” applies not only to men, but also to beings of more divine rank, there is nothing wrong in the Holy Spirit being his mother, when anyone who does the will of the Father in Heaven is called “mother of Christ”. (Origen, Commentary on John 2:12) See also Origen’s Homily on Jeremiah 15.4, which says, “If anyone can accept this – ‘Even so did my mother the Holy Spirit take me up to the great mountain, Tabor’ – one can see she is his mother.” [Wikipedia]
Another unique variant is this verse:
EusebiusChrist himself taught the reason for the separations of souls that take place in houses, as we have found inthe Gospel that is spread among those of circumcision in Hebrew scriptin which He said, “I choose for Myself the most worthy. The most worthy are those My Father in Heaven has given Me.” (Eusebius, Theophania 4.12) [Wikipedia]
Another unique variant is this verse:
EpiphaniusJesus came and announced, as it says in theGospel, the one called ‘of the Hebrews’, “I have come to destroy sacrifices; and if you do not stop making sacrifices, the wrath of God will not leave you.” (Epiphanius, Panarion 30.16.5) [Wikipedia]
Another unique variant is this verse:
JeromeIn theGospel of the Hebrewsthat the Nazarenes read, it says, “Even now my mother the Holy Spirit carried me away.” This should upset no one because “spirit” inHebrewis feminine, while in our language it is masculine and in Greek it is neuter. In divinity there is no gender. (Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah 40.9) [Wikipedia]
Another unique variant is:
As we have read in theHebrew Gospel, the Lord says to his disciples: ”And never be you joyful, save when you behold your brother with love.” (Jerome, Commentary on Ephesians 3)
More on this variant appears in Jerome:
JeromeIn the Book of Judges we read “Deborah”, which means “honeybee”. Her prophecies are the sweetest honey and refer to the Holy Spirit, who is called in Hebrew by a feminine noun. Inthe Gospel of the Hebrewsthat the Nazarenes read, the Saviour indicates this by saying, “Even now my mother, the Holy Spirit, carried me away.” (Jerome, Commentary on Ezekiel 16.3)
And again, Jerome mentions this passage, even while saying he translated the entire gospel:
JeromeWhoever has read the Song of Songs knows that the Word of God is also the bridegroom of the soul. And whoever accepts the Gospel circulating under the title ‘Gospel of the Hebrews,’ which we most recently translated, in which it is said by the Saviour, “Even now my mother, the Holy Spirit, carried me away by one of my hairs,” will not hesitate to say that the Word of God proceeds from the Spirit, and that the soul, which is the bride of the Word, has the Holy Spirit (which inHebrewis feminine in gender, RUA). (Jerome, Commentary on Micah 7.6)
Another variant in the Hebrew Matthew is within the Parable of the Talents
Eusebius, (b. 260 C.E.)But theGospel written in Hebrew scriptwhich has reached our hands turns the threat not against the man who had hid the talent, but against him who has lived dissolutely – for it told of three: one wasted his master’s possessions with harlots and flute-girls, one multiplied his gains, and one hid the talent. Accordingly, one was accepted, one was only rebuked, and one was shut up in prison. (Eusebius, Theophany onMatthew.22) [Wikipedia]
Another variant is on the duty to forgive if there is repentance and the other “makes amends” in this excerpt:
Inthe Gospel of the Hebrews, written in the Chaldee andSyriaclanguagebut in Hebrew script, and used by the Nazarenes to this day (I mean the Gospel of the Apostles, or, as it is generally maintained,the Gospel of Matthew, a copy of which is in the library at Caesarea), we find…And in the same volume, “ ‘If your brother sins against you in word, and makes amends, receive him seven times a day.’ Simon, His disciple, said to Him, ‘Seven times in a day!’ The Lord answered and said to him, ‘I say unto thee, until seventy times seven.’ ” (Jerome, Against Pelagius 3.2)
The variant on the baptism account includes the very important “this day I have begotten thee.”
EpiphaniusAfter saying many things, this Gospel continues: “After the people were baptized, Jesus also came and was baptized by John. And as Jesus came up from the water, Heaven was opened, and He saw the Holy Spirit descend in the form of a dove and enter into Him. And a voice from Heaven said, ‘You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.’ And again, ‘Today I have begotten You.’ “Immediately a great light shone around the place; and John, seeing it, said to Him, ‘Who are you, Lord? And again a voice from Heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’ Then John, falling down before Him, said, ‘I beseech You, Lord, baptize me!’ But He forbade him saying, ‘Let it be so; for thus it is fitting that all things be fulfilled.’” (Epiphanius, Panarion 30.13.7) [Wikipedia]
Another baptism variant is found in Jerome’s summary:
JeromeInthe Gospel written in the Hebrew scriptthat the Nazarenes read, the whole fount of the Holy Spirit descends upon Him, for God is Spirit and where the Spirit resides, there is freedom. Further in the Gospel which we have just mentioned we find the following written: “When the Lord came up out of the water the whole fount of the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and rested on Him saying, ‘My Son, in all the prophets was I waiting for You that You should come and I might rest in You. For You are My rest. You are My first begotten Son that prevails forever.’ ” (Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah 4) [Wikipedia]
A variant on just before the baptism account was:
JeromeInthe Gospel of the Hebrews, written in the Chaldee andSyriaclanguagebut in Hebrew script, and used by the Nazarenes to this day (I mean the Gospel of the Apostles, or, as it is generally maintained,the Gospel of Matthew, a copy of which is in the library at Caesarea), we find, “Behold the mother of the Lord and his brothers said to him, ‘John the Baptist baptizes for the forgiveness of sins. Let us go and be baptized by him.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘in what way have I sinned that I should go and be baptized by him? Unless perhaps, what I have just said is a sin of ignorance.’” And in the same volume, “ ‘If your brother sins against you in word, and makes amends, receive him seven times a day.’ Simon, His disciple, said to Him, ‘Seven times in a day!’ The Lord answered and said to him, ‘I say unto thee, until seventy times seven.’ ” (Jerome, Against Pelagius 3.2)
A variant that avoids Jesus being incorrect on a name is mentioned by Jerome:
In the Gospel that the Nazarenes use, for “son of Barachiah” we find written “son of Johoiada.” (Jerome, Commentary onMatthew4) See also: And Zechariah the son of Johoiada said, “For he was of two names.” (Peter of Laodicea, Commentary on Matthew, ed. Heinrici, V. 267) [Wikipedia]This correction also appears in Howard’s Hebrew Matthew (1985).Another variant is obviously to the woman caught in adultery that appears in John’s Gospel but currently does not appear in the Greek-based Matthew: GHeb-5 Papias (b. 63 C.E.) Matthew collected the teachings of Jesus (ta logia) in the Hebrew language and everyone translated them as best he could. also gives another story of a woman accused of many sins before the Lord, in the Gospel of the Hebrews. (Eusebius, Church History. 3.39.16)A small insert variant appears about Barabas:JeromeInthe Gospel of the Hebrews, Barabbas is interpreted as “son of their master”. He was condemned because of insurrection and murder. (Jerome, Commentary on Matthew 4) [Wikipedia]A verse once in Matthew 27 which was accidentally changed to be about a curtain was mentioned by Jerome:JeromeInthe Gospel I so often mentionwe read, “A lintel of the Temple of immense size was broken.” (Jerome, OnMatthew27) [Wikipedia]JeromeIn the Gospel written in Hebrew scriptwe read not that the curtain of the temple was torn, but that the astonishingly large lintel of the temple collapsed. (See also Epist. 20.5) (Jerome, Letter 120 to Hedibia) [Wikipedia]A post-resurrection variant is:JeromeAlso,the Gospel called of the Hebrews, recentlytranslated by meinto Greek and Latin, which Origen often uses, states, after the resurrection of the Saviour: “Now the Lord, after he had given His grave clothes to the servant of the priest, appeared to James, for James had sworn that he would not eat bread from that hour in which he had drunk the Lord’s cup until he should see Him risen from the dead.” And a little further on the Lord says, “‘bring a table and bread.’” And immediately it is added, “He took bread and blessed and broke and gave it to James the Just and said to him, ‘My brother, eat your bread, for the Son of Man is risen from the dead.’” (Jerome, On Illustrious Men, 2) [Wikipedia]A slight variant on the closing verse of Matthew is:EusebiusThey went to all nations, teaching their message in the power of Christ, for He had commanded, saying, “Go and make disciples of all nations in My name.” (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist., 3.5.2.) [Wikipedia] Wikipedia has another article of the variants from the Gospel of the Nazarenes, which is likely just another means of referring to the same gospel discussed above. This article can be found athttp://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Gospel_of_the_Nazaraeans
Variants Noted by Nehemiah Gordon
Nehemiah Gordon wrote a book
Hebrew Yeshua vs. Greek Jesus(Jerusalem: 2006). Gordon, a Jewish scholar familiar in Biblical Hebrew, was asked, he explains, by a Christian to help decipher the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew published by Professor Howard. Gordon read the gospel, and became impressed by Jesus as sharing Gordon’s own Karaite doctrine which was to reject man-made additions to the Law and Prophets.
In the course of looking at the original text, he found differences between Howard’s English rendering and the Hebrew text that Howard provided. There were more than one Hebrew copy that Howard worked from so this may explain the discrepancy. Regardless, Gordon provided a few extra variants that are not evident reading Professor Howard’s English translation but which Gordon explains makes perfect sense.
1. Taking An Oath Falsely, Matthew 5:33
Gordon examined the original Hebrew text upon which Professor Howard relied in his 1987 publication of the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew. Gordon discovered that the Greek translation of Matthew 5:33 inadvertently dropped the word “falsely” from the Hebrew Matthew of 5:33. This omission erroneously made it appear Jesus said one is never to take an oath. (Nehemiah Gordon,
Hebrew Yeshua v. Greek Jesus(Hilkia Press, 2006) at 59, 65-66, 68.)
Gordon explains why “falsely” is the obviously right reading. First, Gordon admires the excellence of Jesus’s understanding of the Law, and thus one would not anticipate Jesus meant a follower should never take an oath. Gordon points out God commands people to take oaths in God’s name. “Thou shalt fear Jehovah thy God;… and by his name shalt thou swear.” (Deu 10:20 ASV.)
Gordon notes the Pharisees taught, by contrast, you could violate an oath as long as not sworn in Yahweh’s name. The Pharisees deduced this from a hypertechnical reading of the Bible passage which prohibited any false swearing in
God’s name. (Lev. 19:12.)
By examining Jesus’ criticisms, Gordon said one can deduce how the Pharisees twisted this verse, and hence the point of Jesus in the Hebrew Matthew perfectly fits. Jesus said we are not to make any “false” oath, according to the Hebrew Matthew. From what Jesus said, the Pharisees obviously said Leviticus 19:12 implied
you could falsely sweareven if you invoked objects closely associated with God, like the Temple. You supposedly would transgress the commandonly when God’s name is used.
However, Jesus was invoking the broader principle in Zechariah 8:17 which said “love no
falseoath: for all these are things that I hate, saith Jehovah.” Thus, Jesus was saying you were not allowed to dupe others by a false oath if you worded your oath carefully not to use God’s name. Jesus was prohibiting any “false” oath, as Zechariah says, and rejecting one could make a false oath as long as not in God’s name,e.g., “I swear by the gold in the Temple.’
Thus, the Pharisees diminished the Law once more, and this was what Jesus’s theme was throughout the Sermon on the Mount. Gordon detected the difference in the Hebrew version of Matthew where Jesus corrected them, saying `do not swear
falselyat all,’ whether by the temple or anything else. The Greek translation dropped the word
falsely , which has led some Christian sects to advise their members to not even take an oath in a court of law .
2. Matthew 23:2-3 – A “He” in Hebrew Was Altered To “They” in Greek, With An Anomolous Result
In this passage, Jesus in the Greek text tradition of Matthew tells His followers to do everything the Pharisees tell them.
(2) Saying “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: (3) All therefore whatsoever
theybid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.” (Matt.23:2-3, KJV)
But Jesus had often said the Pharisees made of “none effect” the Law by their traditions (Matt. 15:6), and they put burdens on the people that are too difficult to bear which are not in the Law.
Thus, Christian scholars concur there is something wrong and implausible in this statement attributed to Jesus. J.C. Fenton says “It is really
difficult to believe Jesus commanded obedienceto the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees.” (J.C. Fenton,Saint Matthew(Pelican: 1963) at 366.)
Of the same opinion areW.D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, Jr. in
Matthew(T&T Clarke: 2000) at 270.
Fenton speculates a pro-Pharisaical party made this addition to Matthew’s Gospel.
But it turns out if “they” was “he,” then the verse makes perfect sense with other statements made by Jesus. Jesus would be saying you are to follow what “he” — Moses — says — but not follow ‘them’ – the Pharisees. This is the same message in Matthew 5:17-19.
And we find this “he” is what the Hebrew Gospel of Shem Tob that Professor Howard unearthed in 1987, as Nehemiah Gordon read the Hebrew. The Hebrew Shem-Tob Gospel has “he” instead of “they,” providing thus obviously the right reading.
Here is how Nehemiah Gordon corrected this passage:
“The Pharisees and sages sit on Moses’ seat. Therefore, all that
he* [i.e., Moses] says to you, diligently do, but according to their reforms [i.e., additions] and their precedents [i.e., examples used to justify conduct], do not do because they talk but they do not do [Torah].” Hebrew Matt. 23:2-3 (translation by Nehemiah Gordon).
*In the Greek Matthew, it says ‘all that they say, do.”
Nehemiah Gordon pointed out that this comports with the Christian commentators who find it anomolous that Jesus would instruct Christians to obey the Pharisees:
Most Christian scholars simply admitted that Yeshua
could not have meant for his disciples to obey the Pharisees but were unable to offer any plausible explanationof the fact that the book of Matthew attributes these words to him. (Nehemiah Gordon,The Hebrew Yeshua vs The Greek Jesus(Jerusalem: Hilkiah Press, 2006) at 30.
Variants Deduced To Have Come From Hebrew Matthew
Here are variants deduced by the ‘fathers’ ascribing quotes to a gospel that does not survive — evidently the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew.
GHeb –1 Clement of Rome (b. 31 C.E.) The words of the Lord Jesus, which He spoke, “The measure you use, it will be measuredagainstyou.” (First Clement, 13.12)GHeb-2 Clement of Rome Remember the words of our Lord Jesus who said, “Woe to whoever causesmy chosento fall. It would be good for him not to have been born. It would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened about his neck and be cast into the sea, than that he should cause one ofmy chosento miss the mark.” (First Clement, 46.14) GHeb-3 Didache The Lord commanded in his Gospel to pray like this: “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our bread fortomorrowand forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the power and the glory, for ever.” (Didache, 8.2) GHeb-4 Ignatius (b. 43 C.E.) When He came to those with Peter, Jesus said to them, “Take hold of me, handle me, and see that I am not abodilessdemon.” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Smyrneans) GHeb-6 Polycarp (b. 68 C.E.) The Lord said in His teaching, “The measure you use, it will be measuredagainst you.” (Polycarp to the Philippians, 2.18) GHeb-7 Polycarp The Lord said in His teaching, “Blessed are the poor and those who are persecutedafterrighteousness sake, for yours is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Polycarp to the Philippians) GHeb-8 Barnabas The Lord said, “Behold I makelast things as the first.” (Barnabas, 6.13) GHeb-9 Justin (b. 100 C.E.) When Jesus went down into the water,fire was kindled in the Jordan, and when he came up from the water, the Holy Spirit came upon Him. The apostles of our Christ wrote this. (Justin, Dialogue, 88) GHeb-10 Justin The voice spoke to him, saying, “You are My Son,today I have begotten You”. This is recorded in theGospel of the Apostles. (Justin, Dialogue, 103)GHeb-15 Tertullian (b. 150 C.E.) Jesus said, “When you have seen your brother, you have seen the Lord.” (Tertullian, On Prayer 26)GHeb-17 Clement of Alexandria (b. 150 C.E.) Jesus said, “When you have seen your brother, you have seen your Lord.” (Clement of Alexandria, StromateisMiscellanies1.19)GHeb-19 ClementHe who seeks will not give up until he finds; and having found he will be amazed; and having been amazed, he shall prevail and having prevailed, he shall rest in peace. (Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis Miscellanies 5.14)GHeb-21 Origen And Jesus said, “Because of the weak, I was weak, and because of the hungry I was hungry, and because of the thirsty I was thirsty.” (Origen, Commentary onMatthew13:2)GHeb-28 Eusebius They went to all nations, teaching their message in the power of Christ, for He had commanded, saying, “Go and make disciples of all nations inMy name.” (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist., 3.5.2.)GHeb-38 Epiphanius The disciples said, “Where will You have us prepare for You to eat the Passover?” Jesus replies, “Have I earnestly desired to eat this Passover meat with you?” (Epiphanius, Panarion 30.22.4)Hint that Woman Caught In Adultery Comes From Hebrew Matthew “Eusebius informs us that Papias narrated from the Gospel according to the Hebrews a story of a woman accused before the Lord of many sins.”E.B. Nicholson,The Gospel of the Hebrews(1879) at7citing at8Eusebius,Eccl. Hist., iii. 39.)
Ehrman suggests that the Ebionites may have translated Matthew in Aramaic. Ehrman agrees that the Ebionites had a version of Matthew in Hebrew. This version may have been identical to a version by the Nazarenes, which was a name sometimes used for Jewish Christians like the Ebionites were. See Ehrman’s discussion at this google.books link. The most likely resolution is that Matthew wrote in Hebrew in Hebrew lettering, and this is the authentic first version. The second, also by Matthew, would be the Aramaic translation in Hebrew lettering. This accounts for both being ascribed to Matthew, the apostle.
Ehrman has the theory that the Ebionites wrote a version of their Gospel in Greek. See this link . This appears confirmed by Jerome who mentions a Greek translation done by the Ebionites of Matthew’s Gospel. This is not the same gospel as the later Greek version that became our common Matthew of today. There is an example of where the Ebionite Greek spoke of “cakes” as the food of John the Baptist, but this was translated into “locusts” in the traditional Greek edition of Matthew by the alteration of a single letter. Thus, this helps identify the Ebionite Greek version as distinct from the traditional Greek edition.
For more on the Ebionites, see the collection of materials at this knol .
Wikipedia has an article entitled the Authentic Gospel of Matthew. See link. It has an important passage on the Original Hebrew Matthew as being accepted by the early church despite a Greek text of the same gospel:
The Hebrew Text
According to the Church Fathers, the
Eusebius adds that the reason Matthew wrote his version was that he was about to leave the religious community he established, and therefore put together an account of the life of Jesus for the people he left behind.
St. Jeromeis most helpful in understanding the origins of this Gospel. According to Jerome, the
Gospel of the Hebrewswas written in theSyriaclanguage (Aramaic) and used Hebrew letters. Most people of Jerome’s day called it “The Authentic Gospel of Matthew”, as they believed the Apostle of Jesus who was the tax collector composed it. The Aramaic original was preserved at the library in Caesarea, but copies existed in theNazarenecommunity inBeroea,Syria, as well as in theEbionitecommunity. The Nazarenes supposedly gave Jerome a copy that he translated intoGreek.
Jerome believed this gospel was authoritative and wrote about it extensively, thus preserving much of the text.
**** Finally some believe that there was more than one Hebrew Gospel but this goes against Epiphanius who writes that there was only one Hebrew Gospel (the one written by Matthew).
The WIkipedia gives various sources that refer to the Ebionite, Hebrew Gospel etc.
Papias (b. 63 C.E.)Matthewcollected the teachings of Jesus (ta logia) in theHebrewlanguage and everyone translated them as best he could. [Papius also gives another story of a woman accused of many sins before the Lord, in theGospel of the Hebrews.] (Eusebius, Church History. 3.39.16)
Ebionites & Paul
Irenaeus, b. 114 C.E.Those who are called Ebionites accept that God made the world. However their opinions with respect to the Lord are quite similar to those of Cerinthus and Carpocrates. They use theGospel of Matthewonly, and repudiate the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the Law. As to the prophetical writings, they expound them in a singular manner. They practice circumcision, observe of those customs that are enjoined by the Law, and are so very Judaic in their customs, they even adore Jerusalem as if it were the house of God. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.26.2) [Quoted inWikipedia.]IrenaeusGHeb-13 Irenaeus For the Ebionites, who use only theGospel of Matthew, are convicted out of that very book as not holding right views about the Lord. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.11.7)
Eusebius“These men thought that it was necessary to reject all the epistles of the apostle, whom they called an apostate from the Law and they used only the gospel called According to the Hebrewsmaking little account of the others. The Sabbath and the rest of the Law of the Jews they observed just like them, but like us, they celebrated the Lord’s Day as a memorial of the resurrection oft the Savior. Therefore, in consequence of such a course they received the name of Ebionites.” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3.27.4.)Text Excavationcombined with longer quotation inWikipediaInterestingly, while Epiphanius attacks the Ebionites for omitting the virgin birth account, implying they did so to deprecate Jesus as mere human, in another place Epiphanius says that the Ebionites did not view Jesus as a man (divine then?) in this quote:GHeb-36 Epiphanius Moreover, theydeny that He was a man, apparently on the basis of the word which the Savior spoke when it was announced to Him, “Behold, your mother and your brothers stand outside.” “Who are My mother and brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward his disciples He continued, “These who do the will of My Father are my brothers and sisters.” (Epiphanius, Panarion 30.14.5)
Is Matthias In Acts 1 Matthew?
In the next quote, the Gospel of the Hebrews supposedly exposes that Matthew is not Levi as Luke is construed to imply. Rather, Matthias who replaced Judas is supposedly the same as Levi. Thus, Matthew is Matthew, and Matthias who replaces Judas in Acts 1 as one of the twelve is also known as Levi:
GHeb-30 Didymus There are many people with two names. Scripture callsMatthew“Levi” in the Gospel of Luke, but they are not the same person. Rather Matthias who replaced Judas, and Levi are the same man with a double name. This is obvious in theGospel of the Hebrews. (Didymus, Commentary on Psalm)
I do not agree this is the case. I am simply mentioning one topic for which the Gospel of the Hebrews supposedly mentions which addresses this issue.
Chapter One Problems of Matthew
Chapter One of Matthew in the Hebrew or Ebionite Matthew is supposedly missing chapter one. If true, this would solve two issues with Matthew. The Greek traditional text has two errors in chapter one: the geneology is erroneous and it mistranslates Isaiah (which speaks of a “maiden” – not a virgin) and renders it as a “virgin,” which then fits the virgin birth account in the same chapter.
This supports believing that the Ebionite Matthew is more accurate for having either no chapter one or truncated version missing the virgin birth account. In the 300s, it was faulted for having no virgin birth account and no geneology per Epiphanius (who elsewhere admitted it had some geneology from Abraham but did not recount a virgin birth). Here is Epiphanius’s objection to the omission of the birth of Christ by the Hebrew version of Matthew, and the omission of a geneology:
EpiphaniusTheir Gospel commences as follows: “In the days of King Herod of Judea, a certain man named John came baptizing with a baptism of repentance in the river Jordan. He was said to be of the family of Aaron the priest, son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and all went out to him.” There is no genealogy [nor virgin birth] in their Gospel of Matthew, which commences as already stated: “In the days of King Herod of Judea, during the high-priesthood of Caiaphas.” Their gospel says, “This man named John came baptizing with a baptism of repentance in the Jordan River, et cetera.” (Epiphanius, Panarion 30.13.6) [Quoted inWikipedia.]EpiphaniusIn theGospel called ‘of Matthew’which they call theHebrew Gospelis written the following: “There was a certain man named Jesus, about thirty years old, who chose us. Coming to Capernaum, He entered the house of Simon, who is called Peter, and said, ‘As I passed by the Sea of Galilee, I chose John and James, sons of Zebedee, and Simon, and Andrew, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas Iscariot; and you Matthew, sitting at the tax office, I called and you followed me. You therefore, I want to be the Twelve, to symbolize Israel.’” And “It so happened that John came baptizing, and Pharisees and all Jerusalem came out to him to get baptized. And John wore clothing made of camel hair and had a leather belt about his waist. His food,” it continues, “consisted of wild honey that tasted like manna, like sweet cake cooked in oil.” (Epiphanius, Panarion 30.13.2)
The Ebionite difficulty with Matthew 1 in the Greek, which mistranslates “maiden” or “young girl,” as “virgin,” is evident at this snipe of them by Irenaeus:
God, then, was made man, and the Lord did Himself save us, giving us the token of the Virgin. But not as some allege, among those now presuming to expound the Scripture, [thus:] “Behold, a young woman shall conceive, and bring forth a son,” as Theodotion the Ephesian has interpreted, and Aquila of Pontus, both Jewish proselytes. The Ebionites, following these, assert that He was begotten by Joseph; thus destroying, as far as in them lies, such a marvelous dispensation of God, and setting aside the testimony of the prophets which proceeded from God.(Irenaeus, Adversus haereses (Against Heresies), 180 A.D.)
Perhaps the Ebionites pointed out the error in rendering “virgin” for a Hebrew word meaning “maiden.” Critics of the Ebionites then inadvertently confused them with Symmachus who was Jewish, and who attacked the Christian Greek canon by showing “virgin” was a mistranslation of the Isaiah passage in Matthew 1. The ancient critics thus lumped Symmachus with the Ebionites. But the Ebionites did not have chapter one of Matthew at all, and thus lumping them with Symmachus was unfounded. Instead, Symmachus was attacking the Greek traditional text of Matthew as the accepted standard as a means of attacking Christianity while the Ebionites were Christians who were Jewish in background, and whose version of Matthew never had a virgin birth account anyway. (Whether they denied a virgin birth is unknown. Omitting the account, which John and Mark equally do so, proves nothing.) Here is the misguided critique by Eusebius that erroneously claimed Symmachus was an Ebionite:
[The Translator Symmachus] “As to these translators it should be stated that Symmachus was an Ebionite. But the heresy of the Ebionites, as it is called, asserts that Christ was the son of Joseph and Mary, considering him a mere man, and insists strongly on keeping the law in a Jewish manner, as we have seen already in this history. Commentaries of Symmachus are still extant in which he appears to support this heresy by attacking the Gospel of Matthew. Origen states that he obtained these and other commentaries of Symmachus on the Scriptures from a certain Juliana, who, he says, received the books by inheritance from Symmachus himself.”(Eusebius, 4th century, Ecclesiastical History)
Why Didn’t The Hebrew Matthew Receive Wider Circulation?
Learned men who asked to see it, like Jerome, were shown it. But otherwise, it was not printed and reprinted to a wide audience. Why?
Jerome wrote to the Bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus: “A difficult work is enjoined, since this translation has been commanded me by your Felicities, which St. Matthew himself, the Apostle and Evangelist, did not wish to be openly written. For if it had not been Secret, he would have added to the evangel that which he gave forth was his; but he made up this book sealed up in the Hebrew characters, which he put forth even in such a way that the book, written in Hebrew letters and by the hand of himself, might be possessed by the men most religious, who also, in the course of time, received it from those who preceded them. But this very book they never gave to any one to be transcribed, and its text they related some one way and some another”.
In the Apocryphal bookEpistle of Peter to James, it is similarly stated: “Hear me, brethren and fellow-servants. If we should give the books to all indiscriminately, and they should be corrupted by any daring men, or be perverted by interpretations, as you have heard that some have already done, it will remain even for those who really seek the truth, always to wander in error. Wherefore it is better that they should be with us, and that we should communicate them with all the fore-mentioned care to those who wish to live piously, and to save others.”
In the same apocryphal letter of Peter to James, we similarly read: “Knowing, my brother, your eager desire after that which is for the advantage of us all, I beg and beseech you not to communicate to any one of the Gentiles the books of my preachings which I sent to you, nor to any one of our own tribe before trial; but if any one has been proved and found worthy, then to commit them to him, after the manner in which Moses delivered his books to the Seventy who succeeded to his chair. Wherefore also the fruit of that caution appears even till now. For his countrymen keep the same rule of monarchy and polity everywhere, being unable in any way to think otherwise, or to be led out of the way of the much-indicating Scriptures. For, according to the rule delivered to them, they endeavor to correct the discordances of the Scriptures, if any one, haply not knowing the traditions, is confounded at the various utterances of the prophets. Wherefore they charge no one to teach, unless he has first learned how the Scriptures must be used. And thus they have amongst them one God, one law, one hope.”
This effort to protect the originals also extends apparently to John’s Gospel and Acts.Montague Rhodes James in his book, T
he Apocryphal New Testament, writes: “Epiphanius goes on to say that he had heard of Hebrew Versions of John and Acts kept privately in the treasuries (Geniza) at Tiberias.”
Theories to Reconstruct the Original
Let’s assume the Canonical Greek Matthew comes last. But let’s assume there was a Hebrew Matthew original whose Greek translation mentioned in the 2d century forms the basis of the Canonical Greek Matthew. How then can we discover that original Matthew by textual analysi? In reliance on Reville’s excellent work cited above, the anonymous
The Oldest Gospelsays we potentially would subtract everything in common with Mark as a borrowing by the Canonical Greek Matthew from Mark. But everything unique to Canonical Matthew would be the original Hebrew Matthew predating Mark.
For example, the Sermon on the Mount is not in Mark. Thus, this passage of the canonical Matthew is from the Hebrew Matthew. Passages in common were borrowed from Mark to bring the canonical Matthew more in line with Mark.
SeeThe Oldest Gospel(London: Williams & Norgate, 1870) ativ. The author explains:
If the first canonical gospel, as we possess it, is founded on ” discourses of Jesus” written by Matthew, is it possible to separate the component parts ? Can we, by a process of analysis, obtain the original work of Matthew? In answer to these questions, it has been already pointed out that there is in the first gospel a series of discourses, which have nothing corresponding to them in the second gospel; and that when we take away these discourses from the first, what is left corresponds nearly entirely with the second, while portions of the discourses are found scattered through the third, gospel. Now the passages thus peculiar to the first gospel have, as I have said, a character of their own; they contain—the phrase “kingdom ofheaven,” 32 times, while it is never found in the second gospel;—the phrase “Father in heaven,” 22 times, while it occurs only once in the second gospel. Besides these and other verbal peculiarities, they have a special reference throughout to the establishment of a coming reign of the Messiah, and are marked by a prevailing Judaism of tone. On these grounds Dr. Seville indicates certain portions of the first gospel, as being translations of the Hebrew “discourses of Jesus,” which was the work of Matthew. I have for the most part adopted his conclusions, omitting only a few verses as to which there seemed some doubt, because I desire to include no sections which may not with tolerable certainty be attributed to Matthew.Id., ativ– v.
For a comprehensive source, with English translations, see http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/gospelhebrews.html
” Authentic Matthew ” – taken from/based upon Wikipedia
For a copy in Word of the Shem Tob (Tov) Matthew, go to this website .
From http://www.ntcanon.org/Gospel_of_the_Hebrews.shtml , we read this succinct synopsis:
Gospel of the Hebrews (Egypt, mid 2nd century CE) All that survives to us from the ‘Gospel of the Hebrews’ are several quotations made byClement,Origen, Jerome, and Cyril of Jerusalem. Jerome took a lively interest in this book, an Aramaic copy of which he found in the famous library at Caesarea in Palestine. More than once he tells us (and with great pride) that he made translations of it into Greek and Latin. Unfortunately, these translations have been lost. According to theStichometry of Nicephorus, it comprised 2200 lines, which is only 300 fewer than the length of theGospel according to Matthew. The time and place of origin are disputed, but since Clement used it in the last quarter of the 2nd century, it is usually dated to about the middle of that century. Egypt is indicated as its place of origin by the fact that its principal witnesses are the Alexandrians Clement and Origen, by the religio-historical character of two of the fragments, and by the conception of Jesus as the Son of the Holy Spirit, which is documented for Egypt by the Coptic Epistle of James. The original language of the gospel suggests that it was drawn up for Hebrew and Aramaic-speaking Jewish Christians in Palestine and Syria.
Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew
“A complete Hebrew text of Matthew’s Gospel appears in the body of a 14th century Jewish polemical treatise entitled
Even Bohan(‘The Touchstone’) and written by Shem-Tob ben Isaac ben Shaprut….At some points (Matt. 5:32, 34) it has less disparity between Judaism and Christianity than the Greek text does. It also contains a higher estimation of John the Baptist (see Matt. 11:11,13; 17:11; 21: 28-32.)” (Daniel J. Harrington,The Gospel of Matthew(1991) at4.)
My Books: The Original Gospel of Matthew
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Vol. 1 – Its Reconstructed Form Prior To The Greek Translation — all variants included