Restoring the Original Hebrew Gospel Account of Yeshua’s Immersion

Restoring the Original Hebrew Gospel Account of Yeshua’s Immersion
By
James Scott Trimm

We also have two witnesses to the content of this event as it was found in the Gospel according to the Hebrews (The original Jewish Gospel).

Epiphanius gives a record of how this account appeared in the Ebionite version of the Gospel according to the Hebrews:

When the people were immersed, Yeshua also came and was immersed by Yochanan. And as he came up from the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Ruach HaKodesh in the form of a dove that descended and entered into him. And a voice sounded from Heaven that said: “You are My beloved Son, in you I am well pleased.” And again: “I have this day begotten you.” And immediately a great light shone round about the place. When Yochanan saw this, it is said, he said unto him: “Who are you Lord?” And again a voice from Heaven rang out to him: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And then, it is said, Yochanan fell down before him and said: “I beseech you Lord, immerse me.” But he prevented him and said: “Allow it; for thus it is fitting that everything should be fulfilled.”
(Epiphanius; Panarion 30:13:7-8)

The quotation in Greek (in which Epiphanius was writing) is:

του λαου βαπτισθεντος ηλθεν και Ιησους και εβαπτισθη υπο του Ιωαννου.

When the people were immersed, Yeshua also came and was immersed by Yochanan.

και ως ανηλθεν απο του υδατος, ηνοιγησαν οι ουρανοι και ειδεν το πνευμα το αγιον εν ειδει περιστερας, κατελθουση και εισελθουσης εις αυτον.

And as he came up from the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Ruach HaKodesh in the form of a dove that descended and entered into him.

και φωνη εκ του ουρανου λεγουσα συ μου ει ο υιος ο αγαπητος, εν σοι η υδοκησα,

And a voice sounded from Heaven that said: “You are My beloved Son, in you I am well pleased.”

και παλιν εγω σημερον γεγεννηκα σε.

And again: “I have this day begotten you.”

και ευθυς περιελαμψε τον τοπον φως μεγα.

And immediately a great light shone round about the place.

ο ιδων, φησιν, ο ιωαννης λεγει αυτω συ τις ει, κυριε;

When Yochanan saw this, it is said, he said unto him: “Who are you Lord?”

και παλιν φωνη εξ ουρανου προς αυτο ουτος εστιν ο υιος μου αγαπητος εφ ον ηυδοκησα.

And again a voice from Heaven rang out to him: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

H. και τοτε, φησιν, ο Ιωαννης προσπεσων αυτω ελεγεν δεοαι σου, κυριε, ου με βαπτισον.

And then, it is said, Yochanan fell down before him and said: “I beseech you Lord, immerse me.”

ο δε εκωλυσεν αυτον λεγων αφες, οτι ουτως εστι πρεπον πληρωθηναι παντα.

But he prevented him and said: “Allow it; for thus it is fitting that everything should be fulfilled.”

This passage of GH runs parallel to Matthew 3:13-17 = Mark 1:9-11 = Luke 3:21-22 as well as John 1:32.

Epiphanius tells us concerning the Ebionite version of the Gospel according to the Hebrews (of which our Matthew is an abridgement) that it ” is not whole and complete but forged and mutilated ” (Epiphanius, Panarion 30.13.2-3)

Eiphanius also tells us this is in contrast this with the Nazarene version, of which he says:

They [The Nazarenes] have the Gospel according to Matthew quite complete, in Hebrew: for this Gospel is certainly still preserved among them as it was first written in Hebrew letters. I do not know if they have even removed the genealogy from Abraham to Christ.
(Epiphanius, Panarion 29:9:4)

Epiphanius quotes this passage to show us that the Ebionites, who held to the doctrine of Adoptionism, had changed the wording to say that the Ruach HaKoshed εισελθουσης εις entered into Yeshua. As Epiphanius writes “This is because they mean that Yeshua is really a man, as I said, but that Messiah, who descended in the form of a dove has entered him.” (Pan. 30:14:4)

Fortunately the 4th Century Latin “Church Father” Jerome cites the Nazarene version of the Gospel according to the Hebrews concentrating on this specific word. Jerome writes in his Commentary to Isaiah, and so Jerome wants us to tell us all about the word the Ebionites changed and the passage they removed. Jerome writes:

According to the Gospel written in the Hebrew speech, which the Nazarenes read, the whole fount of the Holy Spirit shall descend upon him… Further in the Gospel which we have just mentioned we find the following written:

Factum est autem cum ascendisset dominus de aqua, descendit fons omnis spiritus sancti, et requieuit super eum,

When the Lord ascended from the water, the whole fount of the Holy Spirit descended and rested upon him,

et dixit illi: fili mi, in omnibus prophetis exspectabam te, ut uenires, et recquiescerem in te.

and said to him, “My Son, in all the prophets I was waiting for you, that you might come, and that I might rest in you.

Tu es enim requies mea, tu es filus meus primogenitus, qui regnas in sempiternum.

For you are my rest; and you are my firstborn son, who reigns forever.
(Jerome; Commentary on Is. 11:2)

At first glance it might appear that these are very different accounts, however Jerome is commenting upon the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 11:2 “And the Ruach of YHWH shall rest upon him…” so Jerome is only quoting the material about the word rest, which is the very material Epiphanius is telling us that the Ebionites changed/removed.

Jerome tells us that GH originally said not that the Ruach “entered into him” (εισελθουσης εις αυτον) but that the Ruach “rested upon him” (requieuit super eum). And this must have been immediately followed by:

and said to him, “My Son, in all the prophets I was waiting for you, that you might come, and that I might rest in you. For you are my rest; and you are my firstborn son, who reigns forever.”

Since this phrase follows from the word “rested” just prior (which is why the Ebionites thought to remove it).

Also it appears that the Ebionites had rearranged the chronology of events to better fit their Adoptionist doctrine. In Matthew 3:13-17 the events occur in the following order:

  1. Yeshua comes to be immersed
  2. Yochanan resists immersing Yeshua
  3. Yeshua convinces Yochanan to immerse him
  4. A great light shines on the water (in the Old Latin- see below)
  5. Yeshua is actually immersed
  6. A voice declares Yeshua is the Son

However the Ebionites felt compelled to change the order of events such that Yochanan finds himself unfit to immerse Yeshua, and the shining of the great light, until after Yeshua is immersed, and after he (according to their theology) becomes the Messiah. This means to restore the original Nazarene version of GH we must restore the order of events to that found in Matthew.

In fact, in restoring the original Nazarene Version of GH, at this point, we can use Matthew as a starting point.

This material has many important parallels with our Hebrew and Aramaic versions of Matthew. For example, the DuTillet Hebrew version of Matthew says not “like a dove” but agrees with GH having כדמות יונה “in the form of a dove”. While the Shem Tob Hebrew Matthew says that the Ruach would “abode upon him” ושרתה עליו. And the Old Syriac Aramaic has that the Ruach would “in the form of a dove, rest upon him” בדמותא דיונא וקוית עלוהי .

Also in past weeks, I have written to you about the importance of the Western Text Type, including not only the Old Syriac, but the Old Latin and Codex Bezae (Codex D) as early second hand witnesses to the original Hebrew and Aramaic (See my blogs The Earliest Versions of the New Testament and The Western Text as a Clue. ) So it should be no surprise to us, to find traces of these versions in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. And in this account we have just that.

First of all the inclusion of the quotation “I have this day begotten you” from Psalm 2:7 (see Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5 and 5:5) also appears in the Greek Western Text of Codex Bezae of Luke 3:22 in Luke’s account of these same events. Moreover, certain Old Latin manuscripts of Matthew 3:15 contain variations of the passage “And immediately a great light shone round about the place.Codex Sangermanensis I has:

Et cum baptizetur lumen ingens circumfulsit de aqua, ita ut timerent omnes qui advenerant

And when Yeshua was being immersed, a great light shone round about the water, so that all who gathered together feared…

And Codex Vercellensis has in the same place:

Et cum baptizaretur, lumen ingens circumfulsit de aqua, ita ut timerent omnes qui advenerant.

And when he was being immersed, a very great light shone round about the water, so that all that came feared…

So now we can put the original Hebrew of this portion of the Gospel according to the Hebrews back together again:

כאשר העם טבל בא גם ישוע וטבל על ידי יוחנן

When that the people were being immersed, Yeshua came also to be immersed.

ויאמר לו יוחנן לאמר אני צרין להטבל על ידך ואתה בא אלי

And Yochanan spoke to him saying, “I have need to be immersed of you, and you come to me?

ויען ישוע ויאמר אליו חלף נא כי בזאת יאות עלינו למלא כל צדקה הניחו וטבלו

And Yeshua answered and said to him, “Permit it now: for in this it is an obligation for us to fulfill all righteousness.” He gave him leave, and immersed him.

וכאשר טבילה ישוע זרחה אור גדול מסביב למים וחששו כל המתאספים

And when Yeshua was being immersed, a great light shone round about the water, so that all who gathered together feared.

ואחר שנטבל ישוע ועלה מן המים והנה נפתחו השמים עליו והנה רוח אלהים יורדת מן השמים כדמות יונה ותנח עליו

And after Yeshua was immersed and gone up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and, behold, the Ruach of Elohim descending from the heavens like the form of a dove, and rested upon him.

יאמר לו: בני בכל הנביאים חיכיתי לך למען תבוא ושאנכי נח עלך

And said to him, “My Son, in all the prophets I was waiting for you, that you might come, and that I might rest in you.

כי אתה מנוחתי וְאַתָּה בְּנִי בְּכוֹר שֶׁמּוֹלֶךְ לְעוֹלָם.

For you are my rest; and you are my firstborn son, who reigns forever.

והנה מן השמים קול אומר אתה בני אהובי אשר בו רצתה נפשי

And behold from the heavens a voice, saying, You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.

אני היום ילדתיך

I have this day begotten you.

This is just a sample of the important work of the Scripture Restoration Project.

I have recently been given (by Dr. Al Garza) a thumb drive containing literally thousands of pages of Hebrew manuscripts of “New Testament” books, and their relationships to the Old Syriac Aramaic will be important clues, as I sort out those that are merely medieval Hebrew translations from Greek or Latin, from those that may actually play an important part on Hebrew and Aramaic NT origins.

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