The Nativity Account in the Gospel according to the Hebrews

The Nativity Account in the Gospel according to the Hebrews
James Scott Trimm

As I have said for several months, one of the projects within the Scripture Restoration Project is to restore the lost Gospel according to the Hebrews, the original Jewish Gospel once used by the ancient Nazarene Jews, the original Jewish followers of Yeshua as the Messiah.

So let us start at the beginning. What was at the beginning of the Gospel according to the Hebrews?

Epiphanius writes concerning the Ebionites:

And the beginning of their Gospel runs: It came to pass in the days of Herod the king of Judaea, when Caiaphas was high priest, that there came one, John by name, and baptized with the baptism of repentance in the river Jordan. It was said of him that he was of the lineage of Aaron the priest, a son of Zacharias and Elisabeth : and all went out to him.
(Epiphanius, Panarion 30.13.6)

What did Epiphanius mean by “their” Gospel? We find that a few lines earlier when he writes:

In the Gospel that is in general use among them [the Ebionites] which is called “according to Matthew”, which however is not whole and complete but forged and mutilated – they call it the Hebrews Gospel-it is reported:… (Epiphanius, Panarion 30.13.2-3)

By contrast Epiphanius refers to the Nazarene version this way:

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)

And Epiphanius tells us of this beginning of the Ebionite version:

See how their utterly false teaching is all lame, slanted, and nowhere straight! Cerenthus and Carpocrates use the same, so called. Gospel! in their own circles, if you please, and prove Christ’s origin from Joseph’s seed and Mary from the beginning, by the genealogy. But these people have something else in mind. They falsify the genealogical tables in Matthew, and start itsd opening, as I said, with the words, “It came to pass in the days of Herod the king of Judaea, when Caiaphas was high priest, that there came one, John by name, and baptized with the baptism of repentance in the river Jordan.” and so on. This is because they mean that Jesus is really a man, as I said, but that Christ, who descended in the form of a dove, has entered him– as we have found already in other sects– been united with him. Christ himself is the product of a man’s seed and a woman.
(Pan. 30:14:1-4)

So this tells us that the original Nazarene version began not with an equivalent to Luke 3:1 (which runs parallel to Matthew 3:1), but with material parallel to Matthew chapters 1-2.

There is further evidence in the premise that our Gospel of Matthew is an abridgement of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, and that the ancient “Church Fathers” recognized the Gospel according to the Hebrews as a version of the Gospel of Matthew and referred to the Gospel according to the Hebrews and Hebrew Matthew interchangeably. (See my previous blog The Lost Jewish Gospel and Matthew )

Final evidence can be found in the fact that all of the surviving citations of this portion of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, have parallels in Matthew chapters 1-2 not Luke 1-2.

For example, in his work Of Illustrious Men (section 3), the Fourth Century Latin “Church Father” Jerome says that the citations of the Tanak found in Hebrew Matthew (which he identifies interchangeably as the Gospel according to the Hebrews) agree with the Hebrew rather than the LXX. Among these he cites “Out of Egypt I have called my son” (Matt. 2:15) and “For he shall be called a Nazarene” (Matt. 2:23). And in his Commentary on Matthew 2:6 he writes:

Bethlehem of Judea. This is a mistake of the scribes: for I think it was originally expressed by the Evangelist as we read in the Hebrew: “of Judah” not “of Judea”

And in a citation found in a Commentary on Matthew by Sedulius Scotus we read:

For thus the Gospel which is entitled According to the Hebrews

When Joseph looked out with his eyes, he saw a crowd of pilgrims
Who were coming in company to the cave, and he said:
I will arise and go out to meet them.  And when Joseph went out,
he said to Simon, “It seems to me as if those coming were
soothsayers, for lo, every moment they look up to heaven
and confer with one another.  But they seem to be strangers,
for their appearance differs from ours; for their dress is very rich
and their complexion quite dark; they have caps on their heads
and their garments seem to be silky, and they have breeches
on their legs. And they have halted and are looking at me,
and lo, they have halted and are looking at me,
and lo, they have again set themselves in motion and are coming here.

From these words it is clear that not merely three men, but a crowd
of pilgrims came to the Lord, even if according to some the foremost
leaders of this crowd were named with the definite names Melchus,
Casper and Phadizarda.
(Sedulius Scotus, Commentary on Matthew; MSS: Berlin, Phillipps 1660,
9th century; fol. 17v; Vienna 740, 9th century, fol. 15 r.v.; cited by
Bischoff in Sacris Erudiri VI, 1954, 203f.)

This is clearly an expansion of the account of the visit of the Magi found in Matthew Chapter 2.

This evidence all points to a single conclusion, the opening portion of the original Nazarene version of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, was a close parallel to the first two chapters of our Gospel of Matthew.

Now we can restore these original opening of the Gospel according to the Hebrews by starting with the first two chapters of Hebrew Matthew restored, and then restoring the additional information about the Magi from Sedulius Scotus‘ citation of GH.

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

I have recently been given 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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