The Key to Restoring the Original Hebrew of Matthew: The Old Syriac

The Key to Restoring the Original Hebrew of Matthew: The Old Syriac
By
James Scott Trimm

Today I wanted to share with you one of the major keys to the restoration of the original Hebrew text of Matthew (and by extension, the rest of the Gospels and even the Gospel according to the Hebrews). This key, is the close relationship between the DuTillet Hebrew version of Matthew, and the Old Syriac Aramaic version of Matthew.

The close relationship between these two texts, could only result from a direct relationship between the two. This is especially important, because Hebrew and Aramaic are cognate languages, using the same 22 letter alef-beit, sharing many of the same roots, vocabulary and grammar. The fact is that the manuscripts of these two texts are separated greatly in time and place. Their textual relationship proves that the DuTillet Hebrew Matthew, is not merely a Hebrew translation from the middle ages, and that the Old Syriac is not merely an unremarkable Syriac translation from the fourth Century. Why should a Hebrew manuscript of Matthew which surfaced in Europe in the middle ages, have unique agreements with a Syriac Aramaic version of Matthew from the Middle East, lost the the western word since the Fifth Century? The answer is that the DuTillet Hebrew Matthew is a descendant of an ancient Hebrew Matthew which was the source for the Western Aramaic Matthew which was the basis for the Syriac Aramaic Matthew we know as the Old Syriac!

Let us look at some of the evidence:

Avner and Aviur (Matthew 1:13)

1:13 The DuTillet Hebrew manuscript of Matthew contains the missing name “Avner” which occurs between Aviud and Eliakim in the DuTillet Hebrew text of Mt. 1:13.

The DuTillet Hebrew manuscript of Matthew contains the missing name אבנר “Abner” (A Hebrew name which is sometimes spelled אבניר) which occurs between אביהוד  Abiud and Eliakim in the DuTillet Hebrew text of Mt. 1:13. In Hebrew and Aramaic ד “d” and ר “r” look very much alike and are often misread for each other. In this case a scribe must have looked back up to his source manuscript and picked back up with the wrong name, thus omitting “Abner” from the list. The Greek text must have come from a Hebrew or Aramaic copy, which lacked the name “Abner.”

There is amazingly clear evidence for this. The Old Syriac Aramaic version of Matthew was lost from the fourth century until its rediscovery in the 19th century. This ancient Aramaic text has אביור “Aviur” where the Greek has “Aviud” (= אביוד) thus catching the error in a sort of “freeze frame” and demonstrating the reliability of the reading in the Hebrew.

You can see this laid out in detail in my free online commentary to Matthew 1 (On Matthew 1:13)

Miriam’s Conception (Matthew 1:2ob)

Here the Greek reads:

… for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

However the DuTillet Hebrew reads:

כי מה שילד ממנה מרוח הקדש הוא כי מרוח הקודש היא הרה

…for that which will be born of her is from the Ruach HaKodesh; for from the Ruach HaKodesh she has conceived.

And the Old Syriac Curetonian Ms reads:

הו גיר דמתילד מנה מן רוחא הו דקודשא בטין

…for that which is born of her, from the Ruach HaKodesh is conceived.

No other versions have “born” and then end with “conceived”.

Spoken by the Prophet (Matthew 2:23)

In the Hebrew (Shem Tob, DuTillet, Munster) and Aramaic (Old Syriac) the word “Prophet” is singular, while it is plural in the Greek and Latin Vulgate.

From Jerusalem (Matthew 3:5)

The Greek says “Then went out to him Jerusalem” (as does the Latin Vulgate and Peshitta), however the Old Syriac DuTillet and Shem Tob have “from Jerusalem”.

And Immersed Him (Matthew 3:15)

Only DuTillet, Shem Tob and the Old Syriac add “and he immersed him” to the end of verse 15, this does not appear in the Greek, Latin Vulgate or Peshitta.

As the Likeness of a Dove (Matthew 3:16)

DuTillet Hebrew version of Matthew says not “like a dove” but כדמות יונה “in the likeness of a dove” in agreement with בדמותא דיונא of the Old Syriac S manuscript. This also corresponds with the reading in the Gospel according to the Hebrews.

Yeshua Answered and Said (Matt. 4:4)

In the Greek, the Latin Vulgate and even the Peshitta, Matthew 4:4 opens with “And he answered and said to him…”. However in the DuTillet Hebrew Matthew and the Old Syriac the passage opens “Yeshua answered and said…”

Their Throne (Matthew 5:34)

Another such passage is found in Matt 5:34.  In this passage we see a very unique grammatical nuance in the Hebrew text of DuTillet that is found elsewhere only in the Old Syriac:

Here the DuTillet Hebrew reads:

כי כסא אלהים המה

“for it is Elohim’s throne (theirs)”

And the Old Syriac has:

דכורסיה אנון דאלהא 

“which is Eloah’s (their) throne”

This is similar to an occasional grammatical phenomena in the Tanak in which Elohim is occasionally paired with plural verbs and adjectives (Gen. 20:13; 35:7; Deut. 4:7; Josh. 24:19; 2Sam. 7:23; Ps. 58:12/11) and pronouns (Gen. 1:26; Gen. 3:22; Gen. 11:7 & Is. 6:8) or is otherwise thought of in the plural (“your creators” Eccl. 12:9). The plural which DuTillet uses in 5:34-35 especially recalls Dan. 7:9 “I watched till thrones were put in place and the Ancient of Days was seated”.

Conclusion

These are just a few examples from the first five chapters of Matthew (and it is not even an extensive list of important correspondences in just those five chapters! ) This is just some of the groundbreaking work being done as part of the Scripture Restoration Project.

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