The Catalan Gospels: Hebrew Paraphrase of the Latin Vulgate
James Scott Trimm
Some high claims have been made or the so-called “Catalan Gospels” (Vat. Ebr. 100), however, after a careful examination, I have come the conclusion that these Gospels are merely a Hebrew translation whose ultimate source, is the Latin Vulgate, and that they play absolutely no part in Gospel origins. Either the Hebrew is itself a paraphrase, or there was a paraphrase somewhere between the Latin Vulgate and the Hebrew.
The first, and most obvious sign, that the ultimate source of the Catalan Hebrew is not the original Hebrew of the Gospels, is the fact that wherever our canonical text of the Gospels contains an explanation as to the meaning of a Hebrew word of proper noun, the Catalan text also has such such an explanation, in exactly the same passage. This is significant, because such explanations would not have been in the original Hebrew, since they would have been completely unnecessary. It is impossible to believe that they were independently inserted in the source of the Catalan text, in exactly the same places that they appear in our canonical text, unless they both derive these from the same source that was not the original Hebrew.
For example in Yochanan 1:41 our received John explains “Messiah, which is translated Christos” and in this exact place, the Catalan text explains that Messiah means “Messiahos”
In Yochanan 1:42 where our received text informs us that Kefa means “rock” the Catalan also has this explanation in exactly the same place.
Again in John 4:25 the Catalan text explains that Messiah means “Messiahos” where the received text explains that Messiah means “Christos”.
Another evidence that the Catalan Gospels are not sourced from the original Hebrew, is that they contain the text of John 7:53-8:11, and in exactly the same location as in our standard editions of John. This would not be the case if the ultimate source were the original Hebrew or John. The story of the alleged adulteress (John 7:53-8:11) does not actually appear in many of the most ancient manuscripts. It does not appear in the Aramaic Peshita or the Aramaic Old Syriac texts. Those Greek manuscripts which do contain it place it in various places some after Luke 21:38 and some after John 7:36 or after 7:52 or even after 21:24. The fact that it appears in the Catalan John and in exactly the place where we have it in our modern versions, is very much evidence that the ultimate source of the Catalan Gospels is not the original Hebrew.
That the true ultimate source of the Catalan Gospels is the Latin Vulgate is to be seen from the fact that the Catalan tends to follow many unique Latin Vulgate readings, especially where the Latin Vulgate omits a word or phrase, the Catalan Gospels will also omit that word or phrase.
For example in John 8:14 the Latin Vulgate uniquely omits the phrase “but you cannot tell from where I come, and where I go.” and this exact phrase is also lacking in the Catalan manuscript.
And in John 10:30 where we normally read “I and my Father are one” the Latin Vulgate is unique in omitting “my” and the Catalan text just happens to also omit “my” from this verse.
Proponents of the Catalan Gospels have ignored the obvious textual evidence that the Catalan Gospels are actually a paraphrase of the Latin Vulgate.
There is an account, found in all four gospels, that there was a prevailing Passover custom in Jerusalem that allowed Pilate, the governor of Judea, to commute one prisoner’s death sentence by popular acclaim. According to all four Gospels (Matt. 27:15-26; Mk. 15:6-15; Lk. 23:13-25 and Jn. 18:38b-40) . According to all four accounts, Pilate put forward to individuals, and let the crowd choose between the two: Yeshua and Barabbas. As the accounts go, the crowd chose Barabbas.
However in the Commentary to Matthew by the Fourth Century Church Father Jerome, he makes an interesting comment, speaking about Barabbas in his commentary to Matthew 27:16 he writes “… is interpreted in the so-called Gospel according to the Hebrews as ‘son of their teacher’ (Latin: filius magistri eorum). (Jerome on Matthew 27:16)
I have written in depth about the Gospel according to the Hebrews elsewhere. It is the original source text behind the synoptic gospels (and to a lesser extent John) and our Gospel of Matthew is essentially an abridgement of it.
It has been proposed by some authors that Jerome is saying that Barabbas (Bar Abba) was not really names “Bar Abba” (son of a father) but “Bar Rabbon” (Son of their master”). The problem is that when Jerome says “their” here, is is almost certainly doing so to distinguish himself from the Jews. It is very unlikely that anyone would be given the name or title “son of their master”. It is much more likely that the word “their” is Jerome’s, and that the term that appeared in the original Hebrew Gospel source was “Son of the Master” or “Son of a Master” not “Son of their Master.” Thus we would expect the original Hebrew to read Bar Rabbah (בר רבה) rather than Bar Abba (בר אבא).
It has been proposed (by Dr. Miles Jones) that the “Catalan” Gospels may express Jerome’s proposed original reading here. Unfortunately the Catalan version has here בראבן or בר אבן in it’s text. Which might be “son of their father” but not “son of their master” and since the word “their” is almost certainly Jerome’s and not part of the original name, the Catalan Gospels do not really testify in this passage to this original reading at all.
However, both the DuTillet Hebrew Matthew and the Munster Hebrew text of Matthew, have in their accounts, not “Barabbas”, or “Bar Abba” but “Bar Rabbah” (בר רבה) just exactly as we would expect to find in the original Hebrew of the Gospels!
Jones has further proposed that the readings of the Catalan Gospels in Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38 and Luke 23:45, agree with the Gospel according to the Hebrews ((Which he regularly refers to ambiguously as the “Hebrew Gospel” in his books).
We read in the Goodnews according to Matthew that at the death of Yeshua:
And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
The fourth century “Church Father” Jerome writes concerning The Gospel According to the Hebrews (a Gospel use by the ancient sect of the Nazarenes along side our familiar four):
“But in the Gospel which is written in Hebrew characters we read not that the veil of the Temple was rent, but that the lintel of the Temple of wondrous size was broken and even forced asunder.”
(Jerome; Letter 120 to Hedibia; Jerome on Mat. 27:51)
Also in the Historia passionis Domini we read likewise:
“Also in the Gospel of the Nazarenes we read that at the time of Messiah’s death the lintel of the Temple, of immense size, had split (Josephus says the same and adds that overhead awful voices were heard which said: ‘Let us depart from this abode’.”
(Historia passionis Domini; MS: Theolog. Sammelhandschrift 14th-15th Century, foll. 65r)
The lintel was a crossbeam over the doorway to the Holy of Holies in the Temple. The lintel stood atop pillars eight stories high which formed this doorway. The lintel was some thirty feet across and made of solid stone. It would have weighed about 30 tons! At the death of Yeshua there was an earthquake. This earthquake caused the lintel to split, breaking in the middle. It would have been no small event when the two pieces of this thirty ton lintel came crashing down eight stories! The veil hung from the lintel and the hekel doors were attached to the pillars. When the lintel broke it caused the veil to be rent in two from top to bottom. (In the Jewish culture it is common for a father to morn the death of his son by renting his garment in just such a fashion.)
Dr. Miles Jones maintains that the Catlan Gospels reflect this reading, and that this is their “authentication” by which he ascertains that they “come from a first century source”. As evidence Jones cites their readings of Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38 and Luke 23:45 from the Catlan Gospels (ibid page 262) He presents the following translations:
“And here the Temple was broken on both sides up and down and the earth quaked and the stones split in the middle.” (Matthew 27:51)
“The Temple was broken on both sides up and down.” (Mark 15:38)
“And the sun went dark and covered the Temple and it was split in the middle.” (Luke 23:45)
However the word Jones translates as “Temple” in these verses is not the normal Hebrew word for Temple, but is מקדש which can mean “Sanctuary” but can also simply refer to “a holy thing” or “something consecrated”. There is no special indication here of the lintel. And the verb used is שבר which can mean to “break” but it can also mean to “tear” (as in 1Kn. 13:26)
There is an even greater problem with Jones’ translation of Luke 23:45. The phrase Jones translates “And the sun went dark and covered the Temple” is in the Hebrew והשמש חשך ומכסה המקדש Which is very clearly “And the sun was dark and the covering of the Sanctuary [split]” The word ומכסה can only be a noun, and cannot be a verb.
There is nothing about these verses of the Catalan Gospels, that indicates any connection to the Gospel according to the Hebrews (or “The Hebrew Gospel”). The textual nature of the Catalan Gospels indicates that they are a Hebrew language version of some paraphrase ultimately sourced in the Latin Vulgate. The Catalan Gospels have no part to play in Gospel origins.
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