An Original Hebrew Reading in
a Hebrew Ms. of Luke in a Swedish Library?
James Scott Trimm
As many of you know, over a year ago, I was provided, by my friend Dr. Albert Garza, with a thumb drive containing some 4,000 pages, or more, of facsimiles of Hebrew manuscripts of “New Testament” books. Examining each of these in detail will take years. But I have been doing some preliminary work to that end, while aiding Dr. Garza in producing English translations of “New Testament” material, based upon these manuscripts.
Yesterday, while working on a draft translation of Luke for this Dr. Garza’s project, I discovered a very interesting reading in Uppsala University Library Ms O Hebr. 31 a Hebrew Manuscript of much of the “New Testament” (encompassing Matthew 1:1 thru Galatians 2: 16a, where is breaks off in the middle of the verse.)
This manuscript has a very interesting reading in Luke 2:1. Here we read in the KJV:
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
In this verse, there is a variant reading between the major ancient versions in this verse. The Greek and Latin have words meaning “world” while the Old Syriac Aramaic has the Aramaic word ארעא (era) which is the Aramaic cognate of the Hebrew word ארץ (eretz). This word can mean “earth” (as in Dan. 2:35) “land” (as in Dan. 9:15) or “world” (as in Prov. 19:4) and which, when paired with the definite article (“the”) can be used as a euphemism for the Land of Israel (“HaEretz, “The Land”) (as in Dan. 9:6). Finally, the Peshitta Aramaic has here “people of his dominion” (עמא דאוחדנה).
So while I was studying this Hebrew manuscript (Uppsala University Library Ms O Hebr. 31) I discovered a Hebrew reading that would explain all of these three variants: כל [מן נו]חות הארץ “all o[f the inhabi]tants of the Land”.
The letters in brackets are a reconstruction, as these letters are covered in the photograph, by a small flake of paper from another page. (the מ is partially visible).
However, I have reconstructed these probable letters from context.
Most of the other Hebrew manuscripts have a word here which simply “world”. For example Biblioteque National Paris Hebrew Ms. 131 and Freiburg Univ. Library Hebrew ms. 314 both have התבל “the world” (with a negative “worldly” nuance) while British Library Hebrew Ms. Add. 11659 and Vat. Ebr. 100 (the “Catalan” Gospels”) have העולם “the world/universe”
Cambridge Hebrew Ms. 00.1.32 and John Ryland’s Gaster Ms 1616 (The “Cochin Hebrew Gospels” have כל העם במקומותם “all the people in their dominion” indicating that this Hebrew text/version is a near literal translation of the Peshitta”.
However the reading of Uppsala University Library Ms O Hebr. 31 (כל מן נוחות הארץ ) “all of the inhabitants of the Land” could express an original Hebrew reading. One of the rules of textual criticism, is that a reading which best explains how other readings might have originated, is more likely to be the original. This reading would explain the Greek and Latin reading “world”, it would also explain the Aramaic Old Syriac reading which has the Aramaic cognate of the Hebrew ארץ (Eretz) “earth/land” and it would even explain the Aramaic Peshitta reading “people of his dominion”. All of these are reasonable translations or paraphrases of the Hebrew נחות הארץ “inhabitants of the earth/land”.
It is also extraordinary that Uppsala University Library Ms O Hebr. 31 has the word “Eretz” in this passage because Eretz is the Hebrew cognate of “Era” (the Aramaic word found here in the Old Syriac Aramaic) because the Old Syriac was completely unavailable in Europe from ancient times until the mid to late 19th Century.
Let me be clear, this is only one reading. I am not proclaiming, based on this alone, that Uppsala University Library Ms O Hebr. 31 is the original Hebrew of the “New Testament” from Matthew thru Galatians 2:16a, or even that its text of Luke is the original Hebrew of Luke. However, this very interesting reading does make this manuscript interesting, however it might have ended up in the text.
Donations in July have been very low, our rent is due in just four days, and we do not have it! We need your help today!
You can now donate thru Pay Pal, Zelle or Go Fund Me!
As many of you know, my wife is chronically ill, disabled since and dealing with chronic pain daily, since her fifty three day hospitalization in late 2018, and I am her caretaker.
We need more of you to step up to the plate to donate, even in small amounts. I know you are out there.
This work takes hours of my time, and I spend most of my time at home as her caretaker. I work at a desk less than six feet from her bed. So I am in a position to dedicate many hours to this important work that I have been directed to do.
But I also realize that it is not the activity of James Trimm alone who is responsible to do this work, it is all of us together who are charged with the responsibility of accomplishing this work. I very much look on the efforts of this restoration work as a cooperative one with each one of you. We are all joint heirs with Messiah and should always be about our Father’s business. I am honored to be able to be partnered with truth seekers as this restoration of Scripture moves forward in fulfillment of prophecy.