The Plain Truth about Hebrew Matthew
James Scott Trimm
There has been a lot of talk in the movement in recent years about Hebrew Matthew, and having studied the various Hebrew texts of Matthew for a quarter of a century, I thought I would set the story straight about the various versions.
One person came to me recently saying that they had been taught that the Shem Tob Hebrew Matthew resolves the problem of a missing name in the list of three sets of fourteen generations in Matthew's genealogy of Yeshua. In fact (as shown below) this is the DuTillet Hebrew Matthew rather than the Shem Tob text.
Also some have placed a lot of emphasis on the Shem Tob Hebrew Matthew while often neglecting our other sources. This, I believe is a mistake. The reason for this has been that some manuscripts of the Shem Tob Hebrew version have a reading of "all that he says to you, observe and do." (Matt. 23:3) rather than "all that they say to you, observe and do.", which makes the Shem Tob version highly attractive to Karaites. Of course we could debate whether this Shem Tob reading preserves the original reading (I do follow this reading in the HRV). This reading itself does not lead to Karaitism, and the fact that Shem Tob may preserve an original reading in a single passage, does not make it the best overall source for Hebrew Matthew.
Some confusion has also been created by the fact that in the 19th Century Adolf Herbst wrongly published aprinted eduition of the DuTillet text (with the Munster Text in footnotes) as an example of the Shem Tob text.
The DuTillet version of Matthew is taken from a Hebrew manuscript of Matthew which was confiscated from Jews in Rome, in 1553. On August 12th, 1553, at the petition of Pietro, Cardinal Caraffa, the Inquisitor General, (later to become Pope Paul IV) Pope Julius III signed a decree banning the Talmud in Rome. The decree was executed on September 9th (Rosh HaShanna) and anything that looked like the Talmud, that is, anything written in Hebrew characters was confiscated as the Jewish homes and synagogues were ravished. Jean DuTillet, Bishop of Brieu, France was visiting Rome at the time. DuTillet was astounded to take notice of a Hebrew manuscript of Matthew among the other Hebrew manuscripts. DuTillet acquired the manuscript and returned to France, depositing it in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. It remains there to this day as Hebrew ms. No. 132. (An Old Hebrew Text of St. Matthew's Gospel, Hugh Schonfield; 1927; p. 3-4)
While most scholars have ignored the DuTillet Hebrew version of Matthew, two scholars, Hugh Schonfield and George Howard, have stated their opinion that this Hebrew text underlies our current Greek text. (See An Old Hebrew Text of St. Matthew's Gospel, Hugh Schonfield; 1927,; The Gospel of Matthew according to a Primitive Hebrew Text; George Howard; Mercer University Press; 1987; Journal of Biblical Literature 105/1 (1986) pp. 49-63; 108/2 (1989) pp. 239-257)
(Initially Howard concluded that the DuTillet text was a translation from Greek, (JBL 105/1 (1986) p. 53, 62) later Howard concluded that DuTillet is a "revision of an earlier Hebrew Matthew" related to the Shem Tob version (JBL 105/1 (1986) p. 63 n. 34). Howard elsewhere states his belief that the Shem Tob text is a descendant of a Hebrew text, which served as a model for our present Greek text.)
....certain linguistic proofs ... seem to show that the Hebrew
text [DuTillet] underlies the Greek, and that certain
renderings in the Greek, may be due to a misread Hebrew
(An Old Hebrew Text of St. Matthew’s Gospel; 1927, p. 17)
Sebastian Munster was a Hebrew teacher who published many Swiss books for Hebrew and Aramaic language students (and also about Geography). In his books on Hebrew, he often gave examples coming from a Hebrew copy of Matthew he received from the Jews. Many people asked him to publish this Hebrew Gospel, so he decided to hold off on all his other studies, in order to work full time to publish his Matthew Hebrew Gospel.
The Munster Hebrew text of Matthew, agrees very closely with the DuTillet Hebrew text of Matthew.
The Munster Hebrew Text of Matthew was published in 1537 and again in 1557 by Sebastian Munster. The Munster Hebrew version of Matthew, may be of much more value than we previously believed.
Most of the academic literature on Munster Hebrew Matthew over the last 126 years indicated that the Munster text is of limited value, because Munster had supplemented missing portions of his text, with his own reconstructions without marking them.
For example George Howard writes:
"In the letter of dedication, Munster reported that he had
received the Hebrew Matthew from the Jews in
defective form with many lacunae, and had from
necessity restored what was lacking in the manuscript.
His work today is of limited value, because he
failed to mark the passages he had restored."
(Hebrew Gospel of Matthew; George Howard; 1995 p. 161)
In fact Munster actually wrote in Latin:
"Matthaei evangeluium in nativa sua,
hoc est Hebraica lingua, non qualiter
apud Hebraeorum vulgus lacerum inveni,
sed a me redintegratum et in unum
corpus redactum emittemus"
Literally in English:
"The Gospel of Matthew in the original, the actual Hebrew
language, is not as it is among the people in the Hebrew. I came
upon it lacerated (cut), but I reintegrated it, and published a
rendering of it in one body."
Now the Shem Tob Hebrew version of Matthew, was transcribed by Shem Tob into 114 sections into his book The Touchstone; each section was followed by a rebuttal. Shem Tob even writes:
I adjure by the life of the world, that every copyist that he not
copy the books of the gospel unless, he writes in every place
the objections that I have written, just as I have arranged them
and written them.
The DuTillet manuscript was all written together, but was followed by a series of rebuttals, and may once have also been spliced into such sections.
Munster's statement seems to indicate that he obtained Hebrew Matthew "lacerated" or "cut up in sections" and that he reintegrated these sections and published the Hebrew text in one body.
Unfortunately Adolf Herbst misunderstood Munster, and in 1879 paraphrased him in German as saying:
"Die hebraeische Übersetzung habe er, berichtet
Munster in der Zuschrift an Heinrich VIII.,
von den Juden mangelhaft und mit vielen Lücken
empfangen, daher habe er sich genöthigt gesehen,
solche Lücken zu erganzen"
Literally in English:
"The Hebrew Translation Munster reports
in his dedication letter to Heinrich VIII--
he received it from the Jews, mangled/defective,
and with many spaces. Seeing this, he took
upon himself to supplement such spaces."
This led Hugh Schonfield to report in English in 1927:
"Munster states in his dedication to Henry VIII,
that he received the Hebrew translation from
the Jews in a defective condition, and with
many lacunae, which he took upon himself to fill in."
(An Old Hebrew Text of St. Matthew's Gospel; 1927; pp. 11-12)
So the problems began when Herbst translated "lacerum inveni" (it was found lacerated) as "mangelhaft und mit vielen Lücken empfangen" (mangled/defective, and with many spaces), and which Schonfield took in English to mean "in a defective condition, and with many lacunae".
Then the next phrase "mangled" is Munster's Latin "sed a me redintegratum et in unum corpus redactum emittemus" (but reintegrated it and published a rendering of it in one body. But which Herbst translated in German to mean "daher habe er sich genöthigt gesehen, solche Lücken zu erganzen" (seeing this, took upon himself to supplement such spaces) which Schonfield rendered in English as "which he took upon himself to fill in."
Thus the myth was born that, as Howard wrongly reported:
"In the letter of dedication, Munster reported that
he had received the Hebrew Matthew from the Jews
in defective form with many lacunae, and had from
necessity, restored what was lacking in the manuscript.
His work today is of limited value because he
failed to mark the passages he had restored."
(Hebrew Gospel of Matthew; George Howard; 1995 p. 161)
In fact Munster's Hebrew Matthew is of much greater value than previously believed, and should not be dismissed based on this false report that it was defective and full of holes.
Johannes Quin-Quarboreus of Aurila, was also a Hebrew teacher who had been a colleague of Munster. He held the chair of Hebrew and Syriac at the College de France, and was generally considered one of the foremost linguists of his time. He published many books in Paris for Hebrew language students. His name appears with many variants, such as Johanne Quinquarboreo Aurilacensi, and Jean Cinquabres, etc. He died in 1587.
In 1551 Cinquarbres published his own edition of Hebrew Matthew in Paris. In this edition Cinquarbres republished Munster’s text as his main text, but added marginal notes to add “a sufficiency of authorities”, and deferring to “the ancient author” over Munster’s “restorations”. It would appear that Cinquarbres had access to multiple copies of Hebrew Matthew, but to Munster’s notes as well (since Munster’s printed edition did not mark his restorations). Cinquarbres writes in his preface (which is dated 1550):
I would not dare to affirm anything on the matter
than what I think is needful in consideration
of a sufficiency of authorities. If, however,
Munster has recommended to us, as almost certainly
better restorations or additions of his own suggestion,
by asterisk or whatever other sign he noted them,
to the extent that we know the style and phraseology
of the ancient author, the better judgment has been
placed on the author. When St Matthew wrote his gospel
in Hebrew, I think, following the many opinions of
illustrious men saying so, that no-one, unless he
wanted to be tarnished or resist the truth, would
turn in such a true pearl for a marble.
(Torat HaMashiach; Torat Elohim Khadashah V’hi B’shorat HaAdonaeynu Yeshua HaMashiach K’pi Matti HaM’Bsher ; Sanctum Domini Nostri Iesu Christi Hebraicum Euangelium secundum Matthaeum; Paris, France; 1551; Latin Preface.)
It is clear from this statement that Cinquarbres regarded this Hebrew Matthew as having been the work of the “ancient author” (Matthew).
Shem Tob Matthew
The Shem Tob Hebrew version of Matthew was transcribed by Shem Tob Ben Yitzach Ben Shaprut, into his apologetic work Even Bohan, sometime around 1380 C.E. While the autograph of Shem Tob’s Even Bohan has been lost, several manuscripts dating between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries still exist, complete with the transcribed text of Hebrew Matthew. George Howard writes of Shem Tob’s Hebrew Matthew:
...an old substratum to the Hebrew in Shem Tob is a prior
composition, not a translation. The old substratum, however,
has been exposed to a series of revisions so that the present
text of Shem-Tob represents the original only in an impure
(The Gospel of Matthew according to a Primitive Hebrew Text;
1987; p. 223)
It may appear from the linguistic and sociological
background to early Christianity, and the nature of some
theological tendencies in Shem-Tob’s Matthew, that the
Hebrew text served as a model for the Greek. The present
writer is, in fact, inclined to that position.
(ibid p. 225)
Shem-Tob’s Matthew... does not preserve the original in a pure
form. It reflects contamination by Jewish scribes, during the
Middle Ages. Considerable parts of the original, however,
appear to remain....
(Hebrew Gospel of Matthew; 1995; p. 178)
The Shem Tob version of Matthew is not the same as the Hebrew version preserved in DuTillet, Munster, and Cinquarbres, (a version which I term the “Traditional Version”). Although the Shem Tob Version and the “Traditional Version” have many agreements with each other against all other versions, (for example 1:1 and 3:11b ) and are both part of the larger body of the same Hebrew Matthew scribal tradition … they are two very different versions. As George Howard states:
I think that Shem Tob’s Hebrew Matthew is a different
edition of Matthew than what we are accustomed to, in our
canonical Gospel of Matthew. And it’s not like Munster
and DuTillet. Munster and DuTillet have basicly the same
text as our canonical Matthew, and certainly the same theology.
But Shem Tob’s Hebrew Matthew does not have
the same theology; I can assure you of that.
(George Howard lecture 11/10/96)
As a result, Shem Tob has been used as a source only sparingly, in the HRV.
Munster Hebrew Hebrews
In 1537 Munster had published Hebrew Matthew (as discussed in above). Twenty years later, in 1557, a second edition was printed containing a complete Hebrew text of Hebrews in an appendix.
Although we have no clear record of a statement by Munster that he obtained his Hebrew Hebrews from among the Jews, it seems safe to say that this was the case. Munster did plainly make this claim of his Hebrew Matthew in 1537, so it seems likely that this was also the source for the supplemental Hebrew Hebrews, in the 1557 edition of his Hebrew Matthew. (Munster had died before the publication of his second edition in 1557, which may explain why he had not written an introduction for the Hebrew Hebrews, explaining its origin.)
There is a well known mistake in the Greek text of this passage. While the text itself claims to give three lists of fourteen names (Mt. 1:17), the Greek text contains only 13 names in the last list:
14 names from Abraham to David:
14 names from David to the carrying away to Babylon
14. Jehonias (carrying away to Babylon)
13 names from carrying away to Babylon to Messiah
Now the DuTillet Hebrew manuscript of Matthew contains the missing Name "Abner" which occurs between Abiud and Eliakim in the DuTillet Hebrew text of Mt. 1:13. (Take a look at our work on the interlinear where you can see this by clicking here)
In Hebrew and Aramaic "d" and "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 "Aviur" where the Greek has "Aviud" thus catching the error in a sort of "freeze frame" and demonstrating the reliability of the reading in the Hebrew.
Shem Tob and DuTillet
Are the Shem Tob and DuTillet Hebrew versions of Matthew closely related?
The clear answer is yes. The following is a list of unique or almost unique readings between ShemTob and DuTillet.
Shem Tob: These are the generations of Yeshu ben David ben Avraham
DuTillet: These are the generations of Yeshu ben David ben Avraham
Shem Tob: ...or to bind her over to death..
DuTillet: ...or to deliver her up to death...
(there is a likely scribal error between
DuTillet למסור (to deliver up)
and ShemTob אוסרה (do bind her over)
ST... by the angel
DT... the angel
ST ... to the land of Gilgal
Dt ... to the land of Galil
Shem Tob: ...he shall be called "Nazareth".
DuTillet : ...he shall be called "Nazareth".
ST: ...fire of the Holy Spirit
DT:... fire of the Holy Spirit
ST ...they have already recieved their reward...
DT ... they have already recieved their reward...
ST One of his disciples...
DT One of his disciples...
ST Philip and Bartholomew... James and John
DT Philip and Bartholomew... James and John
ST ...cities of the Samaritans
DT ...cities of the Samaritans
ST ...the number of those who ate...
DT ...the number of those who ate...
(To be continued)
The DuTillet Hebrew Mattew is available in Hebrew and English in parallel columns, as well as my book The Hebrew and Aramaic Origin of the New Testament which deals with Hebrew Matthew in detail.
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