MAKING A GREEK OUT OF YESHU All of our canonical gospels were written originally in Greek. This is what everyone in the academe thinks, and everyone in the academe thinks so because all the evidence points this way, and no evidence indicates otherwise. And no evidence indicates otherwise because everyone thinks that anything that might indicate otherwise does not really count as evidence? In spite of the fact that everyone thinks that Yeshu and friends, and most of the earliest Christians all spoke primarily if not exclusively a Semitic tongue, everyone also thinks that all of our canonical gospels were authored originally in Greek. Somehow this always seemed a little doubtful to me; something just didn't make sense here. Well, now that I looked into this mater for myself, what do we have? There's this highly intriguing Hebrew gospel of Matthew, as preserved in a medieval work by Shem-Tob ben-Shaprut, that seems quite early. George Howard has done a lot of work on this gospel. He published its first critical edition in 1987, and an updated second edition in 1995. (Howard, George 1995. Hebrew Gospel of Matthew. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press.) Shem-Tob, a Jewish scholar working in Spain, preserved this document in his polemical treatise EVAN BOHAN that dates to the 14th century. It is now agreed upon almost universally that Shem-Tob did not make the translation himself. He received the Hebrew text from some previous tradents, most likely Jewish. So who prepared the translation, and when? Or is it really a translation? Maybe it's the real thing? Perhaps it is the Greek Matthew that was the translation from the Hebrew? And what does this mysterious gospel do to the Synoptic problem, and to the theorising about the HJ? After reading Prof. Howard's book, it seems to me that some of the answers to these questions may lie on the surface, while others still remain hazy and need more research. Nevertheless, it seems reasonably clear that the Hebrew text was not the product of some medieval translator. At least some parts of this text, indeed, seem to go back to early antiquity. Shem Tob Ben Yitzach ben-Shaprut transcribed The Hebrew version of Matthew into his apologetic work Evan Bohan sometime around 1380 C.E. While the autograph of Shem Tob's Even Bohan had been lost, several mss. dating between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries still exist. George Howard states of the Shem Tob version of 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 form." (The Gospel of Matthew according to a Primitive Hebrew Text; 1987;p.223) Discussions about this Hebrew Gospel have now taken place on a number of academic biblical history mailing lists, such as TC-List, and Crosstalk-L. No serious objections to its antiquity have been presented, as far as I know. I have defended the authenticity of HMt in this article to Loisy List (posted previously to Crosstalk-L, while I was still active there), http://www.egroups.com/message/loisy/4 Also here's a few good links about Hebrew Mt. Here is the list of some of the differences between the standard Greek text and HMt. This file has been prepared by some Messianic Jews, http://www.tirzah.freeserve.co.uk/mathew.html Here's an excellent short summary prepared by Prof. James D. Tabor, http://www.uncc.edu/jdtabor/shemtovweb.html And here's an article by Prof. Howard, himself, replying to some of the criticisms of HMt. "A Response to William L. Petersen's Review of Hebrew Gospel of Matthew", by George Howard, http://rosetta.atla-certr.org/TC/vol04/Howard1999.html Best wishes, Yuri.Click here to go one level up in the directory.