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.

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