"BEHOLD!" in Matthew
according to a variety of ancient manuscripts
 
 


by Yuri Kuchinsky

The purpose of this study is to provide a broad comparison of our oldest Gospel of Matthew manuscripts in the four important ancient languages -- Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. (A similar study for Luke can also be found here.) Three versions of the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew have been included in the Table below (Dr. Howard's text, based on Shem-Tob; Munster; and Du Tillet). Although Shem-Tob's HMt was not based on the ancient manuscripts, but rather on medieval manuscripts, this Table demonstrates that this particular Hebrew textual tradition does seem to go back to ancient times, just as Howard argues in his Commentary. (Information about the manuscripts that were used in this study is available at the link above.)

The Greek equivalent of "Behold!" is IDOU. In Latin this word is ECCE, in Aramaic it is HU (he-alaph) or HAW, and in Hebrew it is HANE (he-nun in the Tanakh [#2005 in Strong's], or he-nun-he in Shem-Tob).

The word "Behold!" is a very common word in the New Testament gospels, of course. So the following Tables document instances where it is found either in the Greek, or in the Aramaic, or in Hebrew versions of Matthew.

Perhaps the main conclusion that emerges from this study is that, quite obviously, none of these versions of Matthew is a direct translation from another. All of them betray a very considerable variation among them. But, within the Semitic textual tradition, we do see a lot of mutual consistency -- in opposition to the way in which the word "Behold" is used in the canonical Greek versions of Matthew. And this indicates that all these Semitic versions of Matthew spring from the same very ancient exemplar.
In general, it does not seem so likely that any of these texts is really "the original Matthew". All of these represent the edited versions of the original (although, personally, I think that our Semitic texts of Matthew are the closest to the original).
A number of colours are used in the Table to highlight various interrelationships that can be observed between these different versions of the gospel. The Blue colour is used for those cases where the Semitic textual tradition of Matthew is different from the canonical Greek (as based on the Egyptian manuscripts), and is not supported by any other Greek or Latin manuscripts. As we can see in the Table, there are many cases where the 3 Semitic versions of Matthew (other than Munster and DuTillet) go together against all the other versions of the gospel, and this could hardly be coincidental.

The Red colour is used in the Tables when the Semitic texts, while different from the Egyptian Greek, are also supported by the Old Latin manuscripts (or perhaps by the Byzantine MSS). These Red cases represent what is technically known as the Syro-Latin agreements against the canonical Greek text of Matthew. (But, in the case of the Hebrew Matthew, these should rather be described as the Hebrew-Latin agreements.)

There have been many respected Textual Critics, the fathers of modern Textual Criticism, who have argued in the past that all such Syro-Latin agreements should be considered as prior to the canonical Greek text. But, strangely enough, almost all recent English-language Introductions to Textual Criticism neglect to mention this fact...

These Syro-Latin (and/or Hebrew-Latin) agreements seem to represent the text of Matthew at an earlier stage -- a pre-canonical stage when there was apparently still a close unity between the Semitic and the Latin textual traditions. So it is quite likely that these passages were reworked later by the final editors of the canonical Greek text.

Also, there are quite a few cases, of course, where all of our manuscripts feature the word "behold" in the same verse. There are 7 such cases in Table below, and they are coloured in Yellow Ochre.

The Yellow colour is used in the Table below for those instances where the word "Behold" is used in an unusual way by any of our 5 Semitic manuscripts of Matthew. (In other words, in these particular passages, no other manuscripts use the word "Behold".)

(Thanks to Joe Viel for providing the data on the use of "Behold" in the Munster, and in the Du Tillet manuscripts of Matthew.)
 
 
"BEHOLD!" in Matthew -- Chapters 1-11
Byzantine Egyptian Peshitta Old Syriac Hebrew: Shem-T Hebr: Munst Hebr: DuTil Old Latin OL k
1:20 + + -- -CS + -- -- + (-a) +
1:21       (-CS) - + +    
1:23 + + + +CS + + + + +
2:1 + + -- +CS + + + + +
2:9 + + + -CS + + + + +
2:12       (-CS) - - +    
2:13 + + -- -CS + + + + +
2:19 + + -- -CS -- + + + +
3:4       (-CS) + - -    
3:10 - (hdh) - (hdh) + +CS - - - - -
3:11 - - - +C-S + - - - n/a
3:16 + + + +CS -- + + + n/a
3:17 + + + -CS + + + + n/a
4:11 + + + +C-S + + + + +
5:24       (-CS) + - -    
5:47* - - - +C(S-vrs.) -verse - - - -verse
7:4 + + + +C + + + + +
8:2 + + + +C + + + + +
8:14       (-CS) + - -    
8:24 + + + -S -- + + + +
8:25* - - - +S* - - - - -
8:29 + + -- -S -- + + -majority +
8:32 -- + -- -S -- + + + +
8:34 + + -- -S -- + + + +
9:2 + + -- n/a (red?) -- + + + (-a-q) +
9:3 + + -- n/a (red?) -- + + -majority +
9:8 - - + -S - - - - -
9:10* + + -- -S* +(twice) -- + + +
9:18 + + -- +S -- + + + +
9:20 + + + +S + + + + +
9:27       (-S) + - -    
9:30 - - - +S - - - - -
9:32* + + -- -S* -- + + + +
10:8       (-S) + - -    
10:16 + + + +S + -- -- + +
11:5 - - - +CS - - - - -
11:8 + + + +CS + + + + +
11:10 + + + +CS + -- -- + +
11:19 + + + +CS -- + + + +
Byzantine Egyptian Peshitta Old Syriac Hebrew: Shem-T Hebr: Munst Hebr: DuTil Old Latin OL k

NOTES:
Mt 5:47 -- the whole verse is omitted here in these 3 important MSS.
Mt 8:25 -- also some other important MSS add BEHOLD here (Diatessaronic, Syro-Palestinian, Armenian, Georgian).
Mt 9:10 -- also some other MSS omit BEHOLD here (1 Greek, Georgian).
Mt 9:32 -- also some other MSS omit BEHOLD in this passage.


So here is a summary of how various colours are distributed in the Table above.

Old Syriac: 15 BLUE, and 6 RED (4).
Peshitta: 7 BLUE, 5 RED, and 2 YELLOW.

The Hebrew Matthew:

       Shem-Tob: 6 BLUE, 5 RED, and 7 YELLOW.
       Munster: 1 BLUE, 1 RED, and 3 YELLOW.
       DuTillet: 0 BLUE, 1 RED, and 4 YELLOW.

And so, it is quite clear from this Table that Shem-Tob's Hebrew Matthew has many more links with the ancient Aramaic manuscripts of Matthew (passages coloured in Blue), as well as with the ancient Old Latin manuscripts of Matthew (passages coloured in Red).

Also, since Shem-Tob's Hebrew Matthew has so many passages coloured in Yellow (7 cases), it is clear that this textual tradition of Matthew often has a tendency to go its own way, for whatever reason. (It is difficult to say off-hand if these Yellow passages represent the instances of later revision, or if they might also perhaps preserve some very early uses of "Behold", that disappeared in all other manuscripts of Matthew.)

Another interesting observation from the Table above is that Shem-Tob never agrees with either Munster or DuTillet in the use of "Behold" in those cases where either of them disagrees with the standard Greek text (i.e. where either of them is coloured in either Blue, Red, or Yellow). Or, in other words, whenever there's a divergence from the canonical Greek in either of these three Hebrew texts, Shem-Tob always disagrees with Munster/DuTillet! This clearly indicates that Shem-Tob's Hebrew Matthew comes from a textual tradition that was almost completely separate from that of Munster/DuTillet during the later stages of their transmission (although, presumably, very early on, all these traditions did have a common Hebrew Vorlage).

-- Yuri Kuchinsky (This file was uploaded in November 2003.)


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