Hebrew Matthew, Re: ANISTHMI & EGEIRW

Stephen C. Carlson (scarlson@washdc.mindspring.com)
Mon, 18 Nov 1996 11:15:23 -0500

At 05:53 11/17/96 -0600, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
> Ist links up also with the
>question of an original Hebrew or Aramaic form of Matthew's gospel, in
>accordance with the cryptic reported statement of Papias. I wonder if
>Stephen Carlson, who has not been heard from much recently--on B-Greek, at
>least, would care to comment on this theory?

Let me make a couple of points.

1. The Hebrew version of Matthew that George Howard published is the
one found in Shem-Tov ben-Isaac ben-Shaprut's 14th century polemical
treatise, the Even Bohan, written in Spain. Howard has convincingly
demonstrated that the Hebrew text was not a medieval Jewish translation
for polemical purposes, but pre-dates Shem-Tov. However, no one knows
by how much and at any rate the text has suffered corruptions and

2. One thing that is interesting about the Hebrew text is that the
word 'MD (to stand) is interwoven throughout the trial and passion
narratives. Compare the Hebrew text (in English) with the corresponding
Mt26:69a Peter was standing [EKAQHTO, sat]
69b were you not standing [HSQA, were] with Jesus the Galilean?
71a maid ... said to those standing there [TOIS EKEI, those there]
71b this man was standing [HN, were] with J. of Nazareth
73 those who were standing [hOI hESTWTES, =]
27:11 J. was standing [ESTAQH, stood] before Pilate
47 One of those standing [hESTHKOTWN, =]
54 centurion and those standing [hOI, those] with him
55 many women standing [QEWROUSAI, watching] at a distance
63 ... at the end of 3 day he would stand up [EGEIROMAI, arise].
64 ... he stood up [HGERQH, was raised] from death.
28: 2 angel ... overturned the stone and stood still [EKAQHTO, sat].
4 the guards ... stood [EGENHQHSAN, became] like dead men
6 see the place where the Lord stood up [EKEITO, lay]
7 tell ... that the Lord had already stood up [HGERQH, arisen]
8 with great joy because the Lord had stood up [no Grk after joy]

It seems clear to me that the word "stand" is a literary feature of the
Hebrew text. It is too pervasive to be merely for polemical reasons,
but shows an attempt to achieve a stylish text. The Tol'deth Yeshu,
an early medieval Jewish anti-gospel cites a similar text to deny the
resurrection, thus I would conclude that this literary quirk of the
Shem-Tov Hebrew Matthew predates the TY.

3. There have existed several Hebrew versions of Matthew in the past,
variously named the Gospel of the Nazoraeans, Ebionites, Hebrews,
and Apostles. We only possess now fragments of them, and none of
them have any relationship to the Shem-Tov Matthew.

4. The meaning of nearly every word of the testimony of Papias [MATQAIOS
HN DUNATOS hEKASTOS] is in dispute, so it's hard to conclude much from
that. I would argue that it means what the plain reading states ("a
Hebrew language ... each translated"), because that's apparently how
Irenaeus and Eusebius, both of whom are native Greek speakers with the
full context of Papias' remarks before them, understood it. On the
other hand, many scholars have opted for Kuerzinger's position ("Jewish
style ... each expounded"). I think it is a bit-farfetched, but the
anarthrous DIALEKTOS may be in its favor.

5. At any rate, the statements of the Church Fathers that Matthew
wrote first in a Semitic language are routinely ignored because a non-
Greek original for Matthew is impossible on the basis of the Two-Source
Hypothesis, in which Matthew is based upon a Greek Mark and a probably
Greek Q. However, the viability of the 2SH is no longer so secure as it
once was (e.g., after Lachmann's fallacy was exposed), so the external
evidence should no longer be completely discounted.

Stephen Carlson

Stephen C. Carlson                   : Poetry speaks of aspirations,
scarlson@mindspring.com              : and songs chant the words.
http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/ :               -- Shujing 2.35