Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Hebrew Vorlage of Matthew

Eusebius refers via Papias twice to an original Hebrew autograph for St. Matthew's Gospel (Adv.Haer. 3.1.1; Hist.Eccl. 3.39). Is there any evidence for (or against) this in the sphere of textual-criticism?

The Schøyen Collection boasts that it has a Middle Egyptian copy of Matthew (MS 2560) which differs from the NA27 text and can be attributed to an alternate Greek Vorlage of Matthew. If you scroll down the page, you can find a picture here.

21 Comments:

Daniel Buck said...

"a Middle Egyptian copy of Matthew (MS 2560) which differs from the NA27 text."

Hmm. . . Can anyone name me a single codex containing Matthew, or even any fragment of Matthew bigger than a couple of pages that DOESN'T differ from the NA27 text?

Dave Black said...

Although I have no a priori bias against an original Hebrew Matthew, I tend to agree with J. Kuerzinger (Biblische Zeitschrift 4 [1960] 19-38; cf. New Testament Studies 10 [1963] 108-15) that hebraidi dialekto means "in a Hebrew style" and not "in [the] Hebrew language." In the context of the Papiaszeugnis, the Elder had been explaining some problems in the style and/or content of Mark, since it had neither the Jewish style of Matthew nor the normal literary style of a Greek biography such as Luke's. As I argue in my book Why Four Gospels?, Origen mistakenly thought that Papias was referring to the language of Matthew and stated that "Matthew was composed in Hebrew characters," thus introducing an error that was perpetuated by later writers.

Eric Rowe said...

Craig Evans makes several of his studies available online in pdf here:
http://craigaevans.com/studies.htm

One of them is a study of Jewish editions/revisions of the Gospel of Matthew. He addresses the Medieval commentary of Shem Tov and makes a tentative case that his Hebrew text of Matthew is ancient. Although, if I remember correctly, he does not go so far as to imply that it is likely the original version.

Jan Krans said...

Tjitze Baarda has issued important methodological criticism towards the claim (made by the late Hans Martin Schenke) that Schøjen 2560 represents a radically different Greek text of Matthew's gospel. See his article "Mt. 17:1-9 in 'Codex Schøjen'" in NovTest 2004, pp. 265-287, and also his review of Hans Martin Schenke, Das Matthäus-Evangelium im mittelägyptischen Dialekt des Koptischen (Codex Schøyen), Manuscripts in Schøyen Collection II, Coptic Papyri, Vol. I (Oslo, Hermes Publishing, 2001), also in NovTest 2004, pp. 302-306.

slaveofone said...

Matthew Black in "An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels" comes to the same conclusion as Dave Black does here - Hebrew or Aramaic language and style in the text doesn't equal Hebrew script for the autograph.

James M Leonard said...

For a substantial discussion in Wieland Willker's forum, http://www-user.uni-bremen.de/~wie/TCG/Mt-mae-2.pdf

mae-2 is thought to represent the oldest substantial manuscript of Matthew's Gospel in any language.

Jim Leonard

Michael F. Bird said...

In an little known journal called Mishkan, Craig Evans had an article on Jewish editions of the Gospel of Matthew which (I think) are in Hebrew. I think Mishkan is available on-line through the Caspari centre. They are mainly concerned with issues relating to Jewish Christians and they do manage to get some good contributors like Bauckham etc.

Eric Rowe said...

That Mishkan article is the same one that is available on Evans' site at the link I gave above.

J. B. Hood said...

In my mind, the single greatest argument against an original Heb/Aramaic is that Matthew used [Greek] Mark. Why use a Koine text to write a Hebrew/Aramaic Gospel? That makes no sense.

If we need to account for an early Heb/Aramaic Matt, my guess is that the "Jewishness" of the Gospel led to its translation (more so than, say, John, Luke, Mark...or for that matter, Thomas and others!) into Hebrew. That probably accounts for meieval texts like Shem Tov; if Eusebius and Papias are talking Hebrew language (I doubt it in any case) Matt seems a likely candidate for early translators, if someone wished to do this. Hebrew was on the rise in 1 and 2 c; if a Xian was taking advantage of this, Matt stands out among the Gospels for translation and study for Jews--just ask Edersheim.

Anyone know how to access the other Heb manuscripts of Matt, other than the one found in Howard's book? Is it just material from Shem Tov's writings, or are other relatively full editions out there?

Also, while we're throwing out biblio on Hebrew Matt, don't forget the material (maybe from Horbury?) at the end of Davies-Allison vol. III.

James M Leonard said...

William L. Petersen wrote an article reputed to be quite devastating to Howard's argument that Shem Tob is ancient. rosetta.reltech.org/TC/vol03/Petersen1998a.html

See Howard's response: rosetta.reltech.org/TC/vol04/Howard1999.html

Notwithstanding the criticism, I see Howard's original volume has gone into a new revision.

Prof. Evans article does not reference Petersen's.

Jim Leonard

Tommy Wasserman said...

...and there was a lot of discussion on this matter on the old TC-list.

Search the archives http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tc-list/

BTW: I remember there was a fellow, James Trimm, trying to defend this position on the TC-list in endless threads, to the annoyance of several listmembers.

T said...

Interestingly, Jerome Jerome, De Vir. Illus. 3, claims that the library of Pamphilus and Eusebius @ Caesarea had a copy of the original text of Matthew’s gospel “Hebraicis litteris verbisque composuit.”

Eric Rowe said...

JB: "In my mind, the single greatest argument against an original Heb/Aramaic is that Matthew used [Greek] Mark."

If that is the greatest argument, then the case against Hebrew Matthew is weak indeed. I don't have a problem in principle with the view of Markan priority. But when it is taken up as an axiom upon which all further Gospels study must proceed, as it too often is, then it becomes clear that scholars studying the Gospels are proceeding with far too much uncritical reliance on the prevailing opinion.

While there may be an ancient Hebrew version of Matthew, a stronger argument against such a version having been original is that it would force us to posit that two Gospels of Matthew existed in circulation prior to the formation of the 4-Gospel codex early in the 2nd century. One of these Gospels is our received Greek text, which went on to become well-known and widespread having completely escaped the notice of Papias and others. The other was Hebrew version known to them as an apostolic book that has since disappeared and completely escaped the notice of everyone else. The simplest explanation is that these two books are one and the same, with the best interpretation of the Papias quote being that given already here by Dr. Black, to wit, Matthew's Gospel was written in a Hebrew style (and was written before Mark).

P J Williams said...

I have less difficulty than some believing in a Hebrew edition of Matthew provided one can maintain a real authorial connection between Matthew and the Greek Gospel that bears his name. There is no firm linguistic evidence for a Hebrew edition, but translated texts often don't give us adequate evidence of their original language.

Eric Rowe said...

I agree with that Pete, but I would have to wonder how close the relationship between the two versions could be. It is not just that Matthew does not have signs of being translated, it also has positive signs of being originally Greek. For example, Jesus' argument in Mat 22:32, when he quotes God saying, "I am the God of Abraham..." depends on the Greek version of Exod 3:6. It seems that Jesus (at least as portrayed in our received Greek edition of Matthew) is drawing a point from the present tense "eimi." But in the Hebrew, it is a verbless clause, from which no such argument about tense could be made, at least not one that would be as plain to the readers of a Hebrew Matthew as those of this Greek version.

P J Williams said...

I have a vivid imagination and therefore imagine that the argument with the Sadducees could have been clinched with a Hebrew or Aramaic verbless clause. After all, they were scarcely going to adopt the position that God was not at that moment the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Nevertheless, you certainly would not have to persuade me that the present text of Matthew shows traits for which it would be hard even for my imagination to imagine a Semitic original.

P J Williams said...

TML, I like this reference. It is clear that Papias was early understood really to mean Hebrew/Aramaic not some Hebraising style of Greek. Moreover, being a lover of testimony I'd like to accept this one as true unless there are strong historical reasons for not doing so. One might go further to say that this text could be used to illustrate how the Matthew in Hebrew letters was never widely circulated. Pamphilus, of course, had a very impressive library, and this would not be the only important book of which he might have possessed the only copy then available!

T said...

PJW: Indeed, I would like to find more info on the library, but I don't think there has ever been a published study, bringing together all of these testimonies in ancient and modern sources. The lists by Eusebius and Jerome of Origen's library (which served as the foundation for the library) are impressive, but I wonder how many other significant materials were in the collection. I suppose the Arab invasion in the 7th cent. did away with all that is precious, but it would be a wonderful bit of news to hear of a discovery in the sands of Palestine.

P J Williams said...

I doubt whether there has been any systematic attempt to bring such sources together. One of the reasons for this is that important material is found not merely in patristic works but also in colophons of manuscripts.

T said...

Isidore of Seville: "Hic enim in bibliotheca sua prope triginta voluminum milia habuit.” But, cf. Jose Oroz Reta, Manuel-A. Marcos Casquero, and Manuel C. Diaz y Diaz, Etimologías: Edicion Bilingüe, vol. 1 (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1982), 580: here the editors suggest that the 30,000 volumes were the combined number from two libraries: “¿Es la misma la biblioteca de Pánfilo, a que se refiere Isidoro, que la de que nos habla Sudas (s.v. Epaphroditus)? Las dos son bibliotecas privadas y las dos reúnen unos 30.000 volúmenes.”

P J Williams said...

Anyone care to calculate how many 'person hours' it takes to produce 30,000 average volumina?