Some people suggests the new testament was written in Hebrew. What do you think?
It wasn’t. It was written in ἡ κοινὴ διάλεκτος
The Gospel of Matthew was written in Aramaic.
All scripture was written in the same language…the language of love. Its the message that is sacred, the execution of putting that message into human usable format is purely an academic, not a spiritual concern.
Matthew’s gospel may perhaps have been written first in either Aramaic or (less likely) Hebrew, but there’s no hard and fast evidence for that. We have the witness of Justin Martyr and other Fathers of the Church, but the only way we can ever possibly know for certain is in the unlikely event of archeologists discovering a datable early manuscript in one of those languages.
The other 26 books of the New Testament, including the gospels of Mark, Luke, and John, were all originally written in Greek. That is a known fact.
The NT has, of course, been translated into Hebrew – twice, in fact. The Catholic Church in Israel uses the BSI (Bible Society in Israel) translation into modern Israeli Hebrew, first published in the 1970s. The revised edition now in use can be read online here:
See that’s the problem. People aren’t willing to take the Apostle’s contemporaries as factual because they had an agenda, but they are ready to take Josephus or Tacitus as factual even though they had an agenda.
Every person who takes Tacitus as factual should be beaten with good old Quellenkritik Really, no historian would do this.
I have heard it said that Mark’s gospel translates well to Aramaic and that it may be that Peter spoke in Rome in Aramaic/rough Greek having the gospels of Matthew and Luke as references. At that time there would have been shorthand scribes who could have taken it down and written the gospel in Greek.
This would help also to explain some of the interdependencies of the synoptic Gospels.
Just a thought.
My point still stands.
Hebrew? No we can eliminate that one altogether.
Hebrew, by that time, was no longer a spoken language. It was only used in the synagogue and Temple. It was, what we would now call, a liturgical language.
No one would have actually written a narrative, much less letters, in Hebrew.
While I would agree that the Scripture is God’s letter of love to mankind, I would respectfully disagree that that the execution was only an academic exercise and not a spiritual concern since it was under the prompting of the Holy Spirit that the Scripture was written. From the CCC:
II. Inspiration and Truth of Sacred Scripture
105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. "The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.“69” For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself."70
106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. "To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more."71
107 The inspired books teach the truth. "Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures."72
Q: Was the NT originally written in Hebrew?
It really is simple.
Love is not a language.
It is not proven that Matthew’s Gospel was originally written in Aramaic.
It is probably correct to claim all the NT was originally written in Greek.
I based my statement on a New Testament Class that I took.
There are several sources that witness to the Aramaic. First, there is the witness of St. Irenaeus, who, in about AD 180, wrote “Matthew also issued a Written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome, and laying the foundation of the Church.” (Against Heresies, 3:1; In The Church Fathers on the Bible, Frank Sadowski, S.S.P, editor).
The following was taken from The International Bible Commentary: “A careful reading of this gospel will reveal its Jewish background and origins. It emphasizes the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures, deals with concerns regarding Jewish understanding of the Law, Pharisaic traditions, and scribal interpretations, and focuses on the controversies with Jewish religious leaders.” “That the author is writing primarily to Jewish Christians is evident also in what he assumes of the readers. He takes it for granted that they are familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures, Law and Prophets alike.” “The gospel of Matthew was universally held be the Church Fathers to be the first gospel written. Some of them claimed that it was written originally in “Hebrew” (which may mean Aramaic). The only author proposed for this gospel was the apostle Matthew. Eusebius of Caesarea (ca. 260 – 340) reports Papias, bishop of Hierapolis (ca. 100 – 110), as recording that “Matthew arranged the Lord’s oracles in order in the Hebrew language (or dialect) and each one translated (or "interpreted”) them as he was able” (Hist. eccl. 3.39.16). Eusebius also reports that Pantaenus (ca. 150 – 215), teacher of Clement of Alexandria, went to India and found that the people there were already acquainted with the gospel of Matthew, a copy in Hebrew having been taken there by the Apostle Bartholomew (Hist. eccl. 5.10.3). (emphasis added).
Here the scholars at The International Bible Commentary are saying that Matthew was written for a Jewish audience. Would it not make sense that the Gospel be written in Aramaic? If it had been written in Greek, why would Bartholomew have taken a copy in Hebrew (Aramaic) to India?
Lastly, there is the declaration of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, On the Author, Date of Composition, and Historical Truth of the Gospel According to Matthew (June 19, 1911). In #2, when asked if Matthew wrote the first Gospel in the native dialect then in use by the Jews of Palestine, they agreed.
Edited to mention the New Testament class.
Methinks that they have an agenda, and it involves the twisting of the Hebrew language.
thank you for the long , scholarly reply you sent re my post. I appreciate it.
You wrote “Some of them claimed that it was written originally in “Hebrew” (which may mean Aramaic)”. I agree with this.
I wrote “It is not proven that Matthew’s Gospel was originally written in Aramaic”. I still stand over this.
However you quote the PBC in 1911 claiming that Matthew was the first Gospel, if this means the first one written I would query this, as Mark has priority. But this is not relevant to the present discussion.
Thank you, Noel, for your flattering remarks. Sadly, however, I have to confess to not deserving them. The comment you are replying to is not mine but Fred Astaire’s.
We all seem to be agreed on the basic points: The other 26 books of the NT were definitely written in Greek, and Matthew probably was as well. Justin Martyr and others tell us that it was first written in what they called Hebrew, but probably meant Aramaic, but none of these authors of the Patristic period, as far as I am aware, ever tells us that he has actually seen and handled a copy. They are only repeating hearsay evidence. So perhaps the Aramaic “Matthew”, assuming there was one, was not so much a complete Gospel as, possibly, a collection of sayings or something along those lines, which Matthew may have used as a source. Maybe Q or something similar. What do you think?
I think it’s probably partially true.
It is possible the Books of Matthew, Hebrews and James were all originally written in Aramaic (a semitic language which shares the same square script with biblical hebrew and is closely related to the point where Aramaic was likely being referenced when early writers said Matthew was written in the “Hebrew tongue”).
The Gospel of Matthew is the most likely book of the NT originally written in Aramaic, though the canonical version is the current Greek translation.
The Book of Mark and possibly the Book of Romans as well as Peters two Epistles may have been written in Latin originally.
So - Matthew, James, Hebrews, and possibly 1-2 Peter may have originally been written in the Hebrew tongue (Aramaic)
Mark, Romans, and again possibly the epistles of Peter may originally have been in Latin.
But apart from those 7 books, the other 20 books were almost 100% certainty written in Greek.
Anyone who claims the Peshitta or some random Hebrew NT is the “real NT”, whether they are Hebrew Roots Protestants or Assyrians, is full of it.
Just a correction, Father.
Actually a late variety of Hebrew (Mishnaic Hebrew) was still a spoken language at the time of Jesus, but it was mostly relegated to a few rural areas down south in Judaea. In many other areas (especially in the Galilee), Aramaic was the common language. Spoken Hebrew only died somewhere during the 200s-300s.
Here’s the thing. The Church Father Papias said that “Matthew arranged the logia (the ‘words’, ‘sayings’ or ‘oracles’ of Jesus) in Hēbraidi dialektō, and each interpreted them, as he was able.”
Later Church Fathers assumed that Hēbraidi dialektō meant ‘Hebrew dialect’ or ‘Hebrew language’ and so interpreted Papias’ passage to mean that he was saying that Matthew originally wrote a gospel in Hebrew/Aramaic, which some of them called “The Gospel of the Hebrews,” that was later supposedly translated and became our canonical Greek Matthew. Some of them even tried to find this elusive ‘Hebrew’ gospel, with not much success. (People like St. Jerome believed they had found it, but it’s more likely they simply discovered a derivative version of Greek Matthew that was used by Jewish Christian sects of their day than the supposed original.)
The thing is, Hēbraidi dialektō could mean either ‘Hebrew dialect/language’ or ‘Hebrew style’. The latter rendering does not imply anything about the actual language the work was written in, just that it is written in a Jewish (‘Hebrew’) literary style. Which would still fit our canonical Greek Matthew: Matthew is a pretty Jewish gospel (well, him and John), with his emphasis on Jesus being the fulfillment of the Jewish scriptures (‘as it is written in the prophet’) and his arrangement of his material to reflect the five-book structure of the Torah/Pentateuch and all that.
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