A Historical Introduction to the Study of the Books of the New Testament

By George Salmon

Chapter 10



In this lecture I propose to discuss what amount of credence is due to the statement of Papias that St. Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew that is, in the later form of the language which was popularly spoken in Palestine in our Lord's time. The question is a very difficult one, on account of the conflict between external and internal evidence. The difficulty I speak of lies in the determination of the exact nature of the relationship between our Greek Gospel and its possible Aramaic predecessors. We need have no difficulty in believing that, before our Gospels, there had been written records of discourses of our Lord and of incidents in His life; that one or more of these may have been in Aramaic, and may have been used by our Evangelists. But when all this has been granted, it still remains a subject for inquiry whether any of these preceding documents had assumed the form of a complete Gospel, and whether our Greek St. Matthew is to be regarded as a mere translation of it, or as an independent work.

It is certain that in very early times Hebrew-speaking Christians had in use Gospels in their own language: and these were quite different in character from the Apocryphal Gospels, of which I mean to speak in the next lecture. It was a necessity for Greek Apocryphal Gospels to be different from the Canonical; for unless they had something new to tell, why should they be written? They were either framed in the interests of some heresy, the doctrines of which were to obtain support from sayings put into the mouth of our Lord or His Apostles; or else they were simply intended to satisfy the curiosity of Christians on some points on which the earlier Evangelists had said nothing. In either case it was the very essence of these Gospels to tell something different from the Gospels we have. It was quite otherwise with the Hebrew Gospels. They were intended to do the very same thing for the benefit of the disciples who spoke Hebrew that the Greek Gospels were to do for those who could speak Greek. There was no necessity that either class of disciples should be taught by means of a translation from a different language. There were, among those who had personal knowledge of the facts of the Gospel history, men competent to tell the story in either tongue. We might, therefore, reasonably expect that there would be original Gospels in the two languages, proceeding on the same lines, the same story being told in both, and possibly by the same men; and yet, though in substantial, not in absolute, agreement with each other. There would be no a priori reason why an independent Hebrew Gospel might not differ as much from our Synoptics, as one of these does from another; and since each of the Synoptics contains some things not told by the rest, so, possibly, might an independent Hebrew Gospel record some sayings or acts of our Lord other than those contained in the Greek Gospels. It is reasonable to believe that if there were any material difference in the way of telling the history, the Hebrew Gospel would be translated into Greek; but if the resemblance between the Hebrew Gospel and one of the Greek ones was in the main very close, it would not be worth while to make a translation of the whole Gospel, and anything special which it contained might pass into Greek independently. I have particularly in my mind the story of the woman taken in adultery. Eusebius, who probably did not read that story in his copy of the Gospel according to St. John, informs us (iii. 39) that Papias had related a story of a woman accused of many sins before our Lord, and that the same story was contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Well, I have no difficulty in admitting it to be possible that a perfectly authentic anecdote of our Lord might have been related in the Hebrew Gospel alone, that this might be translated into Greek, and find its way, first into the margin, ultimately into the text, of one of our Greek Gospels. And it seems to me by no means unlikely that this may afford the true explanation of some more trifling insertions found in Western MSS., which the severity of modern criticism rejects as not entitled to a place in the Greek text. This also may give the explanation of an interpolation in the 20th Matthew, found in some early authorities, containing instructions substantially the same as those given in i4th Luke, against taking the highest place at a feast.

I have said enough to show that there is no antecedent improbability, such as to throw any difficulty in the way of our accepting a statement that an Apostle wrote a Gospel in Hebrew, and that this Gospel was afterwards translated into Greek. Now, that our first Gospel actually is such a translation from one written in Hebrew by St. Matthew is testified by an overwhelming mass of Patristic evidence, which has been accepted as conclusive by a number of the most eminent modern critics. In the first rank of these witnesses must be reckoned Papias, whom I have already quoted. I do not know whether Irenaeus can be counted an independent wit ness: for he knew and valued the work of Papias, and may have thence drawn his information; but as he gives a note of time not found in the extract quoted by Eusebius, he may possibly have derived a tradition from some other source. What Irenaeus says (iii. 1) is, that Matthew, among the Hebrews, published a Gospel in their own dialect when Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome and founding the Church. Again, Eusebius (v. 10) tells a story of Pantaenus, who, about the beginning of the last quarter of the second century, was the head of the Catechetical School of Alexandria, where he accordingly was the teacher of Clement of Alexandria. The tradition, which Eusebius reports with an it is said, is, that Pantaenus went to preach to the Indians, and that he found the Gospel of Matthew had got there before him: for that the Apostle Bartholomew had preached to the Indians, and had left them St. Matthew's Gospel written in Hebrew letters, which they had preserved to the time of Pantsenus's visit and later. The external evidence for this tradition, it will be seen, is weak; and it certainly has no internal probability to recommend it. A Greek book would have had a better chance of being understood in India (no matter what that word means) than an Aramaic one.

What these early fathers asserted, those who came after them naturally echoed, so that the testimony of the majority of later writers cannot be regarded as adding much to the weight of these early witnesses: especially as very few of them knew Hebrew, or could say that they themselves had seen the Hebrew original of St. Matthew. We have, how ever, in St. Jerome a witness who seems above all suspicion. He says that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew words- and letters for the sake of those of the circumcision who believed in Christ, and that it is uncertain who translated it into Greek. He adds that a copy of the original Hebrew was then still preserved in the library at Caesarea, founded by the martyr Pamphilus, and that he himself had transcribed the Hebrew Gospel with the leave of the Nazaraeans who lived at Beroea in Syria [Aleppo], and who used that Gospel.1 We have the further testimony of Epiphanius,2 who was well acquainted with Eastern languages. He mentions the same sect of the Nazarenes to which Jerome refers, for he describes Beroea as one of the places where they most flourished; and he says that they had the Gospel of St. Matthew complete, written in Hebrew, only he is not sure whether they did not take away the genealogy from the beginning (Haer. 29). This confession of ignorance gives us reason to infer that he does not speak of this Gospel from personal knowledge. In calling their version complete (πληρέστατον) he meant to contrast it with that used by another Jewish sect whom he calls the Ebionites, and which he describes in his next section. They also had a Hebrew Gospel which they called that according to St. Matthew: and this Epiphanius knew, and gives several extracts from it. He tells us that it was not perfect, but corrupted and mutilated (οὐχ ὅλῳ δὲ πληρεστάτῳ, ἀλλὰ νενοθευμένῳ καὶ ἠκρωτηριασμένῳ).

In point of external evidence, then, the proof of the Hebrew original of St. Matthew's Gospel seems as complete as could be desired. Yet there are two considerations to be attended to before we accept all this testimony as absolutely conclusive.

One is, that internal evidence leads us to regard our present Matthew as an original work, not a translation. In the first place, we have translations of Hebrew words: They shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (i. 23). A place called Golgotha, that is to- say, a place of a skull (xxvii. 33); Eli, Eli, lama sabach-thani, that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (xxvii. 46). It is evident these explanations could not have been in the Hebrew original, and that they must have been introduced by the translator, if there was one. Next, there are explanations which show a regard to the case of readers unacquainted with the customs of Palestine at the time in question: The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection (xxii. 23); Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner whom they would (xxvii. 15); That field was called the field of blood unto this day (xxvii. 8); This saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day (xxviii. 15). These explanations would not have been necessary for one writing in Hebrew to the Jews of Palestine, but are quite suitable in a work written in Greek, and expected to pass outside the limits of the Holy Land. I do not venture to lay much stress on instances of paronomasia, to which attention has been called, such as ἀφανίζουσιν ὅπως φανῶσιν (vi. 16); κακοὺς κακῶς (xxi. 41); nor on expressions such as βαττολογεῖν, πολυλογία. Possibly instances of this kind are not more than might be unconsciously introduced by a translator. But the investigation in which we engaged in the last lecture goes very near to determine the present question. For example, I regard it as almost certain that our first Gospel did not copy the third, nor the third the first, but that both drew from a common source. And I have stated my opinion that the facts are not explained by the supposition that that source was Aramaic: being led to this conclusion by an examination of the coincidences of language in the Greek of the Gospels, and in particular by a study of the manner in which the first Gospel cites the Old Testament. Now, if we come to the conclusion that the first Gospel, such as we have it, shows traces of the use of a Greek source, the only way in which it is possible to maintain the Hebrew original is by adding the hypothesis that the translator of the Gospel into Greek was acquainted with the source in question, and used it to guide him in his work. I will not delay now to speak of the difficulties of this hypothesis, as I shall presently give reasons for thinking it needless to have recourse to it. Nor will I dwell on certain minute marks of originality in our present first Gospel. Some of them, indeed, can better be felt than described; but certainly the impression on any reader of Matthew and Luke is, that one is as much an original as the other.

I pass to the second consideration, namely, that none of the Fathers show acquaintance with any Greek text of the first Gospel other than that we have. If a Hebrew Gospel by St. Matthew had been recognized as a primary source of information concerning our Lord's history, we might expect that more persons than one would have been anxious to translate it into Greek. Actually there is no trace of any Greek text but one, and that seems to have been established in exclusive possession in the days of our earliest witness, Papias. Observe his words: Matthew wrote the oracles in Hebrew, and everyone interpreted them as he could. Here you may take everyone in the strict sense, and understand Papias to say that there was no Greek translation, and that everyone who desired to use St. Matthew's Gospel was forced to translate it for himself as best he could; or, you may take everyone as more loosely used, and may understand Papias only to say that there was no authorized Greek translation, but that certain persons had published translations which each had made to the best of his ability. I rather think the first is what he means: but in either case the point to observe is, that Papias uses the aorist tense ἡρμήνευσε. The days of new independent translation appear to have been over when Papias wrote, and we have every reason to believe that there was one authoritative Greek St. Matthew. The citations of it are as early and as constant as those of the other Gospels. Even those Fathers who tell us that Matthew's Greek Gospel is a translation seem to forget themselves, and elsewhere to speak of it and use it as if it were an original. In short, the Church has never made the difference between the first and the other Synoptic Gospels that this theory demands. I mean the theory that in each of the latter two we have the work of an inspired writer: in the first, a translation made by an unknown interpreter who clearly acted the part rather of an editor than translator, and who in some places inserted explanations and additions of his own.

The difficulty of claiming inspired authority for the Greek St, Matthew has been felt so strongly, that in modern times a theory has been started to which no ancient author gives countenance, namely, that there was a double original: that Matthew first wrote in Hebrew and afterwards himself translated his work into Greek. If we are to reject the testimony of the ancients at all, I should prefer to reject their assertion that the Gospel was originally written in Hebrew; but those who say that it was testify also that there was no authorized translation. On this point both Papias and Jerome are express, so that it seems to me there is no middle course. We must choose between the two hypotheses a Greek original of St. Matthew, or a lost Hebrew original with a translation by an unknown author.3 Or rather, since our Greek Gospel bears marks of not being a mere translation, we must choose between the hypotheses that we have in the Greek the Gospel as written by Matthew himself, or the Gospel as written by an unknown writer, who used as his principal materials an Aramaic writing by St. Matthew which has now perished.

We turn back, then, to examine more closely the external evidence for the Hebrew original, when we find that it melts away in a wonderful manner. Observe what is the point to- be determined. It is not disputed that Hebrew-speaking sectaries in the third and fourth centuries used a Gospel in their own language, and that they ascribed it to St. Matthew,- but the question is, What was the relation of that Gospel to our Greek St. Matthew? was it that of original to translation? For that purpose we must inquire what information is to be had about that Hebrew Gospel. In the next lecture I shall speak of other Apocryphal Gospels; but it is not inconvenient to treat of the Hebrew one separately, because its character is different from that of the others. These last I have de scribed as either supplemental or heretical: that is to say, as either such as assume the Canonical Gospels and try to make additions to their story, or else such as were framed to serve the interests of some heresy. But the Hebrew Gospel is the only one which has pretensions to be an in dependent Gospel: that is to say, one which claims to be set on a level with the Canonical Gospels, as one accepted by the Church as containing an authentic history of our Lord's life and teaching.

I begin by putting out of court the Ebionite Gospel described by Epiphanius, this being clearly to be banished to the class of heretical gospels. Epiphanius tells us enough about it to make us at any rate sure that this was not the original of our St. Matthew. It contained nothing corresponding to the first two chapters, and its actual beginning was quite different from what we find in the third chapter. The Gospel emanated from the Ebionite sect which I have described already (p. 18), and to which I find it convenient to give the distinctive name of Elkesaite, thereby avoiding some controversy as to the proper extension of the name Ebionite.4 These Jewish sectaries, being few in number and not widely diffused, were little known to the Church at large until the end of the second century or the beginning of the third, when an extreme section of them assumed an aggressive and proselytizing attitude, and in particular attempted to make converts at Rome. This section included some men who did not scruple at literary imposture. They produced the Book of Elkesai (see p. 19), and they refashioned for their purposes earlier documents which professed to relate the preaching of Peter. In this way originated the Clementine Recognitions and Homilies. It is for this section that Epiphanius reserves the name Ebionite, giving to the other Judaizers the name of Nazarenes. My judgment concerning what Epiphanius describes as the Ebionite Gospel is, that it was a Greek book compiled by these Elkesaites for the use of their converts, and purporting to be a translation of the Hebrew Gospel. But I am persuaded that these adepts in literary forgery, instead of giving a faithful translation of that Gospel, manufactured a new Gospel of their own, using for that purpose not only the Gospel according to St. Matthew, but also that according to St. Luke, and perhaps also that according to St. John. That this Ebionite Gospel never existed in Aramaic is more than I can venture to assert;5 but I hold that the Gospel which Epiphanius describes was in Greek, and that our Greek Gospels were used in it& manufacture.

I have already said that this Elkesaite sect was characterized by an abhorrence of sacrifice, and by an objection to the use of flesh meat; and the extracts given by Epiphanius show how they made their Gospel emphatically sanction these opinions of theirs. In one place (Epiph. Haer. xxx. 16) our Lord is made to say: I came to put an end to sacrifices, and until ye cease from sacrifices the wrath of God shall not cease from you. The same hand was evidently at work here that in the Clementine Recognitions (i. 64) makes Peter say to the priests in the temple: We are certain that God is only made more angry by the sacrifices which ye offer, seeing that the time of sacrifices is now passed; and because ye will not acknowledge that the time for offering victims has passed, your temple shall be destroyed, and the abomination of desolation set up in the holy place. 6

It was a natural object of solicitude with these Elkesaites to get rid of the encouragement to the eating of flesh afforded by our Lord's participation in the Passover feast. Accordingly, in their Gospel, the disciples question, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the Passover? receives from our Lord the answer, Have I with desire desired to eat this Passover, even flesh, with you? Two things deserve to be noticed in this passage besides its hostility to the use of flesh. The first is that Epiphanius, in commenting on the two changes introduced by the insertion of the word flesh and of the interrogative particle, describes the latter as made by the addition of the two letters μ, η; showing plainly that it was a Greek book he had before him. The other is, that the text on which the Elkesaite forger has operated is not from St. Matthew's Gospel, but from St. Luke s, viz. xxii. 15.

Another New Testament example of the use of animal food seemed to contradict the teaching of these Elkesaites I mean the passage which describes locusts as having been the food of John the Baptist. Accordingly they substituted His food was wild honey, the taste of which was that of the manna, as a honey-cake dressed with oil (compare Numbers xi. 8, LXX.) The substitution here of the word ἐγκρίς, a cake, for ἀκρίς, a locust, has convinced the great majority of critics that this Ebionite forger here did not translate from the Hebrew, but worked on the Greek texts of our Gospels.

In the very few fragments of this Gospel that have been preserved there are several other indications of the use of St. Luke besides those already mentioned. It names Zacharias and Elisabeth as the parents of John the Baptist; it dates the preaching of the Baptist, Caiaphas being the high priest, Luke iii. 2. It tells that Jesus, when He came forward as a teacher, was about thirty years of age (Luke iii. 23); and it shows signs of following Luke iii. 21, in the phrase, when the people were baptized came Jesus also. In this Ebionite Gospel what Matthew calls the sea of Galilee becomes the lake of Tiberias: lake being Luke's ordinary phrase and Tiberias John's. And I am disposed to recognize as an indication of the use of St. John's Gospel a point noted by the late Bishop Fitz Gerald. According to St. John it was. the descent of the Holy Ghost at our Lord's baptism which taught the Baptist to recognize Jesus as the Son of God (John i. 33.) Now, according to Matthew's Gospel, John, before the descent of the Holy Ghost, confesses that he has need to be baptized by Jesus. This Ebionite Gospel trans poses the confession so as to make it agree with what John's account would at first sight appear to require. And it is only when the Baptist sees the miracle and hears the voice from heaven that he falls at the feet of Jesus, with the prayer, I beseech thee, Lord, do thou baptize me.

Now, according to all the authorities, the genuine Hebrew Gospel was identical, or nearly so, with St. Matthew, so that these coincidences, not with Matthew, but with other Gospels, arrest attention. And considering by what tainted hands this document is presented, I will not detain you with a discussion of the abstract question whether coincidences with Luke and John ought necessarily to cause us to reject the claim of a document to be regarded as the original Hebrew Gospel. I content myself with expressing my conviction that this Ebionite Gospel of Epiphanius is nothing of the kind. I look on it as a third-century forgery, made with heretical intent by one who was well acquainted with the Greek Gospels, in a workshop discredited by other forgeries and impostures; and I hold that it must be altogether cast out of consideration by anyone who seeks to restore a considerably older document, namely, the Hebrew Gospel in use among those whom Epiphanius and Jerome call Nazarenes, and for which these sectaries claimed the authorship of St. Matthew.

For the same reason it is only with great reserve I can employ another source of information about the Hebrew Gospel, namely, the Clementine Homilies. These frequently quote sayings of our Lord, and they contain other passages resembling texts in the Canonical Gospels, but often differing a good deal from them in form. It was a natural explanation of these variations to suppose that the Clementine writer was quoting a gospel different from any of our four, and to assume that the Gospel which, as a Jewish Christian, he was accustomed to use must have been the Hebrew Gospel. The idea receives some confirmation from the fact that it is Matthew's Gospel which the Clementine quotations ordinarily recall. But they do not so exclusively. In a table of the Clementine Gospel quotations given by Westcott (Introduction to the Study of the Gospels, p. 468) there are about sixty coincidences with St. Matthew, three with Mark, six with Luke, and four with John. But one thing must be borne in mind before we infer that a peculiarity in the form of a Clementine citation implies that the writer used a different Gospel. It is that when such citations are made in the Homilies Peter is usually the speaker; and he is represented not as reading our Lord's sayings from a book, but as giving his own recollections of His teaching and His acts. The conditions of the story then required that Peter should show himself to be an independent authority, and not the servile copier of a previous record. I feel no doubt that the story of the man born blind, which I have quoted (p. 76), was taken from St. John; and a comparison of the two versions shows the amount of licence which the Clementine writer conceived himself at liberty to use. The fact, then, that a report of our Lord's words, made by so arbitrary a writer, differs from the canonical text gives us no assurance that he derived it from the Hebrew Gospel, or even from any written source. On the other hand, since he was no doubt acquainted with the Hebrew Gospel, there is always a possibility of his having used it; and if the same peculiar form of citation occurs more than once, or if it agrees with the citation of another writer, then we are led to regard it as taken from a written source, and not improbably from the Hebrew Gospel.7

When we have cast aside these Elkesaite authorities, we have no more copious source of information about the Hebrew Gospel than St. Jerome; and it might seem that he sets at rest the question of the Hebrew original of St. Matthew, for he tells us that he had seen it himself and made a copy of it. Unfortunately, he goes on to tell us that he proceeded to translate it into Greek and Latin. That alone would lead us to suspect that the book must be something different from our Gospel of St. Matthew, or that, if the latter be a translation, it cannot be an accurate translation. And this suspicion is turned into certainty by abundant extracts which St. Jerome gives from the same book, sufficiently confirmed by the testimony of other Fathers. We are thus enabled to say with certainty that whatever affinities there may have been between this Nazarene Gospel and St. Matthew's, the latter can with no propriety be said to be a translation of the former. The Nazarene Gospel contained some things that are not in St. Matthew, and wanted some things that are in St. Matthew,8 and told in different ways stories that were common to both. The most interesting of the additions made by the Nazarene Gospel to the Canonical history is its account of our Lord's appearance to James after His resurrection. It runs: Now the Lord, when He had given the linen cloth to the servant of the priest, went to James, and appeared to him. For James had taken an oath that he would not eat bread from that hour on which he had drunk the cup of the Lord till he saw him risen from the dead/ Then our Lord says, Bring a table and bread. And a little further on it is added: He took bread, and blessed and brake, and gave it to James the Just, and said to him, My brother, eat thy bread, for the Son of Man is risen from the dead (De Viris Illustr. 2). We may be sure that if this story had been in the original St. Matthew, it would not have been omitted in the Greek translation, and therefore this one specimen would give ground for the opinion, which the other specimens I shall produce establish beyond doubt, that Jerome's Hebrew Gospel is not a different form of the first Gospel, but to all intents a fifth Gospel.9 It is another question whether the story may not be authentic. We know from 1 Cor. xv. 7 that our Lord did appear to James, and nothing forbids us to believe that a true tradition of that appearance may have been preserved. But it is also possible that this very verse of 1 Cor. may have suggested to the Jewish Christian framer of the Nazarene Gospel to supplement the defect of the authentic history by an invented narrative of the details of our Lord's appearance to the venerated head of the Jerusalem Church. And some suspicion is suggested by the fact that St. Paul puts the appearance to James quite late in the list of our Lord's appearances, while the Nazarene account would lead us to regard it as one of the first.

The next specimen which I shall produce deserves re mark on many accounts. It is quoted by Origen as well as by Jerome, and so gives us reason to think that the same Hebrew Gospel was used by these two writers. But you must observe that although Origen believed that the original of Matthew's Gospel had been in Hebrew (Euseb. vi. 25), it does not appear that he identified it with the Hebrew Gospel which he quotes; nor can I find that this idea was entertained by any of the other Church writers who quote what they generally call the Gospel according to the Hebrews. The notion seems to have been peculiar to St. Jerome.

Our Saviour is introduced as saying, My mother the Holy Ghost lately took me by one of my hairs and carried me to the great mountain Tabor.10 The words by one of my hairs might easily be accounted for as an enlargement of St. Matthew's led up of the Spirit (iv. i), by an apocryphal addition (founded on Ezek. viii. 3; Bel and the Dragon, 36), and this would be an indication that this Hebrew Gospel is posterior to our Greek St. Matthew. But the phrase My mother the Holy Ghost requires more comment. In the Aramaic the Holy Spirit is denoted by a feminine noun; consequently, in the Gnostic sects, which took their origin where a Shemitic language was spoken, and which deduce the origin of things from a male and female principle, the Holy Spirit is usually the female principle. Hence Hilgenfeld, who tries to discover in St. Matthew an anti-Pauline Hebrew nucleus, considers that the part ascribed in the first chapter to the Holy Spirit in the generation of our Lord shows that this chapter at least was no part of the original Hebrew, but must have been added by the Greek translator or rather adapter. But St. Jerome gives no hint that the Gospel which he read was defective at the beginning; and it must be borne in mind that if a Gnostic writer spoke of the Holy Spirit as the mother of Christ it would be with reference to His premundane generation. He could without inconsistency adopt Matthew's account of the miraculous birth of Jesus, but would probably lay stress chiefly on the union of Jesus with a higher power at His baptism. In the passage of the Nazarene Gospel which relates the baptism, the Holy Spirit addresses our Lord as My Son. The narrative runs: It came to pass, when the Lord had come up from the water, the entire fountain of the Holy Spirit descended and rested upon him and said to him, My Son, in all the prophets did I await thee that thou mightest come and I might rest in thee: for thou art my rest, thou art my firstborn Son that reignest for ever. I may as well quote also the account this Gospel gives of our Lord's coming to be baptized: Behold the mother of the Lord and his brethren said to him, John the Baptist baptizeth for the remission of sins; let us go and be baptized by him. But he said to them, Wherein have I sinned that I should go and be baptized by him, except, perchance, this very thing that I have said is ignorance?

I have given examples enough to show that this Nazarene Gospel was a very different book from our St. Matthew. Lest, however, it should be thought that the difference between the books arises from one of them having received interpolations, I shall show you how differently a story is told which both have in common: Another rich man said to Jesus, Master, what good thing shall I do that I may live? He said, Go and sell all that thou hast, and distribute among the poor, and come and follow me. But the rich man began to scratch his head and was displeased. And the Lord said to him, How canst thou say thou hast kept the law and the prophets, since it is written in the law, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: and behold many of thy brethren, children of Abraham, are clothed with dung and dying with hunger, while thy house is full of many good things, and nothing is sent out of it to them? And turning to His disciple Simon, who sat beside Him, he said: Simon son of John, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.11 Again, the man with the withered hand is made to say, I was a mason seeking a livelihood by the labour of my hands. I pray thee, Jesus, to restore me to health, that I may not beg my bread in disgrace (Hieron., in Matt. xii. 13). If so ran the original Hebrew St. Matthew, our Greek Evangelist must have been a most unfaithful translator.

Again, the parable of the talents was improved so as not to inflict so severe a punishment on mere sloth. There are three servants: one multiplies his talent; another hides it; the third wastes it with harlots and riotous living. The second is only rebuked; the third is cast into prison.12 The only other things about the Hebrew Gospel which I think it worth while to quote are, that instead of relating that the veil of the Temple was rent, it told that a lintel of the Temple of immense size was shattered; and that in the Lord's Prayer, instead of daily bread it had bread for the morrow. This is the meaning of the word ἐπιούσιος, adopted by Bishop Lightfoot (New Testament Revision, Appendix); and it is no small argument in his favour that such was the interpretation accepted in Palestine apparently before the end of the first century. But if the Aramaic had been the original, and had said plainly bread for the morrow, it seems to me not likely that so difficult a word would have been used in the translation. The Greek Fathers were as much puzzled by it as ourselves (see Origen, de Orat. 27, quoted by Lightfoot, New Testament Revision, p. 195).

It would be time wasted if I were to accumulate quotations for the mere purpose of showing that the Nazarene Gospel was not the original of our St. Matthew. The only wonder is, how St. Jerome could ever have permitted himself to think or say that it was. As time went on he certainly became cautious about asserting it, and usually quotes it as the Gospel written in the Hebrew language which the Nazarenes read; and he sometimes adds, which is called by most the original of St. Matthew.13 But it is still surprising that he should have accepted this Gospel as the original St. Matthew at a time when he could not have been ignorant of its character: for the very first time he speaks of it he tells that he had already translated it into Greek and Latin, and quotes the story of our Lord's appearance to James. How ever, our surprise may abate a little when we remember that long before Jerome's time the belief had been accepted in the Church, that St. Matthew's Gospel had been originally written in Hebrew. It was notorious that the Judaizing sects had a Gospel in their own language which they designated as St. Matthew s; and no one ignorant of their language had any reason for doubting the appellation to be correct. St. Jerome would therefore, no doubt, embrace with eager expectation the opportunity of obtaining access to so valuable a help to the criticism of the New Testament text, and would count the power of copying this document as one of the most precious fruits of his Shemitic studies. But after he had become acquainted with it, and had found that instead of enabling him to correct a reading here and there in the Greek St. Matthew, it was a work so different from the Canonical Gospel that a new translation was necessary in order to inform a Greek reader of its contents, how was it that Jerome did not then perceive that unless he owned the two books to have been different from the beginning, he must either hold the Can onical St. Matthew to have been an unfaithful translation, or else the Nazarene Gospel to have been since foully corrupted? In answering this question we must call to mind what was the great work of Jerome's life. When he became acquainted with the Hebrew Bible he found it in many respects to be very different from the Septuagint and its Latin translations, which were in current use all over the Christian world. He set him self to revise the current text, so as to bring it into conformity with the original Hebrew; and on account of the preference he gave to the latter, he met with much opposition and calumny from his contemporaries. Now it is reasonable to suppose that, notwithstanding some striking variations, there was a good deal of resemblance between the Nazarene Gospel and the Canonical Gospel of St. Matthew. The differences were probably not greater than Jerome had found in many places between the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Old Testament. I believe, then, that Jerome, taking up the Nazarene Gospel with every prepossession in its favour, was not hindered by these differences from accepting it as the original text of St. Matthew, and that he gave it the preference which, in the case of the Old Testament books, he had given to the Hebrew over the Greek text. I do not know that he ever quite abandoned this view, though as years went on he became more cautious in expressing it. But though we gratefully follow St. Jerome in using an Old Testament text cleared of the accretions which, in Greek and Latin Bibles, had gathered round the original, we may rejoice that he could not succeed in persuading the Church to exchange the Greek for the Aramaic St. Matthew.14

When we have arrived at the conclusion that the Hebrew Gospel known to St. Jerome was not the original of St. Mat thew, but to all intents a fifth Gospel, we have still to consider what we ought to think of it. Is it to be ranked with our Canonical four, or with the Apocryphal Gospels of which I have next to speak? I am conscious that it is difficult for us to divest our minds of prejudice when we try to make a purely literary comparison of the Hebrew and the Canonical Gospels. However freely we acknowledge that there was nothing in the nature of things to forbid our having five Gospels, yet, as the Church for so many centuries has only acknowledged four, we are not now inclined to reopen the question; and we can scarcely be quite impartial in our comparison of words we have venerated from our childhood with words which come to us as strange and novel. So, perhaps, I might dis trust my own judgment when the story of the rich man scratching his head impresses me, in respect of claim to priority over the Canonical narrative, as on a level with the versions of New Testament stories which good ladies some times publish for the use of children. It is therefore a satisfaction to me that, in asserting the immense superiority in originality and simplicity of our Greek St. Matthew over the Nazarene Gospel, I have the adhesion of the great majority of those critics who pay least regard to the authority of ecclesiastical tradition. Indeed, critics of the sceptical school have generally adopted Schleiermacher's idea, that the Hebrew St. Matthew contained nothing but discourses; and so they have felt no temptation to take under their patronage this Nazarene Gospel, which clearly dealt in narrative just as much as the Canonical. Hilgenfeld is almost the only critic of note who attributes originality to this Hebrew Gospel. But he owns that he is the advocate of a nearly abandoned cause. Volkmar, Strauss, Renan, Keim, Lipsius, Weizacker agree in the opinion which I express in the words of Anger quoted by Hilgenfeld: Evangelium Hebraeorum, testantibus quae supersunt reliquiis, cognatum cum Ev. Matthaei, iis in rebus, in quibus ab eo differt, nunquam certo formam principalem, plerumque indubitate formam derivatam praebet. Indeed it is quite intelligible that the traditions of a small sect, which was isolated from the Christian world, and on that account un controlled in its procedure, should be liable to depravation and corruption, from which our Gospels were secured, if by nothing else, by the mere fact that they so rapidly became the property of mutually distant Churches.15

When we have acknowledged that this Nazarene Gospel, so far from being the mother, or even the sister, of one of our Canonical four, can only claim to be a granddaughter or grandniece, it does not follow that it stands on no higher level than the Apocryphal Gospels. It is at least favourably distingnished from them by not being open to the charge which I brought against the rest (p. 119), that they are silent about our Lord's public life, concerning which it is not in credible that true traditions might be in circulation; while they speak copiously on matters about which the narrators were not likely to have had means of real knowledge. We may disregard tales of the latter kind as idle chatter, and yet think ourselves bound to give a hearing to stories concerning our Lord's public life which circulated at no great distance from Him in time or place. But I own that, after giving them a hearing, I have not felt disposed to attribute to them any high value. The most favourable verdict I have in any case been able to pass is, that I will not venture to say that some of them may not have had a foundation in truth. For ex ample, the saying Be ye good money-changers, or another quoted by Jerome, Be ye never glad but when you see your brother in charity/ may, for all I know, have been derived from some actual sayings of our Lord.

Before I quit the subject of this Hebrew Gospel, I ought to mention that the earliest trace of its existence is that Ignatius (ad Symrn. 3), in arguing against a Docetic conception of our Lord's body, says, And when, after His resurrection, He came to Peter and his company, He said, " Take, handle me, and see that I am not a spirit without body (δαιμόνιον ἀσώματον). We might suppose that this was a free quotation of Luke xxiv. 39; but we find from Jerome that the words incorporale daemonium were found in his Nazarene Gospel, to which accordingly he refers this quotation.16 It would be quite natural that Ignatius, being a native of Syria, should use an Aramaic Gospel. On the other hand, it is to be re marked that Eusebius, who quotes this phrase from Ignatius (H. E. iii. 36), does not know where he got it; and yet Eusebius, at least when he wrote the Theophaneia, knew the Hebrew Gospel. Again, Origen in the preface to his Περὶ Αρχῶν (Delarue, i. 47) says that the saying is derived from the apocryphal book Doctrina Petri. It is best to acknowledge that our means of information do not enable us to speak positively as to the filiation of these different documents. In any case we know that Hegesippus, in the second century, used the Hebrew Gospel (Euseb. H. E. iv. 22).17

I return to the question as to the original language of St. Matthew, respecting which the evidence takes a new complexion from what we have learned as to the Nazarene Gospel. We might have lightly regarded the assertion that Matthew's Gospel was originally written in Hebrew, if it were made only by men who had never seen the book, or who did not understand the language, and were therefore incompetent to judge whether the Aramaic book which was in use among certain Jewish sectaries could justly claim priority over the Greek Gospel. But the question seemed decided by the testimony of St. Jerome, who had himself examined the Aramaic book. But now Jerome, when cross-examined,. passes over as a witness to the opposite side, convincing us of the comparative lateness of the only Aramaic Gospel that any of the witnesses had seen. We have therefore to fall back on the earlier witnesses, and we have now to consider what their evidence is worth, especially when we bear in mind that if their opinion was influenced by belief in the pretensions made for the Hebrew Gospel of their own day, they were mistaken in that belief. If, for example, we think the it is said of Eusebius sufficient evidence to induce us to believe that Pantaenus was shown in India a Gospel in Hebrew letters, we may still reasonably doubt whether this was a copy of the original St. Matthew left there by St. Bartholomew, or simply a copy of the Nazarene Gospel. As for our earliest witness, Papias, I do not attach overwhelming weight to his easy reception of the statement that Matthew's Gospel was originally Hebrew. He knew that Palestine was bilingual, so that the thing would appear to him probable; and it supplied a key to difficulties he may have met with in harmonizing the Gospels; but it is very unlikely that he himself either saw the Gospel, or could read it if he did see it. If we had not better evidence, I doubt if we could attribute much value to the opinion of a bishop of Phrygia as to the extent to which Palestine had been bilingual fifty years before; for this is a point on which distance of place is a great bar to accurate knowledge. I could ask questions as to the language or dialect spoken in different parts of the Continent that I dare say most of you would beg to be excused from answering. I doubt whether many educated Frenchmen would have confidence in saying whether a Welsh Member of Parliament would address his constituents in Welsh, or an Irish one in Irish.

Actually, however, I believe that Greek was as generally spoken in Palestine in our Lord's time as English now is in the West of Ireland. Greek was the language of the law courts and of business. Accordingly, a knowledge of Greek could only be dispensed with by those who were too high or too low to be concerned in mercantile matters. I think, however, that Josephus has been misunderstood when he has been supposed to say (Ant. xx. 12) that those of high rank did not know Greek. What he says is, that a knowledge of foreign languages was an accomplishment in which they took no pride, it being one possessed by the lower class of freemen, and even by slaves. Those only were regarded as wise who were accurately acquainted with the law, and were able to interpret the Holy Scriptures. In the Acts, you will re member that the chief captain, taking Paul for a leader of sicarii, is surprised that he can speak Greek. On the other hand, when Paul addresses the people from the Temple steps, they expect him to speak Greek, but are gratified, and become attentive, on being addressed in their own language. Peter's discourse on the day of Pentecost, and his address to Cornelius, must, from the nature of the case, have been delivered in Greek; and it is not unreasonable to think the same of some other speeches recorded in the early chapters of the Acts. Dr. Roberts, in his interesting book, Discussions on the Gospels, contends that our Lord Himself commonly spoke Greek, and he at least makes it probable that He did so sometimes.18 He appeals to what we are told (Mark iii. 7) of a great multitude having followed our Lord from Idumea and from beyond Jordan, and they about Tyre and Sidon, the presumption being that if they followed Him they could understand His teaching; and people from the regions just named would not be likely to do this unless He spoke Greek. He draws another proof from St. John's report of our Lord's conversation with Pilate, in which we are not told that the services of an interpreter were employed. Greek seems to have been more prevalent in Galilee, which is called Galilee of the Gentiles, than in Jerusalem. St. Matthew, as a collector of taxes, could hardly have dispensed with a know ledge of Greek. We know that the two Jewish Apostles, Peter, the Apostle of the Circumcision, and James, the head of the Jerusalem Church, have left Epistles in Greek. And, what is remarkable, the letter of that specially Jewish Apostle, St. James, is perhaps the best Greek in the New Testament.

The conclusion, then, which I draw from these facts is, that there is not the least difficulty in believing that Matthew might have written a Gospel in Greek, even on the supposition that he intended it only for the use of the Christians in Pales tine; and the first Gospel contains internal evidence that it was meant to have a wider circulation. On the other hand,. the proof I have given from Josephus (p. 141) of the literary use of the Aramaic language in his time makes it equally easy to accept evidence of the existence of an apostolic Hebrew Gospel, if only decisive evidence for its existence were forth coming. But it does not appear that any of the witnesses had themselves seen such a Gospel, and there is no evidence of the existence of any Greek text but the one which was universally regarded as authoritative. Cureton imagined that he could gain evidence for the Hebrew original of St. Matthew from the Syriac version which he published, and which he con tended had not been made from Greek, but from the original Aramaic. However, on that point he has failed to convince scholars.19 I cannot help thinking that if there had existed in use among Hebrew-speaking Christians what was known to be the real original Gospel written by St. Matthew, such a corrupt version of it as that circulated among the Nazarenes could not have gained acceptance; and that the origin of the latter Gospel is more easily explained if we suppose that it was in Greek the facts of the Gospel history had been authoritatively published, and if we regard the Nazarene Gospel as an attempt made by one not very scrupulous about accuracy to present these facts to those who spoke Aramaic. For these reasons, and on account of the signs of originality already mentioned, which are presented by the Greek Gospel, I am disposed to pronounce in favour of the Greek original of St. Matthew.

But it has been objected, The great majority of the early witnesses who tell us that Matthew wrote a Gospel tell us also that he wrote it in Hebrew. If you do not accept their testimony on the latter point, why accept it on the former? And then what reason is there for supposing that our present Greek Gospel comes from St. Matthew at all? Well, I do not think that the two things stand on the same level of testimony. In the case of Papias, for example, it seems to me plain that the Gospel of which he speaks bore the title of St. Matthew, and was accepted as such by the Christian world of the time. The statement that it had been written in Hebrew rests on a private tradition, for all we know, first made public by Papias himself: and Papias has been generally condemned as over credulous with respect to some of the traditions which he accepted. If the Greek Gospel had been, as some suppose, only based on the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, but was actually the work of one of the second generation, I do not know why the name of the real author should have been suppressed; for the second and third Gospels bear the names of those who were supposed to be their real authors, and not those of the Apostles on whose authority they were believed to rest. So that, if Matthew did not write the first Gospel, I do not think the name of Matthew would have been necessary to gain it acceptance in the Church. In any case, the fact of this acceptance by the Church may suffice for our faith; for though I believe the first Gospel to have been written by an Apostle, and the second and third not, I make no difference in my reception of them, nor do I find that any such difference was ever made by Christians. From the earliest times of which we have knowledge all were alike received as indisputably authentic records of the deeds and words of Christ.



1) De Viris illustr., 3. Jerome resided in the desert east of Syria, 374- 379, and it seems to have been at this period that he made acquaintance with the Hebrew St. Matthew. The work from which the citation is taken was published in 392.

2) Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, published his great work on Heresies in 377. "We have often reason to remark that the literary work of the Fathers falls short of the modern standard of accuracy; but there is none who is more apt than Epiphanius to make blunders through carelessness, want of critical discrimination, and, through a habit not unknown at the present day, of stating what he guessed might be true, as if he had ascertained it to be time. On this account his unsupported testimony can only be used with great caution. But he is well entitled to be heard on the present question, since Syriac was his native language, and he appears to have been well acquainted with Hebrew, besides knowing Egyptian, Greek, and Latin, whence he was called

3) That the existing Greek text is not authoritative is assumed also by Eusebius. One of the solutions which he offers (Quaest. ad Mann. II.) of the difficulty which he finds in Matthew's statement, that Mary Magdalen's visit to the sepulchre took place ὀψὲ σαββάτων, is that this phrase, used by the Greek translator, does not quite accurately give the meaning of Matthew's Hebrew text, which would have been better expressed by βράδιον than ὀψὲ. It seems to me not impossible that Eusebius might have got this solution from Papias, and that this might have been the very occasion on which Papias found occasion to observe that Matthew had written his Gospel in Hebrew,

4) The name Ebionite seems to have been originally given to all Jewish Christians who observed the Mosaic law (Orig. adv. Cels. ii. i); and though the earlier authorities distinguished between those Christians of Jewish birth who, after their conversion, merely continued to observe the Mosaic law themselves, and those who insisted on such observance as necessary to salvation, and who besides denied our Lord's Divinity and His miraculous Conception; yet these early authorities give to both classes the name of Ebionites (see in particular Orig. adv. Cels. v. 61; Euseb. H. E. iii. 27). It seems to have been first towards the end of the fourth century that the name Nazarene was applied (by Epiphanius and Jerome) to the first class, while the name Ebionite was left as the peculiar designation of the second.

5) Epiphanius states (Haer. xxx. 3) that both the Gospel according to St. John and the Acts of the Apostles had been translated into Aramaic.

6) We may gather from this Clementine passage in what part of the Gospel the saying quoted by Epiphanius was inserted.

7) The most remarkable instance of the kind is the saying Be ye approved money-changers (γίνεσθε δόκιμοι τραπεζῖται), which I have quoted already (p. 18). The meaning of it was that we ought to emulate the skill of money-changers in understanding how to reject the evil and choose the good (compare 1 Thess. v. 21, a text often quoted in connexion with this saying). The saying is quoted three times in the Clementine Homilies, ii. 51; iii. 50; xviii. 20. Clement of Alexandria, who is lax in his use of non-canonical and even heretical documents, expressly quotes this saying as Scripture (Strom, i. 28), and three times again indirectly refers to it (ii. 4; vi. 10; vii. 15). It is also quoted in the second century by the Gnostic Apelles (Epiph. Haer. xliv. 2). It is referred to by a whole host of later writers, of whom a list will be found in Nicholson's Gospel according to the Hebrews, p. 157.

8) The proof of this is, that the Hebrew Gospel is the shorter. The Stichometry of Nicephorus gives 2500 στίχοι for the length of St. Matthew, and 2200 for that of the Gospel according to the Hebrews. The authority here cited is a list of ecclesiastical books, with the length of each, which is evidently very old, though only preserved by a ninth-century writer. The reader will find it in Westcott's N. T. Canon, p. 552.

9) An abstract preserved by Photius (Cod. 177) gives us curious information about a work of Theodore of Mopsuestia, directed against a Western writer whose name is not given, but who plainly is Jerome; and one of the charges brought against him is that of having forged a fifth Gospel. Prof. Westcott has noted that the same charge was brought by Julian the Pelagian (Augustine, Opus Imperf. cont. Julian., iv. 88).

10) Origen in Johan., torn. ii. 6; Horn, in Jerem., xv. 4; Hieron. in Mich., vii. 6; in Isai., xv. u; in Ezech., xvi. 13. The first passage quoted from Origen is curious. In expounding St. John's words πάντα δἰ αὐτῦ ἐγένετο he includes the Holy Spirit among the πάντα; and adds, that if anyone accepts the Gospel according to the Hebrews, there is still no difficulty in interpreting the words my mother the Holy Ghost, &c., since Jesus said Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which sent me, the same is my brother and sister and mother? In the second passage he is explaining the words my mother (Jer. xv. 10), and, in addition to other solutions, notices that which is suggested If anyone receives " my mother the Holy Ghost, &c."

11)This passage is given in the vetus interpretatio of Origen's Commentary on Matthew xix. (torn. xv. 14, Delarue, iii. 671). The passage is not found in the extant Greek.

12) This is told by Eusebius in one of the Greek fragments of his Theophaneia, published by Mai (Nov. Pat. Bibl., iv. 155). The passage does not seem to be contained in the Syriac version translated by Lee, which, however, contains (p. 234) another quotation from the Hebrew Gospel. Some critics, who think unfavourably of other variations of the Nazarene Gospel from the Canonical narrative, find marks of originality in this version of the parable of the talents. But to me this variation seems to show plainly the handiwork of a corrector who fancies he is making an improvement and really changes for the worse. And I suspect that this corrector was acquainted with Luke xv.

13) In evangelic quo utuntur Nazaraei et Ebionitae, quod nuper in Graecum de Hebraeo sermone transtulimus, et quod vocatur a plerisque Matthaei authenticum (in Matt. xii. 13, written in A. D. 398). Evan- gelium quod Hebraeo sermone conscriptum legunt Nazaraei (in Isai. xi. 2, written in 410). See also in Ezeh. xviii. 7 (written in 413). In evangelio juxta Hebraeos, quod Chaldaico quidem Syroque sermone sed Hebraicis literis scriptum est, quo utuntur usque hodie Nazareni secun- dum Apostolos, sive ut plerique autumant, juxta Matthaeum quod et in Caesariensi habetur bibliotheca (Dial. adv. Pelag. iii., written in 416). Jerome's first mention of the book is in his Catalogue of Ecclesiastical Writers, written in 392.

14) Some light is thrown on Jerome's statement, that he translated the Nazarene Gospel into Greek, by the fact that his version of the Psalms and of the Prophets was, with his approval, rendered into Greek by Sophronius (De Viris Illustr. 134, Praef. in Pss.).

15) So Renan, v. 104: Notre Matthieu's est conserve intact depuis sa re daction definitive, dans les dernieres annees du i er siecle, tandis que l'Evangile hebreu, vu 1 absence d une orthodoxie, jalouse gardienne des textes, dans les Eglises judai santes de Syrie, a etc remanie de siecle en siecle, si bien qu a la fin il n etait pas fort superieur a un Evangile apocryphe.

16) De Viris Illustr. 16; in Isai. Lib. 18, Praef.

17) On the New Testament quotations of Ignatius, see Zahn, Ignatius von Antiochien, p. 595, et seqq.; and Lightfoot's Index, Ignatius, ii. p. 1107. The Fragments of the Hebrew Gospel have been often collected. The most recent collections are by Westcott, Introduction to the Study of the Gospels, 452, etseqq.; Nicholson, The Gospel according to the Hebrews; Hilgenfeld, Novum Testamentum extra Canonem Receptum, the section treating of the Gospel according to the Hebrews having been lately published in a second" edition, 1884.

18) On the other side of the question deserves to be studied an essay by Neubauer, Studio. Biblica, 1885.

19) See his Preface, p. vi., and an interesting section on the Hebrew Gospel, pp. Ixxiv., &c. Renan says (v. 98): C est bien a tort qu on a suppose que la version syriaque de Saint Matthieu publiee par Cureton a etc faite sur Poriginal arameen de Saint Matthieu. L idee qu elle serait cet original meme est tout a fait chimerique.