Hebrew Voices #108 – My Search for Hebrew New Testament Manuscripts

In this episode of Hebrew Voices, My Search for Hebrew New Testament Manuscripts, Bible Scholar Nehemia Gordon speaks with Shannon Davis on Omega Man Radio about the impetus of his search, reveals how many Hebrew New Testament manuscripts he has found to date, and shares  examples of how his discoveries have brought important clarification to the New Testament.

I look forward to reading your comments!


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Hebrew Voices #108 - My Search for Hebrew New Testament Manuscripts

You are listening to Hebrew Voices with Nehemia Gordon. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon's Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

Nehemia: And that’s why I think these manuscripts of Hebrew Matthew are important, because they’re not just someone’s opinion. They’re textual facts.

Shannon Davis: We're gonna crank it up tonight, and we’ve got a real special guest, Nehemia Gordon. Nehemia, welcome to the show tonight.

Nehemia: Hey, Shalom. It's great to be here, thank you.

Shannon: I'm really excited to have Nehemia here. It's the first time we've had him on the show. And I got to meet Nehemia many years ago. Nehemia, you've met a lot of people. And I had an opportunity to meet you, if you recall, back in... I guess it was probably 2007 or so. And I had set up an appointment to meet. You know, we met down there at that coffee shop, the bagel shop…

Nehemia: Yeah.

Shannon: And in walks Nehemia. Now, I had seen Nehemia on TV before. You have done some great research and so, I've been following your ministry. And you brought with you a laptop and showed me something pretty incredible, which was the project you were working on at the time. Tell us about the first project back in 2007 you were working on, involving some special manuscripts.

Nehemia: Long before 2007, and the project is still ongoing, believe it or not. And part of the reason for that is, you know, I have other things that I work on. But, you know, I wrote a book years ago called the “The Hebrew Yeshua vs the Greek Jesus.” And what led up to that book, I explained in the book, was Michael Rood had approached me and asked me a question about this problem in the Gospel of Matthew. And I did what was standard operating procedure for me. I said, “All right, there's a textual problem here. Let's look and see if there's any manuscript variants.” I was trained at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. At the time I was still working on my master's degree.

And this is what you did at the Hebrew University. If you have a problem with the text, you first go to check, are there any variants, because there’s no two manuscripts in the world that are identical, unless they're a photocopy or photograph. If they're handwritten, there's gonna be minor differences, and sometimes those minor differences can be significant. And it doesn't matter what document you're working on, that's the case.

So, I went to see if there's anything in the Greek and the Greek didn't have any differences. But then I stumbled upon this Hebrew Gospel of Matthew. It had been published by a Professor in the United States called George Howard back in 1987. And it was just sitting there on the shelf of the Mount Scopus, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. And it was just sitting there collecting dust on the open shelves, and I went and pulled it out and I read it. And I'm like, “How come nobody's talking about this? This is really important.”

Well, one of the things that Howard mentions in his introduction is that he only had access to nine manuscripts. He makes the prediction that more manuscripts will be discovered. He says, “Look, now that you know what the text is, you can go and look for more.” And what had happened before Howard, is there have been different versions of Matthew which were quite clearly translations from Greek or Latin into Hebrew, and they were confused with this version called the “Shem-Tov's Hebrew Matthew.” In other words, there were three completely different versions, and scholars all thought they were the same thing. And what Howard proved is, first of all, this has nothing to do with the other two versions. It's something that's really unique.

And he found nine manuscripts. So, I decided, I'm going to look for more manuscripts. Well, very quickly, within hours, I was able to find that there were 14 manuscripts listed in the catalog of the National Library of Israel. And then I said, “Well, if there's 14, there's got to be more than 14.” So, then I started, I guess you'd call it “pounding the pavement,” so to speak, putting in just a lot of hard work, pulling out microfilms, looking to see what was in them. And then often it would say things like, “Miscellaneous documents,” or “Miscellaneous Jewish polemics,” which, you know, that could be anything.

I'd open it up and sometimes it would have another manuscript of Hebrew Matthew and sometimes it didn't. And so, one of my goals was to be able to work on compiling what they call a “scientific edition” of Hebrew Matthew. And to do that, you have to systematically compare all 28 manuscripts. I ultimately found 28, I forgot to mention that.

So, we went from 9 to 14 to 26, and eventually I found two more fragments, 28. And to compare them is no simple matter. I think I was in over my head back then, because the technology didn't really exist. You could do it with a team of people, but as one man, I don't know that it could be done. I guess it could be, but it would have taken, you know, decades. Now, the technology has advanced, where it's much more plausible now, much more doable. And that's what I've been working on. Since the early 2000s I've been dealing with this kind of thing.

And so, the point is that this was an ongoing project and it still is. In fact, we made some major progress on it last year - which I don't think I'll go into - but we're hoping to put out something...Well, I don't want to make promises, but we're still working on this.

Shannon: Folks, who are we talking to? What are we talking about today? If you're just joining us, we're honored to have Nehemia Gordon, Bible scholar. We're gonna let him talk to you here in a minute, tell you about his background, academically. And we're talking about the search for manuscripts of the New Testament book of Matthew in Hebrew. Now, Nehemia, people are probably asking the same question I did. I thought it was all in Greek. I was taught that the Old Testament was written maybe in Hebrew, maybe some Aramaic, but primarily Hebrew and the New Testament primarily in Greek. But then you find Hebrew manuscripts. What's going on here?

Nehemia: Well, so first of all, the Church Fathers specifically mention, it starts with the Church Father Papias, who mentions in the early 2nd century that Matthew wrote the words in the Hebrew language, and each translated them as he was able. It's a rough paraphrase. And then this is repeated by many Church Fathers all the way up unto the time of Jerome, several hundred years later, where Jerome says he saw a copy of the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew in the library at Caesarea.

So, Jerome actually was in Israel in Bethlehem, and Caesarea is a city on the coast of Israel where they had an administrative center. And there he saw in the library, there was this copy of the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew about 400 years after the book was written. So, we know that Matthew was written in Hebrew and that a Hebrew version survived. In the 13th century there was a Rabbi named Shem Tov Ibn Shaprut, and he's engaged in what were called the “Disputations.” These were these debates that the Jews were forced to engage in. They didn't want to debate. And around the year 1380 he writes a book, and he says, “Look, if I'm going to be forced to debate with these Catholics about my faith, I at least want to know what's in the New Testament so I know what we're talking about.

Shannon: Right.

Nehemia: And then he copies at the end of his book this Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew. And it's really interesting, because he intersperses it with what are called “critical remarks” or “hasagot.” And he actually makes a curse. He ends his book with a curse that warns anyone “never to copy this Gospel of Matthew, without my critical remarks." In other words, you would read a section of Matthew and then you'd hear this Rabbi explain to you why you shouldn't believe in Matthew, why you shouldn't believe in Jesus, which is, you know, what he's doing, he's in these debates. And the curse is, “Don't ever copy the text of Matthew without my reasons not to believe.” And why is that? He's afraid some Jew will read the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew and believe it, which is incredible.

Shannon: Wow.

Nehemia: So, what that tells you is, he's faithfully preserving this Hebrew text that he received. Where did he receive it from? Well, that's an interesting question, right? How would a Jewish Rabbi in the 14th century end up with the Hebrew text of Matthew when the last time we heard about Matthew was in the time of Jerome 900 years earlier in Israel, and this Rabbi is in Spain? Well, we don't know the answer to that, first of all, so we have to speculate.

My suggestion is - and there's some evidence for this, is that, you know, the people who used this book in Hebrew, this Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew, they were called the “Nazarenes.” And in fact, you have that term in the Book of Acts being, you know, the term Nazarene. And I don't mean the modern denomination of the Nazarenes. I mean, that the Jews who believed in Yeshua... And guys, I should say up front, I'm not Christian, I'm not a Messianic Jew. I'm a Karaite Jew, so I come at this from a scholarly perspective, not as someone who's a believer in the New Testament. I just want to put that out there upfront.

But there were Jews who believed in Jesus, who believed in Yeshua, and they were called Nazarenes. And these Nazarenes, they were eventually persecuted out of existence by the Church. And it's just always been assumed that when they were persecuted out of existence by the Church that they either died or they converted to Catholicism. Well, that may have happened, but some of them may have also become Jews. They were relatively easily able to assimilate among the Jewish population and keeping their faith secret. In other words, if it was known that they believed in Yeshua, they would get in trouble with the Jewish authorities. But as long as they didn't talk about that, they could easily blend with the other Jews and thereby save persecution from the Church.

And you have to remember, this is a time when there are only two religions that are legal in the Roman Empire, and then later in the European countries that inherit the Roman Empire. You have Catholicism, or some form of Orthodox Christianity, and then you have Judaism. And Judaism was officially tolerated, and by "tolerated" I mean not in the modern sense. "Tolerate" today means I love somebody, and I accept them completely. In the medieval and ancient sense, to "tolerate someone" means I allow them to exist and don't kill them. And the Jews were tolerated in that sense. And they actually have a term for this, they called it "Jewish service," which also meant Jewish servitude, that the Jews, in some sense, were slaves of the local barons, and rulers and lords. And so, they were allowed to exist.

Well, if you were a believer in Yeshua and you were keeping the Shabbat and you were practicing circumcision, and you were told that you are officially a heresy, specifically for those two things, the Sabbath and the circumcision, so you had two choices, or three choices. One is, you can be martyred. Number two is, you could accept Catholicism. Or number three is, you could become an Orthodox Jew and blend in with the other Jews. And it turns out that a lot of them blended in with the other Jews.

Now, there's a professor at Hebrew University coming from a completely different perspective. I don't think he's ever written on this Hebrew Matthew, as far as I know. His name is Yehuda Liebes. And he has a wonderful study where he talks about how in Medieval Jewish literature, there's this angel, an angel of the presence. That is, an angel who stands in the presence of God, and that angel's name is Yeshua. Now, Yeshua, of course, is the Hebrew behind the name Jesus. And in some Jewish literature, this angel of the presence Yeshua, people even pray to that angel asking for his intercession before the Father. I mean, this is incredible stuff.

So, Professor Liebes talks about this, and he shows that the first time it appears, if I remember correctly, is in the 13th century, in the writings of a Rabbi named Nehemia the Prophet, no connection to me. I'm neither the Prophet nor the son of a Prophet. And Liebes proposes that, he says, "How did we get this angel named Yeshua that people are praying to as an angel of the presence? This doesn't make sense, especially when it appears in Europe in the context of... " It's not in some innocent context, let's put it that way. There are Jews in Europe surrounded by Catholics and Orthodox Christians. And all of a sudden, they have an angel named Yeshua. He says, "This has to be... " Or I don't know that he says it has to be. He proposes the possibility that these were Nazarenes. In other words, that these were people who believed in Jesus, and they assimilated among the Jews, and they kept their belief in Yeshua, but within the Jewish context, so as not to be persecuted. Or maybe this is what they believe to begin with. They present him as an angel of the presence, malakh hapanim. And he's actually one of three angels of the presence, along with Elijah and Enoch. So, there's Elijah, Enoch and Yeshua in these writings of this 13th century Rabbi, Nehemia the Prophet. So, this isn't such a farfetched idea that there were Nazarenes who became Jews. And if they brought their belief in Yeshua with them, maybe they also brought this Hebrew Matthew with them, and maybe that's where Shem Tov Ibn Shaprut got the Hebrew Matthew.

Shannon: We're going to talk about this research here in just a moment, folks. Amazing discovery. We're live with Nehemia Gordon. Nehemia, let's pause just for a second for those joining us. I want you to tell people a little bit about your background. What are your credentials? And also, give out your website.

Nehemia: Yeah, my website is nehemiaswall.com. In the Bible Nehemiah is the man who built the wall around Jerusalem, and that's me.

Shannon: Cool.

Nehemia: No, I'm named after my great grandfather, who's named after him. And I was raised as an Orthodox Jew. My father, of blessed memory, was a Rabbi in Chicago. And I moved to Israel in 1993 and studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where I got my undergraduate degree. I actually did a double Major in Biblical Studies and Archaeology. Then I did my Masters Degree in Biblical Studies, worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls and other research projects related to Hebrew manuscripts. And I'm what's known as a Karaite Jew. Karaites are strictly Old Testament Jews.

Most Jews today believe in the Old Testament along with what's called the "Oral Law." I don't believe in the Oral Law. I think it may have some very interesting things in it, but I don't consider it Scripture. So, I'm kind of an unusual person to approach this, because I think most people who approach this topic are coming at it from a perspective of faith.

In other words, they're looking at the New Testament and they have these faith propositions that they maintain, which I don't have a problem with. I just think it's important to state what those are. In other words, most New Testament scholars are Greek primacists, and the principle of Greek primacy is that every word in the original Greek manuscripts was written through the Holy Spirit, which, you know, you can believe that or not believe that. I think you can still believe that and accept that the Hebrew texts have value. In other words, that's a theological statement, that every word of the Greek originals, which we don't have, but that every Greek word in the Greek originals was written through the Holy Spirit. Now, that's a theological statement.

So, I'm approaching this as a textual scholar, and therefore I have to leave my theological statements behind. My theological statements are about the Tanakh. And so, as a scholar, I say, "Okay, whether you believe that or not, that every word in the Greek was written through the Holy Spirit, here we have a testimony from a Church Father that it was written in Hebrew, and we have this Hebrew version." Now, I'm not making the claim - and I don't think anybody has made the claim - that every single word in these 28 Hebrew Matthew manuscripts is the original words that Matthew wrote. We're not saying that. And the reason we can't say that is that we have 1000 years plus of transmission. And what do I mean by "transmission?"

So, you have these believers in Yeshua who are hiding among the Jews, and they took with them copies of this Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew, maybe one copy, I don't know how many. And over the centuries, there's mold, and there's worms, and you have to copy the book. Well, every time you make a copy, things can get lost in transmission. So, we have a very long transmission period for the Hebrew Matthew. And the evidence that we know that this happened is that there's 28 manuscripts and no two manuscripts are identical.

Now, in Greek we have over 5000 manuscripts and no two manuscripts are identical. Sometimes there are really big differences, maybe that's a topic for a different show. So, in any event, what we're saying is, or what I'm saying is, that the Hebrew provides another witness. And that witness can provide information that sometimes is lost in the Greek. And that's a subtlety that sometimes is lost on people but it's important.

I'm not saying throw away the Greek text, I don't say that at all. The Greek is still the primary text of the Gospel of Matthew and of the entire New Testament. The Hebrew provides something that you can compare and contrast with. And it may provide some perspective that you would never figure out on your own, or if you figure it out, you'd be guessing.

Shannon: Right.

Nehemia: And I'll give you a really simple example of that. Decades ago, I believe it was George Lamsa, proposed that the genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew, that that's actually the genealogy, not of Mary's husband, Joseph, but of Mary's father, Joseph. And in order to get to that conclusion, he offered what to me was, quite frankly, a very fanciful interpretation of the Greek word "guvra" which means "husband."

And he said, instead of "guvra" meaning husband, literally man, maybe it also here means "father." Okay, show me another text where that's the case. And considering the ambiguity, it seems a bit farfetched to me.

Well, I stumbled across two of the Hebrew Matthew manuscripts that actually read, "father of Miriam." So, it's not a speculation in those two manuscripts, it's a fact in those two manuscripts. Now, you can say, "Okay, that's a scribal error or not." You know, you could always argue that. Even if that's the case, that this is a scribal error in these two Hebrew Matthew manuscripts, it shows what happened in the original - or what could have happened, let's put it that way. And the background for this is that if you look at the genealogy in Luke 3 and the genealogy in Matthew 1, they don't fit, right? So, which one is it?

So, since ancient times, people have been proposing different solutions, and some of them are really... talk about fanciful solutions. For example, there were Christians in early period who suggested that, "Well, Joseph had been born to Levirate marriage." In other words, his father died without having children, and so the father's brother married the widow and produced Joseph. And sometimes he was referred to as the son of one man, and sometimes the son of another man. I mean, you're basically really desperate when you're coming up with that kind of solution.

And here, we have two manuscripts that I stumbled upon. And in those two manuscripts you can see for yourself it says, "the father of Miriam," you don't have to speculate. It's right there in black and white, or brown and off-white, right? And look, I'm a text guy. And I'll say that up front, that my approach is, I always want to see the text. I don't like speculation. I always want to see the text as much as possible. And sometimes you have to fill in the gaps. But then, let's identify where we're filling in the gaps and identify where we have text.

I went to Hebrew University, and there was a Professor there named Tur-Sinai. He died long before I ever got to Hebrew University, but he was a legend. And one of the things he was legendary for is, he would look at an ancient text and he would show how it didn't grammatically make sense. And he would change the letters and the words to make it make sense. And he could make sense out of, you know, passages that you read in the Bible in Hebrew and you have no idea what they mean. Even today, by the way, there are many, many passages, especially in the Book of Job which are incomprehensible. In English, you think you know what they mean, but when you look at the Hebrew you have no idea. And what Tur-Sinai would do is, he would make sense by changing what it said.

And I once had a professor who asked the question. He said, "What do we have that Tur-Sinai didn't have?" And nobody could answer. I couldn't answer, either. And finally, he said, "We have the text, whereas Tur-Sinai created a text of his own." And that really struck me and has shaped my approach ever since. You know, don't give me speculation or conjecture, show me a text that says what you're suggesting. And that's why I think these manuscripts of Hebrew Matthew are important, because they're not just someone's opinion, they're textual facts. Now look, you can say it was a long transmission, that we don't trust those textual facts. But you can't deny that the textual facts are there. I hope that makes sense.

Shannon: Now, with the research you've done this far, you went to different archives around the world, libraries, universities, etc. pulled together these manuscripts. Were you able to put together a complete Book of Matthew? Where are you at after all this research?

Nehemia: Yes, but we're still working on it. George Howard is the man who really brought the attention to the world of this... He didn't discover Hebrew Matthew, but he brought it to the attention of the world. And I think he proved pretty convincingly, in my opinion, that it's not a translation from Greek. He referred to it in his 1987 book, which unfortunately I don't think is really available anymore. When you go on amazon.com they have the 1995 book which is, quite frankly, less interesting.

So, in his 1987 book he shows how this could be a different recension. In other words, Matthew wrote it in Hebrew and then Matthew himself may have translated it into Greek. And he shows an example where Josephus did a similar thing. I forget why I mentioned that.

Oh, you asked me if I have compiled the...Oh, so George Howard published this in 1987. And what he did is really interesting. On the right side of the page, or maybe it's the left, I forget, I think it's the left side. On one page he has the Hebrew and the other page he has the English. And the English doesn't always match the Hebrew. And then, what he usually does when it doesn't match the Hebrew is, he puts the English in parentheses. And what does the English in parentheses mean? And he never says this in the book, you have to figure out what he means by the parentheses. And this isn't an accepted scholarly convention, so it's kind of strange he didn't explain what this is.

But the parentheses mean Howard read the Hebrew text. He didn't like what he read and decided to put the translation of the Greek in his English side, in the English. And it's a really strong impulse. In other words, you read a Hebrew text, and you're like, "Well, it can't mean that. Surely, it doesn't mean that. Surely it means what we find in the Greek text." And so, it's a very strong tendency, and you can actually do this in the Hebrew text itself. It's a bit complicated, but you can do this before you even get to the translation. Whereas you mold the Hebrew text to say what you think it should say instead of what it really says. And the challenge is to fight that tendency.

Shannon: This is actually quite fascinating, because if you found manuscripts of the book of Matthew in Hebrew, and it was originally written in Hebrew, is it possible that the Apostle Paul also wrote many of his books in the Hebrew, as well? Have you found any of the other New Testament manuscripts in Hebrew yet?

Nehemia: So, I have found - I have to phrase this very carefully - I have found virtually, and I don't know every single book, but I found, I think, almost every Book of the New Testament in Hebrew. That doesn't mean it's a Hebrew original. I'll give you a really good example of something I'm working on right now. So, I'm working now on a Hebrew text of the Book of Acts, which was discovered in…And I won't give too many details, because it hasn't been published yet.

Shannon: Right.

Nehemia: It was discovered in a very exciting place, let's put it that way. And if it turned out that this was a Hebrew original, the whole world would be turned upside down by this book.

Shannon: Wow.

Nehemia: I paid $2,500 to get the photographs of these three manuscripts that are combined. But they were found in a cache of manuscripts. And I went into this extremely excited. I've just spent a lot of money, so I'm invested in this. And within about an hour I could tell you that at least Acts was translated from a European language and it is not the Hebrew original. And I can tell you that definitively. So, I should be really disappointed, I just spent a lot of money.

I'm not disappointed at all, because now we have the truth about this manuscript. This is how scholarship works. If you go into it with an agenda, wanting to prove something as a Hebrew original, then you're not going to find the truth. For me, this is about finding truth. And truth is, you know, sometimes it's an exciting story that should be on the front page of the New York Times. And then sometimes it's, “Yeah, it's a translation from Greek, or some other European language.” I don’t know if it’s that simple.

Shannon: And if it was, you know, written in Greek that's not a problem.

Nehemia: So, here's my point. Just because I have a Hebrew text of the full Book of Acts, it doesn't mean it's a Hebrew original. In this case, I know 100 percent it's not a Hebrew original. I couldn't with a good conscience claim that this was a Hebrew original. The evidence is overwhelming that it's not. And in fact, it's a good example. This is what a translation from an Indo-European language looks like.

Shannon: Yes.

Nehemia: Right? Meaning, I don't know which of the Indo-European languages, whether it's Portuguese, or Greek or Latin, but it has certain signs that are really clear. I don't find those signs in the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew of Shem-Tov Ibn Shaprut, which is a good contrast. Now, it's on my website, on the nehemiaswall.com. There are four pages that I discovered many, many years ago in the Vatican Library. And I just want to make clear, by the way, when I'm talking about discovering this in the Vatican Library, I wasn't in the Vatican library. The manuscripts are in the Vatican library. I was in the basement of the National Library of Israel, right? I didn't actually go to all of these archives. I didn't have to, thank God. I was able to sit in the basement of the National Library of Israel and examine the microfilms.

And there was one microfilm I was examining which is what I call a "junk box.” What's a junk box? A mechanic once explained this to me. He said, “When you put a car back together, you have three extra bolts. You throw them in the junk box, right? The car still works, but you throw the extra ones in the junk box.” Well, you hope the car works.

So, what they have in many libraries around the world is, a page falls out of a manuscript, sometimes two or three pages, and you stick them in the junk box. Or maybe worms consume a manuscript, you know, what are you gonna do with these two pages? You're not throwing them away. Two pages survived the worms, what do you do with them? You stick them in the junk box. So, I found four pages in this junk box in the Vatican Library. Three of them were the Gospel of Luke in Hebrew, and one of them is the Gospel of John in Hebrew.

Shannon: Amazing.

Nehemia: And that's exciting. What's exciting is that this is the dream of every scholar, to find something like this in the Vatican. I mean, this is almost like a conspiracy theory that people have. "Oh, the Vatican's hiding them.” Well, in this case, the Vatican didn't even know what it had. And I discovered them many, many years ago, but I didn't have color photographs. I actually did have black-and-white images that I was able to get a hold of, but I only got the color photographs in January of this year. And so, here's the question. Are these translations from Greek or Latin or some other European language, or are these original Hebrew documents? No one knows the answer to that.

When I discovered them in the early 2000s, they weren't even in the National Library of Israel's catalog, or I should be more accurate. They were listed in the National Library of Israel's catalog as "miscellaneous fragments,” or something to that effect. Later, the National Library of Israel actually did identify them, but when I found them, they were unidentified. And if you go today to the website of the Vatican, the Vatican doesn't list what they are. It says, "shelf mark only,” which means there's over 200 pages from the junk box. And God only knows what's among those 200 pages. That's what that "shelf mark only" means.

Shannon: Wow, you have to literally go through them and examine them page by page and see what you're going to uncover.

Nehemia: Which is actually what I did. What I was doing in the early 2000s was, I was looking for more manuscripts of Hebrew Matthew. I wasn't looking for John or Luke. And there was this miscellaneous, and it had in it something which was a lead that I was following. It had a fragment of Shem-Tov's book, “Even Bokhan,” of which Hebrew Matthew is section 12. So, it had a fragment of Even Bokhan, but it didn't have anything from Hebrew Matthew in it.

But as I'm looking, I'm looking through page after page, and I think it was 204 pages or something like that, or 206 pages. And I'm looking through this thing, and lo and behold, I stumble upon these four pages in Hebrew, three of Luke and one of John. And these are absolutely fascinating texts. Now, are they Hebrew originals? Well, here's what I can tell you. I spent an hour with the Hebrew Book of Acts, which I paid a lot of money for. And within one hour, I was able to determine that it was a translation from a European language, right?

Shannon: Yes.

Nehemia: It was clear as day. There's another manuscript I got from Cambridge University, a Hebrew Gospel of John. Within 15 minutes I could tell that it was a translation, specifically from Greek. I don't see that with John, these three pages of Luke and one page of John from the Vatican. Does that mean that they're Hebrew originals? You know, I'm not ready to say that. What I'm ready to say is, here you have four loose pages, obviously from a complete... There were definitely more pages, let's put it that way.

And then, the other thing I can say I know for sure is this is a copy of an earlier manuscript. And why do I know that? Because there are three and a half empty lines at the end of the third page of Luke, and it ends at no logical place, right? Normally, you'd end at the end of a page, or if it's the end of a chapter, maybe, right? But here, they end with three and a half extra lines, and why do they end there? Because they're copying an earlier manuscript that was probably so damaged, it was falling apart. When's that earlier manuscript from? That's the burning question, and we don't have it, so we don't know.

Shannon: So, two possibilities here. You could be dealing with these books were originally written in Hebrew and later translated into Greek and other languages. Or it could be someone that spoke and wrote Hebrew translated it from Greek into the Hebrew language.

Nehemia: There are a lot of possibilities. I'll just throw out a possibility. Maybe John wrote his Gospel in Greek, and in the 2nd century, some Jewish believers in Yeshua translated it into Hebrew. And what we have is a descendant of that translation, it's possible. I don't know, right, it's definitely possible.

Shannon: And I'm okay with that.

Nehemia: There are a lot of possibilities, I don't want to rule out possibilities. Here's the really interesting thing, from a linguistic point of view. When I study this book, at first glance, you read this and you're like, “Wow, this is really bad Hebrew. Who translated this thing from Greek or Latin? This guy did? He barely knew Hebrew.” That's the first impression. Then you dig a little bit deeper and you found, “Wow, you've got some authentic Hebrew forms here that I would not expect from a Gentile translator.” And so, this isn't some...Let me be really frank here. This isn't some dumb Gentile who didn't know Hebrew who translated this. These are preserving Hebrew forms, and that doesn't mean it's a Hebrew original. It just means that if it was translated to Hebrew, it was translated by a Jew who knew Hebrew, let's put it that way.

Shannon: Amazing. There are so many possibilities here. However, if the original text was in Hebrew, I surely would like to get it. Now, from what you’ve found so far, with all the manuscripts that you've assimilated to put together the complete text of Matthew in Hebrew, comparing that against, let's say, the King James English, have you found many differences at the end of the day?

Nehemia: Well, so in my book, "The Hebrew Yeshua vs. the Greek Jesus,” I explain there's a difference of one single letter that completely changes the message of Jesus of Nazareth. It changes the message that appears in the Greek which on its face, on its surface, appears to be a message that the Pharisees sit in the seat of Moses and you must obey them, which is taken literally by some modern Messianic Jews, who have become quite literally modern-day Pharisees. Because it says the Pharisees sit in the seat of Moses… There is a difference of one single letter in four in the Hebrew manuscripts of Matthew, that change that message from an instruction to obey the Pharisees to an instruction to obey Moses. So, that's a fundamental difference based on one single letter. Even though the Hebrew had a longer transmission period, it at least preserved something which I think goes back to the Hebrew original.

Shannon: And you know, for that reason, I think we need the original and...

Nehemia: Here's the problem you have. The original from the 1st century doesn't exist. Unless it exists by a miracle, it doesn't exist. And why doesn't it exist? Because very rarely did documents exist for that long. I mean, it happens, but it would be very rare for you to have the autograph, meaning the original written by the author of any book from the 1st century.

So, what you're gonna find of anything is a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy, and I could sit here for the next half hour and say the word "copy of a copy of a copy of,” right? And that's true with my Bible, with the Torah, with the Five Books of Moses. I don't have the one Moses wrote, I don't have the one Joshua wrote, I don't have the one Ezra copied. I have a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. Our earliest complete manuscript of the Torah does not predate the 10th century, it might even be from the 11th century, that's subject to debate. I mean, think about that.

It's 2400 or 500 years after the book was written is our earliest copy of the Torah. So, do I throw out my Torah? Absolutely not. It was faithfully copied. Were changes introduced over time? If they were, I can usually detect them by studying the Hebrew very closely. I have a series called “Torah Pearls” on nehemiaswall.com where I bring an example from Deuteronomy 14, where it's hard to say that there's not a scribal error that was introduced.

But the point is that it's actually the exception to the rule that shows you how faithfully the Torah was copied. When it comes to these Hebrew documents, what you're going to find is a much later copy. In other words, you had these Jews, these Jews who believed in Yeshua, who to avoid persecution by the Church became Orthodox Jews. They're the ones who would have preserved these books. And so, the place to look for these books is in libraries that had a connection to the Jewish world.

Now, why would the Vatican have these documents? Because they confiscated documents from Jews and often burned them, but sometimes they kept them. And in fact, there are some key manuscripts of Jewish literature that are in the Vatican Library that were confiscated by the Vatican, you know, by the Catholic Church when they were burning the Jewish books. And they kept some of them as kind of war booty and maybe as curiosities. And because the Vatican was never pillaged, unlike, you know, many of the major libraries in the Jewish world, these books have now survived. So, that's the type of place I would say, look for it, is in the Vatican or other places like that.

Shannon: Nehemia, there's been a rumor that there's a huge basement over there that nobody has access to with the exception of just a few people. Is that true? And do you think that there is...

Nehemia: So, “I don't know what I don't know about,” to quote a former US government official, I forget his name. There's the known knowns and the unknown knowns and the unknown unknowns. So, if there's a basement that only a few people know about, I'm not aware of that. There could be, I have no evidence of that. It's definitely possible.

I just watched a video where they're talking about something called the “Vatican Secret Archives.” I mean, it's officially called the “Vatican Secret Archives.” It's the diplomatic archives. And they've made them open to the public, and the woman who is presenting this, she's a doctoral student. And she shows that if you stacked the bookcases of the Vatican Secret Archives, they would be many times higher than Mount Everest.

Shannon: Holy cow.

Nehemia: I think it was something like 10 times higher than Mount Everest, something insane like that. Now, I'm assuming - and it's dangerous when you assume - I'm assuming the Vatican Secret Archives don't have any Hebrew documents, but they might. The secret documents you're talking about have been revealed to the world. In other words, the Vatican has opened up its Jewish collection to the world. And that's what's online now. It's the reason I could have this discussion with you now, because in the early... I'm not exactly sure when, 20, 30 years ago, they opened up the library to be photographed at the National Library of Israel. And now they've actually put it on their own website. So, you know, is it possible there are secret documents? I don't know what I don't know about. Anything's possible.

Shannon: Do you think, though, that they accumulated so much over the eons that literally, they haven't even had a chance to archive it all? They don't even know what they got?

Nehemia: They haven’t studied it all. This is the point of the Vatican Secret Archives. They literally don't know what's in the Vatican Secret Archives. They don't even know what's in the Hebrew manuscripts that they put online themselves. They know all the shelf mark numbers, I guess, right?

Shannon: Right.

Nehemia: But they don't know the contents, because they don't have the experts to study that kind of thing.

Shannon: So, are there documents that you have already located and just haven't had time to read through yet and examine them as part of the Hebrew Matthew project?

Nehemia: Gigabytes.

Shannon: Wow.

Nehemia: Literally gigabytes.

Shannon: Okay, this is amazing. Let me ask you about the Book of Revelation. Have you found any Hebrew manuscripts of that?

Nehemia: Yeah, it's on my website on nehemiaswall.com there's a podcast. Just type in "Hebrew Revelation.” It's a two-part podcast discussing it, you can find it there. There's another manuscript of Revelation that I haven't really even had time to study.

Shannon: Wow.

Nehemia: And it starts in chapter two and goes to the end. And again, is this the translation from Greek like the Hebrew Acts was? Or is it something more interesting and more valuable to the study of the New Testament, like the what I believe the Shem-Tov's Hebrew Matthew is? I don't know. No one knows.

Shannon: This would be of great value, especially if you read and write Hebrew. What are some of the languages that you speak and write?

Nehemia: Well, I only speak Hebrew, and I barely speak English. But I could read ancient Aramaic and a smattering of Arabic. I took two years of Greek, I'm a bit rusty, but I took two years of Greek at Hebrew University and I can make my way around some of the Greek texts.

Shannon: Well, these skills will definitely come in handy if you want to examine these manuscripts. Did you ever come across the thing called the Book of the Giants, in Hebrew?

Nehemia: I mean, that's a famous document that was discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls, yes.

Shannon: That's amazing, what's coming out of that research. You also worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls Reader is that right?

Nehemia: Yes, Sir.

Shannon: So, you've definitely got the background in studying languages to be on this project. Could I get you back on to do another program on “the name?”

Nehemia: Let's do it.

Shannon: Let's do it. Before we close, give out your website.

Nehemia: Nehemiaswall.com.

Shannon: Spell that for us.

Nehemia: Nehemiaswall.com, N-E-H-E-M-I-A-S W-A-L-L.com.

Shannon: If someone would like to support the research that's ongoing, is there a way they can give to this project?

Nehemia: Yeah, I have a ministry, Makor Hebrew Foundation. It's a 501c3 in the United States, and you could do that through nehemiaswall.com.

Shannon: That's awesome. This is fantastic. Folks, if you want to learn more go to nehemiaswall. You can help support this ongoing research. It's been an honor to be here with Nehemia Gordon. We're going to have him back on soon to talk about his current research on “the name.” But praise God for what you're doing, my friend, God richly bless you. And would you like to close us out in prayer today?

Nehemia: Yehovah, thank You for giving me the opportunity to live in this period where I have access to so much information about You and Your name. Yehovah, this prayer I pray when I study Your word is that You open my eyes that I may see the wonderful hidden things of Your word, of your Torah. Amen.

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  • Zhui Feng says:

    Great interview! Interesting that Nehemiah the prophet mentions Yeshua the Angel! The NT writings tell us that he was the 1rst to rise from the dead, the 1rst of many more to come!

    So,… now I want to know more about this prophet Nehemiah!

    I recently was looking at the Vatican’s website and they have posted some information stating that in 1794 (I think it was) that the French conquered them and hauled off their entire archives! Then in 1824 (don’t quote me on that) they were able to get most of it back but, had to auction off bundles of manuscripts to raise funds to ship the rest of it back. They estimate they lost between 1/4 to 1/3 of their archives at that time. They made no mention if they kept any records of who the buyers of these manuscripts were.
    The French might have records but, they were heavily bombed in WW II and those records may not exist now.
    Have the French opened up their archives to the public?
    It might be worth a look.
    Then again there were museums robbed and pillaged during those WW wars.
    I suppose these ancient manuscripts could literally pop up in some very unlikely places.

    I saw on TV a family in Pennsylvania found an old helmet in the attic of a rental house. They said the kids used to play with it out in the yard. Turns out it was an original Viking Helmet, one of only 6 known to exist. It was worth $250,000! The woman almost passed out when she found out what it was worth!
    WAR BOOTY!

    Who knows what you may find in your own backyard Nehemia.
    Jerusalem is a very old city.

    Keep treasure hunting, and I can’t wait to see what else you find!

    Shalom Friend

    • daniel says:

      1794? Probably destroyed in the French Revolution, as with most anything they assumed belonged to the noble classes.

  • donald murphy says:

    u follow the religion of the Roman Empire. Why?

    • Zhui Feng says:

      Because Apollo’s sister was Artemis of the Ephesians and everybody knows her great statue came down out of the heavens from the gods!

  • Motshoanedi Lesejane says:

    Shalom Nehemia

    Thank you once more for your persistent digging into the manuscripts. I studied Hebrew Matthew and invested time on the Hebrew Yeshua vs Greek Jesus. The revelation from just this research is amazing and I am aware there is a lot to be done. I can imagine the fear of some from what you are doing on the New Testament manuscripts for any possible areas where there might be a need tor adjustments.

    Thank you for the passion to search for the truth.

    Joe

    • Devorah says:

      Joe, thank you for your blessing of relentlessly sharing the information with others and supporting Nehemia’s efforts!! You are a blessing to us!

  • John Flaherty says:

    A word to the wise: One owes oneself a more complete reading of all that Epiphanius has to say about this book. There is much more that is not being revealed here. Please look into The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis.

  • Cade says:

    WOW!! What a mother lode of revelations! And how ironic this be posted on Dec 25–as if to say, “Here you go, you mainstream Christians! Here’s the ultimate present for you –wake up and pay attention before it’s too late!!” So now I’m forced to get the book The Hebrew Yeshua in order to answer the burning question: What was the change in Matthew that altered the meaning of Yeshua’s statement that the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat, meaning we must obey the priestly authority (whether rabbis or pastors/ministers/priests)??? What did Yeshua actually say, when taken from the Hebrew?? Inquiring minds are dying to know…….more, and more, and more…..

    • daniel says:

      It’s in the Hebrew Yeshua vs. the Greek Jesus, and related youtube – but if you want ‘desert first’, He said to do what HE (meaning Moses) says, whereas all greek mss say to do what THEY (meaning Pharisees) say. Yeshua supports Torah … “not one jot or tittle of the Law shall pass …” “If you love me keep my commandments” , etc.

  • J.W. says:

    Nehemia, Your podcasts/interviews are ALWAYS so interesting, want to listen to them over and over to be sure one grasps every small detail, as they are extrememly informative. Per NT writings, you obviously have been given the gift of knowledge from the Ruach HaKodesh. When it comes to truth, I tend to feel that the Ruach can/will guide us into all truth, if we trust Him to teach/guide us. In essence, the truths of God are revealed to us as we diligently search for truth, and can be usually understood no matter what words are used in translation.

    For example, from KJ. Mat 24:5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. Ask most any preacher in Christianity and they will say this is speaking of anti-christs coming and claiming themselves to be Jesus. Yet, false christ’s performing wonders do not come until Mt. 24:24. There is a another way to look at 24:5. “For many shall come in my name (meaning many pastors & preachers,) saying, I (Jesus/Yeshua is the Christ, and they willl lead many astray. Jer 50:, My people hth been lost sheep, their shepherds have led them astray.

    I guess what I am saying is that no matter what words the translators chose to use in translating any verse, if one is truly seeking God’s truths, God can and will open their minds to see the truths in the verse. Or so I believe.

    Be blessed.

    J.w.

    • John Flaherty says:

      J.W. You owe it to yourself to not just accept the one quote by Epiphanius that is referred to on this site.The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis has much more to say about Hebrew Matthew. Let me just leave it at that.
      I pray the Holy Spirit enlightens you.

  • Christine Cassar says:

    Nehemia, I watch your every episode and its interesting to hear all the Hebrew words of Yehovah and how the Gospels were written.

    Could you please send me the Hebrew way how it’s written The Model Prayer (Lord’s Prayer) Matthew 6:9-13). I want in English.
    Thank you.
    Christine

  • Walter Schwenk says:

    Thank you for an amazing revelation Nehemia. May your efforts help many to turn from error to truth. I had no idea you were still working on shem tov’s matthew. Finances have looked up lately, I plan to resume contributing to your foundation. The fours be with you… 44444444444444444444444

    • Walter Schwenk says:

      ps, “live long and prosper”. This might take incorporating just a bit of hemp or cannabis into your diet, as well as much more raw whole plant material. My nephew Al dies just a couple years ago, about your age and physique. Take good care of your image of yhwh. See Raphael Mechoulam research for the value of the weed.

  • jeffkat14wowwaycom says:

    I can’t wait until Keith E. Johnson, or You Nehemia come out with the Complete Gospel of Hebrew Matthew. “A Prayer to Our Father” only made me arrested by the Ruach/Spirit, and left me wanting more Heavenly Bread. Please!! Oh Please!!! Come out with a Complete Copy of the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew!!!
    Sholom,
    Jeffery Roger Justice D.D.

  • Yosef says:

    Sooooooo when is your book on these documents coming out ? I find this fascinating.

  • Janlyn Gosse says:

    That was a really good interview! Thank you to you and Shannon. I always love hearing updates on your work. It is exciting to hear what is happening regarding the finding and translating of Hebrew manuscripts. Thank you and stay encouraged! Shalom!

  • Rocky Jackson says:

    Well that was a good one.

    Now you have some of us chomping at the bit as they say ..what’s in the rest of Chapter 2

  • Clarence Carey says:

    The Apostle PAUL road to Damascus encounter may or may not be a part of your destiny! Yet, we must have the RAUCH HAKODESH ? on our hearts to believe! Shalom

    • daniel says:

      Respectfully, how do you explain Acts chapter 19? Believers when first meeting Paul, he asked them if they had rec’d the Ruach Kodesh, they said No, they never even heard of it, so Paul laid hands on them and gave them the Spirit.

  • Jerty says:

    What I’ve read and believe is that Jewish believers had a gospel of Matthew which did not include the first two chapters.

    Really, we do not find the virgin birth of Jesus being taught until around the middle of the 2nd century, when Justin Martyr writes about it.

    • John Flaherty says:

      Here are a couple more
      “This Virgin Mother of the Only Begotten of God, is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one.” – Origen, Homily 1(A.D. 244).

      “He was the ark formed of incorruptible wood. For by this is signified that His tabernacle was exempt from putridity and corruption.”– Hippolytus, Orations In illud, Dominus pascit me (ante A.D. 235).

      Jerty, I think you are correct in your belief that there was an original Hebrew Matthew but there is no way to prove what we little we have of it today is not a corrupted version.

  • Nehemia, I am interested in a statement you made on this video about the book of Acts in Hebrew and how it would change the world. I thought you said you had it on your website. Do you have it here or have it translated somewhere?