Hebrew Gospel Pearls #12 – Matthew 4:23-25

In Hebrew Gospel Pearls #12 (Matthew 4:23-25), Nehemia and Keith discuss what Second Temple period tomb inscriptions can teach us about the name Yeshua, why Hebrew Matthew includes a Greek form of the name Peter, and what a medieval Hebrew medical manuscript can teach us about these issues.

I look forward to reading your comments in the Comments Section below!

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The History of Medieval Medicine Through Jewish Manuscripts
Presented by: Professor Y. Tzvi Langermann


Hebrew Gospel Pearls #12 - Matthew 4:23-25

You are listening to Hebrew Gospel Pearls with Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon's Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

Nehemia: So, Keith. I don’t know if you realize how huge this is. This is a game-changer. When I saw this, I just couldn’t believe it. My mouth was like on the floor.

Nehemia: Shalom, and welcome to Hebrew Gospel Pearls, episode number 12. The end of season 1, today we will talk about section 12 of Shem Tov’s Hebrew Matthew, which is Matthew chapter 4 verses 23 to 25. Keith, I am so excited that we’re finally - to use your terminology, your traditional terminology - we’re coming to the end of a dispensation, which is Matthew chapters 1 through 4. Chapters 5 through 7 is a whole different ballgame; it’s the Sermon on the Mount, which I’m really excited about, which hopefully, Yehovah willing, we will tackle in season 2.

Keith: Excellent. We’re going to 23 to 25, but we’ve got some unfinished business in the earlier episodes.

Nehemia: Well, we’ll talk about as much as we can in this episode. And then, anything we don’t get to will be in Hebrew Gospel Pearls Plus over on my website, nehemiaswall.com, where you can join my Support Team and get full access to the Plus episode.

But now, let’s go into the public episode. I’m going to read verses 23 through 25, and then we’ll jump back and talk about a couple of things we left over…

Keith: Excellent.

Nehemia: …from last time. Verse 23, “Veyesov Yeshua el eretz haGalil lelamed kehilotam, umevaser lahem zeved tov, la’az meOngalio, mimalchut shamayim umerapeh kol kholim vekhol madveh ba'am.” “And Yeshua turned to the land of the Galilee to teach their congregations, and to announce the good news to them, a good gift in the foreign tongue of Ongalio, from the kingdom of heaven, and to heal all the sick and all the infirm among the people.” “Vayerekh shemuato bekhol eretz Suria, vayesu elav kol hakholim mikol minei khalaim meshunim, akhuzim hasheidim, vehanivatim meruah ra’ah, vamitoashim. Vayerapeh otam.” “And the rumor concerning Him went in all the land of Syria, and they lifted up to him,” or “they brought up to Him, all the sick from all kinds of sickness, those who were seized by demons, and those who were terrified by an evil spirit, and those who were shaking. And He healed them.” “Vayelkhu akharav rabot mi Decapoli,” or it actually says, “miCapoli, vehaGalil, miYerushalayim, veYehuda, ve’ever HaYarden.” “And there went after him many from Decapolis and from Galilee, and from Jerusalem, and from Judah, and from Transjordan.”

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: So, there’s a lot in this passage. It’s interesting, it’s three little verses, but it may cover… You know, there are people who spend a lot of energy in trying to figure out what the chronology is here. I don’t know that we’ll have time to get to any of that. But if you start to look into the chronology, how many chapters are there in Mark and Luke and maybe in John, that are covered by these three verses? How many days, or weeks, or according to some people maybe even years, are covered by, you know… He’s preaching in their congregations – that’s not just one incident, right? That could be over a period of weeks, or months, or years.

Like I said, we’re not going to necessarily have time to get into that. But I want to jump back to verse 18 and really verse 21, because we can’t understand something in verse 23 without first looking at verse 21, and in that context, we’ll also look at verse 18. So, it says there that there are two brothers, and one is named Shimon, and the other is named Andrea. And then it says, “Shimon, who his called ‘Simone,’ who is called ‘Peter,’” or “Pietros”, which is very strange. So, in the Hebrew version of Matthew, this character Shimon, or Simon, has three different names. He’s got the Hebrew name, Shimon, he’s got the Greek name, Simone, but it’s really the Greek form of the Hebrew name. And then he’s got a Greek name.

Now, what do I mean it’s a Greek form of the Hebrew name? So, my name’s Nehemia, but when I talk to people here in Texas, they can’t say “kh”, so, they pronounce it, “Nee’amaya”. And so, the English form, the Anglicized form of Nehemia is Neehemiah. The Graecized, or Hellenized, form of Shimon is Simone, so why would Hebrew Matthew give that form of the name? That’s really the question I want to ask.

And to answer that, we have to look at the ossuaries that were discovered in archaeological excavations in the land of Israel. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of these ossuaries. An ossuary is a bone box. Now, let’s back up. When we bury somebody today, you put them in a… well, I guess it depends what your heritage is. Some people embalm the body. In the Jewish world, when you bury somebody, in Israel you wrap them in a shroud and you put that shroud directly into the ground. And then you cover that with stones and cement. That’s actually what you do, and then with dirt.

In the ancient world, what they would do in Israel, in the Second Temple period, is they would take a body and they would put it in a cave. And then they would seal the cave and they’d come back a year later. Then, we’re told in the writings of the early rabbis, “Blessed is the man who collects the bones of his father.” What that meant is, it was considered a righteous deed to crawl through the tiny little opening of the cave - I mean, I would have to like squeeze through. These are very small openings - you get into the cave and then it opens up in the cave and you could stand up, and you see the body was lying on the stone slab, but now all the flesh has gone. It takes about a year in Israel for all the flesh to be gone, and then all you have left is bones. And you collect the bones and you put them in a box. And that’s called a second burial, and the box where you put them in is called an ossuary. If it’s a full-sized box, meaning the length of the body, that’s called a sarcophagus. But the small, little one - essentially, it’s the length of the longest bone, right? So, your longest bone is maybe your femur, that’s the length of the ossuary. And you put the bones in there, all the bones.

And then, what they would do is take a nail, a nail that they would bring with them, or they’d find it on the ground there from a previous time, or they’d bring it with them into the burial cave, and by lamplight, they would scratch in the name of the person whose bones they just stuck into the box. And sometimes, two or three people were put in the same box.

And from these names that have been scratched into the box, we learn all kinds of different things, all kinds of important things about the languages spoken, and the culture of the 1st century Israel.

Keith: Might I ask a question, this is not a diversion, but I want to ask a question. You said it takes about a year…

Nehemia: Yeah.

Keith: …for the flesh to decompose?

Nehemia: Yeah.

Keith: Present-day Israel, there’s also something that happens about a year from the time that a person is buried. For example, if I remember right, with your father, for example. It was a year later. Now, I’m not saying there’s a connection between them, but is there any…?

Nehemia: Oh, there’s definitely no question, there’s a connection.

Keith: Okay, so can you…?

Nehemia: In other words, in ancient times, the family would come together and someone who was brave enough, and maybe the firstborn son, would crawl into the cave and he’d collect the bones. And you could imagine what the smell was like. It’s a closed, sealed cave where flesh has been decomposing over a year, which is why we hear about how people would bring spices, right? They would bring perfumes. To this day, they do that. They bring perfumes, meaning at the actual first burial. There’s no second burial today, right? So, when they actually do the burial today in Israel, there’s a tradition that some people have - they’ll take a bottle of perfume, of commercially bought perfume, like Chanel No. 5, or something, and they’ll throw it down into the grave and it smashes and covers any smells that might come out.

And now, we bury, like I said, with cement on top to keep animals out. So, I don’t know that you’d smell a whole lot. But back in the old days, you’d crawl into the cave after a year, and you’d collect the bones.

So, today they have a ceremony which is usually in English called the unveiling ceremony. I told somebody recently, I was going to Minneapolis for my grandmother’s unveiling ceremony, and the response was, “What’s an unveiling ceremony?” I thought everybody did it. Apparently, it’s a Jewish ceremony that after one year, you go to the grave and you present the tombstone. That’s the modern version of collecting the bones and putting them in the box.

Keith: There it is. Thank you.

Nehemia: So, now, they put the bones in the box, they wrote the guy’s name on the box with a nail, usually. It wasn’t professionally chiseled in - they were doing it by candlelight. It’s very difficult to read. So, on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem is an ossuary, one of hundreds or thousands, and it has written in Hebrew characters, but the language is Aramaic. But the name it writes is Greek, and the name of the person there on the ossuary at the Israel Museum, it says, “Simone Banei Haykhala”, which is “Simon, the builder of the Sanctuary”. So, it says in Aramaic, “Banei Haykhala”, he’s the builder of the Sanctuary, meaning he’s somebody who worked on the building of the Temple. So, somebody who actually worked on the reconstruction of the Temple, the renovations that were begun by Herod but continued after that, there was a guy named Simon, or Shimon.

So, why doesn’t it say his name was Shimon? Because people called him Simone. And you might say, “Wait a minute. How could that be? We have a perfectly good Hebrew name here, which is Shimon. Why would they write in Hebrew characters in an Aramaic sentence, ‘Simone?’” And the answer is that the three languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic were used by many people interchangeably. In fact, according to this wonderful collection, a book by a man named Rahmani, and for most people, it would be a very boring book, but to me, this is one of the most fascinating books ever written. It’s called A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries in the Collections of the State of Israel.

And Rahmani has 461 pages of all these different ossuaries, and what it says on the ossuary. And one of the things he points out in this book is that the ossuary inscriptions, where they would take a nail and scratch the name of the person, proves that even the poor people in Israel - or in Jerusalem at least - had some working knowledge of Greek. He says, “They probably didn’t know grammar, and they maybe couldn’t speak Greek, but they knew enough Greek where they could write the person’s name on the ossuary. And then, sometimes they used Greek forms of names.” And you’d say, “Why would they use a Greek form of a name if they’re speaking Hebrew, or if they’re speaking Aramaic?” And the answer is that Greek culture is the dominant culture.

There was an Israeli politician back in the 1990s, and his name was Tommy Lapid. And you say, “Tommy? What kind of name is Tommy?” Well, Tommy’s an English name. So, he was actually born in Yugoslavia, which today is, I believe, Serbia. He fled from there after the Holocaust or during the Holocaust, arrived in Israel; his real name was Yosef, or Yossi, but he was called Tommy!

Now, why was he called Tommy? Because English is the dominant culture today throughout the world. That’s just the way it is. You go to China, where I lived for a year, and everyone has an English nickname, right? They don’t have a Swahili nickname. Why is that? Because English is the dominant culture throughout the world.

So people in the First Temple period had Greek nicknames, or they even had that the Greek form of their Hebrew name was used. So here we have, at the Israel Museum, the man’s name is Shimon Boneh haHeichal, he’s known as “Simon, Shimon, the builder of the Sanctuary”. However, on the ossuary, his son or some relative of his takes a nail and scratches in, “Simone, Banei Haykhala,” “Simon, the builder of the Sanctuary.” And he spelled “Sanctuary” incorrectly in Aramaic with a Hey instead of an Aleph, because, you know, maybe his grammar wasn’t so great in the Aramaic, either.

So, we’ve got all these different cultures, the Hebrew, the Aramaic and the Greek. And the conclusion that this scholar, Rahmani, has, is that people spoke different languages, and specifically Greek… Let me read you what he writes about the Greek. So, he has a section on page 13 of the book called Language, and he talks about how there are bilingual inscriptions, meaning they’re inscriptions where the name is written in both Hebrew and in Greek. Sometimes it’s written in Hebrew and another language, but usually, it’s Hebrew and Greek. And then he says, he concludes, “From these inscriptions it can be concluded that in and around Jerusalem and Jericho, even the lower classes of the Jewish population knew some Greek. This knowledge was probably limited to everyday speech, and in general did not include a profound familiarity with the language, its grammar or its literature.”

And then he says there’s a similar thing at Beit Shearim in Northern Israel, from a later period. So, in other words, people could kind of get by in Greek, they could speak some basic Greek, but they weren’t fluent necessarily in reading and writing Greek.

And so you have this mix of cultures throughout the Mishna, which is written in Hebrew. You have Aramaic words, and you have Greek words. So this is exactly what we’d expect, that in the Second Temple period, you have a man, when they call him to the Torah, they call him, Shimon, and when some of his friends see him on the street, they call him Simone. Other friends call him Pietros, or Petros, Peter. And he’s known by all three of those names. That’s a possibility.

Where do we have a parallel to that? In this book by Rahmani, where he brings the different inscriptions, we have the bilingual inscriptions. And one of the really fascinating ones is that there’s a man whose name is Yeshua. So, here we have ossuary number 9. Let me tell you about ossuary number 9. It probably originated somewhere in Jerusalem; it was found in the antiquities market. And it says on one side of the ossuary, “Yeshua bar Yehosef”, Yeshua is the short form of Yehoshua, right? So, it’s Yehoshua, the son of Josef. No connection to the man in the New Testament, right? It’s a very common name. And on the other side of the ossuary it says, “Yeshu”. Now, Yeshu, we’ve been told in the Jewish world, is an acronym that stands for “yemakh shemo vezikhro,” “may his name and memory be blotted out.” And that the rabbis took the I and the last letter off Yeshua and turned the name Yeshu into a curse.

And we find out from this ossuary that that is not true, that that is a Rabbinical fantasy. That in fact, on the streets of Nazareth, the dirt-covered-probably streets of Nazareth, right? I don’t know if they had actual cobbled streets, but in the back alleys of Nazareth, his friends probably called him Yeshu. And it never occurred to them it had anything to do with this phrase, “may his name and memory be blotted out”. On the contrary, it was just the way people spoke. They didn’t pronounce the Ayin, so Yeshua became Yeshu. And it has nothing to do with what the rabbis say. And this ossuary proves it.

And what’s interesting is, Yeshu is essentially the Aramaic form of Yeshua. In this dialect of Aramaic, they didn’t pronounce the Ayin - or maybe in the dialect of Hebrew, in Northern Hebrew, they didn’t pronounce the Ayin. We know that as well, and we’ve talked about that - and so, Yeshua became Yeshu. And we can see this on ossuary number 9.

By the way, there are a lot of people who are named Yeshua. So we have Yeshu and Yeshua on ossuary number 9. But then, we have ossuary number 50. And in ossuary number 50, there’s a man named Yesus. Yesus is where we get the Greek form that then becomes Jesus in English.

Now, I’ve heard people say, “Oh, Jesus. That means Oh, hail Zeus.” No, it doesn’t! Zeus is written with the Greek letter zeta. This is written with the Greek letter sigma. It has nothing to do with Zeus. Yesus is simply a Second Temple Jewish form of Yehoshua, but in the Greek language. In fact, Yesus is exactly like writing Shimon as Simone, in Hebrew letters, and here, they wrote it Yesus in Greek letters. It’s simply how they pronounced it, and you say, “Wait a minute. Why did they have the S at the end?” Because Greek names tended to end with a S, like Joseph becomes Josephus, and Yeshua becomes Yesus. So, why isn’t it Yeshus or Yeshua in Greek? Because remember, Greek doesn’t have a “sh” sound, so it becomes a “S”. Just like Shimon becomes Simone; that was ossuary number 56.

And by the way, in the same ossuary, along with Yeshua, or Yesus, is a man named Joseph, which is written as “Yoses”. Yoses is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Yosseh, or Yossi, which then is short for Yehosef, or Joseph.

Ossuary number 89 mentions a man named “John, the son of Yesus”, right? “Yehokhanan, the son of Yehoshua.” These were very common names back then.

Ossuary number 113 has a man named “Yesus, the son of Judah”. So, we have numerous people who are named Yeshua; it’s a very common name.

And here there’s another one, ossuary number 114 has “Yesus Aloth”. I’m not sure what Aloth means, maybe it’s aloe. So, you have numerous people, I’m not even bringing all of them, because we don’t have time. But there are numerous people here who have this name.

And my point is that somebody named Yeshua in the 1st century would have been called by some people Yehoshua, other people would have called him Yeshu, which was the Hebrew nickname, other people would have called him Yesus, which is the Greek form of that name. And that’s why we find Peter being called Shimon, in Hebrew, Simone in the Hellenized form of the Hebrew. We have him called Petrus and we have him called Kefa - not in this passage, but in other passages in the New Testament, he’s called Kefa, which is an Aramaic translation of petrus, of stone.

So it would not be unusual for somebody to have these three or four different forms of their name, and for them to even be written that way on their ossuary, it could be. So there’s nothing unusual or problematic about this.

Keith: You know, it may not be unusual, but isn’t it a gift? Just from that one verse, [laughing] and having His name three different ways, we just had an entire, almost like a telescope into the 1st century in terms of what happens with language. That is so cool.

Nehemia: Well, the key thing here is this idea that they spoke Hebrew so there was no Greek and there was no Aramaic. No, nobody’s saying that. The three languages… I mean, read the Mishnah, which is written in Hebrew. There’s a large percentage of the words that are Greek, a large percentage of the words that are Aramaic, but the grammar is Hebrew and the structure is Hebrew. But they had this heavy influence, these other languages.

Now, I want to jump to the second name, or the second disciple in verse 18. I’m going to let you run with this, because it says here his name is Andrea. Now, we know him in English as Andrew, and in Greek he’s called Andreas. I texted you the other day and I said, “Keith, this name, Andrea, you have a son named Andrew. Why is he called Andrew?”

Keith: [laughing] You know, it gets deeper than that, Nehemia. So for those who don’t know, I have three sons. And when we had a third son, my wife, whose name is Andrea, was convinced that it was going to be a little girl - though I knew it was going to be a little boy, and I told her that. A little tension.

So she’s pregnant, and we’re trying to find out, and we decided not to go to the doctor to find out if it was a boy or a girl. But she was convinced it was going to be a little girl. And out comes Andrew. So, why did we name him Andrew? One, for the idea of him being the disciple, but there’s an underlying issue, which was, since it wasn’t a little girl, we’ll name Andrew kind of after his mom. [laughing]

Nehemia: Okay. But what does the word “Andrew” mean?

Keith: I did something really interesting when you texted a message. I said, “You know, I’m going to ask Andrea, ‘Why did your mom call you that?’” And she said, “Well, because she had a friend who knew someone named that, and she says she thought it was a French name and she liked the way it was Andrea, so that’s why she named her. Nothing more.”

I started looking in other places, what does this name mean? And of course, I wasn’t really thinking about that until you asked me the question, and I found in Latin what it would mean…

Nehemia: So, what did you find in Greek? What does it mean in Greek?

Keith: That has to do with the word for “man”. I think they even say that in some of the languages, they say if it’s a woman it means brave, but it really means man. So… [laughing]

Nehemia: So, it’s related to the word “anthropos”, but it’s obviously a variant of it with a delta, not a theta. So, Andreas means something like brave, strong, courageous. So, we have that name in Hebrew. The name is Gever. 1 Kings 4:19, there’s a man actually in northern Israel, in Gilead, called Gever the son of Uri. And then we have the name Gabriel, which means, Mighty one of God. Gabriel is a longer form of the name Gever. So, it’s possible that Andrew’s Hebrew name was Gabriel, or Gever.

Keith: Now, Nehemia, you’re going to appreciate this.

Nehemia: Yeah.

Keith: When Andrea went to China, she has her passport - true story - on her passport, it made the mistake of female to male. So when she goes to do her test where you go through the process, you have to go through this physical and all that stuff, the doctor clearly sees that my wife is not a male. She’s a female. But it says male. [laughing]

Nehemia: [laughing] Right. A feeling of bureaucracy here.

Keith: They had to change the whole thing. But again, back to the source of the name, they use it for a woman that she is brave. But really, it comes from “man”.

Nehemia: Yeah. Well, I want to raise the possibility that maybe Andrew in the New Testament, in this verse, Andreas or Andrea, in the Greek form, maybe his Hebrew name was something like Gever or Gavriel. Just as Shimon has the name Petros and Kefa, we actually see in the Tanakh that there were people who had multiple names.

Joseph has the name Tzofnat Paneakh. Daniel 1:7 talks about how Daniel and his three companions both have their Hebrew names and they have their Aramaic names. So, Daniel’s Aramaic name is Belshazzar, and his three friends, Chananya, Azariah and Mishael are called famously… what are they called? Shedrach, Meshach and Abednego, right?

Keith: Shedrach, Meshach and Abednego. [laughing]

Nehemia: There you go, exactly. So those are their Aramaic names. So it’s very possible that Andrew had this Greek name and maybe people called him Andrea, Andrew. When they called him up to read from the Synagogue, maybe they called him Gever, or maybe his name was actually Andrew.

And I was very surprised - honestly, when I started reading this, Keith, I thought, okay, when it says ‘Andrea’ here, what somebody did is, they took the Hebrew name and they put in the Greek or some other European name here, so that they would be familiar when they were debating with the Christians, “Okay, even though it said here something in Hebrew, we’ve now put in the Greek name, so we know what they’re talking about when they bring in these foreign names.” And that is a possibility that we’ll talk about in a minute.

However, I was very surprised, I just did a search to prove that the name Andrew never appears in Jewish sources. And what do I find? There’s a rabbi in the Jerusalem Talmud, Rabbi Khanina bar Andrai, Rabbi Khanina, the son of Andrew, written there as “Andrai” with an Aleph or a Yud. It’s written both ways. It’s also in Rabbah, he’s mentioned. And then, there’s a man also in the Jerusalem Talmud called Bar Andrai, “the son of Andrai, or the son of Andrew.”

So, Andrew was a name that there are even rabbis who were had this name, Andrew. So, I was very surprised to see that. I had assumed this was, you know, a Greek name, that no Jew would ever be called Andrew, and that maybe his name was originally Gever or Gavriel, and then they transliterated it when they translated it, and then in Hebrew Matthew it was changed. But maybe he was actually called Andrew.

Now, I want to actually bring up another possibility. Actually, I want to jump over to Zebedee. We’ve got to talk about this, in verse 21. It says, “And he saw two brothers, two other brothers, Yakov veYochanan, akhim, benei Zavdiel.” “Jacob and John, brothers, the sons of Zavdiel.”

Now, in Greek, his name is Zebedee, and in Hebrew, he’s called Zavdiel. which is interesting. So, Zavdiel means “gift of God”. Zeved is a Hebrew word that means gift. And then it says, bela’az, “in the foreign tongue, ‘Zabadau and Zabada,’” which is very strange. Which one is it? It gives two different forms of this name in the foreign tongue.

So, I was minding my own business, watching a video on edX. edX is this really cool thing where you can take these online courses. And what brought this up, actually I’ll be honest, is T-Bone said to me, “Nehemia, what can you tell me about Jewish medicine from the Middle Ages?” And I said, “Honestly, I know almost nothing about Jewish medicine from the Middle Ages.”

So, I Googled it and I found somebody was giving a course on Jewish Medicine in the Middle Ages - a professor from Israel was giving a course. And I watched the entire course and I learned so much. And we’re actually going to post a link on nehemiaswall.com. I recommend people take this course. It doesn’t take a lot of time. You will learn a ton. It’s free. You just sign up on edX.

So, why am I bringing this? Because in this course, he’s talking about Jewish medicine. Nothing to do with the Gospel of Matthew, nothing to do with the Hebrew Matthew. Really, he’s not even talking about Hebrew texts. He’s talking about Jewish medical texts written in Arabic. And how do we know they’re Jewish if they’re written in Arabic? Because they’re written with Hebrew characters. And that’s something called Judeo-Arabic. That is, you take the Arabic text and instead of writing the Arabic Lam you write a Hebrew Lamed.

By the way, Jews did this in almost every language. We have a language called Ladino, which is Spanish written in Hebrew characters. You have Yiddish, which is a dialect of German, written in Hebrew characters. When I was a teenager, Keith, in high school, me and my friends would pass notes to each other, and sometimes when you would pass notes you would get caught and the teacher would read the note out to the class, and it was very embarrassing.

So, I developed this method where we would pass notes to each other, and we would write the notes using Paleo-Hebrew characters. But the words were English! So, we would say something like…

Keith: [laughing] Only you would come up with something like that.

Nehemia: And me and my friends were fluently writing in Paleo-Hebrew! “I think that’s a cute girl over in the third row.” And we would write, Aleph, Yud-Yud in Paleo-Hebrew, “I think,” Tav Yud Nun Kuf.” You know, the Tav with an apostrophe…

Keith: The teacher couldn’t read it. [laughing]

Nehemia: The teacher one time got the note and was like, “Ah, what? Okay. Throw it.” So, it was very effective. So, this is what they did in Arabic. They wrote it in Hebrew characters, and this professor at Bar Ilan University in Israel, his name is Professor Tzvi Langermann. In the course, The History of Mediaeval Medicine through Jewish Manuscripts, he’s talking about a manuscript which is written in Judeo-Arabic, meaning Arabic in Hebrew letters. So, it’s obviously copied by a Jew.

But he knows that that Jew is not a native Arabic speaker. And how does he know that? Because when it comes to writing a certain name, instead of writing the Arabic form of the name, he writes the form of the name in some romance language. And what do I mean by “romance language”, or what does he mean? Meaning, he thinks it’s Portuguese, but maybe it’s some local dialect of Sicilian, or something. He thinks maybe it’s from Sicily.

So the book that we’re talking about here is called The Complete Art of Medicine, by Ali Ibn al-Abbas al-Majusi. So, that’s the author of the book, not the copyist. The copyist is a Jew. The author is actually a Muslim named al-Majusi. And al-Majusi means in Arabic, “The Magus”, right? So, he was actually somebody who was originally from Persia, and his ancestor was a magi. Maybe not one of the magi in the New Testament, but he was part of that guild of people who were scholars called the magi. And he wrote a book called The Complete Art of Medicine around the year 980.

And in the book, The Complete Art of Medicine, he quotes Hippocrates, who is called the Father of Medicine in the Greek world. And Hippocrates is known in Arabic as Abukrat. Now, I’m going to play the clip from Professor Langermann - it’s a very short clip, 40 seconds - and you’ll see where he’s talking about the Jewish copyist, who’s hundreds of years later, in southern Europe, probably in Italy. He comes to copy in Hebrew characters, the Arabic text written in 980 by al-Majusi. And he comes to the Greek name, Hippocrates. Instead of writing the Arabic form of the name, he writes it in some local dialect that’s known from southern Europe. And here’s the clip:

Professor Langermann: “Oddly enough, when writing up the name of Hippocrates in Arabic, he does not use the standard Arabic spelling; it wasn’t the standard, but the most common, which would be ‘Abukrat” or “Bukrat”, something which actually sounds Arabic. But he actually writes it out in Hebrew letters as ‘Hippocratesh’. So, this man, who was fluent in Arabic, fluent enough to copy an Arabic text, still when he came to a name, he said, ‘Well, I’m not going to copy Abukrat. I know this authority as Hippocrates,’ and he writes out, ‘Hippocratesh’.”

Nehemia: So, Keith, I don’t know if you realize how huge this is. This is a game-changer! When I saw this, I just couldn’t believe it. My mouth was on the floor. That was an Arabic work on medicine copied by a Jewish doctor. Now, let’s go to the New Testament when we see it in Hebrew.

So what scholars have done up until now is they take a manuscript of the New Testament written in Hebrew, and they say, “We know this was translated from a foreign language. What language was it translated from? The easiest way to find the answer is to look at the names.” So, if you see the name “Yekhokhanan” written in Hebrew instead of “Yehokhanan” they write it as “Juan,” well, then you know it’s a language where the name “Yekhokhanan” is something like “Juan,” or “Huan.” It’s Castilian, or Catalonian, it’s some language like that.

And you can draw conclusions, or scholars have drawn conclusions, based on how the names are transliterated - the Hebrew names are transliterated in the Hebrew versions of the New Testament. And what we learn from Professor Langermann is that you could be copying an Arabic text and you know Arabic fluently, but when you write the name, you write it not in the Arabic form, you write it in some form that you use in your daily speech.

And what that means is that when we see these Hebrew versions of the New Testament, let’s take the Catalan Gospels, for example, which… the Catalan Gospels are in the Vatican, and I’ve found two other copies, one in St. Petersburg, and one in Wroclaw, Poland, formerly Breslau, Germany. It’s believed that was translated from the Catalonian language, and one of the main proofs is that when you see the Hebrew names, those are the Catalan form of the Hebrew names.

And what do we find from Professor Langermann? That we have to be very careful. All that it tells me, when I see a Catalan form of the name, is that the copyist was Catalonian. His native language that he spoke on a daily basis was Catalonian, and he felt the freedom to freely change the name from whatever it was in the text he was copying. In the case of Professor Langermann, the text was written in Arabic, but he changed it into Portuguese, or Sicilian, or something. And in the case of Catalonian, maybe he found a perfectly good Hebrew form, but because he’s so familiar and used to the Catalonian form, he copied the Catalonian form.

And maybe that’s what happened here. Maybe the original Hebrew Matthew had something like, “Shimon, who was called Simone, who was called Kefa,” and the copyist said, “Oh, I know that’s Pietrus,” and changed it to Pietrus. I don’t know, that’s possible. I can’t prove one way or another, but we have to be aware of that possibility.

When the copyist puts down, “Zavdiel” in Hebrew, in the foreign tongue, “Zabadau and Zavada”, he’s giving us two different translations, meaning there are two different languages in which he knows the name Zavdiel to be pronounced either as “Zabadau or “Zavada”. Now, what those two languages are, I’ll leave that to experts of European languages. But it tells you that you’ve got to be really careful, that the copyist had a role here, especially when it came to names. When it came to names, they would transliterate things into terms they were familiar with.

Professor Langermann brings another example in his medical text. In the medical text, he talks about how there’s a list of ingredients that they used in potions or medicines, and one of those is cinnamon. Well, cinnamon is a word that appears in the Tanakh. It appears as one of the ingredients used in the Tabernacle. And the Hebrew word is “kinamon”. Now, kinamon obviously is a foreign loan word. Why would we have a foreign loan word for kinamon? Because it’s something that doesn’t grow in Israel. It was imported from somewhere else, and in Hebrew they called it kinamon.

Well, in this text that he’s dealing with, instead of using the Arabic form or the Hebrew form kinamon, they use the form “sinnamomo”, and “sinnamomo” is something in some European language, right? Probably again, something like Sicilian or Portuguese, some local dialect that isn’t familiar from a standard form of the language. But the point is that people would transliterate things into terms they were familiar with.

And by the way, Professor Langarmann says, “Why would they write sinnamomo? Why wouldn’t they just write ‘kinamon?’” So that when somebody reads this book, he goes to the local marketplace in Syracuse, Sicily or somewhere, and he asks for kinamon, nobody knows what he’s talking about. He asks for sinnamomo, even the Gentiles know what he’s talking about, because that’s what it’s called in the local dialect.

And the point is, when they copied Hebrew Matthew, one of their objectives, their stated objectives, was to debate with the Catholic priests and for that purpose it was important to know, it doesn’t matter that we call him Shimon or that his friends called him Simone - we need to know what the Catholics are calling him. And the Catholics in that area were calling him Pietrus. The Catholics in that area maybe were calling him Andrea. This other character, this other figure they were calling “Zebadau,” and “Zabada”. And so it wasn’t enough to know that it’s Zavdiel. We need to know what the Catholic priest is talking about, what he refers to him as, so we can communicate with them. And so, that happens in Hebrew Matthew, and we have to be aware of that.

Keith: You know it’s interesting, Nehemia. I was sitting here, thinking to myself, “You know, it’s really kind of cool. People that are listening to the public version just got a taste of what happens in the Plus version.”

Nehemia: Well, wait till we get to the Plus version! We’ve got something far bigger than this in the Plus version. I’m excited.

Keith: I meant the Plus from the previous episode. What you just did is gave them

Nehemia: Oh, that’s a good point.

Keith: …a bonus. You gave some of the people that haven’t gone to Plus a chance to see how much deeper. But boy oh boy, that is really like…That’s amazing.

Nehemia: We’ve done a lot here in this public version. So, I just want to give a taste of what we’re going to talk about, God-willing, if we make it through it. What I’m planning on talking about in the Plus episode, I want to talk about the whole idea of fishers of men, and I want to show how… Well, I don’t want to spoil it.

But there’s actually something, there’s a connection there in the Tanakh which is extremely important, and I think it’s generally missed. I had missed it until yesterday. I was literally talking to T-Bone about this, and I said, “Wow, you know, the Gospel got it wrong.” And I looked at it and I’m like, “Oh, wait a minute. Maybe there’s another way to understand this verse.”

And I want to talk about the structure of some of the incidents in the life of Yeshua. And what do I mean by the structure? Well, John says there are more things that Yeshua did than could be even committed to writing. So, when the four Gospels chose to share what they were sharing, they had a purpose of why they were presenting it that way. We’re going to talk a little bit about that.

Let’s see, I want to talk about something which is a grenade, which is in Matthew 4:23. It says, “He came to teach in their synagogues.” In Hebrew it says, “in their congregations.” Who’s “their”, Kemosabe? Is he not a Jew? Why does it say “their synagogues, their congregations?”

Oh! Last thing, though - in verse 23, there’s a play on words that connects to verse 21, which is why I insisted last time we have to at least leave verse 21 for episode 12, because you can’t read verse 23 without reading verse 21. But I’m going to save that for the Plus episode.

Keith: Excellent.

Nehemia: I’m going to end in prayer, and then ask you to follow up. Yehovah, Avinu Shebashamayim, Yehovah, our Father in Heaven, You know, and our editor knows, what challenges [laughing] we had to produce this episode. Yehovah, these were challenges that took place before the time of the recording. Some of them are ongoing. Yehovah, give us the strength, give us the wisdom to continue to share these things. Yehovah, to shed light on the Hebrew context, on the Greek context and the Aramaic context, on the 1st century context of these incredible events that the scribe in this book has recorded and preserved in Hebrew and Greek, and even in Aramaic. Yehovah, I am so grateful to be a part of this. Amen.

Keith: Father, thank you so much for what we have been able to do, with Your grace, over these last 12 episodes, really 24 episodes, 12 public, 12 Plus. Thank you so much for what is being brought forward. It has maybe, in many ways, not been seen by those that are listening, or even heard about, and yet, here it is, it has been given, and we are so thankful. We’re humbled that we get a chance to be a part of this process. We ask for Your blessing and protection as we continue to go forward. Give us clear guidance about if and when the next step takes place, and how. But we especially thank You for what You did over these previous... Thank you for our producers. Thank you for their patience. Thank you for their diligence and excellence, in which ways they helped us to communicate to so many. In Your name, Amen.

Nehemia: Amen.

You have been listening to Hebrew Gospel Pearls with Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon’s Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

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  • David says:

    May I conclude that Jesus is a valid name for the Messiah or a miss-translation as stated in a different episode?

  • auntganny says:

    I am so excited in my heart at hearing these Gospels Pearls from Hebrew Matthew. But even more so to hear the excitement in your voice at being able to study this book of Matthew with Keith. If Yehovah is speaking to us through this book, and I believe that He is, what wonderful revelations are awaiting us as we search to understand what He wants us to know. I pray His blessings would be on you abundantly as you study. Amen.

  • davidheilbronprice says:

    Some Hebrew Matthew manuscripts have ‘Simeon who was called Kepha’. not Petros. See Hugh Schonfield’s ‘An old Hebrew Text of St. Matthew’s Gospel,’ p61 (1927). This implies the Shem-Tov manuscripts are later and ‘Petros’ conforms to a later Catholic context for the translation.
    ‘Kepha’ may therefore reflect an original Hebrew version.
    According to historians, the Vatican only began asserting the so-called ‘Seat of Peter’ in the fourth century. Before it was unknown. The RCC made use of a mistranslation and distorted interpretation of Matt 16:18 to assume some sort of supremacy that no one asserted or thought of before. Jerome’s Latin obscured the original meaning. The Vulgate was asserted as the true text, the Greek text disparaged and banned throughout the later centuries until the Renaissance. Hebrew was forbidden. Jews persecuted.

  • Walter Schwenk says:

    “Their” synagogues? Presumably because the synagogue was the initiative of the Pharisees, contrasted to the Jerusalem temple, as the centre of the biblical Levitical priesthood. We see similar designation, as Yahshua refers to the psalms as “your” law, perhaps implying that he considered the psalms as “less” authoritative and binding than the pharisees did?

  • Any possibility that “andrea” might derive from the hebrew word for “vow”, as in “kol nidre”?