Hebrew Gospel Pearls #7 – Matthew 3:7-12

In Hebrew Gospel Pearls #7 (Matthew 3:7-12), Nehemia and Keith discuss the importance of the original Hebrew text of the first Jewish commentary on the Gospels, how we know glosses were added in the margin of Hebrew Matthew, and whether the Essenes contributed to the authorship of the New Testament.

I look forward to reading your comments!


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Hebrew Gospel Pearls #7 - Matthew 3:7-12

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: This morning, I opened up my email and there are the images of both Guenzburg manuscripts, and I was able to complete the list. I’ve now checked every known Hebrew Matthew manuscript for Matthew 3:10, letter by letter, word by word. And literally, every letter.

Keith: Welcome to Hebrew Gospel Pearls, episode 7, Matthew chapter 3 verses 7 through 12. And folks, I’m telling you right now…

Nehemia: Are we in episode 7?

Keith: Listen, everybody. Nehemia has privately and not kind of publicly, he’s publicly said, “We’re in a pilot series,” but he’s told me privately he needs 10. We’re at 7. Folks, we’re still in the process of seeing what you think about what we’re doing. I will tell you something. After today, I’m convinced you’re all going to be like me. We must continue this, Nehemia! We are in chapter 3 verses 7 through 12, and there are some amazing things that happen in the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew. Can we get started? What do you think?

Nehemia: I’m excited. Before we get started, I want to share something that I just received in the last hour. I’m right now in Dallas, Texas, but I have someone in Jerusalem who went to the National Library of Israel for me and scanned the Hebrew original from 1879 or 1880 of the book of my cousin, Rabbi Elijah Zvi Soloveitchik. And I have it here, I’m looking at it. And what’s really interesting is, there are all kinds of little tidbits I didn’t know. For example, the original title of the book in Hebrew… this was published in Paris. It doesn’t have a year, and so it’s unclear exactly the year. Actually, there is a year here I’m looking at, but we’ll calculate it later. It’s what’s called a “chronogram”, so it has a phrase that you have to calculate. So we’ll do that at a different time.

But in any event, it was published in Paris around 1879, 1880, and the original title is Kol Koreh, A Voice Calling Out. Exactly the phrase taken from Isaiah 40 that’s applied to John the Baptist in the Book of Matthew.

Keith: Just a second. [laughing]

Nehemia: Yeah.

Keith: Are you telling me you got this an hour ago?

Nehemia: I have it here, for the first time about an hour ago, yeah.

Keith: Awesome. Awesome.

Nehemia: And then it says, Or the Talmud and the New Testament. That title is actually the original title. It says, A Voice Calling Out: Or, the Talmud and the New Testament. That’s the original Hebrew title. So we thought the title, The Bible, the Talmud and the New Testament was something the modern English translator applied to this book written by this ultra-Orthodox Rabbi in the 19th century. The original subtitle is, The Talmud and the New Testament. It says in the English, The Bible, the Talmud and the New Testament. It doesn’t have that here. Very interesting.

Keith: And yet, that phrase, “The Voice Crying Out” comes from the Tanakh, so it represents the Tanakh.

Nehemia: Yeah. And then at the beginning of the book there’s a lengthy introduction which I haven’t had a full chance to read, but it appears he’s basing this on the 13 Principles of Faith of Maimonides. And each one begins, “Ani ma’amin,” “I believe”. These are the Principles of Faith as delineated by Maimonides, of Judaism. And number 13 here on page 41 of the original Hebrew says, “Ha’ikar sheneim asar” “The 12th Principle”, “ani ma’amin be’emunah shlema beviyat haMashiach,” “I believe with a complete faith in the coming of the Messiah.” “Ve’af al pi sheyitma’ame’ah,” “And even though He may tarry,” “im kol zeh hakhakelo,” “despite that, I will wait for Him,” “bekhol yom sheyavo,” “that He may come every day.” Beautiful.

So we have all kinds of things here that weren’t so clear necessarily from the English translation that we have here in the Hebrew original.

Keith: Wow.

Nehemia: And it answers a question we had in a previous episode. So if you remember in a previous episode there was a footnote. It was in the English version of the book, “The Bible, the Talmud and the New Testament” which was published in 2019, a brand-new, hot off the press book. Page 79, footnote 28 it says, “Matthew paraphrases Micah 5:2, ‘and you, o’Bethlehem of Efrat, least among the clan of Judah. From you one shall come forth to rule Israel for Me, of whose original is from old, from ancient times.” And then it says in the footnote, “This is also a reference to the Savior.” Is this Rabbi Soloveitchik? This is the question we asked in a previous episode.

Rabbi Soloveitchik’s saying… who’s not a Christian, the Micah 5:2 refers to the Savior? I wouldn’t expect it. I would expect Rabbi Soloveitchik to say, “It’s a reference to the Messiah,” right, because he’s just said, “I believe with full faith in the coming of the Messiah.” And of course, Messiah and Savior are not necessarily the same thing. The word “Mashiach,” “Messiah” means “anointed one.” There’s a different word, “Moshiach,” and that word means “Savior.” So when I saw this, my immediate thought was, the Christian translator put in those words. This is also a reference to the Savior, which is a bit strange because this book here is presented as an academic book. So I was a bit confused. So my question was, did Rabbi Soloveitchik say that? And I looked it up and he didn’t.

Keith: He did not say that?

Nehemia: Not in the Hebrew original. The question is, who wrote that? And I looked over once again at the introduction from the translator and one of the things he said is, he compared the Hebrew original from around 1879, 1880 with a modern printing from 1985. And that modern reprint was printed by a missionary society in Israel, specifically a missionary society that targets Jews. And I haven’t seen the missionaries’ version. My suspicion is, they’re the ones who added the words, “this also refers to the Savior.”

Keith: So this is in the spirit of this whole idea of checking the original, which has always been your thing from the time I’ve met you. You want to be able to see it for yourself, not what someone says. And here, we have this perfect example with your cousin’s book.

Nehemia: We have the opportunity. It’s incredible. And I was asking weeks ago for this to be done and the response was, “the National Library of Israel’s closed because of the pandemic. We can’t get there.” And finally, the person in Jerusalem was able to go and this morning I got it. And by the way, one of the things I can see here is what he’s scanned is not the actual book. It’s a photocopy of the book, and from what I’ve read and from what I’m understanding here, the actual original book is in Paris. And somebody went to Paris, photocopied the book in an old Xerox machine and it’s those photocopies they have in Jerusalem. And what I now have is a scan of the photocopies, which makes it very difficult to read in some places. I’m actually trying to lighten it up using different technologies because it’s very dark and poor contrast.

But I understand, I’m guessing this is why the translator used the 1985 reprint, because it was much easier to read than the original from 1879 or 1880. But here, we have the opportunity. So think about this. This blows my mind. There’s one physical copy of the original book and that’s in Paris. And what we have in Jerusalem is a xerox and now I have a scan of the xerox.

Keith: Now, Nehemia, listen.

Nehemia: Amazing.

Keith: Can you do me a favor and folks, I’m going to just say something. We’ve been doing this now, this is our seventh time. And there are new people that are coming for the first time. Two things I’d like to ask you. One, can you explain again, just a little bit about even the process for you, where there have been times where you’ve looked at a microfilm of a scan of a manuscript, and you’ve insisted instead that you want the actual color copies, and at times, had to go to great cost and effort to get those. Why have you done that? And can you just give people a little bit about the process that you’ve been through in terms of gathering these 28 manuscripts of the Hebrew Matthew?

Nehemia: So let me explain a little bit about how all this works, right? Let’s take the example of Josephus. Josephus was written in the 1st century AD. But we don’t have the original manuscript that Josephus wrote with his own hand. We have a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. The earliest one is from the 9th century. Most of them are much later than that. Those from the 9th century are fragmentary. The earliest complete copies are hundreds of years later after that.

So what would happen is that somebody would get a single manuscript, or two or three manuscripts, and they would go and they would typeset it. And what do I mean, they would typeset it? They would literally take lead, little pieces of lead, alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and they’d spread out on a page and they’d print it with a physical printing press. That’s what was done starting around 1450, the first book. An example in Hebrew is the Tosefta. The Tosefta was a very important early Rabbinical work and it’s known from references and quotes. In the 19th century there was this great scholar who wanted to print the Tosefta. Well, where did he get a Tosefta? It’s not so easy to get.

So this scholar wants to print the Tosefta, well how does he do that? He needs a physical manuscript, Tosefta-based on. He could print it based on earlier printings but those are often full of mistakes. They’re laying out physical leads and the actual people putting out the typeset, they made mistakes. The mistake might not even be from the manuscript, it could be from the person putting out the typeset.

There’s a famous example in English, it’s called “the Adulterer’s Bible.” Do you know about this? In one of the English printings of the King James version, instead of writing, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” they left out the word “not.” And so it says, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” So this happens in printing, especially with the old technology, but even with the new technology. So this scholar writes to the state library of Berlin and he asks them, “Can I borrow your manuscript of the Tosefta?” And he actually holds the manuscript in his house for years as he’s transcribing it and studying it. And he would travel to other places and compare it to other manuscripts. And then when he’s done, he returns the manuscript.

Well, you really can’t do that these days. They don’t let you borrow manuscripts. What you mostly have are, until recently, black and white photos of the manuscripts. I actually went to Berlin, the very same library, not to study the Tosefta but to study a manuscript of the Torah, a Torah Scroll from the 13th century. And they wrote to me and said, “We don’t let people see this. There’s color photos online.” I said, “There are things I can’t see from the color photos.” And it was a whole long process until they finally said, “Okay, you’re a legitimate scholar. We’ll let you in under these very tight conditions.” I wanted to take a certain type of photograph. They were like, “No, you can’t do that.” “Well, here’s why I need to.” “Sorry, you just can’t do that.” So I was able to do certain things but not other things.

So we have these limitations of access to the manuscripts. If you want to know what’s in the Hebrew Matthew manuscripts, what George Howard did is, he ordered physical microfilms. He got nine different microfilms from about five different libraries and he then sat on an old analog microfilm reader and he read it, letter by letter.

Keith: You mean the microfilm readers like what’s in the basement?

Nehemia: Like what used to be in the basement of the National Library of Israel. They still have a few that some people use for some reason, but now they’re digital microfilm readers. Another thing I didn’t tell you, Keith, another thing that I received this morning, and I received it from T-Bone, so yesterday I did something. There was a certain passage that we’ll get to, God-willing, where there’s massive differences between the different manuscripts, between the Greek and within the Hebrew Matthew tradition, Shem Tov’s Hebrew Matthew and something else that we’ll talk about. And so I decided to examine every single manuscript to see what it said in each manuscript. Until yesterday, I had all of the Hebrew Matthew manuscripts on my computer, some in black and white, some in high resolution color, except for two. And those two are in Moscow in the Guenzburg collection.

Now, the Guenzburg collection is an interesting story itself. The predecessor of Israel’s National Library, which was the library of… I’m actually not sure what it was called at that time. But it eventually became the Library of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and then at one point it was called the “Jewish National and University Library.” When you and I went there in the early 2000s it was called the “JNUL,” Jewish National University Library. Now it’s called the “National Library of Israel.” The same library existed in 1917 before there was a State of Israel, and they purchased a collection of manuscripts and books called the “Guenzburg Collection.” It was being boxed up to ship to Israel and the Russian Revolution broke out and the Communists said, “No, we’re holding onto this.” I’ve been writing the Guenzburg Library, it’s actually the State Library of Moscow, I’ve been writing to them for years. I have letters going back to 2002, 2003 saying, “Can I have a microfilm,” and later, “Can I have color photographs of your Hebrew Matthew manuscripts?” I never got a response. I even had a gentleman write in Russian, because I’m thinking, “Maybe they don’t know English.” He wrote for me in Russian. Still no response.

Yesterday, I’m looking through all the manuscripts that have this Matthew 3:10, that we’ll get to, which is, I think, the most interesting verse in all of Hebrew Matthew.

Keith: Go ahead.

Nehemia: And I’m looking through and I realize I’ve compared systematically, word by word, letter by letter, every single one of the manuscripts except the two Guenzburg manuscripts. Now, one of the Guenzburg manuscripts, I know, doesn’t have this section, because it’s what’s called an “epitome”, or an abbreviated form of Hebrew Matthew. So he only brings the verses that the scribe wants to comment on and he says “et cetera” afterwards. So I knew this 3:10 isn’t in one of the manuscripts. The other one should be in there, and I’m like, “Uh.” And I spent all day doing this. This is a whole-day project. And look, this could be a multiple week-long project if I don’t have the photographs on my computer, but because I’m just pulling up the jpegs, I’m examining them on a giant monitor. I can do it relatively quickly. So I have all but one and I’m thinking, “Oh, what do I do?”

Now, I’d read a couple of years ago that Guenzburg, or the State Library of Moscow, they entered into an agreement with the National Library of Israel. They said, “Look, we’re not going to give you these manuscripts even though you bought and paid for them, but we’ll agree to scan them if you pay for the scanning.” So on a hunch I say, “Okay. Maybe it’s been scanned.” I checked it a few months ago, it wasn’t there. I checked it yesterday, it was online. And I wrote to T-Bone and I said, “T-Bone, I need these images so I can quickly look through them.” This morning, I opened up my email and there are the images of both Guenzburg manuscripts, and I was able to complete the list. I’ve now checked every known Hebrew Matthew manuscript for Matthew 3:10, letter by letter, word by word, and literally, every letter.

Keith: Nehemia, and those that are listening, some of you… And I know we’re at 7, so we’ve been in the process back and forth. I’d like to tell them something, can I just tell them?

Nehemia: Sure.

Keith: We’re actually recording these in real time for us, because of a number of things that are happening, and I want to say how this is related to what you just told me. This morning, I got a letter from the doctor that’s over the pandemic issue regarding isolation or not isolation. And this morning, we woke up, my son and I got a letter saying, “Your son, Kyle, is released from isolation because he’s met these requirements.”

Nehemia: Wow.

Keith: Now, why am I bringing this up? There are things that are happening in real time for us. Now, you’re going to be listening to this in the future. But in real time, Nehemia, we’re going through pandemic issues, we’re going through computer issues, we’re going through manuscript issues, we’re going through all sorts of changes and it seems that Maestro is working it out for these things to be made available for our listeners. Here’s what I want to say to those of you listening right now. This is game-changing information that Nehemia is getting his hands on. [laughing] And I’m telling you, we’re going to be addressing a verse, if we can finally get into it, that really is… you said it’s the most… how did you say it - the most interesting or the most important?

Nehemia: The most interesting and maybe complex verse in all of Shem Tov’s Hebrew Matthew is Matthew chapter 3 verse 10.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: Interesting and complex from a textual perspective.

Keith: But what I wanted to say is, we have challenges, and the whole reason I brought that up about the pandemic is, I’ve been in a real struggle. We’re in a home studio…

Nehemia: Wait, so for those who don’t know what’s going on…

Keith: So what happens is my son, who’s an essential worker, comes down with Coronavirus, and not only Coronavirus, not only is it the virus, he has the disease, COVID-19. He starts having struggles breathing, everything you could imagine, folks. So we made a really big decision. He needed to come home, where my home studio is, and my wife, who is high-risk, needed to leave. So I’ve become Dr. COVID, helping my son, and at the same time, Nehemia and I determined that if we’re going to do this, we need to keep recording. If we needed to make a change, but we determined that that would happen. So today as we’re recording, which is upstairs where Kyle is, we found out that he gets to get out of isolation. So he got to leave the house while I come into the studio. [laughing]

Nehemia: Wait, so he’s out of quarantine? He’s no longer contagious or whatever they call that?

Keith: They’re saying that officially at this point, based on the symptom-based testing, they think he can move to the next phase, which is what we’re going to be doing here. But it allows me to come up here. My wife is happy. He’s out of the upstairs area, and I’m here talking to you. And you’re telling me you’re getting these things this morning. We’re getting a letter this morning.

Now, before we go on, folks, I have to say something. There have been some people wondering why we stop as we’re going. Each of the previous episodes, Nehemia, we have spent over an hour just on the first verse, and that was not planned. It was not programmed.

What it was, was giving language, history and context to the sections that we’re actually looking at. And it’s just by chance or coincidence that each of episode 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and now we’re to 7, potentially could take up the entire time. Now, we’ve got an argument, Nehemia and I. We’re going to read the first verse and maybe… [laughing]

Nehemia: [laughing] What I said is let’s do all of chapter 3 as one episode, because I don’t have enough to share. And then we can’t even get out of the first verse.

Keith: And folks, what we want to tell you, I just want to say this again. If you’re serious about studying the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, I know there are a lot of people out there that are claiming, rightly so, they’ve had access to George Howard’s manuscript. What we’re doing is taking everything that’s available, and Nehemia’s done a phenomenal job of gathering, as he’s told us in the past, these 28 manuscripts so we’re able to look at what’s available, and it really does change the game. So now, can we move onto the section we’re looking at?

Nehemia: Let’s do it. Let’s start. Let me read the first verse, verse 7.

Keith: Let me read the English verse, the NASV, if I can.

Nehemia: So this is the English translation of the Greek you’re reading?

Keith: Yes, the English translation of the Greek. Thank you so much. I’m using the NASV. We’ve already talked about John and verse 7 says, “But when he…” John, “saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers. Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” That’s the verse based on the Greek. Can you read the Hebrew?

Nehemia: All right. Now, I when we say “the Hebrew” [laughing]… There are different manuscripts, we have 28 manuscripts, and not all survive in this section. I believe it’s 21 that survive in this section. Let me read you from the text that essentially we compiled based on these 21 manuscripts. “Vaya’ar ki rabim me haPrushim be’la’az Pharisa’i u’min hatzedokim ba’u letfillato. Vayomer lahem livro’ach min ha ketzef le’atid lavoh me haEl.” “And he saw that many of the Pharisees in the foreign tongue, ‘Pharisai,’ and from the Sadducees came for his baptism,” or his immersion, “and he said to them to flee from the wrath that is to come from God.”

Now, the most interesting thing about this verse is the phrase, “which in the foreign tongue is Pharisai.” We talked about these, what are called “glosses”, and the hypothesis was, and is, that the gloss was originally written in the margin and then it was copied from the margin into the body of the text. And it was unclear - did Shem Tov when he copied this around the year 1380 already have these glosses in front of him and he just copied them mechanically? Or were these added later in the margin after Shem Tov, or maybe by Shem Tov himself, and then from the margin they migrated into the body of the text? That was our question.

It gets even more interesting, because in Howard’s text, based on the British Library manuscript and what he calls Manuscript C - so he knew about two manuscripts that are very similar - that family of manuscripts, that line of manuscripts, I actually know of five manuscripts. I mentioned four of them in my book, The Hebrew Yeshua Versus the Greek Jesus, because they all have the same reading in Matthew 23 - we’ll get to that when we get there - and I found a fifth one that I’m quite sure the other four were copied from, or at least it’s a complete manuscript, where the other four are not.

So the point is, in those five manuscripts it says, “And he saw many of the Pharisees, in the foreign tongue, Pharisai, and of the Pharisees.” [laughing] So it says “Pharisees” twice in Howard’s text, and in 5 of the 21 manuscripts.

Keith: Now, I’m going to tell you why, Nehemia, this is really, really, really important, just from those of us that have been using Howard. So I want to give folks just a little bit more of the context of this. So if you’re reading in Howard and even if you’re reading Howard’s text – this is important – so if I’m looking at Howard’s English, he fixes it. If I look at Howard’s text it says, “Pharisees,” really three times, because it says, “in the foreign language, Pharisees,” and then it says, “the Pharisees” again. Now, if I don’t have access to any other manuscripts, and if I’m not looking at his notes, by the way, reading his notes about the different manuscripts, I’m kind of stuck, right? I mean, that’s all I have.

Nehemia: Well, if you’re reading the Hebrew text you’re stuck. If you’re reading the English you might not even realize there’s a problem.

Keith: Right.

Nehemia: In other words, the Hebrew text says, “He saw many of the Pharisees, in the foreign tongue, Pharisees, and from the Pharisees.” So Pharisees is three times in this Hebrew text. And then he puts in parentheses, “and from the Sadducees.”

Keith: Right.

Nehemia: And then, when you look at his note on the bottom it tells you that other manuscripts besides British Library Manuscript C have instead of Pharisees, Sadducees. Obviously, that’s correct, right? In other words, obviously Shem Tov, or the original Matthew, whoever wrote this and copied it, originally had, “and he saw from the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” He wouldn’t say, “Pharisees” twice. So one of them is a scribal error. So there are two issues here. One is the gloss, which he says, “in the foreign tongue, Pharisees.” And the other is the scribal error, where instead of Sadducees, somebody wrote “Pharisees”. And that’s a common type of scribal error. It happens all the time in manuscripts.

Keith: But Nehemia… Now, here’s what I want to say to the folks again. If you’ve been tracking with us up to this point, if you’re up to episode 7, you kind of understand the significance of this. We’re inviting people, if I can say this without overwhelming them, they’re watching text criticism, are they not?

Nehemia: Well, what we’re really doing is trying to understand the ancient texts. We have all these manuscripts. We could pretend and say, “Hey, this is what it says in the original, authenticated Hebrew Matthew.” But we have different manuscripts. We’re trying to let you decide for yourself. I’m saying that obviously it’s a scribal error. You could disagree with me and say, “Originally, it said, ‘and from the Pharisees and the Pharisees.’”

Keith: If somebody could come up with some theory for the reason it says “Pharisees” three times? It’s because it’s trying to say something. [laughing]

Nehemia: No, absolutely. There are people who say that.

Keith: Yeah, absolutely.

Keith: And you could say, “No, the words in the foreign tongue, ‘Pharisees’, is original. Matthew was writing both to the Hebrew audience and to the Greek audience,” or some other language, right? It’s not Greek, in this case. To me, this is talking about a game changer. As I’m looking through these different manuscripts, I notice that there’s a copy of Shem Tov’s Hebrew Matthew in St. Petersburg, Russia. Now, there are two major libraries in St. Petersburg. I didn’t fully understand this till I went to St. Petersburg this past summer. I knew there were two libraries. But to realize they’re completely different libraries that kind of don’t speak to each other, [laughing] they’re rivals, essentially. And here’s where it’s confusing. One of them is called The Russian National Library, Department of Oriental Manuscripts. When they say “Oriental”, they mean what they consider to be Oriental languages, which includes Hebrew and Arabic and Turkish. So this is the Department of Oriental Manuscripts. They have the Leningrad Codex. I spent two weeks there this past summer, and I got to actually see the Leningrad Codex…

Keith: My favorite.

Nehemia: …nearly the final day, the second to last day, they finally took it out and let me spend five hours with it.

Now, while I was there two weeks looking at other manuscripts, this woman comes, and she asks to see the Hebrew Matthew that they have there, and she was a Russian woman talking to them in Russian. And they said, “This woman’s crazy. There’s no Hebrew Matthew. Matthew was written in Greek. Why are you asking for the Matthew in Hebrew? We don’t have anything like that.” Remember, [laughing] the Department of Oriental Manuscripts.

And so they go and they ask the colleague who had brought me there, and he doesn’t know anything about it, so he says, “Let’s ask Nehemia.” They ask me, I’m like, “Yeah. That’s across town at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts.” [laughing] So you have the Department of Oriental Manuscripts, and the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, which is part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and they’re two rival organizations and I tell them, “Yeah, it’s manuscript A207. It’s across town. A couple of days ago, I asked to see it and they wouldn’t let me see it. But yeah, it’s over there across town, at the other library.”

Keith: [laughing] Oh, boy. So Nehemia, now okay, I don’t want to push you too far, but can we talk for just a minute now about this verse, just a little bit more?

Nehemia: Oh wait, but I want to talk about what I found in A207, which is in the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, not the Department of Oriental Manuscripts. So I went to the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts. I only spent one day there… well, no. I went to it twice, so I spent two days there. The first time I went there, I asked to see a completely different manuscript. And it’s actually an important Tanakh manuscript, and they said, “We can’t show it to you. It’s impossible.” They had all kinds of reasons why they couldn’t show it to me. Finally, they let me see it for a few minutes, but I’m not allowed to take any photographs. At that point I’m like, “Okay.” I spent essentially, the whole afternoon trying to get in to see this manuscript. I got in to see things visually, but wasn’t able to document them the way I wanted to. I went back there a second time and was able not only to see it but get photographs. But to be honest with you, it was so difficult to get to see this Tanakh manuscript, I didn’t want to push my luck and also demand to see the A207, which was a Hebrew Matthew manuscript. Hopefully, on a future trip I’ll be able to see that.

But I have black and white photographs of that manuscript that I got from the National Library of Israel from the basement. And in the black and white photograph, you can see in the margin… So first of all, in the body of the text there’s a little circle. It says, “And he saw many of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees coming for his immersion.” And the word “Pharisees” has a little circle, and then you go to the margin and you see, “in the foreign tongue, Pharizeus.” So remember how we talked about it was hypothesized - we hypothesized and others have hypothesized - that these were marginal glosses that migrated into the body of the text?

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: So in the St. Petersburg manuscript of the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts A207, it’s still in the margin of the text! So that shows you it’s something that was written by some scribe as it was being copied, and that scribe said, “Hey, we want our readers to be able to interact with Christians, and they don’t know what Prushim are. ‘Prushim’ is the Hebrew. So let’s write ‘Pharizeus’,” which is the Greek word, or some other European language they’re trying to express here, “so that when we interact with the Christians they’ll know what we’re talking about, because when we say, ‘Prushim’ they’ll have no idea what we’re talking about.”

So what we hypothesized turns out to be confirmed. Now, the manuscript at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts in St. Petersburg is a brother of a second manuscript, the one we talked about in the Open Door Series. It was a manuscript that was originally at the Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau. Today, that is Wroclaw, Poland. But Breslau was the center of Jewish intellectual academic learning up until Kristallnacht, when it was destroyed by the Nazis, burned to the ground. Many of the manuscripts from that collection survived, and one of those is this Shem Tov’s Hebrew Matthew manuscript. The reason I say these two manuscripts are brothers - that is, the St. Petersburg manuscript of Hebrew Matthew and the Breslau manuscript - is they both include in addition to Shem Tov’s Hebrew Matthew, they also include Mark, Luke and John in Hebrew in a version that is essentially identical to what is known as the “Catalan Hebrew Gospels”, and that’s also known from the Vatican manuscript, EBR100. Up until now, that’s been the only known manuscript. I discovered these other two manuscripts of the Catalan version.

So essentially, the Breslau manuscript and the St. Petersburg manuscripts, one was copied from the other or they were both copied from a common source that remains to be determined. But the same as we found in the St. Petersburg manuscript, the Breslau manuscript also has in the margin, “Velos Pharieus”, and it’s in the margin, so these are clearly marginal glosses as you read them within the body of the text. It’s saying, “In the foreign tongue.” Why would Matthew write, “In the foreign tongue?” [laughing] He wouldn’t. It’s clearly marginal glosses, and they’re still preserved in the margin in two of the manuscripts.

Keith: Unbelievable.

Nehemia: This proves definitively that we’re dealing here with glosses that would be normally written in the margin.

Keith: Now, folks. Here’s the thing. This is episode number 7, based on the tool that we’ve been working with. And again, Nehemia is able to go beyond the tool because he’s finding other manuscripts that give us other witnesses to other things that are going on. But based on the tool that we’ve had, which gives us the vowel points within the consonants, we have an interlinear that’s available for those of you that are listening to our Plus episode. You are able to get that, you have access to that information, which gives you the Hebrew word and then with an English equivalent the best that we can, closely to it.

Now, Nehemia, I’m going to try to reel you in on something. I’m going to let you know ahead of time, I’m going to try to reel you in. Can I read a verse?

Nehemia: Okay. Please.

Keith: Chapter 3 verse 7, well I already did. “He saw many of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” We figured this out. He meant “Pharisees and Sadducees”. So for a long, long time, I was taught a long time ago that how I could know the difference between the Pharisees and the Sadducees was this cute little thing that they taught me.

Nehemia: Uh-oh, here we go.

Keith: They say that the Pharisees were people that were kind of based on - in my terms now, back in those times - they were based on the law. And those were people who were really, really concerned about the law, whether it be written or oral. These people are focused on the law. And then, the Sadducees were the ones who didn’t believe in resurrection, they didn’t believe in angels. And so they said, “Keith, here’s how you can remember the difference between the two. ‘The Pharisees are fair, you see, because the law is fair. And the Sadducees are sad, you see, because they don’t believe in the resurrection.’” Now, Nehemia, could you just give us a little bit more beyond the cute little…

Nehemia: Oh, my.

Keith: …understanding of who the Pharisees and the Sadducees were? We can’t go beyond. [laughing]

Nehemia: That’s really what you were taught?

Keith: No, no, I’m telling you.

Nehemia: Okay. So I was told about the Sadducees, and I was taught that they…

Keith: I’m sorry, when I say “taught”, I mean before education. I’m talking about back in the days when I first…

Nehemia: No, I understand, when you were still…

Keith: Who were these people in Matthew chapter 3, Pharisees and Sadducees? They’re fair, they’re fair and sad…

Nehemia: So I didn’t know about them from the New Testament because I hadn’t read the New Testament when I was a child. But I knew about them from the Talmud. The Talmud talks about the Sadducees as being “people who follow only the written Torah and not the oral Torah.” And look, I’m a Karaite and I follow only the written Torah and not the oral Torah, so I identified as a Sadducee.

As I read more and studied more, I realized, “Okay, Sadducees was one expression of following the Tanakh only.” You can say that Sadducees were a Karaite-type sect. I don’t consider myself a Sadducee because I do believe in the resurrection of the dead. I believe in angels. I would say that Sadducees are to Karaites what Methodists are to Protestants - meaning you have Protestants that range everything from Evangelical Southern Baptists to Seventh Day Adventist Branch Davidians, right? That’s a huge array. It’s such a big array, the one group will say to the other group, “You’re not actually Christians,” literally. But they are within the definition of Protestant that I think someone from the outside would apply. And I would say Sadducees were a Karaite-type movement made up primarily of priests.

Keith: There we go.

Nehemia: In other words, their name “Sadducee” is they attributed their ancestry to Zadok, who was the High Priest in the time of Solomon. And then, in the book of Ezekiel, chapter 44, it talks about how the Levites, the sons of Zadok, were loyal to God when others turned away from His Torah. So naturally they said, “Well, Ezekiel’s talking about us, and we are literally descendants from Zadok. So the children of Zadock, so Ezekiel literally is talking about us.” Whether he was or not, that’s a discussion for a different time.

In contrast, the Pharisees - the name “Pharisee” means “those who separate themselves from the people.” Lifrosh is to separate yourself for holiness, so they separated themselves from the people based on… We’ll talk about it more when we get to Matthew 15, I think, if we get to Matthew 15.

Keith: Somebody say, “When we get to Matthew 15.” [laughing]

Nehemia: When we get to… And also Matthew 5, maybe we’ll talk about it a little bit there, as well, certain aspects of it. The fundamental definition of the Pharisees is people who believe not only in the written Torah but also the Oral Torah. They believe that the words you see in black and white in the Five Books of Moses are only the tip of the iceberg. And the iceberg itself is this Oral Torah that explains what those words mean. They claim the Oral Torah goes back to Moses on Mount Sinai. I don’t believe that. I believe sometimes they have very ancient traditions. Some of those traditions actually predate the Torah, and I said that right – they predate the Torah. Sometimes, the tradition the Pharisees preserved is the exact thing the Torah is teaching against. But we’ll get to that.

So the Pharisees had these traditions they follow. The Sadducees say, “What’s written in the Book.” So why didn’t the Sadducees believe in resurrection of the dead? Or at least resurrection of the dead as Christians and Pharisees understood it? Probably because resurrection of the dead is not mentioned in the Five Books of Moses. We read it about it in Isaiah. We read about it in Daniel. They believed in Isaiah and Daniel. They probably understood those verses metaphorically, and they probably said… We don’t know, because we don’t have, really, their writings. We have things that maybe were written by similar groups but not the Sadducees themselves. But they probably said, “Oh, yeah. That’s just a metaphor,” similar to Reform Judaism today.

Now, I was talking just the other day with a Jewish gentleman, someone who was raised in Dallas, Texas, and we were talking about the different denominations of Christians. He said, “Well, I was always told…” He was a Jewish man with a thick, Southern accent. He said, “I was always told it’s the Catholics that were the most religious and the Protestants were kind of liberal, don’t take the Bible seriously.”

And I’m like, “Well, I mean, within Protestants you probably do have people who are liberal and don’t take the Bible seriously, but you also have Evangelicals who, by their definition at least, claim to take the Bible seriously.” I know you have people who actually live by what the Bible says. Many of the people in the audience here, they say, “Hey, if the Bible says something, we’re going to do our best to live by that. It hasn’t been done away with.”

So the point is, you have this wide array of people all under one single general umbrella, to the point where they would even say within that umbrella, “Well, you’re not actually even a true Christian, and you’re not a true Christian.” I know Evangelicals will say that about a lot of very liberal denominations. So from the outside you could say, “Well, the Sadducees were a Karaite-like sect.” And there were Karaites in the Middle Ages who didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead. They’re mentioned as sort of an aberration, right? Like, “Wow, there are people who interpret the Bible in all kinds of weird ways. There are even these Karaites who don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, right?” It’s the exception to the rule, really. So Sadducees were a group in Second Temple times who followed the written Torah and consisted of priests. There was a whole other group of people called “the multitudes”. Some of those multitudes aligned with the Pharisees, some of them aligned with just simply reading the Bible. He doesn’t talk here… well, he does actually talk about the “chaverot”, we’ll get to those.

But there’s one group of multitudes who I would say are much closer to me as a Karaite than the Sadducees, and that group of multitudes, we’re told in the Talmud it says, “Who is an am ha’aretz?“Am ha’aretz” is the Hebrew word for “the multitude”. It literally means, “people of the land”, but it’s also used as pejorative. When you call someone an “am ha’aretz” you really mean, “he’s an ignoramus.” It’s like saying in Greek, “He’s a hoi polloi.” But it says, “Who are the multitudes, who are the am ha’aretz?” And one definition is, people who have read Scripture and read it a second time but don’t serve the rabbis. Meaning, they don’t study under the rabbis and accept their definitions and their interpretations. In that case, if I had to identify with one of the groups in the Second Temple period it wouldn’t be Sadducees, it would be the am ha’aretz.

Keith: Wonderful.

Nehemia: And here, they’re called the “chavurot”, the “multitudes”.

Keith: Now, here comes the question which we did discuss just a little bit, folks. Bear with us. And the question was, there’s a shift as we’re reading in English, as we’re reading in Hebrew. This is a different section. It says that “when he saw many of them coming,” in English, and he specifically talks about these two groups. And I ask this question, why call out these two groups specifically? In other words, is there something that’s being said about these two groups that John wants to address?

Nehemia: That’s a really important question. Josephus talks about the different Jewish movements and he says there are three main movements. The third one isn’t mentioned in the New Testament. There’s the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes. There are a lot of scholars who assume that the Essenes aren’t mentioned because the people writing the book are the Essenes, and the Pharisees and the Sadducees are the other. Now that we have the writings of the Essenes, I think we can say with confidence that the people writing the New Testament were not Essenes. We have the Dead Sea Scrolls.

They do refer to a man called “the teacher of righteousness”, but he lived sometime in the BCs, sometime around 100, 200 BC, probably during the time of John Hyrcanus or Alexander Jannaeus, which puts him, let’s call it 75 BC approximately, but he could have been earlier. It’s not so clear. Some of this history is a bit confused. It’s confused because they’re taking some verse from the Bible and saying, “This refers to such-and-such in the life of the teacher of righteousness.” He is not Yeshua, the teacher of righteousness of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He’s a completely different character who had all kinds of interesting teachings that I think Yeshua would have looked askance at, certainly based on what we know from the New Testament about Yeshua.

So the Pharisees and the Sadducees were the two great intellectual movements in Jerusalem, and the Essenes were probably the third great intellectual movement outside of Jerusalem. They were essentially banished from Jerusalem and they lived out in the desert, and they had centers all over the country. But their main area was the Judean Desert, specifically Qumran and that area. So the Pharisees and Sadducees are worthy of mention here because it talks about people coming from Jerusalem. And you’ve got the masses coming from Jerusalem, and you can dismiss the masses and say, “Well, they’re a bunch of ignoramuses.” In fact, the word for “am ha’aretz” means “ignoramus” in Pharisaic usage, at least. And to this day, you call someone an “am ha’aretz”, you mean he’s an ignoramus.

So we’ve got the people coming who maybe they don’t know any better so they’re being tricked by John - that’s the message. Even the Pharisees and Sadducees are coming, and these aren’t ignorant people. These are people who study Scripture at depth. You could disagree with their interpretations, but these are masters of the Scripture who have studied it and expounded it and teach it. And even the teachers are coming, that’s kind of what the message is here.

Keith: Now, the reason that I asked that question is partly, and I don’t want to be unfair, but it’s partly because of what we do when we get to the end of this section, and a really, really important diversion from Greek and English that takes place in Hebrew Matthew that for me absolutely connects back even to these two groups, asking a question, why are they coming? So we’re going to talk about that, Nehemia, but I really wanted to take some time to establish about these two groups in the context of them being in the larger group that’s coming. And so we’ve got Essenes maybe, connection maybe, John came from the community, maybe he had some interaction with that community.

Nehemia: I doubt that, but okay.

Keith: It’s possible.

Nehemia: Some of the core things of the Essenes we don’t see there...

Keith: But here’s the thing. Whatever was happening, we’ve got the kingdoms around. We’ve got the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the people, all coming to this particular place and listening to what John’s saying. So to me, like I said, he got another stripe on his… [laughing]

Nehemia: Well, John throws us a curve ball, because we just said the chavurot, the am ha’aretz, the people of the land, the multitudes or ignoramuses in the eyes of the intellectual elite. And then the intellectual elite shows up, the teachers. And instead of John saying, “Wow! You guys now have accepted my teaching and repented. I’m important now, because even the Pharisees and the Sadducees come to me.” Instead he says, “You brood of vipers!”

Keith: [laughing] He goes after them.

Nehemia: He says, “I’m not impressed by you guys. I don’t even know if you can repent.” Like, “You might be beyond repentance.” That is a curve ball, because in the culture of this period, if the Pharisees come to study under John, well, John must be some great teacher. People come to the Pharisees, they don’t come to other people. I just want to stop for a second and get some perspective here, like what is the quantity of people we’re talking about?

So Josephus talks about how there was this uprising against Herod. And Herod agreed not to wipe out the Pharisees if every Pharisee would pay a tax. Now, you know when people are paying tax, somebody was keeping record. And he gives the number of Pharisees at that time as 1,500. Now, let’s say that’s 1,500 heads of household, let’s call it 15,000 people - that’s really generous, it’s probably less - let’s call it 15,000 people. At a time when the Land of Israel, according to the scholars, archaeologists who studied this and estimate it, the Land of Israel had something like 1.5 million Jews, there are 15,000 Pharisees. I doubt there were 15,000 Sadducees, because they were primarily these close-knit family of priests. Let’s say there were 15,000. 30,000 people make up the entire population of the Pharisees and the Sadducees in a country with one-and-a-half million Jews. We’re not talking about the Gentiles who maybe were another million, I don’t know, including the Samaritans, were probably another couple of million. So, 30,000 people, and this group is worth of note, because people come to study under them. Paul says, “I sat at the feet of Gamaliel,” and they’re coming to John and instead of John saying, “Gamaliel sat at my feet and I baptized him,” he’s saying, “Pfff - these guys?” [laughing]

And that’s later contrasted, which we’ll get to in the next episode, with how he responds to Yeshua, right? That’s the point of this story!

Keith: Exactly.

Nehemia: Multitudes come, “Okay, the multitudes. Well, they don’t know any better.” The Pharisees and the Sadducees come, whoa!

Keith: So the question…

Nehemia: Not “Whoa” but “You brood of vipers!”

Keith: [laughing] You said it again. Can you read the verse in Hebrew?

Nehemia: Well, so in the British Library manuscript it doesn’t have “brood of vipers”. And in Manuscript C - remember there’s this family of manuscripts that Howard tentatively identified two of them, I’ve identified three more - it doesn’t have that part of the verse. So let’s first read it in the British Library version, and then we’ll read it in the other version.

So he has “Asu pri teshuva hashlema.” And what does that mean? It’s a good question. It means something like - again, two different versions - it could be, “Produce the complete fruit of repentance,” or, depending on how you read it, it could also be, “Produce the fruit of complete repentance.” Now compare that to the Greek which has something like, “Produced fruit worthy of repentance.”

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: So “Produce the complete fruit of repentance” or “the fruit of complete repentance,” kind of the same thing. But that whole thing about “brood of vipers” isn’t in those two manuscripts, the British Library and Manuscript C. And the basic text that he’s using is the British Library Manuscript. So Manuscripts D and G and A have some form of this brood of vipers, right? So it’s three of his nine manuscripts. A has “shoresh p’tanim”, which is literally, “root of vipers”. And then D and G have, “zera taninim”, which could actually be translated, “seed of crocodiles”, but it could also be some kind of snakes.

Now, here’s the interesting thing. Manuscripts D and G, what they’re doing, I think it’s pretty clear, is they’re saying, “Wait a minute. There’s something here missing from the Greek.” And so they go and they back-translate the Greek into Hebrew. Manuscript A might be the smoking gun. What Manuscript A has, is he has these words, “root of vipers”. And later in verse 10 we have something about a root. And it’s possible that we had a scribal error, it’s kind of a complex scribal error. I’m inclined to think the original Hebrew Matthew didn’t have the whole brood of vipers thing.

Long story short, the Hebrew Matthew, what seems to be the authentic tradition of the text, doesn’t have “brood of vipers”. That appears in Manuscript A, I’m not sure where he gets it from, but then Manuscript D and G are definitely back-translating it from the Greek. So he just says, “Produce the complete fruit of repentance.”

Can we talk about verse 9 before we take a break… Oh, no, or do we have to stop now?

Keith: Well, it’s up to you. I mean.

Nehemia: I want to do verse 9.

Keith: Good.

Nehemia: I’ll do it really quick. I think verse 9 is an incredible pearl. It’s a profound pearl. Actually, can you read the English of NASB verse 9?

Keith: Verse 8, “bringing forth fruit and keeping with repentance” is what it says in the English. “And do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” Now, I mean, you can’t just quickly do this. Are you kidding me?

Nehemia: Okay. So no, I think this is too important. We’ll save this for the next part. There are two things here that are really important. One is, there’s a play on words in the Hebrew that’s not in the Greek. And number two is the fundamental message is actually quite different.

Keith: Completely.

Nehemia: And the fundamental message is very consistent with Hebrew thought. When I read the Greek, I’m like, “What is he talking about? It doesn’t make any sense. The Hebrew makes sense.”

Keith: I’m going to actually make a suggestion, Nehemia. You’re probably not going to go for this. I mean, I’m going to tell you something. There is so much in this study that we’ve been doing. Folks, we still are scratching the surface, and that’s partly why we don’t want to just do a little part and then run past and then someone says, “They said…” No. If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do justice to it. So what Plus also does is it helps us to do justice based on the information we have. So Nehemia, should we invite our friends to meet us? And again, you say there’s something else you want to talk about that’s a game-changer in the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew?

Nehemia: Well, verse 10 is huge. But verse 9 is also really interesting.

Keith: Verse 9 for me, it stopped me in my tracks, by the way. I’ll just tell you that. It stopped me in my tracks when I was reading it in Hebrew Matthew.

Nehemia: So verse 9 I think is a very important verse. And the message there in the Hebrew is, you know, profoundly different. But verse 10 actually has ramifications for how you understand all of Matthew, Mark and Luke and their relationship with each other.

Keith: Amen. So if they’re serious, they want to meet us in the Plus section, is that what you’re saying?

Nehemia: Yeah. And this episode’s going to be on your website, is that right?

Keith: Okay. So we’re on an odd number, 1, 3, 5 and 7, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16… I’m hoping that we’re going to keep going! [laughing] It’s going to be at nehemiaswall. Let’s talk about this just for a second.

Nehemia: All right. Again, so the odd numbers are at bfainternational.com. The even numbers of the Plus are at nehemiaswall.com.

Keith: And what we mean by that is this first episode is available everywhere on YouTube, Facebook, nehemiaswall.com, bfainternational.com. You don’t have to register. You don’t have to do anything. You can watch it. If you’re serious, if you want to go further, there are two reasons that we’re doing this. First reason primarily is for those of you already supporting us at bfainternational. That means that you’re a Premium Content Library supporter, which gives you access to everything that we do, including Hebrew Gospel Pearls Plus.

And what that’s basically also doing for us is it’s keeping the ministry going so we can continue to do what we do. So this Plus episode that we’re about to go into, and I love that… I mean, I’m overwhelmed myself at what we’ve found in the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew. Come on over to bfainternational, become a Premium Content Library member. You’ll have access to everything. You’ll also get access to our interlinear, which has the Hebrew words with vowels and English equivalent there, and with the translation, a very loose translation. It takes a little bit of creativity back and forth. So that’s available at bfainternational.com. And if you want to hear the previous episodes Plus, what do they do, Nehemia?

Nehemia: So like we said, the odd numbers are at bfainternational.com. The even numbers are at nehemiaswall.com.

Keith: Okay, awesome.

Nehemia: All right. Can we end in prayer?

Keith: Absolutely. I’ll pray first, then you pray. Father, thank you so much for all of the work that’s been done, the study, the hours and hours, the digging and searching.

Nehemia: Yes.

Keith: Father, I’m especially thankful for this information that You’ve given Nehemia access to, not only through computer and online, but the times that he’s flown to these different places to get his hands on these manuscripts and how it just brings so much validity to this process of discovery, finding these pearls, bringing them to the surface so that our friends all over the world can get a chance to have a perspective of language, history and context regarding the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew. Thank you so much for this opportunity.

Nehemia: Yehovah, Avinu shebashamayim, Yehovah our Father in Heaven, I come before You as an am ha’aretz, as one of the people of the land, one of those multitudes who has read Scripture and studied it again. But I will never let Your word be overridden by the words of men, by the words of teachers, no matter how learned and scholarly. Your word will always prevail.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: You send it forth and it produces fruit. Let it produce fruit in the heart of everyone who’s listening, including me. Amen.

Keith: Amen.

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10 thoughts on “Hebrew Gospel Pearls #7 – Matthew 3:7-12

  1. Thank you again Nehemia and Keith for an excellent and “game changing” study. The information about chapter 3 verse seven missing the phrases of route of fibers and warning to flee from the wrath of God wrath to come completely changes the meaning to me. If these phrases were never written in the original Matthew it seems that their insertion is basically giving someone a faults bad report, that is sharing gossip. I could not tell from your discussion whether you thought they were original or added later. It seem like a rather long passage to be skipped over by a scribe. What are your thoughts? Was this passage which basically condemns the Jewish authorities of the time added later by the antijewish third century church leaders?

  2. I so appreciate you digging down and finding errors, corrections and corrections in error. The one document that really triggered my interest is the Declaration of Independence. It has an error that almost everybody misses. “unalienable” should actually be “inalienable”. But then, the flow of words would feel different. Keep up the good work. This series is as fascinating as the ‘Pearls’ series.

  3. Matthew 11:11 does not say that John was greater than all the other prophets and Jesus himself. Jesus says that among these men in the past there was none greater. In other words, all these men were in the class of great men of faith (like Hebrews 11). Some of the followers of John the Baptist in the great Temple debate tried to turn these words to make John the greatest of all prophets ever, including Moses and Jesus. But that is not what the words of Matt 11 say. See Clement’s Recognitions chap 60. John risked his life to return from Parthia in Parthian clothes (camel-hair and with a black belt) to proclaim repentance (not revenge) among those who may have been responsible for the death of his father Zacharias and family and thousands of other great and faithful people (who died under Herod in the subsequent War of Varus). He must be acclaimed as among the bravest, most fearless and strongest followers of the true God.

  4. Well, Nehemia, you should be compiling the necessary content for your earned–not honorary–Ph.D. Dissertation and….title: PhD Gordon. Helpful Matthew 3:10 Table/Chart too: Tables like this assist my right-sided brain when juggling all the left-sided info. Your ‘calling’ is obvious.

    More than a great job. Thanks!

  5. I have a question regarding the Pharisees. One thing that Nehemia talks about in his book The Hebrew Yeshua vs. The Greek Jesus is how the Pharisees take passages of Scripture out of context and come up wild interpretations of the text in their midrashes. This is definitely true about the Rabbis from the Mishnaic and Rabbinical periods but is this true about the first century Pharisees. I was recently reading in The Moody Handbook Of Messianic Prophecy, p. 110-111, when it was dealing with the possibility whether the NT uses midrashic method in its messianic “fulfilment” passages. It ruled out this possibility by citing a scholar named David Instone-Brewer in his book Techniques and Assumptions in Jewish Exegesis before 70 C.E. , p. 167 and 169, who said that in his examination of pre-AD 70 “protorabbinic exegesis” that,”Every single scribal exegesis examined could be quoted as an example to show that Scripture was interpreted according to its context,” and that the first century Jewish interpreters were concerned with discovering,”the primary or plain sense of the text.” Nehemia, is this an accurate summary? Do the quotations attributed to first century Rabbis in the Talmud and other Rabbinical sources really only try to discover the plain meaning of Scripture?

    • Just to add that the “Holy Spirit” (lit. “Spirit of Holiness”) is merely a title of God the Father, just as “Holy Father”, “Holy One”, etc. – it is not a separate person floating around beside Yehovah.

      John pointed to the repentance which humanity is called to do: Acts 2:38.

    • Thanks for the reply in the email Devorah. The washing of the hands commandment is definitely found no where in Scripture so the Pharisees have to be taking Scripture out of context.
      I’ve been taking a look at the Jewish Exegesis book at academia.edu and I have found some interesting things about the book. What I have found is that the Messianic Prophecy Handbook I have seems to misinterpret the scholar. The scholar actually says in p. 168 of his book that he identified at most 5 different passages that take Scripture out of its “plain contextual meaning” but do “not ignore the context itself.” I’ve looked at some of the book’s analysis of different Rabbinic passages and what I found sheds light in what the scholar was actually arguing. In pages 65 and 66 the author is addressing the two Torah theology of the Pharisees from the Babylonian Talmud, Sabbath 31a and what the scholar points out is that the Pharisees use Deut. 33:10 (“They shall teach your rules to Jacob and your Instruction to Israel…”[LGV]) as proof of two Torahs. They consider “rules” and “Instruction” to be referring to the written and oral Torahs as the scholar points out. So what I have found about this scholar is that he’s arguing that before 70 A.D. the Pharisees may have come up with wild interpretations of Scripture, but they were concerned about arguing from the context of Scripture (often not the whole context) instead of trying to find hidden or secondary meanings. It would kind of be like if I were to argue that there are two gods because the Sons of Korah in Ps. 42:2 [3] say that their souls thirst for God and the living God. I’m here concerned with what the overall context of the verse is but I’m coming up with a wild interpretaiton of the text.
      Thanks again Devorah for your email.
      Yehovah bless you.

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