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[Synoptic-L] Jesus changed his name?

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  • Yuri Kuchinsky
    Greetings, friends. While I haven t posted to Synoptic-L for a while, I ve actually checked on the discussions when I could, and enjoyed quite a few of them.
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 26, 2000
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      Greetings, friends.

      While I haven't posted to Synoptic-L for a while, I've actually checked on
      the discussions when I could, and enjoyed quite a few of them. But now
      this discussion of Jesus name change prompts me to add my 2c worth.

      In reply to Rick's question, I would like to report that some traditions
      of Jesus changing his name, and perhaps taking a religiously-inspired
      name, are known. According to Tol'doth Yeshu anti-gospel (written in
      Hebrew), Jesus' original name was Yehoshua. Later, when he "became a
      heretic", his name was changed to Yeshu. Further on, Tol'doth Yeshu, true
      to its character, supplies a derogatory pun in Hebrew to account for this
      name change. While admittedly this is a hostile witness, still Tol'doth
      Yeshu account may have been based on some historical source.

      Interestingly enough, another account of a name change for Jesus is
      supplied by the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew as preserved by Shem-Tob (See
      George Howard, THE HEBREW GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, 1995, p. 207). According to
      this Hebrew text of Mt, in the birth narrative (1:21; 1:25) Jesus is named
      Yeshua, an alternate form of Yehoshua. Elsewhere in the text he is Yeshu.

      Some scholars suggested that Shem-Tob's Mt is based in part on Tol'doth
      Yeshu, although, like so much else about this text, this may be uncertain.

      Best regards,


      Yuri Kuchinsky | Toronto | http://www.trends.ca/~yuku/bbl/bbl.htm

      Biblical history list http://www.egroups.com/group/loisy - unmoderated

      The goal proposed by Cynic philosophy is apathy, which is
      equivalent to becoming God -=O=- Julian
    • Yuri Kuchinsky
      PRIMITIVE Mt, OR BRINGING PEACE TO THE DISPUTE Re: HMt Dear friends, The Hebrew Gospel of Matthew as preserved by Shem-Tob (HMt) has been discussed on various
      Message 2 of 2 , Jan 27, 2000
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        Dear friends,

        The Hebrew Gospel of Matthew as preserved by Shem-Tob (HMt) has been
        discussed on various mailing lists recently. Some scholars (after Howard)
        believe that it may be substantially an ancient text. And yet others
        (after Petersen) argue that it was a medieval translation into Hebrew. It
        is not the purpose of this article to take sides on this issue, or to
        argue for antiquity of HMt. To the contrary, what I will be trying to do
        here is to bring peace to this controversy. In fact, I will attempt to
        find some kind of a middle ground between these two points of view, and to
        work on this basis.

        Both George Howard and William Petersen are distinguished and highly
        respected scholars. Both have done a huge amount of research in this area.
        So I will try to make only the arguments that may find common ground
        between their respective positions re HMt.

        Let me remind that Petersen argues that HMt is a medieval translation
        based on some lost and otherwise unattested, possibly Old Latin, gospel
        circulating in medieval Europe. He finds support for this theory primarily
        in the numerous parallels that he tries to identify between HMt and
        various medieval diatessaronic witnesses such as the Liege Harmony.

        It is reasonably well agreed upon that the Liege Harmony was based on a
        Latin gospel harmony of some sort. Or perhaps on a harmonistic Latin
        gospel of some sort. Petersen writes in his article for TC Electronic

        "But because of the high number of agreements with the Liege Harmony, many
        of them unique, the tradition behind the Liege Harmony--which we know to
        be a Latin gospel harmony must also be the principal element responsible
        for the textual complexion of Shem-Tob's Hebrew Matthew: it explains the
        Vetus Syra readings, it explains the Vetus Latina readings, it explains
        the Thomas readings, it explains the harmonizations, it explains the
        Johannine fragments, it explains the many parallels with the rest of the
        Western medieval harmonized gospel tradition (with, e.g., the Venetian
        Harmony, Codex Cassellanus, etc.)."

        So Petersen thinks that a Latin textual tradition behind the Liege Harmony
        may account for the origins of HMt. And further on, Petersen suggests that
        an unusual Latin gospel of Matthew (similar perhaps to the medieval
        Velasquez's Arabic Mt) may have existed in medieval Spain, and featured
        harmonistic readings similar to Diatessaron, and that it may have served
        as a basis for HMt.

        All this is very interesting. If, indeed, HMt is the only surviving
        textual witness to some otherwise unknown medieval Latin gospel of Mt
        featuring many highly interesting and possibly quite ancient readings, as
        also reflected in Diatessaron, then we should be very grateful to Prof.
        Howard for translating and publishing this text.

        And also some other evidence to this effect is now available in the
        article by J. V. Niclos, O.P., _L'Evangile en hebreu de Shem Tob Ibn
        Shaprut: Une traduction d'origine judo-catalane due a un converti,
        replacee dans son *Sitz im Leben*_, in Revue Biblique 106-3 (July 1999,
        pp. 358-407).

        According to Niclos, a medieval Catalan gospel exists that parallels some
        of the highly unusual pericope divisions or introductory formulas found
        in HMt version of the Sermon on the Mount. Until now these pericope
        divisions and introductory formulas were thought to have been unique (cf.
        Howard, 1995:200).

        (These pericope divisions/introductory formulas in the Catalan text are as
        follows, according to Niclos, 5:1, 13, 17, 20, 25, 31, 43; 6:2, 5.

        In the Hebrew text they are as follows, 5:2, 13, 17, 20, 25, 27, 31, 43;
        6:2, 5, 16, 19, 24; 7:6, 13, 15, 24.)

        To explain, Howard demonstrates in his book in some detail that,

        "When the sayings in Luke are placed alongside their parallels in the
        Hebrew text of Mt 5-7, a pattern emerges. Every time the Hebrew is
        interrupted by words "Jesus said to his disciples" or "He said to them",
        Luke, without exception, jumps to a different place in his gospel, or has
        a void." 200

        So now this unusual feature is also partly attested in a presumably Latin
        based medieval gospel. Surely this is an important finding, the full
        explanation of which may cast considerable light on the Q hypothesis, and
        on the editorial activities, strategies, and sources of the author of

        What we may conclude from all the above so far is that a very interesting
        and possibly ancient textual tradition existed in medieval Europe that was
        reflected both in various Latin based gospel harmonies, and in some sort
        of a separate Matthean textual tradition. Also it seems like HMt is a
        valuable witness to this otherwise lost tradition. If this unusual textual
        Matthean tradition is indeed ancient, surely this will be very important
        new evidence for the solution to the Synoptic problem.

        Now, it may be appropriate at this point to consider the background and
        nature of Diatessaron. William Petersen is of course one of the leading
        scholars in this field. According to him, Diatessaron often preserves very
        ancient readings that may clarify the history of composition of the

        Tatian's Diatessaron is a gospels harmony that was composed, as generally
        believed, ca 172. It seems to contain readings from all 4 canonical
        gospels, and to harmonise them. But was Diatessaron created by Tatian ex
        nihilo? It doesn't seem to be this way.

        Let's not forget that Tatian (ca 120-180?) was a disciple of Justin Martyr
        (100-165), and that it is generally agreed that Justin already possessed
        some sort of a harmony text. It is important to note that Diatessaron
        evidences some unique parallels with the texts as found in Justin Martyr's
        gospel citations, and with variant readings in other very early gospel
        citations. So a harmonistic gospel of some sort is very early indeed, much
        earlier than Diatessaron.

        In his article TATIAN'S DIATESSARON (pp. 403-430 in H Koester, ANCIENT
        CHRISTIAN GOSPELS, 1990), Petersen writes,

        ".. Tatian used not just the four canonical Gospels, but at least one
        extracanonical source. .. Tatian appears to have used a redaction of the
        canonical Gospels that is very old -- sometimes, perhaps, revealing a
        textual tradition that was _more_ ancient than our present canonical text
        .. and which had a Jewish-Christian flavour." 428

        Also, Petersen makes the following points in his article,

        1. Original language of composition of the Diatessaron was probably
        Syriac (a form of Aramaic).
        2. Diatessaron preserves many short readings, as well as omits
        genealogies and some other large blocks of text (a possible sign of its
        primitive quality).
        3. Tatian probably based his text on an earlier harmony by Justin.
        "..Tatian knew and used Justins harmonized gospel" 427
        4. Mt "appears to be the skeleton upon which Tatian placed his harmony"
        5. Theres a possibility of two Diatessarons, one Semitic and one Latin.
        "..the possibility of two Diatessarons, one Roman in origin, and one
        Syrian in origin, would go some way towards accounting for the early
        presence of Diatessaronic influence in both the East and the West.." 429

        It seems to be clear from all this that Diatessaron may be an important
        witness of an ancient Jewish-Christian textual tradition. Also, any way
        you look at it, HMt also seems to be an important witness of an ancient
        Jewish-Christian textual tradition. Indeed it appears to be so whether or
        not one sees HMt as dependent on Diatessaron-type of text or not, since
        even if HMt does depend on some Diatessaron-type of text of Mt, still it
        is a valuable witness to such a hypothetical and now lost text.

        And now, let us look at a couple of very unusual readings of Mt that are
        attested both by Diatessaron and by HMt.

        I have argued previously elsewhere that the Tomb Burial was not the
        original part of Mt, and that the earliest form the Resurrection of Jesus
        took in both proto-Mk and proto-Mt was a Spiritual Resurrection at the
        moment of his death on the Cross. So the Tomb Burial would have been added
        later as a result of secondary expansion. Quite a lot of textual evidence
        exists for this already, but now I have found additional support for this
        view in both Diatessaron and HMt.

        As soon as Jesus died on the Cross, according to the standard Greek of Mt

        And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two,
        from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks
        were split;
        the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the
        saints (hagion) who had fallen asleep were raised,
        and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection
        (meta ten hegersin) they went into the holy city and
        appeared to many.

        Since the resurrection of Jesus does not occur for three more days
        according to the standard Mt, one is permitted to wonder here why the
        saints being raised is mentioned in this passage at all? So, logically,
        "after his resurrection" (meta ten hegersin) would seem to be a later
        addition to the text. (Also of course one also wonders about the words
        "saints" (hagion) possibly being interpolated as well.) But a standard
        textual apparatus for Mt does not show any variant readings at this point.

        Well, I'm pleased to report that a shorter reading for this passage has
        now been found. As Petersen writes in the above cited article, according
        to Diatessaron Mt 27:52-3 probably read,

        "And with that, the veil that hung in the temple before the high
        altar burst in two pieces, the earth quaked, and the stones burst,
        and the dead men arose out of their graves. And entering the holy
        city, they appeared to many." 425

        This reading comes from the Pepysian Harmony, and, according to Petersen,
        is supported by numerous other Diatessaronic witnesses.

        Moreover, there's now one additional item of evidence for a shorter
        reading of this passage. Because in HMt 27:52-3 we find,

        "The graves were opened and many of those asleep in the dust arose.
        They came out of their graves and after (this) they entered the
        holy city and were revealed to many."

        It is quite immaterial, of course, if HMt in this case depends on some
        Diatessaron-type text (although it doesnt look this way to me on the
        surface of it). Still this passage in HMt appears to be an additional
        valuable witness to the theory that the Tomb Burial for Jesus was not a
        feature of the earliest version of Mt.

        And here is another very interesting passage from Diatessaron. In passage
        parallel to Mt 8:4, Diatessaron reads,

        "Go, show yourself to the priest(s) and fulfil the Law" 424.

        According to Petersen, this reading is supported by no fewer than 6
        Diatessaronic texts, both in the East and in the West. It is clear that
        this Diatessaron witness preserves a reading that is somewhat more
        congenial to Jewish-Christians than the canonical version that goes as

        Matthew 8:4 (NIV)

        Then Jesus said to him, "See that you don't tell anyone. But go,
        show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded,
        as a testimony to them."

        And here again, HMt has a very interesting reading that also appears to be
        more nomistic than the Greek version,

        "Be careful lest you tell any man, but go to the priest to offer
        your gifts as Moses commanded in your law."

        Again, it doesnt really seem like HMt depends on Diatessaron here, but
        whatever is the case dependence-wise, this is some additional evidence of
        the harmonistic tradition being in tune with the more traditionalist
        Jewish understanding of the teachings of Jesus.

        So whether or not HMt merely represents a medieval translation of some
        otherwise unknown Jewish-Christian influenced Latin text of Mt, or indeed
        if HMt directly preserves an ancient Hebrew textual tradition of Mt, still
        the great many, possibly hundreds of highly unusual divergent readings it
        supplies are likely to cast much further light on the Synoptic gospels
        relationships, as well as on the history of early Christianity more

        Best wishes,



        For some reason, websites that usually carry Howard's and Petersen's
        articles are now mostly off-line. But these articles can be accessed
        through Deja.com. Petersens article,


        Howards response,


        Yuri Kuchinsky | Toronto | http://www.trends.ca/~yuku/bbl/bbl.htm

        Biblical history list http://www.egroups.com/group/loisy - unmoderated

        The goal proposed by Cynic philosophy is apathy, which is
        equivalent to becoming God -=O=- Julian
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