tc-list Semitic NT texts
- Several Semitic versions of New Testament books have come down to
us which may have some claim to being decendants of the original Semitic
text. These include the Shem Tob and Du Tillet Hebrew versions of Matthew;
the Old Syriac Aramaic version of the four Gospels; The Peshitta Aramaic
New Testament and the Crawford Aramaic version of Revelation.
The DuTillet Hebrew version of Matthew is taken from a Hebrew
manuscript of Matthew which was confiscated from Jews in Rome in 1553. It
was brought to Paris by Bishop DuTillet and placed at the Biblioteque
Nationale where it remains to this day as Hebrew ms. mo. 132. Both Hugh
Schonfield and George Howard have stated that an ancestor of this Hebrew
text underlies our current Greek text. Schonfield writes:
...certain linguistic proofs... seem to show that the Hebrew
text [DuTillet] underlies the Greek, and that certain
renderings in the Greek may be due to a misread Hebrew
(An Old Hebrew Text of St. Matthew's Gospel; 1927, p. 17)
The Shem Tob Hebrew version of Matthew was transcribed by Shem Tob
Ben Yitzach Ben Shaprut into his apologetic work Even Bohan sometime around
1380 C.E. While the autograph of Shem Tob's Even Bohan has been lost,
several mss. dating between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries still
exist. George Howard states of the Shem Tob version of Matthew:
...an old substratum to the Hebrew in Shem Tob is a prior
composition, not a translation. The old substratum, however,
has been exposed to a series of revisions so that the present
text of Shem-Tob represents the original only in an impure
(The Gospel of Matthew according to a Primitive Hebrew Text; 1987;p.223)
It might appear from the linguistic and sociological
background to early Christianity and the nature of some
theological tendencies in Shem-Tob's Matthew that the
Hebrew text served as a model for the Greek. The present
writer is, in fact, inclined to that position.
(ibid p. 225)
Shem-Tob's Matthew... does not preserve the original in a pure
form. It reflects contamination by Jewish scribes during the
Middle Ages. Considerable parts of the original, however,
appear to remain...
(Hebrew Gospel of Matthew; 1995; p. 178
In addition to the Hebrew versions of Matthew we also have an
Aramaic version of the Four Gospels known as the Old Syriac. Two
manuscripts of this version have been discovered dating back to the 4th
century. The firstwas discovered by Dr. William Cureton in 1842. The
second was discovered by Mrs. Agnes Smith Lewis in 1892. After making his
profound discovery, Dr. Cureton studied the Old Syriac text in detail. He
concluded that at least
the version of Matthew found in the Old Syriac has its basis in the Orginal
Semitic text and was not merely at translation from the Greek. Cureton
published his findings to the world saying:
...this Gospel of St. Matthew appears at least to be built upon
the orginal Aramaic text which was the work of the Apostle
(Remains of a Very Ancient Recension of the Four Gospels in Syriac; 1858;
In my book the Semitic Orgin of the New Testament I show
edivence that this is true of the whole of the Old Syriac.
The Peshitta New Testament is the Aramaic version of the New
Testament which has been preserved by the Church of the East (mentioned
above). It includes all of the books except 2Peter; 2John; 3John; Jude
and Revelation. These books were not canonized by the Church of the East
until 508 C.E.. The Peshitta is not merely a translation from the Greek
text, but rather a revision of the Old Syriac, as Arthur Voobus writes:
"... the Peshitta is not a translation, but a revision pf an Old Syriac
version." (Studies in the History of the Gospel Text in Syriac; 1951; p. 46
see also pp. 54-55).
The Crawford Aramaic version of Revelation is a very rare, little known
How the ms. made its way to Europe is unknown. What is known is that th ms.
was purchased by the Earl of Crawford around 1860. In his possession it
catalogued Earl of Crawford's Haigh Hall, Wigin, no. 11. It has since been
at the John Rylands Library. Concerning the variants of this version John
Two or three... are plausible readings; and might well be
judged worthy of adoption if there were any ground for
supposing the Apocalypse to have been originally written,
or to be based on a document written, in an Aramaic idiom.
(The Apocalypse of St. John in a Syriac Version Hitherto Unknown; 1897; p.
Several scholars have proposed an Aramaic or Hebrew original for this book.
James Scott Trimm
For further reading the following two books are currently available:
THE SEMITIC ORIGIN OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
by James Scott Trimm
Heb/Aram NT Research Inst
PO Box 471
Hurst, TX 76053
HEBREW GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
by George Howard
Mercer University Press
6316 Peake Rd.
Macon, GA 31210-3960
He who seeks will not cease until he finds,
and having found he will be amazed,
and having been amazed he will reign,
and having reigned he will rest.
- The Goodnews according to the Hebrews
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