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[tc-list] Shem-Tob & Qumran

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  • James Trimm
    All, An old rumor about the Shem-Tob Hebrew text of Matthew seems to be circulating again, and it seems I am destined to set things straight. The rumor is that
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 4, 2000

      An old rumor about the Shem-Tob Hebrew text of Matthew seems to be
      circulating again, and it seems I am destined to set things straight.

      The rumor is that a Hebrew version of Matthew has been found at Qumran.
      The full-blown version of the rumor claims that the Shem-Tob Hebrew version
      of Matthew originally came from Evan Bohan at Qumran.

      The source of the rumor is an article that appeared in Vendyl Jones'
      Institute of Judaic-Christian RESEARCHER newsletter Dec. 1991:

      FROM PAGE 10:

      Now comes the question of an ancient manuscript of the
      book of Matthew called the Even Bohan Text. It is also
      called the Shem-Tov text. George Howard, Professor of
      Religion at the University of Georgia, published a book
      on this text by Mercer University press in 1987. There
      are several copies of this text around, but gaining access
      to the original text of Evan Bohan without revision is
      impossible. Paleographic specialists have dated the
      original in the last quarter of the first century C.E.
      The letter styles are the same as the Qumran so-called
      secular scrolls. Modern scholarship, however, attempting
      to attribute the scroll to Ben-Tov himself who was
      active between 1350 and 1400 C.E....

      ...Why would Ben-Tov use a paleographic style of
      the Qumran period to write a text in the middle ages?
      Why is that original not available? Why do all the editors
      say that there are numerous mistakes that they had
      to correct? Why do the editors not just publish the
      text and let the public see the original? Why must
      they "doctor it up" and add entire sections? For example,
      the Evan Bohan text does not contain the first two
      chapters of Matthew. Does this not perhaps relate
      to Jerome's statement concerning the Ebionites who
      follow only Matthew's gospel and reject Paul's writings
      altogether? Is that original Even Bohan text perhaps
      the Ebionite document of Matthew which Jerome said
      was without the first two chapters?...

      ...why is the Ben-Tov gospel of Matthew called the
      Even Bohan text? Is it not logical to assume that it
      was found at Even Bohan?...

      FROM PAGE 15

      ...Now, let's look back to the Even Bohan text of Matthew.
      To summarize, the first observation is that the Ben-Tov/Even
      Bohan text did not contain the first two chapters of Matthew.
      Like Mark, it opens with the ministry of John the Baptist,
      or Yochanan Ben-Zachai. That means that the classic
      marginal notation, "Omitted by more ancient authorities."
      really means, "This passage was added later by the monks."
      That is to say that the monks monkeyed with the text.
      All the revised forms of the Even Bohan/Ben-Tov texts
      are admittedly filled in by the editors because so much
      was missing that is in "our" Matthew....

      OK now let me set the story straight. To begin with I have nothing against
      Vendyl Jones personally. In fact I have known Vendyl for over ten years.
      However in this case I have to disagree with some things Vendyl has said.

      1. No published paleographic analysis of any Shem-Tob manuscript has
      concluded that the text is written in any Qumran type script. I have
      examined a photograph of at least one manuscript page of a Shem Tob
      manuscript and it is written in the same script as the DuTillet Hebrew
      manuscript of Matthew (which I have a complete facsimile of), a script
      common to the middleages. Vendyl asks why Shem-Tob would use a Qumran
      script. No one knows what scrpt Shem-Tob himself used because his original
      manuscript is lost to history, only copies of it remain to us.

      2. Shem-Tob's Matthew manuscript was not called "Evan Bohan." Shem-Tob
      wrote a polemic treaty against Christianity (or perhaps the Nazarenes) in
      one part of this book he transcribed the entire text of Hebrew Matthew, in
      sections, each section followed by a polemic against it. The term "Evan
      Bohan" was the title of the entire Polemic book and not just of the text of
      Matthew which Shem-Tobe transcribed in sections in just one part of that book.

      3. I am unaware of any extant Shem Tob text which lacks the first two
      chapters of Matthew. George Howard did not add them. If a later editor
      altered Shem Tob's original work in this way, then he also mangaed to alter
      it so early on that not one manuscript exists which was coppied from a text
      which lacked the first two chapters of Matthew. I can only conclude that
      Vendyl believes that the text Shem Tob held was the original of Matthew and
      that Vendyl also believes that Matthew originally lacked the first two
      chapters, so Vendyl has perhaps assumed that the Hebrew copy Shem Tob had
      must have lacked them as well. However there is no evidence that the
      Hebrew Shem Tob text at any stage lacked the first two chapters of Matthew.

      3. Jerome did not say that the original Hebrew Matthew used by the
      Ebionites lacked the first two chapters. Jerome did mention having a
      Hebrew Matthew which he often identified with the Goodnews according to the
      Hebrews, but he claimed to have obtained it from the Nazarenes, not the
      Ebionites, and he in fact quoted from its first two chapters. Vendyl must
      be thinking of Epiphanius who quotes from an Ebionite text of the Gospel
      according to the Hebrews also identified with the original of Matthew.
      Epiphanius does quote this text as beginning with the ministry of Yochanan
      (John the Baptist) however he also says that this Ebionite text "is not
      altogether complete, but adultrated and mutilated" However of the Nazarene
      Hebrew version of Mathew he says that they have it "quite complete in the

      4. There are no editors that admit altering or adding to the Shem-Tob text
      (although Munster admits doing this with the Munster Hebrew Matthew text in
      places where his copy was damaged, but that was not a Shem-Tob text).
      George Howard did not add anything. The only editors before this were
      scribes in the middle ages, and if they added two chapters there is no
      record of it.

      5. Vendyl asks "Why is the original not available?" - The original of
      what? The Original of Shem-Tob's book Evan Bohan was lost centuries ago.
      There was no effort by Shem-Tob to preserve his Hebrew manuscript of
      Matthew except by copying it into his book. The original is unavailable
      because it has been lost for centuries.

      While I think Vendyl is mistaken about some of these things let me add:

      1. I would love for him to be right, at least about a Qumran origin for
      Shem Tob's Matthew.

      2. I have nothing against Vendyl. In this case I just think he got some
      facts wrong and presented some of his theories as if they were established

      3. I continue to believe that Shem Tob is an important Hebrew text
      representing a descendant from the original Hebrew and would be interested
      in any data supporting Vendyl's claims that may be forthcoming.

      I have learned that Vendyl Jones has published some of his false claims
      about Shem Tob Matthew as recently as October of 1998:

      "Rabbi Shem Tov Ben Isaac Ben-Shaprut... wrote a polemic book
      against Christianity. Included in this book was a chapter titled
      Eben Bohan.

      This chapter is a copy of Matthew written in Hebrew. ...
      The Shem Tov text did not contain the first two chapters
      of Matthew. Even Professor Howard stated that he had
      filled in all the parts missing from the text he copied from
      the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

      From where did the title "Even Bohan" come?...
      Even Bohan is due west from the north end of the Dead Sea....
      All that area is now referred to as Qumran.
      (Vendyl Jones Research Institute RESEARCHER Oct. '98 p. 14-15)

      Vendyl also falsely claims that Codex Sinaticus lacks the first two
      chapters. He writes

      "That Codex Sinaticus Gospel of Matthew begins with Matthew 3:1."
      (Vendyl Jones Research Institute RESEARCHER Oct. '98 p. 14)

      The truth is:

      1. Shem-Tob's entire book is titled "Even Bohan"
      not just the one chapter that has Matthew transcribed into it.

      2. The book is called "Even Bohan" (the touchstone) while the location
      at Qumran is called "Even Bochan" (the stone thumb). They are not even
      the same Hebrew word (as James Taber has pointed out)

      3. The Shem Tob version of Matthew DOES contain the first two chapters of
      George Howard did NOT add them

      4. The Greek Siniatic text of Matthew ALSO contains the first two
      chapters. In fact I have a facsimile of the first page of it.

      James Trimm

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