- Historical Evidence that the Jewish Calendar Day Began at Sunset?

1. Question - a Reference Request

Are there any textual evidences, (in the New Testament, and contemporary writers) - if the earliest Church directly relied on, and cited Hebrew Manuscripts?

  1. If they Considered the Hebrew Texts more Authoritative than the Targums;
  2. Preferred a Hebrew citations, over Aramaic or Greek;
  3. If the Hebrew texts were deferred to, rather than the Aramaic -concerning questions of theology?

    NASB, Mark 12:30 - and you shall love the Lord your God with all your 1.) heart, and with all your 2.) soul, and with all your 3.) mind, and with all your 4.) strength;

    This significant departure from Deuteronomy 6:5 - and other examples, seem only explainable if the writers were relying on Aramaic or Greek translations instead.

2. Some Evidences of Aramaic Reliance:

Targum: New Advent, Encyclopedia - After the return from exile Aramaic gradually won the ascendancy as the colloquial language over the slowly decaying Hebrew until, from probably the last century before the Christian era, Hebrew was hardly more than the language of the schools and of worship.

Targumim, Jewish Encyclopedia - In like manner, the Aramaic passages in Genesis, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezra were briefly called "Targum," (וּמְתֻרְגָּ֥ם, Ezra 4:7), while the Hebrew text was called "Miḳra" (see Yad. iv. 5; Shab. 115b).

Onkelos, chabad.org - Onkelos took very much to heart the fact that many Jews during the Babylonian Exile had forgotten their holy language, and had started speaking Babylonian, Ashdodic, Aramaic and different types of dialects. When the Jews returned from the Babylonian Exile, Ezra the Scribe translated the Torah into Aramaic so that everybody should be able to understand it, but the translation was lost.

... But is there corresponding evidence of direct reliance on the Hebrew?

Notes: Writing this, I am thinking of Paul's exegesis regarding, "Seed", (Galatians 3:16), and the citations from the prophets by Peter, etc;


3 Answers 3


I believe the answer to your question is no, the writers of the New Testament did not rely on the Hebrew text.

The recently published Eastern Orthodox Bible New Testament footnotes every single Old Testament quote and assesses whether the quote agrees with the Greek Septuagint rather than the Masoretic Text, which is supposedly a faithful representation of the "original" Hebrew.

The vast majority of the Old Testament quotes agree with the Septuagint rather than the Masoretic Text, when there is a difference between the two.

Regarding the quote of Deuteronomy 6:5 in Mark, I believe there are two plausible explanations:

  1. There is not an exact correspondence between the Greek and Hebrew words, so Mark decided that four Greek words "mind", "heart", "soul", and "strength" were needed to capture the true meaning of the three Hebrew words labab, nephesh, and meod that Jesus probably spoke.

  2. There are two variants in the Septuagint version of Deuteronomy 6:5 (This is a fact). The first variant uses the Greek words "heart" (kardia), "soul" (psyche), and strength (dynamis). The second uses the Greek words "mind" (dianoia), "soul" and "strength". Mark may have chosen to insert both kardia and dianoia to cover both versions.

While the 2nd explanation is intriguing, I really think it is probably due to the first, though that is just my opinion.


No, there is very little literary evidence that the New Testament writers relied on the Hebrew texts. The New Testament was written entirely in Greek and it seems likely that few if any of the authors even knew the Hebrew texts. I will provide some examples of their consistent use of the Greek texts when citing the Hebrew scriptures.

It is almost universally accepted that Mark was written in Greek Koine, and referred to the Septuagint (LXX) when alluding to the Old Testament. This is also true of the other gospels, all of which were written in Greek. For example, Matthew 1:22-23 says that Jesus was born of a virgin, in fulfilment of what was spoken by the prophet (Isaiah). The following verse reflects the LXX translation used by the author of Matthew:

Isaiah 7:14: Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

The original Hebrew of Isaiah 7:14 does not refer to a virgin, but uses the word almah, which means 'young woman' and is used only in this sense in 9 other references in the OT. The word for 'virgin' is betulah and is used exclusively in that sense more than 50 times in the Hebrew OT.

Raymond E. Brown says, in An Introduction to the New Testament, page 268, it is not clear whether the author of Acts knew either Hebrew or Aramaic, but he certainly knew the LXX, as seen not only in his citations of Scripture but also in his heavy use of Septuagintal style in appropriate parts of his work.

Of course, in some cases it is not possible to identify which version of the Hebrew scriptures Paul used, but Stanley Porter says, in 'Paul and his Bible', published in As It Is Written, page 120, that Paul undoubtedly employs the Greek version of the Jewish scriptures in most of his citations of the Old Testament.

So also do the General Epistles consistently use the Greek versions of the Hebrew scriptures. For example, Bart D. Ehrman says in Forged, page 75, 1 Peter is written by a Greek-speaking Christian who is intimately familiar with the Jewish Scriptures in their Greek translation, the Septuagint.

  • 3
    Are you really arguing that there is no evidence of dependence on a text type that looks more proto-Masoretic than it does Septuagintal? Although I'm sure you're right that the majority leans toward the LXX text type, there are plenty of counter-examples. A discussion of some of them from among the Jesus quotations, by Craig A Evans ("The Scriptures of Jesus and His Earliest Followers" in "The Canon Debate" Ed. Lee Martin McDonald, James A. Sanders (Baker Academic, 2002).).
    – Susan
    Apr 8, 2016 at 23:24
  • (Apologies if I'm mis-reading your point.)
    – Susan
    Apr 8, 2016 at 23:28
  • @Susan I have amended my answer so that I don't have to prove that the NT writers never relied on any text other than the LXX - and thus by default relied on Hebrew texts. I note that no less an authority than Brown thinks it likely 'Luke' did not even know Hebrew. Note that at least some of Evan's references come from Q so, in these cases, although Q's author may have relied on the Hebrew texts, 'Matthew' and 'Luke' relied on Q and were agnostic as to the original source. The question asks about the NT writers, not the authors of Q. Apr 8, 2016 at 23:34
  • @elikakohen (A,B) As there are no early Aramaic manuscripts (the Peshitta is late and in Syriac), it is hard for anyone to sustain an argument about their references to the scriptures, even assuming that Aramaic copies ever existed. C) Aramaic text are not evidence for anything, until (perhaps one day) we discover an early Aramaic manuscript. D) Thank you for that - your Greek is better than mine. Nevertheless 'Matthew' intended his use of the word to be read as referring to a virgin. Apr 9, 2016 at 0:40
  • I was not familiar with the Cureton. I take from the link i) they are in Old Syriac, which at the extreme would place them in the late apostolic period, although probably much later; ii) "possibly predate the ... Peshitta"; iii) "appear to have been translated from independent Greek originals." Although obtained in Syria, they represent Western texts normally associated with the western empire. Although ancient, Old Syriac does not make sense for any argument to have the gospels written by the Aramaic-speaking disciples. It adds an extra layer of complexity to an already marginal argument. Apr 9, 2016 at 4:57

There has been reliable studies made that proves the New Testament book of Matthew was originally written in Hebrew. For example, when one puts a Hebrew word underneath each Greek word, it reads perfectly well in Hebrew.

  • would the person, who simply arrowed this comment down, please make an explanation why?
    – ninamag
    Sep 21, 2016 at 20:37
  • 1
    Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics SE, thanks for contributing! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. Our community looks for answers to reflect a good degree of research and references. Typically, we like answers that cite scholarly references and/or explain how your interpretation arises from the text. Don't just tell us what you know, tell us how you know it. This is probably the reason for the down-vote. Sep 21, 2016 at 23:29
  • You wrote, "Don't just tell us what you know, tell us how you know it. This is probably the reason for the down-vote." I did. I wrote, "For example, when one puts a Hebrew word underneath each Greek word, it reads perfectly well in Hebrew."
    – ninamag
    Sep 22, 2016 at 4:40
  • 1
    The problem is that you did not show your work which is a requirement on this site. Showing your work means citing the "reliable studies" you referenced. Who published this study? What are their credentials? I would actually be interested in reading that study, for example. Sep 22, 2016 at 14:46
  • here is one: adamoh.org/TreeOfLife.lan.io/SDAcomms/…
    – ninamag
    Sep 22, 2016 at 15:47

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