Background - Even Bohan
The Introduction to George Howard's Hebrew Gospel of Matthew states:
A complete Hebrew Text of Matthew appeared in the body of a fourteenth-century Jewish polemical treatise entitled Even Bohan (אבן בוחן, "The Touchstone"). The author, Shem-Tob ben-Isaac ben-Shaprut (sometimes called Ibn Shaprut), was born in Castile in the middle of the fourteenth century. He later settled in Tarazona in Aragon where as a physician he practiced medicine. There he completed the Even Bohan in 1380. He revised his work several times - in 1385, around 1400, and even later - by adding five books or sections to the original twelve. Most manuscripts contain either fifteen or sixteen chapters, not always arranged in the same order. Of the original books, usually the first deals with the principles of the Jewish faith, the next nine deal with passages in the Bible that were disputed by Jews and Christians, the eleventh discusses haggadic sections in the Talmud used by Christians or Jewish proselytes to Christianity, and the twelfth (sometimes thirteenth) contains the entire Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew, with polemic comments by Shem-Tob interspersed throughout the text.1
The purpose of Even Bohan was to equip Jews to defend their faith if called on in a Disputation:
Shem-Tov's polemical approach was to go through the New Testament section by section searching for weaknesses that could be used against the Catholics. Interestingly enough, one of his common tactics was to point to verses where the Catholics violate the direct instructions of Yeshua...Shem-Tov explained that if his fellow Jews were to survive these Disputations they had better start reading the New Testament.2
A fundamental question when using Shem Tov's Matthew is whether it was translated from the Greek for use as a Jewish polemic against Catholics, or if it was copied from a Matthew originally written in Hebrew as an authentic eyewitness record. Some people like Michael Rood take the position Matthew was originally written in Hebrew and translated to Greek therefore Shem-Tov's Matthew should be approached as more representative of the original Matthew, not a polemical adaption of the Greek original.
"Law" or "Law and Prophets"
An important issue at the time of Christ and to this day is what constitutes "Law." From the point of written Law, is the Law that which came only from Moses or did the Prophets contribute to the Law, and to what extent are the poetic writings "Law." In addition there is the issue of the relationship with tradition and oral law and what has been written.
The Greek and Hebrew Matthew of 5:17-18 highlight one important aspect of this issue:
17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (ESV)
17At that time Jesus said to his disciple: Do no think that I came to annul the Torah, but to fulfill it. 18Truly I say to you that until heaven and earth (depart) not one letter or dot shall be abolished from the Torah or the Prophets, because all will be fulfilled.3
The "Prophets" in the Greek are in verse 17; in the Hebrew they are in verse 18. This shift materially changes what Jesus said since verse 18 has the claim to "all accomplished" (πάντα γένηται) where verse 17 is simply "fulfill" (πληρῶσαι). Unfulfilled predictions in the Prophets are the cornerstone to a position Jesus was not the Davidic Messiah. As Nehemia Gordon states:
Through all these investigations I have been repeatedly surprised about what I have learned about Yeshua. I still do not believe Yeshua to be the Messiah; like all Karaites I eagerly await the coming of the anointed Davidic king who will reign as king over Israel, ushering an era of eternal peace (Isaiah 11; Ezekiel 34:24-25; even Luke 1:32-33). To my knowledge Yeshua has yet to fulfill this fundamental criterion of the Davidic Messiah.4
The issue for the Karaite Jew is not found in the Law; it is in the Prophets.
With respect to the Messiah, the prophetic aspect of the Law, in particular the first five books is limited and arguably, Jesus has already fulfilled every one. Yet, it is obvious not all of the Messianic prophecies of the Prophets have been fulfilled. Therefore it is essential for a Jewish polemical writing to have Yeshua uphold only the Law while leaving open the future fulfillment of the Prophets. In effect, the Hebrew Matthew 5:17-18 is a clever change which amounts to Jesus making a self-denial to be the Messiah. Therefore, the Hebrew Matthew should be considered as part of what Evan Bohan is: a Jewish writing to be used to defend the belief Jesus was not the Davidic Messiah.
The Law as Prophecy
Despite this negative nature, the Hebrew Matthew focuses on the key issue of the Law before and after Christ and the relationship between Law and Prophets. Jesus came to fulfill (πληρῶσαι) the law and Prophets, but it is only the law which has been all accomplished (πάντα γένηται):
17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill (πληρῶσαι) them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished (πάντα γένηται). (ESV)
Jesus came to fulfill (πληρῶσαι) the Law and the Prophets. Thayer's states πληρόω here means: to fulfil, i. e. "to cause God's will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be, and God's promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfilment." Jesus accomplished all (πάντα γένηται) of the Law. Thayer's states γένηται means here: "to become equivalent to to come to pass, happen."
There is a prophetic nature of the Law:
For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John (Matthew 11:13)
Therefore we can say Jesus came to fulfill all of prophecies in both the Law and Prophets and accomplished all the Law prophesied about the Messiah. Since Jesus came to fulfill all, He will be coming back to accomplish those in the Prophets which have yet to be fulfilled.
1. George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Mercer University Press, 2002, p. xi
2. Nehemia Gordon, Hebrew Yeshua vs. The Greek Jesus, Hilkiah Press, 2006, p. 38
3. Howard, p. 17
4. Gordon, p. 71