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The Vatican library contains a medieval manuscript of the four Gospels in Hebrew (vat. ebr. 100)

This site publishes the manuscripts with an English translation. The authors see in it an - at least partially - original text, with good reasons for it but little analysis of possible multiple text sources.

Does anybody know a scientific text analysis on this manuscript? Does it preserve an original Hebrew text?


Scoping

From the list of reasons to close a question:

Questions including a biblical text but that are not seeking an answer about ① the history of that biblical text itself or ② the meaning of that biblical text either in context or through a process of arriving at a particular interpretation of it are off-topic.

This question seeks to understand the history of several Biblical texts

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  • A truly fascinating document indeed. However, this is the wrong site for such an important question as it is beyond the scope of Hermeneutics.
    – Dottard
    Aug 14, 2022 at 12:15
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    To form an opinion about the veracity of this long-forgotten and recently discovered document, one would need to know much more about its provenance. Further, I am a little suspicious of such an important document suddenly becoming known; if the LORD had wanted to be read and studied, then He would have preserved it for all Christians in all ages as was the rest of the Bible.
    – Dottard
    Aug 14, 2022 at 12:25
  • I only asked whether someone (who has perhaps better access to scientific literature cause you hardly get any information if you are not inscribed in a university) knows about research. I don't expect a dissertation on this site.
    – Jeschu
    Aug 14, 2022 at 14:44
  • It appears to be a 15C translation into Hebrew. You can google for information. E.g. academia.edu/25584921/…
    – Robert
    Aug 14, 2022 at 17:20
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    @Michael16 I understand your study has led you to reject Hebrew Gospel hypotheses. However, it is not necessary to disparage those who have looked at the evidence and come to a different conclusion. Aug 14, 2022 at 18:30

3 Answers 3

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You might be interested in

Pere Casanellas and Harvey J. Hames: A TEXTUAL AND CONTEXTUAL ANALYSIS OF THE HEBREW GOSPELS TRANSLATED FROM CATALAN, Melilah: Manchester Journal of Jewish Studies (1759-1953) Link

Harvey J. Hames (Ben Gurion University of the Negev) TRANSLATED FROM CATALAN: LOOKING AT A FIFTEENTH-CENTURY HEBREW VERSION OF THE GOSPELS Link

Both publications (from the same author, overlapping, but not identical) point out passages that show that the manuscripts are translated from Catalan, not discovering any deviations.

I didn't find a contribution that stands between the observations above concentrating on the Catalan origin and the publication of the van Rensburgs (those running HebrewGospels.com) that concentrate on passsages that do not go with Catalan, Latin or Greek.

I am not a scientist or specialist in this matter, so the fact that I haven't found anything in this direction does not mean that it does not exist.

Nevertheless, the thesis you have made between the lines, that the author may have had fragmentary ancient manuscripts and filled the rest up from a Catalan translation seems interesting and it would be worth while to analyse this in detail, above all in the Gospel according to John.

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  • These are helpful resources, +1. I found one of them quite applicable in writing my own answer. Aug 14, 2022 at 21:26
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A translator's perspective

The scenario proposed by the site linked in the OP is linguistically unlikely:

it [the Hebrew text] may have been preserved in the Catalan dialect in Sepharad (Spain).

If 1) a Hebrew text was translated into 2) a Catalan text, and then the Catalan text was translated back into 3) a Hebrew text, texts 1 & 3 would not be identical--translation is far too interpretative a process for this to occur.

The only circumstance in which texts 1 & 3 would be highly comparable is if the translator of text 3 had an original Hebrew source to refer to as an aid to translation. But if the translator had such a source (text 1 or something close to it), translating text 2 back into Hebrew would be unnecessary.

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Catalan translation

Vallicrossa, Cassutto, Delcor, Hames, and Casanellas all suggest these Hebrew manuscripts are translations from Catalan (see pp. 68-70 here), not a preservation of an ancient Hebrew text.

One of the more telling examples, documented by Hames & Casanellas, is Matthew's quotation of Zechariah 13:7

The Biblical text reads: הַךְ אֶת הָרֹעֶה וּתְפוּצֶיןָ הַצֹאן. However, the translator has: “אני אכה הרועה ותתפזרו הצאן” which is a direct translation from the Catalan with no reference to the original. The Biblical text does not add the first person “I will smite the pastor,” but has the imperative clause “הך– smite” whereas the Catalan does have the first person “I”. However, the translator does not use the biblical terminology for the rest of the citation indicating that either he did not know it, or that he purposefully chose to follow the Catalan rather than the Hebrew original (ibid p. 78)

Since Zechariah was definitely originally composed in Hebrew, the Catalan influence on the rendering of Zechariah's words (as found in Matthew) makes it difficult to escape the conclusion that the texts of vat. ebr. 100 come from Catalan, not Hebrew originals.

If the translator of vat. ebr. 100 wanted to preserve the way the texts were originally given in Hebrew, relying on Catalan manuscripts for the Hebrew text of Zechariah would have been unnecessary and unproductive.



Appendix--Hebrew New Testament texts

At one point or another just about every New Testament text has been hypothesized by someone to have come from a Hebrew original, but the most commonly cited possibilities are the 4 Gospels and the epistle to the Hebrews. Even then, only 2 have straightforward Patristic support for the possibility of a Hebrew original:

  • Matthew (according to Papias, Pantaneus, Irenaeus, Origen, Epiphanius, Eusebius, Jerome, and a variety of others. Note that Origen was a Hebrew scholar & Pantaneus claimed to have an actual copy of the text in Hebrew)
  • Hebrews (Clement of Alexandria speculated it may have come originally in Hebrew but does not claim certainty).

My own work on the Synoptic Problem has led me to concur with modern scholars such as Lindsey, Tresmontant, and Carmignac, insofar as they deduce that there was a written Hebrew Gospel text, and one or more of the Greek Gospels derive from it. For a deeper dive on why I believe the Gospel of Matthew was written first, and that it was originally written in Hebrew (the Greek text being a translation), see my video series: Who When & Why - the Writing of the Gospels.

Within the aforementioned video series I argue for a Hebrew Gospel of Matthew without appealing to Shem Tob, although I do briefly mention Shem Tob Matthew in responding to objections.

It is frequently asserted but seldom argued from contemporary evidence that Hebrew was not spoken (or not spoken except in limited settings) in the first century:

  • That Hebrew was a living, spoken language at the time of Jesus is discussed in my video: What languages did Jesus speak?
  • For a review of the political reasons for which 19th-century German scholars tried to convince the world that Jesus did not speak Hebrew, see Baltes' work here.

For those who are uncomfortable with the possibility that Matthew might have written a Gospel in Hebrew, I respectfully suggest that it would be more effective to ask a separate question on the matter rather than arguing in the comments.

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Vat. 100 Ebr. has preserved traces of Matthew's Hebrew Gospel. Though translated from the Catalan, the Catalan was likely translated from the Hebrew. And while the MS contains Latinized terms, the text is not based on the Vulgate nor on the Itala; nor is it based on the Greek, or on any other known versions.

For instance, Lk 2.46 commences in the Hebrew thus:

"...ובת אחת משמואל ... והיתה קרוב לאם ישו"

= "And one daughter of Samuel... and she was close to Yeshu's mother..."

Her father’s original name “Samuel,” a prophet’s name, inspired ‘Phanuel and his remarkable daughter’ (a 110-year-old woman from the exiled and lost tribe of Asher, recognized as a prophetess at a time when no man was recognised as a prophet, is truly remarkable).

Hannah was 84 years old as per 𝔐, 74 years old in א*, but only 34 years old in the Hebrew, and there is a reason for this...

Though the Hebrew has kept ASHER, it states that she was a karov, a relative of Mary, not a prophetess. Evidently, Hannah was Mary's mother. Hannah is mentioned in the Toldot Yeshu as the widow who lived in Bethlehem, a few miles south of Jerusalem, whose daughter was Mary. H. J. Schonfield, According to the Hebrews, 35, fnn 1–2.

The "Gospel According to the Hebrews" (authentic Matthew) was transcribed, fragmented, and paganized after the Bar Kokhba revolt, to wit, somewhere between 135 and 140, a revision process which birthed the Itala synoptics.

The Oxyrhynchus Sayings and the so-called "Gospel of Thomas" constitute renderings of Matthew's Hebrew sayings collection (logia), and would have been largely absorbed in the Hebrew narrative gospel.

But Oxford & Co has successfully stigmatized this material as gnostic, Middle-Platonic, Manichaean, etc.

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    "The "Gospel According to the Hebrews" (authentic Matthew) was transcribed, fragmented, and interpolated somewhere between 170 and 180 CE; a revision process which birthed the synoptics (and parts of John)." What evidence is this thesis based on?
    – Jeschu
    Apr 1, 2023 at 13:26
  • This gives a quick overview: researchgate.net/publication/…
    – user49371
    Apr 5, 2023 at 12:24
  • I have read your publication with interest. I knew all but one of the sources before, but I do not think that your "Final Solution" (interpretation) is compulsory. I think that Papias (Eus. Hist. eccl. 3.39.17), saying "probably from", did not know the Hebrew Gospel but supposed it to be a reliable source, Clem.Alex., citing Th1 and Th2, held a version of the "Gospel according to Thomas", which is most likely at least a collection from the Near East, originally written down in Hebrew and/or Aramaic (I suspect that Gallileans like Jesus used to mix the two languages as well),
    – Jeschu
    Apr 5, 2023 at 19:18
  • ... and Origen had a Hebrew-Aramaic version largely similar to the version of the Mt we know only in the Greek version today, and he annotated only the alternate readings he found there.
    – Jeschu
    Apr 5, 2023 at 19:18
  • As for the Diatessaron, it makes sense to me that Tatian was tha author. He knew the Greek and he used Greek sources but in his heart he was a Syrian, and a good Christian, too. It would be interesting to find variant readings, possibly from Syrian traditions. Do you know where to get the Arabic A or B versions which are probably the best remains of it? I only found secondary literature so far...
    – Jeschu
    Apr 5, 2023 at 19:26

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