Jewish-Christian Gospels


Jewish-Christian Gospels

Many of the Church Fathers -- Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Jerome in particular--refer to a "Hebrew Gospel", or a gospel used by the Ebionites or the Nazaraeans. A number of these citations are thought to refer to the ', in various degrees of definitiveness. Some quite clearly refer to a "Gospel of the Hebrews" by name, whether accurately or not, while other attributions are by inference from a connection to a Hebrew version of Matthew, and still others entirely conjectural. It is a matter of debate whether references to the "Gospel of the Hebrews" were to the ', whether references to the "Gospel of the Nazoreans" were to the "Gospel of the Hebrews", or whether these were indeed just one Gospel named variously. A more definite consensus distinguishes both the "Gospel of the Hebrews" and the "Gospel of the Nazoreans" from the "". The literary relationship of these Gospels to the New Testament , including , is also a matter of debate.

Aramaic Matthew

Papias wrote some time in the second century a note to the effect that the apostle Matthew had written "logia"—the word can mean either sayings or oracles—in Hebrew, and that "every one translated it as he was able." The meaning of these words is in dispute, but church writers starting with Irenaeus (c. 180) interpreted them as meaning that the extant "Matthew" had been first written in "Hebrew"(meaning Aramaic) and subsequently translated into Greek. [Helmut Koester, "Introduction to the New Testament" (Philadelphia, 1982), ii p. 172.] The information about this becomes more detailed as time goes by. Irenaeus added a time referent ("while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome"), Origen that he "published it for Jewish converts," Eusebius that the apostle Bartholomew carried Matthew's gospel in Aramaic to the Indies. [Irenaeus, "Against Heresies" 3.1.1 in "The Ante-Nicene Fathers" (ANF) I, p. 414; Origen, "Commentary on Matthew", as cited in Eusebius, "History of the Church" 6.25; Eusebius, "History of the Church", 5.10.] Jerome provided the fullest information: he said that the book was still used by the Nazaraeans (a group of Jewish-Christians) in his day. They called it "According to the Apostles", but "most" described it as "According to Matthew". There was a copy in a library at Caesarea. Jerome called it "The Gospel according to the Hebrews."

The document Jerome described seems to have been an Aramaic version of "Matthew". He claims to have translated it into Greek and Latin, though if he did, no copies have come down to us. It appears to have been a legendary expansion of the canonical gospel. We learn from it, for example, that the man with a withered hand (Mt. 12:13) had been a mason, and that Jesus puzzled over what sins he had committed before going to be baptized by John.

The Gospel According to the Hebrews

Although Jerome assures us that Origen used the document he described, when he and his predecessor Clement of Alexandria referred to the "Gospel According to the Hebrews", they seem to have very different kind of piece in mind. There is no indication that it was in "Hebrew" or that it was a version of "Matthew"; as far as we can tell it was written in Greek and was independent of any known gospel. Clement quoted from it "He that wonders shall reign, and he that has reigned shall rest," a version of which saying is also found in the "Gospel According to Thomas". Origen quoted it as having Jesus say, "My mother, the Holy Spirit took me just now by one of my hairs and carried me off to the great mount Tabor." Eusebius rated it highly, placing it among the disputed books of the New Testament.

The Ebionite Gospel

The Ebionites were Jewish-Christians who rejected Paul. Irenaeus stated that they used only the Gospel of Matthew. Eusebius wrote that they used only the Gospel according to the Hebrews. The first writer to actually quote from an Ebionite gospel was Epiphanius, who described it as a castrated and mutilated form of Matthew that they themselves called the "Gospel according to the Hebrews". His quotations, however, show no affinity to Matthew, but rather appear to be dependent on several gospels.

Medieval References

A number of late references, including marginal notations in some copies of "Matthew", seem to be to a version of "Matthew" (in Greek) that differed somewhat from the canonical edition.

ee also

* Gospel of the Hebrews
* Gospel of the Nazareans
* Gospel of the Ebionites

Notes

ources of Information

* Philipp Vielhauer and Georg Strecker, "Jewish-Christian Gospels," in Wilhelm Schneemelcher, "New Testament Apocrypha" (Louisville, 1991), volume 1, pp. 134-178.
* Helmut Koester, "Introduction to the New Testament" (Philadelphia, 1982), especially volume 2 pp. 201-203 and 223-224.

External links

* [http://www.textexcavation.com/gospelhebrews.html Gospel of the Hebrews at Text Excavation]


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