In Nazarene Israel and other places we show how the faith Yeshua came to teach was designed to regather the lost tribes of Israel. However, even though it was for all twelve tribes it had a decidedly Jewish flavor, because the style of worship service was given to brother Judah to maintain.
Romim (Romans) 9:3-4
3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Messiah for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,
4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the [worship] service of Elohim, and the promises…
We know this also because Yeshua was a Jew, and His custom was to go to the synagogue on Sabbath.
Luqa (Luke) 4:16
16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.
This was also Shaul’s custom, and we are to imitate him as he imitates Yeshua (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Ma’asei (Acts) 17:1-2
1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.
2 Then Shaul, as his custom was, went into them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures…
In contrast to the church (which teaches in the common language of the people), the primary language of the synagogue has always been Hebrew, while Aramaic is considered an important secondary language. And in fact, the Church Father Epiphanius of Salamis tells us that even as late as the fourth century, the Nazarenes were “very learned in the Hebrew language.”
“The Nazarenes do not differ in any essential thing from them (meaning the Orthodox Jews), since they practice the customs and doctrines prescribed by Jewish Law; except that they believe in Christ. They believe in the resurrection of the dead, and that the universe was created by God. They preach that God is One, and that Jesus Christ is His Son. They are very learned in the Hebrew language. They read the Law (meaning the Law of Moses) … Therefore they differ…from the true Christians because they fulfill until now [such] Jewish rites as the circumcision, Sabbath and others.” [Epiphanius, “Against Heresies,” Panarion 29, 7, pp. 41, 402]
We should also note well how Epiphanius tells us that the Nazarenes “did not differ in any essential thing” from the Orthodox Jews, and that they “read the Law.” This is a euphemism for the traditional Jewish Torah service. Taken all together, what means is that even as late as the fourth century, the Nazarenes still walked even as Yeshua walked (as Melchizedekian Jews), worshiping in the synagogues in Hebrew and Aramaic.
Yochanan Aleph (1 John) 2:6
6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
Why Not a Greek Inspiration?
In Western Europe, the Catholic Church traditionally used the Latin Vulgate. Then when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Islamic Empire in 1543, the Eastern Bible scholars fled to the West, bringing with them the Greek Textus Receptus, or the so-called Received Text, which they claimed was the original. This claim was widely accepted at the time, and this misunderstanding is still widely accepted to this day. However, for many reasons we will explain here, it seems clear that the Renewed Covenant was inspired either in Hebrew or Aramaic, and was soon translated eloquently into Greek.
We know that the synagogues in the dispersion (outside the land of Israel) would sometimes read Scripture in Greek, because the Orthodox rabbis had the Tanach (Older Covenant) translated into Greek some 200-300 years before Yeshua. This official translation is called the Septuagint. Yet because devout Jews treasure the Hebrew language, the Septuagint was neither read nor accepted by all Jews—and it is the same today. Outside the land of Israel, some synagogues perform the Torah service in their native tongues, while other (more devout) synagogues perform the services in Hebrew. While Greek epistles might have been read in the less-devout synagogues, they would not have been read in the more devout synagogues unless they were written in Hebrew or Aramaic—and we know that the goal was to reach the more devout Jews, because the Good News was given to the (devout) Jews first, and then also to the Greeks (i.e., the Hellenistic Jews).
Romim (Romans) 1:16
16 For I am not ashamed of the Good News of Messiah, for it is the power of Elohim to salvation for everyone who believes, for the [devout] Jew first, and also for the Greek [i.e., Hellenistic Jews].
Testimony of the Church Fathers
Now let us consider that several of the church fathers, including Epiphanius, Papias, Irenaeus, Origen, Jerome, and Eusebius tell us that the Apostle Matthew first penned his epistle in Hebrew; and that it was then translated into other languages. For example, Eusebius states:
Matthew composed the words in the Hebrew dialect, and each translated as he was able. [Papias, 150-170 CE, quoted by Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3:39]
Irenaeus tells us:
Matthew also issued a written gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect.
[Irenaeus, 170 CE, Against Heresies 3:1]
The first [Gospel] is written according to Matthew, the same that was once a tax collector, but afterwards an emissary of Yeshua the Messiah, who having published it for the Jewish believers, wrote it in Hebrew.
[Origen circa 210 CE, quoted by Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 6:25]
Before the Greeks and Romans conquered the land of Israel, it was conquered by the Assyrians (Syrians, aka Arameans). At that time, Aramaic became the common language (lingua franca) of the land. That is why Yeshua and the disciples would have spoken Aramaic in the Galilee region. However, the language of the temple and the synagogue was always Hebrew, and so Hebrew was still spoken in Jerusalem (as it was even more respected than Aramaic). We should note, then, that the church fathers Eusebius, Jerome, and Clement of Alexandria all tell us that Shaul wrote his epistle to the Hebrews in Hebrew. For example:
The epistle to the Hebrews he asserts was written by Paul, to the Hebrews, in the Hebrew tongue; but that it was carefully translated by Luke, and published among the Greeks.
[Clement of Alexandria, Hypotyposes, referred to by Eusebius in Eccl. Hist. 6:14:2]
He [Shaul] being a Hebrew wrote in Hebrew, that is, his own tongue and most fluently; while things which were eloquently written in Hebrew were more eloquently turned into Greek.
[Jerome, 382 CE, ‘Lives of Illustrious Men’, Book V]
Shaul undoubtedly spoke Greek because he was raised in Tarsus of Cilicia (in modern day Turkey), where Greek was the lingua franca.
Ma’asei (Acts) 21:39
39 But Shaul said, “I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.”
Yet because Shaul was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, he would have preferred Hebrew to any other tongue. He would also have written his epistles in Hebrew, so that they would be accepted in the more devout synagogues.
Josephus spoke Greek because he had been raised an aristocrat. He was far more educated than most Jews, and while he ultimately wrote most of his works in Greek, he was one of only a handful of Jews who could read or write Greek. Even after taking pains to learn it, he tells us he was unable to speak it fluently. He also says that Hebrews did not like to learn foreign tongues.
For those of my own nation freely acknowledge that I far exceed them in the learning belonging to Jews; I have also taken a great deal of pains to obtain the learning of the Greeks, and understand the elements of the Greek language, although I have so long accustomed myself to speak our own tongue, that I cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness; For our own nation does not encourage those that learn the languages of many nations, and so adorn their discourses with the smoothness of their periods; because they look upon this sort of accomplishment as common….
[Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, Book 20, Chapter 11, paragraph 2]
If even scholarly Josephus had difficulty pronouncing Greek with sufficient exactness (though he had taken “a great deal of pains” to learn it), then why would the uneducated fishermen who later became the apostles have learned it? And why would they write their epistles in Greek, when Hebrews disdained the languages of other nations? Doesn’t it make more sense to assume that because they hoped that other devout Jews would read their letters in the synagogues, that they would write their letters in the languages of the synagogue—namely Hebrew or Aramaic?
The Dead Sea Scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls also date from around the first century, and they were written in Hebrew and Aramaic. Only a few of the Dead Sea Scrolls are written in Greek, which (in addition to Josephus’ letters) tells us that Greek was not a common language among Jews in that era.
About the Lost Hebrew or Aramaic Originals
I am aware of three Hebrew manuscripts for Matthew (the Shem Tov, the DuTillet, and the Munster). I am also aware of a Crawford Revelation in Hebrew. However, the scholarly consensus is that none of these works are the originally inspired texts, at least in part because they all contain certain Hellenisms (or influence from the Greek language).
If the Hebrew and Aramaic originals still exist, they may be hidden in the Vatican archives. It is said that the Vatican is now digitizing its archives, and plans to slowly make them available online. If true, and if the originals still exist, we may see them published by the Vatican someday. However, it seems more likely to assume that they would have been destroyed, as part of the Vatican’s propaganda efforts to prove that Hebrew was no longer important (after Yeshua).
About the Aramaic Peshitta
There are also two versions of the Renewed Covenant (New Testament) written in Syriac Aramaic. These are called the Eastern Peshitta and the Western Peshitto. The Church of the East claims that the Eastern Peshitta is the inspired original manuscript. An Aramaic original could be devoutly wished, as both Yeshua and most of the apostles were raised in the Galilee region, were Galilean Aramaic was spoken daily. This is why Kepha’s accent gave him away in Jerusalem (because Hebrew was spoken in Jerusalem).
Marqaus (Mark) 14:70
70 And a little later those who stood by said to Kepha again, “Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it.”
However, while there is no theological difficulty with Aramaic originals, in practice there are some issues with the Peshitta. First, the Peshitta is written in the wrong dialect. Yeshua and His disciples spoke the Galilean Aramaic of the first century CE, while the Eastern Peshitta is written in Syriac Aramaic, which did not begin to be used until around the fourth century.
Some theorize that the Peshitta descends from the original manuscripts, and was then transcribed from Galilean Aramaic into Syriac Aramaic. These is some evidence for this, in that the Peshitta contains Semitic poetry structures, which would be difficult (although not impossible) to reproduce, if it was backward translated from Greek. However, this would present a challenge at least with the books of Matthew and Hebrews, both of which were first written in Hebrew.
Another major issue is that the Peshitta was originally missing Revelation, Jude, 2 Peter, and 2 & 3 John. While these were later added from translations, there are other issues, including the existence of many Hellenisms. For one example, the Apostle Shaul is not Shaul, but the Greek Paulos (פולוס). He is called Paulos even when he goes up to Jerusalem (where he would have been called Shaul).
|Acts 21:18 Peshitta
18 On the following day Paulos went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.
|PEH Acts 21:18
וליומא אחרנא עלן עם פולוס לות יעקוב כד אית הוא לותה כלהון קשׁישׁא׃
For another example, consider that the Aramaic word for bread is lechema (לחמא). This is a close relative of to the Hebrew word for bread, which is lechem (לחם). The Peshitta has Yeshua breaking lechema (לחמא) during the Last Supper.
19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
PEH Luke 22:19
ונסב לחמא ואודי וקצא ויהב להון ואמר הנו פגרי דעל אפיכון מתיהב הדא הויתון עבדין לדוכרני׃
Jarringly, by Acts 2:42, the Peshitta has the disciples breaking the Eucharistia (דאוכרסטיא), or the Eucharist (which is a Catholic invention).
|Acts 2:42 Peshitta
42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of the Eucharist, and in prayers.
PEH Acts 2:42
ואמינין הוו ביולפנא דשׁליחא ומשׁתותפין הוו בצלותא ובקציא דאוכרסטיא׃
Because the apostles continued to practice the same worship as Yeshua did, they would not have used the term Eucharist (or Eucharistia). The fact that the Peshitta uses this term means that at best, the Peshitta was altered to use this term after the doctrine of the Eucharist had been invented.
Another likely alternative is that the Peshitta is a high-quality backward translation from Greek into Aramaic (similar to the Salkinson-Ginsburg backward translation of the King James Version into Hebrew in the late 19th century).
Mark 15:34 supports the idea that the Peshitta was a backward translation from Greek into Aramaic. This is because the Peshitta quotes Yeshua (who was speaking Aramaic), and it translates His Aramaic into Aramaic. However, this makes no sense.
Mark 15:34 Peshitta
34 And at the ninth hour Yeshua cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lamna sabachthani?” which is translated, “Elohi, Elohi, lamna sabachthani?”
If Mark hypothetically wrote Yeshua’s Aramaic speech into an Aramaic scroll that would later be incorporated directly into the Peshitta, he would not have said the words, “which is translated.” Rather, he would simply have recorded what Yeshua said (without additional comments). The only way those words could have got there is if it was backward translated (probably from Greek).
What then shall we say? The Church Fathers clearly testify that the original manuscripts for Matthew and Hebrews were written in Hebrew, and that the rest were originally inspired in Hebrew, and were then eloquently translated into Greek. Based on this, the Peshitta either descends from the original documents with several obvious Hellenisms, or it was a very high-quality backward translation (like the Salkinson-Ginsburg). Both of these are possible. We may know more as the Vatican continues digitizing its archives.
Restoring a Pure Language
Sometimes people ask why I have not done most of my writing in Hebrew. The answer is that the restoration is a process. At the time of this writing, our main focus is still to continue taking the true Good News out to the nations, so as to restore the Tabernacle of David which has fallen down (Amos 9:11, Acts 15:16). This is to be our primary focus until after Armageddon. Then, after Armageddon, Yahweh will bring us home, and He will then restore a pure language to us, and to our children.
9 “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of Yahweh, to serve Him with one accord.”
It is good to prepare for the restoration, and it is good to learn the languages our Example used, so long as we remember that our main focus right now is to take the Good News outward, to restore the Tabernacle of David.