הבשורה טובה הגאולה
What language was the Besora Tova HaGeula (Good News of Redemption) written in? Most people will tell you it was written in Greek. They go on to tell you that it was the "language of the day". They say everything during that time was written in Greek and that everybody also spoke Greek, including the Jews of HaAretz (The Land). Let’s find out if this is indeed the truth.
First we have to look at a couple of facts. One fact is that we have a transcript of the Book of Matthew in Hebrew, which predates any manuscripts we have in Koinia Greek. (Koinia Greek was the Greek in Rome at the time of Yeshua. It is from the Koinia Greek that we have our current translations – the ones they say are the originals). This fact alone has to make us rethink if Greek was indeed the original language of the Besora Tova HaGeula (Good News of Redemption). It obviously wasn’t. Another fact is that when we read in Josephus Wars 5:9:2 (Josephus lived during the time of Yeshua and even references Him as well as John the Baptist) we see that Josephus testifies that the people didn’t even understand Greek. He had to translate what the Greek speaking Romans had to say to the Jews in order for them to surrender. In other words… they didn’t know Greek!
We also have to look at Besora Tova HaGeula (Good News of Redemption) passages themselves. We see that when Yeshua stopped Shaul (Saul) He didn’t speak to him in Greek but rather Hebrew (some translations say Aramaic but even then in their footnotes say "or Hebrew". He didn’t speak to him in Greek at all and we know that Paul DID speak Greek. We also have to understand a little about Jewish culture here. Hebrew has always been considered the "Holy language". The Scribes in Israel during the Besora Tova HaGeula (Good News of Redemption) era also believed this. Writings that were considered to be holy were written in Hebrew, this was a given. Why would Holy Writ be done in a language of the pagans? Sure, later on there would be copies written in Greek for those who spoke Greek as their first language.
Another thing I hear often concerning this is that the Besora Tova HaGeula (Good News of Redemption) was written in Greek so that the Jews of the Diaspora would be able to understand it as they all spoke Greek. This shows a lack of Jewish culture and understanding. Any Jew would know that Hebrew was taught to the Jews of the Diaspora. It was necessary in order to read the Hebrew Scriptures in its original language! The letters that Paul wrote were to saved Jews in the synagogues in the Diaspora, Jews who knew Hebrew. That’s not all.
Dr Robert Lindsey, who was my pastor when I was growing up in Israel, translated the book of Mark from Greek into Hebrew. He discovered something rather interesting. He found that when he read the translation in Hebrew rather then from Greek, it made more sense. It wasn’t as disjointed as it was in Greek, rather it began to flow and many of the things that were written even had more meaning to the Hebrew ear.
Even the Church Fathers attest to this over and over again:
Papias (150-170 C.E.) Matthew composed the words in the Hebrew dialect, and each translated as he was able. (quoted by Eusebius Eccl. Hist. 3:39)
Ireneus (170 C.E.) Matthew also issued a written Besora Tova HaGeula among the Hebrews in their own dialect. (Irenaeus; Against Heresies 3:1)
Origen (c. 210 C.E.) The first [Besora Tova HaGeula] 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. (quoted by Eusebius; Eccl. Hist. 6:25)
Eusebius (c. 315 C.E.) Matthew also, having first proclaimed the Besora Tova HaGeula in Hebrew, when on the point of going also to the other nations, committed it to writing in his native tongue, and thus supplied the want of his presence to them by his writings. (Eusebius; Eccl. Hist. 3:24)
Epiphanius (370 C.E.) They [the Nazarenes] have the Besora Tova HaGeula according to Matthew quite complete in Hebrew, for this Besora Tova HaGeula is certainly still preserved among them as it was first written, in Hebrew letters. (Epiphanius; Panarion 29:9:4)
Jerome (382 C.E.) "Matthew, who is also Levi, and from a tax collector came to be an emissary first of all evangelists composed a Besora Tova HaGeula of Messiah in Judea in the Hebrew language and letters, for the benefit of those of the circumcision who had believed, who translated it into Greek is not sufficiently ascertained. Furthermore, the Hebrew itself is preserved to this day in the library at Caesarea, which the martyr Pamphilus so diligently collected. I also was allowed by the Nazarenes who use this volume in the Syrian city of Borea to copy it. In which is to be remarked that, wherever the evangelist… makes use of the testimonies
It is undisputable! Of course it was written in Hebrew, as was anything else during that time that was considered Holy. It was all written in Mishnaic Hebrew. There are currently three different kinds of Hebrew. There is Biblical Hebrew, which is what was used in the Hebrew Scriptures times. Then there was Mishnaic Hebrew, which is where we get our modern Hebrew block letters from (called Mishnaic as it was during the time of the compilation of the Mishna, the Oral Law) and modern Hebrew which is what is spoken in Israel today. Mishnaic Hebrew was the common language of the time and Mishnaic Hebrew is what the Besora Tova HaGeula (Good News of Redemption) was written in. Not Greek! Why is this important? Because it shows that the Greek manuscripts that we use are… a translation.
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