The History of Palestine and Israel in the light of Hebrew Bible

General overview of Historical Texts: The original Jewish followers of Yeshua as Messiah were an ancient Jewish sect known as the Nazarenes (Acts 24:5). The “church father” Jerome (4th Cent.) described these Nazarenes as those:
“…who accept Messiah in such a way that they do not cease to observe the old Law.”
(Jerome; On. Is. 8:14).
The fourth century “church father” Epiphanius gives a more detailed description: But these sectarians… did not call themselves Christians – but “Nazarenes,”…However they are simply complete Jews. They use not only the New Testament but the Old Testament as well, as the Jews do… They have no different ideas, but confess everything exactly as the Law proclaims it and in the Jewish fashion– except for their belief in Messiah, if you please! For they acknowledge both the resurrection of the dead and the divine creation of all things, and declare that G-d is one, and that his son is Y’shua the Messiah. They are trained to a nicety in Hebrew. For among them the entire Law, the Prophets, and the…Writings… are read in Hebrew, as they surely are by the Jews. They are different from the Jews, and different from Christians, only in the following: They disagree with Jews because they have come to faith in Messiah; but since they are still fettered by the Law – circumcision, the Sabbath, and the rest – they are not in accord with Christians…. they are nothing but Jews…(Epiphanius; Panarion 29).
This ancient sect of Jewish believers in Messiah used an apocryphal synoptic Gospel known as:
“The Gospel according to the Hebrews” sometimes called “The Gospel of the Nazarenes”. Jerome referred to this Gospel as “…the Gospel which the Nazarenes and Ebionites use…”
(Jerome On Mt. 12:13).
Eusebius said: “And among them [doubted books] some have placed the Gospel according to the Hebrews which is the especial delight of those of the Hebrews who have accepted Messiah.” (Eccl. Hist. 3:25:5).
Unfortunately the Gospel according to the Hebrews is a lost Gospel. Not one copy of this Gospel has come down to us. However about 50 quotations and citations of the document have survived from various sources (primarily quotations by the “Church Fathers”).
What was this Gospel? Was it an original, longer version of Matthew? Was it the synoptic source? Who wrote it? When was it composed? What did it teach? What does it tell us about the ancient Nazarenes?
Modern scholars have had a difficult time defining just what GH really was. According to Montague Rhodes James GH was “a divergent yet not heretical form of our Gospel according to St. Matthew.”1 Other scholars see in GH a completely unique apocryphal synoptic Gospel. And still others speculate that it was a Gospel Harmony. The difficulty originates in confusing statements by the ancient writers. Jerome, for example, refers to GH as “the original of Matthew”2 yet elsewhere he and others quote portions which have parallels only in Luke. This difficulty might be resolved of GH was an unabridged Matthew which also served as a source for Luke.
The Gospel according to the Hebrews was used by both Nazarenes and Ebionites (who split off from the Nazarenes in 70 C.E.). Jerome refers to it as:
“…the Gospel which the Nazarenes and Ebionites use…”3
However it seems that the two groups had slightly different versions of the same book:
o The Nazarene Version (GH-n) which Epiphanius says was “quite complete… as it was first written.”4.
o The Ebionite Version (GH-e) which Epiphanius says was “not wholly complete but falsified and mutilated.”5.
By the middle ages the Nazarene version became known as “the Gospel of the Nazarenes” and in modern times the Ebionite version has come to be known as “The Gospel of the Ebionites.”
1. Apocryphal New Testament p. 1.
2. Jerome; On Matt. 12:13.
3. ibid.
4. Pan. 29:9:4 (this quote actually speaks of Hebrew Matthew however I have included it because: 1).
Throughout the Church Fathers there is a confusion between the original “complete” Hebrew Matthew and GH (as we will discuss later they may be the same) this is compounded by the context of this quote in contrast to the Ebionite text of GH (elsewhere the “Church Fathers” say that Ebionites used only Matthew and do not mention GH lending to the implication that they are the same).
5. Pan. 30:13:
The Barnes and Hebrews.
The Gospel according to the Hebrews is an apocryphal Gospel which was used by the ancient Nazarenes and Ebionites. Scholars have long recognized the profound importance of this document.
Barnes wrote:
…the Gospel according to the Hebrews by its very title claims an authority equal to, if not actually greater than, that of the four which eventually received the approval of the Church. (A. S. Barnes; The Gospel according to the Hebrews; Journal of Theological Studies 6 (1905) p. 361)
And Schonfield writes:
The Gospel according to the Hebrews is a literary outlaw with a price on its head; but in spite of the scholarly hue and cry it still evades capture. Neither monastic libraries nor Egyptian rubbish heaps have so far yielded up a single leaf of this important document….
For behind Hebrews lies the unknown potentialities of the Nazarene tradition, which may confirm or contradict some of the most cherished beliefs of Orthodox Christianity. It is useless for certain theologians to designate Hebrews as “secondary” on the evidence of the present fragmentary remains preserved in quotation…
Judged by ancient testimony alone it is indisputable that Hebrews has the best right of any Gospel to be considered a genuine apostolic production…
Here is obviously a most valuable witness, perhaps the most valuable witness to the truth about [Yeshua] whom even a jury composed entirely of orthodox Christians could not despise, and who ought to be
brought into court. But the witness is missing, and all that we have is a few reported statements of his taken long ago…
(Hugh Schonfield; According to the Hebrews; 1937; pp. 13-18)
The Synoptic Problem: Mattityahu, Mark and Luke are known as the synoptic gospels. This is because in many cases these three gospels use identical phrasing to recount many of the same stories. The Synoptic Problem is the problem of explaining these similarities and their interrelationships. This problem is nothing new, it was first addressed in the fifth century by the Christian “Church Father” Augustine.
The Semitic Source Document: Many synoptic variances point to an underlying Semitic text as the common synoptic source document. For example:
Mt. 4:19 = Lk. 5:10 “fisher’s of men”/”catch men” (Aram.)
Mt. 11:8 = Lk. 7:7:25 “In King’s Houses”/”Among Kings”
Mt. 11:27 = Lk. 10:22 “and no one knows the Son”/”and no one knows who the son is” (Aram.)
Mt. 12:50 = Mk. 3:35 & Lk. 8:21 “my brother”/”brother of me” (Hebrew or Aramaic)
Mt. 16:26 & Mk. 8:36 = Lk. 9:25 “his soul”/”himself” (Heb.) or (Aram.)
Mt. 27:15 = Lk. 23:17 “accustomed”/”necessary” (Aram.)
The Gospel according to the Hebrews was a Gospel which was once used by the Nazarenes and Ebionites. Eusebius said that GH was “the especial delight of those of the Hebrews who have accepted Messiah” (Eccl. Hist. 3:25:5). When speaking of the Ebionites, Epiphanius calls GH “their Gospel” (Pan. 30:16:4-5) and Jerome refers to GH as “the Gospel which the Nazarenes and Ebionites use” (On Mat. 12:13). The actual document has been lost to history, but about fifty quotations and citations of this document are preserved in quotations and citations from the so-called “Church Fathers” and other commentators even into the middle ages.
It is unlikely that the Hebrews themselves called their own Gospel “according to the Hebrews”. This is likely a title given the book by Gentile Christians. GH was also called “the Gospel according to the Apostles”; “the Gospel according to the Twelve”; and “the Gospel according to Matthew” and one of these may have been its name among the Hebrews who used it.
Even the most conservative of scholars have given a very early date to the composition of the Gospel according to the Hebrews. In his book Evidence that Demands a Verdict Josh McDowell (p. 38) assigns GH a date of A.D.
65-100. The book certainly had to have existed before the time of Hegesippus (c. 180 C.E.) who Eusebius tells us made use of GH in his writings (Eusebius; Eccl. Hist. 4:22:8).
Ignatious (98 C.E.) quotes from GH in his letter to the Smyraneans (3:1-2 (1:9-12 some editions)). Although Ignatious does not identify his quote as coming from GH, Jerome (4th Century) does later cite GH as the source (Of Illustrious Men 16). GH (in differing versions) was used by both Nazarenes and Ebionites. Since neither group would have been likely to adopt the other’s book after they split from each other around 70 C.E., it appears that GH in its original form must have originated prior to that time.
There has been much debate about the original language of the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Eusebius refers to GH as “the Gospel that is spread abroad among the Jews in the Hebrew tongue” (Theophina 4:12 on Mt. 10:34-36) and “the Gospel [written] in Hebrew letters” (ibid on Mt. 25:14f). Jerome refers to GH as “written in the Chaldee and Syrian language but in Hebrew letters” (Against Pelagius III.2) but seems to refer to the same document in another passage as “in the Hebrew language and letters” (Of Illustrious Men 3). In context however Jerome seems to say that GH was originally written in “the Hebrew language and letters” but that the copy in the library at Caesarea is “written in the Chaldee and Syrian language but in Hebrew letters” (i.e. Aramaic). Thus Schonfield is correct in writing:
The original language of the Gospel was Hebrew. It has generally been assumed on insufficient grounds that this
Hebrew was in fact Aramaic (commonly called Hebrew).
(According to the Hebrews p. 241)
Many misconceptions have circulated concerning the Gospel according to the Hebrews. For example many scholars have attempted to make GH into several documents. These refer to the Gospel according to the Hebrews, the Gospel of the Nazarenes and the Gospel of the Ebionites as three different documents. However nowhere do the “Church Fathers” refer to a “Gospel of the Ebionites”. Epiphanius says that the Ebionites used the “Gospel according to the Hebrews” and never refers to a document titled “Gospel of the Ebionites”. The term “Gospel of the Nazarenes” is never used by the “Church Fathers” either and only appears in the middle ages where it is clearly a euphemism for the Gospel according to the Hebrews. The presumption that there were three documents called GH has taken root in scholarship. Part of the basis for this assumption is that Clement of Alexander (who did not know Hebrew or Aramaic) quotes GH in Greek before Jerome translated GH into Greek. However it is quite possible that
Clement obtained his quotation from a secondary source who did know Hebrew and that had quoted GH in ad hoc Greek, a secondary source which is now unknown. The fact that Clement of Alexander quotes the book in Greek prior to Jerome’s translation is far too little evidence from which to conclude multiple documents.
Another misconception is the presumption that thirteen readings in marginal notes found in certain manuscripts of Greek Matthew and which refer to alternate readings taken form “the Judaikon” (i.e. the “Jewish version) refer
to the Gospel according to the Hebrews.While one of these readings (a note to 18:22) agrees with the reading of GH as given by Jerome (Against Pelag. III 2) that in itself is not enough evidence to jump to the far reaching conclusion that the “Judaikon” is the same as GH. The “Judaikon” readings may also be readings from a Jewish (Hebrew or Aramaic?) version of canonical Matthew and not to GH at all.
While there is no reason to presume that there were three different Gospels called the Gospel according to the Hebrews, it is certainly clear that Nazarenes and Ebionites used different versions of GH. Epiphanius describes the version of GH used by the Ebionites as “called ‘according to Matthew’, which however is not wholly complete but falsified and mutilated” (Pan. 30:13:2) however in speaking of the Nazarenes he refer to the “Gospel of Matthew quite complete in Hebrew… preserved… as it was first written, in Hebrew letters” (Pan. 29:9:4). So it would appear that the Ebionite version of GH was “not wholly complete but falsified and mutilated” while the Nazarene version was “quite complete… preserved… as it was first written.”
This explains why the Ebionite version omitted the birth narrative and opened with the ministry of Yochanan (Pan. 30:13:6) while the Nazareneversion is known to have included material parallel to the first two chapters of Matthew.
There are also some important parallels between the Gospel according to the Hebrews and our Hebrew and Aramaic versions of the Synoptic Gospels. To begin with Jerome indicates that GH tended to agree with the Hebrew Tanak against the Greek LXX in its quotations from the Tanak (Of Illustrious Men 3). In the account of the immersion of Yeshua GH as quoted by Epiphanius says that the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) descended “in the form of a dove”. This reading not only agrees with Luke (3:22) against Matthew (3:16) it also agrees with DuTillet Hebrew Matthew and the Siniatic Old Syriac text of Matthew 3:16. GH as quoted by Jerome also says that the Ruch HaKodesh “rested” upon Yeshua at this event. This agrees with the Old Syriac reading of Matthew 3:16 against Greek Matthew. The Shem Tob Hebrew Matthew similarly has that the Rucah HaKodesh “dwelt” upon Yeshua in Mt. 3:16.
There may also be a tendency of GH to agree with the Greek Western type text of the canonical Gospels. For example the immersion event GH (as recorded by Epiphanius) has the voice say (in part) “I have this day begotten you” which is also found in the Greek Western type text of Codex D in Luke 3:22 (compare Ps. 2:7; Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5). Moreover GH as cited by Jerome has the voice at the immersion of Yeshua speak “to him” as does the Greek Western type text of Codex D in Mt. 3:17. This is important because as I have shown elsewhere the Greek Western type text is the oldest most Semitic type of Greek text 6.
The Gospel according to the Hebrews: a Synoptic Source Document?
Many scholars through the years have seen within GH possible answers to questions about synoptic origins.
In 1778 Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) known as a founder of the Scientific Method, proposed the idea that GH was the primary source for our Synoptic Gospels7.
In 1866 Hilgenfeld concluded:
At length the Gospel according to the Hebrews offers those of us who are investigating the origin of the gospels the punctum Archimedis 8 which so many learned men have vainly sought in the Gospel according to Mark.9
In 1905 A. S. Barnes proposed identification between GH and the Logia document which many scholars closely associate with “Q”. Barnes writes:
Is it possible seriously to maintain that there were two separate documents, each of them written at Jerusalem during the Apostolic age and in the Hebrew tongue, each of them assigned to the Apostle Matthew, and each of them dealing in some way with the Gospel story? Or are we not rather forced to the conclusion that these two documents, whose descriptions are so strangely similar, must really be identical…
(A.S. Barnes; The Gospel according to the Hebrews; Journal of Theological Studies 6 (1905) p. 361)
In 1940 Pierson Parker concluded:
…the presence in this gospel of Lukan qualities and parallels, the absence from it of definitive… Markan elements… all point to one conclusion, viz., that the source of the Gospel according to the Hebrews…was most closely related to sources underlying the non-Markan parts of Luke, that is, Proto-Luke.
(Pierson Parker; A Proto-Lukan Basis for the Gospel according to the Hebrews; Journal of Biblical Literature 59 (1940) p. 478)
6 For further refrences please refer the book, The Hebrew and Aramaic Origin of the New Testament.
7 The Hilbert Journal 3 (1904); The Gospel according to the Hebrews; Walter F. Adeney, M.A., D.D.; p. 139
8 “point of origin”
9 Ibid; Novum Testamentum extra Canonem Receptum, fasciculus iv. P. 13. Apad. Nicholson, The Gospel according to the Hebrews, p. ix.
And Hugh Schonfield concluded of GH:
…it may be argued that there has been dependence not of ‘Hebrews’ on the Synoptics but vice versa-that ‘Hebrews’ was one of the sources on which one or more of them drew.
(Hugh Schonfield; According to the Hebrews; 1937; pp. 13-18)
As this book will demonstrate, the Gospel according to the Hebrews does indeed lie at the root of all four of our canonical Gospels.
Mark: A Secondary Gospel
The original documentary theory claimed that Mattitiyahu and Luke were dependent on a collection of sayings known as the Logia or as “Q”. “Q” is from the German word “Quelle” meaning “source” and narrative documents usually identified as Mark. This may be illustrated as follows.
Streeter developed this theory further. He realized that Luke and Mattitiyahu contained narratives in common which could not be found in Mark. He attributed these to a third document, which he called “Proto-Luke”. Proto-Luke was said to have had incorporated into it “Q”, the non-Markan portions of Luke and the narrative material which Luke and Matthew held incommon.
The late Dr. Robert Lindsey made further observations. Lindsey points out that the phrase “and immediately” occurs in Mark over 40 times. Luke contains this phrase only once and then in a portion with no parallel in Mark.
Lindsey pointed out that it is unimaginable that Luke systematically purged the phrase “and immediately” from every portion of Mark which he used, especially since he uses the phrase himself elsewhere. This means that Luke
could not have copied from Mark and that Mark therefore copied from Luke. If we eliminate all of the Lukan passages from Mark then almost everything else can be found in Mattitiyahu. In fact only 31 verses of Mark cannot be found in either Luke or Mattitiyahu. It is clear as a result that Mark was compiled using Luke and Mattitiyahu. The following three facts also support this conclusion:
1. When Mark and Matthew differ in chronology Luke agrees with Mark.
2. When Mark and Luke differ in Chronology, Matthew agrees with Mark.
3. Matthew and Luke never agree in chronology against Mark.
Mark therefore is secondary, compiled from Matthew and Luke with only 31 lines of original material. It plays no part in synoptic origins.
Matthew: An Abridgement of the Gospel according to the Hebrews
The so-called “Church Fathers” do not hesitate in hinting to us that Matthew’s source document was the Gospel according to the Hebrews.
Jerome writes of GH:
In the Gospel which the Nazarenes and Ebionites use which I have lately translated into Greek from the Hebrew and which is called by many people the original of Matthew…
(Jerome; On Matt. 12:13)
Jerome is not the only “Church Father” to identify GH with Matthew. Irenaeus says that the Ebionites used only the Gospel of Matthew (Heresies 1:26:2), Eusebius says they “used only the Gospel called according to the Hebrews” (Eccl. Hist. 3:27:4) while Epiphanius says that the Ebionite “Gospel” “…is called “Gospel according to Matthew, or Gospel according to the Hebrews” (Panarion 30:16:4-5). Moreover Jerome seems to refer to the original Hebrew of Matthew and GH interchangeably.
This led Hugh Schonfield to conclude:
My own opinion is that the canonical Gospel [of Matthew] is an abridged edition of a larger work, of which fragments still survive… I believe that this Protevangel was written in Hebrew, not in Aramaic,…Whatever may have been its original title, we have early allusions to it under the name of “the Gospel” “the Gospel of the Lord,” “the Gospel of the Twelve, or of the Apostles,” “the Gospel of the Hebrews” and “the Hebrew Matthew.”
– Hugh J. Schonfield
(An Old Hebrew Text of St. Matthew’s Gospel; 1927 p. viii)
However ten years later Schonfield writes: The only difficulty in fact that stands in the way of accepting the Greek [of Matthew] as really translated from the Hebrew [of Matthew], instead of vice versa, is undoubtedly the irrefutable evidence that Greek Matthew has largely used Mark. – Hugh J. Schonfield.
(According to the Hebrews; 1937; p.248)
Schonfield finally comes to the conclusion of…the strong probability that Hebrews was one of the sources of canonical Matthew.
(ibid p. 254)
The pseudo-fact that Matthew used Mark as one of his sources (a theory Lindsey has since disproved) is the only thing which held Schonfield back from concluding that Greek Matthew is a translation of Hebrew Matthew and that Hebrew Matthew was an abridgement of the Gospel according to the Hebrews. With the barrier of presumed Markan priority being removed we may now adopt the logical conclusion that Schonfield hesitated from.
The Gospel of Hebrew according to the Hebrews as Luke’s Source
Now having explained the origin of Mark as secondary we need not look to Mark as a primary Gospel source for Luke either. Instead we need concern ourselves only with Proto-Luke (and perhaps “Q”). Proto-Luke or the Proto-Narrative would be the common source behind Matthew and Luke, explaining their common material. Now we may easily conclude that the Gospel according to the Hebrews is the Proto-Luke or Proto-Narrative which served as the common source for both Luke and Matthew.
To begin with Luke admits to having had source documents when writing his gospel (Luke 1:1-4).
Secondly we have already established that the Gospel according to the Hebrews served as the source for canonical Matthew. If Matthew and Luke had a common source (which is clearly the case) then that source was almost certainly the Gospel according to the Hebrews.
Finally several of the surviving readings from the Gospel according to the Hebrews parallel Luke only and not Matthew. For example only Luke gives Yeshua’s age as being 30 (Lk. 3:23); only Luke includes the account of Yeshua being comforted by an angel (Lk. 22:43); only Luke includes the discussion about eating the Passover as described in Luke 22:45 and only Luke includes Yeshua’s words at the crucifixion “father forgive them…” (Lk. 23:34). There are also Lukan elements even in the material that also parallels Matthew. As shown earlier the immersion account as cited by Epiphanius also included the words “in the form of [a dove]” (as in Luke’s account) and the phrase “I have this day begotten you” (as in Luke’s account in the Greek Western type text of Codex D).
In fact we should expect that the Proto-Narrative would have readings which parallel Matthew only, readings which parallel only Luke and readings which are common to Matthew and Luke (and sometimes Mark) but should not expect readings which parallel only Mark. This is exactly the case with the Gospel according to the Hebrews.

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