The Religious A priori



[blockquote>The Gospel of Matthew was traditionally assumed to be the first Gospel written. Since the 19th century scholars have come to see it as an addition to the Gospel of Mark. Of many skeptics assume that the work of an actual Apostle wouldn't follow the work of a non-eye-witness such as Mark, even if Mark is based upon the testimony of Peter. All one need to do is consult a Gospel parallel to see that the three synoptics (Matthew, Mark, Luke) follow one another almost verbatim, with Matthew adding a great deal of material and Luke crossing Matthew's t's and dotting his i's.

The thesis here is that Matthew is based upon the synoptic saying source (Q) which offers a link to the earliest period of eye-witness testimony and possibly represents the work of the actual Apostle Mattew. There are two major issues which I want to tackle:

1) The seeming mistakes Mattew makes in Quoting scritpure

2) The sources used in the Synoptic sayings source.

Matthew's Mistakes in Quoting Scriputre

Such mistakes can be found sin many many instances. Matthew is not the only Gospel to make such mistakes but he is the most prevalent.

Matthew quotes a strange version of Micah which has no textual support, found in Matthew 2:6

"But thou, Bethlehem land of Judah art in no wise least among the princes of Judah. For out of thee shall come forth a govener who shall be a shapard of my people."

But the actual version says:

Mich v2: "but thou Bethlehem Ephriath which art little to be among the families of Judah out of thee is one to come forth unto me who is to be a ruler in Israel."

actually the real version is as prophetic of Christ as is the Matthew version. But the question still arises how can Matthew fabricate the passage in this way?
But John Allegro points out that the same sort of Hermeneutics is found all over Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Now it has long been recognized that such paraphrasing has been practiced by the New Testament writers. And there are some parallel usages to be found in Rabbinic literature. But in the Dead Sea Scrolls we find the same practice and method used time and time again, and there is no hermeneutics principle in the New Testament which cannot be matched exactly in the Qumran literature.There are some very good examples in the Habakkuk commentary of the writer deliberately altering his text to fit his purpose (Allegro, The Dead Sea Scrolls,1968, p 154)

Apparently this was, in some circles of Heterodox Judism, an accepted practice, and it may not have been limited to just the heterodox. So what we look at as fabrication was an accepted pratice.

IN many instances some OT passages are ran together forming new quotations, or creating misapplications. Passages attributed to the wrong people. Now Allegro points out that it had long been thought that Testimonial documents were used in the early chruch to teach scripture. These would be handbooks of Biblical quotations. So if the author knew the passage from the handbook he might refer to it by the wrong name because that is the name on the top of the page that leads off the quotations. Thus Jeremiah might really be Micha, but because Jeremiah is at the time of the page from which the author took the Micha passage he refurrs to it as "Jerimaiah.."

Again Allegro shed's light on this prospect:

It now seems that we have from Qumran important support for a pre-Christian collection of eschatological Testimonia the very first of which is a composit quotation! Matthew's Quotations from the OT fall into two separate groups: 1) those proceeded by the formula 'now this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled as was spoken by the prophets' 2) and those given without such an introductory phrase or sentence. It has further been observed that the formula quotations follow the Hebrew Text and the non-formula type agree more with the LXX traditions...It seems,therefore, not improbable, that certain Jewish sections of the early Church like the Matthew school were using very old groups of Testimonia in a Hebrew of the pre-Massoretic Greek like so many of our Qumran Biblical texts. (John Allegro, The Dead Sea Scrolls, Pelican, 1968, p.156)

Synoptic Saying Source and Matthew's Logia

Several chruh fathers make the statement, following the olest versions in Papias and Iranaeus, that Matthew was the first to write a Gospel and that each one translated it from Hebrew as best he could.

Papias "Matthew composed the sayings (Logica) in Hebrew and each translated them as best he could." (Eusebius, Eccl. Histories 3.39.16).

Irenaeus: "Now Matthew Published among the Hebrews in their own tounge a witten Gospel, while Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome...." (Eccl hist).

Origien and Eusebius also follow up on this statement with their own agreements.
Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels argues that Matthew does not show any evidence of having been translated from Hebrew. It was originally written in Greek, which indicates that either these statements are totally false or that they apply to another document.
Koester observes that the other document to which these statements of the logia pertian could well be the Synoptic saying source itself (aka Q).

Ancient Christian Gosples

Unless one wants to assume that Papias information is totally wrong on all counts,...Papias statement is better understood as a reference to an altogether different writting. The writting he describes would have been a collection of sayings compossed in Hebrew and trasnslated into Greek Several times. This characteroization fits the Synoptic Saying Source quite well: it was probably compossed originally in Greek but some of its part may have been translated from Aramaic into Greek more than once..." (Ancient Christian Gospels.317)

Koester also points out that other theories have been proposed that would back up this notion of the Q source as the logia of Matthew. It was first propossed by Ferdenand Bauer in 1847. A most recent theory which is very complex is proposed by Benoit and Boismard "The Two source theory at an Impasse" 1980. This theory requires an eaariler version of Matthew existed which functioned as a source for Q.

Matthew could have written a saying source recording the sayings of Jesus, and this was used by the latter redactor along with Mark in producing what we now call "the Gospel of Matthew." There is of course no way to prove this, but what is important to understand is that the Gospel of Matthew does draw upon a saying source which gives us a list of Jesus' teachings much closer to the original events, this makes these sayings more authentic and not less.

Date: New Early Date for Matt

Typricaly most Scholars of all stripes now date Matt around AD70-80; new evidence form the Talmud indicates Matthew had to exist before this date. The evidence that Gamaliel is seen to parody the gospel of Matt in a famous passage of the Talmud that is usualy dated to about AD 70-72.

Southcoast today,com
standard times

Jewish Talmud confirms an early Gospel of Matthew By Neil Altman and David Crowder

An ancient Jewish parody that quotes the New Testament's Gospel of Matthew may refute a major argument by biblical scholars who challenge the credibility of the Bible.

For more than a century, liberal scholars have contended that the Christian gospels are unreliable, secondhand accounts of Jesus' ministry that weren't put on paper until 70 to 135 AD or later -- generations after those who witnessed the events of Jesus' ministry were dead.

Today's more liberal scholars say the Gospel of Matthew may have been aimed at Jews, but it was written in Greek, not Hebrew. They also believe that the Book of Mark, written in Greek, was the original gospel, despite the traditional order of the gospels in the Bible, putting Matthew first.

But a literary tale dated by some scholars at 72 AD or earlier, which comes from an ancient collection of Jewish writings known as the Talmud, quotes brief passages that appear only in the Gospel of Matthew. In his 1999 book, "Passover and Easter: Origin and History to Modern Times," Israel J. Yuval of Jerusalem's Hebrew University states that Rabban Gamaliel, a leader of rabbinical scholars in about 70 AD, is "considered to have authored a sophisticated parody of the Gospel according to Matthew." The Talmud, a text not often touched by New Testament scholars, also contains a number of obvious references to Jesus and his family.

Jesus is called a Nazarene as one of the names given him. Another dubs him Yeshua Ben Pandira, which means Jesus born-of-a-virgin in a combination of Hebrew and Greek. His father was a carpenter, his mother was a hairdresser and Jesus, the Talmud says, was a magician who "led astray Israel." And, it says, he was "hung" on the eve of Passover.

Gamaliel's tale, which happens to portray a Christian judge as corrupt, may be less valuable for its instruction than for casting doubt on the long-held theory that Matthew's gospel, though longer than Mark's, was written years later by someone after the apostle Matthew had died.

When Matthew's gospel to the Hebrews was written is important to biblical conservatives because an early Matthew would strengthen its credibility by making it possible, if not probable, that the tax collector whom Jesus recruited was the first to write and distribute his account of Jesus' birth, ministry and death. Most liberal scholars would say Matthew's gospel didn't come along until 90 AD or later and was in Greek, separating the apostle from the Jews as well as book that bears his name.
But if Gamaliel quoted the Gospel of Matthew, then Matthew "had to be before 70 AD," said Craig Blomberg, distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Theological Seminary.
In Rabbi Gamaliel's story, a daughter whose father had died offers a golden lamp as a bribe to a Christian judge known for his honesty, seeking a decision that would allow her to share her father's estate with her brother. When the judge suggests that dividing the estate would be proper on the basis of a new law that had superseded the ancient Law of Moses, Gamaliel argues that the judge is wrong and loosely quotes a statement attributed to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew.
"Look further in the book, and it is written in it, 'I have not come to take away from the Law of Moses nor add to the Law of Moses ... .' " Gamaliel replies, and wins the case on the basis of that argument or the bribe he gave the judge -- a "Libyan ass."
The Libyan ass itself is a reference to Jesus and the mount he rode into Jerusalem.
The late English scholar, R. Travers Herford, called Gamaliel's story a "brutal parody of Christian belief." In his book, "Christianity in Talmud and Midrash," he points to a second reference to Matthew, in the reaction of the woman who lost the case, despite the golden lamp she gave as a bribe. "Let your light shine as a lamp!" she says, throwing a sarcastic barb at the judge. At Matthew 5:16, just before Jesus said he came to fulfill the law, he tells his followers that the lamp of their belief should not be hidden but "let your light shine before men."

Neil Altman is a Philadelphia-based writer who specializes in the Dead Sea Scrolls and religion. He has done graduate work at Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning, Conwell School of Theology, and Temple University. He has a master's degree in Old Testament from Wheaton Graduate School in Wheaton, Ill., and was an American Studies Fellow at Eastern College. David Crowder is an investigative reporter for the El Paso Times in Texas.

This story appeared on Page A6 of The Standard-Times on April 19, 2003.


The Religious A priori