Pope Benedict XVI states the Gospel of Matthew was written in Hebrew or Aramaic
During the second half of 2006, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a catechesis on the disciple Matthew. The catechesis noted that Matthew’s gospel was written in Hebrew or Aramaic.
When Pope Benedict made this assertion about the original language of Matthew’s gospel, he may not have had in mind its implication for the doctrine of virgin birth.
The Doctrine of Virgin Birth
The virgin birth doctrine is founded on the claim that the prophet Isaiah prophesied a virgin birth and Matthew saw its fulfilment in the birth of Jesus.
However, there is a twist. Church scholars know that Isaiah spoke in Hebrew, and that he referred only to a “young woman”, not a “virgin”. They get around this inconvenient fact by claiming that Matthew did not quote Isaiah’s words from the Hebrew Old Testament, but from a Greek translation of the Hebrew which incorrectly rendered the “young woman” in Isaiah’s prophecy as “virgin”.
Thus the churches’ position is that Jesus fulfilled a prophecy that does not appear in the Old Testament. Their virgin birth “prophecy” derives from an incorrect Greek translation made some 500 years after the prophet Isaiah had died!
The Gospel of Matthew
Matthew’s gospel was written for the Jews. The internal evidence of this is so overwhelming that it is often called The Gospel for the Jews.
The testimony from early times is that Matthew wrote his gospel in Hebrew, and that copies of the Hebrew circulated for several centuries. History does not tell us what happened to these copies.
In more recent times, some scholars have claimed Matthew wrote his gospel in Greek.
Pope Benedict’s statement
The Pope’s statement that Matthew’s gospel was written in Hebrew or Aramaic refutes those who claim it was written in Greek.
It also raises some questions, the answers to which would shed a great deal of light on the churches’ claims about the virgin birth doctrine:
- If Matthew wrote his gospel in Hebrew, would he have quoted Isaiah’s prophecy from the Hebrew Old Testament, or from the Greek translation of the Hebrew?
- Why would it matter which source he quoted?
The Pope’s answers to these questions, and his reasons for them, would be most interesting.
Pope Benedict’s statement was reported in the Weekly Edition in English of L’Osservatore Romano, 6 September 2006, an extract of which appears below.
“On Wednesday morning, 30 August, the Holy Father arrived by helicopter from his Summer Residence at Castel Gandolfo for the General Audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall. The Pope continued his Catecheses on the Church’s apostolic ministry, commenting this time on St Matthew, the tax collector. The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s Catechesis, given in Italian.”
“Lastly, let us remember that the tradition of the ancient Church agrees in attributing to Matthew the paternity of the First Gospel. This had already begun with Bishop Papias of Hierapolis in Frisia, in about the year 130.
“He writes: “Matthew set down the words (of the Lord) in the Hebrew tongue and everyone interpreted them as best he could” (in Eusebius of Cesarea, Hist. Eccl. III, 39, 16).
“Eusebius, the historian, adds this piece of information: “When Matthew, who had first preached among the Jews, decided also to reach out to other peoples, he wrote down the Gospel he preached in his mother tongue; thus, he sought to put in writing, for those whom he was leaving, what they would be losing with his departure” (ibid., III, 24, 6).
“The Gospel of Matthew written in Hebrew or Aramaic is no longer extant… “
On this website
The matter of Matthew’s quotation of Isaiah’s prophecy is dealt with at length in Isaiah’s Prophecy.
In particular, note:
- Section 1 deals with the wording in Isaiah’s prophecy.
- Section 4 deals with the wording of Matthew 1:23.
- Section 6 speculates on the fate of the churches of christendom should an early copy of Matthew’s gospel in its original language be found.