The Hebrew Life of Jesus

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Despite the popularity of the modern suggestion that the Synoptic Gospels are the end result of several decades of oral transmission, the internal evidence indicates that this is not the case. Dozens of pericopae in Matthew and Luke translate to Hebrew so easily and so idiomatically that we must conclude that the Synoptic Gospels are the result of literary transmission.

Stained glass window at the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. (Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton)

While attempting to translate the Gospel of Mark into modern Hebrew I came to the startling conclusion that there once existed a Hebrew Life of Jesus that was later translated into Greek, and that descendants of this literal Greek translation of the Hebrew Life of Jesus served as the basis of the Synoptic Gospels. We may, therefore, speak of a Hebrew source from which the Synoptic Gospels stem.

Despite the popularity of the modern suggestion that the Synoptic Gospels are the end result of several decades of oral transmission, the internal evidence indicates that this is not the case. Dozens of pericopae in Matthew and Luke translate to Hebrew so easily and so idiomatically that we must conclude that the Synoptic Gospels are the result of literary transmission. Let me illustrate this contention by placing side by side the Greek text of Luke 22:67-70 and my Hebrew reconstruction.

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The above article, excerpted from Robert L. Lindsey’s Preface to the second edition of his A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark (1973), pp. xix-xxvi, has been emended and updated by Lauren S. Asperschlager, David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton. For the work’s Introduction, and the rest of the Preface, see Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark.” See also, David Flusser, “Foreword to Robert Lindsey’s A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark.”