Awareness of even the simplest Hebrew grammatical structure can bring to life a vague, or difficult-to-understand, saying of Jesus. Since potential Hebrew idioms are so dense in the Greek texts of Matthew, Mark and Luke, one has to ask: Could these apparent Hebrew idioms be evidence that the synoptic Gospels are descendants of an ancient translation of a Hebrew Life of Jesus, the gospel that the church father Papias (ca. 70-160 A.D.) spoke of when he wrote: Ματθαῖος…Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτῳ τὰ λόγια συνετάξατο (Matthaios…Hebra’idi dialekto ta logia synetaksato, Matthew…arranged the sayings [of Jesus] in the Hebrew language)?
The Hebrew work Papias mentions is not extant. It is not the Greek Matthew of the New Testament—scholars agree that canonical Matthew is not a direct translation of a Hebrew source. However, the text Papias mentions might be an ancestor of canonical Matthew, a Hebrew source that was translated to Greek. The authors of canonical Matthew, Mark and Luke may have used this Greek translation in writing their accounts.
In Israel, when a Hebrew speaker doesn’t know the name for something, the person asks, איך קוראים לדבר הזה (ech kor’im la-davar ha-zeh; literally, “How are they calling to this thing?”). When an English-speaking immigrant to Israel wants to know the Hebrew word for something, for instance, “table,” the immigrant turns to a native speaker and asks, …איך אומרים בעברית (ech omrim “table” be-ivrit, literally, “How are they saying ‘table’ in Hebrew?”), that is, “How do you say ‘table’ in Hebrew?” or “What’s the word for ‘table’ in Hebrew?” A learner asks the question using the 3rd-person plural active form of the verb. In such a context, the “they,” which in Hebrew is included in the verb, is indefinite, that is, “they” does not refer to anyone specifically.
I once saw an advertisement promoting purchase of listings in the Israeli Yellow Pages. The ad had the banner headline: בדפי זהב רואים אותך (Be-dape zahav ro’im otcha, literally, “In the Yellow Pages, they are seeing you”). Here, too, the “they” does not refer to any specific individuals: it is indefinite and impersonal. From an English speaker’s standpoint, such a sentence is unclear. English speakers would not make the appeal in this way; they probably would employ a passive construction, for instance, “[If you buy a listing in the Yellow Pages,] you will be seen,” or, more likely, “You will get exposure.”