In Part Three of his series, “A Statistical Approach to the Synoptic Problem,” Halvor Ronning examines the data concerning the degree to which each of the Synoptic Gospels was influenced by a Semitic language (Hebrew or Aramaic). Ronning analyzes this data to see whether it can help us unravel the vexed question: “Who wrote first? Matthew, Mark, or Luke?”
The oldest known manuscripts of the New Testament were written in Greek, but by comparing Matt. 1:21 in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek with the knowledge of the naming formula so common in the Hebrew Bible, we see that this verse only makes sense in Hebrew. Since the naming formula depends on a wordplay that does not work in Greek or Aramaic, Matt. 1:21, or the oral tradition behind it, had to be in Hebrew.
In this article, Dr. Robert Lindsey discusses the importance of the so-called “minor agreements” of Luke and Matthew against Mark for properly understanding the interrelationship of the Synoptic Gospels. David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton collaborated with Lauren Asperschlager to bring this article, which previously existed only as an unfinished draft, to Jerusalem Perspective subscribers.
Dr. R. Steven Notley is a contributor to Jerusalem Perspective and member of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research. He is Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Nyack College in New York. In this lecture Dr. Notley discusses examples of how the Hebrew language influenced the Greek text of the canonical Gospels.
Supposing that these twin parables once belonged to the same narrative-sayings complex as the Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven incident enables us to understand their message. Jesus’ demand that the rich man sell everything wasn’t an onerous or unreasonable request; to the contrary, Jesus had offered the rich man an extraordinary bargain.
In Widow’s Son in Nain, David Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton ask “Which Nain was the town where Jesus raised the widow’s son?” and “What is the meaning of the people’s exclamation that a prophet had arisen among them?” The possibility of a Judean ministry early in Jesus’ career and of the messianic connotations of the Widow’s Son in Nain story are discussed in detail in this segment of the Life of Yeshua commentary.
Despite the continuing debate between Matthean and Markan priorists, some form of the widely-accepted Two-Source Hypothesis seems necessary for a proper understanding of the synoptic relationships. The Two-Source Hypothesis as generally conceived, however, cannot cover the evidence of dependence and interdependence found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. The same must be said for the theory of Matthean priority.
The Gospel of Mark was never popular in the Greek-speaking Hellenistic church. Papias, the mid-second-century bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, was the first church father to mention the Gospel and his statement was probably dictated by the general criticism voiced against Mark by the early Greek readers of the Gospel: “Mark,” Papias says, “did no wrong in writing down the things [he had only heard Peter say].”
Every reader of the Gospels knows the phrase, “Verily, I say unto you,” or “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” According to the standard English translations of the Old and New Testaments, it seems that Jesus alone used such a preamble. Most Christians, long accustomed to such expressions in the Bible, take it for granted that “Jesus talked that way.”
A “Hebraism” is a typical feature of the Hebrew language found in another language. The majority of today’s New Testament authorities assume that Aramaic is behind the Semitisms of the New Testament, and that Jesus spoke Aramaic as his primary language. So much so, in fact, that the student who checks standard reference works is informed that the Greek words for “Hebrew” and for “in the Hebrew language” (not only in the New Testament, but in Josephus and other texts) refer to the Aramaic language.
Parallelism is a beautiful and central feature of Hebrew poetry. Scholars have identified three types of Hebrew parallelism. In the previous article of this series we discussed the first of these types: Synonymous Parallelism. In this article, we will discuss the second type: Antithetical Parallelism.
Parallelism is a central feature of Hebrew poetry. It permeates the words of biblical poet and prophet. The frequency with which parallelism occurs in the utterances of Jesus is surprising, and leads inevitably to the conclusion that the Greek source (or, sources) used by the authors of Matthew, Mark and Luke derive(s) from a Greek translation (or, translations) of Hebrew documents.
Doubling, or repeating, is a characteristic feature of Hebrew. Hebrew loves to say things twice (or more!) by adding equivalents. Words, phrases, sentences, and even stories, are doubled (or tripled).
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 spoke of when he wrote: “Matthew…arranged the sayings [of Jesus] in the Hebrew language”?