Have you ever found a website, and been initially impressed with your first encounter, only to find that other pages and articles reveal the authors to be raging heretics?
This has happened to me many times, not only on the Internet, but even with authors, and radio, and TV personalities.
Sometimes it’s not so much what they say but who they hang out with, although I’ve usually found that if a person hangs around bad company, it is only a matter of time before they begin to say the same things.
With me it is usually because I am always looking for answers about the Scriptures. Politics, and hobbies take a back seat to my studies in the Word of God. When I come across something that stumps me I often find myself going to the web to see what others are saying. I know! I should pray first. I usually end up praying, especially when I come close to getting sucked in to things that could be dangerous.
This week I came across an article that states that the New Testament must have been written in Hebrew before it was ever written in Greek. I had heard of this idea before, but had never taken a serious look at it, but now I had to dig into the Scriptures to find out the truth.
It turns out that this idea, like all heresies, may sound pious and sincere on the surface, but in fact is a subtle attack against the character of God!
Don’t get me wrong. I love the Hebrew language, and have made several attempts to learn it over the last couple of years, and though I find it difficult, I am still studying it. (I am currently using Pimsleur’s “Quick and Easy Method” and I think it may actually work)
The problem with this idea is there is no evidence for it. There are no ancient manuscripts of the New Testament in Hebrew. Zero!
What these people are saying is that God inspired the New Testament in Hebrew, and was not able to preserve it in that language! Now it is up to some Hebrew scholars to restore the original Hebrew text. God can’t do it Himself and He needs these “scholars” to do it for Him!
For someone to say something like that, it betrays a very low view of God. You really can’t say that and believe in the all-powerful God of the bible!
Where is the “original” New Testament Hebrew text? If it was originally Hebrew, and not a single copy exists on earth, then God was not capable of preserving it. Such a God is weak, and does not match the characteristics of the God of my bible. Nor does such a God deserve worship!
The truth is that the New Testament was originally written in Greek. The working language of the Jews of Galilee was Greek, though there is evidence that Jesus and the disciples were indeed bilingual. The New Testament was written to be spread to as many people as possible, and thus the common language of the day, Greek, was used, though the Jewishness, and Jewish mindset of the authors is evident throughout.
The first place we need to look is in the New Testament itself. In the very first chapter of the New Testament we have evidence that the language it was written in was not Hebrew;
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:23
Look at the word “interpreted”. This word is in all the texts, and refers to the Hebrew word Emmanuel. If the language Matthew was Hebrew he would not need to state that Emmanuel means “God with us”. That meaning is apparent to a Hebrew reader, but not to a Greek.
There are several other places where this term is used, and each case it provides evidence that the original language was not Hebrew, or Aramaic;
And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. Mark 5:41
And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. Mark 15:22
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Mark 15:34
Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? John 1:38
He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. John 1:41
And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Acts 4:36
In John 5:2 it is noted that the name Bethesda is a Hebrew name. If the original language had been Hebrew there would have been no need to note that its name was Hebrew.
Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. John 5:2
When Pilate was examining Jesus, shortly before the crucifixion, it was noted that the place called the Pavement, had a different name in Hebrew. Again it is very obvious that the original language was not Hebrew.
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. John 19:13
The sign which Pilate had placed on Jesus’ cross was trilingual, indicating that there were three common languages being used in the area at the time.
This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. John 19:20
Paul spoke in Hebrew at times. It is noted because this was not the language he normally spoke in. As a Pharisee Paul would have studied Hebrew, and to this group he spoke in it because it gave him more authority than using Greek would have at that time. He used Hebrew because it got their attention;
And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying, Acts 21:40
(And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,) Acts 22:2
Paul also shows in his testimony of his encounter with Jesus that the language he was speaking in was not Hebrew;
And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. Acts 26:14
Jesus, here, was using Hebrew to speak to a Pharisee, because it got his attention, the same tactic Paul had used later in Acts 21 & 22.
When the disciples began to speak in tongues, in the book of Acts, pay close attention to where the listeners were from.
7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilæans? 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judæa, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. Acts 2:7-11
The passage indicates that the Galilæans spoke a different language than those from Judaea. If the language of the apostles was the same as the language of those from Judea there would be no need to note their presence there. The Judeans could understand the apostles just as well as the others in attendance. The language of Judea was Aramaic, a sister language to Hebrew. Thus we have another indication that the everyday language of the apostles was not Hebrew, nor Aramaic.
What else does the bible have to say on this issue? Psalm 12 has something very important to say;
6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. 7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. Psalm 12:6-7
The use of the word “pure” does not mean that God must speak in Hebrew. Even parts of the Old Testament were written in Aramaic. No, it means the meaning of God’s words is pure, regardless of the language used, and it means that God will sovereignly preserve His word from the generation in which it was written, throughout all eternity.
So what can we say about the fact that there are no Hebrew manuscripts of the New Testament? We can know that it was not originally written in Hebrew, and God has divinely preserved it as He said He would.
There are over 5,000 manuscripts which are in unanimous agreement (I think the total may actually be over 6,000 by now), and even the 250 doctored manuscripts are mostly in agreement. Some of the earliest manuscripts actually date back to the second century AD. If you are using a bible based on the Greek Textus Receptus, like the Authorized, or King James version, you can be certain that you have a bible that is a faithful representation of the original.
What of the Jewish idioms used in the New Testament? Does this mean that it was originally written in Hebrew? No. The authors were Jews, and thought as Jews even though they wrote in Greek. Logically then, their Jewishness was incorporated in the Greek text. It does not mean that the text was Hebrew.
The people who promote this heresy often go to the extent that they say the only legitimate name of God is the Hebrew יהוה (Yahweh or Yehovah). This begs the question “did God leave Himself without a witness in the Gentile world?”
When the early Christian missionaries went to the Germanic peoples they found that the being known as “God” had the same characteristics as theיהוה (Yahweh or Yehovah) of the bible.
When the early Christian missionaries went to the Czech people they found that there was a God known as “Boha”, and the characteristics of Boha were exactly the same as the characteristics of יהוה of the Tanakh.
What is the word used for יהוה in the Septuagint (LXX) or other early Greek translations of the Tanakh? Here is what Wikipedia says about it “The Greek word Kyrios (κύριος) means “lord, Lord, master“. In religious usage it designates God. It is used in both the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament.”
The conclusion that I have come to is that Kyrios (κύριος) is the same being, the same God, as יהוה . The Jewish translators of the Septuagint also believed this, so I am in good company. It is the same today; the Arabic translations of the bible use “Allah” as the name for God, but the “Allah” of the Qur’an is a different “Allah” than the Allah of the bible. The name is the same but the characteristics are different, and thus it is a different God.
I started by saying I had been disappointed by a seemingly good website. I had found one that had much of the same information I had come across on my own, and even some more, but as I searched the site, I found that they are a little anti-semitic. I won’t encourage anyone to visit anti-semitic sites, regardless of how good they are in other areas, and for this reason I won’t pass on their URL. Another site had some good information on some subjects, but then presented the heresy addressed above. Check out the references above and you will see that I have not taken anything out of context. If I have please let me know.