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From the publisher to the reader
We ask your pardon, dear reader, that together with the Gospel of St Matthew in Hebrew, we present the seven psalms called Penitential, with Psalm 119 (Hebrew), the speech of Daniel from the ninth chapter of his book, and the commands of the Decalogue, so that this volume will reach the right size that you can work with Hebrew with both new and old scriptures gathered together. Goodbye.
John Quinquarboreus of Avrila, greets the good reader.
Christian reader, since St Jerome, when he demonstrated it in his commentary on the twelfth chapter of St Matthew, it has been clear that the gospel of St Matthew was written in Hebrew, which Nazarenes and Ebionites used, then translated into Greek. I don’t see the quotation of the Hebrew Gospel in the commentary of the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, which could make one think otherwise, as any block, not least because I would pay attention to the context of the Hebrew Gospel, which was distributed separately from StMatthew’s name. Wherefore it is suitable that the knowledge and teaching of the Hebrew language extend very widely throughtout the whole Christian world, for the education of piety, as it wholly agrees in sense with the Latin Gospel, which for so long the Church has approved and received. So let Christians acquaint themselves with Hebraisms, through which let there bubble up a whole new useful sphere
As regards the gospel under discussion, could anybody deny that St Matthew wrote it in Hebrew, or else produce something different from what is cited by St Jerome himself of Matthew 12, and by many others: he says it demonstrates Matthew’s authorship. Though no less than Sebastian Munster, a man very learned and wide-reaching in his knowledge of Hebrew, holds that it had begun to be broken and altered by Jews (which wretched people has always been the mortal enemy of Christ), and that he had patched what had been broken, I would not dare to affirm anything on the matter than what what I think is needful in consideration of a sufficiency of authorities. If, however, Munster has recommended to us as almost certainly better restorations or additions of his own suggestion, by asterisk or whatever other sign he noted them, to the extent that we know the style and phraseology of the ancient author, the happier judgment has been placed on the author. When St Matthew wrote his gospel in Hebrew, I think, following the many opinions of illustrious men saying so, that no-one, unless he wanted to be tarnished or resist the truth, would turn in such a true pearl for a marble. Eusebius of Caesarea, very experienced in sacred scripture, who flourished in the time of Constantine, in the third book of his Ecclesiastical History, writes that St Matthew, during the dispersal of the apostles, had been fated to preach Christ’s gospel to Ethiopia and (in the same book) that he first preached to the Hebrews. It is true, he says, that when he was preparing to journey to the Gentiles, he composed a document in his native language, and gathering together what he had preached he committed them to memory, then departed to preach to the Gentiles. That St Matthew had written in Hebrew is also indicated in the last chapter of the same book by Papias, the eye witness of St John: also in book 5 [margin: chapter 8] of the Ecclesiastical History of Irenaeus, the disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of the Apostles, and an eye witness of St John. In the tenth chapter of that book he relates that one Pantaenus, a man of the
Gospel, very educated and renowned for his holiness of life, a contemporary of Origen, took with himself from India a Hebrew Gospel of St Matthew, which though written in Hebrew St Bartholomew had left among the Indians. This survives (if another story on the matter is true) survives till this day, and if our theologians and bishops did not delay, but (as is their duty) worked at the task diligently so that eventually such a great treasure was recovered for us from India, I consider we should have found the original of the Hebrew of Matthew, if it happened.
I leave out the evidence of Jerome, who in his commentary on chapter 6 of Isaias, in chapter 11 on Osea, and in his Catalogue of church writers, and in many other places asserts the same. Besides this, I’m silent about the din of very many other chiefs of the Christian faith and the serious evidence to the facts, to move on to greater things
and lest verbiage do harm to the cause.
On other matters (what Munster had omitted in his edition), in every phrase we have marked the place of the acute accent, which we thought necessary, because the breath of the accent on each phrase must be taken on trust. Besides these in the margin we site chapters of opinions, of Old Testament quotations which Matthew has used, some words and phrase hardly or never used in Old Testament Books or in Syriac paraphrases, which often you will see are marked with a circle (in the margin or page more frequent words or pages). We use a straight line rather than acute as the sign of various accents, as the Jews use in their synagogues for intonation, wherever we replace the grammatical accent, especially where there is a need to distinguish. We don’t use the system of three accents which distinguishes most powerfully, which Munster in his edition of Matthew sometimes used, as in [examples in Hebrew]. Farewell and be of good counsel.
Paris, year 1550 of our redemption, February