Munster Hebrew Matthew Interlinear

Sebastian Munster was a Hebrew teacher who published many Swiss books for Hebrew and Aramaic language students (and also about Geography). In his books on Hebrew, he often gave examples coming from a Hebrew copy of Matthew he received from the Jews. Many people asked him to publish this Hebrew Gospel, so he decided to hold off on all his other studies, in order to work full time to publish his Matthew Hebrew Gospel.

The Munster Hebrew text of Matthew, agrees very closely with the DuTillet Hebrew text of Matthew.

The Munster Hebrew Text of Matthew was published in 1537 and again in 1557 by Sebastian Munster. The Munster Hebrew version of Matthew, may be of much more value than we previously believed.

Most of the academic literature on Munster Hebrew Matthew over the last 126 years indicated that the Munster text is of limited value, because Munster had supplemented missing portions of his text, with his own reconstructions without marking them.

For example George Howard writes:

“In the letter of dedication, Munster reported that he had
received the Hebrew Matthew from the Jews in
defective form with many lacunae, and had from
necessity restored what was lacking in the manuscript.
His work today is of limited value, because he
failed to mark the passages he had restored.”
(Hebrew Gospel of Matthew; George Howard; 1995 p. 161)

In fact Munster actually wrote in Latin:

“Matthaei evangeluium in nativa sua,
hoc est Hebraica lingua, non qualiter
apud Hebraeorum vulgus lacerum inveni,
sed a me redintegratum et in unum
corpus redactum emittemus”

Literally in English:

“The Gospel of Matthew in the original, the actual Hebrew
language, is not as it is among the people in the Hebrew. I came
upon it lacerated (cut), but I reintegrated it, and published a
rendering of it in one body.”

Now the Shem Tob Hebrew version of Matthew, was transcribed by Shem Tob into 114 sections into his book The Touchstone; each section was followed by a rebuttal. Shem Tob even writes:

I adjure by the life of the world, that every copyist that he not
copy the books of the gospel unless, he writes in every place
the objections that I have written, just as I have arranged them
and written them.

The DuTillet manuscript was all written together, but was followed by a series of rebuttals, and may once have also been spliced into such sections.

Munster’s statement seems to indicate that he obtained Hebrew Matthew “lacerated” or “cut up in sections” and that he reintegrated these sections and published the Hebrew text in one body.

Unfortunately Adolf Herbst misunderstood Munster, and in 1879 paraphrased him in German as saying:

“Die hebraeische Übersetzung habe er, berichtet
Munster in der Zuschrift an Heinrich VIII.,
von den Juden mangelhaft und mit vielen Lücken
empfangen, daher habe er sich genöthigt gesehen,
solche Lücken zu erganzen”

Literally in English:

“The Hebrew Translation Munster reports
in his dedication letter to Heinrich VIII–
he received it from the Jews, mangled/defective,
and with many spaces. Seeing this, he took
upon himself to supplement such spaces.”

This led Hugh Schonfield to report in English in 1927:

“Munster states in his dedication to Henry VIII,
that he received the Hebrew translation from
the Jews in a defective condition, and with
many lacunae, which he took upon himself to fill in.”
(An Old Hebrew Text of St. Matthew’s Gospel; 1927; pp. 11-12)

So the problems began when Herbst translated “lacerum inveni” (it was found lacerated) as “mangelhaft und mit vielen Lücken empfangen” (mangled/defective, and with many spaces), and which Schonfield took in English to mean “in a defective condition, and with many lacunae”.

Then the next phrase “mangled” is Munster’s Latin “sed a me redintegratum et in unum corpus redactum emittemus” (but reintegrated it and published a rendering of it in one body. But which Herbst translated in German to mean “daher habe er sich genöthigt gesehen, solche Lücken zu erganzen” (seeing this, took upon himself to supplement such spaces) which Schonfield rendered in English as “which he took upon himself to fill in.”

Thus the myth was born that, as Howard wrongly reported:

“In the letter of dedication, Munster reported that
he had received the Hebrew Matthew from the Jews
in defective form with many lacunae, and had from
necessity, restored what was lacking in the manuscript.
His work today is of limited value because he
failed to mark the passages he had restored.”
(Hebrew Gospel of Matthew; George Howard; 1995 p. 161)

In fact Munster’s Hebrew Matthew is of much greater value than previously believed, and should not be dismissed based on this false report that it was defective and full of holes.

Matthew 1:1-17

Matthew 1:18-25

Matthew 2

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(c) 2016 James Scott Trimm