The Shem Tob Hebrew version of Matthew was transcribed by Shem Tob Ben Yitzach Ben Shaprut, into his apologetic work Even Bohan, sometime around 1380 C.E. While the autograph of Shem Tob’s Even Bohan has been lost, several manuscripts dating between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries still exist, complete with the transcribed text of Hebrew Matthew. George Howard writes of Shem Tob’s Hebrew Matthew:
…an old substratum to the Hebrew in Shem Tob is a prior
composition, not a translation. The old substratum, however,
has been exposed to a series of revisions so that the present
text of Shem-Tob represents the original only in an impure
(The Gospel of Matthew according to a Primitive Hebrew Text;
1987; p. 223)
It may appear from the linguistic and sociological
background to early Christianity, and the nature of some
theological tendencies in Shem-Tob’s Matthew, that the
Hebrew text served as a model for the Greek. The present
writer is, in fact, inclined to that position.
(ibid p. 225)
Shem-Tob’s Matthew… does not preserve the original in a pure
form. It reflects contamination by Jewish scribes, during the
Middle Ages. Considerable parts of the original, however,
appear to remain….
(Hebrew Gospel of Matthew; 1995; p. 178)
The Shem Tob version of Matthew is not the same as the Hebrew version preserved in DuTillet, Munster, and Cinquarbres, (a version which I term the “Traditional Version”). Although the Shem Tob Version and the “Traditional Version” have many agreements with each other against all other versions, (for example 1:1 and 3:11b ) and are both part of the larger body of the same Hebrew Matthew scribal tradition … they are two very different versions. As George Howard states:
I think that Shem Tob’s Hebrew Matthew is a different
edition of Matthew than what we are accustomed to, in our
canonical Gospel of Matthew. And it’s not like Munster
and DuTillet. Munster and DuTillet have basically the same
text as our canonical Matthew, and certainly the same theology.
But Shem Tob’s Hebrew Matthew does not have
the same theology; I can assure you of that.
(George Howard speech 11/10/96)
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(c) 2016 James Scott Trimm