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Hebrew Tobit: A Clue to the Hebrew Origin of Matthew and Hebrews



Hebrew Tobit: A Clue to the Hebrew Origin of Matthew and Hebrews
By
James Scott Trimm




The Book of Tobit is one of the books of the "apocrypha". These are books which were regarded as canon by the ancient Nazarenes and by the first Christians.  They were used right along with the others by the so-called “Church Fathers”.   Protestants later moved them to an appendix in the back and eventually removed them altogether.

The Book of Tobit is a book which originated in Judaism and was adopted into Christian usage. Eventually the book ceased to be used in Jewish circles and was only preserved by Christians in Greek, Latin and Syriac.

Of course this reminds us of the books of the New Testament such as Matthew and Hebrews which originated in Judaism and were adopted into Christian usage. Like Tobit they ceased to be used in Jewish circles and were only preserved by Christians in Greek, Latin and Syriac.

Scholars had debated about whether Tobit had been written in Hebrew or Aramaic.  However the matter was settled when five fragmentary copies of Tobit at Qumran.  Four of these were in Aramaic (4Q196; 4Q197; 4Q198; 4Q199) and one was in Hebrew (4Q200)).  The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible states:

Before the discovery of copies of the book of Tobit among the Dead Sea Scrolls, scholars
debated whether the tale was originally written in Greek or perhaps a Semitic language (Hebrew or Aramaic).
(The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible p. 636)

In other words while the Book of Tobit was originally written in Hebrew and was used in Hebrew and Aramaic in Jewish circles, when the Jews ceased to use the book, the Hebrew was "lost" because the Christians only preserved the Greek, Latin and Syriac versions.

However the Hebrew of the Book of Tobit was not totally lost. In 1542 Sebastian Munster published the complete Hebrew text of the Book of Tobit. However until the discovery of the Hebrew of Tobit among the Dead Sea Scrolls there was question as to whether the Hebrew text of Tobit was the original or just a translation from the
Greek or Latin.

The parallel between the textual transmission of Hebrew Tobit and that of Hebrew Matthew and Hebrew Hebrews does not end here.

In 1537 Sebastian Munster also published the Hebrew text of Matthew and in 1557 a second edition of Munster's Hebrew Matthew was published which also included the Hebrew text of Hebrews.

Now we have yet to find a "Dead Sea Scroll" type of find of Nazarene manuscripts but the "church fathers" do tell us that both Matthew and Hebrews were originally written in Hebrew. We may never make a "Dead Sea Scroll" type of find of ancient Nazarene manuscripts. However the Hebrew text of Matthew and Hebrews have been preserved
to us.

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