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The Old Syriac as Key to Most Original Hebrew Matthew: DuTillet vs. Shem Tob

The Old Syriac as Key to Most Original Hebrew Matthew:
DuTillet vs. Shem Tob
James Scott Trimm

The Hebrew versions of Matthew that have come down to us may be categorized into two basic text versions.  The readings we find in the DuTillet, Munster and Quin-Quarboreus texts exhibit a great deal of agreement with each other, with only minor variations from text to text.  We will call this the “Traditional” Hebrew text.  On the other hand, the Shem Tob text, while having a direct relationship with the Traditional Hebrew text, is a very different Hebrew text with many layers of corruption. 

One of the reasons for giving greater authority to the Traditional Hebrew text than to the Shem Tob Hebrew text, is that the Traditional text is found in a wide variety of manuscript sources, with a wide geographic distribution.

On the other hand, the Shem Tob text appears in only one source, it was transcribed into Shem Tob Ben Saphrut’s Evan Bohan.  Although there are several manuscripts of the Shem Tob text, they are all only manuscript copies of Shem Tob’s Evan Bohan.  They all go back to a single copy which Shem Tob copied from.  The Shem Tob manuscripts are not multiple witnesses, but a single witness multiplied many times over.

All of our Hebrew versions of Matthew date only to the middle ages, however we do have Aramaic texts of Matthew that date back to the 4th Century CE.

For reasons best covered in a separate article, or series of articles in the future (as they open a protracted subject), I have concluded the Old Syriac is the oldest, most primitive and original Aramaic version, with the Peshitta being a revision of this Aramaic text toward greater agreement with the Byzantine type of Greek text.

(The case for this is made in detail in my book The Hebrew and Aramaic Origin of the New Testament at )

DuTillet and the Old Syriac

Now especially significant is the very close relationship between the Traditional Text, especially the DuTillet text, with the Old Syriac Aramaic version.  In fact the DuTillet Text holds a closer relationship to the Old Syriac than to any other version. 

In his monumental work An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts, Matthew Black writes of the DuTillet Version that it “has been shown to contain several unexpected variants found elsewhere in Syriac sources only” (An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts 3rd edition by Matthew Black p. 295)

Not only is there a great deal of general agreement between the DuTillet and Old Syriac versions, but there are two unique passages that stand out as an incredible testimony to the common history of these two versions.

Among the more telling connections between Hebrew Matthew and the Old Syriac are:

1:13 The DuTillet Hebrew manuscript of Matthew contains the missing name "Avner" which occurs between Aviud and Eliakim in the DuTillet Hebrew text of Mt. 1:13.

Now the DuTillet Hebrew manuscript of Matthew contains the missing name אבנר "Abner" (A Hebrew name which is sometimes spelled אבניר) which occurs between אביהוד  Abiud and Eliakim in the DuTillet Hebrew text of Mt. 1:13. In Hebrew and Aramaic ד "d" and ר "r" look very much alike and are often misread for each other. In this case a scribe must have looked back up to his source manuscript and picked back up with the wrong name, thus omitting "Abner" from the list. The Greek text must have come from a Hebrew or Aramaic copy, which lacked the name "Abner."

There is amazingly clear evidence for this. The Old Syriac Aramaic version of Matthew was lost from the fourth century until its rediscovery in the 19th century. This ancient Aramaic text has אביור "Aviur" where the Greek has "Aviud" (= אביוד) thus catching the error in a sort of "freeze frame" and demonstrating the reliability of the reading in the Hebrew.

Another such passage is found in Matt 5:34.  In this passage we see a very unique grammatical nuance in the Hebrew text of DuTillet that is found elsewhere only in the Old Syriac:

Here the DuTillet Hebrew reads:

כי כסא אלהים המה “for it is Elohim’s throne (theirs)”

And the Old Syriac has:

דכורסיה אנון דאלהא  “which is Eloah’s (their) throne”

This is similar to an occasional grammatical phenomena in the Tanak in which Elohim is occasionally paired with plural verbs and adjectives (Gen. 20:13; 35:7; Deut. 4:7; Josh. 24:19; 2Sam. 7:23; Ps. 58:12/11) and pronouns (Gen. 1:26; Gen. 3:22; Gen. 11:7 & Is. 6:8) or is otherwise thought of in the plural (“your creators” Eccl. 12:9). The plural which DuTillet uses in 5:34-35 especially recalls Dan. 7:9 “I watched till thrones were put in place and the Ancient of Days was seated”.

The Definite Article

There is further evidence that the original Hebrew from which Du Tillet is an exemplar is directly connected to the original Aramaic of which the Old Syriac is an exemplar apart from the Greek text. 

Both Hebrew and Greek have a definite article (English "the").  Yet there seems to be no real connection between where DuTillet uses the definite article and where it appears in the Greek:

Three Examples where the Hebrew has no definite articles but the Greek does have them:

Mt. 3:7 “many of the Pharisees and Sadducees”
Mt. 6:32  “the Gentiles”
Mt. 14: 15  “the villages”

Three examples where the Hebrew does have definite articles and the Greek lacks them:

Mt. 3:8 “the fruit worthy”
Mt. 4: 18 “the net”
Mt. 7:9 “the stone”

This would certainly imply that at some point in between the Hebrew and the Greek the text went through a language that either had a weak definite article or none at all. The likely candidate for such a language would be Aramaic (Syriac) which lacks a definite article.

In other words the evidence indicates that the Hebrew text of DuTillet is not a Hebrew translation of the Greek.  Instead it appears that the Aramaic text represented by the Old Syriac is a direct Aramaic translation of the Hebrew text represented by DuTillet, and that our Greek text is a representative of a Greek version which was translated from the Aramaic. 


Since the Hebrew text of the Traditional Hebrew text of Matthew represented by DuTillet is has a much closer relationship to the Old Syriac version of Matthew than does the Shem Tob text, the evidence would indicate that it is DuTillet rather than Shem Toib which best represents the original Hebrew of Matthew.

(DuTillet Hebrew Matthew can be found with Hebrew and English on facing pages at : )

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Views: 458

Comment by Michael A. Banak on August 29, 2013 at 10:08am

This fact-rich series of reports, with all its impressive detail, still looks self-referential. I dislike broad generalities, but all NT research has this flavour when I read it. I have no choice but to throw myself into the detail, if I can find the time.

Comment by James Trimm on August 29, 2013 at 11:55am

"self referential"?

What do you mean?

Comment by Michael A. Banak on August 29, 2013 at 4:06pm

Hi Brother James.

I want to respect your time, so I will try to be succinct, though that may be hard.

I can explain by way of example, at the risk of creating nuisance side-topics.

In my personal research on the  NT Texts, I find three traditions across 2 broad camps. The Alexandrian text-type; The Western text-type and the The Byzantine text-type. You will likely want to proof read me, but the Alexandrian crowd relies on the so-called "oldest and best manuscripts" while the supporters of the Western and Byzantine types I will (for now) put the the other camp. And they rely on a multitude of manuscripts.

I have found that Alexandrian proponents, like Westcott and Hort, whine about how the other text types ADD words and phraes to the "original Greek". Meanwhile the Textus Receptus crowd, you know, guys like John Greene and Dean John William Burgon, whine about how the Alexandrian text type *removes* words and phrases.

Of course, if I read only one side, I might be swept away with a sense of empowerment. But having read both sides of that debate, I find them to be "self-referential". That is, assuming the texts on their side are right, they proceeed to blast the opposing texts. This creates the effect of bolstering their early assumptions.

As I struggle to wrap my head around your narratives, I find myself groping for a starting point, either a "Point of Beginning" or a "Point of Commencement" as land surveyors like to call it. Even when I have worked diligently to establish such points, new data comes along to call that choice into question.

(I could be wrong but) You seem to be saying that the Syriac, the DuTillet and one of the Greek Text traditions all kind of hang together in a mutual supporting way. Suppose I accept that. However, if one of them is corrupted, and it's the source for the other 2, then I am locked into a self-referential bind, never allowing anythibng else to come in.

For the doctrinal issues that dog me, I find the DuTillet text to meet with my smiling approval. But its resemblance to The Greek scares me.

I am concluding about 3 decades of on-and-off research on fine points of Hebrew Phonology and Morphology. Maybe when that's over, I can sink my teeth into this Matthew topic again. Until then, I can only take notes of what will merit a closer look later on.

Michael A. Banak

Comment by James Trimm on August 29, 2013 at 8:19pm

Micahel Banak,  I am sending you a free ecopy of my book The Hebrew and Aramaic Origin of the New Testament, as it covers all of the issues you have raised.  I would appreciate your feedback.

Comment by Michael A. Banak on August 29, 2013 at 8:42pm

I am not worthy to enter dialogue with you on this, but I will humbly provide what I can.

Unrelated question: Have you ever published anything on "dissimilation". I intend to, but I don't mind being scooped. I need a buddy check myself. Indeed, I would RATHER someone else push it first, so I am not alone.

When I say "publish", I mean get it out there any way possible. Sermons, unity Conference meetings, magazines within the network, etc.

I just discovered this principle, and it is liberating. Much arguing over pronunciations simply evaporates.


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