The Vatican Library Hid Original Hebrew Gospel Manuscripts for Centuries
James Scott Trimm
The Vatican Library is a treasure trove of ancient documents and artifacts. While the public Vatican library was officially created in 1475, the library itself actually dates back to the origins of the Roman Catholic Church. The library contains over 75,000 codices and over one million other books.
In the 17th century about 150,000 items were designated as part of the "Secret Archives" and are not available to the public. Over a period of four centuries, only about 1,000 people have had access to these secret archives.
One treasure which the Vatican famously suppressed for centuries was Codex Vaticanus 1209, known simply as Codex Vaticanus, or "Codex B". Codex Vaticanus is one of the oldest, most complete manuscripts of the Greek New Testament dating back to the fourth Century C.E.
Codex Vaticanus was listed in the first public catalog of the library's contents in 1475, but nothing is known of it's origins. It seems to have been in the library for many centuries. For many centuries the Vatican kept this important manuscript from the public. The well known scholar of textual criticism Sir Frederic Kenyon wrote an account of another well known scholar's limited access saying:
“In 1843 [Bible scholar Konstantin von] Tischendorf, after waiting for several months, was allowed to see it for six hours. . . . In 1845 the great English scholar Tregelles was allowed indeed to see it but not to copy a word.” Tischendorf asked for permission to see the codex one more time, but was denied . Kenyon continued, “renewed entreaty procured him six days’ longer study, making in all fourteen days of three hours each; and by making the very most of his time Tischendorf was able in 1867 to publish the most perfect edition of the manuscript which had yet appeared.”
Two years later the English scholar Dr. S. P. Tregelles was allowed to see Codex Vaticanus but he was not allowed to do much more. He wrote:
“It is true that I often saw the MS., but they would not allow me to use it; and they would not let me open it without searching my pockets, and depriving me of pen, ink, and paper; and at the same time two prelati [priests] kept me in constant conversation in Latin, and if I looked at a passage too long, they would snatch the book out of my hand.”
It was not until the end of the passing of the 19th Century to the 20th Century that photographic copies of Codex Vaticanus were released to the public.
Recently another important manuscript has been quietly released by the Vatican Library: two manuscript pages containing the opening verses of the long lost original Hebrew of Luke and Yochanan (John). In March 2014, the Vatican Library began an initial four-year project of digitizing its collection of manuscripts, to be made available online.
Among the material digitized and put online was Biblioteca Apostolica ebr. 530. This "document" is more of a "document dump" containing various miscellaneous pages of Hebrew texts. Buried in the document dump were the two manuscript pages containing copies of the long lost original Hebrew for Luke 1:1-35 and Yochanon 1:1-13!
The front of the first page contains Luke 1:1-9 (excepting the last word of verse 9).
The obverse of the first page begins with the last word of Luke 1:9 and continues through 1:29a
The front of the second page begins with Luke 1:29b and runs through Luke1:35
The obverse contains John 1:1-13 (which I will discuss in the near future).
The fact that the text ends at Luke 1:35 and resumes on the obverse with John 1:1 is a mystery. It appears that this manuscript was never, itself, part of a complete manuscript of Luke (though it might have been a sample copied from one for some reason).
The title for Luke in the manuscript is "The Set-Apart Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah according to Luke.
Of special interest is that Luke 1:1-4 appears in this manuscript as a colophon or preface, and the designation "Chapter 1" appears after this text, and before Luke 1:5 which is presented as the beginning of Luke Chapter 1.
Initial textual analysis shows some connection between this text of Luke and the ancient Aramaic textual tradition.
For example in Luke 1:10 the manuscript reads: "And all the multitude of the people were standing outside to pray at the time of the incense."
The word "standing" here is unique to this Hebrew text and to the Old Syriac Aramaic text. I do not find this reading in any other witness to Luke 1:10.
Another key variant occurs in Luke 1:28 which has the word "angel" in the text "And the angel having come to her..."
(the word "angel" is not in the traditional Greek text in this verse). This reading is a remarkable agreement with Witnesses of the Western Type Text, (also known as the Syro-Latin Text Type). This reading agrees with the best witnesses to the Western Type of Greek Text (D, f(13)) as well as both the Old Latin and the Vulgate, as well as the Peshitta Aramaic. The Old Syriac reading for this verse is lost, however with an agreement between Western witnesses like the Old Latin, Codex D and f(13) it is all but certain that the lost reading of the Old Syriac was to include the word "angel" here. Anyone familiar with my work on textual origins (as laid out in my book The Hebrew and Aramaic Origin of the New Testament) will know that an agreement with this text type is a strong evidence for a connection to the Hebrew or Aramaic original of Luke.
Some other points of interest: The word for "virgin" in Luke 1:27 is BETULAH rather than ALMAH.
The conception of the Messiah (1:35) reads: "... the Ruach HaKodesh will come upon you. The power of Elyon will be in your shadow, concerning which will be born the Set-Apart, He shall be called 'Son of YHWH'"
There are some very interesting readings in this text of Yochanon.
To begin with we have an extraordinary reading in John 1:1-2
1:1 In the beginning was the Word (Davar)
And the Word (Davar) was an emanation of (אצל) Elohim
And Elohim, He was the Word.
1:2 This [One] was in the beginning an emanation of (אצל) Elohim.
This word אצל is so profound in meaning, that it is difficult to translate into English. The Greek (or Aramaic) translator simply translated "with" which is a possible meaning, but I think misses so much that is implicit in this word. This word could be translated "with";"near"; "next to"; "a side of" (as in 1Sam 20:41 "from the south side" and 1Kings 3:20 "at one's side" ) or "an emanation of".
So this could be translated: "The Word was an emanation of Elohim"
Some will recognize this word as the root of the word אצלות "Atzilut" as in the "World of Atzilut" (World of Nearness, or World of Emanation.)
This correlates with a statement in the Zohar:
He then proceeded: ‘A king had several buildings to be erected, and he had an architect in his service who did nothing save with his consent (Prov. 8:30). The king is the supernal Wisdom above, the Middle Pillar is the king below: Elohim is the architect above, being as such the supernal Mother, and Elohim is also the architect below, being as such the Divine Presence (Shekinah) below. Now a woman may not do anything without the consent of her husband. And all the buildings were created through his Emanation (אצלות), the Father said to the Mother by means of the Word,, “let it be so and so”, and straightway it was so, as it is written, “And he said, Elohim, let there be light, and there was light”: i.e. one said to Elohim, let there be light: the master of the building gave the order, and the architect carried it out immediately; and so with all that was constructed in the way of emanation (אצלות).
(Elsewhere in the Zohar the "Middle Pillar" is called "the Son of Yah"
Another very interesting reading occurs in John 1:5
And the light was shining in the darkness,
And the darkness [could] not contain (הכילוהי) it.
This reminds us of the concept of the vessels that shattered at Creation because they were to fragile to contain the light, as well as the klipot (shells of darkness by which light in concealed).
John 1:7 also has a very interesting reading:
This one came by testimony to witness concerning the light
in order that they would believe The All (הכל) by his testimony.
The Greek (and Aramaic) have misunderstood the grammar here and taken this to mean that "everyone" or "all men" might believe, rather than that they might believe "The All."
This hails back to a reference in the Hebrew text of the Wisdom of Yeshua ben Sira who writes a lengthy description of all of the beauty of the creation (Sira 42:15-43:33) and concludes with this:
25 Therein are wonderful things, the marvels of his work.
Variety of all living; and the mighty ones of Rahab.
26 For his own sake, he makes his messenger to prosper--
And by his Word is his work fashioned.
27 There are many more things like these,
and we cannot exhaust them;
And the end of the matter is: He is The All (הכל).
Let us still magnify Him, for He is unsearchable,
And He is greater than all His works.
29 He is Exceedingly wonderful.
And marvelous are His works.
30 You that magnify YHWH, raise your voice.
As much as you are able, for there is still more;
You that exalt him, renew strength.
And faint not, for you have not searched him out.
32 There is a multitude of hidden things beyond these,
[But] a few of his works I have truly seen;
33 All things has YHWH done,
And to his Set-Apart-Ones has He given knowledge.
(Ben Sira 43:26-33 HRV)
John 1:10 mentions that the world was "made" (נעשה) by the light/Word. Many will notice the connection between this verse and the concept of the "World of Making" (same Hebrew words) and the "World of Emanation/Nearness" implicit in verses 1-2 above.
John 1:11a has an interesting reading in that the Hebrew tells us that the Word/Light came to his "real native land" closely identifying the Messiah with his Jewish people.
The Hebrew texts for all of Mathew, Mark 9:20-28 and all of Hebrews have in recent years come to light (along with Aramaic texts of most of the New Testament) and now these two Hebrew gems attesting to the original Hebrew of Luke 1:1-35 and Yochanan 1:1-13 can join these other important witnesses. (The New Hebraic Roots Version "New Testament" has already incorporated this new material in an English translation of the New Testament translated from Hebrew and Aramaic sources, which you can acquire by Clicking Here).
Why has the Vatican waited so long to just quietly release these important Hebrew verses of the Gospels? Did these pages end up in this digitized document dump by accident?
What else is hiding in the Vatican Library? What of the original Hebrew for the rest of these books? Or for other "New Testament" books? What of the lost Gospel according to the Hebrew, which was used by the ancient Nazarenes and which Jerome, who translated the Latin Vulgate, is said to have produced a Latin translation? What of the Lost original Hebrew of the Book of Enoch (which survives only in its entirety in Ethiopic, and in Aramaic, Greek and Latin fragments? What of the original Hebrew for the books of the Apocrypha? As recently as 1611 the KJV translators had access to Hebrew manuscripts of 1Esdras and Wisdom of Solomon (in the 1611 KJV there are marginal notes to these books citing the Hebrew) but they have since been lost. What else has the Vatican Library been hiding from us?
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