Nazarene Space

Was a Hebrew Matthew Really Found at Qumran?

Was a Hebrew Really Matthew Found at Qumran?
By
James Scott Trimm


An old hoax claim about the Shem-Tob Hebrew text of Matthew seems to be circulating again, and it seems I am destined to set things straight.  It seems old hoaxes die hard.  This fake news got started back in 1991.

The hoax claim is that a Hebrew version of Matthew has been found at Qumran. The full-blown version of the hoax claims that the Shem-Tob Hebrew version of Matthew originally came from Evan Bohan at Qumran.

The original source of the fake news is an article that appeared in Vendyl Jones' Institute of Judaic-Christian RESEARCHER newsletter Dec. 1991:

FROM PAGE 10:

Now comes the question of an ancient manuscript of the
book of Matthew called the Even Bohan Text. It is also
called the Shem-Tov text. George Howard, Professor of
Religion at the University of Georgia, published a book
on this text by Mercer University press in 1987. There
are several copies of this text around, but gaining access
to the original text of Evan Bohan without revision is
impossible. Paleographic specialists have dated the
original in the last quarter of the first century C.E.
The letter styles are the same as the Qumran so-called
secular scrolls. Modern scholarship, however, attempting
to attribute the scroll to Ben-Tov himself who was
active between 1350 and 1400 C.E....

...Why would Ben-Tov use a paleographic style of
the Qumran period to write a text in the middle ages?
Why is that original not available? Why do all the editors
say that there are numerous mistakes that they had
to correct? Why do the editors not just publish the
text and let the public see the original? Why must
they "doctor it up" and add entire sections? For example,
the Evan Bohan text does not contain the first two
chapters of Matthew. Does this not perhaps relate
to Jerome's statement concerning the Ebionites who
follow only Matthew's gospel and reject Paul's writings
altogether? Is that original Even Bohan text perhaps
the Ebionite document of Matthew which Jerome said
was without the first two chapters?...

...why is the Ben-Tov gospel of Matthew called the
Even Bohan text? Is it not logical to assume that it
was found at Even Bohan?...

FROM PAGE 15

...Now, let's look back to the Even Bohan text of Matthew.
To summarize, the first observation is that the Ben-Tov/Even
Bohan text did not contain the first two chapters of Matthew.
Like Mark, it opens with the ministry of John the Baptist,
or Yochanan Ben-Zachai. That means that the classic
marginal notation, "Omitted by more ancient authorities."
really means, "This passage was added later by the monks."
That is to say that the monks monkeyed with the text.
All the revised forms of the Even Bohan/Ben-Tov texts
are admittedly filled in by the editors because so much
was missing that is in "our" Matthew....

OK now let me set the story straight. To begin with I have nothing against Vendyl Jones personally. In fact I knewn Vendyl for over twenty years. However in this case I have to disagree with some things Vendyl has said.

1. No published paleographic analysis of any Shem-Tob manuscript has concluded that the text is written in any Qumran type script. I have examined photographs of several manuscript pages of a Shem Tob and it is written in the same script as the DuTillet Hebrew manuscript of Matthew (of which I have a complete facsimile of), a script
common to the middle ages. Vendyl asks why Shem-Tob would use a Qumran script. No one knows what script Shem-Tob himself used because his original manuscript is lost to history, only copies of it remain to us.

2. Shem-Tob's Matthew manuscript was not called "Evan Bohan."Shem-Tob wrote a polemic treaty against Christianity (or perhaps the Nazarenes) in one part of this book he transcribed the entire text of Hebrew Matthew, in sections, each section followed by a polemic against it. The term "Evan Bohan" was the title of the entire Polemic book and not just of the text of Matthew which Shem-Tob transcribed in sections in just one part of that book.  Moreover Vendyl has confused the words BOHAN and BOCHAN.  Shem Tob's book was the Evan Bohan (smooth touchstone) while the location at Qumran is Evan Bochan (stone [that looks like] a thumb. When I originally posted this back in the 1990's Dr. James Tabor responded:

Good post James Trimm,

I too was sorry to see this issue of VJ bulletin and how he was playing so
fast and loose with the facts. I would add one IMPORTANT point...Even
Bohan and Even BoCHan are NOT even the same words in Hebrew...

One is a place name from Joshua 15:6, and is the Stone of BOCHAN (spelled
with a Chet) the name of a person, son of Reuben, but also meaning
THUMB...and that marker indeed looks like a thumb sticking up, just north
of Qumran...Maybe the guy was tall and called "the thumb" as a knickname,
and the rock got his name.

The other word is Even Bohan (spelled with a Hey), the Smooth Stone or
touchstone (used in Isa 28:16), an entirely different word.

To confuse the two is like maintaining that the words "car"and "cat" are
the same in English...after all, only one letter difference!!

James Tabor

You are welcome to post this where ever you like...


3. I am unaware of any extant Shem Tob text which lacks the first two chapters of Matthew. George Howard did not add them. If a later editor altered Shem Tob's original work in this way, then he also managed to alter it so early on that not one manuscript exists which was copied from a text which lacked the first two chapters of Matthew. I can only conclude that Vendyl believes that the text Shem Tob held was the original of Matthew and that Vendyl also believes that Matthew originally lacked the first two chapters, so Vendyl has perhaps assumed that the Hebrew copy Shem Tob had must have lacked them as well. However there is no evidence that the Hebrew Shem Tob text at any stage lacked the first two chapters of Matthew.

3. Jerome did not say that the original Hebrew Matthew used by the Ebionites lacked the first two chapters. Jerome did mention having a Hebrew Matthew which he often identified with the Goodnews according to the Hebrews, but he claimed to have obtained it from the Nazarenes, not the Ebionites, and he in fact quoted from its first two chapters.
Vendyl must be thinking of Epiphanius who quotes from an Ebionite text of the Gospel according to the Hebrews also identified with the original of Matthew. Epiphanius does quote this text as beginning with the ministry of Yochanan (John the Baptist) however he also says that this Ebionite text "is not altogether complete, but adulterated and mutilated" However of the Nazarene Hebrew version of Mathew he says that they have it "quite complete in the Hebrew."

4. There are no editors that admit altering or adding to the Shem-Tob text. George Howard did not add anything. The only editors before this were scribes in the middle ages, and if they added two chapters there is no record of it.

5. Vendyl asks "Why is the original not available?" - The original of what? The Original of Shem-Tob's book Evan Bohan was lost centuries ago. There was no effort by Shem-Tob to preserve his Hebrew manuscript of Matthew except by copying it into his book. The original is unavailable because it has been lost for centuries.

I have learned that Vendyl Jones published some of his false claims about Shem Tob Matthew as recently as October of 1998:

"Rabbi Shem Tov Ben Isaac Ben-Shaprut... wrote a polemic book
against Christianity. Included in this book was a chapter titled
Eben Bohan.

This chapter is a copy of Matthew written in Hebrew. ...
The Shem Tov text did not contain the first two chapters
of Matthew. Even Professor Howard stated that he had
filled in all the parts missing from the text he copied from
the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

From where did the title "Even Bohan" come?...
Even Bohan is due west from the north end of the Dead Sea....
All that area is now referred to as Qumran.
(Vendyl Jones Research Institute RESEARCHER Oct. '98 p. 14-15)

Vendyl also falsely claims that Codex Sinaticus lacks the first two chapters. He writes

"That Codex Sinaticus Gospel of Matthew begins with Matthew 3:1."
(Vendyl Jones Research Institute RESEARCHER Oct. '98 p. 14)

The truth is:

1. Shem-Tob's entire book is titled "Even Bohan" not just the one chapter that has Matthew transcribed into it.

2. The book is called "Even Bohan" (the touchstone) while the location at Qumran is called "Even Bochan" (the stone thumb). They are not even the same Hebrew word (as James Taber has pointed out)

3. The Shem Tob version of Matthew DOES contain the first two chapters of Matthew. George Howard did NOT add them

4. The Greek Siniatic text of Matthew ALSO contains the first two chapters. In fact I have a facsimile of the first page of it.

Unfortunately the claim that a Hebrew Matthew was found at Qumran is just plain "fake news".

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Help us as we reach out to a lost world with the messages of Torah and Messiah.  Help us as we provide milk for new believers and meat for the mature.  Help us as we equip Gideon's army for these last days!



NazareneSpace and the Worldwide Nazarene Assembly of Elohim are reaching Jewish people with Messiah like no other ministry while at the same time reaching Christians and other non-Jews with the message of Torah!


Help us keep the vision alive!

Any amount you can donate will help!


If you can make a one time donation of $500 or $1,000 dollars to support this work, now is the time to step up to the plate, as we are in a budget shortfall.

What other ministry is reaching the Jewish people with Messiah like this ministry is?

Now is time to step up to the plate!


You can donate by going to the pay-pal counter at http://www.nazarenespace.com or donations can be sent by paypal to donations@wnae.org.

Donations can also be made out to “Nazarene Judaism” and sent to:

Nazarene Judaism
PO Box 471
Hurst, TX 76053

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