Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Missing Hebrew New Testament

Last night while waiting between scenes at our local Easter pageant practice, I had an interesting conversation with a friend about the origins of the New Testament. He explained to me that he was reading a book about how the New Testament was possibly written in Hebrew. Now I must admit I have not heard the position that the entire New Testament was written in Hebrew, but I am aware of some who claim that Matthew was written in Hebrew along with the first several chapters of Acts. In light of the recent debate between James White and Bart Ehrman on the topic "Does the Bible Misquote Jesus", I gave him a couple of responses.

First, after doing a little searching, I did find a site that believes the entire NT was originally written in Hebrew. Although I am not certain they would be orthodox, an initial survey through their site did not preclude their orthodoxy. I was just not able to ascertain their full understanding of the person of Jesus as being both fully God and fully man.

I did read at one point that the website would be using the King James version of the Bible. Yet while reading their commentary of Revelation, the very first verse is cited as
A revelation of Messiah Yeshua, that God gave to him, to show to his servants what things it must soon come to pass quickly; and he did signify [it], having sent through his messenger to his servant John
Last I checked, the text does not say "Messiah Yeshua". Although this really isn't a big deal, it is the assumption that I find interesting. This page states this very clearly.
Another contributing factor to misinterpretation is that the books of the "New Testament" are "Greek documents." The fact that the "New Testament" texts we have are in Greek, makes them no more "Greek documents" than the Septuagint (Greek) version of the Old Testament, which the rabbis wrote into Greek 200 years before Yeshua. The rabbis did this (as did someone at some point with the "New Testament" letters), for the benefit of the non-Jewish world so that they could also learn of the God and faith of Israel.
There you have it. We know that the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew just as the Septuagint was originally written in Hebrew. How do we know this? Well if you read on at the above link, it basically argues that it just had to be because Hebrew was not a dead language and the Apostles would have not written the originals apart from a proper Hebrew understanding of the Torah.

Now again, how does this prove anything? Obviously it doesn't. But again, notice the underlying assumption. The original New Testament had to be Hebrew for right doctrine. So just as in the verse cited above (Revelation 1:1), the original text must have said Messiah Yeshua. But this is simply working backwards based upon assumptions that may be false. It is also assuming doctrines and then forcing our doctrines in an imaginary original text.

A second and related problem is the problem of inspiration and inerrancy. Let's face it. If we do not have the original Hebrew texts, and we don't, then (1) we may either make up our own original text or (2) we do not have the original inspired text preserved anywhere or (3) we may do as the King James people do and move the locus of inspiration to translators in order to have an inspired copy of a copy or an inspired translation of the original.

Of course, this again leads to theological problems. We may easily dismiss sound doctrine simply because we think original manuscripts are lost, whatever we might think they originally have been like. Remember the author wrote
Another contributing factor to misinterpretation is that the books of the "New Testament" are "Greek documents."
This thinking only leads to a text that is untrustworthy and a God who is not able to preserve His Word. And we may literally make the Bible say whatever we want.

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