Jerome and the Hebrew Matthew - (not canonical Matthew)

Steven Avery

Let's start with a number of Jerome quotes, that I placed on CARM.
And I am putting in bold some references that do not match canonical Matthew (the first three bold.)
(Later we can connect this with the Matthew 28:19 resources.)

Note also that this was a Syriac or Chaldee Gospel in Hebrew letters.
While the thread goes all over the map, much of this was originally placed on CARM

CARM - Biblical Languages
The Hebrew Gospel of Matthew vs the Greek

Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men, Ch.3 - De Viris Illustribus - 393 AD
translated by Ernest Cushing Richardson

Matthew also called Levi, apostle and aforetimes publican, composed a gospel of Christ at first published in Judea in Hebrew for the sake of those of the circumcision who believed, but this was afterwards translated into Greek though by what author is uncertain. The Hebrew itself has been preserved until the present day in the library at Caesarea which Pamphilus so diligently gathered. I have also had the opportunity of having the volume described to me by the Nazarenes of Beroea, a city of Syria, who use it. In this it is to be noted that wherever the Evangelist, whether on his own account or in the person of our Lord the Savior quotes the testimony of the Old Testament he does not follow the authority of the translators of the Septuagint but the Hebrew. Wherefore these two forms exist “Out of Egypt have I called my son,” and “for he shall be called a Nazarene.”
The next is from the Commentary on Matthew:

Jerome, Commentary on Matthew, written in Bethlehem - 398 AD
(The Fathers of the Church, Volume 117, 2008)
translated by Thomas P. Scheck

Matthew 12.13. Then he said to the man: “Stretch forth your hand.
”And he stretched it forth, and it was restored to soundness, [to being] just like the other.

In the Gospel that the Nazarenes and Ebionites use, which we recently translated into Greek from the Hebrew language, and which many call the authentic Gospel of Matthew, this man who has the withered hand is described as a stonemason. He prays for help with words of this sort: “I was a stone-mason, seeking a livelihood with my hands; I plead with you, Jesus, that you restore soundness to me, that I might not have to beg for my food in base fashion.” Until the coming of the Savior, there was a withered hand in the synagogue of the Jews. The works of God were not being done in it. But after he came to earth, the right hand was given back in the apostles, who believed, and it was restored to its former work.
Jerome, Against the Pelagians, Ch. 3.2 Dialogus contra Pelagianos. - 415 AD
translated by William Henry Fremantle

In the Gospel according to the Hebrews,which is written in the Chaldee and Syrian language, but in Hebrew characters, and is used by the Nazarenes to this day (I mean the Gospel according to the Apostles, or, as is generally maintained, the Gospel according to Matthew, a copy of which is in the library at Caesarea), we find, ?Behold, the mother of our Lord and His brethren said to Him, John Baptist baptizes for the remission of sins; let us go and be baptized by him. But He said to them, what sin have I committed that I should go and be baptized by him ? Unless, haply, the very words which I have said are only ignorance.? And in the same volume, ?If thy brother sin against thee in word, and make amends to thee, receive him seven times in a day.? day?? The Lord answered and said to him," I say unto thee until seventy times seven."
There are other shorter excerpts to add to this three, and there are a number of commentaries on the question, and a couple of worthwhile blog studies. Wait, there is a bit in the Vulgate Prologue.

Jerome, Letter to Pope Damasus: Preface to the Gospels, 383 AD

If, however, truth is to be a seeking among many, why do we not now return to the Greek originals to correct those mistakes which either through faulty translators were set forth, or through confident but unskilled were wrongly revised, or through sleeping scribes either were added or were changed? ... . I now speak of the New Testament, which is undoubtedly Greek, except the Apostle Matthew, who had first set forth the Gospel of Christ in Hebrew letters in Judea. This (Testament) certainly differs in our language, and is led in the way of different streams; it is necessary to seek the single fountainhead.... Therefore, this present little preface promises only the four Gospels, the order of which is Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, revised in comparison with only old Greek books.

And Edouard Masaeux (below) gives us extracts that show a major difference.
We have some of the pages from 183-200 available online.

The Influence of the Gospel of Saint Matthew on Christian Literature Before Saint Irenaeus: The later Christian writings (1990)
Edouard Massaux

e.g p. 188-189 have sections that talk of the Holy Spirit as the mother of Christ

(e) Jerome, on Ezek. 16:13
In evangelio quoque Hebraeorum, quod lectitant Nazaraei, salvator inducitur dicens: Modo me arripuit mater mea spiritus sanctus.

Also in the Gospel of the Hebrews, which the Nazareans read, the Savior is brought in saying: “Even so did my mother, the Holy Spirit, snatch me away.” [Editor’s translation.]

This text of the Gospel of the Hebrews, attested to several times, has been linked to the temptation story, notably Mt. 4:1, 8; Mk. 1:12; and Lk. 4:1; but it is too different from the text of the synoptics to support a literary influence: nowhere
in the gospels, in fact, is the Holy Spirit called the mother of Christ.

Last edited:

Steven Avery

William Whitaker

William Whitaker (1548-1596)

A disputation on Holy Scripture against the ... especially Bellarmine and Stapleton
(1588, 1849 edition)
William Whitaker
edited by William Fitzgerald (1815-1883)

On the Greek Edition of the New Testament

We have next, in the second place, to speak of the Greek edition of the new Testament. It is certain that the whole new Testament was written in Greek, unless, perhaps, we are to except the Gospel of Matthew and the Epistle to the Hebrews. Hosius of Esmeland (in his book de Sacro Vernac.) says, that it was only the Gospel of Matthew which was written in Hebrew. Jerome affirms the same thing in these words of his Preface to the four evangelists addressed to Damasus : "The new Testament is undoubtedly Greek, with the exception of the Apostle Matthew, who first published the gospel in Judaea in Hebrew letters 5 ." Nevertheless in the catalogue, under the article Paul, he says that the Epistle to the Hebrews was written in Hebrew. Thus he writes : "He wrote most eloquently as a Hebrew to the Hebrews, in the Hebrew, that is, in his own language 6 ." The translation of this epistle into Greek some ascribe to Barnabas, as Theodorus Lector 7 in his second book of Collectanea, some to Luke 8 , and some to Clemens 9 . But, how ever that may be, the Greek edition both of the Gospel according to Matthew and of the Epistle to the Hebrews is authentic. For the Hebrew originals (if any such there were) are now nowhere extant, and the Greek was published in the life-time of the apostles, received in the church, and approved by the apostles themselves. Jerome in the Catalogue (Article MATTHAEUS), tells us : "He first composed a gospel in the Hebrew character and language, in Judaea, for the sake of those of the circumcision who had believed ; but it is not certainly known who translated it into Greek." He adds, that "the Hebrew text itself was preserved in his time in the library of Caesaraea which was built by the martyr Pamphilus" (continues)

[ 5 De novo nunc loquor Testamento, quod Graecum esse non dubium est, excepto apostolo Matthaeo, qui primus in Judaea evangelium Christi Hebraicis literis edidit. Opp. T. i. p. 1426.]
[ 6 Scripserat, ut Hebrseus Hebrseis, Hebraice, id est suo eloquio, disertissime.]
[ 7 I think this is a mistake. At least I can find no such statements in Theodorus.]
[ 8 So Clemens Alex. ap. Euseb. H. Eccl. L. vi. c. 14.]
[ 9 Euseb. H. E. Lib. III. C. 38. (Grk) ]
And I include this partly to show that the scholarship and commentary in the times of the Reformation era, even with less internet access, was often as good as, or better than, anything today.
Last edited:

Steven Avery

Edward Massaux

Edward Massaux

The Influence of the Gospel of Saint Matthew on Christian Literature Before Saint Irenaeus:
Book 2: The later Christian writings (1990)
Edouard Massaux (1920-2008)

Chapter 4 - The Noncanonical Gospels
Section 2 - The Gospel of the Hebrews
Saint Jerome attests to the existence of the Gospel of the Hebrews, whose date of composition is generally given as before the year 150. He states that he translated the original text into Greek and Latin.50 He points out that this gospel was written in Chaldean, namely, Aramaic, but written in Hebrew letters, and that it was used by the Nazareans. Some people, according to Saint Jerome, thought that this gospel was the gospel of Mt.51 Time has not spared the versions any more than it has the original; only a few fragments survive, preserved in later writings. All the authors emphasize its great affinity with the first gospel.

50 Cf. Jerome, De viris ill. 2: ?Evangelium quod appellatur secundum Hebraeos et a me nuper in graecum sermonem latinumque translatum est..."
51,Cf. Jerome, Contr. Pelag. 3.2; in Mt. 12:13.


Steven Avery

additional references - Johann Michaelis - Ray Pritz - Ben Smith

Some Refs on the web.

This one I reference above:

The Scholarly Speculation of Jerome Concerning Matthew's Original Hebrew Gospel
Ron Jones and the Titus Institute Scholarly Speculation.php


For this one the scholarship is fine, but very limited

The Hebrew gospel of Matthew.
Ben Smith

This next one is uneven, I will try to look it over.

HEBREW MATTHEW - Shem Tob - du Tillet - Munster
Are we to believe and trust these references by Origen and his student Eusebius?

Introduction to the New Testament
Johann Michaelis
p. 145-194 and more, even DuTillet and Muenster on p. 185

Nazarene Jewish Christianity by Ray Pritz has a lot of fine material, but he does not seem to have a clear section just on this topic.

Nazarene Jewish Christianity: From the End of the New Testament Period Until Its Disappearance in the Fourth Century (1988)
Ray Pritz hebrew matthew&f=false

Steven Avery

Ron Jones website - Five analysis sections

Ron Jones includes five scholars giving their views on the Hebrew Matthew issue, in the section "Evaluations of Jerome’s Comments by Later Scholars".

The Scholarly Speculation of Jerome Concerning Matthew's Original Hebrew Gospel
Ron Jones Scholarly Speculation.php

Here you can see a number of additional sections.

William Lee (1815-1883)
George Whitefield Clark (1831-1911)
James Morison (1816-1893)
Montague Rhodes James (1862–1936),
Richard Charles Henry Lenksi - (1864-1936)
The following is the text from the Ron Jones website, I am adding urls and maybe some comments.

Evaluations of Jerome’s Comments by Later Scholars
These comments are arranged in chronological order.

1. William Lee
“It would appear, too, from many parts of his writings, that he regarded S. Matthew's Hebrew Gospel as agreeing substantially with that received by the Nazarenes and Ebionites, and which he himself had translated… A writer in ‘The Edinburgh Review’ (July, 1851, p. 39) observes: ‘Jerome himself at first thought that it was the authentic Matthew, and translated it into both Greek and Latin from a copy which he obtained at Boroea in Syria. This appears from his Catalogue of Illustrious Men, written in the year 392. Six years later, in his Commentary on Matthew, he spoke more doubtfully about it. Later still, in his book on the Pelagian heresy, written in the year 415, he modifies this account still further.’”

Later on Lee wrote,
On all such statements two remarks are to be made: (1) S. Jerome would surely not have translated this document into Greek, had it not differed considerably from the Canonical Gospel. (2) Whenever S. Jerome refers to the Gospel of S. Matthew, he quotes it according to our present Greek text; and when he introduces diverging statements of the ‘Hebrew Gospel,’ he does so in a manner which proves that he regarded it as of no authority whatsoever.”3

2. George Clark
“That Jerome thought he had discovered the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew in the one used by the Nazarenes; but afterward he found reason to doubt it. That although so many of the early writers assert that Matthew originally wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, yet we do not find that any of them ever used it or saw it. Hence if there ever was a Hebrew copy, it must have been lost very early, soon after the destruction of Jerusalem.

Jerome, who knew Hebrew, as other Latin and Greek fathers did not, obtained in the fourth century a copy of this Hebrew Gospel of the Nazarenes, and at once asserted that he had found the Hebrew original. But when he looked more closely into the matter, he confined himself to the statement that many supposed that this Hebrew text was the original of Matthew's Gospel. He translated it into Latin and Greek, and made a few observations of his own on it.”4

3. James Morison
“It will be noticed that, in the passage quoted from the book On Illustrious Men, Jerome says that the Nazarenes made use of the Hebrew Matthew. It will also be noticed that he mentions that a copy of the work was preserved in the Pamphilian library at Caesarea. These statements are proof that at the time, at least, when Jerome wrote his Illustrious Men, he was fully convinced that the Gospel, generally known as the Gospel according to the Hebrews, was Matthew's original Hebrew Gospel. This is rendered still more evident, if additional evidence were necessary, by what he says in the third book of his Dialogue against the Pelagians, written in the year 415: ‘In the Gospel according to the Hebrews, written in the Syro-Chaldaic language, but with Hebrew letters, the Gospel which the Nazarenes use to the present day, and which is also the Gospel according to the Apostles, or, as most suppose, the, Gospel according to Matthew, and which is preserved in the library of Caesarea, it is narrated, etc.’

It is noteworthy, however, that in this passage, written in his old age, Jerome does not speak so positively regarding his own conviction of the identity of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, used by the Nazarenes, and the Hebrew Gospel according to Matthew, as he did, three and twenty years before, in his Illustrious Men. He now only says that ‘most believe’ that the two works are identical. Indeed, in his Commentary on Matthew, which was written just six years after his Illustrious Men, he speaks with the same bated breath, and makes, in addition, another rather remarkable statement. He says, ‘In the Gospel, which the Nazarenes and Ebionites use, and which I lately translated into Greek from the Hebrew tongue, and which is called by most the authentic Gospel of Matthew, the ‘man who had the withered hand is described as a mason,’ etc.

Not only does he here say that the Gospel according to the Hebrews is identified ‘by most’ with the authentic Gospel according to Matthew, he mentions what is very remarkable, that he himself had some time ago translated it into Greek. He had translated it, indeed, more than six years before. For he says in the second chapter of his Illustrious Men, that ‘the Gospel, which is called the Gospel according to the Hebrews, and which was lately translated by me both into Greek and into Latin, which also Origen ‘frequently used, relates,’ etc. Jerome had, it seems, translated the Gospel according to the Hebrews both into Greek and into Latin.

It is nothing wonderful that he should have translated it into Latin, but it is certainly remarkable that he should have thought of translating it into Greek, if it was really the case, as so many assumed, that the common Greek Gospel, which was in every one's hands, was but a translation of that original Hebrew text. There is evidence of some confusion here. And the confusion gets worse confounded when we take into account, that, in the last three passages which we have quoted from Jerome, as well as in a good many others, there are quotations made from the Gospel according to the Hebrews, which have nothing corresponding to them in our Greek Gospel, as we have it now, and as Jerome had it in his day!”5

4. M.R. James
M.R. James commenting on Jerome’s change in perspective in his later years concerning the Hebrew Matthew writes, “In later years Jerome ceased to regard the Hebrew Gospel as the original Matthew.”6

5. R.C.H. Lenski
“We may add that Jerome (second half of the fourth century) thought that he had discovered Matthew's Hebrew Gospel in the Aramaic ‘Gospel of the Nazarenes,’ or ‘Gospel of the Hebrews,’ a Jewish Christian sect, but he himself later discovered his mistake.”7

For more information Jerome’s and others’ views specifically on the Gospel of the Hebrews see the article entitled “Matthew’s Hebrew Gospel and The Gospel of the Hebrews.”


References are given without use of abbreviations such as “ibid.” to make it simpler to understand and follow the references for those unfamiliar with reading the various abbreviations.

1. Metzger, Bruce, Ehrman, Bart, The Text of the New Testament, Oxford University Press, 2005, 100-101

2. Metzger, Bruce, Ehrman, Bart, The Text of the New Testament, Oxford University Press, 2005, 105

3. Lee, William, The Inspiration of Holy Scripture: Its Nature and Proof: Eight Discourses, Preached Before the University of Dublin, R. Carter & Brothers, 1860, 470-471

William Lee - (1815-1883)
1882 - Appendix P - p. 585-595 Lecture VIII - p. 289

4. Clark, George W., Notes on the Gospel of Matthew; Explanatory and Practical, Sheldon and Company, 1870, X

5. Morison, James, A Practical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, Hodder and Stoughton, 1902, xxxv-xxxvii

6. James, Montague Rhode, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1924), pp. 1-8.

7. Lenski, R.C.H., Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, Augsburg Publishing House, 1964, 11

Missing is Johann David Michaelis, who wrote a lot about this c. 1790. Ron Jones does have a smidgen on another page.

There is also a fine analysis by William Whitaker, in 1588!, who was involved in the battle of the Bible defending the Received Text against the Jesuit opposition. Extracts from the 1849 edition are in the earlier post.


The Disappearance of Matthew's Original Hebrew Gospel
Ron Jones Hebrew Matthew Gospel.php

William Smith,

J. W. McGarvey

Johann David Michaelis
Louis Berkhof
Joseph Benson
Archibald Alexander
Thomas Horne
Henry Thiessen

Matthew's Authorship of a Hebrew and
Greek Gospel: Main Evidence

Matthew's Authorship of a Hebrew and
Greek Gospel: More Evidence

Scholarly Support for Matthew's Authorship
of a Hebrew and Greek Gospel

Jerome's Scholarly Speculation About
Matthew's Hebrew Gospel

The Disappearance of Matthew's Hebrew

Matthew's Hebrew Gospel and the Gospel
of the Hebrews