Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The sacred Tetragrammaton
in the text of the Hebrew Matthew /

Το ιερό Τετραγράμματο
στο κείμενο του Εβραϊκού Ματθαίου

Hebrew Matthew 1:18–25 / Εβραϊκός Ματθαίος 1:18–25,
British Library, manuscript Add. 26964

While the Jewish scribes who preserved Hebrew Matthew carefully copied the gospel word for word, rabbinical tradition required them to introduce certain changes. Foremost among these changes was the suppression of the divine name Yehovah (or: Yahweh) originally written with the four Hebrew letters Yod-He-Vav-He יהוה. Whenever a Jewish scribe came across the name YHVH he reduced it to a single letter, the Hebrew letter he ה, equivalent to the English "H". The Hebrew letter was then marked with the gershayim or double-apostrophe symbol to identify it as an abbreviation. The reason for this change is that the Rabbis considered the name of God too holy to write out in full in any book other than the Tanakh (Old Testament). Jewish readers knew whenever they saw the single Hebrew letter H" "ה marked with a double-apostrophe that it represented the divine name YHVH. This shorthand representation of the divine name is even used in the Talmud and other texts which the Rabbis considered sacred.

In accordance with this tradition, the Jewish scribes who preserved Hebrew Matthew systematically replaced the divine name YHVH with the H" "ה abbreviation. Working backwards, whenever Hebrew Matthew has H" the original gospel must have had the full name YHVH. This is important because the Greek New Testament does not contain the name YHVH even a single time. Even when the Greek quotes a passage from the Tanakh that has the name YHVH it replaces it with "Lord". Unfortunately the word "Lord" in the Greek can represent either the Hebrew word for Lord (Adonai) or the name YHVH. In contrast, Hebrew Matthew's H" "ה abbreviation can only represent the divine name YHVH.

As one might expect, whenever Hebrew Matthew quotes Tanakh verses with the name YHVH, it represents this name as H" "ה. But more importantly, Hebrew Matthew has the abbreviation for YHVH in numerous places which are not Tanakh quotations. For example, Hebrew Matthew 1:22 says:

All of this to fulfill what was written from the prophet by the mouth of H".

The H" abbreviation in Hebrew Matthew indicates that the original First Century gospel must have read "by the mouth of YHVH". The divine name appears a second time in this passage: Greek Matthew 1:24 has the phrase angel of the Lord, but Hebrew Matthew has angel of H" which must have originally been: angel of YHVH.

* Nehemia Gordon,
The Naming of Jesus in Hebrew Matthew
[Ο Ονοματισμός του Ιησού στον Εβραϊκό Ματθαίο],
Hilkiah Press, 2008,
pp./σσ. 9, 10.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In this connection it might be of interest that the old turkish translation of the bible "Kitab-i Mukaddes" has the divine name in Matthew 1:18 rendered as RAB in small capitals, to indicate the original Yehova. To my knowledge its the only place they did that in NT.