hem Tov ben Shaprut, usually referred to as Shem Tov, is the name of a 14th century Jewish writer who was hostile to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Shem Tov of Tudela, Spain, would have faded into complete obscurity were it not for a specific written work he is thought to have authored. This material, entitled Even Bohan, is a written treatise attacking Christianity.
I'll note at the outset that a considerable amount of confusion surrounds this work. One confusing aspect is related to the name of the work. Although the name of the writing is Even Bohan, which translates as "touchstone," or the "stone of testing," most historical references simply dub it the Shem Tov manuscript. Thus the document is commonly referred to under the name of the author.
To help complicate matters even further, there are only 9 copies of Shem Tov in existence, and all are fragmentary. This means that, although scholars have pieced these fragments together to form a composite whole, we can't even be certain we have a complete copy of the work.
The only reason anyone pays any attention to this work is Even Bohan (the Shem Tov manuscript) contains a corrupted version of the Gospel of Matthew, but it is written in a form of Hebrew. Because early Christian historians noted the tradition that Matthew did indeed distribute his Gospel in Hebrew, certain teachers claim that it is that very Gospel of Matthew, written in Hebrew, that was incorporated into the Shem Tov work.
The fact is, the evidence for Matthean authorship of the "gospel" that is included within Shem Tov's manuscript is not only non-existent, as we shall see, even a brief analysis of the material clearly shows it to be a fraud. In short, the claim that a copy of Matthew's alleged Hebrew Gospel was incorporated into the Even Bohan writing is a deception of the worst kind, for it amounts to a deceitful attempt to tamper with the Scriptures.
Before addressing the historicity of the portion of the document purporting to be an ancient copy of the Gospel of Matthew (and the internal and historical evidence against its authenticity), it's worth noting that early Christian accounts mentioning a Hebrew language version of Matthew are also hotly debated.
As most know, the New Testament was written in Greek. However, certain Antichrist Jews, wearing the rough garment to deceive of "Messianic Judaism," take every opportunity to diminish the authenticity of the New Testament, in order to re-assert their legalistic approach - thereby insuring their assumed primacy in the religion of Christianity.
Most of the references to a Hebrew Gospel of Matthew have come to us through the church history compiled by Eusebius (260-339 AD). These accounts mention a Hebrew version of the story of Jesus Christ produced by Matthew; however, they do not specify that Matthew's Gospel was originally in Hebrew, then translated into Greek. In fact, not one account clearly tells us Matthew's Gospel was translated from Greek to Hebrew either.
For example, Papias tells us
"Matthew compiled the sayings [logia of Christ] in the Hebrew language, and each interpreted them as best he could." (Eusebius, page 13, Paul Maier translation).
One of Eusebius' English translators, Paul Maier, thinks that Papias was referencing Aramaic, as opposed to Hebrew. In any event, the statement says the disciple "compiled" Christ's words in Hebrew. Another ancient source, Irenaeus, evidently relying on Papius, tells us via Eusebius, that
"Matthew composed a written Gospel for the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel in Rome, and founding the church there." (Eusebius, the Church History, page 183, Maier translation)
Those familiar with the New Testament are aware of the difficulties associated with attributing the founding of the Roman church to Peter and Paul, because the SCRIPTURES tell us Paul found Christians already in Rome when he first arrived. This tells us the account of Irenaeus, compiled by Eusebius in his history of the early Christian church, can definitely carry errors of great importance. Having said that, the statement from Irenaeus at least leaves open the possibility that Matthew's existing Grecian language book was translated into Hebrew, so the Jews would have a Gospel in their native tongue.
Origen, the controversial Alexandrian scholar who wrote in the 3rd century AD, also noted the "tradition" that Matthew was first published in Hebrew; however, the Gospel of Luke, known to have been written in Greek, closely follows Matthew's Greek Gospel. Further, because Matthew Levi was a Jewish tax collector in the employ of the Herodian client government of Tiberias Caesar, it is virtually certain he would have been fluent in the lingua franca of the day, and that was definitely Greek.
Thus, although there are several statements indicating that Matthew Levi published a version of his Gospel in Hebrew, there is no evidence whatsoever that this was his only composition, or that he had not written in Greek as well. In fact, as we shall see, there are indications a crucial error was made by one early historian, and the later accounts compounded that error.
However, before moving on to details of the Shem Tov apostasy, and leaving the subject of the early Christian's statements regarding a Hebrew Matthew, it needs to be said there is a mountain of scholarship showing Matthean authorship of the Greek manuscript we call the book of Matthew. Indeed, the Grecian book of Matthew shows unmistakable internal evidence of its authenticity by the disciple of Jesus.
In an attempt to make the scholarly data more accessible, we note the fact there are numerous statements within the Greek text itself where the narrative tells us the meaning of a Hebrew term. If the writing originated in Hebrew, an ongoing occasional translation would not be necessary. In other words, if Matthew (or the larger body of the New Testament) originated in Aramaic or Hebrew, it would be unnecessary to tell the reader what a particular Hebrew word or phrase means.
It is only because the writing did originate in Greek that an occasional explanation is needed, and such interpretive statements are provided in the Scripture itself. Thus, we see several examples of these ongoing translation notes. For instance, in Matthew's first chapter, the disciple cites the prophecy from Isaiah concerning how a virgin will conceive, and a male child will come forth who is to be called Immanuel. Isaiah wrote:
"Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14)
When Matthew quotes this prophecy, he writes
"Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." (Matthew 1:22,23)
In the Shem Tov version of Matthew, which was supposedly composed in Hebrew, the verse also tells us the name Immanuel, means God with us in Hebrew. Once again, if the book was actually written in Hebrew, there would be no reason to tell the reader the meaning of the name, for the name Immanuel is Hebrew.
It should also be noted that this type of internal evidence also discredits the supposed Aramaic version of the entire New Testament called the Peshitta, as well as other pseudo-Matthews forged by Antichrist Jews in the middle ages. Thus, it's significant that Shem Tov's supposed Hebrew Matthew follows the Aramaic Peshitta, in its ongoing interpretation of certain Hebrew words.
In short, these writings were drawn from the Greek originals, and it never occurred to the forgers who claimed their abomination as the originals, to edit out the ongoing translation notes. This is the wooden stake in the heart of these wicked counterfeits. Indeed, we see the same interpretive notes occur in the writings of all four Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and even John. For instance, in the book of John we see the following:
"And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha..." (John 19:17)
In the supposedly "original" Aramaic New Testament known as the Peshitta, we see the text follows a similar phrasing:
"Carrying his cross, to the place which is called The Skull, but in Hebrew it is called Golgotha." (John 19:17, Lamsa translation of the Aramaic Peshitta).
This ongoing translation is also found in the Greek manuscripts of Luke's work, The Acts Of The Apostles, and once again, the counterfeit Aramaic "original" is exposed as a fraud. Luke writes:
"And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, the field of blood." (Acts 1:19)
Since the supposed Semitic original also translates the name within the text itself, it's clear the Aramaic is actually a corrupted translation of the Greek original:
"And this very thing is known to all who dwell in Jerusalem; so that the field is called in the language of the country, Khakal-Dema, which is to say Koriath-Dem, the field of blood." (Acts 1:19 Lamsa translation of the Aramaic Peshitta)
This means that, regarding the Shem Tov abomination, the claim that Matthew's Gospel would not conform to the Greek linguistic culture of his time, and would, therefore, be written in Hebrew, is fallacious.
Literally hundreds of experts have written commentaries on the book of Matthew, and there is no doubt whatsoever that Matthew's Gospel was written in Greek. Indeed, some scholars have deciphered errors in the Eusebian notation of the "tradition" that Matthew ever "published" a version of his Gospel in Hebrew.
That tradition originates with one author, Papias, who was cited above. Most, but not all, of the other references to a Hebrew Matthew were dependent on Papias, who is thought to have ministered early in the 2nd century. Papias wrote about an "elder" who told him these things, and many have assumed that "elder" was a 2nd generation leader who knew the disciples themselves.
However, an important scholar, Dr. Robert Gundry, has deduced the "elder" was the Apostle John himself, and he places Papias at a slightly earlier period. Furthermore, some Greek scholars have challenged the translation of Papias' statement, as recounted in Eusebius, as missing the point entirely. Dr. Gundry, for example, says Papias' Grecian statement specifically referenced Matthew's Hebrew "dialect," and that his Greek version of the Gospel was intended to help Greek reading Jews to interpret the data in their own way:
"A Hebrew dialect, then, does not imply that Matthew wrote in the Aramaic language. Besides, the generality of each person's interpreting as he was able fits better the exercise of reading and understanding a gospel written in the lingua franca, Greek; for comparatively few people had the knowledge of Aramaic that should have enabled them to translate an Aramaic gospel into Greek or whatever other language was native to them. In describing Matthew, then, 'a Hebrew dialect' means a Hebrew way of presenting Jesus' messiahship." (Matthew: A Commentary On His Literary & Theological Art, Dr. Robert H Gundry)
Dr. Gundry's 650-page treatise on Matthew deals at some length with the idea of an Aramaic or Hebrew version of Matthew, and citing many authorities, he concludes the assumption of an actual Hebrew Gospel, allegedly mentioned in Papias' statement, created a false tradition. He further concludes
"...the Old Testament passages had already been translated into Greek, which is the language of the gospel and which nearly everybody knew. We might account for the loss of an [theoretical] Aramaic Gospel of Matthew by noting the limited appeal of the Aramaic language and the dominance of Greek in the Hellenistic world. But our present Gospel of Matthew does not bear the marks of translations from Aramaic to Greek....also, Eusebius, Papias, and the elder himself, whom they quote, are making a comparison between what Matthew wrote and the Gospel of Mark. Since the latter was written in Greek and quickly canonized, our Greek Gospel of Matthew provides by far the best comparison." (Matthew, Gundry, pages 617,618)
In other words, the disciple Matthew probably never wrote a Hebrew version of his Gospel.
Later Christian writers, such as Jerome (340-420 AD) and Epiphanius (310-403 AD) both mention Hebrew translations of Matthew, and provided quotes. Significantly, these quotes differ from Shem Tov, as well as the later Peshitta, again providing indications these early translations were all derived from the Greek original of Matthew.
The fact that there were Hebrew translations of Matthew's Gospel would certainly be expected. After all, 300 years after Christ's ascension, we would expect the great commission to preach the Gospel to be well underway, and translating the Scriptures into multiple languages is a primary step in that direction.
However, these "psuedo" Hebrew versions of Matthew do not represent themselves to be mere translations of the Greek original. These aberrant writings represent brazenly evil attempts to claim they are the original Matthew, and try to propagate the lie that the Greek version of Matthew is a corrupt translation from their Aramaic, or Hebrew, original. This could not be further from the truth.
To put it another way, the Shem Tov "Matthew" is actually another attack on the faith of the believer; and this attack, engineered by a Jewish non-Christian man named Shem Tov, has tried to use the faulty tradition that Matthew wrote in Hebrew, as a ruse to discredit the Gospel.
However, although a number of unlearned, so called "Messianic" Jewish teachers have adopted the fraud as a way to promote their "ministries," the men of faith who are versed in Christian scholarship were not deceived. As is usually the case in aberrant manuscripts, although there are several subtle changes that are usually only spotted by genuine textual experts, there are a number of relatively obvious changes that betray the author's fraudulent intent. For example, in the Shem Tov version of "Matthew," we see small changes that always diminish the deity of Jesus:
Many of these types of changes are also found in other aberrant manuscripts, such as the Vaticanus, and the Sinaiticus, which were used to produce contemporary translations such as the NIV and the so-called New King James Version - the latter being a clever marketing gambit that sought to generate revenue for the copyright holders by misappropriating the familiar "King James" label.
Indeed, few have recognized the so-called "New" KJV came from an entirely different manuscript than the true King James Version; to say nothing of the embedded triple sixes, applied through the ancient symbol known as the Mobius, which is used as a logo for the cover of the NKJV.
A thorough critique of the so-called "New" King James Version is outside the purview of a look at Jewish attacks on the Greek New Testament, but the reader is invited to examine my previous work The King James Controversy.
Shem Tov is a completely heretical document, and internal evidence makes it clear it was a Jewish contrivance that sought to draw Christians back towards the authority of the Jewish sages. In fact, there are statements within Shem Tov that demonstrate the author was versed in a prior polemical attack on the Gospel found in a hideous writing known as the Toledoth Yeshu.
The writing known as the Toledoth Yeshu (the birth of Yeshua) is the source of the blasphemous accusation the virgin Mary actually had sex with a Roman soldier named Joseph Pantera, and made up the story about the angel telling her she was with child by the Holy Ghost.
The Toledoth Yeshu goes on to tell us that Jesus was actually a seductive sorcerer who was justly executed. This inflammatory writing further blasphemes our Saviour by claiming a "gardener named Judas" actually stole the body of Jesus from the garden tomb, in order to fake the resurrection. Clearly, this is a Satanic writing that slanders the LORD Jesus Christ.
However, certain elements in this despicable work show up in the so-called Hebrew "gospel" of Matthew known as Shem Tov! For instance, in Toledoth Yeshu, the "sages" (read chief priests and Pharisees) supposedly discovered that Jesus was illegitimate, and made him to walk "with his head uncovered" before them as a sign of his alleged shame and submission to their authority.
This is very revealing, for the identical cultural allusion is made in the Shem Tov travesty, as the text is altered to include this particular element in Christ's exchange with the Devil:
There are even more literary elements found in the Shem Tov forgery of Matthew that also point to the Toledoth Yeshu slander of Jesus Christ. For instance, in the Toledoth Yeshu, we are told that "horsemen were sent to arrest Jesus."
In Shem Tov, we also find "the horsemen of the court took Jesus under guard" in chapter 27 verse 27. However, in Matthew's genuine Gospel, where the disciple tells us Christ was arrested, there is no trace of horsemen.
Actually, the influence of the blasphemous Toledoth Yeshu Antichristian polemic is seen in other parts of the Shem Tov writing. For example, Toledoth Yeshu, as well as the Jewish Talmud, reference Christ's execution by hanging, in sharp contradiction to the crucifixion universally recorded in the authentic Gospels. We note, for example, this death is the same as the ignominious end of Judas Iscariot:
In the Toledoth Yeshu, a particular form of the Hebrew name Yeshua is used, and it is identical to the name used in Shem Tov. The variant spelling used of Jesus' name utilized is an ancient Hebraism using an acronym that communicates a curse. Hebrew scholars tell us this curse, as attached to the LORD's name in Shem Tov, means "let his name and memory be blotted out.
What is revealing, is this Hebraic expression of contempt is only found in documents written in the middle ages, thus plainly indicating just when the document was composed. Once again, the literary device where a curse is encoded within the spelling of Christ's name was used specifically by Jewish sources, and only begins to occur in the medieval period. Thus, once again, the evidence tells us there is no way Shem Tov can be dated all the way back to Matthew's time.
The embrace of this counterfeit by specific Messianic Jewish teachers is itself revealing. The fact is, a Jewish "Messianic" prophecy teacher, or priestly figure embracing Shem Tov in his theological output, is a plain indicator the Spirit of Antichrist is present in that person. The Scriptures plainly say
"mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." (Romans 16:17)
Thus, when Michael Rood, Moshe Koniuchowsky, and dozens of other "Messianic" leaders associated with them, openly acknowledge their use of the Shem Tov document in their theology, we can see just how these pretenders developed the false gospel they propagate.
The fact is, a probe into the teachings of many contemporary leaders associated with the "Sacred Name" movement, reveals common denominators pointing to Shem Tov. Indeed, significant portions of the so-called "Hebrew Roots" movement are thoroughly infected with the poison found in this writing. Furthermore, although there are variations in their doctrinal output, we also find that many leaders involved in the Two House heresy, also embrace the Shem Tov apostasy.
For those unfamiliar with the Two House system, this is a significant Antichrist movement that seeks to unite Messianic Judaism with the "Christian Identity" fraud - those who teach the so-called lost tribes migrated to Europe to become the Gentiles. By defining the "Christian" Europeans as Ephraim and Manassah (a primary lie found in the aberrational British-Israelite system), the Two House Scripture twisters seek to gain primacy for the little horn state of Israel.
This union of "Messianic Jews" with the "Christian" lost tribes supposedly found in the US and Europe, provides the American led NATO military alliance with the imprimatur of God, as they battle the Islamic Southern states. This false theology is pure Antichrist, and it is examined in the book The Two House Twist, by the present author.
I mention the Two House Twist in the present examination of the Shem Tov fraud, because the document is definitely being used by Two House leaders to further their false doctrine. Furthermore, there are links to the so-called "Sacred Name" movement (those who claim we must use the original Hebrew name of the LORD to approach Him), and the Shem Tov Apostasy. Many sincere believers are unaware that more than one "Sacred Name" translation of the Scriptures has utilized the Shem Tov forgery.
Evidence of the penetration of Shem Tov, and other Satanic translations, may be seen in the simple fact that Sacred Namers, Two House heretics, and many within the larger movement seeking to draw believers back to their supposed "Hebrew Roots," frequently use the phrase "Ha Shem," meaning "the name."
This phrase was commonly used by the Pharisees, and it shows up repeatedly in Talmudic writings, as well as the Shem Tov forgery of Matthew. Indeed, the Antichrist Spirit behind this vile work has changed Christ's own words, making Him use the term Ha Shem - a phrase that Jesus never used.
In short, here is a definitive link between the Sacred Name apostasy, the Two House Twist, and the Shem Tov-Toledoth Yeshu abomination.
The Rabbinical apostasy that is so prevalent among the Two House heresy (again, the unholy union of Messianic Judaism and Israel "Identity") comes through in the Shem Tov material. Readers familiar with our prior analysis of these apostate teachings (see Speaking The Sacred Name and Recognizing Christian Identity) are already aware these concepts, associated with Messianic Judaism, are completely inconsistent with the New Testament.
The Spirit that seeks to insert a Jewish primacy into the Gospel, i.e. the Jewish "chosen people" myth that is so dominant in the church today, is directly connected to the Pharisaical doctrinal slant that is found in the Shem Tov apostasy. To put it another way, it's not an accident the ancient heresy found in these blasphemous Jewish writings that are so antithetical to New Testament doctrines, are surfacing within Judaeo-Christian circles in this generation.
For those unfamiliar with the crucially important New Testament issues, my previous statement that the Jewish people are not the chosen people is directly related to the false doctrinal perspective that the Jewish people are the seed of Abraham. Indeed, the conflict is at the core of the promises made to Abraham, for literally millions of people today, in churches across the land, will tell you the Jews are the seed of Abraham.
"I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee." (Genesis 12:3, 17:7)
Contrary to the false doctrine emanating out of the churches, the New Testament categorically informs us the seed of Abraham is not the Jews, it is Christ Himself, for when the Pharisees claimed to be the children of Abraham, Jesus flatly corrected them:
"They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do." (John 8:39,44)
Obviously, Jesus is speaking of the Spiritual father of these physical descendants of Abraham - and that is precisely the point of the entire New Testament. The promises to bless the physical lineage of Abraham were fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, and it is in Jesus that "all families of the earth [are] blessed" (Genesis 12:3).
In Galatians, we find the point blank statement that Jesus Christ IS the seed of Abraham, and the Apostle Paul even specified that the promise was not to "seeds" in the plural sense (as in collective Jewry), but "seed" in the singular tense, as in Christ:
"Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." (Galatians 3:16)
This issue strikes at the heart of the entire New Testament, for the ongoing attempt of the Jewish "sages" to reassert their supposed authority under Christ is thoroughly unscriptural. Indeed, in the myriad of Jewish attempts to crush the Gospel as documented by the book of Acts, we repeatedly find the Jewish refusal to yield the position of honour they held under the Old Covenant, so we should not be surprised to find the long term effort to recapture the leadership role in Christianity.
True to Christ's analysis, the Jewish leadership had become like their Spiritual father the Devil, for the attempt to recapture former glory is a Luciferian trait. In this context, it's useful to remember the Devil was once the "anointed cherub," (Ezekiel 28:14) but has now been cast down. Satan's offer to give Christ the kingdoms of the world is prima facie evidence the fallen angel desires to reinstate his former standing. So too is the Jewish insistence on resuming pre-eminence under the Old Covenant legal code, when the New Testament has plainly told us those things were all but
"...a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ." (Colossians 2:17)
Furthermore, Jesus Christ plainly identified Himself as the heir to all things in the parable of the vineyard workers who were to lose their position. When they saw the "Son" of the "vineyard owner" (clearly referencing Jesus and God the Father), they said
"This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance shall be ours." (Mark 12:7)
The former managers of this "vineyard" have been trying to seize control of the Kingdom of God ever since they killed the Son, and the literary attempts to sabotage the sacred scripts of the New Covenant provide us with the smoking gun, in addition to a powerful indicator the crime continues.
Thus, within the various aberrant documents, we would expect to find doctrinal shifts that reassert the importance of Old Covenant elements, an emphasis on the Jewish knowledge from ancient times, and a re-assertion of the ancient lie that the Jews are somehow God's "chosen people" - even under the New Covenant where "there is neither Jew nor Greek." (Galatians 3:28). And that is precisely what we see, in each and every one of these spurious attempts to supplant the New Testament manuscripts with counterfeit documents.
In the Shem Tov document, we find another brazen effort to assert the primacy of a Jewish forgery over the authentic Greek Word of God. With this motive in mind, it's not surprising to find that Shem Tov removes the reliance of Jesus as the heir, and seeks to emphasize the Old Testamentary God the Father, as the one who saves:
Jesus plainly taught the Remnant believers they were to beware the leaven (read doctrine) of the Pharisees, so it's predictable Shem Tov would modify that statement:
The Shem Tov supposed "gospel" of Matthew finally just edits out Jesus' ability to save altogether:
After reviewing material like this, we might be tempted to paraphrase the old adage that says "with friends like these, who needs enemies" into a contemporary equivalent. To put it another way, if this is material is coming from supposed believers in Jesus Christ, just imagine what some non-Christian might write! The truth is, these are efforts made by enemies of the Gospel, posing as believers:
"And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." (II Corinthians 11:13,14)
-- James Lloyd
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2000-2010 CHRISTIAN MEDIA RESEARCH