Jewish Talmud Confirms an Early Gospel of Matthew
By Neil Altman and David Crowder
The Standard-Times April 19, 2003.
“a literary tale dated by some scholars at 72 AD or earlier, which comes from an ancient collection of Jewish writings known as the Talmud, quotes brief passages that appear only in the Gospel of Matthew.”
An ancient Jewish parody that quotes the New Testament’s Gospel of Matthew may refute a major argument by biblical scholars who challenge the credibility of the Bible.
For more than a century, liberal scholars have contended that the Christian gospels are unreliable, secondhand accounts of Jesus’ ministry that weren’t put on paper until 70 to 135 AD or later — generations after those who witnessed the events of Jesus’ ministry were dead.
Today’s more liberal scholars say the Gospel of Matthew may have been aimed at Jews, but it was written in Greek, not Hebrew. They also believe that the Book of Mark, written in Greek, was the original gospel, despite the traditional order of the gospels in the Bible, putting Matthew first.
But a literary tale dated by some scholars at 72 AD or earlier, which comes from an ancient collection of Jewish writings known as the Talmud, quotes brief passages that appear only in the Gospel of Matthew. In his 1999 book, “Passover and Easter: Origin and History to Modern Times,” Israel J. Yuval of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University states that Rabban Gamaliel, a leader of rabbinical scholars in about 70 AD, is “considered to have authored a sophisticated parody of the Gospel according to Matthew.” The Talmud, a text not often touched by New Testament scholars, also contains a number of obvious references to Jesus and his family.
Jesus is called a Nazarene as one of the names given him. Another dubs him Yeshua Ben Pandira, which means Jesus born-of-a-virgin in a combination of Hebrew and Greek. His father was a carpenter, his mother was a hairdresser and Jesus, the Talmud says, was a magician who “led astray Israel.” And, it says, he was “hung” on the eve of Passover.
Gamaliel’s tale, which happens to portray a Christian judge as corrupt, may be less valuable for its instruction than for casting doubt on the long-held theory that Matthew’s gospel, though longer than Mark’s, was written years later by someone after the apostle Matthew had died.
When Matthew’s gospel to the Hebrews was written is important to biblical conservatives because an early Matthew would strengthen its credibility by making it possible, if not probable, that the tax collector whom Jesus recruited was the first to write and distribute his account of Jesus’ birth, ministry and death. Most liberal scholars would say Matthew’s gospel didn’t come along until 90 AD or later and was in Greek, separating the apostle from the Jews as well as book that bears his name.
But if Gamaliel quoted the Gospel of Matthew, then Matthew “had to be before 70 AD,” said Craig Blomberg, distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Theological Seminary.
In Rabbi Gamaliel’s story, a daughter whose father had died offers a golden lamp as a bribe to a Christian judge known for his honesty, seeking a decision that would allow her to share her father’s estate with her brother. When the judge suggests that dividing the estate would be proper on the basis of a new law that had superseded the ancient Law of Moses, Gamaliel argues that the judge is wrong and loosely quotes a statement attributed to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew.
“Look further in the book, and it is written in it, ‘I have not come to take away from the Law of Moses nor add to the Law of Moses … .’ ” Gamaliel replies, and wins the case on the basis of that argument or the bribe he gave the judge — a “Libyan ass.”
The Libyan ass itself is a reference to Jesus and the mount he rode into Jerusalem.
The late English scholar, R. Travers Herford, called Gamaliel’s story a “brutal parody of Christian belief.” In his book, “Christianity in Talmud and Midrash,” he points to a second reference to Matthew, in the reaction of the woman who lost the case, despite the golden lamp she gave as a bribe. “Let your light shine as a lamp!” she says, throwing a sarcastic barb at the judge. At Matthew 5:16, just before Jesus said he came to fulfill the law, he tells his followers that the lamp of their belief should not be hidden but “let your light shine before men.”
Neil Altman is a Philadelphia-based writer who specializes in the Dead Sea Scrolls and religion. He has done graduate work at Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning, Conwell School of Theology, and Temple University. He has a master’s degree in Old Testament from Wheaton Graduate School in Wheaton, Ill., and was an American Studies Fellow at Eastern College. David Crowder is an investigative reporter for the El Paso Times in Texas.
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Date: 06 Apr 2009
Want to know? which is true in 70 A.D./
Jesus was crucified on passover, was the temple curtain then wrent(torn) and an earth quake destroyed the Temple because of jesus’ Death or was in truth by Romans and by Fire???
r.simani @ dbcglobal.net
Date: 23 Aug 2012
Does Jesus coming to fullfill the law mean we don’t have to live by it? Shouldn’t we establish it?