One of the questions we get most often is “But Aren’t the Oldest NT Manuscripts Greek?”
Yes it is true that our oldest Hebrew copies of Matthew and Hebrews (the only NT books we have in Hebrew) only date back to the middle ages. And it is true that our oldest Aramaic copies of New Testament books date back to the 4th century C.E..
However there are some important facts that those making the above argument fail to account for.
To begin with, prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 our oldest Hebrew copies of any Tanak (“Old Testament”) books dated back only to the Middle Ages. And our oldest copies of any Tanak books were Greek LXX copies from the fourth century. Yet no one would have argued that this pointed to a Greek origin for the Tanak.
Since no copies of Ester were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, our oldest copies of Ester are still Greek LXX copies from the 4th century. And our oldest copies of Ester in Hebrew only date back to the Middle Ages. Yet this does not in any way indicate that the original language of Ester was Greek.
The time-lapse from the time of the composition of the Book of Ester to our oldest Hebrew copies of Ester is about 1,500 years. This is about the same as the time lapse from the composition of Matthew to our oldest Hebrew copies of Matthew. So the fact that our oldest Hebrew copy of Matthew dates to about 1,500 years after the initial composition of Matthew does NOT negate the Hebrew from being the original.
Although there have been no Papyri fragments of Hebrew Matthew found among the Christian Papyri fragments there have also been no Papyri fragments of Hebrew Isaiah or of the Hebrew of any of the other “Old Testament” books found among them. (though Greek fragments of LXX copies of Tanak books have been found among them). The only Hebrew Papyri fragments of Tanak books have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls and not among any discoveries of Christian Papyri fragments. Why should we expect Hebrew Matthew (or any Hebrew or Aramaic NT books) to have been better preserved than the Hebrew Tanak? Whoever were the owners of the NT Papyri fragments we have found clearly had no copies of ANY Hebrew books of the Bible at all even from the “Old Testament” books which we know were composed in Hebrew. So the fact that we have found no Hebrew or Aramaic copies of NT books among them is no more significant than the fact that we find no Hebrew copies of “Old Testament” books among them.
The oldest Greek Papyri fragment of any NT book is P52 which is a fragment of a few verses of John. The word order of this fragment agrees with the Greek Western Type of text which has close agreement with the Aramaic Old Syriac text.
Our oldest complete Greek manuscripts of NT books date to the fourth century and that is also the age of our oldest complete Aramaic manuscripts of NT books.
The Hebrew and Aramaic origin of the New Testament cannot be dismissed or disproved by the existence of Greek papyri fragments that predate the oldest Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts.
Donations in April have been very, very low. This is common each year with tax time taking a bite out of people’s pocket books. Unfortunately, our expenses have not decreased during the tax season.
This work takes hours of my time. As many of you know, my wife is very ill, and I spend most of my time at home as her caretaker. I work at a desk less than six feet from her bed. So I am in a position to dedicate many hours to this important work that I have been directed to do.
But I also realize that it is not the activity of James Trimm alone who is responsible to do this work, it is all of us together who are charged with the responsibility of accomplishing this work. I very much look on the efforts of this restoration work as a cooperative one with each one of you. We are all joint heirs with Messiah and should always be about our Father’s business. I am honored to be able to be partnered with truth seekers as this restoration of Scripture moves forward in fulfillment of prophecy.
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