THE BIRTH OF THE NEW TESTAMENT by C. F. D. Moule, Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge. First published A & C Black Ltd 1962. This edition prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2013.



IT is worth while asking whether too little attention has not been paid to the word ἡρμήνευσεν in the much-discussed words of Papias quoted by Euseb. H.E. iii. 39. 12. Considerable thought has been devoted to the meaning of Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκῳ (in the light of H. Birkeland and his critics and of others' researches, see p. 186, n. 2); and τὰ λόγια is a phrase round which hundreds of pages have been written. [See T. W. Manson, B.J.R.L. 29. 2 (February 1946), 392 ff.; Kittel's T.W.N.T. iv. 144 f.] But are not the implications of ἡρμήνευσεν worthy of closer consideration?

Behm, in his article on this word-group in T.W.N.T. ii. 659 ff., distinguishes three main senses – (a) deuten, auslegen, erklären (explain, interpret); (b) andeuten, seine Gedanken durch Worte darlegen, ausdrücken (express); (c) aus einer fremden Sprache in die bekannte iibertragen, dolmetschen, übersetzen (to translate). All three are Classical – indeed, all three can be exemplified from Plato alone, not to mention other writers; and, although only (a) and (c) are found in the New Testament ((a) only in Lk. xxiv. 27 (διερμ., D ἑρμ.), (c) only in Jn i. 38 (v.l), 42, ix. 7 (ἑρμ.), 1 Cor. xii. 30, xiv. 5, 13, 27 (διερμ.), Heb. vii. 2 (ἑρμ.), (b) not at all), there seems to be no particular reason why the word in Euseb. should not mean whichever is the most appropriate to its context.

Clearly the second sense ('express') is here inapplicable; but there is at least some option, linguistically speaking, between 'interpret' and ' translate', and it is, I think, just conceivable (in the abstract) that τὰ λόγια might mean a collection of parables and parabolic sayings which were differently interpreted by different hearers, just as the sayings in the Gospel of Thomas are being variously interpreted today. In that case Matt, xiii would contain specimens of the process in question. However, I suppose all will agree that the preceding sentence, with its reference to the language of the original, virtually clinches the third sense – translation.

What follows? Surely a much firmer rejection of the theory that τὰ λόγια means Old Testament testimonia than is to be obtained from an investigation merely of the meaning of λόγιον. For, had Old Testament testimonia been intended by τὰ λόγια, in the first place, Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκῳ is not a completely rational way of expressing 'in their [original] Hebrew' and secondly it is difficult to imagine why it is described as necessary for them to be translated by each reader, 'as best he could' (ὡς ἦν δυνατὸς ἕκαστος). It is perfectly true that it is precisely Matthew's testimonia that are notoriously not septuagintal; but the fact that Old Testament testimonia were individually rendered into Greek still does not justify the phrase (ὡς ἦν δυνατὸς ἕκαστος) which implies some necessity for private translation. There were already well-established Greek versions of the Old Testament available – especially, of course, that of the LXX: why should each reader be compelled to use his own make-shift? The translation clause points, as it seems to me, almost conclusively to τὰ λόγια being some original and hitherto unknown composition. In other words, this clause points strongly to the theory that the writing in question was some such document as we associate with Q, though it certainly does not tie it down to being a collection of nothing but sayings. [For warnings against hasty identification of "Matthew's logia ' with Q, see B. W. Bacon, Studies in Matthew (1930), xii, and J. A. Robinson, The Study of the Gospels (1902). For a discrediting of Jerome's 'authentic Hebrew', see P. Nepper-Christensen, Das Matthäusevangelium (1958), ch. 2.]

If, then, Papias' tradition really does point to variant translations, is there any trace left of these? It has often been observed that a comparison of Matt, and Lk. suggests that, in some cases, they represent different translations of the same sources (see a useful list, based partly on Wellhausen, in C. K. Barrett, 'Q: a Re-examination', E.T. liv. 12 (September 1943), 320 ff.). But is it not posssible that, actually within Matt, itself, variant versions of a single source have left their trace? In v. 22, not only may μωρέ be a gloss on ῥακά, but συνέδριον and κρίσις may be alternative translations (see my note in E.T. 1. 4 (January 1939), 184); xii. 31 f. is possibly a conflation of the Marcan and Lucan versions of a saying, of which the Marcan maybe nearest to the original; in xvi. 22, ἵλεως and οὐ μῃ ἔσται are alternative renderings of חלילה (see P. Katz, Kratylos v (1960), 157 ff.); in xxiii. 8, 10 ῥαββεί and καθηγητής are transliteration and translation respectively; in xxvii. 6 f., both 'treasury', 'ôṣār and 'potter', yôṣēr are represented (cf. Zech. xi. 13, TS and M.T. respectively). [See a slightly fuller treatment of this question of the ' anthological' tendency of Matt, in my paper 'St Matthew's Gospel: Some Neglected Features', T. und U. (forthcoming).]

At any rate, it is clear that the Evangelist was, in many respects, a conservator, conflating, combining, sometimes duplicating. Is it possible to say, further, that the Semitisms in his Gospel are survivals from his sources, while he himself naturally wrote purer Greek?

(i) It is noticeable that at least some passages which are obviously editorial contain fairly clear Semitisms. In the first place, there are the five famous 'link-passages' or 'connecting panels', vii. 28, xi. 1, xiii. 53, xix. 1, xxvi. 1. Here, if anywhere, we may be reasonably confident that we see the hand of the editor himself. And each of these begins with the characteristically Semitic καὶ ἐγένετο ὅτι ... . Then, again, many a section begins with a vague and strictly illogical use of ἐκεῖνος such as: ἐν τῷ καιρῷ (xi. 25, xii. 1, xiv. 1) or ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ (xviii. i) or ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ (xiii. 1) – all of them apparently meaning little more than ' on one occasion' or ' one day'; and I suspect that this, too, is Semitic rather than native Greek; cf. Gen. xxi. 22, Josh. v. 2 (bā'eth hahî) and Gen. xxxix. 11, 1 Sam. iii. 2 where kehayyôm hazzeh and bayyôm hahû' are interpreted (e.g. by Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Lexicon s.v. ירם) as meaning 'on this particular day (when the incident occurred)'. Further, the use of εἷς = τις (which is generally regarded as Semitic) occurs in certain passages where it is simpler to assume that it is Matthew's own introduction than that it came from a source. Thus: εἷς γραμματεύς (viii. 19), ἄρχων εἷς (ix. 18), μία παιδίσκη (xxvi. 69) are instances where the parallel passages are without this idiom; προσήχθη εἷς αὐτῳ ὀφειλέτης (xviii. 24) is in a passage peculiar to Matt.,and mayor may not have been in his source; only εἷς προσελθὼν αὐτῶ (xix. 16) is paralleled (Mk. x. 17). On the other hand, the εἷς ἐκ τοῦ ὄχλου of Mk. ix. 17 becomes simply ἄνθρωπος in Matt. xviii. 14, which is a warning against too light an assumption that the construction is systematically introduced by the evangelist. However, enough has perhaps been adduced to suggest that the editor himself did use Semitisms.

(ii) Were these Semitisms, then, spontaneous and natural to this writer, or did he deliberately introduce them? That the latter is the more likely is suggested by two phenomena:

(a) There are passages where we find quite accomplished Greek, free from Semitisms. On the whole, the Aktionsart of the verbs is correct throughout Matt. But the most striking instance of good Greek is, perhaps, xvii. 24-27, the pericope about the coin in the fish's mouth. Here there is a comparatively elaborate use of participles, a wide range of vocabulary, and a liveliness almost like Luke's at his most free and individual (e.g. in the latter chapters of Acts). One may note especially the phrase (xvii. 25) καὶ ἐλθόντα εἷς τἠν οἰκίαν προέφθασεν αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς (for this competent handling of participles, cf. ix. 27, xxvi. 71). A reasonably stylish passage of this sort might, of course, come straight from a source and not represent the author's own style; but on the whole the balance of probability, if we allow that Semitic sources lie behind the Gospel tradition at all, is against attributing to a source features which are linguistically the opposite of Semitic. It must be admitted, however, that even here there is (v. 26) what Classical Greek would less easily tolerate – an ostensible genitive absolute which turns out to be, after all, not absolute; and throughout this Gospel there are, side by side, correct genitives absolute and this incorrect type (the latter even in so clearly editorial a passage as viii. 1).

(b) Secondly, there is the introduction into otherwise apparently pure Greek of such Semitic phrases as ἰδού. In the story of the magi (ii) almost impeccable Greek is given a slightly Semitic flavour by this means (as also, perhaps, by ἐχάρησαν χαρὰν μεγάλην σφόδρα v. 10); and in the narrative of the baptism Matthew seems (iii. 16) to rephrase Mk (i. 10) in such a way as deliberately to introduce this interjection.

On the whole, this adds up to a balance of evidence in favour of the editor's own Semitisms being deliberate and artificial.

(iii) There are, of course, fairly clear signs of the extensive use of sources which already contained Semitic idiom. Very much has been written on the Aramaic behind the Sermon on the Mount and many other passages. Let it merely be remarked here, by way of one illustration, that the use of ἄνθρωπος in apposition with a noun, which is likely to be a Semitism, [See, e.g., M. Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts (2 1954) 249 f.] is, though peculiar to Matt., yet invariably in parables (ἐχθρὸς ἄνθρωπος, xiii. 28, ἄνθρωπος ἔμπορος, xiii. 45 (v. l.) ; ἄνθρωπος οἰκοδεσπότης, xiii. 52, xx. 1, xxi. 33, ἄνθρωπος βασιλεύς, xviii. 23, xxii. 2); and the likelihood, therefore, is that the idiom came by tradition with the parable. This is only one phenomenon out of a wealth of evidence that Matthew simply took over much that already had a Semitic cast.

(iv) Among other features of the language of this Gospel may be mentioned the following miscellaneous items: ὅτι recitativum is comparatively rare; τοῦ c. infin. of purpose is sparingly used (iii. 13, xi. 1, xiii. 3, xxi. 32); the Marcan εὐθύς is sparingly used, and εὐθέως is much commoner; δεῦτε is frequent, and not only in borrowings from Mk. There are several Latin words: μίλιον, κῆνσος, κουστωδία, perhaps συμβούλιον λαβεῖν (xxvii. 1, 7? = consilium capere ). There is a wide and rather remarkable vocabulary (in what follows * denotes a passage paralleled in Mk or Lk. or both; † denotes special to Matt.): There is a large number of verbs in -ζω, some of them unusual, e.g.: εὐνουχίζω xix. 12,† ἅπ. λεγ. in N.T.; καταποντίζω, xiv. 30,† xviii. 6,* not elsewhere in N.T.; πυρράζω xvi. 2,† (si vera l.), ἅπ. λεγ. in N.T.; σεληνιάζω iv. 24,* xvii. 15,* not elsewhere in N.T. Other noteworthy words include: τὸν δεῖνα xxvi. 18,* ἅπ. λεγ. in N.T.; διασαφεῖν xiii. 36,† xviii. 31,† not elsewhere in N.T.; θαυμάσιον xxi. 15,† ἅπ. λεγ. in N.T.; παλιγγενεσία xix. 28,* elsewhere in N.T. only Tit. iii. 5; πέλαγος xviii. 6,* in N.T. elsewhere only Acts xxvii. 5; συντέλεια xiii. 39,† 40,† 49,† xxiv. 3,* xxviii. 20,† elsewhere in N.T. only Heb. ix. 26; τὰ ὕδατα pl., viii. 32,* xiv. 28 f.† elsewhere in N.T. only Jn. iii. 23 and Rev. passim. It speaks strongly for these words belonging to the evangelist's own vocabulary that they are spread over both his peculiar material and passages which have parallels in the other Gospels, which do not, however, use the words in question.

Thus, as a preliminary estimate, one might say that the editor was an educated person commanding sound Greek with a considerable vocabulary; but he derived many Semitisms, and perhaps some Latin, from his sources; and he also had some feeling for Semitic 'atmosphere', occasionally introducing a Semitism on his own account, though less histrionically than Luke. So far as it goes, this conclusion fits well enough with my suggestions about the provenance of the Gospel.