THE BOOK OF MATTHEW
The Book of Matthew in this Bible is a reconstructed text generally based on the use of existing material from Matthew, as well as being supplemented or modified with text from Mark and Luke. The chapters and verses in Matthew have also been renumbered.
It has become apparent that the Book of Matthew has undergone a significant amount of modification since the original. These modifications have generally gone unnoticed because the modifications seem to have happened before the time of currently existing Greek manuscripts.
By most accounts, Matthew was originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic. Although we do not have what are likely to be copies of a direct line to the Hebrew version, there are some indirect witnesses to it. Some of the Church fathers make references to a gospel written in Hebrew. At times, they even indicate where it differs from the Greek version. They also mention different Hebrew versions, different groups using them, and some issues with these groups and texts. This provides us with some important information concerning the original text of Matthew.
Witnesses To A Substantially Different Text
1) We have long been aware of some comments by Epiphanius that he knew of some Hebrew versions that did not contain the first two chapters. He also seems to indicate that some may have at least contained the genealogy section.
2) Somewhat recently, in 1966, Shlomo Pines in “The Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries of Christianity According to a New Source”, describes the contents of a text which reflects the views and traditions of a Jewish Christian community. On page 21 he states that this text, which may have been written down in the fifth century or later, may represent an independent, otherwise quite unknown tradition concerning some events which occurred in the earliest Christian community. Further, he states that this tradition, however distorted it may have been in the course of transmission, could yet conceivably go back in parts to the first period of Christianity.
The section relevant to Matthew is on page 23. After some discussion as to whether the original text includes narratives as well as just ‘sayings’, he goes on to say that the Jewish Christian texts imply that the ‘true’ Hebrew Gospel did not contain an account of the birth and life of Jesus.
3) New witnesses have been found to Matthew 1:16 which include Manuscripts R and O at 17.3ab of the early document, “The Dialogue of Timothy and Aquila” (TA), the Old Syriac (Sinaiticus), some Palestinian Syriac, some Greek manuscripts, and Von Soden’s critical text. These texts appear to show that this verse was modified very early to support the concept of a virgin birth of Jesus.
4) Beginning with Matthew 1:18 (old numbering), a very unusual syntax appears for a text which has been translated from Hebrew to Greek. Instead of finding any resemblance to Hebrew style, we find an almost exact match to a narrative from ancient Greek literature. This tends to show that what we have is something introduced later into the text when it was in Greek.
5) An article titled, “Dreams, the Ancient Novels, and the Gospel of Matthew: An Intertextual Study”, provides some interesting background on the dream stories in Matthew:
“No doubt the dream narratives in Matthew lack the flourish and color that we find in the dream reports of the Greek novels. … Yet the formal features of the dream narratives in Matthew correspond to those found in other Greco-Roman literature, including the romance novels. Based simply on the formal features of the dreams in Matthew, it seems evident that an ancient auditor in the Greco-Roman world would bring to Matthew’s dream narratives the same literary expectations and values as the dreams found in the novels.”
“Chariton 2.9.6 offers a particularly interesting parallel to Matt 1:18b-24 (old numbering). Just as Callirhoe comes to a decision about her unborn child by means of a dream, Joseph also comes to a decision about Mary’s unborn child by means of a dream. Because of the dream, Callirhoe does not kill her unborn child but gives birth to the child and makes it a legitimate child of Dionysius. … Thus the dreams in Matthew’s infancy narrative and the Greek novels share similar functions in relation to children and prophecy.” It goes on further to discuss how in Matthew 27:19 (old numbering), the dream terminology of Pilate’s wife “is consistent with that in Matthew’s infancy narrative…”.
This indicates that these portions of Matthew, not only at the beginning, but also at the end, may be the creation of a later writer who was familiar with novels in his culture; rather than being the original work of a Hebrew author.
Patterns of the Modified Text
Although the above factors focus on the first two chapters, the modifications continue throughout Matthew. The first two chapters turn out to be just a symptom of a much more widespread problem. In reviewing Matthew, some patterns emerge when we find material that is not present in John, Mark, or Luke. In general terms, Matthew contains unparalleled materials that tend to:
a) Sensationalize or exaggerate;
b) Support a misunderstood Scripture;
c) Prematurely insert extra prophecies; and
d) Over-emphasize certain phrases and topics.
In many cases, passages were found that were not in their proper context. By presenting the material in a context which was not originally intended when the words were spoken, this was likely to result in misinterpretation. There were also cases of multiple sayings that were placed together even though they happened at different times and in different contexts.
The UPDV has used the existing material in Matthew as a basis for reconstructing a replacement text which:
a) Removes the unattested material;
b) Puts the events in a more chronological order;
c) Places the text in its proper context; and
d) Covers the same general subjects and events.
While the existing material of Matthew was used as much as possible, sometimes it was necessary to use the text from parallel accounts in Mark and Luke. Sometimes different readings from Matthew, Mark, and Luke were combined together in whole or in part. In some cases, the text in Matthew was not included in any form due to the lack of a confirming witness to the reading or context. Slight modification of the narrative material was occasionally required in order to transition the reconstructed text with the surrounding context.
The chapter and verse numbering in Matthew has been changed. Additional reference material related to the reconstruction of Matthew may be obtained below in PDF format. Click next to the document to view it. Or right-click and select save-as to save it to your computer for future access:
Verse-by-verse comparison from the old text of Matthew to the new. See the end of the PDF document for further information about the contents and abbreviations used. (Click Here)
Conversion chart from the old numbering system to the new numbering system. (Click Here)
Guide to the new text showing the general references from which each verse was derived. This is a short and general reference chart. It is not an exhaustive resource to the derivation of each verse. (Click Here)
It is at times necessary to refer to the old method of numbering and/or the new one. In such cases, the old system will be indicated by (old) or (old numbering). The new system will be indicated by (new) or (new numbering). In cases where it is not indicated, the new system is to be assumed by default.
 “Scholia recentia in Pindari epinicia”, E. Abel, vol. 1, 7.46-48, Berlin: Calvary, 1891. The text being that in TLG® (Thesaurus Linguae Graecae) by the Regents of the University of California.
 “Dreams, the Ancient Novels, and the Gospel of Matthew: An Intertextual Study”, Derek S. Dodson, Perspectives in Religious Studies, pages 46-47, vol. 29, Spring 2002.
 “Dreams, the Ancient Novels, and the Gospel of Matthew: An Intertextual Study”, Derek S. Dodson, Perspectives in Religious Studies, page 51, vol. 29, Spring 2002.