Was the New Testament written in Greek or in Hebrew?

A common fact that is taught to all Christians is that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew while the New Testament was written in Greek. There is consensus among all Biblical Scholars that the Old Testament was indeed written in Hebrew. But not all scholars agree on the point that the New Testament was written in Greek. Even though most of the remaining Manuscripts of the New Testament are all in Greek, there is evidence that parts of the New Testament would have indeed been written in Hebrew and subsequently translated to Aramaic, Greek and any other languages of the day.

Matthew wrote his account of the Gospel, in Hebrew

British Library Ms Add No. 26964 Manuscript of Hebrew Matthew

One of the best pieces of evidence that exists to prove that the New Testament may have originally been written in Hebrew, is “The Gospel of Matthew”. This Gospel account which is regarded as the earliest out of the 4 Gospels contained in our Bibles, come from Matthew who was surnamed Levi and who was a Tax Collector previously. He was a Hebrew speaking man just like all of the other Disciples of Christ. There are quite a few historical witnesses who have spoken how Matthew wrote his account of the Gospel in Hebrew.

“Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome and laying the foundation of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon his breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.”
(Irenaeus of Lyons – Against Heresies 3:1:1 – 180AD)

“Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the first was written by Matthew, who was once a publican, but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was prepared for the converts from Judaism and published in the Hebrew language
(Origen – Commentaries on Matthew [cited by Eusebius in History of the Church 6:25] – 244AD).

“Matthew had begun by preaching to the Hebrews, and when he made up his mind to go to others too, he committed his own Gospel to writing in his native tongue, so that for those with whom he was no longer present the gap left by his departure was filled by what he wrote” (Eusebius – History of the Church 3:24 – 300-325AD).

Matthew compiled the sayings [of the Lord] in the Hebrew Dialect, and everyone translated them as well as he could”
(Papias – quoted by Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3:39 – 150-170AD)

Hebrew Word Puns
The second reason to take this claim seriously is the amount of “Word Puns” that the Hebrew Manuscripts of Matthew contain. While the Greek Manuscripts make little or no sense in these particular places, the Hebrew gives a rich poetic feel to the Words of Yeshua (Jesus’ true name). While the Old Testament is dotted with these Word Puns, the Greek to English Translation of the New Testament does not contain such attributes. The Hebrew version of Matthew was administered to a serious study by Professor George Howard in the 1980’s, and can be further studied through his book “Gospel of Matthew According to a Primitive Hebrew Text by George Howard”. (You can read the 1st edition of his book here) Professor Howard reviews these Word Puns contained in the Hebrew Manuscripts, in his book from page 194 – 201 which can be viewed through the above link.

Furthermore, Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer from the 16th Century had this to say about Hebrew and the New Testament

“The Hebrew language is the best language of all … If I were younger I would want to learn this language, because no one can really understand the Scriptures without it. For although the New Testament is written in Greek, it is full of Hebraisms and Hebrew expressions. It has therefore been aptly said that the Hebrews drink from the spring, the Greeks from the stream that flows from it, and the Latins from a downstream pool.”
(Martin Luther, Table Talk, quoted in Pinchas E. Lapide, Hebrew in the Church, trans. Erroll F. Rhodes – Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984).

What difference does it make?
One of the questions that could be running through your mind right about now, could be “What difference does any of this make to my walk with God?”. What we believe today hinges completely on the Translations we read in our own native languages. Most of these translations are, translations of translations. Meaning the Greek Manuscripts get translated to Latin, then English, then into other languages from thereon. Much of the original essence could be lost in translation. A great example for this is the misunderstood sect called the Pharisees. Many Christians believe that the Pharisees were the ones keeping the Old Testament Laws. This is not Biblically accurate. (Please read this study to know more about the Pharisees). If we were familiar with the Hebrew version of Matthew, this would have been obvious. Let me explain:

Our Bibles (which are translated from the Greek Manuscripts) read in Mat 23:3 regarding the Pharisees as follows:
All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
The Hebrew Manuscripts of Matthew read the same verse as follows:
Therefore all that he says to you, diligently do, but according to their reforms(Takanot) and their precedents(Ma’asim) do not do, because they talk, but do not do.

If you are familiar with what the Pharisees taught and believed you would know what “Takanot” and “Ma’asim” refer to. These are traditions and customs that they added into God’s Word (The Holy Scriptures). “Takanot” and “Ma’asim” were sometimes even regarded more important or higher than God’s Word. Examples for Takanot and Ma’asim are, the “Washing of Hands” mentioned in Mat 15:2 and “The Breaking of the Sabbath by plucking corn” mentioned in Mat 12:2. The Hebrew Matthew gives us a better understanding of what went on in such instances, while our own Bible translations are silent on these issues.

There are many more instances where the Hebrew Manuscripts shed light on the Gospel stories as well as towards the collective understanding of the New Testament. While I believe that much of the New Testament would have been indeed written in Hebrew, (the native language of most of the New Testament writers) we must acknowledge that much of the Manuscripts that have survived are Greek in nature. My effort is not to say that we should get rid of the Greek Translations that we have, but to say that we must make an effort to look at all sources when studying Scripture. If these Hebrew Manuscripts were studied a little closer, maybe we wouldn’t have  grave misunderstandings regarding the characters such as the Pharisees, which has in turn led people to believe that the Old Testament has been done away with, or whoever believes or does what is said in the Old Testament are Pharisaic in nature.

Though much of the New Testament Manuscripts that we have are in Greek, most of these would have been translations of the Originals which were Hebrew. And along the way, through translation and time, we have lost most of the essence, context and connections that the originals had to the people, places and atmosphere that these books and letters were written in. It is my firm belief that we need to go back to the Roots of our Faith, in search of “True Christianity”, not one which is divided, but one which is in agreement with the entirety of Scripture being one body with Christ.

Following is an important piece of information which was missing from this post, but was added because of Brother Hubert Krause who posted an important question.

His question being
What about Matthew 16:18, where there is a word-play between petros and petra. This is possible only in the Greek, isn’t it?

What an amazing question. Yes, this word Pun between Petros and Petrai is definitely there in our Greek Manuscripts of Matthew.

Greek Matthew 16:18
“You are Peter (Petros Πέτρος), and upon this rock (petrai πέτρα) I will build my church”

As far as I know, this is the only word-pun which exists in this Gospel in the Greek. But compare that with the word puns found in the Hebrew Manuscripts of Matthew. There are 4 puns mentioned below. But there maybe more which I am not certain of.

Hebrew Matthew 9:8
“And the crowds saw (vayir’u ויראו) and they feared (vayir’u ויראו) very much.”

Hebrew Matthew 12:13,15
“(13) And he said to the man, stretch out your hand, and he stretched out (vayet ויט) his hand… (15) And it was after this that Yeshua knew and he turned (vayet ויט) from there and many sick people went after him…”

Hebrew Matthew 18:23-35
shalem שׁלם “to pay” five times, followed by

“So shall my father in heaven do if you do not forgive each man his brother with a complete (shalem שׁלם) heart.”

shalem שׁלם – “pay” vs. “complete”

Hebrew Matthew 16:18
“You are a stone (even אבן) and I will build (evneh אבנה) my house of prayer upon you”

The Interesting point is that there is a word pun in the Hebrew Matthew in the same verse as the Greek version. So what does this all mean? Looking at the fact that we know for certain according to the early Church Fathers that Matthew did in fact write His version in Hebrew and that it was copied by others accordingly, Mat 16:18 maybe an instance where the translator applied a word play in Greek using the interesting opportunity. Remember that word-play is used by writers to flourish the text. Also something to remember is that Matthew mentions that he was “called” Peter in 4:18, just as Saul was “called” Paul. Shimon and Shaul both have the “sh” sound not used in the Greek, and this may have been the reason for them to have a Greek name which was used instead in their journeys. Peter or Petros would have been an apt Greek name for Simon because he was called “Rock” by the Messiah.


29 thoughts on “Was the New Testament written in Greek or in Hebrew?

  1. Pingback: Pastor Steven Anderson – Hebrew vs Greek | Hebrew Roots Movement - The End Begins - Christian Hebrew Roots Movement

  2. Geoff Robinson

    Very interesting article. You show an illustration from Matt 1:18-25 of the Shem Tov gospel. Can you be specific why or how that proves Matthew was written in Hebrew?

    1. rameshdesilva Post author

      Hi Geoff,

      Thank you for your question. As I mentioned in the post, there are a few reasons to believe that Matthew was written in Hebrew. The first being the witness of several church fathers such as Irenaeus of Lyons, Origen, Eusebius & Papias – who all write that matthew wrote it in hebrew. Second is, the amazing amount of Hebrew word puns which are in this document – which sound odd in the Greek as well as in the English, but make complete sense in Hebrew Matthew.

      May you be a blessing to all around you!

  3. Pingback: What did Christ, His Disciples & Paul consider as “Scripture”? | Bible things in Bible ways

    1. Louis Korkames

      The “scriptures” at the time of Christ were the books of the hebrew bible, the Torah (Instuction, Pentatuch), Neviim (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings).

  4. Pingback: Was the New Testament written in Greek or in Hebrew? | Apostolic11's Blog

  5. bluetara

    Jesus cursed the Pharasiees for their false teachings! He cursed His people for blindly following them! If the hebrew inserted words meant more than God’s words, this just illicites more evidence as to what Jesus was saying. they put themselves above God’s word. I do agree that both hebrew and greek definitions of words should be restudied. i believe this is starting to really take off. this is part of the awakening.

  6. Pingback: Lost in Translation – Are our English Bibles accurate? | Bible things in Bible ways

  7. Apaulstholic

    Dear Ramesh,

    I have thoroughly enjoyed your article, not only is what you had to say sound and needful in light of the gravity of salvation, but the spirit in which it was said. Thank you.

    I believe, it is high time that professing “Christians” who name the name JESUS (Yeshua) remember that their faith,” which was once and for all delivered to the saints” according to Jude 1, is Hebraic in origin and remains very much so forever. And that we need to heed “what the Spirit says to the Church” when Yahweh in human flesh, the man Christ Jesus says, “Salvation is of the Jews!” (emphasis mine)

    We should listen carefully to Isaiah 30:21(JPS TANACH), “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying: ‘This is the way, walk ye in it, When ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.'”

    The Lord again moved upon another preacher (as you have eloquently declared above):
    NET Bible Jeremiah 6:16
    The LORD said to his people: “You are standing at the crossroads. So consider your path. Ask where the old, reliable paths are. Ask where the path is that leads to blessing and follow it. If you do, you will find rest for your souls.” But they said, “We will not follow it!”

    Many are following their own devices and their own path to salvation and a lot of people are now placed at crossroads of misinterpretations issuing out of mistranslation.

    My prayer is that those that sit “in the seat of Moses” will look more closely into the origin of our faith that they might declare “the whole counsel of God” and not age-old “traditions and customs” of elders far-removed from biblical piety.

    Thank you and God bless.

  8. RWL

    A few months ago, I was discussing and providing evidence of the New Testament originally being written in Hebrew or Aramaic on Dan Wallace’s blog (you can see some of the info, that I mentioned, on his blog). Dan Wallace started deleting my evidence, stating that he does not allow a discussion about the original language of the New Testament on his blog! Dan Wallace would rather have people blaspheme Yeshua’s name (allowing non-Christians to do this), than to have a discussion about the original language of the New Testament.

    1. rameshdesilva Post author

      Dear RWL,
      My understanding is that not everyone excepts what we believe and they have the right to reject it. My only hope is that everyone considers the other person could be right, before they refuse to listen to their argument.
      Be a blessing to everyone around you

  9. Hubert Krause

    What about Matthew 16:18, where there is a word-play between petros and petra. This is possible only in the Greek, isn’t it?

    1. rameshdesilva Post author

      Dear Hubert,
      This is a very good question. Because this can be a beneficial point for everyone, I have updated the post itself. Please see above. Thank you again for posing the question.
      May you be a blessing to everyone around you!

  10. Matt

    Interesting article. Most scholars would say the following… Our modern translations are directly from the Greek. They are not translated into Aramaic and then to English also, there are virtually no Hebrew translations of the NT. Also Aramaic is very similar to Hebrew Jesus is quoted in the NT speaking Aramaic. Comments?

  11. Brian Nelson

    You maybe interested in Dr. Al Garza’s work. He is currently collecting a bunch of Hebrew NT manuscripts and working on a single Hebrew NT. He does a great job at explaining Hebrew primacy. One of his websites is https://www.thehebrewinstitute.org/n_t_-hebrew-mss. Also the “Original Hebrew New Testament” facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/originalhebrewnewtestament , has a free pdf on it with a list of different Hebrew NT translations to English that come from manuscripts that come from Hebrew source texts, some manuscript links, links on other resources, and videos giving evidence for Hebrew primacy.

  12. David Ray Evans

    Thank you for your excellent article. I also think the NT was written first in Hebrew, not only is it the logical assumption there are many clues in the Greek NT manuscripts that they are in fact translations of Hebrew. About the word pun of petros and petra when alternatively thought of as spoken in Hebrew it may not of been a pun at all. I think it could have been “I call you Kafe and upon this tsur (or selah)”
    – as in “Shimon, because you understand who I am you will be a strong supporter of the brethren in the future and upon this revelation which is a the strong rock (foundation) I will build my congregation”

    כֵּף kêph, kafe; H3721; – I could only find twice in the Old testament and it creates the image of a place of refuge or a dwelling place during hard times. Jer 4:29 and Job 30:6
    Maybe a name of encouragement that in the future Shimon will bring refuge and safety to the brethren
    צוּר tsûwr, tsoor; or צֻר tsur H6697- Rock
    Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. Psa 61:2
    He alone is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken. Psa 62:6
    סֶלַע selaʻ, seh’-lah; H5553 – Rock
    YAHWEH is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psa 18:2

    John 1:42 seems like admits it is a translation “You will be called Kafe which is translated Peter”
    and hard to imaging Mathew 16:18 using the name of a Greek Diety when talking about His congregation. – “and the gates of Hades will not overpower it”

  13. Bjorn Bidell

    Very interesting stuff, thank you!

    I’m curious what word is used in hebrew for the word scarlet in Matt. 27:28, since there isn’t continuity in the Greek gospels on this word.


  14. Pingback: What Language Was The New Testament Written In? (Collection) -

  15. jarkko

    Im all for that Matthew could have been written in Hebrew, but your conclusions about pharisees and the old testament have led you astray. (as i mentioned in the comment that you deleted)

    1. RameshDeSilva Post author

      Dear jarkko,
      I did not delete your comment, but I did not approve it either. As this is my blog space, I believe I have the right to publish (or not) a comment just as much as you have the right to comment. The reason I did not publish it is because my post had nothing to do with your comment. As you had said “You see its not the jews that invented God, God created them and the universe and this planet and everything on it.” I believe my post did not infer that God was created by any people group, but that the New Testament could be better understood by looking at it in its original language.

      In this comment you mentioned that my conclusion about the pharisees and the old testament has led me astray – please let me know how I am wrong about the Pharisees and the Old Testament as it seems that you know what my views about both of these subjects are…

      Be a blessing to everyone around you

  16. K.S.

    This was a very informative article, thank you for sharing. I read parts of “Gospel of Matthew According to a Primitive Hebrew Text by George Howard”. It speaks of Yeshua extending his salvation/power to all nations in the Greek version, but only to the house of Israel in the Hebrew.(pg. 209) What is a non-jewish believer to make of this?

    I’m aware this does not pertain directly to your article, but I am new in my relationship with Yeshua and diligently reading all that I can. Any words of guidance is greatly appreciated.

    1. K.S.

      I found the answer in your other posts. Thank you for all the information! You truly are a blessing and I’m greatly appreciative of all your hard work.

    2. RameshDeSilva Post author

      Dear K.S.,
      I think Yeshua’s earthly ministry was limited to the Land of Israel. He came with salvation which was to be proclaimed to the chosen people to which the Gospel had come at first from the days of Moses. It’s hard to conclude that “Go and teach them” does not include the nations… as even Israel was to do this as we see in Deut 4:4-8 and Acts 13:47 (which is taken from Isaiah). Yeshua had to come forth and speak to the lineage of Abraham, before the blessing of Abraham could flow to those are of the nations. This is what we see Peter proclaiming to the Jews from the nations on Shavuot.
      Act 3:25,26 Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.
      Please note “Unto you FIRST”, which means the nations come second. Which we see Peter doing in Acts 10. This is why Paul says over and over again in Romans 1:16, 2:9, 2:10 that it is for the Jew first and then to the Greek/Gentile. The very reason Yeshua said do not go to the ways of the Gentiles, means that was a part of the ministry which was to come at a later stage. I think the Blessing of God to Abraham stands the test of time, Abraham is a blessing to all of us who walk in the same path as Abraham having received righteousness through Faith.
      Be a blessing to everyone around you.


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