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The Gospel of the Nazoraeans is a book of the New Testament Apocrypha. It may or may not be the same as, or derived from, the Gospel of the Hebrews. This Gospel was widely used by the Nazarene community in the Early Church, and hence is commonly called the Gospel of the Nazarenes (Nazoraeans) by modern biblical scholars.The book itself has completely disappeared; all that survives comes to us in the form of quotations by the Church Fathers, who believed it was the authentic or true Gospel of Matthew. This has great significance becausehigher criticism argues that the Gospel of Matthew found in the Bible was not written by Matthew, but composed in Greek by an unknown redactor well after the death of Matthew. (See the Two-source hypothesis and the Four Document Hypothesis).

The Gospel of the Nazarenes has been the subject of many critical surmises and discussions in the course of the last century, and recent discussions in a growing body of literature have thrown considerable light upon the problems connected with this Gospel.


Early Jewish Christians called Nazerenes (Nazoreans). The term Nazarene was first applied to Jesus. After his death, it was the term used to identify the Jewish Sect that believed Jesus was the Messiah. When this group metastasized into the Gentile world, they became known as Christians. By the fourth century, Nazarenes were considered Orthodox Christians who embraced the Jewish Law, but rejected Hebrew Heresies.

The Nazarenes are generally accepted as being the first Christians who were led by James the Just who was said to be the brother of Jesus. He led the Church from Jerusalem and had a special experience of the Risen Lord.


Concerning its origin, many historical writers believe that it was written by Matthew the Evangelist. Jerome in his work On Illustrious Men explains that Matthew, also called Levi, composed the Gospel of Christ, which was first published in Judeamarker in Hebrew script.

Epiphanius is of the same opinion; he states in the Panarion that without the aid of others, Matthew, in the New Testament expounded and declared the Gospel in Hebrew, while using Hebrew script. Epiphanius went so far as to say, "They too accept St. Matthew's Gospel, and like the followers of Cerinthus and Merinthus, they use it alone. They call it the Gospel of the Hebrews, for in truth Matthew alone of the new writers expounded and declared the Gospel in Hebrew using Hebrew script."

Origen adds to this by stating that the very first account was written and composed in Hebrew script by Matthew, once a tax collector but later an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the converts who had forsaken Judaism.

Jerome's Commentary on Matthew refers to the Gospel of the Nazarenes and Gospel of the Hebrews by the same title, treating them as one text.

Modern positions

Based on known fragments, higher criticism argues that the Hebrew text is linked to the canonical version of Matthew, with minor differences. For example, it replaces "daily bread" with "bread for tomorrow" in the Lord's Prayer, states that the man whose hand was withered ( ) was a stonemason, and splits the rich male youth (of ) into two separate people. Since the gospels are very similar, many believed that the canonical version of the Gospel of Matthew was based on the Hebrew text.

The Gospel of the Nazoreans (Nazerenes) wrote of the Jewishness of Jesus. According to a number of early sources such as Jerome and Epiphanius, the Gospel of the Nazarenes was the same as the Gospel of the Hebrews and the Gospel of the Ebionites.

Early Jewish Christians used this gospel as it was created for Jews by Jews in the Jewish world that Jesus the Jew belonged to.: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings | publisher=Oxford University Press, USA | year=2003 | isbn=0-19-515462-2}} According to a number of early sources, a group of Jewish Christians, called the Nazarenes, had the gospel of Matthew in Aramaic. This is a very important point as it is what makes historical sense. Mathew wrote in Aramaic for the people who were part of Jesus' community. This was the first and original gospel. It was later changed by Jerome who admits to editing and changing the Aramaic gospel of Mathew in to Greek. This was done for an non-jewish audiences in non Jewish areas who would accept the new Mathew as it was free from Jewish ideas that were not relevant to other outside communities. In effect Jerome had neuturised the gospel so it could be received by anyone. The Gospel of the Nazarenes .

The time and place of origin are disputed, but since Clement used the book in the last quarter of the second century, it is certainly dated before the middle of that era. Alexandrianmarker Egypt is most often indicated as its place of origin by the fact that its principal witnesses are the Alexandrians - Clement and Origen - and by the idea of Jesus as the Son of the Holy Spirit, which is documented for Egypt by the Coptic Epistle of James. The original language of the gospel suggests that it was drawn up for Hebrew and Aramaic-speaking Jewish Christians in Palestine and Syriamarker.

Finally, because of contradictions in the account of the baptism of Jesus, some modern biblical scholars have argued that that the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Gospel of the Ebionites and the Gospel of the Nazarenes were three different Gospels. This hypothesis is rendered unlikely by the fact that Jerome links the Nazarenes to the Ebionites in their use of the Gospel of the Hebrews.

Furthermore the Talmud evidence for early Christian gospels, Papias' reference to the "Hebrew Logia" and Jerome's discovery of the Gospel of the Hebrews in Aramaic have led scholars such as CC Torrey to an "Original Aramaic Gospel" or the Gospel of the Hebrews which theNazarenes used.

Possibly the most extensive published study every undertaken on this topic was by Edward B. Nicholson, Trinity College, Oxford during the 19th century. His conclusions were as follows:
  1. We find that there existed among the Nazarenes and Ebionites a Gospel commonly called the Gospel according to the Hebrews, written in Aramaic, but with Hebrew characters. That its authorship was attributed by some to the Apostles in general, but by very many or most—including clearly the Nazarenes and Ebionites themselves—to Matthew."
  2. The Fathers of the Church, while the Gospel according to the Hebrews was yet extant in its entirety, referred to it always with respect, often with reverence: some of them unhesitatingly accepted it as being what tradition affirmed it to be—the work of Matthew—and even those who have not put on record their expression of this opinion have not questioned it. Is such an attitude consistent with the supposition that the Gospel according to the Hebrews was a work of heretical tendencies? This applies with tenfold force to Jerome. After copying it, would he, if he had seen heresy in it, have translated it for public dissemination into both Greek and Latin, and have continued to favour the tradition of its Matthaean authorship? And Jerome, be it observed, not only quotes all three of these passages without disapprobation; he actually quotes two of them (Fr. 6 and Fr. 8) with approval."
Nicholson's position that The Gospel of the Hebrews was the true Gospel of Matthew is still the subject of heated debate. However most scholars now agree that the Gospel of Matthew found in the Bible is not authentic, for it was composed long after the time of Matthew . The Catholic Church and Conservative Protestants do not accept the aforementioned position . They believe the Gospel of Matthew found in the Bible is authentic, and the Gospel of the Hebrews is not.

Different Readings and Quotes

Listed below are some of the important variant readings this Gospel offers in comparison to Matthew's.
  1. Matt 12:40 "three days and three nights" is absent.
  2. After "seventy times seven" in Matt 18:22 GoN adds: "For even among the prophets, after they were anointed by the Holy Spirit, a word of sin was found."
  3. Instead of "son of Barachia," GoN says, "son of Joiada."
  4. GoN adds to Matt 26:74 "And he made a denial, and swore, and cursed."
  5. "Behold, the mother of the Lord and his brothers were saying to him, 'John the Baptist is baptizing for the remission of sins. Let us go and be baptized by him.' But he replied to them, 'What sin have I committed that I should go to be baptized by him? Unless possibly what I just said was spoken in ignorance.'"

See also


External links

Online translations of the Gospel of Matthew:

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