The Hebrew and Greek Gospels Written by Matthew the Apostle of Jesus Christ

The Main Evidence

 

Matthew's Authorship of a Hebrew and Greek Gospel

The historical literary evidence indicates that the early church fathers believed that Matthew originally wrote his gospel in Hebrew (Aramaic) and then wrote a Greek translation. Based on the originality of Greek Matthew, it would have been an expanded version, which would certainly be the case if you were expanding the purpose and audience of the work. The Hebrew Matthew was not widely used because few in the Christian world could read Hebrew Aramaic and the Greek Gospel of Matthew was more suitable for both Jewish and Gentile Christians who lived across the Roman Empire. The Greek Matthew was the Gospel circulated with the other three New Testament Gospels, which were in the Greek language.

The Hebrew Matthew in its original form eventually passed away from disuse. However, it is likely that it was taken by the Ebionites and textually corrupted in the late second century with many additions, deletions, and changes and called by them the Gospel of the Hebrews.

Robert Thomas and F. David Farnell concur with this view that the early church fathers taught that Matthew wrote both a Hebrew and Greek version of his Gospel when they write,
“Without exception they held that the apostle Matthew wrote the canonical Matthew and that he wrote it first in a Semitic language.”1

Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are from The Early Church Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing, Reprint 2001 at CCEL Internet Library

For a list of the early church fathers, who they were and when they lived, mentioned in this article, click here.

The Original Language of a Hebrew Gospel of Matthew

Although the original language of Matthew’s Gospel is called Hebrew by the early church fathers and scholars use that designation for convenience, it is not technically pure Hebrew.

David Brown writes, “It is believed by a formidable number of critics that this Gospel was originally written in what is loosely called Hebrew, but more correctly Aramaic, or Syro-Chaldaic, the native tongue of the country at the time of our Lord…”2

Matthew’s Writings Paralleled by Josephus’ Writings

Matthew’s writing of a Hebrew original and then an expanded Greek translation was not unparalleled in the Mediterranean world. Josephus (37-100AD) the famous Jewish historian and Matthew’s contemporary, wrote his Jewish Wars first in Hebrew (Aramaic) which was eventually lost and then in Greek in a more formal and expanded form.

Josephus writes in his preface to his Jewish Wars,“I have proposed to myself; for the sake of such as live under the government of the Romans, to translate those books into the Greek tongue, which I formerly composed in the language of our country, and sent to the Upper Barbarians.”3

The Historical Literary Evidence – The Early Church Testimony

This belief of Matthew’s authorship of both the Hebrew and Greek Gospel of Matthew can be clearly seen in the writings of three important church fathers, Irenaeus, Origen, and Eusebius.

Irenaeus (c.120–c.202) was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John the Apostle so his testimony concerning the authorship of the Gospel of Matthew, both in Hebrew and Greek is extremely important.

Origen (c.185–c.254) was a Christian scholar who was one of the few church fathers that knew both Hebrew and Greek.

Eusebius (c.265-c.340) was a church historian who wrote a large work called Church History.

 

The Early Church’s Testimony to Matthew’s Authorship of Two Gospels

All three men were Christian leaders in a position to know what the apostles said about the origin of the gospels. Irenaeus knew a disciple of an apostle. Origen and Eusebius had access to documents of the writings of those who knew the apostles or their disciples and knew the tradition that had been handed down by the early church about it. All three men consistently agree that Matthew wrote both a Hebrew and Greek Gospel.

1. The Testimony of Irenaeus

The testimony of Irenaeus is very important because of his relationship with Polycarp who was a church father who knew and conversed with John the Apostle.

Thomas and Farnell discuss his life and significance,
“Irenaeus (born c. A.D 115-120 and martyred c. A.D.200) was an immigrant from Asia Minor and a presbyter of the church at Lyons in Gaul. He was one of the early church's most able apologists and theologians, writing against Marcion and the Gnostics with his work Refutation and Overthrow of Knowledge Falsely So-called, which tradition has more conveniently labeled Against Heresies (completed C. A.D. 185). In his youth Irenaeus claims to have been a disciple of Polycarp (born c. A.D. 70 and died c.A.D. 155-160). Irenaeus writes, ‘Polycarp ... was not only instructed by apostles and conversed with many who had seen the Lord, but was also appointed bishop by apostles in Asia in the church in Smyrna.' Irenaeus continues, ‘We also saw him [namely, Polycarp] in our childhood.... He [namely, Polycarp] constantly taught those things which he had learnt from the apostles, which also are the tradition of the church, which alone are true.’

As reported by Eusebius, Polycarp, in turn, was a disciple of the apostle John: ‘I namely, Irenaeus, remember the events of those days more clearly than those which happened recently, for what we learn as children grows up with the soul and is united to it, so that I can speak even of the place in which the blessed Polycarp sat and disputed, how he came in and went out, the character of his life, the discourses which he made to the people, how he [Polycarp] reported his intercourse with John and with the others who had seen the Lord, how he remembered their words, and what were the things concerning the Lord which he had heard from them ... and how Polycarp had received them from the eyewitnesses of the word of life.’

Besides Polycarp, Irenaeus also had met and conversed with many apostolic and sub-apostolic fathers of Asia Minor and obtained information from them about the life and teachings of the Lord and the activities of the early church. He thus reflected information from many sources and not only from his own childhood memories. Irenaeus also had traveled extensively (for instance, from Asia Minor to Gaul and also the church in Rome), so that his information is not from an isolated region but widespread.”4

Irenaeus' Statement of Matthew's Authorship of an Original Hebrew Gospel

Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.1.1
“Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations 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' Statements of Matthew's Authorship of the Greek Gospel

1) Irenaeus refers to the widespread use of the Greek Gospel of Matthew and then names its author as Matthew the apostle.

In the following passage, Irenaeus says that the four gospels are pillars of the church scattered throughout the world. This reference to the widespread use of the Gospel of Matthew can only refer to the Greek Gospel of Matthew. Only the Greek Gospel of Matthew was read by Christians everywhere. He then mentions the authors of each of these gospels including Matthew as the author of this Greek Gospel of Matthew and quotes from the Greek text of Matthew.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.11.8
“It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the ‘pillar and ground’ of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. From which fact, it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, He that sitteth upon the cherubim, and contains all things, He who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit. For that according to John relates His original, effectual, and glorious generation from the Father, thus declaring, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ Also, ‘all things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made.’ For this reason, too, is that Gospel full of all confidence, for such is His person. But that according to Luke, taking up [His] priestly character, commenced with Zacharias the priest offering sacrifice to God. For now was made ready the fatted calf, about to be immolated for the finding again of the younger son. Matthew, again, relates His generation as a man, saying, ‘The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham;’ and also, ‘The birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise.’ This, then, is the Gospel of His humanity; for which reason it is, too, that [the character of] a humble and meek man is kept up through the whole Gospel. Mark, on the other hand, commences with [a reference to] the prophetical spirit coming down from on high to men, saying, ‘The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet,’ pointing to the winged aspect of the Gospel; and on this account he made a compendious and cursory narrative, for such is the prophetical character.”

2) Irenaeus refers to Matthew’s use of the Septuagint in writing the Greek Gospel of Matthew.

Irenaeus also indicates that Matthew wrote the Greek Gospel of Matthew when he writes that Matthew quoted from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, used by the apostles and the early church, which would only have been true of the Greek Gospel of Matthew. In the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Matthew would have used the Hebrew Old Testament.

In the passage below, Irenaeus defends the apostles’ use of prophecies of the Old Testament in the Gospels and the letters of Paul. The Ebionites and other heretics who wanted to prove that Jesus was a mere man attacked the apostle’s use of the Old Testament saying that they added words to the prophecies to make Jesus divine.

Irenaeus first defends the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament by relating the tradition of its faithful translation by seventy Jewish elders and then defends the apostles’ careful use of this translation saying they added nothing to it. He then gives quotes from the Gospel of Luke and the Greek Gospel of Matthew.

Because the Septuagint was said to have been written in Egypt by seventy elders, in the passage below, Irenaeus calls the Septuagint, the “unadulterated Scriptures in Egypt” and the “interpretation of the elders.”

Irenaeus Against Heresies 3.21.3-4
“Since, therefore, the Scriptures [LXX, the Septuagint] have been interpreted with such fidelity, and by the grace of God, and since from these God has prepared and formed again our faith towards His Son, and has preserved to us the unadulterated Scriptures in Egypt [the LXX Septuagint] …But our faith is steadfast, unfeigned, and the only true one, having clear proof from these Scriptures [LXX, the Septuagint], which were interpreted in the way I have related; and the preaching of the Church is without interpolation. For the apostles, since they are of more ancient date than all these [heretics], agree with this aforesaid translation; and the translation harmonizes with the tradition of the apostles. For Peter, and John, and Matthew, and Paul, and the rest successively, as well as their followers, did set forth all prophetical [announcements], just as the interpretation of the elders contains them.

For the one and the same Spirit of God, who proclaimed by the prophets what and of what sort the advent of the Lord should be, did by these elders give a just interpretation of what had been truly prophesied; and He did Himself, by the apostles, announce that the fullness of the times of the adoption had arrived, that the kingdom of heaven had drawn nigh, and that He was dwelling within those that believe on Him who was born Emmanuel of the Virgin. To this effect they testify, saying, that before Joseph had come together with Mary, while she therefore remained in virginity, "she was found with child of the Holy Ghost;" [Matt.1: 18] and that the angel Gabriel said unto her, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God;"[Luke 1:35] and that the angel said to Joseph in a dream, "Now this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, Behold, a virgin shall be with child." [Matt.1:22-23]

Irenaeus is saying that Peter (Mark’s Gospel), John (John’s Gospel), Matthew (Matthew’s Greek Gospel), and Paul (Luke’s Gospel) all quoted from the Septuagint. In terms of Matthew’s Gospel, this would only have been true of the Greek Matthew. Only the Greek Matthew would have used the Septuagint and Irenaeus only had the Greek Matthew to evaluate what Matthew was quoting.

3) Irenaeus states that Matthew made conscious choices as he wrote by the power of the Spirit and quotes those statements from the Greek text of Matthew.

In particular one of the phrases Irenaeus points out that Matthew uses is “God with us.” This is a translation of the Hebrew (Aramaic) word “Emmanuel” which Matthew added to explain the word to Gentile readers and would have only appeared in the Greek text. Irenaeus therefore must have assumed Matthew wrote the Greek text.

Irenaeus Against Heresies, 3.16.2
“That John knew the one and the same Word of God, and that He was the only begotten, and that He became incarnate for our salvation, Jesus Christ our Lord, I have sufficiently proved from the word of John himself. And Matthew, too, recognizing one and the same Jesus Christ, exhibiting his generation as a man from the Virgin, even as God did promise David that He would raise up from the fruit of his body an eternal King, having made the same promise to Abraham a long time previously, says: ‘The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.’ Then, that he might free our mind from suspicion regarding Joseph, he says: ‘But the birth of Christ was on this wise. When His mother was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then, when Joseph had it in contemplation to put Mary away, since she proved with child, the angel of God standing by him, and saying: ‘Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins. Now this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which is, God with us;’ clearly signifying that both the promise made to the fathers had been accomplished, that the Son of God was born of a virgin, and that He Himself was Christ the Saviour whom the prophets had foretold; not, as these men assert, that Jesus was He who was born of Mary, but that Christ was He who descended from above.

Matthew might certainly have said, ‘Now the birth of Jesus was on this wise;’ but the Holy Ghost, foreseeing the corrupters, and guarding by anticipation against their deceit, says by Matthew, ‘But the birth of Christ was on this wise;’ and that He is Emmanuel, lest perchance we might consider Him as a mere man: for ‘not by the will of the flesh nor by the will of man, but by the will of God was the Word made flesh;’ and that we should not imagine that Jesus was one, and Christ another, but should know them to be one and the same.”

4) Irenaeus compares the writings of all four evangelists using similar phrasing expressing authorship for all four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John while quoting from the Greek Matthew.

Irenaeus Against Heresies 4.6.1
“For the Lord, revealing Himself to His disciples, that He Himself is the Word, who imparts knowledge of the Father, and reproving the Jews, who imagined that they, had [the knowledge of] God, while they nevertheless rejected His Word, through whom God is made known, declared, ‘No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whom the Son has willed to reveal [Him].’ Thus hath Matthew set it down, and Luke in like manner, and Mark the very same; for John omits this passage.”

The Credibility of Irenaeus’ Testimony

This clearly indicates that Irenaeus believed that Matthew had written the Greek Gospel of Matthew. Since Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John the apostle, Irenaeus’ knowledge of the authorship of the Greek Gospel of Matthew was based on what was told to him by those who were in a position to know who actually wrote it. This is powerful testimony to Matthew’s authorship of the Greek Gospel of Matthew.

 

2. The Testimony of Origen

Origen's Statement of Matthew's Authorship of an Original Hebrew Gospel

Origen Commentary on Matthew 1.1
“Concerning the four Gospels which alone are uncontroverted in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the Gospel according to Matthew, who was at one time a publican and afterwards an Apostle of Jesus Christ, was written first; and that he composed it in the Hebrew tongue and published it for the converts from Judaism. The second written was that according to Mark, who wrote it according to the instruction of Peter, who, in his General Epistle, acknowledged him as a son, saying, ‘The church that is in Babylon, elect together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Mark my son.’ And third, was that according to Luke, the Gospel commended by Paul, which he composed for the converts from the Gentiles. Last of all, that according to John.”

In the statement by Origen above, he implies that he considered the Hebrew Gospel and Greek translation made by Matthew as one work.

This is seen in the fact that in the first part of each statement he can only be referring to the Greek Matthew when he says “the four Gospels which alone are uncontroverted in the church of God” and “the four gospels, which even alone are not spoken against in the church of God under heaven.” The Greek Matthew was the only one circulated among the churches throughout the Roman Empire even to Origen’s day. Origen did not possess the Hebrew Matthew. Yet in the second part of the statement he mentions the original Hebrew Matthew. He must have seen them as one work.

Thomas Hartwell Horne, English Theologian and Bibliographer, agrees with this conclusion that when Origen wrote of the authorship of the Gospel of Matthew he had in mind the Greek Gospel even though he mentioned the Hebrew original, “The testimony of Origen has been thought perfectly to correspond with this: for surely, it has been said, when he cited tradition for the existence of a Hebrew Gospel, written by Matthew for the converts from Judaism, he by no means denied but rather presupposed his Greek Gospel, written for all classes of Christians, composing the whole church of God under heaven, for whose use the Hebrew Gospel would be utterly inadequate.”5

Origen's Statements of Matthew's Authorship of the Greek Gospel

1) Origen indicates his belief in the authorship of Greek Matthew when he cites Matthew’s origination of a Greek word in the Greek text of the Gospel of Matthew.

Origen, On Prayer 17
“Let us now consider what the word ‘epiousion,’ ‘needful,’ means. First of all it should be known that the word ‘epiousion’ is not found in any Greek writer whether in philosophy or in common usage, but seems to have been formed by the evangelists. At least Matthew and Luke, in having given it to the world, concur in using it in identical form. The same thing has been done by translators from Hebrew in other instances also.”

Thomas Hartwell Horne concurs that this is evidence that Origen believed that Matthew was the writer/translator of Greek Matthew,
“In fact, in his treatise on prayer, he intimates that the Evangelist published it in Greek also; for, discoursing on the word ‘epiousion,’ he considers it as formed by the Evangelists themselves.”6

Thomas Townson concurs,
“Origen, who, as we have seen above, speaks of St. Matthew's Gospel as written in Hebrew, seems in his book on Prayer to suppose it published by him in Greek too: for in discoursing on the word ‘epiousion’ he considers it as a word formed by the Evangelist himself.”7

2) Origen compares the writings of all four evangelists using similar phrasing expressing authorship for all four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John while quoting from the Greek Matthew.

Origen in his Commentary on John compares the Greek texts of the four NT Gospels. As he does this he compares and contrasts what each of the authors wrote including Matthew. Because he was comparing the Greek text of Matthew’s Gospel he clearly indicates that he believed that Matthew was its author/translator.

Origen, Commentary on John 6.17
“These, then, are the parallel passages of the four; let us try to see as clearly as we can what is the purport of each and wherein they differ from each other. And we will begin with Matthew, who is reported by tradition to have published his Gospel before the others, to the Hebrews, those, namely, of the circumcision who believed.”

Origen Commentary on John 6.31
“John the disciple does not tell us where the Saviour comes from to John the Baptist, but we learn this from Matthew, who writes: ‘Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan to John, to be baptized of him.’ And Mark adds the place in Galilee; he says, ‘And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in Jordan.’ Luke does not mention the place Jesus came from, but on the other hand he tells us what we do not learn from the others, that immediately after the baptism, as He was coming up, heaven was opened to Him, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove. Again, it is Matthew alone who tells us of John's preventing the Lord, saying to the Saviour, ‘I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?’ None of the others added this after Matthew, so that they might not be saying just the same as he. And what the Lord rejoined, ‘Suffer it now, for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness,’ this also Matthew alone recorded.”

Thomas and Farnell write that Origen made no distinction between the Aramaic and Greek versions of Matthew’s Gospel. They share this in their analysis of Origen’s statement in his Homily on Luke 1,
“Origen accepted only four gospels: [Origen states] ‘For Matthew did not 'take in hand' but wrote by the Holy Spirit, and so did Mark and John and also equally Luke.’ In this quotation, Origen does not distinguish between Greek and Aramaic versions of Matthew, but includes the Greek Matthew as written by the apostle himself along with the other three gospels (namely, John, Mark, and Luke). Though Origen was aware that Matthew originally wrote in Hebrew…this latter statement implies that he made no distinction between the Aramaic and Greek versions, but included the Greek as equally authoritative with the other three gospels and also stressed its origin from the Holy Spirit.”8

 

3. The Testimony of Eusebius

Eusebius' Statement of Matthew's Authorship of an Original Hebrew Gospel

Eusebius Church History 3.24.5-6
“And the rest of the followers of our Savior, the twelve apostles, the seventy disciples, and countless others besides, were not ignorant of these things. Nevertheless, of all the disciples of the Lord, only Matthew and John have left us written memorials, and they, tradition says, were led to write only under the pressure of necessity. For Matthew, who had at first preached to the Hebrews, when he was about to go to other peoples, committed his Gospel to writing in his native tongue, and thus compensated those whom he was obliged to leave for the loss of his presence.”

Eusebius' Statements of Matthew's Authorship of the Greek Gospel

1) Eusebius refers to Matthew’s translating of the Hebrew text to Greek in his Old Testament quotations.

In his Commentary on Psalms, he does this by referring to Matthew’s translating of the Hebrew to Greek in citing OT passages. Only if Matthew was the author of the Greek Matthew, could Matthew be said to change the Hebrew text into Greek when he was writing (or translating) the text of the Greek Gospel of Matthew.

Eusebius, Commentary on Psalms, Ps.78 (Comparing Ps.78:2 to Matt.13:35)
“Which also the scripture of the sacred gospels teaches, where it is said: ‘All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables. And without a parable spake he not unto them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: ‘I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation.’ For instead of, ‘I will speak dark sayings of old,’ [or from the beginning,] Matthew, as being a Hebrew, uses a translation of his own, saying: ‘I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation.’ Instead of which Aquila has translated: ‘I will pour down things which have been enigmatical from the beginning.’ And Symmachus: ‘I will cause to spring up ancient dark sayings.’”9

William Lee evaluated Eusebius’ statement about Ps.78,
“Eusebius, commenting on Ps. 78, observes that the phraseology of the LXX is different from that employed by S. Matthew, who, himself master of the Hebrew language, has cited the words according to his own translation…”10

Thomas Townson shows his agreement when he wrote,
“Eusebius also, who in one place relates that Matthew wrote in Hebrew in another remarks, that in Chapt. xiii. ver. 35. he does not follow the Seventy, but as a Hebrew makes his own translation.”11

2) Eusebius directly states that Matthew translated the Hebrew text of his gospel into Greek and gives an example.

In his work, Questiones Ad Marinum, Eusebius clearly states that Matthew himself changed or translated the Hebrew into the Greek Matthew.

Eusebius, Questiones Ad Marinum (Comparing Matt. 28:1 to Jn.20:1)
“For on the one hand the evangelist Matthew transmitted the gospel in the Hebrew language. On the other hand, having changed it to the Greek language, he said ‘the hour drawing towards dawn unto the Lord’s day, after the close of the Sabbath.’ Thus therefore, Matthew mentioned the time drawing towards the dawn of the Lord’s Day, ‘after the close of the Sabbaths [plural]’ not having said ‘the evening of the Sabbath’, nor ‘after the Sabbath [singular].’”12

William Lee comments on this passage also,
“He [Eusebius] is discussing the relation of S. Matt, xxviii.1, to S. John, xx. 1…On this, he proceeds to argue as if the Greek term ‘opse’ had proceeded from S. Matthew; as well as from the use of the plural, sabbaton.”13

3) Eusebius refers to the Gospel of Matthew written in Hebrew and then in the same paragraph refers to the Gospel of Matthew written in Greek indicating that he saw them as one gospel.

Eusebius' reference occurs in the passage below from his Church History.

This indicates that he referred to them as the same work because the Greek Gospel was Matthew’s expanded translation of his original Hebrew Gospel.

In v.5 below, Eusebius mentions that Matthew and John were the only apostles who left Christians written memorials (gospels).

In v. 6, Eusebius refers to Matthew’s writing of his gospel in Hebrew with the words, “committed his Gospel to writing in his native tongue.”

In v.7, he refers to John the Apostle having all three gospels and then writing his gospel. When he refers to these Gospels that John had, he also says about all three that they came “into the hands of all” which means that the church at large possessed the three Gospels which Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote. The only Gospel of Matthew that the church possessed at large was the Greek Gospel of Matthew. He refers to John accepting the Greek Matthew and its truthfulness along with the other two.

Eusebius Church History 3.24.5-8
“v.5 And the rest of the followers of our Savior, the twelve apostles, the seventy disciples, and countless others besides, were not ignorant of these things. Nevertheless, of all the disciples of the Lord, only Matthew and John have left us written memorials, and they, tradition says, were led to write only under the pressure of necessity.
v.6 For Matthew, who had at first preached to the Hebrews, when he was about to go to other peoples, committed his Gospel to writing in his native tongue, and thus compensated those whom he was obliged to leave for the loss of his presence.
7. And when Mark and Luke had already published their Gospels, they say that John, who had employed all his time in proclaiming the Gospel orally, finally proceeded to write for the following reason. The three Gospels already mentioned having come into the hands of all and into his own too, they say that he accepted them and bore witness to their truthfulness; but that there was lacking in them an account of the deeds done by Christ at the beginning of his ministry.
8. And this indeed is true. For it is evident that the three evangelists recorded only the deeds done by the Saviour for one year after the imprisonment of John the Baptist, and indicated this in the beginning of their account.”
9. For Matthew, after the forty days’ fast and the temptation which followed it, indicates the chronology of his work when he says: “Now when he heard that John was delivered up he withdrew from Judea into Galilee.”
10. Mark likewise says: “Now after that John was delivered up Jesus came into Galilee.” And Luke, before commencing his account of the deeds of Jesus, similarly marks the time, when he says that Herod, “adding to all the evil deeds which he had done, shut up John in prison.”

If you look carefully, you will see that Eusebius refers to the Hebrew Matthew of v.5 in v.7 as “the three gospels already mentioned” yet he refers to the Greek Matthew when he says, “having come into the hands of all.” The only way that could be true is if Eusebius considered them both as one work, a Hebrew and Greek version of one Gospel of Matthew. This is perfectly understandable if the Greek Matthew was an expanded translation of the Hebrew Matthew both written by Matthew.

In v.9 and 10, he compares the writings of Matthew with Mark and Luke using similar phrasing expressing authorship for all four evangelists while quoting from the Greek Matthew.

Thomas and Farnell agree with this conclusion when they comment on this passage of Eusebius (3.24.5-10),
“Though Eusebius mentions that Matthew first wrote in the Hebrew language, he also considers Greek Matthew to have come from the apostle's hand. He notes that John was aware of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and confirmed their accuracy when he composed his gospel. Eusebius refers to sections of the Greek Matthew and ascribes them to the apostle as their author."14

4) Eusebius indicates that Matthew wrote a passage that could only have come from Greek Matthew, thus indicating his belief that Matthew wrote the Greek Gospel of Matthew.

In the passage below, Eusebius quotes the words of Jesus on the cross in Matthew’s Gospel. These words are first given in the Hebrew Aramaic which Jesus spoke to explain why people thought Jesus was crying out for Elijah. It is then translated into Greek by the author whom Eusebius says is Matthew when he writes “Matthew recorded.” This could only be true of the Greek Matthew where the author would have translated them into Greek to help his readers understand what Jesus was saying. There would have been no need for this in the Hebrew Matthew.

Eusebius Demonstratio Evangelica 10.8
“The words, ‘My God, give ear to me, why hast thou forsaken me?’ spoken at the opening of the Psalm, are recorded by Matthew to have been said by our Saviour at the time of the Passion: ‘And at the sixth hour, there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour, and at the ninth hour Jesus called with a loud voice, Eloim, Eloim, lama sabachthani, that is to say, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’”
(Quote is from The Proof of the Gospel Being The Demonstratio Evangelica of Eusebius of Caesarea, Tr. W.J. Ferrar, Vol.1 The Macmillan Company, New York, 1920 (CCEL))

John Owen concurs with this when he writes,
“The words he uttered were taken from Ps. 22:1, of which ‘Eli, Eli, lama’ are Hebrew, and ‘sabachthani’ is the Aramean or Syro-Chaldaic, which was the language then in common use…’That is to say, i. e. which being interpreted.’ These are the words of the Evangelist, who wrote his gospel in Greek, but retained the words as spoken by Jesus, in order to show why the Jews represented him as calling upon Elias. Those who contend that Matthew's gospel was first written in Hebrew or the Aramaic, make the words ‘that is to say,’ those of the translator.”15

5) Eusebius refers to Matthew as the writer of the Greek Gospel of Matthew.

He writes of the “gospel written by him” and quotes Greek Matthew.

Eusebius Demonstratio Evangelica 3.5
“The Apostle Matthew, if you consider his former life, did not leave a holy occupation, but came from those occupied in tax-gathering and over-reaching one another. None of the evangelists has made this clear, neither his fellow-apostle John, nor Luke, nor Mark, but [Matthew] himself, who brands his own life, and becomes his own accuser. Listen how he dwells emphatically on his own name in the Gospel written by him, when he speaks in this way: ‘And as Jesus passed by from thence, he saw a man, called Matthew, sitting at the place of toll, and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.’”
(Quote is from The Proof of the Gospel Being The Demonstratio Evangelica of Eusebius of Caesarea, Tr. W.J. Ferrar, Vol.1 The Macmillan Company, New York, 1920 (CCEL))

And again further on, when he gives a list of the disciples, he adds the name "Publican" to his own. For he says: ‘Of the twelve apostles the names are these: First, Simon, called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican.’ Thus Matthew, in excess of modesty, reveals the nature of his own old life, and calls himself a publican, he does not conceal his former mode of life, and in addition to this he places himself second after his yoke-fellow.”

Summary:

The testimonies of these three early church fathers were chosen because they offer the clearest evidence that it was believed by the early church that Matthew wrote both a Hebrew and a Greek Gospel of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

They also offer different perspectives. Irenaeus was a bishop who knew a disciple of the apostles. Origen was a Biblical scholar. Eusebius was a church historian.

The historical literary evidence demonstrates that Matthew wrote a gospel in Hebrew for Jewish converts and then wrote an expanded Greek gospel for both Jews and Gentiles around the world. The Greek Matthew had many original additions. The Hebrew Matthew was not widely used and eventually passed out of sight.

When the early church fathers indicated that Matthew wrote his gospel in Hebrew they never indicated that the Greek Matthew was written or translated by Matthew because it was fully accepted.

This conclusion is the only one that takes into consideration all the statements of the church fathers and synthesizes them into a coherent belief. This is what is demonstrated by the historical literary evidence.

 

END NOTES:

References are given without use of abbreviations such as “ibid.” to make it simpler to understand and follow the references for those unfamiliar with reading the various abbreviations.

1. Thomas, Robert L. and Farnell, F. David, Jesus Crisis, Kregel Publications, 1998, 43

2. Jamieson, Robert, Fausset A.R., Brown, David, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, 1871, Introduction to Matthew

3. Josephus, Flavius, The Works of Flavius Josephus, Translated by William Whiston Published by Lippincott, 1856, p.162

4. Thomas, Robert L. and Farnell, F. David, Jesus Crisis, Kregel Publications, 1998, 46

5. Horne, Thomas Hartwell, Ayre, John, and Tregelles Samuel Prideaux, An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, 1877, 418

6. Horne, Thomas Hartwell, Ayre, John, and Tregelles Samuel Prideaux, An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, 1877, 418

7. Townson, Thomas, Discourses on the Four Gospels, Clarendon press, Oxford, Published 1788, 32

8. Thomas, Robert L. and Farnell, F. David, Jesus Crisis, Kregel Publications, 1998, 53

9. Lardner, Nathaniel, quoted in The Works of Nathaniel Lardner with a Life by Dr. Kippis in Ten Volumes, Vol. 4, William Ball, London, 1829, p.134

10. Lee, William, The Inspiration of Holy Scripture: Its Nature and Proof: Eight Discourses, Preached Before the University of Dublin, R. Carter & Brothers, 1860, 470

11. Townson, Thomas, Discourses on the Four Gospels, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1788, 32

12. Translated by Ron Jones from the Greek text in The Inspiration of Holy Scripture: Its Nature and Proof, William Lee, Published by R. Carter & Brothers, 1860, 470

13. Lee, William, The Inspiration of Holy Scripture: Its Nature and Proof: Eight Discourses, Preached Before the University of Dublin, R. Carter & Brothers, 1860, 470 Footnote

14. Thomas, Robert L. and Farnell, F. David, Jesus Crisis, Kregel Publications, 1998, 53

15. Owen, John, A commentary, critical, expository and practical, on the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, New York, Leavitt and Allen, 1857, 398