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

The Main Evidence (Updated 5.3.2023)


Matthew's Authorship of a Hebrew and a 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 the Greek Gospel of Matthew. 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 mentioned in these articles, click here.

The Original Language of the 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 may not have been the language of Hebrew, but Aramaic. In the first century A.D. the primary oral language of the people of Israel was Aramaic. Aramaic was written using the Hebrew alphabet at this time and only much later was written in the Arabic alphabet as it is today. Many inhabitants also spoke Greek which was the common commercial language used at the time. However, the Hebrew language also remained active in Israel, primarily for the religious activities of Israel and their sacred texts. James Edwards explains, "As a result of the Babylonian exile in the sixth century B.C.E. Aramaic gained significant currency in Jewish life in Palestine. In the wake of Alexander's conquests in the late fourth century B.C.E. and the Roman occupation of Palestine beginning in the early first century B.C.E. Greek was also introduced as an important linguistic medium in Palestine. Nevertheless, it appears that Hebrew retained a privileged status in public prayers, religious instruction, and, as already noted, in the transmission of sacred texts."2

Because the text of Matthew's first Gospel would have been written with Hebrew letters in either the Hebrew or Aramaic language, it was easy for Gentiles to call a text written in either language as "Hebrew" referring to the letters it was written in. Most New Testament scholars lean toward it being written in the Aramaic language, but Edwards as well as others, lean toward the Hebrew language. Again, we cannot be sure which language was used. For the purpose of simplicity, I will call the language "Hebrew" as did the early church fathers.

This belief of Matthew's authorship of both the Hebrew and Greek Gospel of Matthew can be clearly seen in the writings of the church fathers. We will look at them chronologically beginning with three important church fathers, Irenaeus, Origen, and Eusebius. Irenaeus (A.D.120-202) 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 (A.D. 185-254) was a respected Christian scholar who was one of the few church fathers that knew both Hebrew and Greek. Eusebius (A.D 265-340) was a church historian who wrote a large work called Church History. All three men were Christian leaders in a position to know what the apostles and their disciples handed down about the origin of the gospels.

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 (A.D. 37-100), the famous Jewish historian and Matthew's contemporary, says that he wrote his Jewish Wars for his people first in "the language of our country" which would have been a reference to either Hebrew or Aramaic and then in Greek for the Romans and others. 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 His Hebrew or Aramaic text was eventually lost, but his Greek text was preserved because of the widespread use of Greek in the Roman Empire.

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

As I mentioned before, whenever the early church fathers mention the origin of the Gospels, they always referred to the Gospel of Matthew being written by Matthew in Hebrew (Aramaic) first before the others, but when they taught from the Gospel of Matthew, quoted the Gospel of Matthew, and spoke of the divine authority and equality of the Gospel of Matthew, they always referred to the Greek Gospel of Matthew along with the other three NT Gospels. Yet many did not clearly say who wrote the Greek Gospel of Matthew, at least in the writings that have been preserved.

Fortunately for us, there were three early church fathers who stated clearly that Matthew had written a Hebrew (Aramaic) Gospel first and clearly implied by their explanations of the text of the Greek Gospel of Matthew that they believed Matthew wrote it. It is with these three early church fathers we will focus our study.

1. The Testimony of Irenaeus (AD 180)

Irenaeus' Statements of Matthew's Authorship of a Greek and a Hebrew (Aramaic) Gospel

1.1 Irenaeus states that Matthew authored a Hebrew Gospel first.

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."

In this passage, Irenaeus is speaking of the origin of the Gospels and their authors. He clearly tells us that the author of the Gospel of Matthew was Matthew the apostle and that this Gospel was first written in Hebrew (Aramaic).

1.2 Irenaeus refers to the use of the Septuagint in quoting Old Testament prophecies in all four Greek Gospels which indicates he believed that Matthew wrote the Greek Gospel of Matthew.

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 then goes on to defend the Gospel authors' use of the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Old Testament prophecies in their Greek texts. He specifically includes Matthew's Greek Gospel. 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," "the translation," and the "interpretation of the elders." I have identified these designations by brackets in the quote of Irenaeus below to make the quote clearer.

Irenaeus Against Heresies 3.21.3-4
"For the apostles, since they are of more ancient date than all these [heretics], agree with this aforesaid translation [Greek Septuagint]; and the translation [Greek Septuagint] 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 [Greek Septuagint] contains them."

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 in quoting the Old Testament. This clearly implies that Irenaeus believed that Matthew wrote the Greek Gospel of Matthew.

1.3 Irenaeus explains that Matthew states his recognition of the virgin birth by his quote from Isaiah 7:14 and his translation of "Emmanuel" with the Greek phrase "God with us" which indicates he believed that Matthew wrote the Greek Gospel.

Irenaeus Against Heresies, 3.16.2

"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...says '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."

In Isaiah 7:14, the Septuagint reads, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel." In the Greek Gospel of Matthew, the Greek phrase, "God with us" was added to explain the Hebrew "Emmanuel" to Gentile readers.

Irenaeus explains Matthew's recognition of the virgin birth when he quotes from the Septuagint and adds the explanation "God with us." Matthew is emphasizing that the child born of Mary more than an ordinary child, he was the Son of God. Since this phrase "God with us" could only occur in the Greek Gospel of Matthew, Irenaeus must have believed that Matthew wrote that Gospel.

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, Christian Theologian and Scholar (AD 185-254)

Origen's Statements of Matthew's Authorship of a Greek and a Hebrew (Aramaic) Gospel

2.1 Origen states that Matthew authored a Hebrew Gospel first.

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, salutes you; and so does 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 claims that Matthew the tax collector and Apostle described in the Gospels was the first to publish a Gospel which he published in Hebrew (Aramaic).

2.2 Origen cites Matthew and Luke's origination of the Greek word "epiousion" in the Greek texts of their Gospels which indicates he believed that Matthew wrote the Greek Gospel.

In his work, On Prayer 17, Origen is explaining the meaning of a Greek word in the Lord's Prayer which is recorded in both Matthew 11:3 and and Luke 6:11. He writes, "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."

Since Origen believed that Matthew and Luke both formed for the first time the Greek word "epiousion" in their Greek Gospels to translate the Aramaic word Jesus used in the Lord's Prayer, then it is obvious that Origen believed that Matthew himself wrote the Greek Gospel of Matthew.

Thomas Townson (1788) supported this view that this quote from Origen is evidence that Origen believed that Matthew was the writer/translator of Greek Matthew. He wrote, "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."4

Thomas Hartwell Horne (1877) also supported this view. He stated, "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."5

2.3 Origen, in his Homilies on Luke 35, compares the Greek word that he says Matthew wrote to the Greek word that he says Luke wrote, thus demonstrating he believed that Matthew wrote Greek Matthew.

Origen wrote down sermons he had given on the Gospel of Luke which have been preserved in a Latin translation by Jerome called Homilies on Luke. In Origen's Homily on Luke 35, he compares the Greek word that Luke wrote in Luke 12:59 translated in English versions as "penny" to the different Greek word that Matthew wrote in the parallel passage, Matthew 5:26. Since Jesus spoke in Aramaic and the Gospels were written in Greek, each author would choose the Greek translation of the Aramaic word Jesus used. Luke chose the Greek word "leptos" and Matthew chose the Greek word "kodrantes."

Commenting on this, Origen writes, "Matthew says for this 'until you pay back the last penny.' Each of them kept the word 'last.' But they seem to diverge, insofar as Matthew says 'penny' [Greek kodrantes] whereas Luke wrote 'farthing.' [Greek leptos]6

Origen points out the difference in the Greek text between what Matthew wrote and what Luke wrote thus clearly implying that Matthew and Luke wrote the Greek texts. This is further evidence that Origen believed that Matthew wrote the Greek Gospel of Matthew.

The Significance of Origen's Testimony

Origen's testimony is extremely important when it comes to the texts of the Gospels. Although he is known for his questionable allegorical interpretations of the Scriptures, his reputation as a scholar was unequalled in the ancient church. Ronald Heine called him "unquestionably the greatest mind in the third century church, and perhaps in the third century in general."7Bryan Litfin went further naming his as "the greatest scholar of the early church."8

Origen, who wrote in the first half of the third century, would have reflected the belief of the church fathers handed down from the Apostles. Origen was born near the end of Irenaeus' life and ministry. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John. Surely Irenaeus as well as other church leaders handed down to the next generation of church leaders the knowledge of the authorship of the four Gospels, including who wrote not only the Hebrew (Aramaic) edition of the Gospel but also the Greek edition of the Gospel of Matthew.

Origen, ministering immediately after Irenaeus, therefore, is a strong witness of the belief of the early church fathers regarding the authorship of the Hebrew and Greek editions of the Gospel of Matthew. It is clear from his comments above that Origen believed Matthew wrote both.

3. The Testimony of Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea and Church Historian (AD 260-340)

Eusebius' Statements of Matthew's Authorship of a Greek and a Hebrew (Aramaic) Gospel

3.1 Eusebius states that Matthew authored a Hebrew Gospel first.

Eusebius Church History 3.24.5-8

"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. 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."

In this passage, Eusebius mentions that Matthew and John were the only apostles who left Christians written memorials (gospels). He then refers to Matthew writing his gospel in Hebrew with the words, "committed his Gospel to writing in his native tongue."

3.2 Eusebius refers to Matthew's translating of the Hebrew text of Psalm 78 in the Old Testament to Greek in his Greek Gospel of Matthew which indicates he believed that Matthew wrote the Greek Gospel.

In this passage below, he compares Matthew's Greek translation in Matthew 13:35 of the Hebrew text of Psalm 78:2 with two other Greek translations by Aquila and Symmachus.

Eusebius, Commentary on Psalms, Psalm 78

"Which also the scripture of the sacred gospels teaches, where it is said: 'All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables. And without a parable he did not speak to 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

As Eusebius refers to Matthew's translating of the Hebrew to Greek in citing this OT passage, he implies that Matthew was the author of the Greek Matthew. If anyone else had translated the Greek Gospel of Matthew, he could not have designated Matthew's Hebrew ethnicity as the basis of using a translation of his own.

Thomas Townson (1788) noticed what Eusebius stated here and 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."10

William Lee evaluated Eusebius' statement about Psalm 78:2, "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."11

3.3 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.

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?'"12

In this passage Eusebius quotes the words of Jesus on the cross in Matthew's Gospel. These words are first given in the Hebrew and 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 Matthew 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.

John Owen supported this view when he wrote, "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."13


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.



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

2. Edwards, James R., The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Synoptic Tradition (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 154-162.

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

4. Townson, Thomas, Discourses on the Four Gospels, Second Edition, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1788, 32.

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. Origen, Homilies on Luke, J. T. Lienhard, Trans., Catholic University of America Press, Washington D.C., 2009, 143

7. Origen, The Commentary of Origen on the Gospel of St. Matthew, Vol.1, Ronald E. Heine, Trans., Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2018, 1

8. Litfin, Bryan M., Getting to Know the Church Fathers, Brazos Press, Grand Rapids MI, 2007, 143

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

10. Townson, 32

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

12. 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)

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