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Today’s the feast of St. Matthew, the evangelist who got the New Testament off to a royal start. The Fathers testify, overwhelmingly, that Matthew wrote his gospel in Hebrew (or maybe an Aramaic dialect). A witness of Matthew’s own generation, Papias said: “Matthew composed the oracles in the Hebrew dialect, and everyone interpreted them as he was able.” Irenaeus echoes: “Matthew among the Hebrews did also publish a Gospel in writing in their own language.” The Sicilian Bee, St. Pantaenus, went to India, where he found converted Jews who read “the writing of Matthew in Hebrew letters.” In the third century, the critical scholar Origen gave his two cents: “the first Gospel was written by Matthew … who delivered it to the Jewish believers, composed in the Hebrew language.”

Here’s Jerome’s entry on Matthew, from his profiles of illustrious men:

Matthew, also called Levi, apostle and aforetimes publican, composed a gospel of Christ at first published in Judea in Hebrew for the sake of those of the circumcision who believed, but this was afterwards translated into Greek though by what author is uncertain. The Hebrew itself has been preserved until the present day in the library at Caesarea which Pamphilus so diligently gathered. I have also had the opportunity of having the volume described to me by the Nazarenes of Beroea, a city of Syria, who use it. In this it is to be noted that wherever the Evangelist, whether on his own account or in the person of our Lord the Savior, quotes the testimony of the Old Testament he does not follow the authority of the translators of the Septuagint but the Hebrew. Wherefore these two forms exist “Out of Egypt have I called my son, ” and “for he shall be called a Nazarene.”

If you’re looking for an excellent, short study edition of Matthew, with ample light from the Fathers, try this one.

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  1. I second that nomination … really a wonderful study of the book of Matthew.

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