Should our pre-suppositional approach to the New Testament be Hebraic or Hellenistic?

Almost all of Christian scholarship approaches the NT from a Western and Hellenistic (Greek) mindset, and for most they are not even aware of their pre-suppositions. This may be in part because so many historical and cultural understandings over the centuries re-enforced this approach.

But since as early as the 1950’s these false understandings began to be questioned and re-evaluated. Sadly though the new evidence and understandings have for the most part not been reflected in new  editions of our Bible translations or even in much recent scholarship (with very notable exceptions being scholarly groups such as the Jerusalem School for Synoptic Research[1], and some Bible translators such as Ann Nyland[2] and Uriel ben Mordechai).

I have written and presented a number of articles on the Hebraisms in the NT as well as discussing the evidence is some depth in my book ‘The New Testament: The Hebrew Behind the Greek’[3].

But a question that was raised recently is how to open the minds and hearts of Bible scholars and students to at least consider that their inherent pre-suppositional understandings may need to be re-evaluated.

The approach of have used in the past is to look at some of the apparent contradictions between different accounts of the same event and try to demonstrate that a Hebraic approach seems to best resolve the apparent conflict and contradiction.

I have detailed many of these in my articles, but I raise just one here to highlight this issue.

Yeshua is asked who might sit next to him in the Kingdom. Mark gives us the impression that Yaa’cov (James) and Yochanan (John) themselves personally asked whether they might sit next to Yeshua in places of royal authority (Mk. 10:35-40).

Matthew though tells us that in fact it was the mother of Zebedee’s children who actually made the request to Yeshua (Mt. 20:20-23). Here we see the Hebraic principle of agency at play. The agent fully represents the principal in any transaction. All the Gospels, as well as other books of the NT make use of this Hebraism and many others.

Many have argued that these Hebraisms are not evident in John’s Gospel. I have addressed this question in depth here:’s%20Gospel.pdf

I would also like to highlight how easy it is to totally miss these Hebraisms and the strong Hebraic Mindset and perspective used throughout the NT. Some of the examples are staring us in the face, yet we can not see them without an indepth knowledge of the historical and cultural context.

Just one example for now comes from ‘Non-Septuagintal Hebraisms in the Third Gospel: An Inconvenient Truth’by R. Steven Notley (of the Jerusalem School for Synoptic Research).

“Luke’s terminology reflects Post-biblical Hebrew idioms that he has not adopted from the Septuagint, the other Gospels or any other known Jewish Greek literature of the period. The problem is that scholarship is often looking for the obscure, enigmatic idiom when the examples are right in front of the reader. Their sense is so obvious and the reading so familiar that we simply over-look their Hebraic character. [My emphasis] For example, Luke refers to the work of Isaiah as βιβλίον τοῦ προφήτου Ἠσαΐου (Luke 4:17). Yet, nowhere else in the corpus of Jewish Greek literature (i.e., Septuagint, Greek Pseudepigrapha, Josephus, Philo, etc.) in late antiquity is this prophetic work designated a βιβλίον (or βίβλος). It is likewise not designated by the Hebrew equivalent (ֵסֶפר) [sefer == book] in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Yet, the work of Isaiah is called exactly that in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Indeed, at Qumran the Lukan phrase—the book of the prophet Isaiah—appears in its precise Hebrew equivalent on four occasions (ספר ישעיה הנביא: 4Q174 f1.2i.15; 4Q176 f1.2i.4; 4Q265 f1.3; 4Q285 f7.1).”[4]

As I document in my ‘Hebrew Behind the Greek’ text, Luke and all the authors of the NT were very much Hebraists in their perspective, though having been translated into Greek their Hebraic mindset is not as easy to distinguish. Further, I discuss some of the serious damage that has resulted from the failure to view the NT through Hebraic eyes in my book ‘Doctrinal Pitfalls of Hellenism[5].







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