The book of Matthew is the first of the Synoptic Gospels and the opening text of what has been called ‘the New Testament.’ The word synoptic means ‘seeing together’ and refers to the similar outline of the first three Gospels. According to Papias of Hieropolis (60CE – 130CE), a hearer of John and a friend of Polycarp, who wrote the now-lost Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord, portions of which are preserved in quotes, writes of the composition of Mark and Matthew,

“Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord’s sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements. [This is what is related by Papias regarding Mark; but with regard to Matthew he has made the following statements]: Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.”
Papias, cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.39.14-17, cited in Fragments of Papias, EarlyChristianWritings  [1]

Thus, according to Papias, Matthew was written in Hebrew, which scholars interpret as either Hebrew or Aramaic, and was then translated afterwards. The majority of New Testament scholarship believes that the New Testament was written in Greek. This debate misses the point: The 27 books of the “New Testament” are a compilation of Hebrew thought and Jewish tradition.

If it was written in Greek, it was thought of in Hebrew. Yeshua and the disciples were not speaking Greek. The events of the Gospels did not occur in a Greek context or language, but were rooted in the soil of first century Israel, in the Hebrew and Aramaic languages, in the culture of the Jewish people in the days of the Second Temple.


  1. Fragments of Papias, Roberts-Donaldson Translation, EarlyChristianWritings