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 The Jewish World and Shorthand


Although the Jews were a subject people in the Roman Empire, they had their civilisation. They had their own form of shorthand, Simanimism. Although though not as advanced as Greek shorthand, it did exist.


The Presbyter, as reported by Papias, wrote: “Matthew composed the logia in Hebrew style, but each recorded them as he was able.” (EH 39. 16). The Presbyter could have been referring to recordings in shorthand.


Birger Gerhardsson in his book: Memory & Manuscript (Eeerdmans (1961,1998) is very informative. Sample pages are on the internet and on page 195 Gerhardsson writes: “We thus see that these Simanisms are often a system of abbreviations which has with some justification been compared with shorthand.”


In: The Progressive Publication of Matthew (2010), B. Ward Powers writes:


To have this evidence, about the apostle Matthew – his background training and employment. Also his response to the call to follow Jesus. That to believe he would not write down what Jesus was doing and teaching, requires a bigger leap of faith than believing that he did…. He had the means, the opportunity and the motivation. He would have made notes of what Jesus said. Logic demands and Papias confirms it. [Much shortened and punctuation revised].


On pages 30-32, Powers mentions books by R. H. Gundry’s (1967), W. Hendriksen (1973) and D. Hill (1972) which accept that Aramaic Simanims were available to Jewish students to record the words of their teachers. He also mentions as supportive E. J. Goodspeed (1959), B.F.C. Atkinson (1954) and A. T. Robetson(1919).


It is reasonable to accept that some, such as a custom official, would have continued to use shorthand in adult life.


It would be common knowledge in Palestine that Theophilus Ben Ananus served as high priest from 37- 41 AD. He would have had a title of honour during this period.

He stepped down in 41 AD. Luke used the title at the beginning of his gospel. The omission of this title at the beginning of ACTS indicates Luke’s second book was published in 41 AD or later.


Matthew mentions the town of Caesarea (16: 13-20). Previous to 14 AD this town had been called Panias in honour of the pagan god Pan. From 61 Herod, Agrippa called it ‘Neronias’ in honour of the emperor Nero. These dates point to Matthew and Christ being there between14-61 AD. (For more details: see this site B101 and B102).



CHAPTER 12                                                                            

12th September 2016

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