Introduction to the Hebrew New Testament|
By Jeff A. Benner
The New Testament, or B'riyt HaHhadashah in Hebrew, was written by Hebrews, for Hebrews and within an Hebraic Culture. While the only New Testament manuscripts known to exist are written in Greek, with the possible exception of the book of Matthew, the evidence suggests that much of it was originally written in Hebrew and afterwards translated into Greek.
While there are many textual evidences to support this theory, Matthew 5:3 is a good example of this.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Greek word for "poor" is ptochos and means one who is destitute, afflicted, and lacking. What this verse is literally saying is "Blessed are the ones destitute/afflicted/lacking in the spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This does not make any sense. However, if we translate the Greek word ptochos into Hebrew we have the word aniy which also means destitute, afflicted and lacking. More literally the Hebrew word aniy means "bent down low" such as a poor person who is destitute. But, this Hebrew word can also mean one who is humble, in the same sense of bending down low.
Now, if we translate the Hebrew back into English we have, "Blessed are the humble in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." By understanding this passage from its Hebrew background, we are able to better interpret the New Testament Bible.