Tuesday, November 28, 2023

What Languages Did Jesus Speak

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What Language Did Jesus And The Apostles Speak

What Language Did Jesus Speak? | Jimmy Akin | Catholic Answers Live

While it is possible that Jesus and some of his apostles knew and used Greek , it is clear that their primary language of communication was Aramaic and, quite possibly, Hebrew as well. Here is the key evidence.

The New Testament records several unmistakable instances of Aramaic usage. Most notable is Mark 5:41, where Jesus raises Jairus daughter from the dead with the command, Talitha koum. Interestingly, if Peter spoke in Aramaic when he raised Tabitha from the dead, he would have used almost the exact same phrase: Tabitha koum . Other examples of Aramaic on the lips of Yeshua include His words on the cross from Psalm 22:1, quoted in Matthew 27:45, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? Acts 1:19 also provides a good example of Aramaic usage, since it speaks of the field in Jerusalem purchased by Judas Iscariot, and states that the people called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood. This name, Akeldama, reflects the Aramaic words haqal dama, field of blood, and is definitely not a Hebrew construction.

Despite the attempts of some Hebrew only authors to downplay or eliminate these examples, they clearly point to Aramaic usage by Jesus and His followers. Given the first century, Galilean background of the Lord and His disciples, Aramaic usage would make perfect sense and would be in keeping with the prevailing scholarly consensus.

As stated by the editors of a recent volume seeking to shed light on the words of Jesus,

Wasnt Hebrew Israels Primary Language

Many Bible readers would naturally assume that Jesus spoke Hebrew. After all, most of the Old Testament is written in Hebrew. We associate it with the Jews and it is the official language of Israel today. But its not that simple. Hebrews influence has ebbed and flowed over time.

Throughout the Old Testament, Israel was a nation with a clear identity and purpose. They were set apart from the nations around them. They were the only people speaking Hebrew while other languages developed in surrounding nations. Aramaic was one of those languages.

Aramaic is a Semitic language thats closely related to Hebrew. There was a time when very few Israelites spoke it. Both 2 Kings and Isaiah tell us about a time when the king of Assyria sent some officers to threaten Israel. When they got to the walls of Jerusalem and called for Hezekiah, the king of Israel sent out Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah to speak on his behalf.

The Assyrian field commander wasnt interested in having a private discussion with Hezekiahs men. Instead he made threats loudly enough in Hebrew for the Jewish citizens on the wall to hear. The author of 2 Kings tells us what happened next:

Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, and Shebna and Joah said to the field commander, Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, since we understand it. Dont speak to us in Hebrew in the hearing of the people on the wall .

Aramaic takes prominence

Did Jesus speak Hebrew?

Jesus later inaugurates His ministry this way:

Latin In The New Testament Era

Rome and the region around it gave rise to Latin. It is part of the Indo-European language group. The Bible was translated into Latin several times, but once the Latin Vulgate was complete, Latin started to become the dominant language of the church. In fact, many Catholic church services around the world used Latin until the 1960s.

There is very little evidence that Jews in Israel in the first century typically spoke Latin. A Jewish historian named Josephus mentioned that there was a sign at the Temple in Jerusalem that indicated the area where no foreigner was allowed to enter. The sign was apparently written in Greek and Latin. However, since it was a sign for foreigners, this is not good evidence that Jews commonly spoke Latin. John 19:20 contains a reference to Latin in the sign placed above Jesus head on the cross: Many of the Jews read this sign, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek . This is the best possible reference that Jews could read Latin.

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Hebrew As The Language Of Jesus

Hebrew has always been taken as a liturgical language due to its contributions to the religious activities and for also being in practice by Jesus himself. All of the Hebrew bibles are written in biblical Hebrew and date back to the 10th century.

It is present in its current form in the dialect that according to scholars believe flourished in the 6th century during the Babylonian captivity. Babylonian captivity or exile refers to the period of Jewish history during which a huge number of Judeans from the ancient kingdom of Judah were captivated in Babylon, which was the capital city of the Neo Babylonian empire.

This is why the Hebrew language has been associated with the Jewish as Lashon Hakodesh which means the holy tongue or tongue of holiness since the old times. This language was not quoted in the Bible as Hebrew but actually as Yehudit .

Jesuss proficiency in Hebrew is another topic. According to historians as Hebrew was the language that was used for church service and religious practices and also for written work so Jesus did know the language and could understand it, however, he was not much fluent in Hebrew. But Hebrew language has great contribution to being used in the Church so Jesus had great regard for this language.

How Much Hebrew Did Jesus Speak

Which language did Jesus speak?

Although Jesus knew Hebrew and could speak it, in reality, he probably only spoke it in the synagogue or while discussing the Torah with his peers. Outside of these contexts, its unlikely anyone would have understood him.

Jesuss first languagethe language he used in ordinary conversation, the language he used to teach the crowdswas Aramaic.

If you were to ask Jesus what language he spoke, he very likely would have answered: Aramaic.

Learn more about the cultural background of the Bible

Get started with a free online course taught by John Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College.

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Is Hebrew And Aramaic The Same Language

No, they are different.

Evidence from the New Testament is also helpful. In John 19:13, the Apostle John refers to a place called the Stone Pavement, which he translated into Aramaic as Gabbatha . Just a few verses later, in John 19:17, the Apostle John refers to another location, the place of the Skull, which is translated into Aramaic as Golgotha . In Acts 1:19, Luke refers to the location where Judas died as Hakeldama . Hakeldama is an Aramaic expression. The key here is not just that Aramaic words were used in the New Testament but that locations in Jerusalem had Aramaic names. This is a strong indication of the prevalent use of Aramaic in and around Jerusalem. Finally, Jesus is recorded as having spoken Aramaic in Matthew 27:46 and 7:34.

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    Other Languages Of Jesus

    Along with other languages, Latin and Greek were also common during the time of Jesus, though Arabic did not arrive till that time. Latin was dedicated to selective practices. As the stipendiary lecturer, Jonathan Katz in classics from Oxford University comments that it is kind of unlikely for Jesus to know Latin except for a few words.

    Latin was the language of law and the Roman military. Greek was the lingua franca of the Roman empire and it was in practice by civilian administrators. Greek language and culture were much in practice and dominant in the cities of Decapolis, especially in Jordan.

    So, there are probabilities that Jesus would have known more Greek than Latin. Though, he was not much proficient in it as Katz summed it. As for the writing of the language, Jesus could barely write any language as per the historians. He could have been more interested in writing than reading.

    Evidence From The Bible

    What languages did Jesus speak? – Jesus Literacy (Historical Jesus)

    Youll find evidence for this in the New Testament. The strongest evidence is found in Pilates speech . Here is Matthews account:

    Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, Are you the king of the Jews?

    You have said so, Jesus replied.

    When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, Dont you hear the testimony they are bringing against you? But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single chargeto the great amazement of the governor.

    Heres how we know Pilate was speaking in Greek. His first language was Latin. We know this because he was a Roman official. However, the people mentioned in this versethe chief priests, the elders, and the crowd listening inwould not have spoken Latin. If Pilate was speaking with them, he obviously wasnt speaking Latin.

    Of the languages they might have knownHebrew, Aramaic, and GreekPilate wouldnt have been able to speak Hebrew, and he likely would have known Greek far better than Aramaic. Greek, then, is the most likely candidate for the language he spoke in this speech to the non-Roman audience.

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    What Languages Were Spoken In First

    Before we can identify which languages Jesus spoke, we need to know what languages were spoken in first-century Palestine.

    Here are the three languages:

  • Aramaic had been widely spoken since the Babylonian exile.
  • Since the invasion of Alexander the Great, Greek had been spoken in many communities.
  • The Hebrew Biblethe Scriptures of Jesuss daywas written and studied in Hebrew .
  • Each language had its own function. Some were used only for writing, while others were used for speaking in ordinary conversation. If you were conducting business transactions or international trade, you would likely use still other languages.

    What about Jesus?

    To discover the language Jesus spoke, we need to examine the three most common languages found in first-century Palestine: Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Well look for clues about who spoke each languageand see which languages Jesus knew.

    Why Did Jesus Speak Aramaic And Not Hebrew

    The villages of Nazareth and Capernaum in Galilee, where Jesus spent most of his time, were Aramaic-speaking communities. It is also likely that Jesus knew enough Koine Greek to converse with those not native to Judea, and it is reasonable to assume that Jesus was well versed in Hebrew for religious purposes.

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    In Which Language Did Jesus Speak

    Tom de Castella says that many languages are spoken in the places where Jesus lived, so the question is which language he knew. There has also been a dispute between Benjamin Netanyahu and Pope Francis on this issue once.

    Netanyahu told the pope at a public meeting in Jerusalem, Jesus lived here, and he spoke Hebrew Language. The pope interrupted him and said, Aramaic Language.

    Netanyahu responded by saying, He spoke Aramaic, but knew Hebrew.

    What Languages Did Jesus Speak

    What language did Jesus speak? The Tablet knows
    • David A. CroteauAuthor & Professor

    There are several views about which language Jesus spoke. Some people believe he spoke primarily Hebrew, with others arguing it was primarily Greek or Aramaic. Actually, the correct question is: what languages did Jesus speak? My view can be summarized like this.

    Jesus probably primarily spoke in Aramaic and Greek. He likely spoke Hebrew very sparingly and there is no solid evidence he spoke Latin. But what is the evidence for these views and why does it matter?

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    What Language Did Jesus Speak According To Biblical Scholars

    Both the Pope and the Israeli prime minister are right, says Dr. Sebastian Brock, a retired Aramaic reader at the University of Oxford. But Netanyahu needs to clarify.

    Hebrew was the language of scholars and scriptures, but the everyday language of Jesus Christ must have been Aramaic.

    Most biblical scholars say that in the Bible, Jesus Christ spoke in Aramaic Language.

    Mel Gibson also used Aramaic language in the film Passion of the Christ. However, not all words of the Aramaic language could be found in the first century. Many of the words in its script are from the Aramaic language used in later centuries.

    Arabic did not reach Palestine until later, but Greek and Latin were common languages at the time of Christ.

    Did Jesus Have A Last Name

    Jesus Last Name. Mary’s father was Joachim. She was then called Mary of Joachim referring to her father’s loin. … When Jesus was born, no last name was given. He was simply known as Jesus but not of Joseph, even though he recognized Joseph as his earthly father, he knew a greater father from which he was his loin.

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    Mishnaic Hebrew As A Common Person’s Language In The Land

    Based on old research, some claim that Hebrew was not a living language in use among the common people of the Land. Instead, they claim it was a scholarly or liturgical language. While it is true that the later Amoraic Hebrew was a scholarly language, more and more evidence is coming to light that this is not so for Mishnaic Hebrew proper .

    New Testament scholars have for years translated the Greek Ebraios into “Aramaic” when it appears in the NT instead of “Hebrew.” They do this because the prevailing theory for many years was that Hebrew was only used by religious people and scholars. However, the weight of evidence says otherwise.

    Greek In The New Testament Era

    What Language Did Jesus Speak || Tongues of The Bible

    Koine Greek is the language of the New Testament. The word koine means common in Greek. It refers to the common language of the people, the language of the street. This form of Greek was a precursor to Byzantine and modern Greek. Koine Greek was the primary language spoken throughout the Greek empire from about 330 BC to AD 300. The Old Testament was translated into Greek over a century before Jesus was born. This translation is called the , usually abbreviated LXX. This translation had a significant impact on Jews who had been influenced by the spread of Greek culture .

    Jesus spent much of his life in Nazareth of Galilee. Aramaic was the primary language spoken there. However, a significant Greek city was only a one-day walk away: Sepphoris. While we cant be certain, it is very possible that someone with Jesus profession would travel to a town like Sepphoris to find work. If he did, he would have spoken Greek. None of these arguments are proof but are strong implications. Essentially, a normal Jew from Galilee would typically know Greek. Jesus had conversations with people that would have most likely taken place in Greek. Certain phrases in conversations could imply that Jesus was speaking in Greek.

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    Aramaic Personal Names In The New Testament

    Personal names in the New Testament come from a number of languages Hebrew and Greek are most common. However, there are a few Aramaic names as well. The most prominent feature in Aramaic names is bar , meaning ‘son of’, a common patronym prefix. Its Hebrew equivalent, ben, is conspicuous by its absence. Some examples are:


    And James, the son of Zebedee, and John, the brother of James, and he gave them the name Boanerges, which is Sons of Thunder.

    Jesus surnames the brothers James and John to reflect their impetuosity. The Greek rendition of their name is .

    There has been much speculation about this name. Given the Greek translation that comes with it , it seems that the first element of the name is bn, ‘sons of’ , Aramaic . This is represented by , giving two vowels in the first syllable where one would be sufficient. It could be inferred from this that the Greek transliteration may not be a good one. The second part of the name is often reckoned to be ra Aramaic , or raz Aramaic . Maurice Casey, however, argues that it is a simple misreading of the word for thunder, ram . This is supported by one Syriac translation of the name as bnay ramâ. The Peshitta reads bnay rey, which would fit with a later composition for it, based on a Byzantine reading of the original Greek.

    Galatians 1:18 NRSV

    John 11:16

    Acts 9:36

    Eli Eli Lema Sabachthani


    And at the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, my God, for what have you forsaken me?”

    This phrase, among the Sayings of Jesus on the cross, is given in these two versions. The Matthean version of the phrase is transliterated in Greek as , , . The Markan version is , , .

    Overall, both versions appear to be Aramaic rather than Hebrew because of the verb “abandon”, which is originally Aramaic. The “pure” Biblical Hebrew counterpart to this word, is seen in the second line of Psalm 22, which the saying appears to quote. Thus, Jesus is not quoting the canonical Hebrew version attributed in some Jewish interpretations to King David cited as Jesus’ ancestor in Matthew’s Genealogy of Jesus if the Eli, Eli version of Jesus’ outcry is taken he may be quoting the version given in an Aramaic Targum .

    The Markan word for “my god”, , definitely corresponds to the Aramaic form , elh. The Matthean one, , fits in better with the of the original Hebrew Psalm, as has been pointed out in the literature however, it may also be Aramaic because this form is attested abundantly in Aramaic as well.

    The Aramaic word form aqtan is based on the verb aq/aq, ‘to allow, to permit, to forgive, and to forsake’, with the perfect tense ending -t , and the object suffix -an .

    Matthew 5:18


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