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What Language(s) Did Jesus Speak and Why Does It Matter?
markdroberts.com ^ | February 2004 (updated 2/2007) | Mark D. Roberts

Posted on 09/18/2009 12:54:26 PM PDT by Nikas777

What Language(s) Did Jesus Speak and Why Does It Matter?

by Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts February 2004 (updated 2/2007)

Copyright © 2004 by Mark D. Roberts Note: You may download this resource at no cost, for personal use or for use in a Christian ministry, as long as you are not publishing it for sale. All I ask is that you give credit where credit is due. For all other uses, please contact me at mark@markdroberts.com. Thank you.

Part 1: Introduction

Although responses to Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ movie varied widely, every viewer was struck by the fact that not one word of English was spoken in the film. All dialogue was in one of two ancient languages, Aramaic or Latin. Without the English subtitles, most of us wouldn't have been able to understand a word in The Passion of the Christ .

I expect that many people who aw this movie wondered about its odd languages. What is Aramaic, anyway? Was this really the primary language of Jesus? Didn't he speak Hebrew? And, since the New Testament gospels were written in Greek, is there any reason to believe that Jesus also spoke Greek?

These questions are not merely matters of intellectual curiosity, however. Knowing something about the language (or languages) of Jesus will do much more than help you win a game of Trivial Pursuit. In fact this knowledge opens up new windows of understanding into the world and ministry of Jesus.

In my next few posts I will address the questions: What language(s) did Jesus speak and why does it matter? But before I begin to address these questions, I want to begin by saying something that seems so obvious that it doesn't need to be said. Are you ready? Jesus didn't speak English.

(Excerpt) Read more at markdroberts.com ...


TOPICS: History; Judaism
KEYWORDS: aramaic; greek; hebrew; jesus; language; wwjd
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1 posted on 09/18/2009 12:54:28 PM PDT by Nikas777
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To: Nikas777

Aramaic


2 posted on 09/18/2009 12:55:54 PM PDT by Patrick1 (I'm not calling in sick; I'm calling in gone!)
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To: Nikas777
Unfortunately it is NOT so obvious (to some) that it didn't need to be said.

Of all the crazy things overheard on a public bus this one had to take the cake.

Old batty woman complaining about some foreigner with bad language skills “If English was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for everyone else!”

3 posted on 09/18/2009 12:56:29 PM PDT by allmendream (Wealth is EARNED not distributed, so how could it be RE-distributed?)
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To: allmendream

The question is because He is who He is, he could speak any language. The thing is, what languages did he speak? And Mel Gibson is probably right. Aramaeic and Latin.


4 posted on 09/18/2009 12:58:26 PM PDT by BigEdLB (Now there ARE 1,000,000 regrets - but it may be too late.)
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To: allmendream

The woman is correct. Just ask your local 7-11 clerk, he will tell you.


5 posted on 09/18/2009 12:58:37 PM PDT by equalitybeforethelaw
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To: allmendream

lol She probably also believed Jesus was tall, blue eyed, light skinned and fair haired.


6 posted on 09/18/2009 12:59:04 PM PDT by RAO1125 (Neoconservatism:Failed. Socialism:Failing (again). Next up: Libertarianism)
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To: BigEdLB

You missed a “He.”


7 posted on 09/18/2009 1:00:45 PM PDT by RAO1125 (Neoconservatism:Failed. Socialism:Failing (again). Next up: Libertarianism)
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To: BigEdLB
"The thing is, what languages did he speak? And Mel Gibson is probably right. Aramaeic and Latin."

Greek was also fairly common throughout the eastern mediterranean at the time of Christ. John 19:19-20) describes the titulus as follows:

And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. (King James Version)

8 posted on 09/18/2009 1:01:46 PM PDT by Joe 6-pack (Que me amat, amet et canem meum)
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To: allmendream
Old batty woman complaining about some foreigner with bad language skills “If English was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for everyone else!”

LOL, how dumb can you be and still breath. You can tell by his name, Jesus spoke Spanish.

9 posted on 09/18/2009 1:01:48 PM PDT by Always Right (Equal Opportunity Hater....)
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To: Nikas777

Generally Aramaic I believe, but also on occassion in a “language” that anyone who saw and heard Him could understand as if it were their native tongue.


10 posted on 09/18/2009 1:02:25 PM PDT by piytar (Bussing in SEIU brownshirts to intimidate regular Americans is REAL FASCISM! NRA Lifetime Member)
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To: equalitybeforethelaw

"Thank you, come again!"

11 posted on 09/18/2009 1:03:31 PM PDT by Old Sarge (Marking Time On The Government's Dime)
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To: Always Right

Aramaic is one of the Semitic languages, an important group of languages known almost from the beginning of human history and including also Arabic, Hebrew, Ethiopic, and Akkadian (ancient Babylonian and Assyrian). It is particularly closely related to Hebrew, and was written in a variety of alphabetic scripts. (What is usually called “Hebrew” script is actually an Aramaic script.)


12 posted on 09/18/2009 1:03:57 PM PDT by Patrick1 (I'm not calling in sick; I'm calling in gone!)
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To: Patrick1

The other question is “does it matter”? The answer would be no.


13 posted on 09/18/2009 1:05:24 PM PDT by Patrick1 (I'm not calling in sick; I'm calling in gone!)
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To: Joe 6-pack

Yes Greek and Hebrew as well....


14 posted on 09/18/2009 1:06:45 PM PDT by BigEdLB (Now there ARE 1,000,000 regrets - but it may be too late.)
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To: BigEdLB; allmendream
Mel Gibson was incredibly wrong. Aramaic and Greek and not Latin. Which Gibson had in there as a conceit to his extreme Catholicism.

Even the coins Pilate mined for the region were in Greek not Latin.

15 posted on 09/18/2009 1:11:05 PM PDT by Nikas777 (En touto nika, "In this, be victorious")
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To: Nikas777
He probably was quadrilingual (Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew, and some Latin).

Most of His teaching was in Greek. It was the lingua franca of the day, the Gospel writers recorded all His conversations as in Greek, and they made a special note of those occasions when He spoke Aramaic ("Abba," "Talitha kum," "Ephphatha," and so forth).

Of course it matters.

16 posted on 09/18/2009 1:11:10 PM PDT by BibChr ("...behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them?" [Jer. 8:9])
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To: Nikas777

stop it. everybody speaks english! even in galaxy’s far, far away and all aliens that the starship enterprise came into contact with!


17 posted on 09/18/2009 1:13:00 PM PDT by thefactor (yes, as a matter of fact, i DID only read the excerpt)
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To: Nikas777

I believe he spoke King James English, and then it was translated into latin or some such thing...


18 posted on 09/18/2009 1:13:15 PM PDT by rface
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To: Nikas777

Not a surprising question considering how many people think the Bible was originally written in Latin.


19 posted on 09/18/2009 1:15:59 PM PDT by ctdonath2 (Joe Wilson was right.)
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To: Nikas777
Actually, the piece's author illustrates why it matters, though he does it by getting it wrong.

Asserting without direct evidence that Jesus' primary language was Aramaic, he goes on to explain something Jesus taught in Greek, by appealing to what (he thinks that) the Aramaic that (he thinks that) Jesus spoke would have meant.

Get that. He takes the only record we have of Jesus' words — which is Greek — and pushes it aside in favor of an interpretation based on a wholly-conjectural Aramaic original.

So yeah. It matters.

20 posted on 09/18/2009 1:16:24 PM PDT by BibChr ("...behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them?" [Jer. 8:9])
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To: BibChr; kosta50
Jesus declared he was the "Alpha and Omega".

For years I thought that meant the start and ending in Greek but then I as I matured I realized Jesus was brilliantly using Greek to say something.

The Greek alphabet is from the east from the Phoenicians and the Semitic languages. Greekt shares some consonant letters like the "Alpha" but the Omega like all vowels are Greek invented letters.

Was Christ saying he is not only the starting and ending of all but that he was also starting from the Hebrew and ending the Greek/wider world?

I think he was.

21 posted on 09/18/2009 1:16:55 PM PDT by Nikas777 (En touto nika, "In this, be victorious")
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To: Nikas777

OK I’ll trans-bite.

You said, if I grok it correctly, Jesus wouldn’t have understood Hebrew spoken in the manner of a living language. No matter that the grammar was there.

I suppose I could disagree if only because of His deity status. But it doesn’t need a god to know how to construct sentences in Hebrew....


22 posted on 09/18/2009 1:18:18 PM PDT by HiTech RedNeck (Unashamed Sarah-Bot.)
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To: BigEdLB
Actually, that's something Mel likely got wrong. It's very unlikely Jesus knew any Latin and few Jews would have. The cosmopolitan language of the Eastern Mediterranean for business and government was Greek. Many educated Romans learned Greek. If they did communicate without a translator, it was likely in Greek.
23 posted on 09/18/2009 1:19:03 PM PDT by colorado tanker (Barack Obama is an old Kenyan word for Jimmy Carter)
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To: Patrick1

It he did speak Greek, why the in-narrative translation of his prophetic cry from the cross?


24 posted on 09/18/2009 1:19:09 PM PDT by fwdude (It is not the liberals who will destroy this country, but the "moderates.")
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To: BibChr
Get that. He takes the only record we have of Jesus' words — which is Greek — and pushes it aside in favor of an interpretation based on a wholly-conjectural Aramaic original. So yeah. It matters.

We forget Jesus lived in Egypt - which to me means Alexandria (where else would Joseph get work as a carpenter?).

I can see Jesus shopping with his mother at the Alexandrian market where transactions and gossip, etc was in Greek.

Denying Jesus spoke Greek is accusing him of being a hick.

25 posted on 09/18/2009 1:19:41 PM PDT by Nikas777 (En touto nika, "In this, be victorious")
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To: Always Right

I thought that was an Archie Bunker quote?


26 posted on 09/18/2009 1:19:51 PM PDT by fwdude (It is not the liberals who will destroy this country, but the "moderates.")
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To: Nikas777

The language of faith and truth


27 posted on 09/18/2009 1:20:30 PM PDT by Gaffer
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To: Patrick1

“Aramaic”

Exactly, I didn’t thing that was in dispute.


28 posted on 09/18/2009 1:21:53 PM PDT by traderrob6
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To: BibChr

In a particular kind of plenary inspiration theology, it would. For Jesus to have talked in Aramaic, or Hebrew, and to have that later rendered into a Greek quotation by someone writing a gospel, would be theologically unspeakable!

It’s what happened, though.


29 posted on 09/18/2009 1:22:27 PM PDT by HiTech RedNeck (Unashamed Sarah-Bot.)
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To: fwdude

“If the King’s English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for the children of Texas!”
Ma Ferguson


30 posted on 09/18/2009 1:23:00 PM PDT by tumblindice
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To: HiTech RedNeck; BibChr
You said, if I grok it correctly, Jesus wouldn’t have understood Hebrew spoken in the manner of a living language. No matter that the grammar was there.

No I did not say that. Jesus could make all tongues understood to him if you accept Jesus had holy powers. But Let us suppose Jesus was highly educated without dwelling on his supernatural powers.

Jesus did not bother speaking Hebrew as an everyday language because no one else did. If I speak Latin like a Roman what good does it do me if I go shopping for shoes where everyone speaks English? Jesus's own people did not use it themselves for everyday purposes.

31 posted on 09/18/2009 1:23:27 PM PDT by Nikas777 (En touto nika, "In this, be victorious")
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To: Nikas777
Fair enough.

But even more, it simply shrugs off the rock-solid accounts we have which are (hel-lo?) in GREEK. And it makes no sense of the occasional notes of Aramaic in the records. Why interject these little Aramaic spurts, if that was His characteristic language? There's no deep significance to "Talitha kum" that couldn't have been communicated by korasion, egeire, or some other Greek phrase.

But if He didn't characteristically speak Aramaic in public, these rare little dabs make sense.

32 posted on 09/18/2009 1:23:35 PM PDT by BibChr ("...behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them?" [Jer. 8:9])
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To: Patrick1

“The other question is “does it matter”? The answer would be no.”

I disagree, the more we learn about our Lord the better.


33 posted on 09/18/2009 1:24:00 PM PDT by traderrob6
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To: Patrick1
The other question is “does it matter”? The answer would be no

I have to disagree with you on that one. In order to interpret the Bible it is important to know the language that is being translated into our English Bibles. I like to remind folks that the Bible writers were divinely inspired but the translators were not. So the actual meaning of the words as written in the original language is sometimes different than translated. It matters.

For exanmple, the perrenial argument about the "Peter = Rock" brings the language Jesus spoke into play. The non-Catholic will cite to the Latin word for rock(petra)which is used to raise the issue of whether Jesus was referring to Petras(small) or Petros(large). Since Latin is a romance language words have a male or female version. The change in gender from petras to Petros is to account for the fact that Peter is male.

The Aramaic word for rock is Kefa which has no gender distinction. Thus, in Aramaic when Jesus said "Peter you are Rock and upon this Rock I build my Church" it is clear that he was referring to Peter both times. The Language he spoke is important.

34 posted on 09/18/2009 1:24:55 PM PDT by lawdave
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To: Nikas777
Just for the sake a discussion, the other side: Jesus Spoke Hebrew
by Dr. Roy B. Blizzard, Jr.
http://webbpage.bravehost.com/Yavo/1_2_Bliz_JesusSpokeHebrew.html
35 posted on 09/18/2009 1:28:39 PM PDT by Proverbs 3-5
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To: Nikas777

He has a gift for stating the obvious. Anyone with the least bit of knowledge about Christianity knows that Jesus’ primary language was Aramaic. I suppose the author’s next revelation is that Jesus was male. It really doesn’t matter what language Jesus spoke, but what does matter is knowing the original languages of the Bible, especially Koine, if you are minister. The laity can do very well by using the NASB, NJV, or ESV versions.


36 posted on 09/18/2009 1:29:37 PM PDT by Nosterrex
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To: colorado tanker; BigEdLB
Romans learned two types of Greek.

The educated Romans learned the Attic Greek of Athens which was very difficult and also they and the normal Roman would know the more popular Koine Greek.

If a Roman was wealthy enough his wetnurse was probably Greek and those were the first words he heard.

People don't know this because of the Shakespeare play but Julius Caesar did not say in Latin "Et Tu, Brute?" when Suetonius said Caesar's last words were "Kai sy, teknon?" which is the Greek for "You too, descendent?" or "You too, child?" (It was common gossip in Rome that Brutus was Caesar's illegitemate child).

So in that case you can see that while Latin was used for formal functions, Greek was the language the Romans used for intimate purposes between themselves.

37 posted on 09/18/2009 1:29:49 PM PDT by Nikas777 (En touto nika, "In this, be victorious")
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To: BibChr
Why interject these little Aramaic spurts, if that was His characteristic language?

BECAUSE it was important to the gospel writer (and to God, in using the writer) to report the actual Divine utterances at those times. Aramaic had a separate Jewish theological significance. Certain angels traditionally held to communicate between man and God (no, Christians don't use that system, but I speak of Jewish tradition) could only speak Aramaic.

38 posted on 09/18/2009 1:30:06 PM PDT by HiTech RedNeck (Unashamed Sarah-Bot.)
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To: lawdave

That is a different issue. The Bible is written in Greek and Hebrew. Granted that Hebrew is very similar to Aramaic and that the translation is important. But the translation is from those who wrote the scriptures and wrote quotes from Christ not Christ speaking into a “tape recorder” for example.

My point is that what language he spoke is no more important than his skin or hair color. The message is clear in whatever language.


39 posted on 09/18/2009 1:30:11 PM PDT by Patrick1 (I'm not calling in sick; I'm calling in gone!)
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To: Nikas777

I personally believe that concentrating on matters like this, takes away from the message of WHAT He spoke and not HOW He spoke it.


40 posted on 09/18/2009 1:31:53 PM PDT by Mind Freed (Maybe Obama was the Wright choice... Let's wait till everything Ayers out.)
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To: Nikas777

“Are you ready? Jesus didn’t speak English.”

Anybody see My Fair Lady or Pygmalion? I always laugh at the Higgens line, and I find myself to be one of the very few in the theater who is laughing at that time.

“”Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech: that your native language is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and The Bible; and don’t sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon.”

— Henry Higgins


41 posted on 09/18/2009 1:31:56 PM PDT by Stat-boy
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To: Mind Freed
I personally believe that concentrating on matters like this, takes away from the message of WHAT He spoke and not HOW He spoke it.

Then view this as a discussion on history over theology as I do.

42 posted on 09/18/2009 1:33:22 PM PDT by Nikas777 (En touto nika, "In this, be victorious")
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To: lawdave

Ahem, evangelicals and Protestants (generally believing in the divine inspiration of the original gospel manuscripts) talk about the GREEK not the Latin for “rock.”


43 posted on 09/18/2009 1:33:53 PM PDT by HiTech RedNeck (Unashamed Sarah-Bot.)
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To: RAO1125

he missed two He’s.


44 posted on 09/18/2009 1:35:34 PM PDT by houeto (Long Live the Republic)
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To: Patrick1; lawdave

Scholars thing that the New testament was not translated that it was written in Greek from the start in some cases by fluent speakers in other cases by someone who spoke Greek as badly Ricky Ricardo spoke English. Sorry, for the imagery. I don’t know how but scholars can detect in the word choices someone struggling to find the correct word in Greek from Aramaic.


45 posted on 09/18/2009 1:36:26 PM PDT by Nikas777 (En touto nika, "In this, be victorious")
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To: Nikas777
Very interesting. Thanks!
46 posted on 09/18/2009 1:36:39 PM PDT by colorado tanker (Barack Obama is an old Kenyan word for Jimmy Carter)
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To: colorado tanker
Google "Julius Caesar Kai sy, teknon?" for sources. Here is one http://www.calvin.edu/weblogs/language/comments/hit_the_links/ The famous event that occurred on the Ides of March is of course the assassination of Julius Caesar, and the linguistic event associated with this is the utterance of Caesar’s final words: Et tu, Brute! “You too, Brutus!”. In fact, it may well be that Caesar never uttered these words. As I mentioned in my discussion of The Passion, upper class Romans all knew Greek well. Speeches in the Senate were made in Latin, but ordinary conversation, especially among intimates such as Caesar and Brutus, is believed often to have been in Greek. If Caesar actually said what is attributed to him, the words he used may well have been: καὶ σὺ τέκνον [kai sy, teknon].
47 posted on 09/18/2009 1:39:02 PM PDT by Nikas777 (En touto nika, "In this, be victorious")
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To: BibChr

Fair point.


48 posted on 09/18/2009 1:41:15 PM PDT by Nikas777 (En touto nika, "In this, be victorious")
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To: Nikas777

I don’t mean to say that the Bible was translated into Greek but much of it was written in Greek, though not all, Hebrews in the New Testament and all of the Torah (Old Testament).

My point is that the issue we have now is the translation from the original languages into English. Which has nothing to do with what language Jesus spoke.


49 posted on 09/18/2009 1:41:16 PM PDT by Patrick1 (I'm not calling in sick; I'm calling in gone!)
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To: Patrick1

Understood.


50 posted on 09/18/2009 1:41:56 PM PDT by Nikas777 (En touto nika, "In this, be victorious")
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