What language did Jesus speak?

Abrahamic religion, you know, the one with the cross...

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What language did Jesus speak?

#1  Postby Apollonius » Feb 26, 2010 1:47 pm

(Spinoff from a separate thread)

Someone convince me there is a good chance that Jesus and his merry crew spoke something besides Aramaic.

I know the Roman occupiers spoke Greek, but Jesus was from the sticks, and he worked rural areas that had no reason to learn Greek. It's not like the Romans were out in the sticks following them around or running the towns, they weren't.

The Romans left governing to locals, and would send in people at times of suspected turmoil, like Passover.
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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#2  Postby dylan » Feb 26, 2010 3:26 pm

American English? :roll:
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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#3  Postby Quantal » Feb 26, 2010 3:46 pm

Apollonius wrote:Someone convince me there is a good chance that Jesus and his merry crew spoke something besides Aramaic.


There seems a reasonable chance that they would also have had some familiarity with the Greek Septuigent (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Septuagint), but the Gospel depicts Christ speaking Aramaic, at least some of the time. John's Gospel is traditionally attributed to the disciple John and that of course is written in simple Koine Greek and shows familiarity with Greek philosophy of the day.
Last edited by Quantal on Feb 26, 2010 4:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#4  Postby Wiðercora » Feb 26, 2010 4:01 pm

Pulled this from Wikipedia:

"Most scholars believe that the historical Jesus primarily spoke Aramaic [...] if he was knowledgeable of the Hebrew Bible, the implication is knowledge of Biblical Hebrew [...] and if he was a carpenter, he may have known some Koine Greek through commerce because Greek was the lingua franca of the eastern part of the Mediterranean Basin [...]."
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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#5  Postby jerome » Feb 26, 2010 4:15 pm

However, I have noticed one thing in my wanderings through the Gospels which hardly ever gets mentioned, but seems apparent to any casual reader.
I think Jesus spoke Koine, a Greek language.

Now i know very little about linguistics, so I'm happy to be shot down. I would not post this here is I was not willing to be critiqued! It strikes me as quit obvious, so I'm almost certainly wrong...

To explain briefly --
In the period, there are three key languages we need to concern ourselves with.

Koine is the lingua franca of the Eastern Roman Empire. The Life of Brian aside, Roman soldiers by my understanding would be correcting your grammar on "Romans go the the house" in Koine not Latin?

Hebrew is primarily used as a sacred, liturgical language. Jesus knew it, because he often uses it in quotations apparently - Biblical Scholars who know the language attest to this. I seem to recall teh final cry on the cross "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" is in a mix of Aramaic and Hebrew?

Finally there is Aramaic. This is the common spoken language of the area. Jesus and his disciples speak with rustic Galilean accents, making them stand out in Jerusalem, as we know from evidence in the Gospels.

Now my question, and it is a very obvious one. All the Gospels are written in Greek. If all Jesus's words were in Aramaic, why were certain phrases and not others translated across the gospels???

So we have "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" - Mark 15:33-34
Talithi cumi "wake up little girl" - Mark 5:41

I think there are other examples - two will suffice. My question is, if you are translating all the saying from Aramaic, why would you choose on some ocasions to offer the actual words, and a translation? Is it not entirely possible Jesus actually frequently taught in Koine Greek, and therefore when he spoke in Aramaic it was worthy of remark?

I'm mildly curious about this, and having not much work on thought I'd ask, as you chaps and chapesses all seem to know your stuff. No knowledge of Bib Crit is required here - it seems to be just a common sense thing. So any suggestions?

j x
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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#6  Postby Apollonius » Feb 26, 2010 5:42 pm

So far assumptions that he spoke Greek are just assumptions.

From my study guide that came with a video course by Bart Erhman-

-It is clear that he spoke Aramaic..that is multiply attested..
-The gospels indicate that Jesus could read the scriptures in Hebrew ... and that he eventually became known an interpreter of them...
-No traditions specifically indicate that Jesus spoke Greek, although some historians have surmised that living in Gaililee, where Greek was widely known, he may have learned some.
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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#7  Postby Onyx8 » Feb 26, 2010 5:52 pm

Has someone invited Tim?
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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#8  Postby TimONeill » Feb 26, 2010 10:10 pm

Onyx8 wrote:Has someone invited Tim?


I kept getting summoned. I feel like some kind of genie.

It's pretty clear he would have spoken Aramaic and probably could read and speak Hebrew. That he wouldn't have been able to speak any Greek at all is actually highly unlikely. Jesus came from Galilee - a region that Judean Jews to the south referred to scornfully as "Galilee of the Gentiles" because of its high non-Jewish, Greek-speaking population. Even if Jesus came from a wholly Jewish, Aramaic-speaking village, he lived in an area where the majority of the population spoke Greek as a first language.

The gospels also depict Jesus having a conversation with Pontius Pilate. For this scene to be plausible (leaving aside whether it's historical), it must have been regarded as likely they shared a language. The idea that Jesus spoke Latin is pretty unlikely and it's equally unlikely Pilate spoke any (or much) Aramaic. The most likely language they could have in common is Greek.
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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#9  Postby Kiwi » Feb 26, 2010 10:22 pm

/humour on
Surely He would have spoken any language He wanted or needed to, even Cobol
/humour off
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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#10  Postby Bengt » Feb 26, 2010 11:56 pm

Even... Klingon?
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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#11  Postby Sityl » Feb 27, 2010 12:37 am

Apollonius wrote:So far assumptions that he spoke Greek are just assumptions.


:offtopic: but I couldn't resist.

So far assumptions that he existed are just assumptions.
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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#12  Postby Lucid Anomaly » Feb 27, 2010 12:52 pm

I don't know... for the story of Jesus to last for such a long time, I assume it would make more sense that He had lived at one point. But I suppose that is only mere speculation :whistle:
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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#13  Postby Crocodile Gandhi » Feb 27, 2010 12:54 pm

Gibberish. Most of the time, at least.
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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#14  Postby jerome » Feb 27, 2010 1:38 pm

Crocodile Gandhi wrote:Gibberish. Most of the time, at least.


:)

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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#15  Postby Peter Brown » Feb 27, 2010 2:03 pm

Jesus seems to have been intelligent; no reason to say he wasn’t multi lingual with his first language being whatever his parents spoke at home.
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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#16  Postby Elena » Feb 27, 2010 2:19 pm

Crocodile Gandhi wrote:Gibberish. Most of the time, at least.

Spoke in tongues, maybe?
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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#17  Postby Corneel » Feb 27, 2010 4:49 pm

I think that the question alone betrays a certain modern day bias. The idea of largely monolingual societies where you learn foreign languages in school is a modern Western construct. My experiences in Africa showed me that in societies where many different cultures and languages intermingle it is not that rare for even fairly uneducated people to speak several languages. That doesn't necessarily mean that they were able to write and read in those languages or even able to express complex ideas in each of those languages, it might even mean that their mothertongue was a language of which there was no written version and wasn't apt for philosophical or religious discourse, for which another language might be used.
I met people who spoke:
- (Guinea) French (official education), Guerzé (native language), Malinké (trade language in region of origin), Sousou (language of capital region) and a smathering of English and Spanish (working with foreign employers)
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- (Rwanda) French (official), Kinyarwanda (native), Kiswahili and a smathering of English

Most Africans I met spoke at least two languages and in general three or even four. I think the situation in 1st Century Palestine is best compared to such societies. So I think it would not be all that surprising if Jesus spoke Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek and might have literacy in Hebrew.
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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#18  Postby Alan B » Feb 27, 2010 5:52 pm

So we have the possibility that he spoke all of these:

1. Aramaic - almost definitely (in his local dialect)
2. Hebrew - almost definitely (he could read and discuss the Torah)
3. Koine Greek - quite likely (the language of commerce of the day)
4. Latin - maybe (if the Roman soldiers were from Rome - he had to understand what they were saying)
5. And possibly - and I don't know the language - the language the Roman employed soldiers spoke since someone said in another place that the soldiers were recruited from the local surrounding regions. (Now I wonder who that could have been? :) )

Being an educated man, and bearing in mind Corneel's post above, he could have spoken all five.
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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#19  Postby TimONeill » Feb 27, 2010 8:19 pm

Alan B wrote:
4. Latin - maybe (if the Roman soldiers were from Rome - he had to understand what they were saying)


The soldiers stationed in his neck of the woods were auxiliaries recruited locally, not Latin-speaking legionaries. They would have been Greek-speaking Syrians

5. And possibly - and I don't know the language - the language the Roman employed soldiers spoke since someone said in another place that the soldiers were recruited from the local surrounding regions. (Now I wonder who that could have been? :) )


Me, probably.
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Re: What language did Jesus speak?

#20  Postby Alan B » Feb 27, 2010 9:48 pm

TimONeill wrote:
Alan B wrote:
4. Latin - maybe (if the Roman soldiers were from Rome - he had to understand what they were saying)


The soldiers stationed in his neck of the woods were auxiliaries recruited locally, not Latin-speaking legionaries. They would have been Greek-speaking Syrians

Well, that would reduce down to a possible three: Aramaic, Hebrew & Greek.

TimONeill wrote:Me, probably.

I had my suspicions. :cheers:
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