The Language(s) of Jesus

Although I thought I was fairly conversant with the ins and outs of the
arguments concerning the language(s) of Jesus, it occurred to me in the
current discussion to ask what is the earliest clear elaim that has been
preserved regarding Jesus' language? John 20 has him being addressed "in
Hebrew" as Rabboni, but does not comment on what he spoke; similarly,
the famous passage from Papias about Matthew collecting/organizing the
logia "in Hebrew" does not seem to be making a direct statement about
the language of Jesus. (I realize the ranges of ambiguity in ancient
statements about "Hebrew" in relation to what we call "Aramaic".) But
when does the precise question of what language(s) Jesus spoke come into
focus? Would most of the early readers of the Jesus traditions
(canonical or not) assume he spoke Greek? (Note, e.g., passages such as
in John 7, where it is asked whether Jesus would go to the Greeks to
teach them.) I'm guessing that maybe Origen has something to say on such
matters, but I haven't attempted to check that. But I do wonder,
methodologically, how sound it is to suggest -- as most of us tend to do
-- that the "default" category for Jesus is Aramaic (until proved
otherwise). I would think the "default" is Greek, and that it is on the
basis of bits of evidence and arguments (which always need to be
reassessed), such as talitha kumi, amen, the word from the cross, etc.,
that the argument for something other than Greek is made, by Dalman in
his day, and by us in ours.

Bob Kraft, UPenn