Re: Did Jesus teach in Greek?
An author appeals to an "original" language to heighten the
authority or importance of the text, or of the particular moment of the
text. The claim of the Poimandres text to have been originally written
in Egyptian, or of the Book of Mormon similarly in "Reformed Egyptian
Hieroglyphics" are claims to greater value or authority than
just-plain-Greek or just-plain-English would have been, despite the lack
of either internal or external evidence for such sources.
The use of Aramaic phrases at critical moments by NT authors
constitutes the same kind of claim...even Paul points to the authority
of the "original" Aramaic of the faith with his almost liturgical
exclamation "maran atha". Such Aramaic elements in the Gospels
therefore indicate that the authors are trying to appeal to the
authority of a superior language, namely, the putative language of their
main character. This presumption of Aramaic as Jesus' language can be
considered alongside the claim of "Matthew in Hebrew" as additional
ancient testimony to a belief in Aramaic as Jesus' teaching language.
We cannot be completely certain that Aramaic actually was Jesus'
primary instructional language, though I think the evidence is weighty
in this direction. Neither can we presume on the socio-linguistic
situations to clarify to us which language was used in which situation
in Palestine of the early 1st century. But we can be sure that the NT
authors made appeals to the significance of Aramaic over against Greek.
And unlike the Hermetic author or Joseph Smith these writers cited
several actual expressions to buttress their appeal to "the better
language". One can go further and speculate on a pre-Gospel source for
such quips, perhaps a sayings tradition (has the original language of Q
been determined, for example?), but such efforts are less reliable as
evidence for an already hazily attested topic.
--David N. Wigtil, email@example.com
> Repeatedly the NT
> quotes Jesus and those around him in Aramaic for particularly memorable
> statements: "Amen amen," "Ephphatha," "Talitha koum(i)," "Korban," "Eloi
> eloi (eli eli) lema sebakhthani," "Rabbi/Rabbouni." These phrases are
> all dramatic moments, not merely Aramaic loanwords in a local version
> of Greek, and this fact makes them more likely echoes of original
> sayings rather than sporadic loans.
I'm not sure I follow this part of your argument. Are you distinguishing
between loanwords and words, phrases or sentences that would normally have
been used in a code-switching situation? Such phrases as the above
occurring at "dramatic moments" are, it seems to me, more likely to be
accounted for by your sociolinguistic explanation of code-switching (use
of different languages in different sociolinguistic contexts by
multilingual people) than by positing that Jesus' teaching was regularly
done in Aramaic. The existence of Aramaic at _non-dramatic_ moments would
seem to support the latter explanation.