From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun Nov 03 1996 - 08:41:53 EST

At 6:48 AM -0600 11/3/96, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>Carl Conrad wrote:
>> I see two possibilities here; perhaps there are more. (1) One is that
>> Jonathan is quite right: Luke is using GLWSSA in vs. 11 to mean the same
>> thing as DIALEKTOS in vs. 8. In fact, that may be the case anyway, unless
>> perhaps we understand GLWSSA as the generic word for language and DIALEKTOS
>> as a word for "vernacular" that can overlap in meaning with GLWSSA and
>> therefore sometimes be used synonymously. (2) The other is that all these
>> IOUDAIOI TE KAI PROSHLUTOI from the Jewish Diaspora who are together here
>> in Jerusalem, according to Luke, are in fact not speaking and hearing
>> different LANGUAGES, but different DIALECTS of Koine Greek?
>I don't know anything about the languages spoken at that time. Was Koine
>widespread as a *native* language among Jews? I don't think that a lingua
>franca would be "our own DIALEKTOS", I think it would have to be their
>native language. To what extent were Hebrew and Aramaic the native languages
>of Jews of this period?

Since Louw & Nida is one good rfc work handy at home, I thought it might be
worth while checking it. At #33.1, it says, regarding our vs.:
"Itispossible, though perhaps not probable, that DIALEKTOS in Ac 2:6 may be
understood notonly as a language as such, but as a particular form of
language, and hence would have a meaning of 'manner of speaking' or even
'accent.'" So I guess it really is likely that Luke is using the words
DIALEKTOS and GLWSSA synonymously. A check with Schmoller points to Acts
21:40 (Paul's apologia before the assembled crowd in Jerusalem) THi
hEBRAIDI DIALEKTWi, so also 22:2, 26:14 (of the voice addressing him on the
Damascus road). It would appear then that Paul consistently uses DIALEKTOS
for "language" rather than regional/ethnic dialect of a language that is
more uniform in written form. This is somewhat puzzling to me, however, in
two respects: (1) Is this sense of DIALEKTOS the standard sense in
Hellenistic Greek? I really do wonder. That's for further investigation; at
any rate, Luke appears to be the only NT writer who uses the word; (2) Does
Luke mean Hebrew or Aramaic in these passages? I know that there are those
who hold that Hebrew was a living language at this time and COULD have been
used--but is Paul really LIKELY to have addressed a crowd in Jerusalem in
Hebrew rather than Aramaic? (There's a lively discussion on Ioudaios-L
lately on precisely this question as to whether Hebrew was still spoken in
1st century Palestine as a common language. I have my doubts, but I don't
have any real expertise here. I'm wondering more and more about Luke's
sources of information.

>How much do we know about the languages spoken at this time? I remember
>hearing there was some controversy as to whether Jesus would have taught in
>Koine vs. Aramaic.

Yes, this question is controversial too. Again, I can't honestly claim any
expertise here about what "we" know! But I am increasingly leaning to the
view that Jesus COULD have spoken Koine Greek, whether or not he commonly
did so. How much time did he spend in the Decapolis in his youth? Of course
we really don't know about his youth and perhaps it is very perilous to
speculate, but I think there was plenty of Koine Greek spoken in "Galilee
of the Gentiles" at the time.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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