Re: What language(s) did Jesus speak?

From: Jack Kilmon (
Date: Fri Feb 28 1997 - 12:39:33 EST

Adrian Popa wrote:
> Micheal Palmer wrote:
> >
> > I am reading Graham Stanton's book, _The Gospels and Jesus_ and saw that he
> > makes the claim (on page 145) that of the ossuaries discovered in the area
> > of Israel dating between the years 200 BC and AD 100, a full two thirds of
> > them have their inscriptions in Greek rather than Hebrew or Aramaic. I have
> > not read Porter's article on the languages used in first-century Palestine,
> > but I don't need convincing that Jesus could have used Greek. My own
> > research has convinced me of that some time ago. My question is whether
> > anyone can verify Stanton's claim. Does Porter deal with this evidence?
> > Where did Stanton get this figure?
> Yes, Porter does consider the inscriptional evidence from burial sites (pp.
> 221-23). Stanton's claim is statistically accurate: 68/70% of all funerary inscriptions
> from the Mediterranean world, and 55-60% from Palestine, are in Greek. At some places,
> such as Beth She'arim, the percentage is even higher (80%). Perhaps this represents the
> level of aquiantance and ability to converse in Greek in the first two centuries of the
> CE. Porter cites van der Horst (whose contribution to this field is substantial) as
> saying,
> if even rabbis and their families phrased their epitaphs
> in Greek, there is only one natural explanation for that
> phenomenon: Greek was the language of their daily lives.
> I would also concur with that.

        That the rabbis (and I assume you are referring to the Pharisees)
and the Sadducees, and the Roman appointed Sadducee High Priest...and
administrators of the Temple, spoke Greek is, I believe, obvious. Those
could afford the expensive funerary style, including ossuaries, would
been from the "upper class" whose exchange with the Romans and Hellenic
Temple necessitated an Hellenic education.

        Jesus, however, hailed from the lower economic, agrarian class of
am ha-Aretz in the Galilee with its cultural division between the
and small villages and the larger Greek-speaking cities such as

        I would think it almost certain that Jesus could "get along" in Greek
as demonstrated by his exchange with Pilatus. His native language,
is evidenced by the dozen or more preserved ARAMAIC phrases that survive
the Greek-speaking Gospel writer, Jerome's Latin and Elizabethan

Jack Kilmon

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