Re: What language(s) did Jesus speak?

From: Adrian Popa (
Date: Fri Feb 28 1997 - 15:28:58 EST


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

I would find it difficult to believe that, of all the funerary inscriptions in
Palestine, which are available to us, 50-65% are those of well-to-do rabbis and
Saducees. There must have been quite a lot of them around -- even as much as 80% in one
place (according to the inscriptions from Beth She'arim in western Galilee). <g>

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

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

The question is not whether Jesus' native language was Aramaic or not, but whether he
was fluent enough in Greek to be able to teach/speak in least some of the
time. Admitedly, it is hard to know 'when' he did so. But Porter mentions a few
possibilities, e.g., Jesus' conversation with Pilate, with other Greek speakers, and
with Peter at Caesarea. I would personally take a minimalist view; an exclusivist one
looks rather untenable.

Adrian Popa

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