Re: What language(s) did Jesus speak?

From: Jack Kilmon (
Date: Fri Feb 28 1997 - 17:09:03 EST

Adrian Popa wrote:
> Jack,
> > 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.

        Jesus spent the majority of his mainly unchronicled life as one of
the sons of a "builder" with each of the boys probably speciallizing is
some craft of artificing. There was a lot of work to be found in the
probably including nearby Sepphoris. Greek was the language of
He speaks to Romans, including Pilatus; to some of the Hellenistic
of the temple cult. Almost certainly, he had a working grasp of Greek.
        He is recorded reading the scriptures (in Hebrew) and certainly is
familiar with scriptural and pseudepigraphal writings.
        His sermons to the "common folk" among whom he moved and spoke
would have been in would his interchange with his family
friends. In short, I would pose that he was trilingual but at home in
his native Middle Aramaic which also was probably ornamented with Greek
"loan words."


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