Re: What language(s) did Jesus speak?

From: Jack Kilmon (
Date: Mon Mar 03 1997 - 13:04:43 EST

Perry L. Stepp wrote:

> My questions hinge on whether or not there was a single lingua franca for
> Jesus and people in his circle. I think Jesus and his audience probably
> had roughly *equal* facility with Greek and Aramaic.

Good Morning Rev. Stepp.

        I believe your position was held by A.W.Argyle (Did Jesus Speak
Greek? Expos. Times 67, pp 92-93) and the debate continued in that fine
journal for quite a while with Wilson, Russell, Draper, and others. I
the key word here is "audience." The position would hold that the
underclass (the am ha-aretz) of the Galilee had equal facility in Greek.
Ossuary inscriptions are not evidence since the stone ossuaries
in the archaeological data are those of the economic "upper class" and
also, in the majority, from the 2nd century. I must still hold that any
position for primary or equal status of Greek..or even Mishnaic Hebrew..
among the ordinary people of the Galilee must contend with the Aramaic

> 1.) I have been around a few truly bilingual cultures (I grew up among
> Mexican-Americans in New Mexico and Texas). The Hispanic kids I grew up
> with didn't have a first or second language--they simply had two languages,
> both of which they grew up speaking and reading in and out of the home.
> This is the type of culture Jesus grew up in.

        I don't know if that is an accurate analogy, Perry. The agrarian
and working class Galileans were natives of the Galilee and not
highly by Diaspora Jews, as far as I am aware. A more accurate analogy
be an English speaking Texan in the Mexican countryside rather than an
Hispanic immigre in Texas. In that scenario you would find the majority
of the campasinos (am ha-Aretz) speaking Spanish (Aramaic) only. Your
(Greek) would be widely understood in Mexico City (Sepphoris).

> 2.) Greek was the language of the early church. Nowhere is there specific
> evidence of any competition between Greek and Hebrew or Greek and Aramaic
> (with the exception of Papias's cryptic assertion re. Mt and the LOGIA.)
> If there is no early Christian lit that isn't in Greek, and if Greek
> language and culture was as pervasive as Hengel argues, then how is one to
> argue that Jesus and his audience couldn't have had great facility with
> Greek?

        Greek was the language of the Asian Hellenistic founders of
and the Gospel authors, editors and redactors..but not the language of
followers and family that Y'shua left behind. Neither Y'shua, nor the
nor the family (desposynoi) were Christians. There is ample evidence
these Greek speaking gentiles used semitic source material that
>from oral..or written...traditions from the Yeshuine Jews (N'tzarim).

Min dāLA rokHEM lāmaRAN yeSHUa meshyCHA niheYAH. maRAN aTHA


Jack Kilmon
Houston, Tx

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