Re: Jesus Words: Aramaic or Greek?

From: Jack Kilmon (
Date: Thu Sep 03 1998 - 16:29:15 EDT wrote:

> Neil Booth wrote:
> >
> This issue has bothered me as well, and I finally just had to pass on
> it. Greek was the cultural international language, common to all, and
> presumably spoken by Jesus in addition to his native Aramaic. What
> language was spoken by Him to the disciples and/or to the Jews in the
> tabernacles? I do not think anyone really knows. Opinions are
> speculation, some with a longer list of reasons than others. He COULD
> have spoken either, or both, or even mixed his metaphors, as we have a
> little here just recently with the sigmatic Cs.
> So I gave up on that approach, and reminded myself that all we really
> have is a Greek text, and that it will either hang together AS A GREEK
> TEXT, or it won't. [It holds together just fine, imho.] If we assume
> that the 'real' words were Aramaic, then we are lost in the impossible
> task of reconstructing the Aramaic, either literally or in meaning,
> and must disregard the Greek except for its clueful value to the
> Aramaic.

    Jesus lived in a suburb village of Sepphoris, a very Hellenistic andGreek
speaking town. His being a pretty bright feller, I think it's
very safe to assume he had some competence in Greek. We have
no way of knowing how competent. That his native language was
Aramaic is reasonable enough to be almost certain, IMO, and there
is much to point to that conclusion when one reads both Aramaic
and Greek renderings of sayings and idiom. Having said that, however,
the NT was written in Greek and not Hebrew or Aramaic and we cannot
be certain that primary source materials were in Aramaic but may have
been 2nd generation Greek translations. Greek is therefore the
arena for NT exegesis..BUT Aramaic is also important when
examining the sayings traditions. Even then the Aramaic gives us
better information only when there is a loss of idiom between the
Aramaic and the Greek.
    My method is that when I am looking for what the NT author
was trying to say, I look to the Greek. If I am looking for what
Jesus was trying to say, I look to the Aramaic.


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