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Did Jesus Speak Aramaic or Greek?

  • January 18, 2019
  • By Ben van Noort
  • 6 Comments
Did Jesus Speak Aramaic or Greek?

 

Did Jesus Speak Aramaic or Greek?

Do Christians own the actual words of Jesus? Or are they only translations?


The Impact of the Aramaic Theory

What does the Bible say about the original language of Jesus?
There are three historical aspects that show the importance of the subject.

1. If Jesus spoke Aramaic, we have to face the fact that we do not have the original words of Jesus in the Greek Gospels. That would be a serious loss, wouldn’t it?
2. If Jesus spoke Aramaic we have to acknowledge that there are no Aramaic documents found (not a scrap!) from which our Greek Gospels would have been translated. That’s pretty odd, isn’t it?
3. It was the four Semitic sayings in the Gospels that brought scholars to the conclusion that Jesus would have spoken Aramaic with his disciples and the people.


The Semitic Sayings of Jesus

Aramaic as the supposed language of Jesus is not as logic as it seems. In Jesus’s Semitic sayings, the conjugations of the main verbs cannot be defined as exclusive Aramaic.

“Talitha kum!” (which translated means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”) NASB, Mark 5:41
Kum (in some old versions Kumi) has the same form and meaning in Hebrew and Aramaic: get up, arise!

“Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” NASB, Mark 7:34 Ephphatha is the Greek script for the Hebrew word Hiphphatha. Compare the name of Hiskiah (Hebrew), is in Greek: Ezekiah (Matthew 1:9, 10). Hiphphatha does not occur in Aramaic (neither Ephphatha), and is a Hebrew form: niphal (passive) imperative “Be opened!”

“Sabachthani” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34) is from the Aramaic verb Sebach, which is usual as a loanword in Mishnaic Hebrew (ca. 200 BC-200 AD). Here the conjugation is Hebrew Sabachtha (You have forsaken). In Aramaic it is Sebachtha.

It is important to realize that “Why has you forsaken me?” was said two times. Once against the ninth hour (Matthew), and thereafter at the ninth hour (Mark).

Also important is that Jesus at the cross cried out to God: Eli (Matthew) and Eloï (Mark), which are both Hebrew forms for God. In Aramaic it would be Elaï.

It is noteworthy that these grammatical points actually falsify the Aramaic
theory.


Summary

There are only some Aramaic loanwords in Jesus’s Semitic sayings, but it goes too far to state that the Semitic sayings of Jesus are real Aramaic sayings. They are not.
1. The verbal conjugations are in no way proof for Jesus’s supposed Aramaic language.
2. Loanwords as Talitha (little girl), sebach (leave), lema (why) are also not enough to conclude for Jesus’s supposed Aramaic language.
The Semitic sayings of Jesus are Hebrew with some Aramaic loanwords.


Languages mentioned on the Cross

– Hebrew, for the higher Jewish social layers in society of Judea.: the well to do and leading Jewish community. This Hebrew was practiced by Jewish families who wanted to preserve the knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures.
– Latin, used by the Romans who occupied the country.
– Greek, the third language on the cross, and spoken by the lower social layers of the Jewish population (Acts 6:1). In Greek, Jesus preached to this lowest social groups, the lost sheep of Israel. 


Finally

The unshakable truth is: Jesus spoke Greek in his teaching and in that language his words are also preserved. Yes, we own His actual words.

By Ben van Noort, January 18, 2019
  • 6
6 Comments
  • Jo
    January 7, 2020

    Jesus spoke Aramaic. A few days after the 1967 war, a young soldier made an important discovery – Aramaic coins on a site where Jesus would have spent His time growing up. It’s important to look at and examine secular history as well as archaeology to get a far better picture of what was really going on towards the birth of Christ and after. It is far too arrogant to claim that Jesus spoke only Greek and that the first record of the gospels was in Greek. Jesusspokearamaic.com has an expansive history on the whole subject, and it is far more plausible than what you have written on your website.

    • Ben van Noort
      January 30, 2020

      Hi
      To know what language Jesus spoke, we have in the first place the task to fairly examine the semitic sayings of Jesus above all other evidence. Some aramaic words in them are not enough. Only the conjugations of the verbforms must be conclusive. They are not Aramaic, but Hebrew. And by that, the case is closed. That is not arrogance but logic. It means that Jesus spoke Hebrew sometimes as many Jews did at that time to learn from the Torah in the Hebrew language. Aramaic was certainly not spoken as the common language of Galilee, it was a Greek speaking region.

  • Brad
    December 19, 2021

    When Yahshua identified himself to Paul after knocking him to the ground and blinding him on the road to Damascus, he identified himself by speaking his name to Paul in the Hebrew tongue according to this verse in:

    “Acts 26:14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto
    me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is
    hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he
    said, I am Yahshua  whom thou persecutest.”

    • Ben van Noort
      January 30, 2022

      Hi Brad,
      Point 1. You used the name Yeshua or Yashua for Jesus. Maybe sometimes this name was used in Jesus’s time, according to the example of Yeshua the great leader after Moses. However, this Hebrew name is never mentioned in the New Testament and also not in this conversation between Jesus and Paul.
      Point 2. It is true that Jesus called Paul here Saul, his Hebrew name, instead of Saulus, his Greek name. But this is not proof that Jesus and Saul had here a conversation in Hebrew or in Aramaic. There is simply not enough evidence to suppose so.

  • srm4649
    January 22, 2022

    If Jesus spoke Hebrew, how could He not, and Aramaic as the common dialect this seems reasonable. That He would speak Greek, when His entire family was Hebrew seems like a bridge WAY too far. With that said, in Mathew 16/18 He co NOT use the word ‘church’. How could not have used the word Church? The Bible was written by the State of Rome, why would they celebrate that Jesus came to Govern and Judge the Prince of this world, “the Governments of the world will be upon His shoulders.” The Romans created the first ‘shadow’ Government for the world, The Church was ruled from Rome with apologies to Constantine and Alexandria. Jesus said, “where ever two or more are gathered….” Doesn’t this imply that He is everywhere all the time. “Who will believe?” So my question is what was the Hebrew word Jesus used in this verse. Cleary, he couldn’t have used a Greek word. Could He have used the word Knesset? And isn’t a Knesset a form of Government? Based upon living in our time in History where Fiction rules the day, it seems to me there is NO fiction or confusion in this verse IF you replace the word Church, with the Hebrew word Knesset. Fast forward to 1776 and the resulting debate that our Founders separated Church from State, another fiction, but a very skillful ploy by the enemy of God’s 2nd born. I’m no authority. But I can’t believe Jesus was a secret Greek preaching in the Temple.
    Apologies to any that takes this as “gospel”, it is not. It’s a question, with a possible answer.

    • Ben van Noort
      January 30, 2022

      Hi SRM 4649.
      Why would Jesus not speak in Greek to the people? In Jerusalem Jesus spoke to Pilate, certainly not in Hebrew or Aramaic, but in Greek.
      The first Christians in Jerusalem got a problem because there were Greek speaking Jewish Christians and Hebrew speaking Christians. The first group were the poor people and they could not provide enough food for their widows, while the second group was the richer group who had enough food for their widows. Then the apostles decided to appoint deacons to provide what was necessary for the poor widows. You can read that in Acts 6.
      Conclusion. Many people in Jerusalem spoke Hebrew and Greek.
      Jesus could certainly speak Greek. He spoke with the centurion of Kafarnaum about the healing of his slave. Certainly in Greek. The gospels are given us in Greek.
      So Jesus could indeed speak about the Church with the Greek term Ekklèsia. That is the gathering of the people in a city (especially the men). At that time politics was the privilege of men.

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