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
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.
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.