What language was Jesus most at home with?

by fulltimestudent 45 Replies latest jw friends

  • fulltimestudent

    Our former loving brothers and sisters have been instructed to think that, Jesus likely spoke a form of Hebrew and a form of Aramaic. (Aid to Bible Understanding-103-105)

    Of course, there is no way to demonstrate the truth of that assertion or any other assertion about the languages that the common people of the land spoke. But, historically we can demonstrate what languages are more likely to have been used.

    We do know that in 332 BCE, a Greek army commanded by Alexander the Great marched through Palestine (after beseiging Tyre), beginning centuries of Greek influence and political control. By the time of Jesus political control had been ceded to Rome and soldiers speaking Latin controlled the a land, but Greek culture and language seemed to have remained prevalent. This is demonstrated when, a few centuries later the Eastern Roman Empire, with its capital located at Constantinople, used Greek as its language.

    So what about the claim in the Aid book? Ex-witnesses may be interested in the arguments of a scholar G.Scott Gleaves (Dean and Associate Professor, Kearley Graduate School of Theology, Faulkner) in this essay:

    Did Jesus Speak Greek?


    He argues - Contrary to contemporary scholarship, I find that Greek was more widely used in both written and oral form by Jesus, his disciples, and the Jews who inhabited first-century Palestine. Interestingly, the evidence reveals that Greek became the dominant language spoken among Jews and Gentiles in Galilee in the first century CE.

  • CalebInFloroda

    Actually it can be easily demonstrated what language was spoken in first century Israel.

    Being Jewish and having had ancestors living in Jerusalem at the time, I know from our history and records what language we spoke.

    There was also something very famous known as Targumim. Becuase most my ancestors could not speak or read Biblical Hebrew they had to use this paraphrase of Scripture.

    There were many records, Jewish and otherwise that describe the language they spoke. That language of history and the Targums? Aramaic.

    If we did not speak Aramic, how did the Targumim and these records come about? Who forged Jewish diaspora history to say otherwise? If Jesus spoke Greek, which Greek did he speak? Koine? Attic? How about Jewish Greek? There is such a thing...but it wasn't spoken in the first century.

    If Jesus spoke Greek, why did Papias say the first Gospel was composed in Hebrew characters (Aramaic was written using the Hebrew alphabet)? Why go from Greek to Aramaic to Greek again?

    Besides, Greek was not spoken by Romans. Latin was. Greek was reserved only for writing.

    Maybe I'm wrong, but it is what all other etymologists and philologists teach when you ask them.

  • Village Idiot
    Village Idiot
    Only the intellectual elite, like scholars, who could afford a broad education are likely to have spoken Greek.
  • Mephis

    The answers to the nine questions he raises really don't present a challenge to the current consensus about this. Greek was the language of the educated elite, even in Roman society Greek was the culture and language of aspiration. That does not translate into it being the common language of every day discourse - any more than the use of Latin or French or English by other cultural elites meant that either. As a simple example, what was the language of the Jewish revolt of 66 - 70 AD? At a time when coins were mass media for propaganda, this isn't Greek.

  • SecretSlaveClass
    He spoke English - I know because it's what he speaks in all the movies about him. Just like people from other planets all speak English in the movies.
  • Vidiot
    Fluent "guru".
  • Saintbertholdt
    What language was Jesus most at home with?

    That is a tough question.

    Well the language Jesus would have been most at home with was the language he grew up with during his formative years. Now according to the gospels Jesus, Mary and Joseph fled for Egypt when he was an infant. How long did they stay there? In the Gospel of the Infancy it is stated three years; in the History of Joseph one year; in Tatian's Harmony seven years ; by Epiphanius two years. Athanasius makes Jesus four years old when He came from Egypt; Baronius eight years.

    The average time of all of the above is 4.1 years.

    At approximately 2 years of age, a child's ability to use language suddenly increases rapidly. The size of the vocabulary increases and they begin to string words together in short sentences. The ability to represent objects, people and events through language, develops at about the same time as representation in children's imitation, play and other actions. While representation is not required in uttering simple individual words, it is necessary for organizing words into simple statements.

    So I would have to say Egyptian... definitely Egyptian.

  • Saintbertholdt
    Footnote: Jesus being most comfortable with Egyptian might explain a lot regarding his relationship with his disciples. Many times the gospels refer to the fact that Jesus was not understood correctly. If one considers the above logic it is quite obvious that Jesus might have spoken with a heavy Egyptian accent, making his sermons and speeches much more difficult to understand. His use of obscure parables might also be explained in the fact that he had an Egyptian background. The gospels many times do not agree about what Jesus said in specific instances, and this might also be explained in the fact that the disciples could not make out what he was saying. By doing a comparative study of the synoptic gospels it is clear that at some point Jesus' disciples at least tried to compare notes.
  • CalebInFloroda

    After the Hellenization of Egypt under Alexander the Great, Egypt began speaking Coptic. So by the first century no one was speaking Egyptian in Egypt anymore.

    However, it is not likely that Joseph would have relocated his family among Gentiles. It is likely that he moved his family to one of the bustling Jewish communities in Egypt, communities that wrote and taught Jewish Greek but spoke...Aramaic.

  • CalebInFloroda

    If I may add, Jews have a long history of holding onto Hebrew in one form or another.

    In the first century it was Aramaic, which was a mishmash with ancient Hebrew.

    Ashkenazi Jews currently utilize Yiddish which has its Hebrew mixed with Polish and German.

    I'm a Sephardic Jew, and I speak Ladino, a mixture of Castillian Spanish and Arabic swirled around with Hebrew.

    We always kept our Hebrew intact, despite the introduction of other languages as the ages passed. Today I also speak a form of American English dotted with Yiddish, Ladino, and Hebrew, so who knows what this will be called in the future if it gets gelled any further.

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