Friday, August 3, 2012

What language did Jesus speak?

It is generally agreed that Jesus spoke Galilean Aramaic,what scholars call Jewish Palestinian Aramaic.It is also hypothesized that he also spoke Hebrew and even some Greek and Latin.

At the time Aramaic was a major language and a lingua franca among the population in the Near East.It was widely spoken in Palestine even among the Jews which had long become their primary language,the langauge of the people.By that time Hebrew was only the language of the elite mainly for religious purposes.

In the New Testament ,the Greek original,there are some utterances of Jesus in Aramaic which is clear evidence  about his native tongue.

Jesus grew up in Galilea,a region where  many cultures existed and many languages were spoken.But Aramaic and Hebrew were not the only ones spoken by the local population.Around Nazareth ,especially in the city of Sephoris lived the Greek-speaking Gentiles.So Jesus might have picked up some Greek.Latin was the official language of the region being under Roman occupation.

Talmud Yerushalmi

The main work that survives in Galilean Aramaic is the Jerusalem Talmud written in 2 A.D.. in Israel.It is older than the Babylonian Talmud by 2 centuries.Other important texts in the dialect are early works of Kabbalah.

Linguistically it belongs to West Aramaic related more closely to Samaritan and Christian Palestine.

Nowadays in Israel some efforts are being made to revive the language that Jesus spoke.
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