Knowing what language Jesus spoke allows us to learn more about this impressive spiritual figure, considered the most important of our era, learn more about this topic by reading the following article.
What language did Jesus speak?
In the first years of the first century of our era, the most used languages in the regions where Jesus made his visits were Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin, these four primitive languages today considered dead, represented the form of communication for many inhabitants, some even dominated all four.
These languages were intermingled according to the religious social and ideological condition of each one, in the case of Jesus it has been said that his primary language was Aramaic, since due to his place of residence and birth of his parents, the region of Bethlehem predominated Aramaic. Aramaic.
The official language of the Roman Empire was Latin, considered as the one that every inhabitant who was in that region governed by them should learn.
However, the inhabitants used their native language and Latin was simply for the use of officials or when they conversed with each other, so that it had become a language only for worship. It is not known for sure if Jesus tries to know this language, there are no references.
With regard to the Greek language, it is believed that Jesus could have mastered it, because most of the artisans and peasants of Galilee with whom the Messiah was most related mastered and maintained that language as a habitual form of communication. Generally these peasants and artisans come from the Celtic regions.
In Judea Greek was widely used, and even its influence was so important that 80% of the Bible in its New Testament was originally written in Greek, however in Jerusalem only approximately 20% dominated the Greek language. Likewise, it is difficult to establish whether Jesus dominated the language at the time of his preaching.
What is clear is that Jesus had very little command of the Hebrew language, which was not really considered a language but a kind of communicative form of Semitic language, derived from Aramaic, which was a very widespread language in those regions.
Jesus on some occasions dedicates phrases in Hebrew, even being in the temple or preaching in some synagogue or place where followers who only spoke that dialect congregated, however apart from knowing it, Jesus uses it very rarely in his ordinary conversations.
What is proven is that the language of Jesus of Nazareth was Aramaic, it served as the basis for the communication of the Jews residing throughout Judea, even in the Greek text of the gospels, phrases of Jesus in Aramaic can be seen, such like Corban, gehenna, abba, eloi, Talitha, among others.
The background of the content in the gospels is found in Aramaic, sometimes translated from the Hebrew Semitic language, which was sometimes the language spoken by some settlers, and although the entire New Testament was written in Greek, the syntactic nuance of the Aramaic that is used is interesting. get in the Biblical text.
The words of Jesus described in the Bible gain strength in expression to establish what language Jesus of Nazareth spoke and whether it had any influence on the language used in the New Testament when translated from Greek into Aramaic.
What language did Jesus speak?
Recently, the Prime Minister of Palestine had a meeting with Pope Francis and told him the following: Jesus was on this earth, he spoke and preached in Hebrew, to which Francis replied, “The language of Jesus was Aramaic, but he also knew Aramaic.” Hebrew.
Some people today who make their pilgrimage to the holy land, have the belief and illusion that Jesus spoke the language that the inhabitants of that region currently speak, Hebrew, however it is important to mention that over the years the languages have changing even from the places where they were originally spoken.
Hebrew, for example, is the official language of Israel, and it has been done with the purpose of establishing a single criterion towards the inhabitants of almost the entire Middle East, even bringing about social and political problems, but that is another topic.
During the time of Jesus there were those four languages or linguistic forms that we already named at the beginning, so that Hebrew was the most widely spoken language in Jesus’ time apart from Latin, it is currently considered a living language, despite each language established in the Judea region, belong linguistically to families one from the other, Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic (the most used at that time by the Jews).
Before the arrival of Jesus, Hebrew (which was an almost non-existent form of language) had had a rebound again due to the migration of many day laborers and peasants to Judea, this encourages the group where Jesus took his first steps to know the Hebrew language.
However, his parents Joseph and Mary, due to their Jewish condition, spoke their natural language, Aramaic, dominated by Jesus from a very young age. Furthermore, when he began the development of it, he preached in the temple in Hebrew, which was considered by many to be the sacred language. While in his life routines, Jesus Christ used Aramaic to communicate more fluently.
Aramaic and Hebrew were classical and original languages of the different peoples of Judea and its surroundings, however the Romans tried to establish Latin as a primary language in all the regions they ruled.
The Romans found it impossible to implement Latin in those regions since each one had the primary domain of Aramaic and Hebrew, in some cases they got people who spoke Greek, which was not native to the region but rather brought from cultures hellenic
Prior to this during the 8th century BC. C. the official language in many important kingdoms and regions was Hebrew, which was only used by rulers and kings, while the people used Aramaic, despite the differences, Aramaic was a more civilized and flexible language, where they could express nuances and stories more fluently.
At the time of Jesus there were the so-called Targum or Targumim, which were translators from Hebrew to Aramaic and vice versa, who dedicated themselves solely and exclusively to translating into Aramaic all the information related to the religious beliefs that were carried out in the temple. and the small synagogues.
The most important reference we have about the language that Jesus spoke is when Pilate ordered a sign to be nailed to the top of the cross where Jesus was, where it was supposedly written in the three most important languages of the region: Greek, Latin and Hebrew. the word “Jesus King of the Jews.”
Latin was not dominated by Jesus, it was considered the language of the Roman invaders, and it was not used frequently, this information is corroborated by the historian Flavio Josefo in his various historical descriptions of the time.
No speech of Jesus was made in a language other than Hebrew or Aramaic, there are no references that he said any prayer, prayer or speech in Greek and much less in Latin (which is proven he never tried to use it).
Bilingual or polyglot
Some events where Jesus was involved are yet to be verified, his miracles and deeds have led many researchers to conduct studies in order to consider their veracity, the same thing happens with the language he spoke.
In those times the Hebrew language was used only by scholars and was generally used to carry out the sacred writings, in the case of common Jews their tendency was to use the common language among the people, this was Aramaic, so it follows that Jesus used this language language in his routine life.
The Arabic language did not reach Palestine until the 4th or 5th century of our era, so it was unlikely that Jesus spoke that language, as some have tried to make out, the rest of the languages that were established in Judea were also common but not majority, such as Greek and Latin.
It is then deduced what language Jesus spoke and it is believed that he mastered only two languages, Aramaic as the first basic language and Hebrew when he went to preach or was in the temple and some mosques, his disciples also used Aramaic, because it was the most common and popular in Jerusalem.
We could say that it was unlikely that Jesus spoke in other languages, but if it is considered to think that he was bilingual, since he was fluent in two languages and what is not known is that he could have spoken Latin, nor is it known that he knew Greek, but I didn’t write it or speak it use it.
Was he illiterate?
Some historians have tried to verify that Jesus, like Mohammed, was illiterate, however it seems unlikely that the Rabbi of Galilee could not know the Hebrew or Aramaic script, there are references about Jesus arriving at the temple in Jerusalem and reading some phrases of the sacred word in Hebrew, then it is also believed that he made writings on the floor and walls to make the apostles understand about certain metaphors.
Historians make reference to the illiteracy of Jesus with respect to Greek and Latin, there is a great possibility that Jesus could not handle these two languages because of the following:
- Latin was a language of rejection towards the Roman invaders.
- The education received by Jesus was never carried out in a language other than Hebrew. He even learned some things that were reported in Aramaic.
The cities near Jordan, such as Decapolis, had Greek as their main language, so when he arrived in that region he had to have understood something in Greek. It would be difficult to know if Jesus was illiterate considering the biblical references.
In John’s account he explains that Jesus wrote in the dust, bone on the floor, showing that he could have written in Hebrew or Aramaic, but there is no other reference that indicates whether Jesus wrote in their natural languages, but there is also no reference that can determine if truly the Son of God was illiterate.
We know then that the history of languages in the Middle East has been changing through the years, the Persians, the Arabs, Muslims, Hebrews, Christian Jews, Pharisees, Romans, have passed through this territory, not counting the latest activities of in recent years where the Israelis have settled, and have tried to establish Hebrew as a basic language in the Middle East.
Currently, the language and beliefs existing in Jerusalem have nothing to do with the way of life that develops in that region, the language that Jesus spoke is no longer present in that region, many tourists think that even today the language tradition endures in Jerusalem.
Let us remember that this city has been invaded many times, has been the protagonist of many wars and has been destroyed several times, traditions have changed from the time of Jesus to date. It would be impossible to try to find cultural situations and traditions that existed in the early years of the first century.
Finally, it is important to note that in the time of Jesus it is proven that the most widely spoken languages were, in this order, Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin, currently in the entire Middle East region various languages and languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, English, Persian and French.
It is remarkable the changes that occurred in the region and despite the fact that the Romans dominated for many years in the entire area of Jordan and Judea, Latin did not position itself as a main and relevant language, many think of its hostile and invasive behavior, it did not allow to establish its culture and its traditions, much less the language.
For its part, the Greek language that Jesus did know but apparently never practiced spread widely in the Lower East, and even had a lot of resistance from the Jews, who claimed that
“Whoever teaches his son Greek is cursed just like he who eats pork.”
However, one of its great sages named Gamaliel, who was also a teacher of Paul the apostle, learned and knew this language, even speaking Greek was considered impure and was only used by rich people and position, hence Paul of Tarsus never he used knowing that he knew him.
Emilly Stefan The Fear lab was an American author of young adult novels, most known for her fantasy series, Age of the Seventh Sun.