Before we are able to pick out which languages Jesus spoke, we want to recognise what languages have been spoken in first-century Palestine.
Here are the 3 languages:
Aramaic have been broadly spoken for the reason that Babylonian exile.
Since the invasion of Alexander the Great, Greek have been spoken in lots of communities.
The Hebrew Bible—the Scriptures of Jesus’s day—changed into written and studied in Hebrew (because the call implies).
Each language had its very own function. Some have been used handiest for writing, at the same time as others have been used for talking in everyday conversation. If you have been accomplishing commercial enterprise transactions or global alternate, you'll probable use nevertheless different languages.
What approximately Jesus?
To find out the language Jesus spoke, we want to have a look at the 3 maximum not unusualplace languages determined in first-century Palestine: Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. We’ll search for clues approximately who spoke every language—and spot which languages Jesus knew.
Who Spoke Greek?
Greek have been spoken in Palestine for hundreds of years previous to the time of Jesus.
In fact, there have been Greeks in Israel as early because the 8th century BC, and Greek pottery has been determined relationship to the 6th century BC.1
Still, wallet of Greek have an effect on remained nicely into the primary century. In Galilee, the vicinity in which Jesus spent tons of his lifestyles and ministry, Greek changed into spoken in Beit She'an (Scythopolis) and the opposite towns of the Decapolis. It changed into additionally spoken in Sepphoris, a metropolis close to Nazareth.
Even in regions in Galilee in which Greek lifestyle did now no longer dominate—like Capernaum—Greek have an effect on changed into nevertheless felt. This is due to the fact the place of Galilee lay on alternate routes to Damascus and elsewhere. Greek, as a language of global trade and alternate, changed into spoken via way of means of people travelling thru the vicinity.
Additionally, despite the fact that maximum Jews in Galilee fiercely resisted the have an effect on of Hellenism, Greek changed into nevertheless spoken via way of means of choose Jewish communities, specifically withinside the south, withinside the regions round Jerusalem and Judea.
Greek changed into spoken extra often in those regions due to the fact returning Jewish diaspora from Greek-talking regions introduced the language with them to Jerusalem. Many of them got here from Alexandria, in Egypt, a place additionally conquered via way of means of the Greeks and nevertheless closely encouraged via way of means of Hellenism.2
The identical changed into genuine for different areas across the Roman Empire. As those Jews lower back to their homeland, they introduced with them their language—not Hebrew, however Greek. In fact, it’s viable that as tons as 20% of the Jewish populace in Jerusalem spoke Greek.
Here’s how we recognise Pilate changed into talking in Greek. His first language changed into Latin. We recognise this due to the fact he changed into a Roman official. However, the human beings cited on this verse—the leader priests, the elders, and the gang listening in—could now no longer have spoken Latin. If Pilate changed into talking with them, he manifestly wasn’t talking Latin.
Of the languages they could have recognized—Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek—Pilate wouldn’t had been capin a position to talk Hebrew, and he probable could have recognized Greek a ways higher than Aramaic. Greek, then, is the maximum probable candidate for the language he spoke on this speech to the non-Roman audience.
Evidence from Josephus
There is likewise a tremendous piece of proof that indicates Greek, despite the fact that famous as a secondary language, changed into now no longer the number one or maximum-understood language of Jesus’s time. This proof comes from Josephus, a nicely-knowledgeable Jew and a clergyman.
In his writings, Josephus often suggests that Greek wasn’t his unique language. For example, despite the fact that he translated his works into Greek and required assist to do so. In The Wars of the Jews, he writes:
I even have proposed to myself, for the sake of which include stay below the authorities of the Romans, to translate the ones books into the Greek tongue, which I previously composed withinside the language of our country, and despatched to the Upper Barbarians; I Joseph, the son of Matthias, via way of means of start an Hebrew, a clergyman additionally, and person who at the beginning fought towards the Romans myself, and changed into compelled to be gift at what changed into finished afterwards, [am the author of this work]. 4
And in Antiquities, he additionally writes:
For the ones of my very own kingdom freely well known that I a ways exceed them withinside the mastering belonging to the Jews. I even have additionally taken a first-rate deal of pains to attain the mastering of the Greeks, and apprehend the factors of the Greek language, despite the fact that I even have see you later accustomed myself to talk our very own tongue, that I can't pronounce Greek with enough exactness . . . 5
Harold Hoehner notes that even “Josephus, who had the academic opportunities, wrote his Bellum Judaicum in Aramaic and later translated it into Greek for the gain of these below Roman rule; this he did with the assist of assistants due to the fact his understanding of Greek changed into inadequate.”6
From this, we are able to finish that Greek wasn’t the primary language of maximum first-century Jews. It could had been spoken handiest a number of the diaspora in Jerusalem; amongst the ones worried in global alternate and trade; and a number of the higher elegance and knowledgeable—which include Josephus. And of individuals who did apprehend Greek—again, like Josephus—it changed into frequently handiest as a 2nd language.