While it is often recognized that Jesus Christ is a real historical figure, there has been no unified opinion about what language did Jesus speak because there are no written records left even by himself that would serve as hard evidence. This sensitive question has not only historical and linguistic but also religious, cultural, and political implications.
Moreover, the occasion for this burst of curiosity emerged after the release of Mel Gibson’s movie, ‘The Passion of the Christ’. All dialogues in the movie were in two ancient languages: Aramaic and Latin’. This created a curiosity among people which led to controversies like was this really the language spoken by Jesus? Didn’t he speak Hebrew or Greek?
Evidence from History about the Jesus Language
Historians and linguists have singled out trances of three distinct languages in the Bible – Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek, which could possibly be the spoken language of Christ. There are several other sources of information that have created certain assumptions regarding this. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Palestine and here a large group of people used the oldest language – Hebrew for writing and speaking.
Also, the major part of the Bible and Old Testament was written in Hebrew. So, this was considered as the primary language of the Holy Scripture pointing out that this may have been the native language of Jesus. However, Bethlehem’s population never used Hebrew in their everyday communication because, in the birthplace of Jesus, the original language was Aramaic. More than that, after the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek (Koine Greek) has been widely used regionally.
Did He Speak Latin or Greek?
Another question that was raised after what language did Jesus speak was – did he speak Latin or Greek? This question arose because people there were also familiar with Latin as Judea was once a part of the Roman Empire. And mostly, Latin was used as an official language as well as for military purposes.
Dating back, Greek had a considerable influence on international trade across the Roman Empire and beyond that. Koine Greek which is known as the Alexandria dialect is a non-standardized form of Greek spoken across the Middle East and Mediterranean region. Most parts of the New Testament are written in Greek and it is said that since Christ spend much of his time preaching in Galilee, Greek was the common language in the region.
What Language Did Jesus Speak – Is There an Answer?
Most of the clues indicate that the language of Jesus was Aramaic language. It is the most probable theory agreed upon by scholars. Initially, Judea’s primary language was Hebrew but after the captivity of Babylonian, Aramaic superseded it. This Northwest Semitic language belongs to the Afro-Asiatic language family and has the oldest dialects traced back to 900 BC.
The Aramaic alphabet served as a basis for the development of Hebrew, Syriac, and Arabic writing systems. Also, numerous Aramaic words and toponyms are used in the New Testament where some traces are still present in modern Hebrew and Arabic. But to answer the question of what language did Jesus speak you can consider one of the important aspects – the native language environment.
Jesus Christ was born in an Aramaic-speaking community where his mother tongue was Aramaic. Even the majority of the population in Judea speaks Greek but would still prefer Aramaic. So, in particular, the language environment of Palestine and Judea serves as considerable evidence that supports the question of what language did Jesus speak.
However, linguistic analysis of the Bible states that Jesus spoke mostly in Aramaic for preaching and talking to his disciples. Scholars have also found some evidence in different parts of the New Testament that contains specific words in Aramaic.
Considering the diverse linguistic situation during the times of Jesus’ life, it is very likely that he would be multilingual. Also, the life and personality of Jesus Christ seem to have more blank spaces. In an attempt to find out what language did Jesus speak there are more new questions than answers and also many theories seem plausible.
It is hard to talk about the past history with certainty and much information about Christ has theories only except more or less supporting evidence. But what can be said without a doubt is his legacy is fascinating.
Read also Bhojpuri Language.