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According to Mark 15:34 (ESV):

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus spoke Aramaic in his final moments. Was this his usual language? If so, why are the rest of his words quoted in Greek?

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This is a case where asking the question well required enough research that I was able to provide my own answer. Feel free to answer the question yourself. (I'd especially appreciate dissenting opinions.) –  Jon Ericson Oct 10 '11 at 20:36
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N.B. I'm not so sure the question, as asked, is right for this site: Should all questions of interpretation include specific texts? –  Jon Ericson Oct 10 '11 at 21:35
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Do you feel this question is satisfactorily answered? I see no arrow. –  Sarah Jan 31 at 19:36
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20140527, and this question is in the news. See George Athas, "What language did Jesus speak?" posted today for an interesting discussion. –  Davïd May 27 at 12:09
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3 Answers 3

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Jon gives a good answer as to why Jesus would have been able to speak Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew. He also asked for more information regarding the existence of Hebrew in the Land at the time of Jesus. Mishnaic Hebrew was very well known in the first century and was distinguished from Aramaic in such works as the Letter of Aristeas and Josephus. See below for more details.

Mishnaic Hebrew as a Common Person's Language in the Land

Based on old research, some claim that Hebrew was not a living language in use among the common people of the Land. Instead, they claim it was a scholarly or liturgical language. However, more and more evidence is coming to light that this is not so.

New Testament scholars have for years translated the Greek Ebraios into "Aramaic" when it appears in the NT instead of "Hebrew." They do this because the prevailing theory for many years was that Hebrew was only used by religious people and scholars. However, the weight of evidence says otherwise.

Historical

From the return from Exile onward, there was a concerted effort to restore Hebrew as the national language. It had been lost among most of the people during the Exile. Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are all written exclusively in Hebrew (Ezra has a few Aramaic sections, but these are correspondence with a foreign King). Daniel's middle section is in flawless, Imperial Aramaic (from 2:4a to the end of ch 7), but the rest of the book is in Biblical Hebrew (and it's good Hebrew). Those middle sections needed to be in Aramaic to reflect the original language of the decrees and events.

During the Hasmonean/Maccabean Revolt, even more emphasis was placed on Hebrew. Coins from this period (and other bilingual periods) are Greek/Hebrew and not Greek/Aramaic (with one exception in the middle of the period). Literature from the period and place is almost never Greek or Aramaic but Hebrew.

That literature includes: 1 Maccabees (originally in Hebrew), the Dead Sea Scrolls (almost exclusively Hebrew), all of the Palestinian apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, all Palestinian rabbinic literature (the Mishnah, the Tosefta, the Jerusalem Talmud, all the Midrash). The Midrash can be compared to sermon illustrations that would be used in a preaching environment. Note that they were to be told to the common people and were in Hebrew.

The only collections of rabbinic literature in Aramaic is the Babylonian Talmud. This should not be surprising because it was compiled in Babylon where Aramaic was spoken. However, even the Babylonian Talmud preserves its Mishnah portion in Hebrew. The commentary on the Mishnah (called Gemerah) is in Aramaic, but the Mishanh remains in Hebrew. In addition, whenever a later, Palestinian rabbi is quoted in the Gemerah, the quote will be in Hebrew while the discussion of the quote is in Aramaic. Parables are also preserved in the Babylonian Gemerah in Hebrew. Parables were intended to be taught to the common people. They were far from academic exercises. Even though thousands of parables have been found in Hebrew (or Greek as recorded in the New Testament), not one parable in the Talmud or anywhere else has been found in Aramaic.

The Targumim (Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew Bible) date to the second and third centuries after Christ and came about because of an Aramaic-speaking Jewish immigration from Babylon to Israel.

The early rabbis forbade the teaching of Greek to one's sons and insisted that only Hebrew be used for religious instruction. The forbidden nature of Greek applied only to religious matters as commerce with the west required Greek.

The New Testament includes Hebrew idioms that do not exist in Aramaic and makes wordplays that only work when a Hebrew source is considered. A good example of this is the "son from stones" word play Jesus makes in Matthew 3:9. It also never uses the word Suristi to describe the language used. It only uses Ebraios.

Even though modern scholarship is admitting that Hebrew existed in the academies and temple, the rabbinic literature says that even children and women (who were not allowed to obtain formal, rabbinic instruction) spoke Hebrew.

Literary

  • We should not allow a few Aramaisms to cloud the case of the many Hebraisms that appear in the New Testament. Levonah (Frankincense, Matt 2:11), mammon (Luke 16:9), Wai (Woe Matt 23:13), rabbi (Matthew 23:7,8), Beelzebub (Luke 11:15), corban (Mark 7:11), Satan, cammon (cumin Matthew 23:23), raca (Matthew 5:22), moreh (Matthew 5:22), mor (myrrh, Luke 7:37), sheekmah (sycamore, Luke 17:6), and amen which appears about 100x.
  • Alongside the Aramaic names in the New Testament are many Hebrew names such as Judah (preserved as Jude and Judas), Jacob (preserved as James), Yehushua (preserved as Jesus), Saul, Mattithyahu (Matthew), Mary (comes from Miriam), Simeon, Joseph, Y'hochanan (John), and others. Drawing conclusions from personal and place names tells us very little about the language of the common people.
  • Joseph A. Fitzmyer, one of the world's more prominent Aramaic scholars, admitted in 1975 in hindsight: "...the way in which claims are sometimes made for the Aramaic substratum of the sayings of Jesus, when the evidence is merely 'Semitic' in general, or, worse still, derived from some other Semitic language, e.g., Hebrew, should no longer be countenanced." [Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “The Study of the Aramaic Background of the New Testament” (1975), reprinted in Joseph A. Fitzmyer, A Wandering Aramaean: Collected Aramaic Essays (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1979): 5.]
  • MH Segal in his Grammar of Mishnaic Hebrew (see pp. 5 and 9-10) demonstrates that this was a spoken language and not an artificial language of the academy.
  • Writings from the time have been found that show us Hebrew was a living language. These include the Masada Fragments, which have 6 items that are definitely not biblical material written in Hebrew. (There are other pieces which are biblical [numbering 7] or unidentifiable [numbering 2].) Included in these documents are about 2/3 of Ben Sira in Hebrew. They date to the first century BC.
  • Likewise, the huge cache of documents from the Dead Sea Scrolls (~250 BC - ~AD 50) shows that Hebrew was in use for centuries while it was thought unknown. While the Qumran caves uncovered copies of the Hebrew Bible and some apocryphal works, the vast majority was sectarian literature unique to the Qumran community. This material was written in Mishnaic Hebrew. The Dead Sea writings were not intended for use only by scholars but for all Jews willing to become an Essene.
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls have also shown that many of the Jewish apocryphal and pseudepigraphical works were originally written in Hebrew. These works were intended for the common person to be able to read (the synagogues did not preach on them). As such, an understandable language was needed. That language was Hebrew.
  • An example of the above is Tobit, the apocryphal work. For centuries, it was assumed that Tobit had been first written in Aramaic. However, both Aramaic and Hebrew versions have been discovered in the Dead Sea Scroll caves. It was further determined, based on comparisons between the two, that the Hebrew Tobit was the original.
  • Other works from the second and third century BC are written in Hebrew: 1 Enoch, Jubilees, 1 Maccabees (tho preserved in greek, experts all agree that its original language of composition was Hebrew on the basis of internal evidence), Judith (ditto), Ben Sira (cf. prologue which states it was in Hebrew), and others.
  • Documents from Nahal Hever are in Mishnaic Hebrew.
  • There is also the Targum Neofiti and Hebrew fragments of Ben Sira.
  • Even though Greek has a perfectly good word for Aramaic (Suristi), the Greek New Testament never once uses it. Instead, the Greek New Testament refers to Ebraios (or cases thereof) (Luke 23:38; John 5:2; 19:13, 17, 20; Acts 21:40; 22:2; 26:14; Rev. 9:11; 16:16).
  • Suristi appears in the epilogue to the book of Job in the Septuagint. It also appears in the text of the Septuagint (2 King 18:26; Ezra 4:7; Isaiah 36:11; Daniel 2:4). Hence, it was known that Ebraios and Suristi were distinct languages.
  • Josephus in Antiquities 10 1.2 says this: "When Rabshakeh had made this speech in the Hebrew tongue, for he was skillful in that language, Eliakim was afraid lest the multitude that heard him should be disturbed; so he desired him to speak in the Syrian tongue." Josephus clearly draws a line between Ebraios and Suristi. More on Josephus' use of Hebrew can be read here.
  • A very important piece of evidence here is the Letter of Aristeas 11, "The Jews are supposed to use Syrian [Aramaic] language, but this is not so, for it is another form [of language]." The author of the letter clearly states that the Jews do not use Aramaic. While some claim that he is speaking of the script used, this cannot be. Mishnaic Hebrew shared a script with Aramaic. Both languages used the Aramaic Square Script for writing. Paleo Hebrew writing had fallen into disuse during and after the Exile.

  • The Bar Cochva Letters proved conclusively that Hebrew was still a living language and was used as the primary means of communication among Jews in Israel a century after Jesus. Scholars do not divide the letters into Early and Late. They all came from the same period. There were 26 letters uncovered: 2 are in Greek, 8 are in Aramaic, 3 could be either Aramaic or Hebrew (the text is too short too conclude), and 13 are unambiguously Hebrew. These letters are not all religious (some discuss items needed for religious observance) but are of military conquests and other non-religious matters.

  • Wisdom is passed on to the common people in Hebrew. Shmuel Safrai writes:

    The parable was one of the most common tools of rabbinic instruction from the second century B.C.E. until the close of the amoraic period at the end of the fifth century C.E. Thousands of parables have been preserved in complete or fragmentary form, and are found in all types of literary compositions of the rabbinic period, both halachic and aggadic, early and late. All of the parables are in Hebrew. Amoraic literature often contains stories in Aramaic, and a parable may be woven into the story; however the parable itself is always in Hebrew (b. Baba Qam. 60b; or b. Sotah 40a). There are instances of popular sayings in Aramaic, but every single parable is in Hebrew.

    “Spoken and Literary Languages in the Time of Jesus,” in Jesus’ Last Week: Jerusalem Studies in the Synoptic Gospels, Vol. 1 [ed. R. S. Notley, M. Turnage and B. Becker; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2005], 238; see also Randall Buth and Brian Kvasnica, “Temple Authorities and Tithe Evasion: The Linguistic Background and Impact of the Parable of the Vineyard, the Tenants and the Son,” in Jesus’ Last Week, 58, n. 17. Emphasis added.

  • Epigraphical material from the Second Temple Period is more often in Hebrew than Aramaic. A recent sarcophagus contained these words: ben hacohen hagadol, that is, "son of the high priest." While some may say that this shows it was a religious language (being on a priest's son's tomb), it should be noted that this was on a tomb and meant for the common person to know who was interred within.

  • Josephus (War 5:269-272) points out that Jewish soldiers used a play on words that only makes sense in Hebrew. In 272, whenever a stone was on its way (being thrown from ballistea), the watchmen would shout "in their native language, 'The Son Cometh!'" While translators are confused by the Greek text, the answer makes sense in Hebrew. The translator even admits how the words could be confused in Hebrew but not Aramaic. The watchmen would have shouted, in Hebrew, Ha-even ba’ah ("the stone is coming!"). However, because of urgency, the words would be clipped to ben ba ("son comes!"). They reduced the syllables due to time constraints. This pun is known in Hebrew and even appears in the NT (Matthew 3:9 and Luke 3:8) "God is able from these avanim [stones] to raise up banim [sons] to Abraham."

    This wordplay is unambiguously Hebrew. In Aramaic, the phrase would be kefa ate ("the stone is coming") or the more literary avna ata. Neither sounds like bara ate ("the son is coming"). Another option for Aramaic would be to use the word aven, which is related to the Hebrew. However, aven would change the gender of the verb and still not work to make a pun on "son," bar/a.

    Obviously, a warning of dire straits needs to be quick and in the common language. (American soldiers would yell, "INCOMING!" to warn of mortar fire.) That the pun works in Hebrew but not Aramaic means the soldiers (who were not scholars or priests) spoke in Hebrew.

  • Josephus also refers to words that exist in Hebrew but not Aramaic as Ebraion. For example, in * Antiquities of the Jews* I 33, he states:

For which reason we also pass this day in repose from toil and call it the Sabbata, a word which in the Hebrew language means "rest."

The verb SHBT does not exist in Aramaic. Aramaic translations, such as the targums, use NCH.

Likewise, in Antiquities I 34

Now this man was called Adam which in the Hebrew tongue signifies "red."

Josephus derives adam from adom (red). In Aramaic "red" is expressed by sumka, there is no root ADM in Aramaic.

Archeological

  • Coins from the period are in Hebrew. They did not have Aramaic writing on them with one exception. As money requires a common language of the people, Hebrew must have been known.

    During the Hasmonean period, Alexander Jannai (78 BC) minted one set of coins that had Aramaic on them (oddly enough, in the Paleo Hebrew script). However, at other times (before and after) he minted coins in Hebrew.

  • The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan were once thought to reflect the language used in the time of Jesus. However, we now know these targums are centuries later than Jesus.

  • Most of the inscriptions around Jerusalem dating from the first century have been in Hebrew.
  • A tomb inscription from the second century BC has Aramaic that translates and incorporates spoken Hebrew idioms also found in the Mishnah.
  • A recent, in-progress cataloging of inscriptions from archeological finds shows that from the Second Temple Period (the time we are discussing), there were 116 clearly Aramaic inscriptions and 137 clearly Hebrew. There were many that overlap in the languages due to common words and the common script used for both. Also, personal names are not included in this tabulation as they are inconclusive.

Conclusion

Both Aramaic and Hebrew were in use in the Land at the time of Jesus. However, while we cannot say one predominated, we can say that Mishnaic Hebrew was very much a living language used by people of all walks of life in Judea and Galilee.

Bibliography

David Biven, Hebrew as a Spoken Language in First-century Israel, posted November 18, 2008.

_, Roy Blizzard, Jr., Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus: New Insight from a Hebraic Perspective (Revised Edition), Destiny Image Publishers: Shippensburg, PA.

Waverly Nunnally, Hebrew as the Primary Language of Jesus, an email exchange.

__. Peshitta Primacy, an email exchange.

Baltes, Guido. "Hebrew or Aramaic? Some Evidence from Inscriptions," Jerusalem Perspective Online, November 28, 2008.

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Palestine at the time of Jesus was something of a crossroads for culture and language. It's entirely possible a young man growing up in the region would have been exposed to at least four different languages: Greek, Aramaic, Latin, and Hebrew.

Aramaic

Far and away the most common language that Jesus is quoted in is Greek. But that seems largely due to the New Testament being written to a predominately Greek-speaking audience.1 In Mark especially, we see quotations that include Aramaic words and phrases:

Mark 5:41 (ESV)

Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”

Mark 7:10-13 (ESV)

For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban ”’ (that is, given to God)—then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

Mark 7:34 (ESV)

And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”

Mark 14:36 (ESV)

And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Mark 15:34 (ESV)

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Some of these words are common between Aramaic and Hebrew (Corban for instance), but some were specifically Aramaic to the exclusion of Hebrew. Therefore, it's possible to argue that Jesus spoke Aramaic and Hebrew or just Aramaic. But it's not possible to argue that he spoke only Hebrew.

Hebrew

The argument for Jesus speaking Hebrew hinges on how much the language was still in use in and around Jerusalem. In the Galilean region, where Jesus was raised, Aramaic seemed to be the common language of the day. But we see Jesus interacting with a variety of religious leaders in Jerusalem and it's likely they would have used Hebrew to quote and discuss the Hebrew Tanakh. It's possible on the other hand that they would have used Aramaic. One clue is the crowd's response to Jesus' final words in Mark 15:35 (ESV)

And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.”

Apparently, some people misheard "Eloi" and thought Jesus was calling to Elijah. (The difference is between "elāhî" or "êlî", and "Ēlīyā" or "Ēlīyāhū" according to Wikipedia.) If the hearers were expecting Jesus to speak Hebrew when he fell back into Aramaic, that might explain their confusion. Assuming that's the proper reading of this passage (and its parallel in Matthew 27:46), it strongly indicates Jesus also spoke Hebrew at times. (But not at this particular moment.)

References to Jesus reading and teaching in synagogue (Mark 1:21-22 for instance), suggest he was trained in Hebrew though we need to know more about 1st Century Jewish practice to know for sure. There existed translations of the Tanakh in both Aramaic (Targum) and Greek (Septuagint).

Greek

Evidence for Jesus speaking Greek seems limited and is clouded by the fact that he is quoted in Greek documents. Since Greek would have been the bridge language between Jews and Romans, Jesus' interactions with Roman officials (the centurion in Matthew 8 and Pilate in Mark 15 and parallels) suggests Jesus spoke some Greek. However, these conversations could easily have been through interpreters.2 A more compelling case could be made for Jesus needing to speak Greek in order to navigate the commercial realm, which would probably be primarily conducted in Greek. In any case, the level of Greek required would be fairly low.3

On the other hand, Koine (literally "common") Greek was the linga franca of the Mediterranean following the conquests of Alexander. The precise extent of Hellenization isn't clear, but we do see evidence of it in the Gospels. Jesus spent some time in the Decapolis, where Greek had displaced Aramaic. We can speculate that as a young man, Jesus might have had business in the nearby city of Sepphoris where he would have had contact with many Greek speakers. His family probably worked as carpenters for the well-to-do Jews building fairly upscale homes. He certainly had opportunities to become conversant in Greek, but we don't know if he took them.

Latin

While Latin was certainly spoken by Roman soldiers and other officials, the odds that Jesus would have needed, or even been able to acquire, a working knowledge of the language seems very low. Anyone living in the region who knew only Latin would likely need to pick up Greek in short order to get by.

Summary

Jesus certainly spoke Aramaic as a native tongue, probably Hebrew in religious settings, certainly a bit of Greek (perhaps fluently), and almost certainly no Latin. In this particular case, Mark quoted Jesus directly because of the confusion his words created in the crowd. In general, Aramaic is used only when Jesus' original words can't easily be translated into Greek.


Footnotes:

1 I'm reminded of the joke I've heard about why we should use the King James Version: "If it was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me."

2 The same argument is not as easily made about interactions with Hebrew speakers as many of Jesus' conflicts with religious leaders turned on careful reading of the Scriptures. The conversations with Romans did not require very fine linguistic distinctions.

3 Consider the difference in language mastery required to order food in a French restaurant versus debating Rousseau.

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It's worth remembering that this is not unusual, even today. Most people are at least bilingual, and code-switching of various forms is the norm. An introductory text on sociolinguistics would show that the type of linguistic diversity represented in this answer is fairly common in much of the world. –  TRiG Mar 23 '12 at 17:57
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Your argument for Jesus non-fluence in Greek sounds pretty flimsy here. I agree on your conclusions about Aramaic and Hebrew, but your summary of the issues surrounding Greek don't seem to warrant your conclusion that he "possible spoke a bit of Greek". In general your reasoning in this post and elsewhere seem very tried to certain premises about the usage of language that only really hold true in mono-lingual societies, particularly ones who's language is the lingua franca. –  Caleb Aug 4 '12 at 13:32
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People in some countries don't even identify their "first" language like we do, having grown up with several they find them either entirely interchangable or use them for different purposes without the stumbling blocks that we usually deal with when using a "second language". –  Caleb Aug 4 '12 at 13:32
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@JonEricson By the time of Jesus, Attic Greek had probably fallen out of use. Koine Greek was the lingua franca by the time the LXX was written. Lingua franca doesn't mean that everyone had to always speak that language, but that it was the language of commerce and governmental interaction. I don't think that the case for Hebrew over Greek is convincing and that they were probably employed equally, and that Aramaic was the "primary" language of "social" interaction. –  swasheck Aug 6 '12 at 21:47
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I think the evidence presented here that he would have spoken Greek is a bit flimsy. It basically hinges on him needing to do business directly with rich people in Sepphoris. But the gospels never mention Sepphoris, and we know almost nothing about the details of Jesus's business activities. It's certainly possible that he knew a little Greek, but most of the scholarly work on this point suggests that very few rural Galileans knew any significant amount of Greek. –  Noah Apr 27 '13 at 15:49
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Aramaic - Spoken language of first century Israel

Jesus Christ spoke Aramaic. In Mark 5:41, we see Jesus saying "Talitha Cumi." This is Aramaic.

Aramaic was the language of first century Israel. Not Greek or Latin or Hebrew. Old Hebrew was preserved by High Priests for religious purposes in the temple of Jerusalem since it is the holy language of Jews. But it wasn't used as a spoken language during first century AD.

Aramaic in New Testament

1) Acts 1:19 - "And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood."

"Akel dama" is Greek transliteration of Aramaic words "Khqel Dama."

We clearly see "Field of Blood" was called "Khqel Dama" by all the inhabitants of Jerusalem in their own language which is Aramaic.

If I translate aramaic words "Khqel Dama" into Hebrew, then "Khqel Dama" will become "Sh'deh Hadam."

Through this, we can read that all inhabitants of Jerusalem spoke in their own language in first century AD which was Aramaic. If Hebrew was used as spoken language in first century Israel, then "Sh'deh Hadam" would have been mentioned along with "Khqel Dama" (a.k.a akel dama in Greek and English NT) in Acts 1:19.

Here is the link to Acts Chapter 1 (Hebrew translation from Greek) http://www.bayithamashiyach.com/Acts_1.pdf

You will see "s'deh Hadam" at the end of Acts 1:19. To match the words, see S'deh (Green color) and Field (Green Color). Hadam (in purple color) and Blood (in purple color).

2) John 19:17 (ESV) - "and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha."

Golgotha is Aramaic, because Aramaic places the definite article at the end of the word, thus the 'tha' at the end of 'Golgotha' is the Aramaic definite article on a feminine noun. Unlike Aramaic, the definite article of Hebrew is in the beginning of the word ("Ha").

If I write Golgotha in Hebrew, then "Golgotha" will become "Ha Gulgoleth."

In John 19:17 of KJV, we see John calling "Golgotha" Hebrew. When he says "Hebrew", he is referring to Aramaic spoken by Hebrews. Aramaic spoken in Judea was known as Judean Aramaic (or Southern Aramaic). Aramaic spoken Galilee and Syrian regions were known as Northern Aramaic or called Suristi by Greeks.

Like Hebrew, we use the definite article ("the") in the beginning of a word in English. For example, we say "the car" in English. We never say "car the."

That is why NIV, ESV, and other bible versions write "Golgotha, Gabbatha, etc." as Aramaic instead of Hebrew.

Notice that Peter was exposed by his Galilean Aramaic speech among people (Matthew 26:73 and Mark 14:70). Judeans used Dead Scrolls Alphabet to write Aramaic while Syrians commonly used Estrangela Alphabet to write Aramaic in first century AD. Although Northern Aramaic and South Aramaic were mutually intelligible just like British English and American English, still Galilean accent of Aramaic would have sounded to the Judean Aramaic somewhat like Cockney sounds to a British aristocrat. That's why Galileans are mocked for their pronunciation of aramaic in talmud.

Here is the link to John 19:17 - http://www.bayithamashiyach.com/John_19.pdf

You will see Ha Gul'goleth and Skull in pink color.

3) Aramaic word Bar

Aramaic word "Bar" means son. But in Hebrew, Ben means son ("Ben"jamin in Old Testament).

Just look at the names in our English New Testament Bible.

"Bar"tholomew, "Bar"abbas, "Bar"nabbas, "Bar"sabbas, Simon "Bar" Jonah, "Bar" Jesus, "Bar"timaeus, etc.

4) Other infos on Aramaic words in NT

Let me also pick a female name. Martha.

Martha is one of the sisters of Lazarus in New Testament. Martha lives at Bethany in Judea. The name "Martha" is Aramaic for "Lady" or "Mistress."

Talitha (Mark 5:41) - In Hebrew, "Yaldah" would have been used instead of Aramaic word "Talitha."

Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” - In Hebrew, "azabthani" would have been used instead of Aramaic word "sabachthani."

Also notice the name "Cephas" in our English New Testament Bible.

John 1:42 (ESV) - "He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter)."

Galatians 2:9 (NIV) - "James, Cephas, and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised."

Cephas is also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:12, 1 Corinthians 9:5, 1 Corinthians 15:5, etc.

Cephas comes from Aramaic word Kefa (also written as Kaypha) which means stone.

Many scholars try to give the false impression that Greek was the language of first century Israel.

Let me give you the historical evidences from Josephus.

Testimony of Jewish Historian Josephus

Jewish Historian Josephus wrote:

"I have also taken a great deal of pains to obtain the learning of the Greeks, and understand the elements of the Greek language, although I have so long accustomed myself to speak our own tongue, that I cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness; for our nation does not encourage those that learn the languages of many nations, and so adorn their discourses with the smoothness of their periods; because they look upon this sort of accomplishment as common, not only to all sorts of free-men, but to as many of the servants as please to learn them. But they give him the testimony of being a wise man who is fully acquainted with our laws, and is able to interpret their meaning; on which account, as there have been many who have done their endeavors with great patience to obtain this learning, there have yet hardly been so many as two or three that have succeeded therein, who were immediately well rewarded for their pains." - Antiquities of Jews XX, XI

Antiquities of Jews was written at the end of first century AD around 93 AD. Even during that time, we see the extreme rarity of a Jew speaking Greek.

Jewish Wars (Book 1, Preface, Paragraph 1) - "I have proposed to myself, for the sake of such as live under the government of the Romans, to translate those books into the Greek tongue, which I formerly composed in the language of our country, and sent to the Upper Barbarians. Joseph, the son of Matthias, by birth a Hebrew, a priest also, and one who at first fought against the Romans myself, and was forced to be present at what was done afterwards, [am the author of this work]."

In Antiquities of Jews Book 3, Josephus points out that Hebrews called Pentecost "Asartha." Asartha is Aramaic, because Aramaic places the definite article at the end of the word, thus the 'tha' at the end of 'Asartha' is the Aramaic definite article on a feminine noun. This is the same thing with the Aramaic word Talitha (Mark 5:41).

If Hebrew was used as a spoken language in first century AD, then Josephus would have mentioned that Hebrews also called Pentecost "Ha Atzeret." But he didn't.

Aramaic became known as Syriac, because First century Greek Historian and Geographer Strabo points out that Greeks called Arameans "Syrians" in his book "Geography." Unlike Jews in Judea, Arameans called Aramaic which became known as "Syriac" or "Suristi" in Greek.

In Josephus' Jewish Wars, one of the leaders who fought against Romans was Simon Bar Giora. Bar Giora means "Son of a proselyte" in Aramaic. Peshitta Tanakh is first century Old Testament written in Aramaic.

Other Information

Here are couple of Aramaic words found in Greek NT manuscripts - Satana (Luke 10:18), Mammona (Luke 16:9), Khqel Dama (transliterated as Akel dama in Greek in Acts 1:19), Maran Atha (1 Corinthians 16:22), Golgotha (John 19:17), Talitha (Mark 5:41), and Lebontha (Matthew 2:11), Cammuna (Matthew 23:23), etc." So we even see Aramaic words in Greek NT manuscripts.

Below is how we write above Aramaic words in Hebrew.

Satana (Luke 10:18) - In Hebrew, the word "Satana" will become "Ha Satan."

Mammona (Luke 16:9) - In Hebrew, the word will become "Ha Mammon."

Khqel Dama (transliterated as Akel dama in Greek) - In Hebrew, "Sh'deh Hadam."

Maran Atha (1 Corinthians 16:22) - In Hebrew, "Adonainu Atha."

Golgotha (John 19:17) - In Hebrew, "Ha Gulgoleth."

Talitha (Mark 5:41) - In Hebrew, "Yaldah" would have been used instead of Aramaic word "Talitha."

Lebontha (Matthew 2:11) - In Hebrew, "Ha Lebonah."

Cammuna (Matthew 23:23) - In Hebrew, "Ha Kamon."

Abba (Galatians 4:6, Romans 8:15) - In Hebrew, "Ha Ab."

As for Dead Sea Scrolls, there are criticisms against Dead Sea scrolls. One of them is Dead Sea Scrolls are not reliable in terms of antiquity especially for first century AD Israel. Most of Dead Sea Scrolls are written in Hebrew. But only some in Aramaic and also some in Greek.

Through Josephus, we know the extreme rarity of a Jew speaking Greek even at the end of first century AD. Through Khqel Dama (a.k.a akeldama in Acts 1:19), we know that Aramaic was the spoken language of first century Israel.

The authorship of Dead Sea Scrolls is given to Essenes of Qumran. The Essenes were famous for their continuing use of old, worn materials, as shown by Josephus in Jewish Wars Book 2.

For Example, Essenes replace neither clothes nor footwear until the old set is ripped all over or worn through with age (Jewish Wars Book 2, 126).

This would mean that Essenes held that an ancient parchment, manufactured many years before, was venerable and suited for the recording of their inspired writings. The date of manufacture could be 100 years or more before the date of composition of the contents. It is quite fallacious to say that the date of composition was the same as the date of manufacture.

"Christ, after all spoke in the language of His contemporaries. He offered the first sacrifice of the Eucharist in Aramaic, a language understood by all the people who heard Him. The Apostles and Disciples did the same and never in a language other than that of the gathered faithful." - Latin Patriarch Maximus, Vatican.

I would say that Dead Sea Scrolls was written in second century after 130 AD.

Till 130 AD, Aramaic was the spoken language of Jews. From 131 AD through the rise of Bar Kokhba and Bar Kokhba revolt (132-135 AD), the beginning process of reverting back to Hebrew occured. Although Aramaic was spoken by Jews from 131 AD to 135 AD, still they were encouraged to bring back Hebrew as their spoken language instead of Aramaic. This is because Hebrew is considered as the holy language of Jews.

After Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 AD, Jews continued to revert back to Hebrew. By the end of second century AD, Hebrew was a common spoken language among Jews.

Famous Israeli Archaeologist Yigael Yadin who received Ph.D for his researches on Dead Sea Scrolls noticed this shift from Aramaic to Hebrew through his researches. In "Bar Kokhba: The rediscovery of the legendary hero of the last Jewish Revolt Against Imperial Rome" Yigael Yadin notes, "It is interesting that the earlier documents are in Aramaic while the later ones are in Hebrew. Possibly the change was made by a special decree of Bar-Kokhba who wanted to restore Hebrew as the official language of the state" (page 181).

One of the surviving letters from the time of Bar Kokhba revolt (132-135 AD) is Simon Bar Kokhba's letter to Yehonathan Bar Be'aya in Aramaic.

Some information about a Bar Kokhba coin and Bar Kokhba's letter to Yehonathan Bar Be'aya is available in this link.

http://www.peshitta.org/initial/aramaic.html

"Bar Kokhba" means Son of a star in Aramaic. In this coin (above link), you will read this Aramaic inscription - SHMOWN NSYA YSRAL.

"NSYA" is Aramaic. If I write NSYA (also written as Nasya) in Hebrew, then it will become "Ha Nasi."

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