Polyglot Jesus

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Polyglot Jesus

Postby Yaziq » Thu 16 Jul 2009 8:20 pm

If we assume that the Jesus of the New Testament actually existed, he undoubtedly would have had to know more than one language in order to be effective in his ministry. It is widely assumed that he spoke Aramaic. There may be a sound basis for this assumption, but one could also believe that he spoke a colloquial form of Hebrew that was not Aramaic. He also would have had knowlege of the type of Hebrew spoken and read in the Temple so that he could read the Tanakh, which is the Old Testament in Hebrew. It is possible that some Jews in his environment preferred to speak Greek. Jesus had to have some knowlege of the Septuagint, which is the Old Testament in Greek, in order to communicate effectively with this group. To converse with the Samaritan woman he might have spoken Samaritan, unless she spoke Aramaic or Hebrew. Undoubtedly Pontius Pilate spoke Latin. Jesus must have had some knowlege of Latin also. During the lost or unaccounted-for years of his life Jesus would have encountered and perhaps learned other languages that have gone extinct without any trace.
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Re: Polyglot Jesus

Postby Sushika » Thu 16 Jul 2009 8:51 pm

You're right.

But... so what? :? (no offense)

I just can't understand what's the "question". Yours is a simple assertion.
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Re: Polyglot Jesus

Postby ILuvEire » Thu 16 Jul 2009 9:27 pm

Well he was the son of god, I never thought that the language barrier would have been much of an issue for him. Prophets very frequently spoke in tongues, or dead languages, and it would be kind of sad if God were monolingual.
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Re: Polyglot Jesus

Postby linguoboy » Thu 16 Jul 2009 10:39 pm

ILuvEire wrote:Well he was the son of god, I never thought that the language barrier would have been much of an issue for him. Prophets very frequently spoke in tongues, or dead languages, and it would be kind of sad if God were monolingual.

Assuming that Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historical person and that the details of his life as recorded in the Gospels are more-or-less accurate is a far cry from assuming that he was the Son of God!

None of Yaziq's conjectures are inherent unreasonable, but not all are equally justified. Although it is reasonable to assume Pilate spoke Latin, there is no justification for the conjecture that he spoke to Jesus in it. Greek was a basic part of the Classical Roman educational system. Tutors were often Greek slaves, and any educated Roman had knowledge of the language. (Suetonius reports that Caesar's last words were claimed to be not "Et tu, Brute?" but rather "καὶ σύ, τέκνον;".) If this was true in the western half of the Empire of the time, how much more likely would it have been in the eastern half, where Greek functioned as a lingua franca?

Moreover, simply because no mention is made of interpreters being present at his interrogation does not mean that none were. Again, it would not have been unusual for Pilate's Greek utterances to have been translated into Aramaic and vice-versa. What evidence is there that Jesus was, in fact, familiar with the Septuagint? In his preaching, does he make reference to passages included in it which are absent from the Masoretic text? If not, Occam's razor would slice away Greek from his repertoire as well.

I think Aramaic and (Biblical) Hebrew are the only two languages which can be freely assumed. For anything else, you need to build a stronger case than what's been presented so far.
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Re: Polyglot Jesus

Postby Sean of the Dead » Thu 16 Jul 2009 11:18 pm

:roll:
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Re: Polyglot Jesus

Postby dtp883 » Fri 17 Jul 2009 12:52 am

Yaziq wrote: It is possible that some Jews in his environment preferred to speak Greek. Jesus had to have some knowlege of the Septuagint, which is the Old Testament in Greek, in order to communicate effectively with this group.

I always thought Jesus spoke Greek because of where he lived, but I really have no reason other than that.
To converse with the Samaritan woman he might have spoken Samaritan, unless she spoke Aramaic or Hebrew.

Since Samaritan is a form of Hebrew I doubt there was much trouble. Although I have no proof, I'm don't believe 2000 years ago Hebrew and Samaritan were very different at all.
Undoubtedly Pontius Pilate spoke Latin. Jesus must have had some knowlege of Latin also. During the lost or unaccounted-for years of his life Jesus would have encountered and perhaps learned other languages that have gone extinct without any trace.

I have to agree with linguoboy, while Pontius Pilate probably spoke Latin, Greek was the lingua franca of the Eastern Roman Empire, and Pontius probably spoke Greek too, and Jesus probably didn't speak Latin.
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Re: Polyglot Jesus

Postby Delodephius » Fri 17 Jul 2009 2:01 am

We don't know where Jesus spent most of his young adult life. He may have studied many languages to be able to read various scriptures. Unless he only read translations. Anyhow, personally I think besides Aramaic he most likely knew also Greek and Hebrew as these were the widespread throughout ancient Judea and I doubt that if he was an educated man he would miss being exposed to them at some point.
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Re: Polyglot Jesus

Postby linguoboy » Fri 17 Jul 2009 3:47 am

Delodephius wrote:Anyhow, personally I think besides Aramaic he most likely knew also Greek and Hebrew as these were the widespread throughout ancient Judea and I doubt that if he was an educated man he would miss being exposed to them at some point.

Why would the son of a poor carpenter from a backwater like Nazareth be an "educated man"?
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Re: Polyglot Jesus

Postby Talib » Fri 17 Jul 2009 4:01 am

Yaziq wrote:If we assume that the Jesus of the New Testament actually existed, he undoubtedly would have had to know more than one language in order to be effective in his ministry. It is widely assumed that he spoke Aramaic. There may be a sound basis for this assumption, but one could also believe that he spoke a colloquial form of Hebrew that was not Aramaic. He also would have had knowlege of the type of Hebrew spoken and read in the Temple so that he could read the Tanakh, which is the Old Testament in Hebrew. It is possible that some Jews in his environment preferred to speak Greek. Jesus had to have some knowlege of the Septuagint, which is the Old Testament in Greek, in order to communicate effectively with this group. To converse with the Samaritan woman he might have spoken Samaritan, unless she spoke Aramaic or Hebrew. Undoubtedly Pontius Pilate spoke Latin. Jesus must have had some knowlege of Latin also. During the lost or unaccounted-for years of his life Jesus would have encountered and perhaps learned other languages that have gone extinct without any trace.
I think I can answer your questions about the Semitic languages he may have known. By the time of Christ, Hebrew was not a Jewish vernacular but Aramaic was. So he would have spoken Aramaic but read Hebrew (and possibly Aramaic as well, as they are closely related languages). It's not that big a leap to make - it's like being fluent in both Spanish and Italian. As for the Samaritans, I don't know how different their vernacular was at the time from that of other Jews. Even in modern times it's considered a mere dialect of Hebrew, albeit with a very different pronunciation. So comfortably navigating these three Semitic lects wouldn't be much of a feat if he heard them all on a regular basis.

As for Latin vs. Greek, I believe that's already been answered. That he knew some Greek seems likely, since it was the lingua franca of the region; Latin seems less so.
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Re: Polyglot Jesus

Postby Yaziq » Fri 17 Jul 2009 4:59 pm

The best case for Jesus knowing some Latin could be the example of Matthew 8:5-13, where a centurion asks Jesus for a healing for someone. Of course there is always the question of what language the centurion used when making the request. What would have been the custom? Would a conquered people learn the language of their conquerors? Or was it the other way 'round?
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