Polyglot Jesus II

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Polyglot Jesus II

Postby Stosis » Fri 27 Nov 2009 4:48 am

Ok, so the last one was derailed in about 5 minutes but I just came across something interesting in an article from Biblical Archaeology Review that was an assigned reading for a class I'm taking on the Hellenistic and Roman Levant.

"Did Jesus Speak Greek, in addition to Aramaic, the vernacular of Palestinian Jews at the turn of the era? If so, then the task of recovering Jesus' teachings would be easier, because scholars would no longer have to wonder what nuances were lost when Jesus' works were translated from the original Aramaic into the Greek of the New Testament Gospels. Indeed, if Jesus spoke Greek, then some of the teachings recorded in the Gospels might preserve his exact words.
Many scholars, citing Greek inscriptions found in lower Galilee as evidence that the language was widely spoken there, contend that Jesus probably did speak Greek. They point out that Jesus' home village, Nazareth, was barely 4 miles, or an hour's walk, from cosmopolitan Sepphoris; therefore, they argue, Jesus could hardly avoided knowing at least a little Greek.

In fact, the evidence for the use of Greek in Galilee before and during the time of Jesus is extremely limited. At Sepphoris itself, we have only a second century B.C.E. ostracon that bears a Hebrew transliteration of a Greek word and some first century C.E. coins minted at Sepphoris during the Great Revolt. Coins minted by Herod the Great's son Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee from 4 B.C.E. to 39 C.E., bore Greek inscriptions, as did those of Herod Agripa I, who received control over Galilee for a brief period after Herod Antipas. The inscription on two first century. The inscriptions on two first-century C.E. market weights, probably from Tiberias, are also in Greek. And a famous inscription discovered near Narazeth demonstrates that at least some of Galilee's inhabitants used the language. Dating to the mid-first century C.E., the inscription warns against grave robbing.

For the most par, however, our evidence for the use of Greek in Galilee postdates the first century C.E. Hundreds of Greek inscriptions are found in the Jewish tomb complexes of Beth She'arim, in southwestern Galilee, but these date mostly to the third century C.E. and later. And although Greek inscriptions are found on numerous mosaics in Roman and Byzantine Galilee, these also belong to a later era. The same can be said for the various amulets, burial inscriptions, coins and other objects that demonstrate the use of Greek alongside Hebrew among the inhabitants of Galilee.

As we analyze the archaeological data, we find that the real question is not whether Jesus spoke Greek, but whether, and to what extent, we can use later evidence to understand conditions in first-century Galilee. We know that early in the second century C.E. Roman soldiers and their support personal (who spoke Greek) were permanently stationed in Galilee for the first time. We also know that Jews from Judea, some of whom would have been fluent in Greek, migrated north to Galilee folowing Jewish defeats in the Great Revolt [First Jewish Revolt] (66-70 C.E.) and the BarKokhba Revolt [Seond Jewish Revolt] (132-135 C.E.). these massive population shifts make it extremely difficult to make generalizations about first-century Galilee on the basis of later evidence. Rather than assuming that many first-century Galileans knew some Greek, it is safer to say that looking at first century Galilee, we can already see the initial stages of later linguistic trends."

Chauncey, M. and Meyers, E. M. How Jewish was Sepphoris in Jesus' time? Biblical Archaeology Review
Sorry I don't have the pages numbers. The article I have is a photo copy in a course pack and only has page numbers for the course pack itself.

Although I take the Jesus mythicist position (ie Jesus was not a man but made up by early Church leaders and the Gospel writers to make a theological statement), I still find it interesting to speculate. It seems that Jesus would have spoken Aramaic as his first language. He may have known some Greek but i doubt he was anywhere near fluent, since, Galilee was almost entirely Jewish at the time and unlike the pagan coast and cosmopolitan Jerusalem.

As for Latin, I doubt he knew a single word. The language of the army was Latin, Greek was used for most administration purposes, even under Roman rule.
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Re: Polyglot Jesus II

Postby Yaziq » Tue 01 Dec 2009 11:41 pm

I suspect that Hebrew, which Jesus undoubtedly knew, was not confined to the Temple, but also had a colloquial form which was spoken by some bilingual Aramaic speakers. I have no proof of this. There were probably people who spoke only Hebrew. Would the Jews who returned from the Babylonian Captivity have spoken Babylonian? They could have preserved the Hebrew language among themselves.
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Re: Polyglot Jesus II

Postby Talib » Wed 02 Dec 2009 12:26 am

Yaziq wrote:I suspect that Hebrew, which Jesus undoubtedly knew, was not confined to the Temple, but also had a colloquial form which was spoken by some bilingual Aramaic speakers. I have no proof of this. There were probably people who spoke only Hebrew. Would the Jews who returned from the Babylonian Captivity have spoken Babylonian?
There was no such thing as a "Babylonian" language - that would be Aramaic, which was the vernacular of the region at the time. There's no reason to assume Jews spoke only Hebrew any more than medieval Christians spoken only Latin.
They could have preserved the Hebrew language among themselves.

They did - they continued to use it for religious purposes, like they did up until the present day when Hebrew was revived as a spoken language.
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Re: Polyglot Jesus II

Postby Sobekhotep » Wed 02 Dec 2009 12:43 am

Talib wrote:There was no such thing as a "Babylonian" language - that would be Aramaic, which was the vernacular of the region at the time.

Akkadian also was spoken by the Babylonians & in Babylonia, probably before Aramaic.
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Re: Polyglot Jesus II

Postby Stosis » Wed 02 Dec 2009 5:38 am

No Babylonian language? I'd better tell my prof this http://www.wlu.ca/calendars/course.php? ... s=307&y=37

Anyway, Isn't Aramaic very closely related to Hebrew, I was under the impression that a speaker of Aramaic could understand much of Hebrew. Maybe not?

Also, the Jews coming back from Babylonia may have learned whatever local language was prominent at the time but likely kept their own language, much like Yiddish and other languages spoken by Jews who lived in Europe. It seems they would only learn this second language for practical reasons and I doubt they would come back to the Levant and continue speaking it.
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Re: Polyglot Jesus II

Postby Talib » Wed 02 Dec 2009 6:25 am

Stosis wrote:No Babylonian language? I'd better tell my prof this http://www.wlu.ca/calendars/course.php? ... s=307&y=37
Isn't this just another name for Akkadian? Regardless, Aramaic was the language spoken there are the time.
Anyway, Isn't Aramaic very closely related to Hebrew, I was under the impression that a speaker of Aramaic could understand much of Hebrew. Maybe not?
They are related, but I'm not sure how mutually intelligible they are.
Also, the Jews coming back from Babylonia may have learned whatever local language was prominent at the time but likely kept their own language, much like Yiddish and other languages spoken by Jews who lived in Europe. It seems they would only learn this second language for practical reasons and I doubt they would come back to the Levant and continue speaking it.
It's like I just said - they did retain Hebrew, only they reserved it for ritual purposes due to its status as לשון הקודש, the holy language. That and Aramaic was spoken all over the Fertile Crescent, including in the Levant, was it not? It's telling that all the direct quotations of Jesus in the Bible are in Aramaic.
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Re: Polyglot Jesus II

Postby formiko » Wed 02 Dec 2009 8:11 am

Talib wrote:It's telling that all the direct quotations of Jesus in the Bible are in Aramaic.

There is the Peshitta which is an Aramaic version of the Bible that was finalized around 150 AD, and was the standard. (Interestingly enough, the Malayalam New Testament is translated from the Peshitta and not the Greek. My good friend Chuck wrote a book called Biblical Dyslexia http://www.amazon.com/Biblical-Dyslexia-Charles-J-Wilhelm/dp/159467261X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1259736651&sr=8-1 which explains how native Aramaic speakers, who spoke Greek as a second language, wrote the gospels with an Aramaic mindset. For example, the manger that Christ was born in was actually the Jewish Sukkoth, the booths they built for the Feast of Tabernacles. He proves it by citing the Greek Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT that many of the disciples grew up with) , the Greek translated sukkoth as Σκηνοπηγία, which was used as manger in the Greek NT. But it was called סוכו
suko in Aramaic. Hebrew was a liturgical language used in the synagogues like Latin was used in the Catholic church and Arabic is used in Indonesian mosques.. People really didn't SPEAK Latin. (Hence many believe he was born around October during the feast of tabernacles)
But his birth isn't what's important. And Aramaic isn't really mutually intelligible with Hebrew. It's closer than Arabic is to Hebrew, but it is truly a separate language.
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Re: Polyglot Jesus II

Postby Sobekhotep » Thu 03 Dec 2009 12:50 am

formiko wrote:There is the Peshitta which is an Aramaic version of the Bible

I think I remember hearing about a group of Christians who claim that the original New Testament was written in Aramaic & that the Greek version was translated from the Aramaic.
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Re: Polyglot Jesus II

Postby Delodephius » Thu 03 Dec 2009 1:10 am

Talib wrote:
Stosis wrote:No Babylonian language? I'd better tell my prof this http://www.wlu.ca/calendars/course.php? ... s=307&y=37
Isn't this just another name for Akkadian?

Old Babylonian is the second stage of Akkadian, followed by Middle Babylonian, Neo-Babylonian and Late Babylonian. Together with Assyrian which went through the same stages, apart from Late, they form the Akkadian language.

1. Old Akkadian (26-20th c. BC)
2. Old Babylonian/Old Assyrian (20-16th c. BC)
3. Middle Babylonian/Middle Assyrian (16-11th c. BC)
4. Neo-Babylonian/Neo-Assyrian (11-7th c. BC)
5. Late Babylonian (7th c. BC - 3rd c. AD)
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Re: Polyglot Jesus II

Postby formiko » Thu 03 Dec 2009 3:43 am

Sobekhotep wrote:
formiko wrote:There is the Peshitta which is an Aramaic version of the Bible

I think I remember hearing about a group of Christians who claim that the original New Testament was written in Aramaic & that the Greek version was translated from the Aramaic.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that, because Greek was the Lingua Franca and Aramaic a local dialect only. Greek was a second language for the vast majority of people. Jesus SPOKE in Aramaic to his Aramaic disciples, so the Aramaic translation probably would have been more "pure".
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