Greek or Hebrew

(Jim C Reeves) #1

I am curious about the Gospels. My understanding is that they were originally written in Greek. So then I am wondering which language was actually spoken when Jesus spoke. For example, when Matthew heard Jesus offer the what we now call the Lord’s Prayer, did he hear it in Greek from Jesus and write it down or did he hear it in Hebrew and then translate it?

Was everyone bilingual in Greek and Hebrew in those days?

(Andrew Bulin) #2

I would dare say that people were multilingual at that time! Today there are pockets of South America, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, etc. where people speak 3-4 (or more!) languages and dialects of languages. It’s amazing how diverse human language can be, while humans still maintain the ability to communicate!

In Jesus’ day, the common languages would have been Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. According to tradition, the bishop of Hierapolis, Papias (1-2 century AD) records that Matthew specifically compiled his gospel in a form of Hebrew (he was writing to a Jewish audience). At that time, it could have been a version of Hebrew or Aramaic [1]. I would assume that Jesus mostly spoke to His Jewish disciples in Aramaic and Hebrew as their personal communal language, while Greek would still have been common to all.

Great question! What was your interest in knowing about the languages used?

[1] F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988) 125-126.