What Language Did Jesus Speak?

Pope Francis, Benjamin Netanyahu disagree
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2014 9:29 AM CDT
What Language Did Jesus Speak?
There has been some recent debate over what language Jesus would have spoken.   (Shutterstock)

This week saw a small disagreement between Pope Francis and Israel's prime minister. When the two met publicly in Jerusalem, Benjamin Netanyahu told the pope that "Jesus was here, in this land. He spoke Hebrew." Francis corrected him, Reuters reports: "Aramaic." Netanyahu's response: "He spoke Aramaic, but he knew Hebrew." Now, the BBC is looking into just what languages Jesus would have known—and an expert says both leaders are right.

On an "everyday" basis, Jesus would have spoken Aramaic, says Dr. Sebastian Brock of Oxford, and the Washington Post notes there's a "scholarly consensus" on this matter. Hebrew, meanwhile, was used in more scholarly pursuits, as well as scripture—though it was also used by poorer people, "the kind of people (Jesus) ministered to," another expert tells Reuters. Jesus may have known Latin, too, though likely only a few words, the BBC notes; he also could have known some Greek, which was used by officials in the Roman Empire. (An ancient image of a curly-haired Jesus was recently found in a tomb in Egypt.)

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