The entire New Testament was originally written in Greek – a language that Jesus/Yeshua and his disciples barely knew. Their everyday tongue was Galilean Aramaic, now defunct.
Yeshua may have understood a smattering of marketplace Greek since Sepphoris, the capital of Galilee and just a stone’s throw from Nazareth, was on the main trade route from Greece to Egypt and Asia Minor and it’s possible he heard it spoken, but he wouldn’t in Greek, and nor would his disciples.
Most Jews learned some Hebrew so they could understand the scriptures, just as Moslems today learn Arabic to read the Qu’ran.
Yeshua would have needed Hebrew to communicate with the temple dignitaries in Jerusalem who would surely not have spoken a rural tongue like Aramaic. We don’t know if he spoke Latin, the language of the Romans. Probably not, which poses an interesting question – how did he communicate with Pontius Pilate, the Roman Prefect, if indeed he did?
The implications are profound. Since the entire New Testament was written in a language foreign to Yeshua and his associates, all reported speech in the gospels must be at least third- or fourth-hand hand and a translation of what was actually said. Or, more accurately, of the authors’ impressions of what was said or what the authors would have wanted him to say. Moreover, Aramaic, Hebrew and ancient Greek are said to be extremely difficult to translate into modern languages.
Scholars have thrown such additional light upon the original meaning of the scriptures that we cannot assume that a single paragraph of the Bible is understood in our day as it was intended at the time it was written.
Here’s the key. When reading any Bible passage we should ask ourselves, ‘What meaning did these events and sayings have for people living in that place at that time?’ Then look for the true meaning behind the words.
©David Lawrence Preston, 31.8.16
Hay House/Balboa Press, 2015