Do any Church Fathers state or imply that Jesus spoke Aramaic during his ministry (ie in gospel)?

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
allegoria
Posts: 10
Joined: Wed Mar 20, 2024 3:27 pm

Re: Do any Church Fathers state or imply that Jesus spoke Aramaic during his ministry (ie in gospel)?

Post by allegoria »

Peter Kirby wrote: Sun Mar 31, 2024 3:36 pm they can say for sure.
I went down a rabbit hole on the letter I mentioned and still have more to read about it before a proper reply (apparently there is considerable controversy about it which I hadn’t realized, my fault for trusting Wikipedia — some translated it as “no desire to write in Hebrew”, but then this was challenged persuasively to actually be “no ability” again, then there is controversy on whether by “Hebrew” they mean Hebrew proper or any Semitic script, then some say a Nabatean wrote it, but then this was recently challenged and so the author is again presumed to be a Jewish rebel, then someone even claims that Bar Khokba himself (!) wrote that letter, but this was an earlier hypothesis that apparently has been discarded…)

But just to rewrite what I intended to say: if one of the rebels under Bar Khokba did not have the ability to write in Hebrew/Aramaic (I think that is what the letter indicates), this is surprising information because you would expect a member of a fiercely nationalist resistance movement to be able to write in Hebrew/Aramaic.

The letter is here https://pub-f4993da6f0cd4d0a9c9cef073fa ... 541126.pdf

From “Recognizing Greek Literacy in Early Roman Documents from the Judaean Desert”,

Citing a number of examples, she argues convincingly […] translates "because of our inability (= we are unable) to write Hebrew (or Aramaic)."

From https://www.jstor.org/stable/24520162


Therefore, as far as Soumaios [[the writer of the letter]] is concerned, 'Eppasoti probably refers to Jewish script in general rather than Hebrew or Aramaic specifically.

Regarding an argument against the Nabatean hypothesis, from Michael Owen Wise: https://www.academia.edu/112155829/Lang ... w=34153790

Soumaios appears to be a hypocoristic of the name Samuel. Such was Ilan's analysis, and she listed nearly a dozen forms in support of it, spelled variously Zauoios, Zauaias, Zovucios, Leuaiov, 4202, 120, and *20 135 Samuel was not an uncommon Jewish name in Roman Judaea, according to that same onomastic expert. Twenty-six attested individuals bore the name in the centuries under review. 36 Thus, the hypocoristic Soumaios, while certainly compatible with the Nabatean hypothesis, is equally compatible with the notion of a Jewish writer of P. Yadin 52. The second possibility would seem far the more likely prima facie, given the demographics (it was, after all, a Jewish revolt) and the nationalist character of the conflict. Foreign commanders of Jewish troops? The idea that a perfervid rebel such as Masabala b. Simon would submit to military orders from a Nabatean-regarding a Jewish festival, moreover, hardly an ideologically neutral topic-seems incongruous.

Last edited by allegoria on Sun Mar 31, 2024 4:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Peter Kirby
Site Admin
Posts: 8483
Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:13 pm
Location: Santa Clara
Contact:

Re: Do any Church Fathers state or imply that Jesus spoke Aramaic during his ministry (ie in gospel)?

Post by Peter Kirby »

allegoria wrote: Sun Mar 31, 2024 4:16 pm
Peter Kirby wrote: Sun Mar 31, 2024 3:36 pm they can say for sure.
I went down a rabbit hole on the letter I mentioned and still have more to read about it before a proper reply (apparently there is considerable controversy about it which I hadn’t realized, my fault for trusting Wikipedia — some translated it as “no desire to write in Hebrew”, but then this was challenged persuasively to actually be “no ability” again, then there is controversy on whether by “Hebrew” they mean Hebrew proper or any Semitic script, then some say a Nabatean wrote it, but then this was recently challenged and so the author is again presumed to be a Jewish rebel, then someone even claims that Bar Khokba himself (!) wrote that letter, but this was an earlier hypothesis that apparently has been discarded…)

But just to rewrite what I intended to say: if one of the rebels under Bar Khokba did not have the ability to write in Hebrew/Aramaic (I think that is what the letter indicates), this is surprising information because you would expect a member of a fiercely nationalist resistance movement to be able to write in Hebrew/Aramaic.

The letter is here yutorah.net/_materials/Source-Sheet-541126.pdf

From “Recognizing Greek Literacy in Early Roman Documents from the Judaean Desert”,

Citing a number of examples, she argues convincingly […] translates "because of our inability (= we are unable) to write Hebrew (or Aramaic)."

From https://www.jstor.org/stable/24520162


Therefore, as far as Soumaios [[the writer of the letter]] is concerned, 'Eppasoti probably refers to Jewish script in general rather than Hebrew or Aramaic specifically.

Regarding an argument against the Nabatean hypothesis, from Michael Owen Wise: https://www.academia.edu/112155829/Lang ... w=34153790

Soumaios appears to be a hypocoristic of the name Samuel. Such was Ilan's analysis, and she listed nearly a dozen forms in support of it, spelled variously Zauoios, Zauaias, Zovucios, Leuaiov, 4202, 120, and *20 135 Samuel was not an uncommon Jewish name in Roman Judaea, according to that same onomastic expert. Twenty-six attested individuals bore the name in the centuries under review. 36 Thus, the hypocoristic Soumaios, while certainly compatible with the Nabatean hypothesis, is equally compatible with the notion of a Jewish writer of P. Yadin 52. The second possibility would seem far the more likely prima facie, given the demographics (it was, after all, a Jewish revolt) and the nationalist character of the conflict. Foreign commanders of Jewish troops? The idea that a perfervid rebel such as Masabala b. Simon would submit to military orders from a Nabatean-regarding a Jewish festival, moreover, hardly an ideologically neutral topic-seems incongruous.

Thank you! I appreciate the way you've expanded on this point.
User avatar
MrMacSon
Posts: 8859
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 3:45 pm

Re: Do any Church Fathers state or imply that Jesus spoke Aramaic during his ministry (ie in gospel)?

Post by MrMacSon »

allegoria wrote: Sun Mar 31, 2024 4:16 pm my fault for trusting Wikipedia
  • Wikipedia is often a good place to start on these matters, though

allegoria wrote: Sun Mar 31, 2024 4:16 pm I went down a rabbit hole on the letter I mentioned and still have more to read about it before a proper reply (apparently there is considerable controversy about it which I hadn’t realized, my fault for trusting Wikipedia — some translated it as “no desire to write in Hebrew”, but then this was challenged persuasively to actually be “no ability” again, then there is controversy on whether by “Hebrew” they mean Hebrew proper or any Semitic script, then some say a Nabatean wrote it, but then this was recently challenged and so the author is again presumed to be a Jewish rebel, then someone even claims that Bar Khokba himself (!) wrote that letter, but this was an earlier hypothesis that apparently has been discarded…)
  • Welcome to New Testament and early Christian studies!
  • Baptisms therein are often not in cool water ;)

allegoria wrote: Sun Mar 31, 2024 4:16 pm
But just to rewrite what I intended to say: if one of the rebels under Bar Khokba did not have the ability to write in Hebrew/Aramaic (I think that is what the letter indicates), this is surprising information because you would expect a member of a fiercely nationalist resistance movement to be able to write in Hebrew/Aramaic.

The letter is here https://pub-f4993da6f0cd4d0a9c9cef073fa ... 541126.pdf

This raises the prospect of what language the letters that have been attributed to Bar Kokhba himself were written in: the Wikipedia page you cited in the OP includes:


1960 archaeological finds

Other finds of archeological significance were samples of Bar Kochba Revolt coinage, inscribed on one side 'Shimeon' and on the other, 'to the Freedom of Jerusalem' (לחרות ירושלם). Some arrows were found at the entrance to the cave, and a basket of bronze vessels and incense shovels. They had been made with Roman images on them, but the faces of the various pagan gods and creatures were defaced (see Aniconism in Judaism).


A tied bundle of documents, the Bar-Kokhba letters, was found in a waterskin, next to what were apparently a woman's belongings: wool, cosmetic tools, beads, a perfume flask and a mirror.

Bar-Kokhba letters

Of fifteen letters, most were written in Aramaic and Hebrew, and two in Greek. Most were addressed from the leader (but not in one handwriting) to his subordinates Yehonathan and Masabala, who sat at En-Gedi. Yadin theorized that Yehonathan and Masabala finally carried their cache to the cave. The letters are linguistically interesting as they include many spelling errors, revealing a spoken Hebrew which parallels in places phenomena from modern colloquial Hebrew despite the two sharing no direct relation.

A letter consisting of four slats of wood tied together with the other papyri was the only one that used the words "Nesi Israel" (the others used "Shimeon ben/bar Kosiba"). This letter is written in Aramaic and it addresses two subordinates, ordering them to confiscate some wheat from a man and deliver the man and the wheat safely to him, and threatens to severely punish them if they fail. The letter also warns that no one should give shelter to any man from Tekoa. This warning includes the description of the punishment < continues >

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_of_L ... ba_letters


And see: https://cojs.org/the_bar_kokhba_letters ... he_revolt/
Charles Wilson
Posts: 2107
Joined: Thu Apr 03, 2014 8:13 am

Re: Do any Church Fathers state or imply that Jesus spoke Aramaic during his ministry (ie in gospel)?

Post by Charles Wilson »

Pettinato, Archives of Ebla, p. 277:

"Gen. 10:8-1 1 reports that the first warrior on earth was named Nimrod. For this name no satisfactory explanation has been found, but current opinion tends to favor a Mesopotamian origin of the personal name. The study of the patterns of Eblaite and Ugaritic personal names reveals a frequency of the sequence animal name plus the name of a god. Thus Eblaite da-s'i-ma-ad, “the he-goat of the Grand,”10 en-si-ma-lik, “the goat of Malik,”11 and Ugaritic ibrd, “the bull of Hadd,” ni-mi-ri-yà, “the pan¬ ther of Ya,” illustrate this pattern and suggest that Nimrod breaks down into nmr, “panther,” and -d, “Hadd.” Which is to say that with this good Canaanite name the founder of Babel, Erech, and Akkad (Gen. 10:10) may well have been a Canaanite."

John 1:29 (RSV):

[29] The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Uhhh..."Lamb of God?

"Immar-Yah" =>" 'mmar-ya" => "Marya" and so on.
ebion
Posts: 423
Joined: Wed Oct 18, 2023 11:32 am

Re: Do any Church Fathers state or imply that Jesus spoke Aramaic during his ministry (ie in gospel)?

Post by ebion »

I don't know if it answers your question but there are lots of reasons to think the gospels were originally written in Aramaic.

Some of the key ones of the KJV Howlers are of Jesus speaking in Matthew, so I would take that to mean Jesus spoke Aramaic in the Gospels.
mbuckley3
Posts: 160
Joined: Sat Oct 28, 2017 6:47 am

Re: Do any Church Fathers state or imply that Jesus spoke Aramaic during his ministry (ie in gospel)?

Post by mbuckley3 »

allegoria wrote: Sun Mar 31, 2024 4:16 pm

But just to rewrite what I intended to say: if one of the rebels under Bar Khokba did not have the ability to write in Hebrew/Aramaic (I think that is what the letter indicates), this is surprising information because you would expect a member of a fiercely nationalist resistance movement to be able to write in Hebrew/Aramaic.
Not necessarily so.

1) Reading and writing are different skills. I can read Greek, I can't compose text in it.

2) If you define literacy as reading-and-writing, if you assume (generously) a literacy rate of 10% among adult males in C1/C2 Palestine, in a largely bilingual society there will not necessarily be an exact correlation between what is written and what is spoken. You can have ten rebels happily chatting together all day in Aramaic, but the one guy who can write is a bilingual who writes Greek. Just your bad luck...
mbuckley3
Posts: 160
Joined: Sat Oct 28, 2017 6:47 am

Re: Do any Church Fathers state or imply that Jesus spoke Aramaic during his ministry (ie in gospel)?

Post by mbuckley3 »

allegoria wrote: Sun Mar 31, 2024 4:57 am

So now I wonder what the church fathers say on this matter.
Perhaps the best way to get a 'historical' view from them is to infer from what they say about Paul.

Epiphanius is at the minimalist end :

"And yet you see how the holy apostle explains of languages, 'Yet in church I had rather utter five words with my understanding,' that is, 'in translation.' As a prophet benefits his hearers with prophecy in the Holy Spirit by bringing things to light which have already been furnished to his understanding, I too, says Paul, <want> to speak so that the church may hear and be edified - not edify myself with the boast of Greek and Hebrew which I know, instead of edifying the church with the language which it understands." (Panarion 1.3.42.12)

Jerome is maximalist :

"Finally, the apostle Paul, who preached from Jerusalem to Illyricum and from there hastened to go to Spain via Rome, gives thanks to God, because he could speak in more languages than all the apostles; for he, who would preach to many nations, had received the gift of many languages. " (Letter 120)

So we can infer that if Epiphanius were asked, what language(s) did Jesus speak on Earth, logically his reply would be - given the various audiences encountered - Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. (Such trilingualism is not ridiculous per se; the evidence for it in later rabbinic writings was demonstrated by Saul Lieberman long ago).

■■■■■

But with Jesus being considered a divine being, if we ask what language God speaks, we can end up in a strange place, if we follow the (admittedly, idiosyncratic) path taken by Gregory of Nyssa :

"For at the river Jordan, after the descent of the Holy Spirit, and again in the hearing of the Jews, and at the Transfiguration, there came a voice from heaven, teaching men not only to regard the phenomenon as something more than a figure, but also to believe the beloved Son of God to be truly God. Now that voice was fashioned by God, suitably to the understanding of the hearers, in airy substance, and adapted to the language of the day; God, 'who wills that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth', having so articulated his words in the air with a view to the salvation of the hearers, as our Lord also said to the Jews, when they thought it thundered because the sound took place in the air." (Against Eunomius 12, PG 45.993)

This theory of 'akoulalia', if applied to Jesus (which Gregory doesn't do), would be formally equivalent to the shape-shifting Jesus posited by Origen (c.Celsum 2.64 ) and a trope in some 'apocryphal' Acts. Which is definitely not on point with your OP... :D
ebion
Posts: 423
Joined: Wed Oct 18, 2023 11:32 am

Re: Do any Church Fathers state or imply that Jesus spoke Aramaic during his ministry (ie in gospel)?

Post by ebion »

mbuckley3 wrote: Mon Apr 01, 2024 3:51 pm Not necessarily so.

1) Reading and writing are different skills. I can read Greek, I can't compose text in it.

2) If you define literacy as reading-and-writing, if you assume (generously) a literacy rate of 10% among adult males in C1/C2 Palestine, in a largely bilingual society there will not necessarily be an exact correlation between what is written and what is spoken. You can have ten rebels happily chatting together all day in Aramaic, but the one guy who can write is a bilingual who writes Greek. Just your bad luck...
And with legions of Romans around intending you grievous bodily harm, the ten might not have much time to stidy their Aleph Bets :-,)
User avatar
DCHindley
Posts: 3434
Joined: Mon Oct 07, 2013 9:53 am
Location: Ohio, USA

Re: Do any Church Fathers state or imply that Jesus spoke Aramaic during his ministry (ie in gospel)?

Post by DCHindley »

I believe that it was Joachim Jeremias, in The Parables of Jesus (Engl transl 1955 by S H Hooke), who seriously pursued the idea that Jesus' parables as presented in the Greek language Gospels were best understood as reflecting an Aramaic language source.

Jeremias does not, unfortunately, cite the church fathers in the index (just the Christian OT & NT scriptures), as this may not have been in his zone of interest.

There are references to the language by which Jesus' teaching was supposed to have been recorded in some church fathers. My suggestions might be to search for Origen, Eusebius (sometimes citing earlier writers in paraphrase form), Jerome or Rufinus.

The fathers usually indicate that their tradition was that the Gospel of Matthew was written down first by "Matthew" in the "Hebrew language," with the other gospel writers interpreting as they were able. Whether that means the "double tradition" (Gospels of Matthew & Luke common materials, parables mostly) or something else, like a narrative account, is hard to guess. The sources were quite vague.

To make it worse, "Hebrew language" could mean Hebrew, their sacred language, or Aramaic, as this was the commonly spoken language of most rural Judeans, if we go by archeological relics of an accidental nature, as already pointed out. In Judean settled areas, forget about inscriptions in Aramaic, much less Hebrew, anywhere at any time (in 1st century CE anyways), except perhaps in Jerusalem. In the bigger towns, Greek use was much more common, as this was the "international" language in the eastern Mediterranean region, introduced by Alexander the Great and his generals as they conquered the region.

You could, if you have a larger local or decent college/university library nearby, and can devote a few hours to do some serious reading, look at Wilhelm Schneemelcher's New Testament Apocrypha (2 volumes, English Translations by R McL Wilson 1991 & 1992), which discuss the apocryphal gospels and other traditions, but mention the same passages as are used to attest to ancient Judean sources for NT gospels.

Good luck with that ...

DCH
allegoria wrote: Sun Mar 31, 2024 4:57 am There is at least one professor who entertains the idea Jesus spoke Greek during his teachings: https://www.wisluthsem.org/did-jesus-speak-greek/

It is odd that if Jesus spoke Aramaic primarily, the gospel writers would translate into Greek using the same basic language with mostly just additions or subtractions. And if he spoke Aramaic, you would expect at least one copy of “sayings in Aramaic” to appear — that would be significant because the words would be transmitted and discussed with perfect fidelity. And if he spoke Aramaic, it makes no sense to specify the few times where he does speak Aramaic in the Gospel and writing it as such, like Matthew 27:46.

Then there’s the Bar Khokba findings: we have Old Testament scrolls written in Greek: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/dai ... iscovered/ . There’s the letter from the “cave of letters” which says “the letter is written in Greek as we have no one who knows Hebrew” https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_of_Letters . If even the fierce Jewish nationalists of the revolt used Greek scrolls, and at one point had no one present who knew Aramaic or Hebrew despite being what looks like a headquarters for the rebels, what does that tell us about the normal Jewish experience at the time? They would be even less likely to know Hebrew/Aramaic or use a Hebrew scroll. But as this is a century after Jesus, perhaps it doesn’t necessarily tell us anything?

So now I wonder what the church fathers say on this matter.
Gd1234
Posts: 19
Joined: Fri Jul 05, 2019 6:03 pm

Re: Do any Church Fathers state or imply that Jesus spoke Aramaic during his ministry (ie in gospel)?

Post by Gd1234 »

To the original question. The proponents of the Peshiṭta claim the gospels were originally written in aramaic( which most scholars disagree) but what is interesting is its claimed there is certain word play in the Syriac which is not in the greek, implying the possibility Jesus spoke Aramaic.
Also certain words in the gospel, like mammon are believed Aramaic
Post Reply