Did Jesus Speak Greek?

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Paul Barnett


This paper offers suggestions about the languages of first century Palestine and the languages in which Jesus taught. Widely held are the views that the Aramaic was the principal language, that Jesus conversed in Aramaic, and that his teaching was remembered in Aramaic. The evidence, however, points to the currency of both Aramaic and Greek, but with the latter gaining the ascendancy. This, it is argued, is reflected in Jesus use of both, but with his greater use of Greek. From the beginning, therefore, Greek became the vehicle for the new faith, including in the creation of the sources that would evolve into the text of the four Gospels. As to the mode of transmission, there is a better argument for transmission by individual eyewitnesses than for some form of community-based storytelling. Oral transmission doubtless had a role, but it was secondary and diminished with the passing of the years.

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