The “scholars” tell us that Jesus probably knew some Hebrew, but normally spoke Aramaic. Wikipedia gives the standard view:
Most scholars believe that historical Jesus primarily spoke Aramaic, with some Hebrew and Greek, although there is some debate in academia as to what degree. Generally, scholars believe that the towns of Nazareth and Capernaum where Jesus lived were Aramaic-speaking communities, that he was knowledgeable enough in Hebrew to discuss the Hebrew Bible, and that he most likely knew Greek through commerce as a carpenter in nearby Sepphoris and because Greek was the common language of the eastern part of the Roman Empire. Accordingly, Jesus is believed to have addressed primarily Aramaic-speaking audiences.
One of the reasons for this view is his statement on the cross: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? (My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?)
What they fail to notice is, if Jesus is speaking mostly Aramaic, why are those the only Aramaic words in the New Testament? You say because the New Testament was written mainly for speakers of Greek. My question still remains. Why only those words?
The use of this Aramaic, followed by the Greek translation, is there because it is different from what he commonly spoke.
We use many Latin phrases today, but we do not speak or read in Latin as our common language. For example, we even have Latin phrases on our money, such as E PLURIBUS UNUM. But that does not mean we can speak Latin. Jesus was doing the same, he was speaking an Aramaic phrase, the way we speak Latin phrases: Carpe diem, means “seize the day.” And Caveat Emptor means “buyer beware.”
With the Jews having suffered great persecution for many centuries, the phrase that Jesus spoke was likely a very old phrase which originated in Aramaic, but that is not evidence that they still spoke Aramaic.
When Pilot made a sign and put it above Jesus, JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS, it was written in three languages: Greek, Latin, and Hebrew (John 19:19-20). If the majority of the Jews of that time and place were speaking Aramaic, he would have written it in Aramaic. This is powerful evidence that the main language of the Jews of Israel during the first century was Hebrew!
In the book of Acts it says that Paul spoke HEBREW:
Act 21:40 And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying: 22:1 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.” 2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. :
Here was a huge crowd of people in Jerusalem that were trying to kill Paul, so the Roman soldiers showed up to protect him, and allowed him to speak to the crowd. He was not speaking only to the Jewish rulers or Sanhedrin, but the common folk living in Jerusalem, and he spoke Hebrew to them. Here is another passage:
Act 26:14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
This passage tells us that when Jesus appeared to Saul (who became Paul) on the road to Damascus, that Jesus spoke to him in Hebrew. This indicates that Hebrew was Saul’s preferred language.
Paul spoke Hebrew, and since the crowd understood Hebrew, they must have spoken it as well, and even the Roman governors understood Hebrew. If Paul’s primary language was Hebrew, then it is likely that Jesus also spoke Hebrew as his primary language.
Also, in Revelation it gives a word in Hebrew and Greek:
They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon. (Rev: 9:11 )
When you look up the word “Abaddon” in Strong’s Dictionary or Thayer, they say that the word is “of Hebrew origin.” It does NOT say, “of Aramaic origin.” If the primary language of the Jewish people of that era was Aramaic, WHY didn’t John give the name in Aramaic? Odd, don’t you think? And again later:
And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. (Rev: 16:16)
But WAIT! There’s more!
There is historical evidence that Matthew originally wrote his gospel in Hebrew. Eusebius (c.265-c.340) in his history of Christianity said:
For Matthew, who had at first preached to the Hebrews, when he was about to go to other peoples, committed his Gospel to writing in his native tongue, and thus compensated those whom he was obliged to leave for the loss of his presence. (Ecclesiastical History, 3.24.5-8) (hebrewgospel.com)
One source for Eusebius appears to have been Origen, as he quotes Origen:
First was written that according to Matthew, who was once a tax-collector but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, who published it for those who from Judaism came to believe, composed as it was in the Hebrew language. (EH, 6.25.4) (Eusebius, Christianity, and Judaism, Harold W. Attridge, Wayne State University Press, 1992, p. 130)
And in another book called Questiones Ad Marinum, Eusebius was comparing Matt. 28:1 to Jn.20:1, and said:
“For on the one hand the evangelist Matthew transmitted the gospel in the Hebrew language. On the other hand, having changed it to the Greek language, he said ‘the hour drawing towards dawn unto the Lord’s day, after the close of the Sabbath.’ . . .” (Translated by Ron Jones from the Greek text in The Inspiration of Holy Scripture: Its Nature and Proof, William Lee, Published by R. Carter & Brothers, 1860, 470.) (hebrewgospel.com)
Later, Jerome (342-420 AD) writes in his, Lives of Illustrious Men:
“Pantaenus (died about 200 A.D.), a philosopher of the stoic school, . . . on the request of the legates of that nation [Egypt], he was sent to India by Demetrius bishop of Alexandria, where he found that Bartholomew, one of the twelve apostles, had preached the advent of the Lord Jesus according to the gospel of Matthew, and on his return to Alexandria he brought this with him written in Hebrew characters.” (hebrewgospel.com)
Even with this clear evidence, the “experts” will not accept it, and when they write about it always say that even though it says Hebrew, it really means Aramaic. They will write like this, “. . . written in Hebrew (Aramaic).” No, it says Hebrew, NOT Aramaic.
Therefore, the primary language of Jesus and the Apostles was most likely NOT Aramaic, but Hebrew.