HOW DO WE KNOW

THAT GALILEAN
ARAMAIC WAS THE
LANGUAGE OF
JESUS?
By Hadrian Mâr Élijah Bar Israël
http://www.marelijah.org

© 2016 – All Rights Reserved by Righteous Endeavour
http://www.righteousendeavour.com

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INTRODUCTION
By this monograph, we demonstrate the essential proof
that Jesus and His apostles spoke the Judean / Galilean
dialect of Aramaic, rather than Greek, Hebrew, Latin or
any other language or dialect as demonstrated by the
original Peshitta and confirmed by the later Greek
manuscripts of the scriptures.
There is a scholarly consensus of the fact that, "Aramaic
was the common language of Palestine in the first
century AD” and that “Jesus and his disciples spoke the
Galilean dialect, which was distinguished from that of
Jerusalem"1

1

Allen C. Myers, ed., "Aramaic" in The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, MI:
William B. Eerdmans, 1987, ISBN 0-8028-2402-1, page 72

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WHAT IS ARAMAIC?
Aramaic is a language branch of the Northwest Semitic
family, and of which Syriac is an amalgamated dialect.
Over the ages, Aramaic has broken into literally
hundreds of dialects based on socio-geological factors,
not the least of which were the rise and fall of empires,
eras of Jewish thought and more, and covers Old,
Middle and Modern variants in both Eastern and
Western dialects.
In the biblical era alone, which spans nearly five
thousand years, we have Achaemenid, Hasmonean,
Babylonian, Galilean, Nabataean, Syrian, Samarian,
Edessan (Old Syriac), Jordanian, Caessarian, Judean
(also referred to as Yerushalmi), Damascene, Imperial,
Samaritan and many, many more. In Biblical times,
dialect was an extremely important factor in a person’s
status. For instance, the Gileadites killed the
Ephraimites based on how they pronounced the word
‫ ִׁשבֹּ לֶת‬2.

2

See: Judges 12

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JESUS WAS A GALILEAN

‫ܘܟܕ ܥܠ ܐܠܘܪܫܠܡ ܐܬܬܙܝܥܬ ܟܠܗ ܡܕܝܢܬܐ‬
‫ܘܐܡܪܝܢ ܗܘܘ ܡܢܘ ܗܢܐ ܀ ܟܢܫܐ ܕܝܢ ܐܡܪܝܢ‬
‫ܗܘܘ ܗܢܘ ܝܫܘܥ ܢܒܝܐ ܕܡܢ ܢܨܪܬ ܕܓܠܝܐܠ ܀‬
In Jerusalem (Judea) where Judean (Yerushalmi)
Aramaic was spoken, Jesus and his followers did not fit
in due to their accent or, because it was a regional
dialect of Aramaic foreign to the Judean region... In fact
“when He entered into Jerusalem, all of the city was
stirred up asking, "Who is this man?" And the crowds
were saying, "This is Yeshua the Prophet, who is from
Nazareth in Galilee."3
This can have two meanings, the first is someone from
the city of Nazareth in the lower Galilee, and the second
is a member of the Nazarite sect which thrived in that
region. Either way, He was most particularly a Galilean.

3

Matthew 21:10-11

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PETER WAS A GALILEAN
Shimum was a fisherman from Galilee, whose brother
Andrew knew John the Baptist and had heard from him
that the Messiah was born in the person of Yeshua
(“Jesus”).4 Thus it follows that they would speak their
own language and dialect, and not the language and
dialect of other people.
After Jesus’ arrest,

‫ܘܚܙܬܗ ܥܠܝܡܬܐ ܚܕܐ ܕܝܬܒ ܠܘܬ ܢܘܪܐ ܘܚܪܬ‬
‫ܒܗ ܘܐܡܪܐ ܐܦ ܗܢܐ ܥܡܗ ܗܘܐ ܀‬
“a servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She
looked closely at him and said, “This man was with
him.”5

‫ܡܢ ܒܬܪ ܩܠܝܠ ܕܝܢ ܩܪܒܘ ܗܢܘܢ ܕܩܝܡܝܢ ܘܐܡܪܘ‬
‫ܠܟܐܦܐ ܫܪܝܪܐܝܬ ܐܦ ܐܢܬ ܡܢܗܘܢ ܐܢܬ ܐܦ‬
‫ܡܡܠܠܟ ܓܝܪ ܡܘܕܥ ܠܟ ܀ ܗܝܕܝܢ ܫܪܝ ܠܡܚܪܡܘ‬
‫ܘܠܡܐܡܐ ܕܐܠ ܝܕܥܢܐ ܠܗ ܠܓܒܪܐ ܘܒܗ‬
‫ܒܫܥܬܐ ܩܪܐ ܬܪܢܓܐܠ ܀‬

4

John 1

5

Luke 22:56 NIV

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After a little while, those who were standing by drew
near, and said to Kepha, "Surely also you are with them,
for your accent exposes you. Then he began to curse,
and to say, "I do not know that man! And in that hour
the cock crowed."6

‫ܗܘ ܕܝܢ ܬܘܒ ܟܦܪ ܘܒܬܪ ܩܠܝܠ ܬܘܒ ܗܢܘܢ‬
‫ܕܩܝܡܝܢ ܐܡܪܘ ܠܟܐܦܐ ܫܪܝܪܐܝܬ ܡܢܗܘܢ ܐܢܬ‬
‫ܐܦ ܓܝܪ ܓܠܝܠܝܐ ܐܢܬ ܘܡܡܠܠܟ ܕܡܐ ܀‬
But he again denied it, and after a little while those who
were standing there said to Kepha, "Truly you are one
of them, even as you are from Galilee, and your speech
is like theirs!"7

6
7

Matthew 26:73-74 *
Mark 14:70 *, see also Luke 22:58-60

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THE OTHER APOSTLES WERE all
GALILEANS
Then the Acts of the Apostles records that at the time of
Pentecost:

‫ܐܝܬ ܗܘܘ ܕܝܢ ܓܒܪܐ ܕܥܡܪܝܢ ܒܐܘܪܫܠܡ ܕܕܚܠܝܢ‬
‫ܡܢ ܐܠܗܐ ܝܗܘܕܝܐ ܡܢ ܟܠ ܥܡܡܐ ܕܬܚܝܬ‬
‫ܫܡܝܐ ܀ ܘܟܕ ܗܘܐ ܩܐܠ ܗܘ ܟܢܫ ܟܠܗ ܥܡܐ‬
‫ܘܐܫܬܓܫ ܡܛܠ ܕܫܡܥ ܗܘܐ ܐܢܫ ܐܢܫ‬
‫ܡܢܗܘܢ ܕܡܡܠܠܝܢ ܗܘܘ ܒܠܫܢܝܗܘܢ ܀ ܬܗܝܪܝܢ‬
‫ܗܘܘ ܕܝܢ ܟܠܗܘܢ ܘܡܬܕܡܪܝܢ ܟܕ ܐܡܪܝܢ ܗܘܘ ܚܕ‬
‫ܠܚܕ ܗܠܝܢ ܟܠܗܘܢ ܕܡܡܠܠܝܢ ܐܠ ܗܐ ܓܠܝܠܝܐ‬
‫ܐܢܘܢ ܀ ܐܝܟܢܐ ܚܢܢ ܫܡܥܝܢ ܚܢܢ ܐܢܫ ܐܢܫ ܠܫܢܗ‬
‫ܕܒܗ ܝܠܝܕܝܢ ܚܢܢ ܀‬
Which translates as:
… there were many Jewish men who feared God
from all nations under heaven, and when that
sound occurred, people gathered and were
rioting because they were hearing each man
speaking in their own language… Now they were
all astonished and wondered aloud to one
another saying, "Behold, weren’t all of these
who are speaking Galileans? For how do we

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hear each of them in the language to which we
were born?”8

Thus we have clear contextual evidence from the
scriptures that Christ and his Disciples spoke Galilean
Aramaic; and understand that the dialect of the
Galileans differed from that of the Judeans, which
although are remarkably similar and mutually
intelligible, preserve many subtle and distinguishing
differences.
The Galilean dialect of Aramaic has very distinct
grammar and pronunciation and is maybe one of the
least understood of the many Aramaic dialects which
exists. This language was virtually wiped out after the
ascension of the Caliphate in the 7th Century, when
Arabic began to replace Aramaic in the Galilee.

8

Acts 2:5-8 *

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Aramaic not Hebrew?
Hebrew was not the commonly spoken language of first
century Israel, though it was used liturgically in the
Temple and in synagogues. The lingua franca of Jesus’s
time was in fact Aramaic. Few people spoke Hebrew,
and then only in liturgical situations, much like Old
Slavonic to-day, a language spoken almost exclusively
by priests.
According to the Dead Sea Scrolls archaeologist Yigael
Yadin, Aramaic was the spoken language of Jews until
Simon Bar Kokhba tried to revive Hebrew and make it
as the official language of Jews during the Bar Kokhba
revolt (132-135 AD). Yigael notes.9,10 "It is interesting
that the earlier documents are written in Aramaic while
the later ones are in Hebrew. It is possible that the
change was made by a decree of Bar-Kokhba who
wanted to restore Hebrew as the official language of the
state"11 . He notes there that his decree was most likely
made as part of his messianic ideology.

9

Sigalit Ben-Zion, A Roadmap to the Heavens: An Anthropological Study of Hegemony
among Priests, Sages, and Laymen, in Judaism and Jewish Life, Academic Studies Pr,
Brighton, 2008, ISBN 10: 1934843148, Page 155
10 Yigael Yadin , Bar Kokhba: The rediscovery of the legendary hero of the last Jewish
Revolt Against Imperial Rome, Random House~trade, 1971, ISBN 10: 0394471849, page
181
11 Kimberly B. Stratton, Naming the Witch: Magic, Ideology, and Stereotype in the Ancient
World, Columbia University Press, 2007, ISBN 10: 0231138369, page 232

10

There are also a number of scriptural texts which back
up this claim. For instance, in Acts 1:19, it says "And it
became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so
that the field was called in their own language
Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood." "Akel dama" is
Greek transliteration of Aramaic words "Akh’qel
Dama." "Field of Blood" If Aramaic words "Akh’qel
Dama" are translated into Hebrew, the words in the
Hebrew tongue would be "Shadeh Hadam." If Hebrew
was used as a spoken language in first century Israel,
then "Shadeh Hadam" would have been mentioned
rather than "Akh’qel Dama" Through this verse it is
confirmed that all the inhabitants of Jerusalem spoke in
their "own" language in first century Israel which was
Aramaic.
Other strong scriptural proofs of the use of Aramaic in
first century Israel are found in the very names of the
people mentioned. "Bar"tholomew (Bartholomew),
"Bar"abbas (Barabas), "Bar"nabbas (Barnabas), "Bar"
Jesus, Shimun "Bar" Younas (Apostle Peter),
"Bar"sabbas, and "Bar"timaeus are a few of the many
examples of names which use the Aramaic word “Bar”
meaning 'Son' rather than “Ben” in Hebrew or υιο in
Greek. When Jews say "Hebrew" in the New Testament,
they were referring to the language spoken by the
Hebrews which was unmistakably Aramaic.

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Not GREEK?
Some people have claimed that Jesus and His Apostles
must have spoken Greek as well as Aramaic, and give a
number of reasons for this. None of them seem to be
compelling (that it was the language of trade, that there
were Greeks living among them, et cetera)…
Many of the words mentioned in the New Testament,
such as "Golgotha" in John 19:17 are Greek
transliterations of Aramaic words. In Hebrew, Golgotha
would have been named 'Ha Gulgoleth'. Even the words
spoke on the cross by Christ are recorded in Aramaic.
Now for some sources beyond the Bible from the same
era; we turn to the Jewish Historian Flavius Josephus
who wrote: "I have also taken a great deal of pains to
obtain the learning of the Greeks, and understand the
elements of the Greek language, although I have so long
accustomed myself to speak our own tongue, that I
cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness; for
our nation does not encourage those that learn the
languages of many nations, and so adorn their
discourses with the smoothness of their periods;
because they look upon this sort of accomplishment as
common, not only to all sorts of free-men, but to as
many of the servants as please to learn them. But they
give him the testimony of being a wise man who is fully
acquainted with our laws, and is able to interpret their
meaning; on which account, as there have been many
who have done their endeavours with great patience to

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obtain this learning, there have yet hardly been so many
as two or three that have succeeded therein, who were
immediately well rewarded for their pains."
Josephus states; "I have proposed to myself, for the sake
of such as live under the government of the Romans, to
translate those books into the Greek tongue, which I
formerly composed in the language of our country, and
sent to the Upper Barbarians. Joseph, the son of
Matthias, by birth a Hebrew, a priest also, and one who
at first fought against the Romans myself, and was
forced to be present at what was done afterwards, [am
the author of this work]."
In Antiquities of Jews Book 3, Josephus points out that
Hebrews called Pentecost "Asartha", which is Aramaic.
We know that because Aramaic places Aramaic definite
article "tha" at the end of a feminine noun in an
emphatic state. Thus "Asartha" in Aramaic becomes
"Ha Atzeret" in Hebrew. Unlike Aramaic, Hebrew
places the definite article ("Ha") at the beginning of a
word rather than at the end.
In the preface to the Jewish Wars, Josephus states that
Aramaic was a widespread language and "understood
accurately" by Parthians, Babylonians, the remotest
Arabians, and those of his nation beyond Euphrates with
Adiabeni.12 Josephus differentiates Hebrew from both
his language and the language of the first century Israel

12

See both the Jewish Wars and Antiquities of the Jews

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which is Aramaic. Josephus calls Hebrew as Hebrew
tongue while he calls Aramaic as "our tongue" or "our
language" in both of his works.13 This is agreed upon by
Yigael Yadin who points out that Aramaic was the
lingua franca of this time period.
Even now, there are only three dialects of Hebrew, and
Galilean has never been one of them. The extant dialects
are: European (i.e. Ashkenazi), Spanish (i.e. Sephardic)
and Middle Eastern (i.e. Yemenite). It is clear enough
from this that Hebrew was not the language which was
being spoken in the Biblical narrative.
Jesus and His apostles certainly were not speaking
Greek in the course of the Biblical narrative, because
the Greek that is recorded is unquestionably a redaction
of an original Aramaic source, preserving the original
Aramaic poetry, acrostics, split words, et cetera.
Furthermore, if they had been speaking Greek, the
difference of regional accents mentioned above would
not have occurred.

13

Yigael Yadin , Bar Kokhba: The rediscovery of the legendary hero of the last Jewish
Revolt Against Imperial Rome, Random House~trade, 1971, ISBN 10: 0394471849, page
234

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THE FATE OF THE LANGUAGE
The sad fate of Galilean was partly because eastern
Syriac scholars “corrected” many of the original
Galilean manuscripts, as demonstrated by the number of
acrostics found in the Peshitta which show that the
scriptures were probably originally written in Galilean.
Also the finds of the Cairo genizah which dated from
around 870 A.D. onward, contain a number of Galilean
manuscripts, which have helped scholars to rebuild a
working knowledge the language.
To be sure, the entire New Testament was originally
written in Aramaic, in the Western Yerushalmi
(sometimes also known as “Judaean”) dialect of
Aramaic which was prevalent in the early 3rd Century.
This dialect of Aramaic is most closely akin to Syriac,
so similar in fact that the Peshitta is referred to as having
been written in “Syriac”. The one who recorded it likely
heard Christ speak it clearly, but translated it into this
dialect for the sake of his own readers.
The fact remains that there is exactly no evidence from
any source that shows that Jesus ever spoke any
language other than the Galilean dialect of Aramaic.

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