aramaic New Testament

Jack Kilmon jkilmon at
Tue Jan 5 16:18:04 EST 1999

jtownsle at wrote:
> Hey all:
> I know we recently discussed this, but it just came up on another listserv
> of mine.  There are two clergy on this list that talk as if they are
> "assuming" that the NT was first written in Aramaic not Greek, and they
> cite a couple of sources.  Does anybody have some info on the absurdity of
> this hypothesis.  Or am I just being an academic snob going along with the
> "tradition" of a Greek as the original langauge of our texts.  It is what
> currently has the most evidence right--that the NT was originally written
> in Greek? I include his most recent response below.  Is there any
> "respected" scholar who actualy believes that Aramaic was the original
> written text?

Although I am one who defends the position that Aramaic was the common
tongue at the time of Jesus and that Jesus spoke Aramaic, I do not see
a defensible position that any of the NT gospels or epistles were
autographed in other than Greek.  There is a defensible position that
certain early source materials were Aramaic or translational Greek
from an Aramaic source.  Hell, I'm not even all that confident that
the Matthean scribe was even competent in a Semitic language.

This is not to infer that Aramaic studies is not invaluable to NT
studies.  There is indeed a Greek chauvinism among many Graecists
that, IMO, blinds them to a valuable resource, but the caveat is that
Aramaic retroversion of sayings material can be a very rocky road.

Eusebius quotes Papias regarding a "Hebrew" Matthew which everyone
"translated as best they could."  Since it is obvious to anyone
with a scintilla of Greek structures that the Gospel of Matthew is
not translational Greek, it is possible that this refers to an
Aramaic narrative, no longer extant, called the "Gospel of the Hebrews"
or "Nazarenes."  This gospel, according to the patristics, was
referred to as "Matthew" by the various primitive communities
but should not be linked with canonical Matthew.

If common sense prevails, we should examine the audiences for the
various NT works and those audiences, Romans, Corinthians, Syrians,
Greek-speaking diaspora Jews, Presbyterians (g)....did NOT speak
Aramaic or Hebrew.  An Aramaic NT would have a very limited
audience and a Hebrew NT even moreso.



taybutheh d'maran yeshua masheecha am kulkon

Jack Kilmon
jkilmon at

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