[B-Greek] How many languages in Acts 21-22?

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Wed Aug 18 12:52:19 EDT 2010

The following deals with sociolinguistics of Greek in Jerusalem,
at least relating to a vocab item illustrating EBRAISTI
and SYRISTI. I don't remember the full sequence being discussed
on the list.

In Acts 21:30-22:23 we have
a. 30-31 a near riot in the temple, presumably with speech
b. 33-34 a first enquiry, presumably including Paul and the Romans,
c. 37      a Greek conversation, as a surprise to the Roman chiliarch
d. 40-22:2      a Ebraisti speech, presumably in a different language
                   than when they were dealing with him as a mob.
e. 22:24 now the chiliarch wants to know what was being said in the

'C' would point to 'a' and 'b' not being in Greek. Many/(most?) Romans
soldiers, after all, in the Eastern provinces would be able to speak
Then in 'd', the very mention of the language and of getting quieter
would seem to point to the language being different from the language
of 'a' and 'b' above.
'E' then implies that communication during the speech was not as
clear as in 'a' and 'b'.

Can this Ebraisti in this context be anything else than Hebrew?

Counting the languages in the passage:
'a-b' Aramaic,
'c' Greek,
'd' Hebrew.
'e' Unspecified, perhaps Greek, as things become more official
within the Roman legal process.

Comments? Problems?
If there is no problem with the above, there may be a problem in
BDAG and most common discussions on the situation.

(Josephus War 5.268-274 records warning speech based on a
Hebrew wordplay and a special Hebrew speech by Josephus,
who distinguished Aramaic and Hebrew in his writings, in 6:96.
I mention these not to displace any language but to include the
third language that seems to disappear in NT discussions outside
circles comfortable with Mishnaic Hebrew.)

Randall Buth, PhD
randallbuth at gmail.com
Biblical Language Center
Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life

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