James: Hebrew or Aramaic?

Trevor & Julie Peterson 06peterson at cua.edu
Tue Dec 24 17:50:14 EST 2002

Matt wrote:

> It has always been my understanding (and maybe I have just been flawed),
> that Jews of Jesus' time spoke Aramaic. Isn't, for example, ELOI
> which Jesus
> said from the cross Aramaic, while Hebrew would simply be ELI? I am no
> expert...just here to learn, so any comments would be appreciated.

There are Aramaic utterances in the GNT, to be sure (although on some, such
as the one you cite, there are different versions, sometimes depending on
the writer, sometimes on the particular manuscript, which lean more toward
Hebrew or Aramaic). A relevant question, however, is why only these few
sayings are transliterated. Could it be that Aramaic was so unusual that its
appearance was worth preserving? This is only one possible reason, but it
would conform with the idea that Aramaic was not the normal language.
Randall Buth has observed that Greek can distinguish between Aramaic and
Hebrew, so that when the GNT says something is in Hebrew, it means Hebrew.
This, however, pertains neither to the Hebrew Bible nor to Biblical Hebrew,
so I'll say no more on-list. I would recommend, however, if you want more
information on the question of Semitic languages in the NT, that you check
the B-Greek archives.

Trevor Peterson

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