According to this post:

Both Aramaic and Hebrew were in use in the Land at the time of Jesus. However, while we cannot say one predominated, we can say that Mishnaic Hebrew was very much a living language used by people of all walks of life in Judea and Galilee.

So, maybe we are safe to assume that Jesus spoke these languages.

Yet, Pontius Pilate was a Roman, who would have spoken Latin. Would he have been able to speak Hebrew? And as such, in the Gospels' account of Pilate's encounter with Jesus, did they speak in Hebrew? Is there any evidence, or perhaps tradition on this?

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    Based on the meta culture of the Eastern Mediterranean region of the time, have you considered adding Greek into the possible languages being used in the area? In some ways it was a lingua franca of that region. (Good question). Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 12:02
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    @KorvinStarmast Mmm, views seem to be contradictory on this. For example, this one against Greek (see comment about Greek), and this one in favour on Greek. It was probably likely that Pilate did know Greek. If Jesus knew a bit of Greek, then that might have been the language. Now, we can also say, from a Christian point of view, that the Holy Spirit could have given Jesus the knowledge of tongues. In this case, Greek or Latin would be the answer.
    – luchonacho
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 12:40

6 Answers 6


There is reason to believe that the language Pilate communicated with Jesus was Greek. After all it was the language of commerce at that time throughout the Mediterranean world. Let us not forget that Pilate's inscription on the Title of the Cross was written in Latin, Greek and Hebrew. "This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was near to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin." (John 19:20)

How do we know what languages people actually spoke in Roman Judaea? We have a lot of written evidence from the region that is contemporary with the era of Jesus: papyri, inscriptions, graffiti, and historical texts. From hundreds of examples surviving from Roman Judaea, we can easily document which languages people understood and used both in official transactions and in their daily lives. The ancient evidence is very clear on this point: the everyday language spoken by the Jewish and Samaritan populations of Palestine in the time of Jesus was Aramaic, while the official language for administrative communication was Greek.

While Roman soldiers and officials from Rome probably did speak Latin among themselves, they would have used Greek to communicate with members of the local ruling class, such as Herod’s family and the Jewish high priests. - Two Archaeologists Comment on The Passion of the Christ

Here is more along this line of thinking.

In which language did Pilate and Jesus likely converse during Jesus's trial?

Almost certainly in Greek.

The first language of almost all Palestinian Jews in the 1st century was Aramaic. However evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish pseudepigraphic writings, inscriptions on ossuaries (limestone bone burial boxes), etc. show that Greek was spoken there as well. In the Mediterranean world at that time, most people were bilingual (Greek + their native language) so that they could do business with all the other ethnic groups in the Empire.

Jesus grew up in tiny Nazareth where everyone spoke Aramaic, but lived just over the ridge from Sephoris, a large, well-to-do city where Greek was the common language. As a small-time carpenter (Gk., “tekton,” actually more like a craftsman) he would need to speak Greek to snag his share of the business there. Barring a miracle, it wouldn’t have been very cultured or even necessarily grammatically correct, but it would be understandable to another Greek speaker.

Pilate on the other hand, given what we know of him from the Jewish writers Josephus and Philo, most likely would not have put forth the effort to learn Aramaic, the language of a people he had no respect for. Latin was actually not widely spoken at all, being confined mainly to it’s original home Latium. Outside of Rome, it was mainly used for official inscriptions and, occasionally, military orders to fellow Romans.

But he too would have spoken Greek. So, as the scholar Joseph A. Fitzmeyer wrote:

“In what language did Jesus and Pilate converse? There is no mention of an interpreter. Since there is little likelihood that Pilate, a Roman, would have been able to speak either Aramaic or Hebrew, the obvious answer is that Jesus spoke Greek at his trial before Pilate.”


Assuming they spoke without a translator, they almost certainly used Greek (Koine or common version). The Romans greatly respected Greek culture from who they derived so much of their culture, all educated Romans knew Greek, and, most importantly, Greek was the administrative language of the Eastern part of the Roman empire (since the Romans knew Greek and were inheriting provinces governed by Greek speakers for over 300 years).

On the other side, since they had been ruled by various Greek-speaking regimes for 300 years, peoples throughout the Eastern Mediterranean spoke Greek to varying degrees, with the elite fluent. (Indeed, the Jewish community in Egypt was primarily Greek-speaking and left many Greek versions of parts of the Bible.) Note that the New Testament was originally written in Greek, not Latin and not the Hebrew and Aramaic of the Old Testament. A Roman governor would not have had to learn either Aramaic (well established throughout the region as the administrative language of several successive empires over 600 years until the coming of the Greeks/Macedonians in 331 BC) or the rarer Hebrew.

To clarify what some web sites have erroneously claimed - that Greek was the administrative language of the whole Roman empire - is demonstrably false as Latin was both the administrative and primary language throughout the Western part of the empire, which is why Latin's descendants remain in use as French, Portuguese, Spanish, Romansch, Italian, and even Romanian further East, as well as Latin itself in the Vatican today and among the scholars, the church, and the educated throughout the Middle Ages and even into modern times. But Greek was the most common shared language of the rulers and the governed throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.

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    One implication of what you said about Egypt. Since the Jews of Egypt spoke Greek as a consequence of 300 years of Ptolemaic (Greek) rule, when Joseph, Mary and Jesus fled to Egypt, they likely would have settled among those Greek speaking Jews and Jesus would have learned Greek as a child. Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 21:25
  • @PaulChernoch well, being a Divine Person, Jesus could have spoken any language at all.
    – jaredad7
    Commented May 5 at 20:16

The Wikipedia entry for Latin lists it's spread to Palestine/Judea in the late first and early second century A.D. Prior to that, Hellenization spread Greek culture and language throughout the Mediterranean beginning with Alexander the Great around 300 B.C.

It seems unlikely a Roman, either Pilate or Herod, would take the time to learn Hebrew or Aramaic, but we aren't told otherwise. I recently read an article stating there are 8 specific references to Hebrew in the Gospels but none of Aramaic. The same article states "Eloi! Eloi! (My God!) is Greek, and the rest of the quote makes sense in either Hebrew or Aramaic (El has idiomatic usage in Hebrew: God, of God, heaven, of the skies; it also appears to be a deity of Mesopotamian origin).

It's fair to say God can speak whatever language he wants. But as far as Pilate is concerned, the evidence points to Greek. Greek would be spoken as the second language to educated Jews in Jerusalem (behind Hebrew) and as the first language by the Roman inhabitants - at least for a few more generations.

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    There are numerous inaccuracies in this answer. Specifically, in Greek of that time, both Hebrew and Aramaic were referred to without distinction by the word Ἑβραΐς. Second, Eloi is a transcription of the Aramaic for "my God". Matthew 27 includes both the Aramaic transcription and the Greek translation. Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 21:53

And don't listen to this nonsense about the greek language. Nobody knew him, since the time of Caesar and Octavian very little has passed. The Italians have just been given citizenship, in 100 years they will be given the Gallo-Romans and then the Greeks. And only then will the Greek language begin to play a significant role. They will begin to be drafted into the army, and since these are ordinary people, they only know their native language, that is, the Roman legion officer will have to learn Greek in order to contact the soldiers This is not 200-300 years of our era, when the Greeks ceased to be taken into slavery and, on the contrary, began to be drafted into the army. If the Nubian palace of Cleopatra knew Latin, in order to contact the legionnaires, Cleopatra herself and even ordinary Egyptian-Greek merchants - who, during the martial law in Egypt, calmly passed through the block of posts of ordinary roman soldiers ... then in what language could Jesus speak with Pilate? During the oppression of the Greeks. Only because and just then, when the Greeks began to be drafted into the army en masse, to teach a thousand greek legionnaires the latin language or teach 10 Roman officers the Greek language? Which is easier? 200-300 years of our era

  • Welcome to the site Maks. If you took the 'Tour' (below) you might see why your answer is not suitable. It displays lack of knowledge about koine Greek being the language of Empire at that time; legal and business matters were all written in koine Greek, which was also the language the New Testament was written in, so if you care to do a bit more checking-up on such facts and provide a fresh answer, that would be good.
    – Anne
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 16:46
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    – Community Bot
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 18:13

The notion that Yahusha Hamashiach would have spoke Greek based on business is not what he taught in the scripture. Yahusha, stated that he was about his Fathers business: Luke 2:

49 And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”

The notion that the king would despise learning the language of people he hated is true: This can also be said for Yahusha, why would he learn the language of a culture that were considered pagan and ungoldy? Why would he attempt to study their culture and language.

Even the followers of Christ were considered to be unlearned men, unlearned men would be known as not knowing Greek, Paul was the first figure that bible portrayed as being a learned man:

Acts 4 13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.

Paul's Education and Roman citizenship: Acts 22:3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but raised in this city. I was educated at the feet of Gamaliel in strict conformity to the law of our fathers. I am just as zealous for God as any of you here today.

Now when the centurion heard this, he went and reported it to the chief captain, saying, "Do you realize what you are about to do? For this man is a Roman." And when the chief captain came up, he said to him, "Tell me, are you a Roman?" And he said, 'Yes.' (Acts 22: 25 - 27).

In all, Yahusha Hamashiach, would have equally have been resistant to learning from a culture that did not respect him or his people.

We also have to remember Christ refused to speak to the king:

8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

In all, why would God speak Hebrew and Aramaic throughout the Old Testament just to change his language in the New even when speaking to kings? Even in the Book of Daniel, God wrote letters on the wall that had to be translated, God doesn't change who he is for worldy kingdoms:

Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.

25 “This is the inscription that was written:

mene, mene, tekel, parsin

26 “Here is what these words mean:

Mene[e]: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

27 Tekel[f]: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

28 Peres[g]: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

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    As written, this technically does not answer the question, and might be more appropriate as a comment on one of the other answers. If you believe Jesus spoke Hebrew, you can say that explicitly. The answer would be much better if you quote a reliable Christian source. Thank you for posting. Feel free to read the tour and help center if you have not yet.
    – Bit Chaser
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 19:29
  • Or even that he spoke in Aramaic ... Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 19:30

In Latin, because he knows only that language. If you learn history, Caesar and the first emperors were nationalists, only Roman religion, only Latin language and Romans (italics).

Therefore, in this era, uprisings constantly broke out in the Greek parts of the empire.

And by the way, slavery was widespread, who made up the bulk of the city's slaves? Greeks. The Romans themselves did not learn Greek at this time for each had a Greek educated slave. Learning Greek was fashionable in the early days of Rome and towards the end.

Did Pontius Pilate have Greek slave translators? Yes. But he spoke with Jesus one-on-one, that is, Jesus had to know Latin, for knowing he was only Greek or Hebrew there would be a need for a translator.

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    Welcome to the site Maks. If you took the 'Tour' (below) you might see why your answer is not suitable. It displays lack of knowledge about koine Greek being the language of Empire at that time; legal and business matters were all written in koine Greek, which was also the language the New Testament was written in, so if you care to do a bit more checking-up on such facts and provide a fresh answer, that would be good.
    – Anne
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 16:56

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