Having read this and this, I am convinced now that Jesus spoke Aramaic. However, I also know that many times He was quoting Septuagint, which is a translation of the Old Testament into Koine Greek. I am a little bit confused now. Does it mean that when He was talking to His disciples or to the Jews and was quoting Septuagint, He was switching from Aramaic to Greek?

If yes, then it sounds a bit contradictory to me. Why would He need to switch to Greek while He was talking to the Hebrew people, not to the Greeks, about their own Holy Scripture (Jews' aversion toward the Greek is quite evident from the book of Acts)?

If no, then how can we say that He was quoting Septuagint (as I know Septuagint was written only in Greek)?

3 Answers 3


The normal explanation is that Jesus quoted the scriptures in Aramaic*, but as the LXX was the readily available translation of the Greek (and the Gospel writers probably had large portions of the Greek memorized), the Gospel writers would defer to its translation instead of translating directly.

*Because the authors of the LXX had different resources than those which are available today, it is possible that Christ would have used similar source documents to those in the LXX. I do not believe there is sufficient information to judge this matter.


Jesus was quoting Aramaic. Not Septuagint. Aramaic was the spoken language of first century Israel.

According to first century Jewish historian, Josephus, Jews didn't speak Greek in first century Israel. He 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 endeavors with great patience to 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. – Antiquities of Jews XX, XI

Jewish Wars (Book 1, Preface, Paragraph 1): 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]."

Aramaic Peshitta Tanakh is Aramaic Old Testament used among Jews in first century AD (source -http://www.pshitta.org/english/intro.php).

Josephus calls Aramaic as "our tongue" or "our language" or "the language of our country."

Jewish Wars Book 5, Chapter 4, Paragraph 2 – This new-built part of the city was called "Bezetha," in our language, which, if interpreted in the Grecian language, may be called "the New City."

"tha" at the end of "Bezetha" is the Aramaic definite article on a feminine noun in an emphatic state (Source – Book "Introduction to Syriac" by Wheeler Thackston, Page 44).

  • Yes, since I've first heard that the NT was originally written not in Greek, but in Aramaic, I have passed through a lot of "ups and downs" in my research of this matter, my own beliefs and my own attitude toward this possibility, and yet today I can tell that I believe it to be true more than ever. Split words examples is something that really convinced me a lot about NT's original language being Aramaic.
    – brilliant
    Commented Nov 16, 2013 at 1:41
  • Brilliant, You can check this post for more information about Aramaic primacy - christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/16121/…
    – konwayk
    Commented Nov 16, 2013 at 1:59
  • Thank you. There is one argument against Aramaic primacy that has been presented to me and I couldn't quite rebut: Why would Romans be written in Aramaic when Romans knew only Latin and Greek? Do you have anything off your head for this kind of argument?
    – brilliant
    Commented Nov 16, 2013 at 5:56
  • Yes, I can answer that. Apostle Paul was writing his letter in Aramaic to Jews and Arameans (Aramaic speaking Gentiles from Syria) who lived in Rome. We know that Jews lived in Rome (Acts 28:16-31). We also know that Jews took their Aramaic language wherever they went. In Acts 21, when Jews in Asia (Turkish regions) saw Paul at temple of Jerusalem, they called "Men of Israel" for help in Aramaic. Asia refers to Turkish region in first century AD. Here is the link to the map - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1stMithritadicwar89BC.png
    – konwayk
    Commented Nov 16, 2013 at 6:58
  • 1
    But when Josephus says 'elements', he is simply trying to be modest. He is really talking about a much higher level of mastery of the language than mere 'elements'. This is shown by his use of the phrase "adorn their discourses with smoothness of their periods", which is the way the rhetoricians spoke/wrote about the language as used by rhetors. These men had educations comparable to lawyers today. This is not elementary stuff. So it is quite plausible, as many others have argued before me, that some much lower level of Greek knowledge was fairly common even in Judea & Galilee.
    – Matt J.
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 9:10

If no, then how can we say that He was quoting Septuagint (as I know Septuagint was written only in Greek)?

Even if your assumptions are all correct, there's still no problem.

If Jesus was speaking Aramaic, he could quote verses written in Greekmthe same way I can quote, in English, a Bible verse written in Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic.

Incidentally, I can also quote a Klingon saying like "It is a good day to die", even though it was probably originally a Klingon saying.

Whether He was speaking Greek or Aramaic is not doctrinally important, as far as I know. He could be quoting anything, translating it as necessary. He is, according to most traditions, God in the flesh, after all. That would mean He should have no trouble translating accurately. Such a feat should pose no problem for an omniscient God.

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