LANGUAGES OF NEW TESTAMENT TIMES
order to understand the background and history of the New Testament
text one should have a basic acquaintance with the common languages
of the geographic region of that time period. There are four languages
which play an important role in the New Testament.
Aramaic: Aramaic was the common language of Palestine and was the
common vernacular spoken by Jesus and His disciples. The term "Aramaic"
comes from the former name of Syria which was Aram. The Arameans
were a people who can be traced throughout the Old Testament and
who were located in the northwestern portions of Palestine. Aramaic
has many similarities with Hebrew and is a close cousin to Hebrew
in the Semitic family of languages.
Hebrew: Hebrew has it's origins in the old Phoenician alphabet from
which both Semitic and non Semitic languages of the time were derived.
Some have concluded that Hebrew was a dialect of the Caannanites
which Abraham acquired after migrating there. Except for a few small
portions, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew. At the time of
Christ Hebrew is not know to have been used by the average Jewish
person but rather by the orthodox and the rabbis of the Pharisaical
order However, Christianity and the teachings of the New Testament
find their roots in the Hebrew scriptures.
Latin: Latin was the official language of the Roman empire at the
time of Christ. This language was used by the educated of society
- authors, lawyers and poets - and was more predominate in the western
regions of the empire. Latin would have been used in the provinces
of Judea for conducting the business of the state and for the courts
of law. A good number of Latin words and proper names can be found
throughout the New Testament.
Greek: Greek was the common language of the market place in Rome
during New Testament times. Recent discoveries in the late nineteenth
century of non-biblical Greek papyrus from the time period in question
have demonstrated that the New Testament was written in what is
now called "koine" Greek. "Koine" or "common"
refers to the fact that this was the language of everyday life in
the Roman Empire in the days of the early Church.