GOD'S WORD THE BIBLE: New Testament Text

In 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.


1. 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.

2. 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.


1. 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.

2. 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.