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Did Jews speak Greek?

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Throughout this website, we have seen evidence that Aramaic was the normal, everyday, spoken language amongst Jews in Israel in the first century A.D., and therefore that Aramaic would have been the language normally spoken by Jesus and the disciples, and hence the most appropriate language for the New Testament to be written in.

However, it is a widely-held belief that Greek was the lingua franca, or common language, all throughout the Middle East, and that Jesus would therefore have spoken Greek, hence the New Testament being written in Greek.

Because this is such a widely-held belief, and one which directly challenges the use of Aramaic, in this lesson we examine the use of Greek in the first century. In particular, we are interested in what language Jews in Israel spoke.

We find that, while there certainly were pockets of Greek-speaking Jews - referred to as the Grecian Jews - these hellenised Jews were an affront to traditional (religious) Jews, especially since the suffering (and victory!) of the Maccabean revolt was still close to the heart of Jews in Israel.

Greek, then, was certainly not universally spoken amongst Jews!

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