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What Does Josephus Say?

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This lesson is critical to understanding the history and background of Aramaic. Josephus was a Jewish scholar and historian in Israel in the First Century A.D. He is famous for his classic works, Antiquities of the Jews and The Jewish Wars. If anyone is qualified to know the language that was spoken by Jews in Israel in the First Century, it was Josephus. He was well respected by friends and foes alike.

In this video lesson, we will see that Josephus repeatedly refers to Aramaic as being "the language of our country", "our language" and "our own tongue", and that Aramaic is also referred to in the New Testament, by the people of Jerusalem, as "our own tongue". Josephus says that his histories were first written in Aramaic, but that he wanted to translate them into Greek for a wider audience. But Josephus explains that, because he was a Jew, Jews did not know Greek, and he had to go as far afield as Rome to learn Greek. He admits that, even after years of learning Greek, Greek was still very much a foreign language to him, and one which he could not really pronounce properly.

Josephus constantly refers to Aramaic as being "the language of our country [Israel]." In his writings, Josephus does mention Hebrew, but he is careful to make a distinction between Aramaic (his native language) and Hebrew.

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konwaykAramaic name of Josephus is Yoseph (or Yosephus) Bar Mattiya. Since Hebrew was never the spoken language of first century Israel, I don't think Hebrew should be the language that should represent Josephus especially in terms of his name. In Hebrew, Yoseph (Joseph) will become Yehoseph (Jehoseph).
Ewan MacLeodFeel free to leave comments or questions on this lesson about what Josephus says about Aramaic!