One of the odder moments of
According to Reuters:
"Jesus was here, in this land. He spoke Hebrew," Netanyahu told Francis, at a public meeting in Jerusalem in which the Israeli leader cited a strong connection between Judaism and Christianity.
"Aramaic," the pope interjected.
"He spoke Aramaic, but he knew Hebrew," Netanyahu shot back.
What language or languages Jesus spoke is the subject of a perennial interest among New Testament scholars. It's common ground that he spoke Aramaic, a Semitic tongue related to Hebrew. But scholars divide over whether he might also have known a little Greek, the lingua franca of the Roman Empire (and the language in which the Gospels were written).
In this video, Bart D. Ehrman of the University of North Carolina offers his conclusion: Jesus spoke Aramaic but not Greek or Latin. Ehrman notes that some quotations attributed to Jesus that sound peculiar in Greek make more sense when they are translated back into Aramaic.
When the Francis-Netanyahu conversation hit the headlines, a prominent journalist, citing an earlier tweet, tweeted this: "Good point.… If Jesus is divine, doesn't he understand all languages? Isn't Hebrew v Aramaic kinda beside the point?"
This is from the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church: "This human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge. As such, this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his existence in space and time. This is why the Son of God could, when he became man, 'increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man,' and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience."
Here's how Father Raymond E. Brown, the Catholic biblical scholar, put it in his book "Responses to 101 Questions on the Bible": "People [in the New Testament] are astounded at [Jesus'] teaching authority, not at a range of factual knowledge." Brown thought Jesus spoke Aramaic, "and presumably, Hebrew," and might have picked up a smattering of Greek and even Latin.
But Brown added that "I see no reason to think he knew any languages beyond those he learned, and he would have learned them with the parental accent." This rules out that Jesus was conversant in (or somehow foresaw) the English of the King James Bible into which his words have been so memorably retranslated.
The Christian doctrine of the Incarnation is full of paradox, and the task of defining and delimiting Jesus' human and divine qualities consumed theologians and church councils for centuries, and led to some very un-Christian conflict. But the Catholic Church teaches that Jesus was truly human and like us in all things except sin.