By Sarah Griffiths, 28 May 2014 |

The Pope’s pilgrimage to the Middle East was controversial because of the holy leader’s impromptu prayer session at the West Bank’s barrier.

And a playful religious disagreement also took place between Pope Francis and Israel’s prime minister, which revolved around Jesus’ linguistic skills.

Benjamin Netanyahu and the Pope had a small, good natured squabble about the language spoken by Jesus Christ.

Most Biblical scholars agree that Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic, which was the common language of Judea in the first century AD.

It is likely that Jesus spoke a local Galilean dialect and the towns of Nazareth was an Aramaic speaking community.

Despite the increasing importance of Greek, Aramaic was the dominant language among Jews in the Holy Land and across the Middle East until the Arab conquest in the seventh century.

Aramaic words frequently pop up in Biblical text, such as ‘Abba, Father, ‘and place names including Gethsemane – the place where Jesus took his disciples to pray before his arrest – are thought to have an Aramaic root.

No-one really knows whether Jesus could write. Some experts believe he could speak Hebrew.
Opinion is divided as to whether the religious leader knew any Greek or Latin.

At a meeting in Jerusalem, Mr Netanyahu told the Pope: ’Jesus was here, in this land. He spoke Hebrew,’ in a bid to discuss the strong ties between Judaism and Christianity.

To which the smiling Pope corrected: ‘Aramaic. He spoke Aramaic, but he knew Hebrew.’

Most historians accept that Jesus existed, although the events of his life are far from concrete.

Dr Sebastian Brock, emeritus reader in Aramaic at Oxford University told BBC News that both leaders are correct.

Hebrew was the language of scholars and the scriptures, while Jesus would

Most Biblical scholars agree that Jesus (illustrated) and his disciples spoke Aramaic, which was the common language of Judea in the first century AD as well as perhaps a little Hebrew. But opinion is divided as to whether he know any Greek or Latin.

Most scholars agree that Jesus spoke Aramaic in Bible, which was also the predominate language used by Mel Gibson in his film, The Passion.

People also spoke Latin and Greek during the time of Jesus, while Arabic arrived later in Palestine.

Jonathan Katz, stipendiary lecturer in Classics at Oxford University, does not believe that Jesus – a carpenter’s son from Galilee – would have spoken any more than a few words of Latin. The language was largely spoken by Roman soldiers and was the language of law.

It is slightly more likely that Jesus would be more familiar with Greek, which was used by administrators across the Roman Empire. But again, Dr Katz does not think that Jesus would have been fluent.

According to Jewish historian Josephus, Greek was seldom spoken at all in first century Israel and that it was extremely rare for a Jew to know any Greek.

Despite the holy leader’s influence, it is unlikely that Jesus could write in any language, Dr Brock said.

However, there is one account of Christ writing in the dust in John’s gospel. The account of events though does not stipulate which language Jesus was using, or whether he was drawing.

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