Was the New Testament Written in Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic?

By COGwriter

From time to time over the decades (the first time was in the 1970s), I have been contacted by someone who read one or more publications which persuaded them that the New Testament (NT) was originally written in a language other than Greek.

While some claim that references by Papias and Irenaeus that a copy of Matthew's Gospel account was written in Hebrew (or as some interpret it, Aramaic) help prove that the entire New Testament was written in a language other than Greek, they seem to ignore that the New Testament shows that its main writer, the Apostle Paul knew Greek (Acts 21:37-39) and that he wrote letters to Greek speakers.

The driving force beyond the belief that none of New Testament was written in Greek, irrespective of the reasons given, is that those who try to insist that Greek was not the original language want to use what could be called "sacred names."

Why so?

Well, the Greek New Testament does NOT use the names Yahweh/Yahveh or Y'shua/Yashua for God the Father or Jesus. Thus, if any of the New Testament was originally written in Greek, then it can be pointed out that such "sacred names" were not enjoined for use by Christians as they are not mentioned in the New Testament.

What About the Aramaic?

Some claim that the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic. It has been stated that the position of the Assyrian Church of the East is that the Syriac Peshitta (a Bible version which is written in a vernacular form of Aramaic), used in that church, is the original of the New Testament. For instance, the patriarch Shimun XXIII Eshai declared in 1957:

With reference to... the originality of the Peshitta text, as the Patriarch and Head of the Holy Apostolic and Catholic Church of the East, we wish to state, that the Church of the East received the scriptures from the hands of the blessed Apostles themselves in the Aramaic original, the language spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and that the Peshitta is the text of the Church of the East which has come down from the Biblical times without any change or revision." (April 5, 1957) (Aramaic New Testament. https://readtiger.com/wkp/en/Aramaic_New_Testament accessed 08/17/17)

The basic claim that advocates of this tend to make is that since Jesus and others in Judea spoke Aramaic, some of the translations into Greek do not appear to be logical, and the disciples would not have known Greek, that the entire New Testament was written in Aramaic.

There is no hard evidence--there is only speculation based upon interpretation--for the assertion that there were Hebrew (or Aramaic) originals behind the Greek manuscripts that have come down to us. This speculation was advanced in the 1930s by Dr. Charles Cutler Torrey, "and has since been rejected by virtually all scholars. Dr. Torrey’s idea was that there must have been an Aramaic original text, since the Greek of the New Testament was not grammatically correct, and often reflected the grammatical constructions of Semitic languages more than of classical Greek. Nearly all scholars who have studied the subject agree that portions of certain books have some Aramaic coloring, but they say that this is to be expected of writers for whom Greek would have been only a second language. Torrey advanced his theory before the discovery of Greek papyri from the period in which the New Testament was written. Since those discoveries, scholars have generally rejected Torrey’s theory. As Dr. Henry Thiessen explained in Introduction to the New Testament: "The discovery of the papyri has done much to undermine this theory. It has shown that practically every supposed mistranslation in the Gospels appears a regular idiom in the Greek papyri of the period; and the latter certainly are not translations from the Aramaic" (p. 35). Not only are there no extant copies of these supposed "Aramaic originals" of New Testament books; no early writings about the New Testament indicate that such originals ever existed! Today, we have portions of second century writings by men who either knew the Apostle John or were personally taught by him. A close examination of those writings reveals no evidence of Aramaic (or Hebrew) original texts!" (Ogwyn J. What is the Savior's Name. LCN. July/August 2005).

Let it be stated, if the original writings of the New Testament were in Aramaic, they do not exist. It is more likely that some of the gospel writers had statements attributed to Jesus in Aramaic and translated them into Greek as well as possibly some in Greek.

The earliest New Testament manuscripts that we know of are in Greek. The oldest is called Rylands Library Papyrus P. 52 and is from A.D. 90-125 A.D., with c. A.D. 100 considered as being the more likely date. This document, which I have reviewed photos of, is clearly in the Greek language and if the New Testament had not been originally written in Greek, it fairly quickly was being communicated in Greek. Perhaps it should be noted that there are over 5,800 ancient manuscripts of the New Testament in Greek.

What has been believed to be the oldest dated Peshitta (Syriac Aramaic) manuscript is dated to "464 CE" (Lasater R. Was the New Testament Really Written in Greek? A Concise Compendium of the Many Internal and External Evidences of Aramaic Primacy. 2008, p. 199). The same source claims that the New Testament was "completed around 100 AD" (Ibid, p. 208)--about when the Rylands Library Papyrus P. 52 was written. A pro-Aramaic NT source has claimed, "That the Peshitta dates back to 175 AD at the very latest" (Ibid, p. 208). But it simply was not the original text. It should also be noted that Lasater's book is very misleading when it tries to indicate since entire codexes of the Greek and Aramaic New Testaments that exist are similar ages, then the Peshitta is as old (or older) as the Greek. But documents like Rylands P52 show that to be in error.

And the situation for Aramaic seems even much worse than that.

Notice the following from Steve Caruso, who was a professional Aramaic translator for 15 years, concerning the commonly claimed Aramaic Peshitta language of the New Testament:

The Wrong Language

Many Peshitta Primacy advocates claim that the Peshitta dates back to the first few centuries AD. Since it’s written in Classical Syriac, and Syriac was spoken at that time, it seems logical that the text could be that old. The problem, however, is that not all Syriac is equal.

If the Peshitta was written right after Jesus’ lifetime, one would expect the dialect to match up with other inscriptions from the first few centuries. This particular dialect of Syriac is known as Old Syriac, and is attested in about 80 different inscriptions. So when we compare the two what do we find are some very curious and telling differences.

All verbs in Aramaic start out as a “root” of (usually) 3 letters that express a particular concept. From there, prefixes, suffixes, and vowels are added to indicate the tense, person, number, gender, etc. of the verb and place it in context. For the “Perfect” (think of it roughly as the past tense) the defining feature is suffixes, where for the Imperfect (think of it roughly as the future tense) the defining feature is prefixes.

In Classical Syriac, to express the 3rd person masculine Imperfect (“he will X”) one adds on the prefix - /n-/. For example,

The verb “to write”


“He will write.”

This is one of the major defining features of the Classical Syriac dialect, it is ubiquitous and exclusively used in the Peshitta, and virtually every other dialect of Aramaic outside of the Syriac family makes use of a different prefix. For example, in Judean, Galilean, and Samaritan Aramaic that prefix is /y-/. For example:

The verb “to write”


So what is the significance of this prefix? The Syriac dialect, like other Aramaic dialects, originally used /y-/ for its Imperfect verbs. We have a large number of examples of this in the Old Syriac corpus:

From an inscription at Birecik Kalesi (6 AD) we find:

(he will see)
(he will praise)
(they will bow [to] him)

From an inscription at Serrîn (73 AD) we see:

(he will praise),
(they will bow [to] him),
(he will be) twice,
(“he will come”),
(he will perish),
(they will throw),
(they will find).

From an inscription at Sumatar Harbesi (~150 AD) we see:

(he will be) twice,
(he will judge), and
(he will give).

From an inscription at Sumatar (~150 AD) we find:

(he will perish), and
(he will be).

Each and every one of these examples makes use of /y-/.

It’s only until around the turn of the third century we start seeing examples of /n-/ in the Imperfect regularly mixed in with /y-/, and by about the 4th century it had completely replaced /y-/ as the preferred prefix with not a single further documented example. By the dawn of the golden age of Classical Syriac literature (around the 5th century) /y-/ was absolutely nowhere to be found.

In other words the Peshitta, at the earliest, represents fourth century Syriac.
It cannot be from the first or second centuries AD as some proponents claim.
(Caruso S. Problems With Peshitta Primacy. http://aramaicnt.org/articles/problems-with-peshitta-primacy/ accessed 08/17/17)

Presuming the above it correct, there is no way that a fourth century language was used for the original New Testament. The type of Aramaic pointed to as original would not possibly used for the New Testament:

There are numerous dialects and Aramaic has continually changed over the centuries of its existence, with unique dialects in Palestine, Samaria, Galilee, etc. Edessan Aramaic/Eastern Aramaic, differed from Western dialects. There was also 100-200 years between the time of the apostles and the Syriac, which brought even more changes.

Lamsa's Pe-shi-tta (dashes included to bypass the forum filter) is inaccurate. Odessa, the focus of Syriac and its major New Testament versions was not evangelized, much less established in Christianity, until after A.D. 116, which was long after the NT had been written. Lamsa used unidentified Aramaic texts to supply missing portions of the texts he chose, and in some places merely copied from the King James Version. The forms of Aramaic he used are not the Aramaic from the time of Jesus. Aramaic spoken today, called the Eastern group of dialects, is different from the Aramaic spoken by Jesus Christ, which was the Western group, a branch that is considered extinct. ('Embrachu' Tom. The "AENT" and the Khaboris Codex. http://www.survivalistboards.com/showthread.php?t=168313&page=2)

Notice also the following from Paul Stevenson, who is a translator, editor and linguist:

Was Syriac "The Language of Jesus"?

Today you can find various books written in Syriac or teaching Syriac or translated from Syriac, in which the author claims that this is "Aramaic, the language of Jesus." Well, it is true that Syriac is one of the many dialects of Aramaic, and it is true that Jesus spoke Aramaic. However... (sorry to burst any bubbles) Jesus did not speak Syriac. Jesus spoke a rather different dialect of Aramaic. Stevenson P. Was Syriac "The Language of Jesus"? The Language Fan, March 8, 2008 http://syriacspanish.blogspot.com/2008/03/was-syriac-language-of-jesus.html accessed 08/19/17)

Now, someone did question this:


C. Williams said...

Peer-reviewed evidence would indicate that you are incorrect in your claim that Jesus did not speak the Syriac dialect of Aramaic (probably one of several dialects that he spoke). The spoken Syriac dialect is nothing more than "middle" Aramaic, and much scholarly evidence suggests he would have been well-versed in it.

April 29, 2017 at 5:24 PM
Linguist said...

C. Williams, please provide me with a list of the-peer reviewed publications to which you are referring. I cannot give an intelligent response to an assertion without details.

April 29, 2017 at 7:44 PM

But as of September 6, 2017, C. Williams did not provide proof (at least none that I saw at Paul Stevenson's website. This has been my problem with the Peshitta claims--there are assertions and opinionated conclusions, but without provable facts.

Despite this, in a section titled From Scripture to Publication in the Aramaic English New Testament it is claimed:

... the Church of the East ... preserved the Peshitta text for nearly 2,000 years. (Roth G. Aramaic English New Testament. Netzari Press, 2012, p. ix)

One can not preserve something for nearly 2,000 years if it was not written nearly 2,000 years ago.

Perhaps the boldest, and in my view blasphemous, claims related to the Peshitta is as follows:

The Greek NT has many contradictions and errors, while the Peshitta lacks them" (Lasater R. Was the New Testament Really Written in Greek? A Concise Compendium of the Many Internal and External Evidences of Aramaic Primacy. 2008, p. 213)

No, there are NOT contradiction in the original Greek text. Yes, there are things that are hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16), but that is also the case with the Aramaic.

The Peshitta itself does have errors.

Notice something that Steve Caruso pointed out:

The Peshitta’s Mistakes

Where those who promote Peshitta Primacy tend to emphasize that the Peshitta is perfect and unchanged, and this is partially true as it has a very strong manuscript transmission with few copyist errors. However, the core Peshitta text does make a number of mistakes. They are subtle, and one must look carefully to find them.

The Problem With “Rabbouli”

In John 20:16, Jesus and Mary Magdalene have the following exchange:

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned, and said to him, “Rabboni”; which is to say, “Teacher.”

In every Greek tradition we find something similar to:

λέγει αὐτῇ ὃ Ἰησοῦς Μαρία στραφεῖσα ἐκείνη λέγει αὐτῷ Ἑβραϊστί Ῥαββουνι ὁ λέγεται Διδάσκαλε
legei autê ho Iêsous Maria strafeisa ekeinê legei autô Hebra’isti Rabbouni ho legetai Didaskale
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni” which means “Teacher.”

However in every manuscript of the Syriac Peshitta we puzzlingly find:

amar lah Yeshua Maryam w’ethpanayath w’amra’ leh `ebra’ith Rabuli d’methe’mar Malpana
Jesus said to her, “Mary” and she turned and said to him in Hebrew “Rabuli!” which is to say “Teacher.”

There is a discrepancy between the precise word that Mary spoke, as well as an odd accusation of its etymological origins. The Greek tradition says “Rabbouni” where the Peshitta tradition says “Rabbouli”. “Rabbouni” could easily come from rabuni which means “my teacher” or “my master” in Jewish dialects of Aramaic; however, “Rabouli” is not a common word at all. The only possibility is that it is a later Syriac word that means “head shepherd,” but the form “Rabouli” is not attested in any contemporary dialects to Jesus. It is not attested in Hebrew, either.

Second, they both claim that this word is “Hebrew,” rather than Aramaic. This is not so much of a problem in the Greek, as Ἑβραϊστί is commonly used to describe words of both Hebrew and Aramaic origins (in a sense it’s used as “the Jewish language”); however, in the Syriac Peshitta, it is only really used to describe Hebrew words, as Syriac itself is an Aramaic language. But, as we touched upon earlier, this is not a Hebrew word. ...

There are some wordplays completely missed due to the fact that Syriac is an Eastern dialect of Aramaic, where Galilean is a Western dialect. Between the two there are a large swath of lexical differences, and puns and wordplay depend heavily upon double-meanings that may be present in one dialect… but completely absent in another. (Caruso S. Problems With Peshitta Primacy. http://aramaicnt.org/articles/problems-with-peshitta-primacy/ accessed 08/17/17)

There are also other problems with the Aramaic original NT position. More from the above author are in his article Problems With Peshitta Primacy.

In the Greek New Testament, a number of verses include Aramaic phrases or words which are then translated into Greek. In the Peshitta, sometimes the word or phrase is quoted twice in Aramaic, indicating that the words needed to be translated from one Aramaic dialect to another.

Matthew 27.46 reads:

Peshitta — And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice and said: "Ēl, Ēl, why have you forsaken me?"

Greek — And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying: "Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

The parallel verse in Mark 15:34 reads in both in the quotation/translation form it has in the Greek:

Peshitta — And in the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice and said: "Ēl, Ēl lmānā shvaqtāni" that is "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Greek — And at the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying: "Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabacthani?" Which is, being interpreted, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

The having to repeat certain statements twice in Aramaic, as opposed to Aramaic and the Greek translation, in places like Matthew 27.46 and Mark 15:34 seems to disprove the Aramaic hypothesis. It makes sense to have the Greek translation of Aramaic in a Greek text, but not the other way around if Aramaic were the original language.

The fact of Jesus speaking in a version of Aramaic accounts for seemingly unusual translations into Greek—the so-called “bad idiom transfers,” poetry, grammatical issues, and "split words" that the Aramaic primacy advocates point to as proof (e.g. Lasater, pp. 13, 147-151).

Consider also the following from Mark:

41 Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, "Talitha, cumi," which is translated, "Little girl, I say to you, arise." (Mark 5:41 NKJV)

41 And he took the hand of the girl and said to her, "Talitha cumi (Young girl arise)." (Mark 5:41 Aramaic New Testament)

Why quote and translate from Aramaic while leaving the Aramaic in?

The book Was the New Testament Really Written in Greek? A Concise Compendium of the Many Internal and External Evidences of Aramaic Primacy claims that "split words" is one of the "most convincing proofs" of "Peshitta primacy"

But is it really?


Having read the arguments, they simply are not proof. They are assertions of opinions. One of which was that certain words would not coincidentally be the same--thus this proves an Aramaic origin. Yet, we see this clearly happening with the New Testament and Greek translations of the Old Testament, plus we see this when early church writers quoted the New Testament. We also do not seem to have any post-NT early church writer who quoted Aramaic (other than if they quoted a Greek translation account that included it).

Now the "big one" proof in Was the New Testament Really Written in Greek? A Concise Compendium of the Many Internal and External Evidences of Aramaic Primacy supposedly has to do with a "QUADRUPLE split word" in Philemon 1:1 (Lasater, p. 59-62). But again, there was no proof, just assertions that this existence and the book's explanation was proof. Actually, it is much more logical to conclude that Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, wrote to the Greek-speaking Gentile Philemon in Greek.

The same source claims that the Greek text is in contradiction for Jesus' genealogy that supposedly are solved by the Aramaic (Lasater, p. 214-216).

While I have dealt with the genealogy issue in my writings (see Why Does Jesus Have Two Different Genealogies listed in Matthew 1 and Luke 3?), Steve Caruso also addressed this (http://aramaicnt.org/articles/problems-with-peshitta-primacy/) but he then also explained that the Peshitta/Aramaic argument is in error:

Hundreds of theologians have spilled rivers of ink taking on this apparent “problem” trying to find different ways to harmonize it, but in the end, Matthew’s genealogy only has 13 actual generations in its last set rather than the 14 described.

Now within the Peshitta Primacy movement, the argument goes that in the Syriac Peshitta, the word for “husband” or aramaic gavrā can also mean “guardian,” and therefore the Joseph listed here is Mary’s father or legal guardian. This would make Mary the next generation on the list, and round out the third set of 14 evenly.

Unfortunately gavrā has no such meaning.

There is not a single ancient lexicographer in any dialect of Aramaic that attests to this, nor a single ancient Syriac-speaking theologian who brought this possibility up, nor a single modern lexicographer that attests to this meaning either. However, plenty of ancient sources attest to the fact that gavrā — in the relational context of a genealogy — exclusively means “husband” (just like the word ἄνδρα andra does in Greek). (Caruso S. Problems With Peshitta Primacy. http://aramaicnt.org/articles/problems-with-peshitta-primacy/ accessed 08/18/17)

Another so-called Greek NT contradiction listed was related to the treatment of eunuchs by the children of Israel and in the church era (Lasater, pp. 222-223). Yet, the OT verses simply do not apply to NT Christians like R. Lasater cites. He also makes another 'contradiction' claim related to a former leper in Mark 14:3 (Lasater, pp. 224-225)--I actually dealt with this in a sermon (watch )--this again is not a contradiction.

He also makes the claim that because the Greek NT says that Jeremiah SPOKE something (Matthew 27:9-10), that is written in Zechariah and not found written in Jeremiah, that this too is a contradiction (Lasater, pp. 225-226). Well, I checked with the Greek and the Greek term transliterated as légontos in Matthew 27:9 does not mean written (Interlinear Transliterated Bible. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.). So, this is not a contradiction nor proof that Aramaic was the original language of the NT.

For the sake of space I will not rebut everyone of R. Lasater's claimed contradictions, but he is flat-out wrong on all I looked into.

He also claims that "conjunction usage" is proof that the NT was not originally written in Greek as the usage of conjunctions seems too consistent with Semitic writings (Lasater, pp. 263-269). However, since most of the writers of the NT had a version of Aramaic as their native language, it is reasonable to conclude they would have been expected to have a Semitic bias in their use of Greek conjunctions.

Of course, since the Aramaic Peshitta text used was not the language of Jesus or His disciples this eliminates Aramaic.

One 'proof' given in the book Ruach Qadim regarding why the Aramaic should be trusted is the assertion that Mark was in Egypt and died in Alexandria in A.D. 63 (Roth AG. Ruach Qadim: Aramaic Origins of the New Testament. Tushiyah Press, 2005, p. 97). However, Mark’s New Testament travels are shown and never have him going anywhere near Alexandria. The view Rausch Qadim points to that Mark died in Egypt is not consistent with the biblical nor historical reports of Mark near that period (see also Apostolic Succession). He then tries to tie that in with Clement of Alexandria--yet he was one who blended Gnosticism with his version of Christianity and should not be considered to have followed faithful presbyters as Rausch Qadim points to page 98.

Ruach Qadim states that it took took centuries for the Greeks to catch up to the ending of Mark 16:9-20 on page 100 that the Aramaic supposedly already had. Yet, the Greeks already knew of it in the second century: specifically, Papias, Justin, and Irenaeus (see Should Mark 16:9-20 be part of the Bible?).

The author of Ruach Qadim points to his language being “sacred” on page 113. The Bible does not teach that. Consider also the following from Gareth Hughes. He is a "priest of the Church of England, who is Chaplain of Hertford College, Oxford, and doing Syriac research at Oxford University" and he "works in Aramaic." He wrote the following:

  1. Aramaic is a Semitic language ...
  2. Aramaic has a long and diverse history ...
  3. Aramaic is one of the original languages of the Bible — The Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) was originally written down in Hebrew, and the New Testament was written in Greek. However, a few parts of the Old Testament were originally written in Aramaic. ...
  4. Jesus spoke Aramaic — This is one of the big selling-points of Aramaic for many, and almost every journalist who mentions Aramaic has to make the connection with Jesus. I would too! However, we obviously have no sound recordings of Jesus speaking Aramaic, nor is he alleged to written anything down, except in the dust (John 8.6–9). Jesus’ speaking Aramaic is based on two bits of evidence. Firstly, we know that Aramaic was widely spoken by Jews and their neighbours, particularly among the lower classes. Hebrew and Greek were also important languages, and Jesus would probably have been able to speak them too. Secondly, the Greek New Testament records quite a few Aramaic words and phrases, names and places in transliteration (with no spoken Hebrew). These little fossilised bits of Aramaic are interesting in themselves — ‘talitha qum’, ‘ephphatha’ (actual Aramaic ‘ethpethach’) and  ‘eli eli’ or ‘eloi eloi lema sabachthani’ (in Mark 5.41, Mark 7.34, Matthew 27.46 and Mark 15.34 respectively). So, we are pretty sure Jesus spoke Aramaic. However, the Aramaic he would have spoken is clearly different from any Aramaic spoken today. We Christians who speak Aramaic like to say that we speak the language of Jesus, but in practice we all speak slightly different varieties of Aramaic to that spoken by Jesus. It is just not quite so glamourous to admit that we speak a language that is as close as you can get to that spoken by Jesus.
  5. No gospels were first written in Aramaic — There are people around (in the Internet sense rather than around universities) who will go to great lengths to prove that some of the New Testament was written in Aramaic, and then later translated into Greek. They are wrong. (Hughes G. What is Aramaic and Syriac? 3 September 2012. https://christhum.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/what-is-aramaic-and-syriac/ accessed 09/06/17)

Modern Aramaic was not the language of Jesus.

Consider also the following:

Syriac as common language in Jesus' time

I am reading an ebook titled:  A translation, in English daily used, of the Peshito-Syriac text, and of the received Greek text, of Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, and 1 John:  With an introduction on the Peshito-Syriac text, and the revised Greek text of 1881.  It includes comments that Syriac, not Hebrew, was the day-to-day language of the Israelites in Jesus' time, and that the antiquity of the Peshitta, and the traditions of the Syriac Church, accorded the Peshitta as having been written at least in part by the Apostles or by their disciples, and that the Peshitta is the most reliable account of the NT.  I have studied the Bible for many years and I know of no other mention of Syriac having been the common language among the Israelites in Jesus' time.  Have the concepts in this book fallen out of favor since it was written?

Asked By: 
Syricac is a dialect of Aramaic

Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic, but written in a different alphabet. Rather than being written in the alphabet that was also used for Hebrew, Syriac was written in an alphabet that later evolved into the alphabet of Arabic. (One can search for Syriac on the internet and see that it looks like Arabic.) Aramaic had been an important ancient language since the period of the Babylonian Empire, and was so commonly spoken that Jews in Galilee, such as Jesus and his disciples, spoke Aramaic as their daily language. (Aramaic is very similar to Hebrew, about as close as Spanish and Italian are today.) The Peshitta is an early translation of the Bible into Syriac, and is very valuable for the study of the text of the Bible and of the church in the east, but this version of the Bible is not older than the ancient Greek or Latin versions. Thus it is written in the language that Jesus and his disciples spoke, but the text itself does not have a direct line to them.

Author: Lawrence M. Wills
Syriac = Aramaic

Syriac is another name for Aramaic, which most scholars regard as the common language of Palestinian Jews of Jesus's day. But most scholars also consider the Peshitta to be a translation from the Greek, not an original language work, reflecting the actual words of the apostles. The NT documents look like original Greek compositions, not translations directly from the Aramaic.

Author: Mark L. Strauss

(Massachusetts Bible Society. http://www.massbible.org/exploring-the-bible/ask-a-prof/answers/syriac-common-language-jesus-time accessed 090617

The New Testament was not originally written in Aramaic, and most certainly not in a fourth century written version of it.

Exploding the Greek New Testament Myth?

The first booklet I recall seeing challenging the idea that the New Testament was written in Greek was titled Exploding the Greek New Testament Myth. Someone gave me a copy in the 1970s along with one or more other related pamphlets.

While I do not recall much of the details, I did recall explaining to the person who provided those that they was not persuasive and overlooked obvious issues (like when the New Testament quoted Aramaic and then translated it into Greek).

The pamphlets tried to indicate that the term Jesus was not an original term, but got adopted at a relatively late date.

Now, there is some accuracy there, but it is not quite the way that the "sacred name" people tend to portray it. Basically, they say that the name of the son of God was some version of Joshua, like Yeshua or Y'shua or Yashua.

Yet, not only does the Greek New Testament never use that term for our Savior, nor do any known early church writings.

Some believe that Jesus, at least sometimes, MUST have spoken Greek. Notice the following:

In John 21:15-17 a conversation takes place between Jesus and Peter, which involves the interplay of three pairs of near-synonymous Greek terms: ... These pairs cannot be reproduced in Aramaic or Hebrew. Similarly, the wordplay ... in Matthew 16:18 is lost in Aramaic or Hebrew. Should these be explained by the creativity of the Evangelists, or are these the actual words o f Jesus?

Porter suggests Mark 7:24-30 records another s ituati on in which Jesus spoke Greek. Jesus is in the region of Tyre and speaks with a Gentile woman. ...and Mark’s reference to her as “Greek” emphasizes that s he spoke Greek (since she was Syrophoenician she was not ethnically Greek).3 There is no mention of an i nterpreter, so Jesus likely spoke to her in Greek. ...

Porter suggest s Matt 8 5-13 = Luke 7:2-10 as another example when Jesus would have spoken Greek (“Use of Gre ek”). This is the account of Jesus healing the servant of a centurion, who was presumably a Greek-speaker. Some sch ola rs believe that Jesus did not ac tual ly speak to the centur ion. Luke records that som e Jewish elders came and spoke on his behalf , although Matthew has the centurion himself speaking with Jesus. Since this passage is disputed, discussion of i t has been left to this note. The present writer thinks both accounts are correct and that Jesus spoke to bo h the Jewish elders and later the man him self, probably in Greek. (Tresham A. THE LANGUAGES SP OKEN BY JESUS. TMSJ 20/1 (Spring 2009) 71- 94)

The above citation has many other examples and includes Greek words that did not copy, hence my use of "..." Here is a link to that paper https://www.tms.edu//nas/content/live/tmsbones/m/tmsj20e.pdf (accessed 09/06/17).

The Letter of the Romans to the Corinthians (A.D. 95-97), also so-called as 1 Clement, uses the Greek term Ίησοû for the Son of God, which is normally rendered 'Jesus' in English (Holmes M. The Apostolic Fathers: The Greek Texts and English Translations. Baker Books, 1999, pp. 28-29). Technically, the transliteration would be Ieesoú (Interlinear Transliterated Bible. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.). It does not sound anything like 'Yeshua.'

What is believed to be the old preserved Ancient Christian sermon (c. A.D. 120-140) outside the Bible (sometimes referred to as 2 Clement) also uses Ίησοû for the Son of God. The same is true for the letters of Ignatius (c. A.D. 107-117), Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians (c. A.D. 110-137), and The Martyrdom of Polycarp (c. A.D. 156-167) all use Ίησοû for the Son of God.

Hence, that was not a novel idea that came centuries after Jesus was on the Earth.

The Didache (c. AD 50-150), also so-called as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, uses the Greek term Κυρíου, which is commonly translated as "Lord" referring to our Savior (Holmes, pp. 250-251). It never uses any version of the term Joshua.

Exploding the Greek New Testament Myth did not like the term Lord as I seem to recall, indicating that it was only a pagan title.

The Use of 'Lord'

It is claimed that the term Κυρíου, meaning Lord, is "a title for Zeus" (Rausch Qadim, p. 19), hence should not be used. That term is found 751 times in the Greek New Testament, known as the Textus Receptus and 717 times in the Nestle-Aland manuscripts.

But was this considered a pagan term by the Jews?


They stopped using the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) out loud and mainly in writing centuries before Jesus came.

Notice what the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906 teaches:

There is no instance of it, however, in Canticles, Ecclesiastes, or Esther; and in Daniel it occurs 7 times (in ch. ix.)—a fact which in itself shows the late date of these books, whose authors lived at a period when the use of the Tetragrammaton was already avoided, its utterance having become restricted both in the reading of the Bible and still more in colloquial speech. For it was substituted Adonai; and the fact that this name is found 315 times in combination with "Yhwh" and 134 times alone shows that the custom of reading the Tetragrammaton as if written "Adonai" began at a time when the text of the Biblical books was not yet scrupulously protected from minor additions. This assumption explains most of the occurrences of "Adonai" before "Yhwh"; i.e., the former word indicated the pronunciation of the latter. At the time of the Chronicler this pronunciation was so generally accepted that he never wrote the name "Adonai." About 300 B.C., therefore, the word "Yhwh" was not pronounced in its original form. For several reasons Jacob ("Im Namen Gottes," p. 167) assigns the "disuse of the word 'Yhwh' and the substitution of 'Adonai' to the later decades of the Babylonian exile."

Reason for Disuse.

The avoidance of the original name of God both in speech and, to a certain extent, in the Bible was due, according to Geiger ("Urschrift," p. 262), to a reverence which shrank from the utterance of the Sublime Name; and it may well be that such a reluctance first arose in a foreign, and hence in an "unclean" land, very possibly, therefore, in Babylonia. According to Dalman (l.c. pp. 66 et seq.), the Rabbis forbade the utterance of the Tetragrammaton, to guard against desecration of the Sacred Name; but such an ordinance could not have been effectual unless it had met with popular approval. The reasons assigned by Lagarde ("Psalterium Hicronymi," p. 155) and Halévy ("Recherches Bibliques," i. 65 et seq.) are untenable, and are refuted by Jacob (l.c. pp. 172, 174), who believes that the Divine Name was not pronounced lest it should be desecrated by the heathen. The true name of God was uttered only during worship in the Temple, in which the people were alone; and in the course of the services on the Day of Atonement the high priest pronounced the Sacred Name ten times (Tosef., Yoma, ii. 2; Yoma 39b). This was done as late as the last years of the Temple (Yer. Yoma 40a, 67). If such was the purpose, the means were ineffectual, since the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton was known not only in Jewish, but also in non-Jewish circles centuries after the destruction of the Temple, as is clear from the interdictions against uttering it (Sanh. x. 1; Tosef., Sanh. xii. 9; Sifre Zuṭa, in Yalḳ., Gen. 711; 'Ab. Zarah 18a; Midr. Teh. to Ps. xci., end). Raba, a Babylonian amora who flourished about 350, wished to make the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton known publicly (Ḳid. 71b); and a contemporary Palestinian scholar states that the Samaritans uttered it in taking oaths (Yer. Sanh. 28b). The members of the Babylonian academy probably knew the pronunciation as late as 1000 C. E. (Blau, l.c. pp. 132 et seq., 138 et seq.). The physicians, who were half magicians, made special efforts to learn this name, which was believed to possess marvelous powers (of healing, etc.; Yer. Yoma 40a, below). (Tetragrammaton)

The word Adonai means Lord.

The Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, which was used mainly by the Hellenistic Jews, uses the word Κυρíου (transliterated as Kurios into English), and not the Tetragrammaton.

That term most certainly was not considered to be pagan.

Furthermore, the Hebrew Old Testament uses the Hebrew term for Lord (a version of Adonai) 324 times according to BibleSoft.

It should also be noted that the apostles often referred to Jesus as 'Lord' (e.g. Matthew 14:28, 17:4, 26:22, etc.). They were not referring to Him as YHVH/YHWH. It is clearly appropriate to use the term 'Lord' in reference to Jesus--His disciples did.

Jesus, Himself, also used a word translated into English as Lord (e.g. Matthew 22:44). This was not considered to be a pagan expression. And we see the word 'Lord' as a translation in many verses in the Peshitta NT as well.

More on Sacred Names

Notice something that a 'sacred name' church WAY (Worldwide Assembly of YHWH) taught:

"The appropriate name of the supreme Creator and sustainer of the entire universe is YHWH (Pronounced "YAH-WAY"). The appropriate name of our Savior the Messiah is Yahshua. The scriptures reveal to us the importance of our Creator's name." (WAY home page).

Sacred name groups always claim to know exactly how to pronounce the four Hebrew letters (which in English are approximated as YHWH) which have no vowels. These groups often do not agree with each other. The other group I looked into years ago said the proper pronunciation was Yah-vay. WAY is different from most in that it does not agree within itself on either name. The next statement is one found on WAY's website the same day I copied the previous statement:

1. APPROPRIATE NAMES The appropriate name of the supreme creator and sustainer of the entire universe is YHWH (Pronounced "YAHWEH"). The appropriate name of our Savior the Messiah is Yahùshua. The scriptures reveal to us the importance of our creator's name." (WAY's statement of beliefs).

It is amazing that WAY, which places so much emphasis on sacred names, cannot agree with itself about how YHWH or the Son's name is to be pronounced. If the exact pronunciation was so important to God, one would conclude that God would have made it clear, or at a minimum, WAY would decided which of the two pronunciations it has for each is correct. It is also amazing that they list this as the first thing they believe--this appears to be a problem with priorities.

It also should be understood that when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He did NOT use 'sacred names.' Notice what Jesus taught:

9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

14 "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:9-15)

Notice what Jesus said in a prayer after His final Passover on earth:

5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

6 "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7 Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. 8 For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. 9 "I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. 10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. 12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. (John 17:5-12, NKJV)

I revealed Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. (John 17:6a, Berean Literal Bible)

What name to Jesus manifest/reveal to men? FATHER!

Jesus did not come to manifest a name like YHVH/YHWH as that had been known since at least the time of Moses (cf. Exodus 3:14-15).

Furthermore, when Jesus was dying an He prayed, He did NOT refer to His Father as Yahveh or Yahweh:

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46)

Notice that the biblical translation was that Jesus was calling out to God. And Jesus DID NOT use the "sacred names" that many, like the Worldwide Assembly of YHWH claim Christians should. Jesus NEVER commanded that "sacred names" be used. In the NT, when Jesus is either praying or giving instructions to pray (including in the Aramaic), it is NEVER recorded that He used what are commonly called "sacred names" to address the Father.

Let me add that I have NEVER seen a 'sacred name' group that has been successful in meaningfully fulfilling Matthew 24:14 nor really Matthew 28:19-20.

Even if one or more books of the NT were initially written in Hebrew, as long as one or more were written in Greek, passages such as Matthew 6:9-15 and 27:46 dispel the myth that God expected certain Hebrew words to be used to address Him. Also, there is not evidence that early faithful Christians felt that they had to use Hebrew names for deity. Therefore, those who stick to the 'sacred name' doctrines are not contending earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

I had a 'sacred name' person tell me that if we use a term like Jesus or God that the Creator will not understand us. When I asked about the variations on YHWH and Yashua, I was told that God did somehow understand them if mispronounced. The sacred name movement has also had the wrong priorities, as well as a misunderstanding of scripture.

As far as mispronunciations, etc. go, the point of communications is to be understood. While the original Hebrew for the name of Jesus was probably apparently a version of the English name Joshua, what was recorded in the Greek NT was not that.

Transliterated it would be something like Ieesoú or Iaesou. But because of translations of that, the name commonly became Jesus in English. Since English-speaking people understand Jesus is supposed to be the Son of God, but do not normally understand Ieesoú or Iaesou, we in the Continuing Church of God will normally use the term Jesus when speaking in the English language. It should be pointed out that there are many words in English that differ from the original. For example, while most English-speaking adults have probably heard of Venice, Italy, many probably do not know that the city's actual name is Venezia--this is also true of many place names in other parts of the world.

We tend use the term Venice, not Venezia, in English to convey that city as that is a term that most would understand. That is also why we tend to use the term Jesus. The point of communication is to be understood.

Here is a bit more about the name Jesus:

When rendering into Greek the name of Moses’ successor, and that of other Old Testament figures bearing the same name, it was almost always spelled out as Iesous.

Why? The answer is twofold: Hebrew and Greek use different alphabets, and they have different rules of grammar. For instance, the first letter of the name Yeshua in Hebrew is the letter yod. As a semi-consonant like the letters waw and he, it can play the role of a consonant or a marker of a vowel, depending on its position in a word. Thus yod is given a "y" sound at the beginning of a word, and an "i" sound when used later in a word. It has no exact equivalent in Greek, but the iota, sounded as "i" regardless of where it is used, is the closest. In the same way, the Hebrew letter shin is sounded as "sh" but has no exact equivalent in Greek, the closest being sigma, sounded as "s."

Why does the Greek form of this name (or for that matter any number of other Old Testament names) end in "s" rather than in "a"? The answer is found in the rules of Greek grammar. In Greek, nouns indicate case, number, and gender by their spelling. This is called declension. Depending on its use as subject or object in a sentence, the same noun has a different ending. Spelling (rather than word order, as in English) indicates how a word functions as a part of speech. Thus, in Greek, Iesous is in the nominative case ("Yeshua"); Iesou is in the genitive case ("of Yeshua"), and so on. The name in the nominative case carries an "s" so that it may be properly declined in the other cases. ...

Why, then, do our English Bibles (such as the King James Version) use Joshua in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament? This occurs because our Old Testament was translated from the Hebrew Masoretic Text, using an approximate English transliteration of the Hebrew letters and vowels. Our New Testament, however, was translated from the Greek, so the transliterated names found there reflect Greek spellings. Thus, where the original Hebrew is Yehoshua, Joshua was used in English translation. Where the original Greek is Iesous (or one of its declined forms), Jesus was used in English translation. Elijah and Hezekiah were used in the English Old Testament and Elias and Ezekias were used in the English New Testament for exactly the same reason. Interestingly, some newer translations have sought to minimize potential confusion by using the same spelling for the same person in both the Old and New Testaments, regardless of how the name was preserved in the Hebrew and Greek texts.

The Letter "J"

Why, then, do English-speakers spell both Joshua and Jesus with a "j" rather than a "y" or an "i"? Where did this originate? Does it represent some sort of sinister plot, as a few assume, or is the explanation far more innocent?

Notice what the Oxford English Dictionary says about the history of the letter "j": This "tenth letter of the alphabet in English and other modern languages is, in its origin, a comparatively late modification of the letter I. In the ancient Roman alphabet, I, besides its vowel value… had the kindred consonantal value of modern English Y… Some time before the 6th century, this y-sound had, by compression in articulation and consequent development of an initial ’stop’, become a consonantal diphthong… In OE, i consonant, so far as it was used, had (as still in all the continental Germanic languages) its Latin value (y)… But the French orthography introduced by the Norman Conquest brought in the Old French value of i consonant = g ’soft’ (dsh); a sound which English has ever since retained in words derived from that source… From the 11th to the 17th c., then, the letter i represented at once the vowel sound of i, and a consonant sound (dsh), far removed from the vowel."

Throughout the medieval period, the forms of the modern "i" and "j" were used interchangeably, and both forms represented the same letter. How, then, did "i" and "j" come to be considered two distinct letters of the alphabet? "The differentiation was made first in Spanish, where, from the very introduction of printing, we see j used for the consonant, and i only for the vowel… Louis Elzevir, who printed at Leyden 1595–1616, is generally credited with making the modern distinction of u and v, i and j, which was shortly after followed by the introduction of U and J among the capitals by Lazarus Zetmer of Strasburg in 1619" (OED, "J"). The letters "i" and "j" continued for many years to be considered merely different forms of the same letter, so that as late as the early 19th century, dictionaries commonly intermingled the I and J words in one series. (Ogwyn J. What is the Savior's Name. LCN. July/August 2005).

Anyway, the Son of God does understood the word 'Jesus.'


By the time of Jesus, Hebrew was not the language spoken by the common people in Judea. They spoke a form of Aramaic.

While the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and scholars and some others knew how to read Hebrew, it is not likely that much, if any, of the New Testament was written in Hebrew.

Now there is something that has been called "Q" which has been claimed by some modern scholars to include some facts about, and statements from, Jesus in either Hebrew or Aramaic. Some claim that Matthew and Luke essentially used this to assist them in writing. If such a document existed, it no longer does. All the earliest manuscripts we have of the New Testament are written in the Greek language.

The following is from the Book of Acts:

26: 14 And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' (Acts 26:14)

20: 40 So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying,

22:1 "Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now." 2 And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent. (Acts 21:40-22:2, NKJV)

If the Book of Acts was originally written in Hebrew, then there would have been no need to point out something being communicated in the Hebrew language.

Consider also that the the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) have large overlaps in Greek. This would suggest that one or more the gospel writers had access to one of the other gospels in Greek. While that would not preclude one of them being originally in Hebrew/Aramaic, but it means they all cannot have been in Hebrew/Aramaic originally. Consider also that some of the Old Testament scripture quotations in the New Testament are identical to those found in the Greek Septuagint. This would not be the case if they were simply translated from Hebrew or Aramaic.


As far as Greek goes, even though I am a scholar who has studied koine and modern conversational Greek, I do not consider myself at all to be a Greek scholar. That being said, scholars of ancient Greek have consistently concluded that, the literary quality of the Greek of the NT books (including Matthew and Mark) point to Greek being the original and not being a translation.

In the Eastern Roman Empire, Greek, not Latin, dominated. Greek was also the language of the educated in the Western Roman Empire as well.

Since non-literary, simple Greek knowledge or competency in multiple languages was relatively widespread in Jewish Palestine including Galilee, and a Greek-speaking community had already developed in Jerusalem shortly after Easter, one can assume that this linguistic transformation [from "the Aramaic native language of Jesus" to "the Greek Gospels"] began very early. ... [M]issionaries, above all 'Hellenists' driven out of Jerusalem, soon preached their message in the Greek language. We find them in Damascus as early as AD 32 or 33. A certain percentage of Jesus' earliest followers were presumably bilingual and could therefore report, at least in simple Greek, what had been heard and seen. This probably applies to Cephas/Peter, Andrew, Philip or John. Mark, too, who was better educated in Jerusalem than the Galilean fishermen, belonged to this milieu. The great number of phonetically correct Aramaisms and his knowledge of the conditions in Jewish Palestine compel us to assume a Palestinian Jewish-Christian author. Also, the author's Aramaic native language is still discernible in the Marcan style. (Bockmuehl M, Hagner DA. Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp. 89-90)

Asia Minor was part of the Eastern Roman Empire. It makes no sense for the two-thirds of the New Testament written to Gentile churches to be in Aramaic. There are no Aramaic manuscripts of the New Testament that compete with the earliest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament for chronological primacy. The Apostle Paul's ministry was the minister to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7). Greek was the Gentile language, spoken and understood by many within the confines of the Roman Empire, as the common tongue. Christ said for his followers to "make disciples of all nations" and teach all things He commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). That necessitated using a language people outside of Judea could understand. Back then, it was Greek.

Aramaic New Testaments from antiquity are all believed to be translations made a couple centuries or so after the New Testament was written in Greek--except by those who hold to the Aramaic NT myth.

As far as New Testament writers go, realize that Greek was the language of the educated and understood by leaders throughout the entire Roman Empire.

The Apostle Matthew was a tax collector (Matthew 10:3) who would have worked for the Romans, hence he would have known Greek. Mark is believed to have lived in Jerusalem and was much more likely to know Greek better than many others in Judea. Peter, though Galilaean, addressed his first epistle to those living in Greek-speaking areas. The Apostle John, another Galilean, is believed to have left Judea in the late A.D. 60s and moved to the Greek-speaking area of Asia Minor. John would have known Greek by the time he wrote his gospel, epistles, and the Book of Revelation, but may have not had perfect knowledge of its written grammar as he aged. Luke seemingly was a Greek.

The Apostle Paul clearly knew Greek:

37 Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, "May I speak to you?"

He replied, "Can you speak Greek? 38 Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?"

39 But Paul said, "I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people." (Acts 21:37-39, NKJV)

Greek in the ancient Roman Empire was pretty much akin to English in the world today. It was a language spoken/read by people all over--including many to whom it was not their native language.

.Early church writers wrote in Greek.

Polycarp of Smyrna is one of many who did so, when, for example, he was quoting from Matthew’s gospel. Related to Matthew 26:4,1 he wrote in his Letter to the Philippians (7:2):

το μεν πνύεμα προθυμον η δε ϲαρξ αϲθενηϲ

The Greek “Textus Receptus” has:

το μεν πνύεμα προθυμον η δε ϲαρξ αϲθενηϲ

Polycarp was not quoting Aramaic.

Actually, I checked out a dozen or so citations of the New Testament in Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians and they were identical or 'essentially identical' to the “textus receptus” (by “essentially identical” I mean that the Greek words were the same, but that their endings may have varied for grammatical reasons with the Greek text). Also, a similar situation occurs with Ignatius of Antioch who knew Polycarp. When he quotes part of Matthew 19:31 in chapter 6 of his Letter to the Smyrnaeans, the Greek he used is essentially identical to the Textus Receptus--I also checked out his other citations with the same results.

As far as Polycarp goes, he received the texts from the apostles, like John. Consider the following from Irenaeus:

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna…always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time. (Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 3, Verse 4).

Polycarp was appointed by the apostles and taught what was handed down. He respected and highly quoted scripture.

Furthermore, it also should be mentioned that there is an ancient historical document known as the Harris Fragments (ca. 2nd or 3rd century) that also discusses Polycarp.  Basically, it stresses that Polycarp’s connection with the Apostle John, teaches he was appointed bishop of Smyrna by John, and that he died at martyr’s death at age 104. Here are some translated quotes from the Harris Fragments, with one clarifying addition from me ‘an’ shown in {}:

There remained [---]ter him a disciple[e ---] name was Polycar[p and] he made him bishop over Smyrna…He was… {an} old man, being one hundred and f[our] of age.  He continued to walk [i]n the canons which he had learned from his youth from John the a[p]ostle (Weidman, Frederick W.  Polycarp and John: The Harris Fragments and Their Challenge to Literary Traditions.  University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame (IL), 1999, pp. 43-44)

By mentioning the term “canons” (which seems to be in the singular form in the actual Greek--Weidman, oddly displays what appears to be a combination of upper and lower case Greek characters ‘ΚαΝΝωΝ’ as the original source for the translation on p. 25) the Harris Fragments could possibly be suggesting that John passed the knowledge of the proper books of the Bible to Polycarp—and that would seem to be the case. But even if canon(s) meant only the measure of the right way to be a Christian that early, that strongly supports the view that the Apostle John would have passed on his knowledge of the books of the Bible to Polycarp. The canon was known by the Church of God in Asia Minor in the second century--and the New Testament that was received was in Greek. All should realize that to be faithful to apostolic Christianity that they should imitate Polycarp and John as they did Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1).

There are a total of 27 books in the New Testament.  At least 9 books of the New Testament were directly written to the church leaders in Asia Minor. The ones clearly written to those in Asia Minor include Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Timothy (Timothy was in Ephesus), Philemon, 1 Peter, 3 John, and Revelation.  According to The Ryrie Study Bible John’s Gospel, 1 Corinthians, 1 & 2 John, and possibly Philippians, were written from Ephesus.  In addition to these 14, there seem to be more as 1 & 2 John and 2 Peter, and possibly Jude may have also been mainly directed to one or more of the churches in Asia Minor.

The Book of James was written to “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1).  Some of them were in Asia Minor.  Others according to the historian Josephus were “beyond Euphrates.” It is also likely that some others, were written at least partially from Asia Minor. Acts, for example, specifically has a portion written to Christians in Ephesus.

So probably 14 to 20 New Testament books were written to or from Asia Minor.

There is only one book written to those in Rome (it never mentions any of the so-called Roman bishops), with 2 to Corinth, 2 to Thessalonica, and 1 to Crete (Titus), a total of 7 letters not sent from nor addressed to those in Asia Minor. Other than Rome, all of those other areas spoke/read Greek.

What this clearly shows, is that although there were Christians in various areas, the focus for the New Testament writers were the churches in Asia Minor and other Greek-speaking regions.


The earliest known manuscript of the New Testament is in the Greek language. I have looked at both sides of that document and it is written in Greek (and yes, I can read Greek).

While a version of Aramaic and Hebrew was known by many of the NT writers, the version that the Aramaic text uses dates from after the NT was written.

The Greek NT does not read like a translation. Parts, do however, read like writers whose native language was not Greek, wrote it.

References to the Hebrew language in the Book of Acts seems to eliminate Hebrew as the original language for that book.

If just one book of the New Testament was originally written in Greek, then the sacred name movement is shown to be false. If God has allowed the name of Himself and His son to be translated and transliterated in the Bible, then He most certainly did not expect a particular pronunciation of it for Christians.

The way the Aramaic NT translates portions of text which also include a reference Aramaic is proof that the original NT was not written in Aramaic.

  1. Earliest New Testament manuscripts are in Greek. The Greek Rylands P52 is from 90-125 A.D., with A.D. 100 the apparent date it was written.
  2. An Aramaic New Testament was not around until later centuries--with Syriac dating to the fourth century.
  3. What seems to be the earliest Aramaic manuscript dates from 464 AD (Lasater, p. 199).
  4. Those in Jesus' time did not speak the form of Syriac which the Aramaic translations are predominantly based upon.
  5. Having to repeat certain statements twice in Aramaic, as opposed to Aramaic and the Greek translation, in places like Matthew 27.46 and Mark 15:34 seems to disprove the Aramaic hypothesis. It makes sense to have the Greek translation of Aramaic in a Greek text, but not the other way around.
  6. The author of Rausch Qadim points to his language being “sacred” on page 113. The Bible does not teach that.
  7. The fact of Jesus speaking in Aramaic and Greek not being the native language of most of the NT writers accounts for seemingly unusual translations into Greek—the so-called “bad idiom transfers.”
  8. Scholars of ancient Greek have consistently concluded that, the literary quality of the Greek of the NT books (including Matthew and Mark) point to Greek being the original and not a translation.
  9. The Jews stopped using YHWH centuries before Jesus and switched to using the term Adonai, meaning Lord.
  10. This is also consistent with the Septuagint version of the Old Testament which uses the term Kurios, Lord, in the Greek.
  11. Luke and Paul clearly knew Greek (Acts 21:37-39) and we have reasons to see that other New Testament writers did as well.
  12. The fact is the Greek was the language used in the Eastern Roman Empire. Most of the books of the New Testament were written to those who were Greek-speaking Gentiles. It would not be logical that Aramaic (or Hebrew) would have been used as the original language when Jesus' followers were intended to reach the world (Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20).

While there may have been notes of various types in Hebrew and/or Aramaic, the New Testament was originally written in Greek. Do not be one who " loves and practices a lie" (Revelation 22:15) as the sacred name people do.

As far as why this matters, my experience with those who hold to the non-Greek NT view tend to have the wrong focus and the wrong priorities as they end up persuading themself (and by others) that sacred names are more important than doing the work that God wants His church to do in the end time (Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20). In Greek or Aramaic, Jesus simply did NOT teach His followers to pray using the name YHWH/YHVH.

To use an American expression, those who push the Aramaic as the original NT miss the forest, in order to think they see real trees.

This does not mean that there are not issues with groups that accept that the NT was written in Greek. But, the Ephesus through Philadelphia eras of the Church of God have accepted that the NT was written in Greek.

It is just that it has only been Philadelphian portions of the true Christian Church of God have truly led in the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14 (see also The Final Phase of the Work). Other groups are either not Christian or not Philadelphian.

Laodicea means 'people decide' and it is people who have wrongly decided that the NT was not written in Greek. Though most Laodiceans accept the Greek origin of the NT, it seems that some who are Laodicean have a different view. They should change. Or to use Jesus the term recommended to all Laodiceasa, repent (Revelation 3:14-18).

Thiel B. Was the New Testament Written in Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic? http://www.cogwriter.com/greek-aramaic-hebrew-new-testament.htm 2017 0906