Professor Allan Bell
It is generally agreed that Jesus presented his teaching in Aramaic, the presumed first language of first-century Palestine. The Gospels are, however, not written in the language of their presentation but in koine Greek. The usual account of their transmission is that the underlying traditions were communicated largely in Aramaic and then translated at a rather late stage into Greek. However, such a narrative does not appear to take into account the sociolinguistic macro-conditions and micro-situations in which the traditions were established and then shared in first-century Palestine. There were fluent Greek speakers among the apostles and wider group of disciples, and the early Church was overwhelmingly Greek-language-dominant from an early stage. The Greek-language tradition therefore probably goes back to retellings in Greek during Jesus’ own lifetime or shortly after. Greek-Aramaic bilinguals will have retold, in Greek, traditions which they had originally heard in Aramaic. Greek-speaking early Christians then passed on those traditions to other Greek speakers. No process of translation was necessary: this was the routine operation of the bilingual mind, verbalizing in one language what had been received in another. Such a sociolinguistic interpretation puts the Greek text of the New Testament in much more direct contact with the teaching of Jesus than is usually assumed.
About the Speaker:
Prof Allan Bell is Senior Research Fellow, Laidlaw College and Professor Emeritus of Language & Communication, Auckland University of Technology
|When||12:30pm - 1:25pm|
|Cost||FREE & open to the public|
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