The original text of the documents we have come to know as the New Testament was written by Christ-following Jews (in the ancient sense of the word) in a language that can best be described, not simply as Koine (or Common) Greek, but as “Koine Judeo-Greek.”

First of all, what is Koine Greek? Koine Greek (which is different from Classical Greek) was the common, multi-regional form of Greek spoken and written during Hellenistic and Roman antiquity. However, I do not think that the language we see in the New Testament can be described ONLY as Koine Greek. There are elements of the Koine Greek used in the New Testament that emphasize its significant connection to Hebrew and first-century Jewish culture. I prefer to call it “Judeo-Greek” (or Koine Judeo-Greek).

What is Judeo-Greek? Judeo Greek is simply a specialized form of Greek used by Jews to communicate. This form of Greek retained many words, phrases, grammatical structures, and patterns of thought characteristic of the Hebrew language.  We have similar examples in other languages: the well-known Judeo-German (Yiddish), Judeo-Spanish (Ladino), and the less familiar Judeo-Farsi, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Italian, and Judean-Georgian languages.

So is Judeo-Greek really Greek? Yes, but it is Greek that inherited the patterns of Semitic thought and expression. In this way, it differs from the forms of Greek used by other people groups.

I disagree that the New Testament was first written in Hebrew and then later translated into Greek.

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Instead, I think it was written in Greek by people who thought “Jewishly.” More importantly, the authors of the New Testament thought multi-lingually. People who speak a variety of languages also manage to think in a variety of languages. When they do speak, however, they regularly import into that language something that comes from another. It is never a question of “if,” but only of, “how much.”

We must remember that the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible (commonly called the Septuagint) was translated into Greek by leading Jewish scholars of the day. Legend has it that each of the 70 individual Jewish sages made separate translations of the Hebrew Bible and when they were completed, all of them matched perfectly. As I said, “it is a legend.” The number 70 is likely symbolic of the 70 nations of the world in ancient Judaism. This translation was not only meant for Greek-speaking Jews, but also for non-Jews so that they too could have access to the Hebrew Bible. You can imagine how many Hebraic words, phrases, and patterns of thought are present on every page of the Septuagint, even though it is written in Greek. So aside from the authors of the New Testament thinking Jewishly and Hebraically, we also have the majority of their Old Testament quotations coming from another Jewish-authored, Greek-language document – the Septuagint. Is it surprising that the New Testament is full of Hebraic forms expressed in Greek?!

As a side note, the use of the Septuagint by New Testament writers is actually a very exciting concept. The Jewish text of the Hebrew Bible used today is the Masoretic Text (MT for short). When the Dead Sea Scrolls were finally examined, it turned out that there was not one, but three different families of Biblical traditions in the time of Jesus. One of them closely matched the Masoretic text, one closely matched the Septuagint, and one seems to have connections with the Samaritan Torah. Among other things, this indicates that the Septuagint quoted by the New Testament has great value, since it was based upon a Hebrew text that is at least as old as the original base text of the (later) Masoretic Text (MT).

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115 COMMENTS

  1. I think it’s best put as Greek Jews using some Jewish terminology in writing to reach out to other Greek literate Jews and Goyim with the Good News of Yeshua the Messiah. Scholars have hinted at the possibility that the talmid Mattityahu originally wrote his Good News in Aramaic but was later translated into Koine Greek. And it is also possible that Mattityahu was the source material for Mark, Luke, and Yochanan.

  2. Dr Eli, thanks for this cool idea, e.g., not quite Greek. Regarding the language spoken an written, I’m sure you’re right (my opinion) that a local Greco dialect was common as also was Hebrew. As in many places today, folk converse comfortably in 3 or 4 languages. But there is an important aspect of a people in subjection regarding the language they prefer and the strategic choice of language based on the goal of writing or speaking. I think of the Irish separatist who demanded Gaelic, I imagine the 1st century Zealots had a similar view, and there could easily

    • I wish I can interact intelligently with you about the Irish separatists, but I can’t! I know about Russian Bolsheviks and Menshviks, but that takes to another part of the world :-). I think we are on the same page though. 🙂

  3. What about Paias’ statement, quoted by Eusebius, that Matthew was originally wriitten in Hebrew … and Jerome’s statement that he had seen a Hebrew copy of Matthew’s Gospel? When you compare the form of the Hebrew text preserved in Eben Bohan, it has evidence of a missing final page much like that of the old Syriac’s missing final page of the Gospel. Also we see a variety of forms usually translated “in the name of,” that may represent the differences deen in the Hebrew idioms בשם and לשם (Greek en enomati and eis onoma). Jeewish-Greek or Hebrew original

  4. That ‘common’ Greek dialect was probably nuanced in many ways depending on where it was used and who was using it. Certainly, Jewish people used it to express Jewish thoughts, especially those of the Diaspora who used Greek as their first and primary language. A good question might be how Koine influenced Jewish thought rather than the reverse. Hellenization of Jewish society is obvious. It goes both ways. Perhaps, another reason for using Koine is that it allowed the expression of new ideas beyond the Jewish norm which was necessary for the rise of a new devotion to God.

  5. Matthew, Hebrew , Peter & John, all written in Greek? What about the Aramaic peshita which many believe is older than the Greek?

  6. Dr. Eli, The seventy Jewish scholars of the Septuagint, representing the nations of the world, seems to indicate God’s concern for all people to obtain knowledge of who He is from His people. That seems to go along to Israel’s call as a light to the nations and as a mediating nation for the world. Do you think that this is another description of Israel’s call as a kingdom of priests just as seventy bulls were sacrificed for the seventy nations of the world during Sukkot? Blessings, Jay

  7. Dr. Eli, Thank you for addressing this very important topic. I believe only you have my email address. Is there a way that I may privately share with you my study on this topic? I would appreciate your opinion. An private l response would be greatly appreciated.

    • A good friend of mine, Andrew Roth, thinks (if I am not mistaken) that the NT or at least some books in the NT (gospels) were written in both Judeo-Greek and Aramaic/Syriac roughly at the same time. Two versions for West and East so to speak. I find this possible.

  8. Is it possible that the only reason that we think the early church writers used the Septuagint is that the Hebrew text they were quoting was the same text that the translators of the Septuagint used. Therefor any translation into Greek would mirror the Septuagint.

  9. These language principles are very important in evangelism too. I learned a Biblical language at church as a young adult. Nothing having to do with God or revelations was imported because it was assumed that I had been under works/law prior to reading the NT and going to church. This caused me to read based on my present circumstances (doctrine) After all, my past was forgiven, right? I love each new word I relearn here because it helps me to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (past, present, future)

  10. Key issue is – What was the actual language used by the NT personalities which subsequently were quoted by the NT Writers in their Greek writings? Had an internal translation process taken place on the mind of the writers as they translated what they actually heard from the various persons in Aramaic to the Greek? If so, then all the normal limitations associated with any translation process would apply. The NT Writers were not taking word-by word dictation rom God. They were faithful and trustworthy witnesses and translators. Period.

  11. So you saying that Jesus was speaking to his followers in Aramaic, they answered Jesus in Aramaic and they wrote their gospels in Greek, I don’t understand that part if you can explain

    • Jesus, as did all Jewish people living in the land of Israel during this time period, grew up speaking Aramaic. Hebrew, of course, was the true language of the Jewish people. But practically speaking, Aramaic had become their “mother tongue” after the exile. Greek, on the other hand, was the common language of the Mediterranean world and the “business language” of the Roman Empire. In other words, during the time of Jesus, a Jewish person might pray in Hebrew, speak with his friends in Aramaic and write a business receipt in Greek, all in the same day.

  12. Dr. Eli, Would Judeo-Greek have been intelligible to other speakers of Greek? In other words, was the NT written so that it was accessible to the rest of the known world or only locally? Was the purpose of the writing Jewish “enlightenment” or to bring a light to the Gentiles as well?

  13. The History of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda and the Hebrew Dictionary is eye-opening regarding the Hebrew language and all the different dialects regarding the different countries in which the Jews were scattered all over the world. I’m grateful for all these articles and believe that I would understand scripture much better if explained by someone like Dr. Eli. I really appreciate everything you share with us.

  14. I have read commentators who claim Paul was an Hellenistic Jew. Yet Paul was a Pharisee and calls himself a Hebrew of Hebrews. His old testament quotes were from the Hebrew Scriptures. Any thoughts on this.

  15. Dear, Dr. Eli Lizorking-Eyzenberg What is your opinion about having so many poor translations today? Is it due to lack of knowledge of the “Koine Judeo-Greek” in the NT case? In order to have a thorough knowledge of the scriptures, should we have Hebrew as the basis, since the Torah would be the basis of a monotheistic faith? For example, words in Greek as “Nomos” erroneously translated as law, do not disrupt the correct understanding of the scriptures? Thanks

    • Paulo, I understand your frustration but I am afraid “poor-translations” are a fact of life. A lack of knowledge concerning Koine Greek is one factor but there are many other contributing factors. The issue of whether or not to produce a word-for-word “literal” translation or to produce a modern “dynamic equivalence” translation is a subject of much debate. Interestingly enough, Daniel Boyarin (a great Jewish scholar) has challenged the notion that “law” should automatically be ruled out as a correct translation of nomos.

  16. Not enough space here. But, the historical-linguistic evidence is very much in support of an Aramaic original for most of the Testimony-of-Yeshua. Those who translated from Aramaic to Greek were Jews, so Judeo-Greek was used. Dr. Eli has my email address and is welcome to share it for anyone who wants something a bit more developed on the subject. I have shared more information about this with him. Shalom & Aloha [“Hawaiian-Aramaic”: “Alo” means “face-to-face” “Ha” means “Breath-of-Life” – as found in Aramaic in Genesis 2 where Yahweh-Aloha (Elohim”) breathed the breath of life into Adam]

  17. Hi Dr Eli. Your comments make sense. Having grown up in South Africa, my home language is English, yet at school I learnt Afrikaans. There are words and expressions that are distinctly South African, but come from Afrikaans, that an English-speaking South African would use in a sentence without even thinking. Sometimes the word order might be different, or one might even think of it first in Afrikaans. The same happens for Afrikaans speakers. Thank you for the insight.

  18. Dr. Eli, have you written any articles or books (or could point me to other’s literature) where this concept is displayed in terms of NT examples where “Judeo-Greek” linguistic structure is examined juxtaposition other extra-biblical writings in Greek (outside of Palestine) of that time period that demonstrates how Jewish writers used terminology in different ways than Gentile writers of Greek in that same time period wrote? Thank you

  19. Shalom Dr Eli, I am new to this on-line “Yeshiva” and completely enthralled. As an elderly “Hebrew” Christ-follower, I have been immensely enriched by your insights. Toda rabah. Re your reply to Ababacar Fall (February), I read elsewhere that in the 1st century, aside from Hellenistic influences, Palestinian Jews (and Samaritans) tended to speak Aramaic, which was brought down from the north (Babylon), while Judeans tended to speak Hebrew (the language of priests and scholars). Your opinion? To Bryan from SA, as a fellow South African, good metaphor but probably far greater divergence in culture etc between Greek n Jew.

  20. Same phenomenon as with the Quran, which was first orally transmitted in a language rich of all those spoken in the area, especially Aramaic & Syriac.
    Therefore there’s a great number of Koranic verses that make no sense in Classical arabic, and can be either ridiculous or obscure, but start making sense if we discover the aramaic or Syriac expressions.
    Example:
    The word houri, universally interpreted by scholars as white-eyed virgins (who will serve the faithful in Paradise; Qur’an 44:54, 52:20, 55:72, 56:22) means, according to Luxenberg, white grapes or raisins. He says that many Christian descriptions of Paradise describe it as abounding in pure white grapes.
    The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran: A Contribution to the Decoding of the Language of the Koran by Christoph Luxenberg.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Syro-Aramaic_Reading_of_the_Koran

  21. I’ll have to disagree. Rewriting the New Testament in Greek was part of the de-Judaization of Jesus by the church. It was part of remaking the “news of good” into a thoroughly pagan religion. It is also why we have over 5700 source texts which mostly disagree- everyone was busy copying what they wanted the letters to say into Greek. And after all, in paganism it was expected the storyteller would change the story to suit himself. A Greek New Testament is also a huge part of replacement theology as it is seen as evidence God abandoned the Jews and chose the Gentiles. God does not change, and it was to the Jews He gave His oracles (Rom 3:2).

  22. Dear Dr. Eli,

    Do you seriously think Yeshua spoke Greek in Sermon on the Mount? Or to many many common folks in all the Gospels? Or his people in haDerekh (original “christians”) spoke Greek to each other? Sorry, this is a grandma’s tales. Don’t you know about Peshitta (Brit haHadasha in Aramaic and Hebrew)? I know some Allawite Christians from Syria (Aleppo area), that is what they use. HRV – Hebraic Roots Version.

    • Oleg, the problem is that you responding to half of the article :-). Do you think I am from another planet in thinking that Jesus gave his sermon on the mount in Greek? Of course not. But the Hebrew/Aramaic spoken words, do not necessitate Hebrew writing. In other words, Jesus spoke Hebrew, but the original gospels best I can tell are in Judeo-Greek.

      • Looks like my text was truncated or cut in a half. I referenced “The Scriptures” HRV version from ISR, please take a look at it yourself (freely downloadable for Bible software), find your favorite passages, compare them to any other English version, you will feel that it is deeper, more precise, harmonized. IMHO it is simply better and closer to Hebrew and Jewish background. There are many people who fell in love with this Bible (just look at raging reviews on Amazon). I am not a linguist and have no desire to argue, but I do have analytical mind and love The Scriptures. And remember: 1900 years ago there were many gentiles who tried to make New Testament non-Jewish (e.g. emperor Constantine), unfortunately they largely succeeded, that created a myth of Greek origins. Isn’t it time to purify that?

        • Wait, he spoke in Hebrew, and then someone translated that into another language. Isn’t it a change, as you well know Greek and Hebrew are Very Different languages, so a lot got lost in that translation.
          But again, what if that much closer original text exists, and that is a Peshitta?
          As I said, just start reading “The Scriptures”, check you favorite places to any existing translation, you will see it is Reacher, Closer, has lot more meaning,
          you will fall in love with it. Than we will talk!..

          • Are you working for them? Don’t remember you being so passionate :-)? By the way Peshitta is not Hebrew, but aramaic translaiton of Judeo-Greek original gospels (with possible exception off Mathew).

  23. The information in these short stories is fascinating You have altered my understanding of the bible and new testament dramatically I am hesitant to enroll as it would be such a commitment to continue I will keep an open mind however Excellent work God bless Israel

    • Gord, commitment is good, but no one keeps you bound here you can discontinue at any time. So do make a commitment to try. You owe us that much :-).

  24. We have copies of those manuscripts, and I have only ever heard that they were written in Koine Greek- not some hybrid Greek tongue. That they contain many Hebraisms is to me evidence that they were not written in Greek, but Hebrew. However your hypothesis here is an interesting alternative. If there is evidence of this hybrid tongue other than conjecture that it could have existed, I’d be interested in seeing it. Not being a linguist myself I depend on “experts,” which means I am open to evidence.

  25. I find this very interesting.
    Aramaic language has at least 200 verses within our holy book.
    The Old Testament is written in the Hebrew language.
    The New Testament is written in the Greek language.

    • Linda Lou Renken
      I agree with you!
      I read my Bible in Greek and have a very good Translation in Greek of the Old Testament too.
      I am not at all keen on King James Editions, specially the new versions which remind me of children’s bed time stories!
      This is just my conclusion after reading it in English and Armenian, I prefer the Greek Language. Both New and Old Testaments.
      If I was younger, I would join Dr Eli’s courses, but I am not any more able to learn foreign languages.

  26. Shalom Eli
    I restarted my learning yesterday with writings!
    Fun and very exiting som I opened my First Hebrew-book

    ברכות
    Rolf

  27. Shalom Eli……. and with that, I have used my first Hebrew word ever. I have read all the postings shown above and am intensely interested in this subject. I have a question.
    The discussion on the Greek Language seems based on the differences between the different “versions’ of the Greek language. Is the Greek alphabet the same for all versions of the language spoken, and are the numerical values of each letter the same in each style or version of the language.
    Separately, I have progressed through 3 of your courses thus far and am really beginning to appreciate the value of understanding what was meant as originally written and intended in the bible. Well done Eli. Well worth the money. Thank you.

  28. Dear Dr. Eli. I was told to discuss my question on the website, by one of your assistants. So here it goes.
    I am wondering about a certain scenario and how the Hebrew Bible would judge this situation. So let’s suppose a young man and woman, very young, in their 20’s or late young adulthood, maybe 18; meet and fall in love. There is courtship, no premarital sex and after a while, they become betrothed to one another for marriage. Then let’s say, the marriage won’t take place before several years. So until that time, there may be some harlot women who try to seduce the young man and have sexual relations with him, unbeknownst to his lovely future bride. The young man is in need of sexual fulfillment, owing to his young age. (Circumcised or not). So with this betrayal, how does The Hebrew Bible react to such a situation? I have heard of this happening in the 1950’s and 1960’s in certain Canadian contexts. I was just wondering what the Jewish interpretation of this scenario would entail. Thanks for your advice. Best Wishes, June R Massoud

  29. I am from Malaysia. A Roman Catholic and would like to express that it was really grateful to be able to know bible from Jewish point of expression.

  30. Also, why would Rabbis worry about the name of HaShem in the NT writings if there was a Greek word and not Tetragrammaton? But, if the NT was written in Hebrew/Aramaic – then their concern is justified. Overall, between Rabbis and Catholics, Hebrew/Aramaic NT did not have a chance. For the former, it was a blasphemy, for the latter – too pro-Semitic. Oh, and later Muslims of Ottoman Empire could add to the demise of the Hebrew NT. I hope though that like in Qumran, some original NT scrolls are saved somewhere by the Father. Shalom!

  31. I’m convinced, that the Gospel of Matthew is written directly on Koinè Judeo-Greek.
    Simply because a Hebrew, who is raised with Tanakh, would probably not change so drastically in a Hebrew script as it was done in several verses, from the Hebrew “Sheol (7585)” to the heathen Greek → ᾅδου (86) = Hadou or Haides or ‘Hades’ ← as we read in, among other, Matt 11:23 where ᾅδου is translated to “Hell”!
    ᾅδου = Hades is the name of the Greek pagan god, of the underworld!

    καὶ σύ, Καφαρναούμ, μὴ ἕως οὐρανοῦ ὑψωθήσῃ; ἕως → ᾅδου ← καταβήσῃ · ὅτι εἰ ἐν Σοδόμοις ἐγενήθησαν αἱ δυνάμεις αἱ γενόμεναι ἐν σοί, ἔμεινεν ἂν μέχρι τῆς σήμερον.
    Copied from: Nowum Testamentun Graece

    • I agree (I don’t think the info about ORIGINAL Mathew in Hebrew is accurate). It may have been a translation, this may have been a mistake, this could however be another version of the Gospel (one Hebrew, one in greek).

  32. The dead sea scrolls demonstrate that Hebrew was still in use in the first century. See also Acts 22:2 (Paul addressing the mob in Hebrew). Jesus would have likely delivered his teaching in Hebrew. Note that the teachings of Jesus in the NT are largely based on the Q document that would be comprised of notes of his sermons. If Jesus was speaking in Hebrew, most likely the notes would also be taken in Hebrew. The authors that composed the Greek NT would have to translate those original “Q” notes into Greek from the original Hebrew. So Hebrew came first.

  33. You would certainly imagine that 1st century texts written by the apostles would be written in the various extant languages depending on their intended audience, so it seems odd that only the Greek ones survived to become the New Testament.

  34. One does not readily realize just how much our view of the Scripture is so coloured by western post romanism / reformation and hellenistic greco-roman bias. After having done some years in theological studies I wish I had done this course 20 years ago. A great deal of western theological view point never quite sat at peace with me. A real eye opener these studies; makes me excited to open the Bible again.

    • That is wonderful to hear, Kevin. That is the goal of these articles and courses; to rejuvenate study of the Bible and re-read it in its appropriate context. Keep it up!

  35. I think I have to learn Hebrew and Greek language to understand the original Scriptures better. However, with the help of the Holy Spirit of GOD HE gives us the true meaning of the scriptures even in the English language. GOD has poured out HIS SPIRIT since the time of the original Apostles so that whatever our language, we can understand GOD’s WORD. That’s why during Pentecost, the people spoke in different languages but seemed to be unified! GOD does wonders when we ask for wisdom, in JESUS’ Name.

    • Thank you for your comment, Maria. The Holy Spirit uses what we take in in order to lead us to truth. That is why it is still invaluable to learn at least a bit of the original languages. Be blessed!

  36. Dear Elena,
    Paul quotes the OT in Rom 3:10-18
    For an appraisal of the use of the OT (LXX) in the NT as direct quotations 356 times and not simply allusions or one word like “David” – see the book ‘The Mystery of the OT Scriptures used in the NT’ (2018).

  37. The dislike of a Greek NT origin based on the awareness of Yeshua’s Jewishness is fashionable. The fact, that the Written Torah is also for hanotzrim, made me dislike Rome even more. The DSS often verify the LXX, expose the MT’s bias, and show that Hebrew was commonly spoken. I subscribe to a Hebrew MATT (+ likely Paul’s Hebrew HEB) as many church fathers do, but the rest of the NT was written in Greek. The HRV Oleg mentioned is a good Bible but though I speak in other tongues, I deem the Aramaic Primacy for the NT unfounded. Shalom

    • Jake,

      Any particular reason why NT could not have been written in Aramaic or Hebrew?
      That would make it much easier for readers in that area to understand,
      not too many of simple folks there could communicate in Greek freely (let alone understand Paul’s concepts).
      It had to be spread around, that was a purpose of “Go and Tell” command.
      Check “The Scripture”, read it carefully, it has more meanings than any regular English language Bibles.
      Shalom, Oleg.
      P.S.: No, I don’t profit from it in any way, except like spreading the truth.

  38. John says men are acting unworthy to look upon the 7 seals, all but Jesus, but he came 2,000 years ago, do we still play unworthy, listening to false prophets of the Pat, or listen to the truth and grace Jesus showed us, Eliy?

  39. So I think the divine name is one of the seven seals, because there are different ways to pronounce it Yahuwah, or Yahuvah, Yahavah, or Yahawah, Yahevah, or Yahewah, Yahvah, or Yahwah, do we follow men, or the spirit in the 1st born of every creature, Now these are just a few possible ways, but the ones who calls upon the name of Yahowah, or Yahovah shall be saved, but how shall they call on whom they have not heard?
    Are we letting carnal men deceive us into death, Hell, and the grave, or do we repent, & live?

    • I certainly hope that you are not advocating that pronunciation is a fundamental salvation issue, Shane, but then admit that there is little consensus as to the true pronunciation. Who then shall be saved? 🙂 Truthfully, it seems to me that “men” have amplified and exaggerated this minor point at the expense of leading lives that imitate our Messiah.

  40. Don’t forget: The Masoretic text as we now have is younger than the NT. The old Hebrew Texts had no punctuation…
    Imho the Septuagint is the most reliable source (and, so far I know most quoted in the NT).
    Besides the Septuagint I have the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Peshitta too, and some texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls too – some noteworthy deviations…

  41. Jewish traders were present in India even before the first century and Saint Thomas, one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus lived there from 52 to 72 CE. Historical, archaeological, traditional and oral transmissions of messages must be considered, thinking of the languages of the Jewish traders spread through out the world, during the late first century, using a mixture of local languages for the spread of the gospels.

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