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What language did Jesus speak? Pope Francis and Netanyahu disagree

What language did Jesus speak? Pope Francis and Netanyahu disagreed on the topic when the Holy Father sat down with Israel’s Prime Minister during his Holy Land visit, as reported via on Sunday.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Pope Francis: What language did Jesus speak?
Photo by GPO/Getty Images

Pope Francis' three-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land occurred May 24-26. The Pontiff described the tour as a “great grace” and an opportunity to “pray for peace” in the Middle East, an invitation the Holy Father extended to the leaders of Israel and Palestine. However, during an exchange with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Pope Francis immediately offered a correction over what language Jesus spoke.

According to The Washington Post, the exchange that could be viewed above in the attached video happens at about the one-minute point. Netanyahu spoke Hebrew to Pope Francis, (who is conversant in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German and Ukrainian), which was translated into Italian for the Holy Father. “Jesus was here, in this land,” as if for some bizarre reason the 266th successor to St. Peter, Jesus’ disciple upon which the Church is built, needed clarification on that matter. The Israeli Prime Minister then quipped, “He (Jesus) spoke Hebrew.”

Up until that point, Pope Francis listened intently. But, as soon as Netanyahu said, “Jesus spoke Hebrew,” the head of the Catholic Church instantaneously retorted, “Aramaic.” To validate his statement, Netanyahu then added, “He spoke Aramaic, but He knew Hebrew.”

The exchange was allegedly the Israeli leader’s way to draw a “connection between Judaism and Christianity,” says Reuters. Netanyahu had a political agenda to attend to that involved the struggle over Jerusalem and the idea that Jesus was a Palestinian, an observation strongly objected to by Israel. However, you cannot lay claim to what was denounced.

Israeli linguistics professor Ghil'ad Zuckermann said both the Pope and Netanyahu are correct, “Jesus was a native Aramaic speaker,” although the language, which is closely related to Hebrew, would “also have been known by Jesus because it was the written language of Holy Scriptures.” Additionally, the Hebrew language was commonly spoken amongst the lower classes; the majority of people “Jesus ministered to.”

The Washington Post reported a “swift social media reaction, with many siding with Pope Francis” on what language Jesus spoke. Linguistic scholars concede, “the historical Jesus spoke Aramaic,” however comments under all articles prevailed, stating the spiritual Jesus speaks all languages.

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