The term Galilean dialect generally refers to the form of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic spoken by people in Galilee during the late Second Temple period, for example at the time of Jesus and the disciples, as distinct from a Judean dialect spoken in Jerusalem.[1][2]

The Aramaic of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels, gives various examples of Aramaic phrases. The New Testament notes that the pronunciation of Peter gave him away as a Galilean to the servant girl at the brazier the night of Jesus' trial (see Matthew 26:73 and Mark 14:70).

Scholarly reconstructionEdit

17th and 18th century scholarshipEdit

John Lightfoot and Johann Christian Schöttgen identified and commented upon the Galilean Aramaic speech. Schöttgen's work, Horae Ebraicae et Talmudicae, which studied the New Testament in the context of the Talmud, followed that of Lightfoot. Both scholars provided examples of differences between Galilean and Judean speech.[3]

19th century scholarshipEdit

The grammarian Gustaf Dalman identified "Galilean Aramaic,"[4] but he was doubted by Theodor Zahn.[5]

Modern scholarshipEdit

Porter (2000) notes that scholars have tended to be "vague" in describing exactly what a "Galilean dialect" entailed.[6] Hoehner (1983) notes that the Talmud has one place with several amusing stories about Galilean dialect which indicate only a defective pronunciation of gutturals in the third and fourth century.[7] Hugo Odeberg attempted a grammar based on the Aramaic of the Genesis Rabbah in 1939.[8] Michael Sokoloff's English preface to Caspar Levias' Hebrew language Grammar of Galilean Aramaic (1986) also sheds light on the controversy that began with Dalman. Edward Kutscher's Studies in Galilean Aramaic (1976) may offer some newer insights. More recently attempts to better understand the Galilean dialect vis a vis the New Testament have been taken up by Steve Caruso.[9]

Personal namesEdit

Evidence on possible shortening or changing of Hebrew names into Galilean is limited. Ossuary inscriptions invariably show full Hebrew name forms. David Flusser suggested that the short name Yeshu for Jesus in the Talmud was 'almost certainly' a dialect form of Yeshua, based on the swallowing of the ayin noted by Paul Billerbeck,[10] but most scholars follow the traditional understanding of the name as a polemical reduction.[11]


  1. ^ Allen C. Myers, ed. (1987). "Aramaic". The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans. p. 72. ISBN 0-8028-2402-1. It is generally agreed that Aramaic was the common language of Israel in the first century AD. Jesus and his disciples spoke the Galilean dialect, which was distinguished from that of Jerusalem (Matt. 26:73).
  2. ^ "Aramaic language". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  3. ^ See Clarke's commentary on Matthew 26:73 Archived 2013-01-16 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ The American journal of Semitic languages and literatures University of Chicago. Dept. of Semitic Languages and Literatures - 1899 "For the grammar of the Galilean Aramaic in the Palestinian Talmud and Midrash, with the exception of the.... It is, therefore, with great satisfaction that we hail Dalman's grammar as the beginning of a new era in these studies "
  5. ^ Gustaf Dalman The words of Jesus considered in the light of post-Biblical Jewish writings and the Aramaic language Authorised English version by David Miller Kay - 1902 pp. 79-81 "There is no justification indeed for Zahn's misgiving that the distinction, adopted in my Grammar, of a "Judaean " and a " Galilean " dialect of Jewish Aramaic rests upon uncertain grounds. The two dialects so designated are so sharply defined in point of grammar and vocabulary, that their separation did not call for the exercise of exceptional penetration. But in applying these designations, nothing is fixed in regard to the time when these dialects flourished, and the extent over which they then prevailed. The " Judaean " dialect is known to us from literary remains of Judaean origin in the period from the first to the third (Christian) century; the Galilean dialect from writings of Galilean origin in the period from the fourth to the seventh century.... "Syriac" being the Semitic language of Canaan in his own day, Jerome finds...."
  6. ^ Stanley E. Porter Diglossia and other topics in New Testament linguistics 2000 p110-112
  7. ^ Harold W. Hoehner Herod Antipas - 1983 p63 "It is true that in one place the Babylonian Talmud does give several amusing stories with regard to the Galilaean dialect. However, this seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Maybe the defective pronunciation of gutturals was prevalent in the third and fourth century"
  8. ^ Hugo Odeberg The Aramaic portions of Bereshit rabba with grammar of Galilæan...: - 1939
  9. ^ "". Retrieved 2018-04-18.
  10. ^ Joachim Jeremias New Testament theology 1977 "... deliberate truncation made for anti-Christian motives; rather, it is 'almost certainly' (Flusser, Jesus, 13) the Galilean pronunciation of the name; the swallowing of the 'ayin was typical of the Galilean dialect (Billerbeck I 156f.)"
  11. ^ George Howard Hebrew Gospel of Matthew 2005 p207 "According to the Tol'doth Yeshu, Jesus' original name was Yehoshua (otvp). Later, when he became a heretic, his name was... for the name of Jesus became common in medieval Jewish polemics and can be found even in the Talmud (cf. b."