“... and he sent letters to all the provinces of his kingdom, so that every nation was able to hear and to read, in various languages and letters, that husbands are to be the greater rulers in their own houses, and that this should be published to every people.” (Esther 3:22)
Most modern scholars believe that the New Testament was written almost entirely in Greek. There are a few exact-language quotes from Christ in the Gospels, such as Mk 5:41 and Mk 15:34, which are preserved in the original Aramaic. Christ most often used Aramaic during His teaching Ministry. Some modern scholars think that Matthew may have originally been written in Aramaic. But, as for the rest of the New Testament, most scholars think it was written almost entirely in Greek.
On the contrary, a strong argument can be made that the New Testament was written using several different languages: Hebrew, Latin, Greek, and Aramaic. The authors of the books of the New Testament wrote in different regions of the world, for different groups of Christians, who spoke and read and wrote in different languages. I believe that most of the New Testament was originally written in languages other than Greek.
For example, Saint Jerome and Bishop Eusebius each asserted that Matthew's Gospel was originally written in the Hebrew language and that copies of Matthew in Hebrew were still in existence during their lifetimes. Matthew wrote for the Christians of Judea, who were formerly Hebraic Jews. Mark wrote his Gospel in Latin, because he was writing for the Christians of Rome, whose first language was Latin. Luke certainly did write in Greek, but only because he was writing to Theophilus, a political leader in Greece who was of Greek descent, and to those Christians around Theophilus who had influenced him towards conversion. John wrote for the diverse groups of Christians in Asia (western Turkey), but he also wrote knowing that the other Gospels were in wide circulation. John wrote in Aramaic.
Saint Paul wrote letters to several different churches and several different individuals in various countries and cities. Peter wrote his first letter to the Christians who were formerly Jews of the Dispersion (living in diverse places away from Judea). These were Hebraic Christians, who used Hebrew as their written language. Peter wrote his second letter to the Christians who were neither Hebrews nor Jews (2 Pet 1:1).
Each author wrote more or less independently of the others. Each did not realize that he was writing a part of one infallible Sacred Scripture, which would be called the New Testament. Each author probably was familiar with, and able to use, more than one language. The common languages of that time and place were Hebrew, Latin, Greek, and Aramaic.
A writer of any book of the New Testament would have to chose a language which would be understood by his audience and which he himself could speak and write fluently. These two criteria were indispensable. What author would write any work in a language which his intended audience could not understand? What author could write a work in a language in which he himself was not fluent?
Now, what are the odds that each and every author, writing independently, would happen to write in the same language and always in Greek? Was every author of the New Testament fluent in reading and writing Greek? Did every Christian in every church understand Greek well? If not, then what reason would the authors have for writing in Greek only? Why would Paul, when writing to different cities, in different areas of the world, to people who spoke different languages, always write in Greek? Would he not rather write in whatever language was common to those he was addressing? Why would Mark, writing for the Christians of Rome, write in Greek? Would he not rather write to them in their own first language, Latin, a language he learned during his many years among them? Why would Matthew, writing for Christians who were of Hebraic descent and who were converts from Judaism, write in Greek? Would he not rather address them in their own language?
This widespread and completely ridiculous tenet of modern Biblical scholars, that the New Testament was written almost entirely in Greek, does not fit the information we have about the languages and cultures of that time period. On the contrary, the New Testament, including the Gospels and the Epistles, was written in various languages-Hebrew, Latin, Greek, and Aramaic-depending on the particular group of Christians being addressed. Each of the Gospels was written in a different language because each Gospel addresses a different group, each was written in a different time period, and each was written in a different region of the world. This principle also applies to a great extent with the Epistles. Paul wrote his letters in different languages, depending on the language of the Christians he was addressing. He needed help writing in certain languages. He received that help from Tertius, Sosthenes, Timothy, Silvanus, and perhaps others. This conclusion is much more reasonable than the inexplicable claim that every author wrote in Greek, regardless of whether or not the intended audience even knew the Greek language, regardless of whether or not the author was proficient in Greek. The exaltation of the Greek language above the other languages of Scripture is a common error in Biblical studies.
No one in their right mind would write to a group of first century Hebraic Jews, or to those among the first Christians who were formerly Hebraic Jews, in the Greek language. Hebrew-speaking Jews often did not get along with Greek-speaking Jews. The friction between the two groups continued even after many from each group converted to Christianity. At one point in time, the Hebraic Christians and the Hellenist Christians had such a serious disagreement with one another that the dispute had to be settled by the Twelve Apostles; they called together the body of the disciples and appointed the first Deacons (Acts 6:1-6). Now suppose that a group of Hebraic Jews, or a group of Christians who were formerly Hebraic Jews, received a letter on a religious topic, in Greek rather than in Hebrew. They would be upset and offended, if they were addressed in the Greek language in a letter on any religious topic.
That is why, when Paul spoke to a crowd in Jerusalem (Acts 22:2ff), he spoke to them in their own language, Hebrew. Paul knew some Greek (Acts 21:37-38) and he knew Aramaic, but he spoke to the crowd of Jews in Hebrew because he was addressing them on a religious topic, trying to convince them that he was a faithful Jew. Likewise, when Matthew wrote his Gospel for the Christians of Judea, who were mostly of Hebraic descent and former Jews, he wrote in Hebrew. The letter to the Hebrews was written for Jews and Christians who were descended from Abraham, so it must have been written in Hebrew. Why would the author of the Letter to the Hebrews write in Greek? He clearly was not writing to the Greek-speaking non-Hebraic Jews. He was writing to those who were descendents of Abraham: “God spoke of old to our fathers” (Heb 1:1), “he is concerned but with the descendents of Abraham” (Heb 2:16), and likewise in other verses. He knew that the Hebraic Jews would be offended if he wrote to them in Greek. The Letter to the Hebrews could only have been written in Hebrew. Greek would have been the last possible choice of language for writing to Hebraic Jews or to Christians who were formerly Hebraic Jews.
The original books of the New Testament, in their various languages, have been lost. We do not have the original manuscripts from any of the books of the Bible. For the New Testament, the oldest extant copies of each book are in Greek (with occasional words or phrases in Aramaic). But this fact does not warrant the conclusion that each book was originally written in Greek. There is much evidence to the contrary.
The New Testament has 10 major authors: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Hebrews-author, James the Less, Peter, John the elder, Jude (brother of James). This count is based on the idea that the Letter to the Hebrews was not written by Paul and that the Letters from John are not from John the Gospel writer, but from John the elder. It also is based on the idea that the books of the New Testament were basically written by the traditional authors, i.e. that Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew, that John wrote Revelation, etc.
The New Testament has at least 6 minor authors: Mark-conclusion, John-disciple(s), Tertius (Romans), Sosthenes (1 Cor), Timothy (2 Cor, Phil, Col, 1 Thess, 2 Thess, Phil), Silvanus (1 Thess, 2 Thess, 1 Peter?). There certainly may have been more than 6 minor authors. For example, Paul may have had persons helping him write and translate his letters, other than those whose names are actually mentioned. The additions to the Gospel of John may have been the work of a group of John's disciples, “we know that his testimony is true,” or of one person (representing a group), “I suppose that the world itself….” (John 21: 24, 25). Some ancient copies of Mark's Gospel lack the last set of verses (Mk 16:9-20). Mark probably did not write those verses; they were added at a later date, (but not much later,) by another author who was, nevertheless, also writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Interestingly, there were no women authors of Sacred Scripture. During Old Testament times, Jewish priests and scribes were exclusively men. Women did not have the role of priest or scribe in ancient Israel. There are some exemplary women mentioned in the Old Testament, including Judith, Ruth, and Esther, but these books are not first person accounts; they do not claim to have been written by these women. Each woman is referred to in the third person. Also, none of the books of the prophets are about women prophets. Men were given the role of prophet in Old Testament times, not women.
In the New Testament, the four Gospels were written by men, as were the other books of the New Testament. The specific authorship of the Letter to the Hebrews is unclear. In the past, it was often claimed to be the work of St. Paul, yet this Letter does not use Paul's name as do his other letters. Although Hebrews does not appear to have been written by Paul, it was clearly written by a man. There are repeated references, such as “holy brethren” (Heb 3:1), and “Take care, brethren” (Heb 3:12), and “Let brotherly love continue” (Heb 13:1), and similar references. Such repeated male leadership references are inconsistent with the idea of a woman as a leader and author of this text. The author of Hebrews is clearly a leader in the Christian community. In addition to giving instruction in the letter, the author speaks with some authority, and says that the author may arrive with Timothy, another leader in the early Church. Furthermore, in the discourse on fathers and sons, the author then includes himself in the role of son. First, he says God disciplines as a father disciplines his sons (Heb 12:7); then he says “we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them” (Heb 12:9). This places the author in the role previously described as a relationship between a father and his sons. Thus, the text of Hebrews is consistent with a male author, not a female author. None of the books of the Old or New Testament were written by women. The Bible was written by men, under the inspiration of God. God has given men and women different roles in the Church, the family, and society.
All of Sacred Scripture is the inspired writing of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of which persons or how many persons wrote any book of the Bible, God remains the One True Author of all. John wrote his Gospel, but some other persons completed it, all under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote his letters, but with help from Tertius, Sosthenes, Timothy, Silvanus, and perhaps others. Yet each book of the Bible is entirely the work of the One God, Who is Author of all.
by Ronald L. Conte Jr.
December 25, 2005