Is Aramaic and Hebrew the Same Language?


The Israelites spoke Hebrew until they were carried away captive.  When the Jews came back from Babylon, after seventy years in captivity, they spoke the language of the Chaldeans.  Was it the same as Hebrew their original language?

Some say it is the same language just a different dialect however the Bible says differently.  The Jews who spoke Hebrew would need an interpreter to understand Chaldean unless they had been taught it as a separate language.

In 2 Kings 18 v 26 we read, “Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebna and Joah, said to Rabshakeh, “Speak now to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it; and do not speak to us in Judean in the hearing of the people who are on the wall” (NASB).

This was the time when Jerusalem was surrounded by the armies of Assyria and the captain of the Assyrian army was speaking in Hebrew to the Jewish leaders who didn’t want the common people to hear what he was saying. In other words they were two different languages that needed an interpreter.

When Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon carried away the Jews to Babylon we read that he ordered the nobles to learn Aramaic.

Daniel 1 v 3-5 says, “Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials , to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, youths in whom was no defect, who were good looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.  The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years , at the end of which they were to enter the kings personal service”. (NASB)

When the common Jew finally came back to Jerusalem after over seventy years Ezra the scribe read from the book of the law.  The language of the Jews now would have been Aramaic, but the book of law would have been in Hebrew so the Levites translated it so that the ordinary people understood it.

Nehemiah 8 v 8, “They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading” (NASB).

Alfred Edershein in his book The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah,  tells us that on their return from the Babylonian captivity the language spoken by the Jews was no longer Hebrew, but Aramaen.  The common people were ignorant of pure Hebrew which became the language of students and Synagogue .  Even there an Interpreter  was employed  to translate  the scripture when it was read in  public (chapter 1). 

The name of Jesus in Aramaic was Yeshua which was a translation of the Hebrew name Yehoshua.

The common language in Christ day would have been Aramaic however Greek was also another common language especially in areas of business and commerce.