Did Jesus Speak Latin With Pilate?


Or Did Pilate Speak Aramaic With Jesus?


This question seems to come up regularly on a lot of forums. Generally the consensus is that they both spoke Greek. Pilate would not have bothered to learn Aramaic, and Greek was the common language for business and commerce at the time for the Roman Empire outside of Rome proper. So whenever Pilate had to speak to one of the native people or address the crowd, he likely spoke Greek. Jesus also would have known some Greek since he had been working as a carpenter and would have needed this knowledge in order to conduct his business.


The most likely thing is that Jesus had no conversation with Pilate. Why would a Roman governor talk to a minor religious leader? And who recorded their conversation? Is is conceivable that someone was there taking verbatim notes? Acceptance of the gospels is faith-based, not evidence-based. Speculation based on premises accepted on faith is inevitably pointless.


What were the three languages Pilate wrote the

King of the Jews



You accept the gospels on faith but you don’t believe Jesus actually spoke with Pilate? The Gospel account says Jesus spoke with Pilate.
And why shouldn’t Pilate speak with Jesus when the Pharisees brought Jesus to him demanding the death penalty?


Plus it’s not just one Gospel that says Jesus spoke with Pilate, it’s all four of them.
Seems like a reasonable thing to have happened…when some Jews, who you don’t like, bring some guy before you who they claim is causing civil unrest and setting himself up as a King, and demand you kill him, it would be reasonable to at least ask the accused guy for his side of the story. I’m guessing the Jews didn’t show up on Pilate’s doorstep asking for an execution every day.


God can speak any language, it’s whether or not man will listen and obey when they hear His Word


Because he was the source of an uprising during the Jewish festival. Pilate would have been very concerned about the prospects of a Jewish riot, and so, it’s quite unlikely that he wouldn’t have taken a close personal interest in the situation. After all, whatever Roman ruling was made, might have sent the local populace into ‘uprising’ mode, so he would have wanted to judge the mood of the crowd before pronouncing the sentence.

It’s well-attested that, in illiterate societies (or societies that are largely illiterate), memorization and periodic recitation fill the gap for the written word. So, it’s quite conceivable that the accounts we have in the Bible began as testimonies from those present at the events.

Likewise, speculation based on premises rejected simply due to the rejection of faith is inevitably pointless. :wink:


He didn’t. He ordered that someone else write it up in three languages. :wink:


Yes, but Jesus – in his Incarnation – had to learn in human ways. So, he would have learned to speak as any child learns to speak, and he would have had to learn the variety of languages as any Hebrew in 1st-century Palestine would have had to.


Pilate 100% most certainly did NOT speak Aramaic with Jesus - it’s highly doubtful that Pilate even understood any Hebrew or Aramaic aside from maybe a few words.

Most likely Jesus and Pilate conversed in Greek, although possibly it could have been through Latin. Another possibility is that Pilate used an interpreter - Pilate would’ve spoke to him most likely in Latin (or maybe in Greek) and he would have translated it into Aramaic and spoke to Jesus - then Jesus would reply in Aramaic and the interpreter would translate into Latin (or Greek) back to Pilate.


He didn’t write it himself, but it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

The Hebrew: ישוע הנצרי מלך היהודים (Yeshua ha-Notzri u’Melekh ha-Yehudim)

The Latin: IESVS·NAZARENVS·REX·IVDÆORVM (Jesus Nazarenus, Rex Judaeorum)

The Greek: Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ναζωραῖος ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων (Iēsûs ho Nazōraêos ho basileùs tôn Iudaéōn)

Also, contrary to small t tradition, the Titulus Crucis most likely was NOT a piece of wood nailed above his head - most likely it was a placard hung on a rope and worn around his neck.


Jesus Christ as the Second Person of the Ever Blessed Trinity was, is, and always will be Omnilingual.

But it is my personal contention that Jesus of Nazareth was Quadrilingual - Galilean Aramaic would’ve been his mother tongue, Biblical Hebrew would’ve been his second language which he learned at the Synagogue and Temple growing up, Koine Greek would have been his third language which he would’ve learned when he started working with his father Joseph as a Tekton, and Classical Latin would have been the fourth and final language he would’ve learned sometime early in his ministry which allowed him to converse with Roman officials like the Centurion and Pilate.


Jesus was brought before him on trial. The Jewish leaders needed his authority to put him to death. I’m sure Pilate spoke to many people in his role as magistrate presiding at trials.


There is a legend that the wife of Pilate became a Christian, even that Pilate himself became a Christian later in life. Several Eastern Orthodox Churches list her as a saint. No doubt the events of the day she had her dream were clearly burned into her mind. What was her dream? Gertrude von le Fort’s excellent short novel “The Wife of Pilate,” provides a fascinating speculation.

The National Catholic Register gives some other references:

What did Pilate’s Wife See in her Dream?


Romans were nosy types, and rich Romans were always interested in whatever weird new stuff was going on. Some of them were extremely nosy, like the Pliny family.

Romans took court cases pretty seriously, because Roman justice was one of the things that built their society and their empire. Every Roman man who wanted a government career had to serve in various offices, and a lot of them were involved with court cases. So a guy like Pilate, who was at the top, would already have done a lot of legal jobs at the bottom.

Court cases were also something that Roman men liked to attend, as a way of passing time. An interesting defendant, a controversial situation, a good advocate who would give entertaining speeches and make interesting points – that was not just civic duty, but also a good way to pass an afternoon at the Forum, back home in Rome.

Also, acting as an advocate or magistrate allowed a Roman man to display his wit and wisdom. You see this a lot in records of Roman court cases. If you could make a defendant expose himself as a crook, or if you could make people attending court laugh, you enhanced your status. You were not just a rich Roman of noble family; you were a Smart Guy on the Move. Impressing your subordinates and household was also worthwhile, because reputation was important to a Roman and elicited loyalty and political support.

So yeah, Pilate acted exactly like most Romans would. (It was kind of a good day for Pilate, as he was known for sometimes being one of the Nasty Romans who killed politically restive foreign people in mass quantities. But the emperor had told him to tone that down.) He was looking for a big gesture to enhance his rep, and he was interested in the weird foreign holy man who did magical things and said wise sayings. Jesus didn’t play with him as much as he was hoping, and the anti-Jesus leaders brought up embarrassing points, so he cleared Jesus out of court as soon as he could. But he did petty things to annoy the high priests in the process, because you couldn’t be a Roman without getting something back for them annoying him.

Anyway… even after Greek was overwhelmingly the language of trade and of educated men, Latin was still the language of court cases (or at least of court records) and of law books, as well as of ethnic Romans at home and North African colonists (who sometimes spoke Punic at home). A fair number of the Greek patristic writers and Fathers also spoke and wrote Latin, because they trained as lawyers. (Berytus, which today is called Beirut, was a big town for law school and for Biblical studies. Stuff tended to mix.) Court was held in the local language, but you had to know Latin to do the paperwork. Heh.

So if Jesus had spoken Latin to Pilate, it would have been appropriate to a court case, but it also would have constituted trolling the Roman guy. :slight_smile:


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