Language - Passion of the Christ?

i am watching it for a second time and wanted to ask this for some time…

the whole movie is in another language - i guess i am sort of clueless…

what is it latin? hebrew? or something else


The Jews, Jesus and the Apostles included, spoke in Aramaic and the Romans spoke in Latin. It has been a while since I saw I but I seem to remember Jesus answering Pilate in Latin when he was questioned in the Praetorium. I don’t think anyone spoke in Hebrew in the film but I could be mistaken.

Right. Historically Greek would have been used a lot, particularly when Jews and Romans talked to each other. But I don’t expect historical accuracy from a movie.


Yeah, they should have brought in the fact Galileans talked Aramaic with an accent and had the Romans and Jews talk to each other in a slightly pidgin version of Koine Greek with two different accents. Because having a whole movie in Aramaic and Vulgate Latin wasn’t incredible enough! :rolleyes:

It was incredible. But it wasn’t historically accurate. This is not a matter of some fine dialectical nuance. Greek was the common language of the Eastern Empire–that’s why the NT was written in Greek. When Gibson went out of his way to have little touches like Pilate speaking to Jesus in Aramaic and Jesus responding in flawless Latin, it’s worth while pointing out that this is great drama but completely ridiculous as history, unless Gibson is implying that Jesus’ divinity gave Him the ability to speak Latin. A Galilean itinerant rabbi would not be speaking Latin. He would be speaking bad Greek, but I would settle for any kind of Greek!

Again, I’m not criticizing the movie–I think Gibson’s language choice was cool (I’d have loved to hear Koine Greek, but I’m happy with what I got). I’m criticizing the belief of many people that Gibson was paying a lot of attention to historical accuracy in his language choice. He wasn’t. He was going for dramatic effect and religious significance, which was perfectly appropriate.


Yes, but a lot of the Latin that is used where you say that it shouldn’t be is very famous quotation from St. Jerome’s Vulgate. For instance, Pilate says, “ECCE HOMO” while addressing the crowd. Pilate would most certainly not have used Latin here, but I’d say that Gibson used this translation because of the history of the Vulgate text. Jesus may well have spoken Latin, he more than likely was around it for his whole life. As for a whole city of Jewish people understanding Latin… I bet some of them could understand him, but lets just say that Mexicans don’t speak natural English when they touch American soil.

He was speaking in tongues :wink:

I agree, and that was a perfectly legitimate artistic choice to make. I’m simply pointing out that it is historically inaccurate. Movies do not need to be historically accurate. Every work of historical fiction (book or movie) is a work of “alternate history.” Historical accuracy is a valuable aesthetic effect to aim for, and it has the side benefit of making the movie more useable for professors who want to enliven history classes. But there is no obligation for any director to stick to the most probable historical reconstruction.

Jesus may well have spoken Latin, he more than likely was around it for his whole life.

When was Jesus around Latin? The lingua franca of the Eastern Mediterranean was Greek, not Latin–check in any reputable historical work. This is common knowledge. The question is whether Jesus would have known Greek–a reasonable case can be made that (speaking in purely human terms) He would not, but I think it’s reasonable to suppose that He would have known some.


Well, there must have been some Latin speakers around since Pilate had the titulus–the placard on the cross–written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin
(“Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum”).

Of course the Roman soldiers knew Latin. But by and large the Romans used Greek when interacting with the local population. There wouldn’t have been any reason for an ordinary Jew to know Latin–for that matter, I would question whether even the elites would have known Latin except for the most Romanized ones who had spent time in Rome itself, and even they probably would have spoken Greek more than Latin while in Rome. Greek was the common language. Even the Roman Christians didn’t start using Latin in worship until the 2nd or 3rd century (because most of the early Christians in Rome were slaves or free Greek-speaking non-citizens).


I have to back up Contarini here, Greek was definitely the language of the region. It had been so since the conquest of Alexander the Great of the Persian Empire at the battle of Issus in 333 BC. After his death in 323 BC the lands were divided between Seleucus in the North and Ptolemy in the South, including Egypt.
So Greek had been the lingua franca of the region for about 300 years by the time of Our Lord’s birth.

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