Aramaic and Joseph of Arimathea

Regarding Aramaic, John Heelan quotes The Encyclopaedia Britannica (2004); "Aramaic is thought to have first appeared among the Aramaeans about the late 11th century BC. By the 8th century BC it had become accepted by the Assyrians as a second language. The mass deportations of people by the Assyrians and the use of Aramaic as a lingua franca by Babylonian merchants served to spread the language, so that in the 7th and 6th centuries BC it gradually supplanted Akkadian as the lingua franca of the Middle East. It subsequently became the official language of the Achaemenian Persian dynasty (559­330 BC), though after the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek displaced it as the official language throughout the former Persian empire.

Aramaic dialects survived into Roman times, however, particularly in Palestine and Syria. Aramaic had replaced Hebrew as the language of the Jews as early as the 6th century BC. Certain portions of the Old Testament—i.e., the books of Daniel and Ezra—are written in in Aramaic, as are the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. Among the Jews, Aramaic was used by the common people, while Hebrew remained the language of religion and government and of the upper class. Jesus and the Apostles are believed to have spoken Aramaic, and Aramaic-language translations (Targums) of the Old Testament circulated. Aramaic continued in wide use until about AD 650, when it was supplanted by Arabic." [It is interesting to note that Aramaic was the language of the "common people" while Hebrew was the language of religion, Government and the upper class.]

The website provides a scholarly discussion on the possible sites of Arimathea, including one 7km NW of Jerusalem.

RH: This is extremely important. To quote the misuse of the term, "Christ was a liberal". God hath exalted the humble and meek, and hath put down the mighty from their seats.  It is an extraordinary case of language expressing a class distinction, but there are others. In Rome, the upper  classes spoke Latin, the common people vulgar Latin. In Norman Britain, the upper class spoke French, the lower class early English. In so far as Christians lose their concern for the poor, they are betraying the message of Christ.

Martin Lewis adds this footnote to the posting about Aramaic: An estimated 210,000 persons still speak Aramaic, or at least dialects that stem directly from it. Such languages are thus called "Neo-Aramaic." See

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Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: October 22, 2004