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PacMan

Saint Peter...the Greek?

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Posted (edited)

I am curious what sources there are that describe Peter’s heritage. Clearly, he was a fisherman in Galilee.  However, Acts twice infers that Aramaic was not Peter’s first or spoken language. 

In Acts 1:19, as Fitzmeyer points out, it is odd for Peter to say “their proper tongue” in referring to the Aramaic word, “Aceldama,”which infers it not as his tongue.

Second, in Acts 2:8-9, again as Fitzmeyer points out, it’s odd that Judaeans would marvel that they would understand Galileans...unless it was known that some Galileans spoke other languages, such as Greek. 

Third, the Greek uses a different word in Mark 5:41 (the Lord raising Talitha, likely in Aramaic) and Acts 9:40 (Peter raising Tabitha)—suggesting that there was a difference in translating from Aramaic to Greek and the other in original Greek.

Apart from interesting, this has important consequences for the Catholic rebuttal re: Matthew 16:18.  Here, the Greek “rock” is feminine, meaning it can’t refer to Peter. Catholics argue that it was said in Aramaic, and translated into Greek. But given Peter’s fluency in Greek, that appears to be unsupported speculation.

Thoughts?

Edited by PacMan

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Implies.

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Joseph Fitzmyer is a well-respected Catholic scholar that has written a number of commentaries. 

The RCC has premised it’s scriptural authority on Matthew 16:18–that Peter is the rock on which Christ built his church. The claim does not hold due to the Greek, and neither does the rebuttal. If you find comfort elsewhere, that’s great. More power to you. 

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1 hour ago, mfbukowski said:

Implies.

No. Infers. It’s a matter of deduction. But thanks for trolling.

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2 minutes ago, PacMan said:

Joseph Fitzmyer is a well-respected Catholic scholar that has written a number of commentaries. 

The RCC has premised it’s scriptural authority on Matthew 16:18–that Peter is the rock on which Christ built his church. The claim does not hold due to the Greek, and neither does the rebuttal. If you find comfort elsewhere, that’s great. More power to you. 

Oh wow. Oops. I have never heard of him. I like commentaries. Is he one of the Fathers of the Church? 

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7 minutes ago, 3DOP said:

Oh wow. Oops. I have never heard of him. I like commentaries. Is he one of the Fathers of the Church? 

Do an Amazon search. A Jesuit Emeritus Professor, I believe. 

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2 hours ago, PacMan said:

No. Infers. It’s a matter of deduction. But thanks for trolling.

Let the reader judge

You are more than welcome 

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4 hours ago, PacMan said:

I am curious what sources there are that describe Peter’s heritage. Clearly, he was a fisherman in Galilee.  However, Acts twice infers that Aramaic was not Peter’s first or spoken language. 

In Acts 1:19, as Fitzmeyer points out, it is odd for Peter to say “their proper tongue” in referring to the Aramaic word, “Aceldama,”which infers it not as his tongue.

Second, in Acts 2:8-9, again as Fitzmeyer points out, it’s odd that Judaeans would marvel that they would understand Galileans...unless it was known that some Galileans spoke other languages, such as Greek. 

Third, the Greek uses a different word in Mark 5:41 (the Lord raising Talitha, likely in Aramaic) and Acts 9:40 (Peter raising Tabitha)—suggesting that there was a difference in translating from Aramaic to Greek and the other in original Greek.

Aramaic talita kumi simply means "Little-girl, get up."  Aramaic Tabitha "Gazelle" = Greek Dorcas "Gazelle," in Acts 9:36-41. 

4 hours ago, PacMan said:

Apart from interesting, this has important consequences for the Catholic rebuttal re: Matthew 16:18.  Here, the Greek “rock” is feminine, meaning it can’t refer to Peter. Catholics argue that it was said in Aramaic, and translated into Greek. But given Peter’s fluency in Greek, that appears to be unsupported speculation......................

Not sure I follow you here.

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2 hours ago, 3DOP said:

Oh wow. Oops. I have never heard of him. I like commentaries. Is he one of the Fathers of the Church? 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Fitzmyer

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, PacMan said:

No. Infers. It’s a matter of deduction. But thanks for trolling.

English nit picker here...

You are saying the text deduces something?  If so, what is the text deducing?  Wouldn’t it have to be something like ‘Peter’s native tongue is not Aramaic because...’; otherwise it is the reader making the deduction, correct?  And if the reader is the one who deduces from received info, the text is the one implying by giving info.

”The difference between the two is that imply refers to giving information, while infer refers to receiving information.”

https://webapps.towson.edu/ows/implyinfer.htm

Edited by Calm
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13 hours ago, 3DOP said:

Who is Fitzmeyer? Does everybody here except me know Fitzmeyer?

I

For what it's worthy, I've certainly never heard of him.

I'd always thought that they spoke Hebrew in Judea, but Aramaic in Galilee, with Greek and Hebrew ASL for the Galileans to tie them together.  I'm probably wrong.

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Calm said:

English nit picker here...

You are saying the text deduces something?  If so, what is the text deducing?  Wouldn’t it have to be something like ‘Peter’s native tongue is not Aramaic because...’; otherwise it is the reader making the deduction, correct?  And if the reader is the one who deduces from received info, the text is the one implying by giving info.

”The difference between the two is that imply refers to giving information, while infer refers to receiving information.”

https://webapps.towson.edu/ows/implyinfer.htm

Sorry. The difference is between conveying an idea not explicitly stated (imply) versus a conclusion not explicitly stated (infer).  See the example of the statue. It doesn’t fit your explanation. https://www.thefreedictionary.com/infers

Edited by PacMan

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Where does the text conclude?

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zorbatg01a.jpg

I saw a movie about him once. Good dancer!

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9 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Aramaic talita kumi simply means "Little-girl, get up."  Aramaic Tabitha "Gazelle" = Greek Dorcas "Gazelle," in Acts 9:36-41. 

Not sure I follow you here.

Robert, the key is in the words of command - not the names of the women.

As to Matthew, the RCC scriptural claim is that Christ built his church on Peter using a word play.  As you know, word “rock” is “petra” in Greek.  We LDS, of course, believe the reference to be to revelation — not Peter.

Now, I don’t speak Greek. But I speak several other languages. And you’d never refer to a man using a feminine word. In other words, the word “petra” does not refer to Peter. This appears to be the case here. Catholic apologetics have defended this by saying that the word “petra”was but a translation of what Christ said in Aramaic. My point is that there’s no reason to believe that Christ spoke to Peter in Aramaic, as opposed to Greek, particularly where the text supports that Peter did, in fact, speak Greek. So not only did Christ use the word “petra,” but he did not refer to Peter in doing so. 

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1 hour ago, PacMan said:

Robert, the key is in the words of command - not the names of the women.

As I said, "Aramaic talita kumi simply means "Little-girl, get up."  Aramaic Tabitha "Gazelle" = Greek Dorcas "Gazelle," in Acts 9:36-41."  I see no key  in any words of commandTabitha is an Aramaic name which bears no relation to talita.  The fact that an Aramaic command to "get up" can be translated into Greek in no sense means that Peter spoke Greek when he was called as an apostle years earlier.  In fact, the only reason the NT is  in Greek is because that was the language of the Hellenistic Christian Church existing long after the death of Jesus.  Peter presumably had to learn Greek to be an effective missionary.

1 hour ago, PacMan said:

As to Matthew, the RCC scriptural claim is that Christ built his church on Peter using a word play.  As you know, word “rock” is “petra” in Greek.  We LDS, of course, believe the reference to be to revelation — not Peter.

Now, I don’t speak Greek. But I speak several other languages. And you’d never refer to a man using a feminine word. In other words, the word “petra” does not refer to Peter. This appears to be the case here. Catholic apologetics have defended this by saying that the word “petra”was but a translation of what Christ said in Aramaic. My point is that there’s no reason to believe that Christ spoke to Peter in Aramaic, as opposed to Greek, particularly where the text supports that Peter did, in fact, speak Greek. So not only did Christ use the word “petra,” but he did not refer to Peter in doing so. 

There is every reason to believe that Jesus spoke to his disciples exclusively in Aramaic, and that he specifically nick-named Shimon bar Yona Kefa, "stone."   Peter, like Paul, is a new Greek name applied to each man as he moved among a Greek-speaking population in carrying out the Great Commission.  Cf. JST John 1:42, “Cephas, which is, by interpretation, a seer, or a stone.” Note how they place a Greek ending on Aramaic Kefa.  Jesus is nicknaming Simon as Peter "Seer, Stone."  So, if Jesus wants to found his Church on revelation, or the rock of revelation, that is fine with me.  Doesn't mean that Jesus said it in Greek.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Robert F. Smith said:

As I said, "Aramaic talita kumi simply means "Little-girl, get up."  Aramaic Tabitha "Gazelle" = Greek Dorcas "Gazelle," in Acts 9:36-41."  I see no key  in any words of commandTabitha is an Aramaic name which bears no relation to talita.  The fact that an Aramaic command to "get up" can be translated into Greek in no sense means that Peter spoke Greek when he was called as an apostle years earlier.  In fact, the only reason the NT is  in Greek is because that was the language of the Hellenistic Christian Church existing long after the death of Jesus.  Peter presumably had to learn Greek to be an effective missionary.

There is every reason to believe that Jesus spoke to his disciples exclusively in Aramaic, and that he specifically nick-named Shimon bar Yona Kefa, "stone."   Peter, like Paul, is a new Greek name applied to each man as he moved among a Greek-speaking population in carrying out the Great Commission.  Cf. JST John 1:42, “Cephas, which is, by interpretation, a seer, or a stone.” Note how they place a Greek ending on Aramaic Kefa.  Jesus is nicknaming Simon as Peter "Seer, Stone."  So, if Jesus wants to found his Church on revelation, or the rock of revelation, that is fine with me.  Doesn't mean that Jesus said it in Greek.

Robert, thanks for chiming in.

Again, the names of the women have nothing to do with anything.  The words of command are, in Mark 5:41 "arise," or in Greek egeiro, meaning to wake or stand.  In Act 9:40 "arise," or in Greek, anistemi, meaning to stand or to rise up.  My point here is that Peter would have likely used the same word of command as did the Savior--following his example.  I think that's human nature.  [Watch how someone gives a blessing.  Chances are, they use verbiage common to their father, grandfather, etc.]  That Peter didn't use the same word suggests that the two spoke in different languages, with Christ's command being in Aramaic then translated into the Greek, and Peter's use in the Greek in the first instance.  This is all the more likely given that the location was in Joppa (Jaffa), a coast city with more international influence (and, in contrast to Hebrew or Aramaic words in the NT that are given then translated into Greek in the text, Joppa, the Greek, is given straightway as the name of the location).  Is this dispositive?  Certainly not.  But I think it certainly points to Peter's understanding of Greek.

While I understand what you said, I don't understand how you can conclude that that it "[d]oesn't mean that Jesus said it in Greek."  Should we be asking whether it doesn't mean that Jesus didn't say it in Greek?

There is absolutely no doubt that Jesus spoke Aramaic.  But I think it's also safe to say that Christ spoke any language he wanted to speak.  So the question is about Peter.  As I point out, the textual evidence suggests that Peter spoke something other than Hebrew/Aramaic.  And as I have done additional research, it appears that it is more likely than not that Peter spoke Greek--possibly as a first language.

If Wikipedia is to be believed, 70% of the 1,600 extant Jewish epitaphs from ancient Palestine dating from 300 B.C. to 500 A.D. are in Greek.  So while virtually all natives of Galilee and Judea would have likely spoken Aramaic, Greek was broadly spoken--even among this region of Jews.  In fact, if Peter's family were diaspora Jews, resettled in Bethsaida, then Greek would have been his first language.  I'm not suggesting that is necessarily the case, but it is certainly possible.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_of_the_New_Testament


In any event, the textual and cultural evidences seems to point that Peter spoke Greek and that there is no reason to believe that the Savior's statement in Matthew 16:18 was in Aramaic.  If it was, then we would have expected that Aramaic word to be used with an explanatory line stating, "meaning...."  Just as occurred numerous times, such as in Matthew 27:46, or even Mark 5:41 as we have discussed, or John 1:42 as you have noted.

Edited by PacMan

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11 minutes ago, PacMan said:

...........................

Again, the names of the women have nothing to do with anything.  The words of command are, in Mark 5:41 "arise," or in Greek egeiro, meaning to wake or stand.  In Act 9:40 "arise," or in Greek, anistemi, meaning to stand or to rise up.  My point here is that Peter would have likely used the same word of command as did the Savior--following his example.

What I said.  Again, there is no reason to think that the Greek represents the original command wording in Mark, nor even in Acts.  A NT in Greek does in no way indicate that any of these events occurred in Greek, unless dealing specifically with Hellenistic (Greek) Christians, and most of that took place in the West.  There is a reason why Syriac (Aramaic) Christianity survived down to the present speaking Aramaic (cf. the Maronite Christians).

11 minutes ago, PacMan said:

........................................

While I understand what you said, I don't understand how you can conclude that that it "[d]oesn't mean that Jesus said it in Greek."  Should we be asking whether it doesn't mean that Jesus didn't say it in Greek?

There is absolutely no doubt that Jesus spoke Aramaic.  But I think it's also safe to say that Christ spoke any language he wanted to speak

Jesus was subject to our human limitations, and we do not need to assume he spoke Greek (or Latin).  He was, after all, preaching to the Jews, and "The languages spoken in Galilee and Judea during the first century include the Semitic Aramaic and Hebrew languages as well as Greek, with Aramaic being the predominant language.  Most scholars agree that during the early part of first century Aramaic was the mother tongue of virtually all natives of Galilee and Judea."  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_of_the_New_Testament .

11 minutes ago, PacMan said:

So the question is about Peter.  As I point out, the textual evidence suggests that Peter spoke something other than Hebrew/Aramaic.  And as I have done additional research, it appears that it is more likely than not that Peter spoke Greek--possibly as a first language.

If Wikipedia is to be believed, 70% of the 1,600 extant Jewish epitaphs from ancient Palestine dating from 300 B.C. to 500 A.D. are in Greek.  So while virtually all natives of Galilee and Judea would have likely spoken Aramaic, Greek was broadly spoken--even among this region of Jews.  In fact, if Peter's family were diaspora Jews, resettled in Bethsaida, then Greek would have been his first language.  I'm not suggesting that is necessarily the case, but it is certainly possible.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_of_the_New_Testament .

The elite Hellenizers among the Jews are those who had the epitaphs, telling us nothing about the common folk.  We have no reason to suppose that Peter's family were diaspora Jews, nor that he spoke any Greek -- much less as his first language. Learning it later, after the death of Jesus, would make sense, but nothing in any text suggests that he knew Greek earlier than that.  He had no need to.  All NT events which took place in Aramaic were translated into Greek -- that is what the later Hellenistic Church needed.  Syriac Christianity did not need that translation.  Same for Aramaic Judaism, which continued to exist down to the present in the Near East\: They did not need the Jewish LXX Greek Bible.

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20 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

What I said.  Again, there is no reason to think that the Greek represents the original command wording in Mark, nor even in Acts.  A NT in Greek does in no way indicate that any of these events occurred in Greek, unless dealing specifically with Hellenistic (Greek) Christians, and most of that took place in the West.  There is a reason why Syriac (Aramaic) Christianity survived down to the present speaking Aramaic (cf. the Maronite Christians).

Jesus was subject to our human limitations, and we do not need to assume he spoke Greek (or Latin).  He was, after all, preaching to the Jews, and "The languages spoken in Galilee and Judea during the first century include the Semitic Aramaic and Hebrew languages as well as Greek, with Aramaic being the predominant language.  Most scholars agree that during the early part of first century Aramaic was the mother tongue of virtually all natives of Galilee and Judea."  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_of_the_New_Testament .

The elite Hellenizers among the Jews are those who had the epitaphs, telling us nothing about the common folk.  We have no reason to suppose that Peter's family were diaspora Jews, nor that he spoke any Greek -- much less as his first language. Learning it later, after the death of Jesus, would make sense, but nothing in any text suggests that he knew Greek earlier than that.  He had no need to.  All NT events which took place in Aramaic were translated into Greek -- that is what the later Hellenistic Church needed.  Syriac Christianity did not need that translation.  Same for Aramaic Judaism, which continued to exist down to the present in the Near East\: They did not need the Jewish LXX Greek Bible.

And that's where we disagree.  I think there's substantial reason to believe Peter spoke Greek given the biblical text - see the first two points of the OP that you haven't treated (skip the third since you obviously disagree, although I'm curious why you don't treat all the evidence; namely that when a word is used in Aramaic, it is used in the Greek NT with a translation--so, why should we assume that a Greek word ("rock") was really Aramaic unless it is also given a translation?). 

The text gives good reason (apart from the cultural history) to believe that Peter spoke Greek (along, of course, with Aramaic).

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7 hours ago, PacMan said:

And that's where we disagree.  I think there's substantial reason to believe Peter spoke Greek given the biblical text - see the first two points of the OP that you haven't treated (skip the third since you obviously disagree, although I'm curious why you don't treat all the evidence; namely that when a word is used in Aramaic, it is used in the Greek NT with a translation--so, why should we assume that a Greek word ("rock") was really Aramaic unless it is also given a translation?). 

The text gives good reason (apart from the cultural history) to believe that Peter spoke Greek (along, of course, with Aramaic).

You are treating these texts as though they are accurate, contemporary reports on what in fact took place, rather than highly redacted Hellenistic recollections long after the events.  Neither Acts 1:19 nor 2:8-9 give any suggestion that Peter spoke Greek.  The first instance is an etymological explanation of the meaning of a place-name "Field of Blood," the second merely contextual of diversity at Pentecost. None of these sources are governed by tight, systematic rules, such that every instance of this or that will be presented in the same way each time.  These are not histories, but rather a hodge-podge of non-professional, faith-promoting stories composed for Greek speaking Christians.  Luke's is a two-volume work celebrating Hellenistic Christianity, not a precision-oriented narrative of what actually happened (true of all four Gospels).  Luke was not a professional historiographer, and not a modern investigative reporter armed with FOIA requests.

We need to ask the obvious questions:; Why would a Galilean fisherman, who would certainly be fluent in Aramaic, also be fluent in Greek?  What is statistically less likely?

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12 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

You are treating these texts as though they are accurate, contemporary reports on what in fact took place, rather than highly redacted Hellenistic recollections long after the events.  Neither Acts 1:19 nor 2:8-9 give any suggestion that Peter spoke Greek.  The first instance is an etymological explanation of the meaning of a place-name "Field of Blood," the second merely contextual of diversity at Pentecost. None of these sources are governed by tight, systematic rules, such that every instance of this or that will be presented in the same way each time.  These are not histories, but rather a hodge-podge of non-professional, faith-promoting stories composed for Greek speaking Christians.  Luke's is a two-volume work celebrating Hellenistic Christianity, not a precision-oriented narrative of what actually happened (true of all four Gospels).  Luke was not a professional historiographer, and not a modern investigative reporter armed with FOIA requests.

We need to ask the obvious questions:; Why would a Galilean fisherman, who would certainly be fluent in Aramaic, also be fluent in Greek?  What is statistically less likely?

Robert, you are right in all the above except your conclusion.  I find Luke exactly as you say - faith promoting.  He tends to hyperbole and accounts for things he did not witness, namely interactions the apostles (he was not one) had with the divine.  His accounts are, necessarily, a compilation of other hearsay accounts.

Where I think you turn wrong, however, is picking and choosing (as opposed to assuming) between those credible and not credible retellings.  I am not suggesting that the hypothesis I am forwarding is a closed case.  For all the reasons you mention, it is not.  But we have to start with the text.  I'm assuming that it is credible.  And presuming that Luke is credible in these particular scriptures (which makes sense in Acts because it is possible, if not likely, that Luke was present at Pentecost) then we have something to go off of.  Based on the text, I believe there is good reason to conclude that Peter spoke Greek.

So you ask, "[W]hy would a Galilean fisherman, who would certainly be fluent in Aramaic, also be fluent in Greek?"  First,  because Greek was the macro-language of the time.  We can't use our American isolationism thinking here.  Over the pond, you will frequently find even uneducated bilingual people and speak both a dialect (which, can really be separate languages) and national languages.  And that makes sense if Peter was a merchant of sorts, interacting with others.  Second, there is good reason to believe, as Fitzmyer points out, that Peter was speaking Greek during Pentecost (again, assuming there is something to the text).  Third, the idea (to put words in your mouth) that Peter was some uneducated dope that only spoke Aramaic doesn't hold.  Remember, Peter traveled around the Mediterranean.  He traveled around the Holy Land, up to Antioch, to Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome.  So while he was a simple fisherman, he wasn't ignorant.  It's similar to Paul (although not exactly).  A simple fisherman, yes.  But most of these gents were clearly polyglots.  It wasn't a function of education.  It was a function of life.  In fact, I would also argue that given the amount Peter opines on the Old Testament in the early chapters of Acts, I would be surprised if he also didn't at least read Hebrew.  That would be more surprising, I think, than speaking Greek.

A final consideration - even if Peter did not speak Greek originally, who's to say that he did not learn it over the period in which he was called as Apostle?  He had plenty of time to learn.  I think the textual evidence suggests, one way or the other, that he did.

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1 hour ago, PacMan said:

..........................

So you ask, "[W]hy would a Galilean fisherman, who would certainly be fluent in Aramaic, also be fluent in Greek?"  First,  because Greek was the macro-language of the time.  We can't use our American isolationism thinking here.  Over the pond, you will frequently find even uneducated bilingual people and speak both a dialect (which, can really be separate languages) and national languages.  And that makes sense if Peter was a merchant of sorts, interacting with others.  Second, there is good reason to believe, as Fitzmyer points out, that Peter was speaking Greek during Pentecost (again, assuming there is something to the text).  Third, the idea (to put words in your mouth) that Peter was some uneducated dope that only spoke Aramaic doesn't hold.  Remember, Peter traveled around the Mediterranean.  He traveled around the Holy Land, up to Antioch, to Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome.  So while he was a simple fisherman, he wasn't ignorant.  It's similar to Paul (although not exactly).  A simple fisherman, yes.  But most of these gents were clearly polyglots.  It wasn't a function of education.  It was a function of life.  In fact, I would also argue that given the amount Peter opines on the Old Testament in the early chapters of Acts, I would be surprised if he also didn't at least read Hebrew.  That would be more surprising, I think, than speaking Greek.

Paul was a Roman citizen raised in the diaspora, and he spoke Greek in daily life there.  As a trained rabbi, he also was expert in Hebrew & Aramaic (Aramaic likely spoken in the  home in Syria).  Being an Aramaic-speaking Galilean fisherman does not imply ignorance, nor does it imply knowledge of Greek.

1 hour ago, PacMan said:

A final consideration - even if Peter did not speak Greek originally, who's to say that he did not learn it over the period in which he was called as Apostle?  He had plenty of time to learn.  I think the textual evidence suggests, one way or the other, that he did.

Most people reasonably assume so, and I have said it repeatedly in this thread.

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1 hour ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Paul was a Roman citizen raised in the diaspora, and he spoke Greek in daily life there.  As a trained rabbi, he also was expert in Hebrew & Aramaic (Aramaic likely spoken in the  home in Syria).  Being an Aramaic-speaking Galilean fisherman does not imply ignorance, nor does it imply knowledge of Greek.

Most people reasonably assume so, and I have said it repeatedly in this thread.

I am tending to lean your direction in this debate. I'm curious, how much time would Peter have had to learn Greek from the time he joined Jesus until his death? 

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I think you are reading too much into it.

First, Matthew was written by Matthew, I assume.  We know that Acts was written by Luke.  Both were written in Greek.  Both are writing based upon their own or someone else's memory of the event.  It is likely that neither account was 100% accurate.

That said,  I think that IF Matthew, who wrote it, thought that Jesus was referring to Peter, and IF he understood that you should never use the feminine when referring to a person, THEN he would not have used "petra" in that verse.

You and the rest of us are only guessing about what Jesus really said.

Just sayin.

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