During a sit-down discussion between Pope Francis and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Monday, the pope interjected when the prime minister mentioned the language of Jesus.
As Netanyahu began speaking on the relationship between Christianity and Judaism, he mentioned Jesus Christ, saying via a translator, “Jesus lived here. He spoke Hebrew.”
Pope Francis interrupted, pointing out that Jesus spoke Aramaic.
“He spoke Aramaic, but he knew Hebrew,” Netanyahu responded after some chuckling arose from those seated around them.
Israeli linguistics professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann told Reuters that both men had a point.
“Jesus was a native Aramaic speaker,” he said. “But he would have also known Hebrew because there were extant religious writings in Hebrew.” Zuckermann went on to mention how Hebrew was spoken at the time by the lower class, the exact kind of people Jesus was said to have preached to.
Pope Francis visited the Middle East over the weekend to promote peace and religious tolerance in the region.