Which modern day dialect of Aramaic is the closest one to the dialect that Jesus of Nazareth spoke in Palestine some 2000 years ago?

In this video, The Modern Aramaic dialects of the Christians and Jews of Iraq and Iran with Geoffrey Khan, he explains that there are some 150 dialects of Aramaic.

I am asking which modern dialect resembles the Aramaic language that was spoken in Palestine at the time of Jesus, if at all possible to know with some degree of certainty.

  • I am more interested in the pronunciation aspect of the Aramaic dialects and not so much in the written form or modern vocabulary additions.
    – Ken Graham
    Aug 23, 2016 at 12:44

2 Answers 2


Galilean Aramaic is a Western Aramaic language. The only surviving Western Aramaic language is Western Neo-Aramaic, spoken in the villages of Ma'loula, Jubb'adin and Bakh'a n Syria.

  • 4
    This answer is correct, though it might be better to speak of "Western Aramaic languages" (in the plural). The three villages speak different, but related, Aramaic languages.
    – fdb
    Aug 9, 2016 at 19:21
  • @fdb Would you consider making an answer?
    – Ken Graham
    Aug 10, 2016 at 1:09
  • @KenGraham. As requested.
    – fdb
    Aug 10, 2016 at 9:50

The concept of “closeness” is actually rather problematic in linguistics. English and French are “close” in the sense that they share a large amount of common vocabulary, but in the sense of genetic relationship the Germanic language English and the Romance language French are only very distantly related, namely through proto-Indo-European.

The Aramaic languages are traditionally divided (from about the 6th century BC onwards) into Eastern and Western Aramaic. Galilean Aramaic belongs to the Western branch and is thus genetically closest to the modern Western Aramaic languages still spoken (we hope, despite all the things that are happening in Syria) in just three villages: Maʿlūla, Baxʿa, and Jubbʿadīn. On the other hand, these modern Western Aramaic languages have been very heavily influenced by Arabic (with regards to vocabulary, but also phonology), unlike the language spoken in Galilee in the first century, which in terms of vocabulary is perhaps closer to less strongly arabicised languages like the Eastern Aramaic of Ṭūr ʿAbdīn in Southern Turkey. So, as I said, it all really depends on what you mean with “close”.

  • 1
    In case anyone is wondering: nytimes.com/2013/09/11/world/middleeast/… “Most of the town’s residents have fled, and Maaloula, one of the last places where Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken by Christians and some Muslims, has become a one-word argument against Western support for the rebels — at the worst possible time for Mr. Obama and the opponents of Mr. Assad."
    – Avery
    Aug 10, 2016 at 14:28

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