What languages were common in first century Jerusalem?

What languages were common in first century Jerusalem?

The Pentecost just made me wonder what languages were common in first century Jerusalem. The miracle of Pentecost was that the apostles were preaching in many languages, and this would assume that there were people speaking different languages in the city.

I know that the languages spoken by the inhabitants were Aramaic, Greek, and maybe Hebrew, but that is certainly not many, and it would not seem extraordinary if someone knew these three languages.

Can it be ascertained with at least some level of probability what other languages were spoken there? I guess one method would be to see what regions were actively trading with that province, given that Jerusalem was a major trading hub.

What I could put together was the following:

  • Aramaic and Hebrew, by the different classes of native inhabitants
  • Greek by educated natives and by foreigners, probably also by most of the Roman troops, but was it a mother tongue of most foreigners, or only used as a common language to speak to others?
  • Latin, spoken by the upper class Romans

What other languages has a high likelihood of turning up in first century (or more specifically, between roughly AD 30 and 40) Jerusalem?

Visitors from other lands

You have listed the most common languages spoken in Jerusalem already -- Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and even some Latin -- but the passage in Acts that you refer to answers your question:

there were Jews living all over the place in the ancient world, even before the diaspora after the two wars with the Romans in the first century (CE).

  • An example previously given in the Gospels is Simon the Cyrene (He's from what is now Libya, Cyrenacia), and is one who helped Jesus carry the cross to Golgotha (per the Bible).
  • Consider also that Saul of Tarsus (the Apostle Paul) was a Jew from somewhere other than Israel/Palestine/Judea -- Tarsus is in Cilicia which is now part of Turkey. (IIRC, he was what is called "a Hellenic Jew" but that's a different topic).

Acts 2 (5-13)

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, “What does this mean?” But others said, scoffing, “They have had too much new wine.”

Short answer: they were visitors, merchants, diplomats, pilgrims, or a combination of all of the above. Thus people from all over were present but may not have lived in Jerusalem permanently. For example, a Parthian or a Mede would speak a tongue related to Persian (Middle Persian, thank you @T.E.D.); some of the others a Greek dialect (there were multiple dialects, so you'd expect those in Cappadocia or Pontus to speak regional dialects), Egyptian, etc. Those from Elam spoke a tongue not thought to be related to the commonly spoken languages mentioned:

Elamite is traditionally thought to be a language isolate, and completely unrelated to the neighbouring Semitic, Sumerian (also an isolate), and the later Indo-European Iranian languages that came to dominate the region. It was written in a cuneiform adapted from the Semitic Akkadian script of Assyria and Babylonia, although the very earliest documents were written in the quite different "Linear Elamite" script.

See also: Jews in the Graeco Roman World by Martin Goodman.
(@John Dee has pointed out that the most common Greek dialect in the Holy Land at the time was Koine Greek)

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Bible Possibly Written Centuries Earlier, Text Suggests

Scientists have discovered the earliest known Hebrew writing — an inscription dating from the 10th century B.C., during the period of King David's reign.

The breakthrough could mean that portions of the Bible were written centuries earlier than previously thought. (The Bible's Old Testament is thought to have been first written down in an ancient form of Hebrew.)

Until now, many scholars have held that the Hebrew Bible originated in the 6th century B.C., because Hebrew writing was thought to stretch back no further. But the newly deciphered Hebrew text is about four centuries older, scientists announced this month.

"It indicates that the Kingdom of Israel already existed in the 10th century BCE and that at least some of the biblical texts were written hundreds of years before the dates presented in current research," said Gershon Galil, a professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Haifa in Israel, who deciphered the ancient text.

BCE stands for "before common era," and is equivalent to B.C., or before Christ.

The writing was discovered more than a year ago on a pottery shard dug up during excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, near Israel's Elah valley. The excavations were carried out by archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. At first, scientists could not tell if the writing was Hebrew or some other local language.

Finally, Galil was able to decipher the text. He identified words particular to the Hebrew language and content specific to Hebrew culture to prove that the writing was, in fact, Hebrew.

"It uses verbs that were characteristic of Hebrew, such as asah ('did') and avad ('worked'), which were rarely used in other regional languages," Galil said. "Particular words that appear in the text, such as almanah ('widow') are specific to Hebrew and are written differently in other local languages."

The ancient text is written in ink on a trapezoid-shaped piece of pottery about 6 inches by 6.5 inches (15 cm by 16.5 cm). It appears to be a social statement about how people should treat slaves, widows and orphans. In English, it reads (by numbered line):

1' you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord]. 2' Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an] 3' [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and] 4' the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king. 5' Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.

The content, which has some missing letters, is similar to some Biblical scriptures, such as Isaiah 1:17, Psalms 72:3, and Exodus 23:3, but does not appear to be copied from any Biblical text.

Jewish Concepts: The Messiah

Many Jews have long been skeptical of predictions announcing the imminent arrival of the Messiah (Ma-shi-akh). The first century sage Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai once said: &ldquoIf you should happen to be holding a sapling in your hand when they tell you that the Messiah has arrived, first plant the sapling and then go out and greet the Messiah.&rdquo An old Jewish story tells of a Russian Jew who was paid a ruble a month by the community council to stand at the outskirts of town so that he could be the first person to greet the Messiah upon his arrival. When a friend said to him, &ldquoBut the pay is so low,&rdquo the man replied: &ldquoTrue, but the job is permanent.&rdquo

Yet, the belief in a messiah and a messianic age is so deeply rooted in Jewish tradition that a statement concerning the Messiah became the most famous of Maimonides&rsquos Thirteen Principles of Faith: &ldquoAnd Ma&rsquoamin, I believe with a full heart in the coming of the Messiah, and even though he may tarry, I will wait for him on any day that he may come.&rdquo In the concentration camps, it is reported that many Jews sang the Ani Ma&rsquoamin while walking to the gas chambers.

On the one hand, ironic jokes and skepticism on the other, passionate faith: What then is the Jewish position on the Messiah?

Most significantly, Jewish tradition affirms at least five things about the Messiah. He will: be a descendant of King David, gain sovereignty over the land of Israel, gather the Jews there from the four corners of the earth, restore them to full observance of Torah law, and, as a grand finale, bring peace to the whole world. Concerning the more difficult tasks some prophets assign him, such as Isaiah&rsquos vision of a messianic age in which the wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the calf with the young lion (Isaiah 11:6), Maimonides believes that Isaiah&rsquos language is metaphorical (for example, only that enemies of the Jews, likened to the wolf, will no longer oppress them). A century later, Nachmanides rejected Maimonides&rsquos rationalism and asserted that Isaiah meant precisely what he said: that in the messianic age even wild animals will become domesticated and sweet-tempered. A more recent Jewish &ldquocommentator,&rdquo Woody Allen, has cautioned: &ldquoAnd the lamb and the wolf shall lie down together, but the lamb won&rsquot get any sleep.&rdquo

The Jewish belief that the Messiah&rsquos reign lies in the future has long distinguished Jews from their Christian neighbors who believe, of course, that the Messiah came two thousand years ago in the person of Jesus. The most basic reason for the Jewish denial of the messianic claims made on Jesus&rsquo behalf is that he did not usher in world peace, as Isaiah had prophesied: &ldquoAnd nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore&rdquo (Isaiah 2:4). In addition, Jesus did not help bring about Jewish political sovereignty for the Jews or protection from their enemies.

A century after Jesus, large numbers of Palestinian Jews followed the would-be Messiah, Simon Aroha, in a revolt against the Romans. The results were catastrophic, and the Jews suffered a devastating defeat. In 1665­1666, large segments of world Jewry believed that Shabbetai Zvi, a Turkish Jew, was the Messiah, and confidently waited for Turkey&rsquos sultan to deliver Palestine to him. Instead, the sultan threatened Shabbetai with execution and the &ldquoMessiah&rdquo saved his life by converting to Islam.

In the modern world, Reform Judaism has long denied that there will be an individual messiah who will carry out the task of perfecting the world. Instead, the movement speaks of a future world in which human efforts, not a divinely sent messenger, will bring about a utopian age. The Reform idea has influenced many nonorthodox Jews: The oft-noted attraction of Jews to liberal and left­wing political causes probably represents a secular attempt to usher in a messianic age.

Among traditional Jews, the belief in a personal messiah seems to have grown more central in recent years. When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, the subject of the Messiah was rarely, if ever, mentioned at the Jewish school I attended, the Yeshiva of Flatbush. Today however, one large movement within Orthodoxy, Lubavitch, has placed increasing emphasis on the imminence of the Messiah&rsquos arrival. At gatherings of their youth organizations, children chant, &ldquoWe want Ma-shi-akh now.&rdquo

At the same time, the subject of the Messiah has become increasingly central to many religious Zionists in Israel, particularly to many disciples of the late Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. The event that helped set the stage for a revived interest in the Messiah was the Six-­Day War of 1967, in which Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem and, for the first time in over two thousand years, achieved Jewish rule over the biblically ordained borders of Israel.

A sober reading of Jewish history, however, indicates that while the messianic idea has long elevated Jewish life, and prompted Jews to work for tikkun olam (perfection of the world), whenever Jews have thought the Messiah&rsquos arrival to be imminent, the results have been catastrophic. In 1984, a Jewish religious underground was arrested in Israel. Among its other activities, the group had plotted to blow up the Muslim Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, so that the Temple Mount could be cleared and the Temple rebuilt. Though such an action might well have provoked an international Islamic jihad (holy war) against Israel, some members of this underground group apparently welcomed such a possibility, feeling that a worldwide invasion of Israel would force God to bring the Messiah immediately. It is precisely when the belief in the Messiah&rsquos coming starts to shape political decisions that the messianic idea ceases to be inspiring and becomes dangerous.

Source: Joseph Telushkin. Jewish Literacy. NY: William Morrow and Co., 1991. Reprinted by permission of the author.

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Happy Birthday, Dear Yeshua, Happy Birthday to You!

Photo courtesy Walters Art Museum via Wikimedia Commons

Many people shared the name. Christ’s given name, commonly Romanized as Yeshua, was quite common in first-century Galilee. (Jesus comes from the transliteration of Yeshua into Greek and then English.) Archaeologists have unearthed the tombs of 71 Yeshuas from the period of Jesus’ death. The name also appears 30 times in the Old Testament in reference to four separate characters—including a descendent of Aaron who helped to distribute offerings of grain (2 Chronicles 31:15) and a man who accompanied former captives of Nebuchadnezzar back to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:2).

The long version of the name, Yehoshua, appears another few hundred times, referring most notably to the legendary conqueror of Jericho (and the second most famous bearer of the name). So why do we call the Hebrew hero of Jericho Joshua and the Christian Messiah Jesus? Because the New Testament was originally written in Greek, not Hebrew or Aramaic. Greeks did not use the sound sh, so the evangelists substituted an S sound. Then, to make it a masculine name, they added another S sound at the end. The earliest written version of the name Jesus is Romanized today as Iesous. (Thus the crucifix inscription INRI: “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum,” or “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”)

The initial J didn’t come until much later. That sound was foreign to Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Not even English distinguished J from I until the mid-17 th century. Thus, the 1611 King James Bible refers to Jesus as “Iesus” and his father as “Ioseph.” The current spelling likely came from Switzerland, where J sounds more like the English Y. When English Protestants fled to Switzerland during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary I, they drafted the Geneva Bible and used the Swiss spelling. Translators in England adopted the Geneva spelling by 1769.

In contrast, the Old Testament was translated directly from the original Hebrew into English, rather than via Greek. So anyone named Yehoshua or Yeshua in the Old Testament became Joshua in English. Meanwhile, the holy book of the Syrian Orthodox church, known as the Syriac Bible, is written in Aramaic. While its Gospels were translated from the original Greek, the early scribes recognized that Iesous was a corruption of the original Aramaic. Thus, the Syriac text refers to Yeshua.

Bonus Explainer: What was Jesus’ last name? It wasn’t Christ. Contemporaries would have called him Yeshua Bar Yehosef or Yeshua Nasraya. (That’s “Jesus, son of Joseph” or “Jesus of Nazareth.”) Galileans distinguished themselves from others with the same first name by adding either “son of” and their father’s name, or their birthplace. People who knew Jesus would not have called him Christ, which is the translation of a Greek word meaning “anointed one.”



During this time period in England, children were seldom given the same name as someone else in the family. Rather, parents would often create a new name for their child based on a combination of each of their names. For example, a mother named Ediva and father by the name of Alred might choose to name their child Aldiva or Edred.

The invading Normans, however, did have a custom of handing names down through the generations of a family. The English quickly transitioned to Norman names after the conquest, partly because the native English were considered second-class citizens, beneath the victorious Normans, so parents began avoiding labeling their children as such by giving them Norman rather than English names. As they began to use more and more Norman names, they also adopted the habit of re-using names in a family, resulting in the number of different names shrinking appreciably, and the Old English names quickly fading into the obscurity of history.

The spectrum of Judaism in the 1st century AD

Most of the sects of first century Judaism have their roots in the intertestamental period. Every one casts light on the New Testament. In this article we will explore seven sects.

The Pharisees, the most important of the sects, were separatists. The Hebrew word from which the name is derived means separate. They were not advocating separation from the mainstream of society—unlike the Essenes, below—but separation from worldliness. To protect believers from compromise and sin, the Pharisees created extra rules intended to “put a fence” around the Law, so that people wouldn’t even come close to violating it. For example, to ensure no one ignored the tithing law (Leviticus 27:30), they required tithing even from one’s garden herbs (Matthew 23:23). Whereas the law forbade boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk (Exodus 23:19), the rabbis declared that meat and dairy cannot be consumed in a single meal—later extended in the Talmud (c.400 AD) to the use of separate plates for meat and dairy.

It’s not that these additional rules were ill intended—the motive was right—but they went beyond what was written, ironically breaking the very law they were dedicated to keeping (Deuteronomy 4:2). As a partial justification, the Pharisees claimed there were two Torahs, one the scriptural law given by God at Sinai, the other an oral law also given at Sinai and divinely expanded through the ongoing discussions of the rabbis. Jesus was highly critical of the Pharisees, especially when their rules contradicted the spirit of the law (e.g. Mark 7:1-13).

They were very proud of their "religious society," and considered their interpretations of God, his Word, and his law as the only valid ones. They were, therefore, also known as hasidim, meaning "pious ones." This self-proclaimed assurance, of course, led them to bitter disputes first with the Sadducees, who combined the priesthood and the throne of the Jews under one of their own, Simon Maccabeus, older brother of Judas Maccabeus, c.143 BC, and later with John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7-10 Luke 7:28-30) and Jesus (Matthew 5:20 12:1-1421:23-27 23:1-39), who challenged their teachings and religious practices. Their fundamental doctrines included belief in a spiritual life, including the immortality of the soul, which would be rewarded for good works on earth while the wicked would be banished to the underworld, a strict adherence to both the written and oral Judaic laws, and the belief that although God has foreknowledge of human destiny, man has free will to act.

Not to say that their religion was necessarily harsh. For example, the “eye-for-an-eye” type laws were not applied literally monetary compensation was made, except in the case of murder. Yet in creating a structure of legalism, they placed a heavy burden on the people (Matthew 23:4). Their discussions were recorded in the Mishnah (codified into 63 tractates c.200 AD), and the Mishnah itself was expanded through generations of rabbinical studies and discussions, the findings of which were written down in a series of books that became the Gemara, which when combined with the Mishnah constituted the Talmud (completed c. 500 AD). After the devastating First Jewish War of 66-73 AD, of all the major groups the Pharisees alone survived. The Rabbinic Judaism of the Pharisees continues to this very day.

Nor were all Pharisees opposed to Christianity. Nicodemus was open to the teaching of Jesus (John 3:1-21 7:50-51) and generally supportive of Jesus and his ministry (John 19:39) Gamaliel suggested before the Sanhedrin the possibility of the gospel actually being from God (Acts 5:27, 34-39) and Saul of Tarsus, after his encounter on the road to Damascus with Jesus (Acts 9:1-19), later became Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles (Acts13:9 Galatians 2:7). Even as late as 49 AD many Christians still self-identified as Pharisees (Acts 15:5 see also Acts 21:20). A final word is in order. The approximately 6000 Pharisees during the time of Jesus were immensely popular among the people, in part because they stood in opposition to the aristocratic Sadducees, the second group we will examine. They were also respected for standing up to the corrupt Hasmonean Dynasty in 88 BC, some 800 Pharisees were crucified for opposing the regime.

As descendants of Zadok (2 Samuel 15:24 1 Kings 4:4 Ezekiel 40:46), the most faithful of the Levites, the Sadducees took pride in their heritage while also cherishing their status as a wealthy caste of priests. Archaeological evidence from the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD has revealed the opulence of their lifestyles. There were probably fewer than 1000 Sadducees in the time of Christ—there isn’t so much room at the top! Not surprisingly, they were also held in suspicion by the common people for their collaboration with the Romans. They did not agree with the Pharisees on matters of theology. They not only rejected the Pharisees’ oral law, but diverged from them on a variety of subjects (ritual purity, torts, inheritance law, etc). Most famously, unlike the Pharisees, the Sadducees:

-held the Torah alone as of divine authority (not the Prophets or the Writings).
-rejected the notion of life after death.
-denied the existence of angels and demons.
-rejected the resurrection of the dead (Matthew 22:23 Acts 23:8)
-believed that humans have completely free will.

As in the case of the Pharisees, there were exceptions to the general pattern of hostility towards the Jesus movement. It is just possible that the upper-class Joseph of Arimathea, the one who asked permission to care for the corpse of Jesus, was a Sadducee (Luke 23:50-53). It should also be mentioned that in the early years of Christianity, many priests were converted to the faith (Acts 6:7).

In contrast to the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Essenes gave up on the Temple system, most of them withdrawing into a life of monastic devotion to studying the Jewish Scriptures, sharing everything in common and following a strict code of conduct. Although not mentioned in the NT, their history is largely provided by Josephus and Philo in the first century, and Pliny the Elder and Hippolytus in the second. Although there is evidence of Essene communities in Jerusalem—one of the ancient gates was named the Essene Gate—and around Palestine, many of them took to the desert. Members of the well-known monastery at Qumran, near the northwest corner of the Dead Sea, secreted the Dead Sea Scrolls in nearby caves, around 68 AD as the Roman forces were closing in. Thanks to the Essenes, copies of prophecies of Jesus Christ have survived from a century or more before his lifetime—a great boon to Christianity.

They claimed that the priesthood had become corrupt—a claim that was certainly true, based on the testimony of Jewish and Christian writers. Their writings are apocalyptic—expecting a cosmic showdown between the forces of good and evil. They also believed in

Many have tried to make John the Baptist an Essene, and some even claim Jesus was influenced by this sect, but the evidence is thin. What John, Jesus, and the Essenes do have in common is the pursuit of holiness and the willingness to speak truth to power.

The Herodians were supporters of Herod the Great (73-4 BC) and his descendants who ruled after him. Notable leaders in NT times include Herod Antipas (Mark 6) and Herod Agrippa (Acts 12). The Herodians are portrayed as dismissive of the message of Jesus (Mark 3:6).

From exilic times—in the absence of the Temple—the scribes gradually replaced the priests as teachers of Torah. (This parallels developments after the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, when Jewish life stopped centering on the Temple sacrifices, focusing instead on the study of Torah.) In ancient times, Ezra was the most illustrious scribe (Ezra 7:6,10 Nehemiah 8:1-8), a man of faith and learning who devoted his life to cultivating biblical literacy in the people.

The two most famous first-century scribes were rivals: the liberal Hillel and the stricter Shammai. Hillel’s grandson was the Pharisee Gamaliel, mentor of Saul of Tarsus (the apostle Paul). While the scribes as a whole opposed Jesus, not all rejected his message. In Mark 12:34 we meet a scribe who was “not far from the kingdom of God”—yet another member of the Jewish leadership favorable towards Jesus.

The Samaritans originated in the 8th century BC (2 Kings 17) as the offspring of three patriarchs (Ephraim, Manasseh, and Levi—their claim now confirmed by DNA analysis) and the foreigners settled by the Assyrians in Israel (2 Kings 17:24 Ezra 4:2). As antagonists to the people of God, they were rightly rejected by the Judeans (Jews) in the 5th century BC (Ezra 4:1-24 Nehemiah 4:2). As a result, they built their own temple atop Mount Gerizim (4th century), which was destroyed in 129 BC. The Samaritans had their own dialect of Hebrew, with its own script, as well as their own customs. They also rewrote the Pentateuch. The most notable change is that a new commandment was added to the Decalogue, mandating that God be worshipped in Mt. Gerizim (see John 4:20). Despite their heterodoxy, Jesus seems often to have made them the heroes of his stories (Luke 10:33 17:16 John 4:39).

Members of this last group not only rejected the Romans’ right to rule over God’s people, but resorted to violent means to register their protest and foment dissent. In today’s parlance, they would be labeled terrorists. Closely related to them, and perhaps a breakaway group, were the Sicarii, or dagger-men, who carried out assassinations. The Zealots were instigators in the unsuccessful revolution, beginning in Galilee in 66 AD and soon sweeping up the whole country, known as the First Jewish War. Although Jerusalem fell in 70 AD, the last bastion of the Zealots, Masada, held out until 73 AD. At this time the Masada community (nearly 1000 persons, including women and children) preferred mass suicide to capture by the Romans. In this horrific war, over 1 million Jews starved in the siege, were killed in battle, crucified, or enslaved. (The slaves built Rome’s Coliseum, completed 80 AD.)

At least one of the twelve disciples called by Jesus was a zealot—Simon (Mark 3:18)—though in the presence of the Prince of Peace he obviously changed his tactics. Interestingly, Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus to the high priest, to some extent may have bought in to the Zealots’ program. It is theorized that Judas gave up on Jesus’ peaceful strategy, attempting to force his master’s hand to usher in the kingdom of God. Yet Christ’s kingdom is not of this world (John 18:38 also John 6:15 Luke 17:20-21), and Judas’ ploy failed.

All these sects were players on the stage of first-century Palestine. Only against this dramatic backdrop can the action of the Gospels and Acts be fully appreciated. And although none of the seven groups we have examined supported Christ, nearly all of them supplied converts for the fledgling Christian movement. No one need be beyond the reach of grace. Anyone can change.

International artificial languages: dreaming of a linguistic utopia

Most people have heard at least once in their lives about the most famous constructed languages, such as Esperanto or Klingon.

But what if I say Volapük? Eurolengo? Loglan? Do they ring a bell for you? Probably not. And the list could go on…

The struggle to create new languages from scratch has always been an important part of human history.

From the first “proper” artificial languages in the XII century, much inspired by religious ideals, to the more modern attempts to create a perfect, rational language that would ideally be able to express all human knowledge in a rigorous and unequivocal way (many philosophers in the XVII and XVIII century tried to create a priori languages based on hierarchical classifications), during the last two centuries several conlangs were created with the main purpose of facilitating communication between people who don’t share a common first language.

Why not English, then? So many people can already speak it today, so what’s the point of learning a whole new language from scratch?

Hold on, we’ll get there soon. First, let me tell you how I became so passionate about this unusual topic (if you just want to learn more about artificial languages though, you can skip the next part and read these very informative and well-researched articles: here, here and here).

During my Erasmus year in Spain, I randomly chose to attend a sociolinguistics module (“randomly” because I didn’t even have a clear idea of what sociolinguistics was) at the University of Santiago de Compostela.

This turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life – or at least of my university career. I had one of the most amazing professors I’ve ever met. Through highly interactive and practical classes, this great woman opened up my eyes to some of the most important topics of sociolinguistics. One of them was… can you guess?

In one of our assignments, we had to write some personal thoughts about whether the creation of a perfect, rational language (the a priori language I was talking about) would be possible. I decided that the best way to find out was to try and invent one. I spent a whole night on it and, predictably, the result was a failure, but at least I realised why it couldn’t work, and came to the conclusion that (oversimplifying the concept) a non-perfect human being could never create anything perfect, let alone something as complicated as a whole language!

When I went back to Italy I had to write my thesis and I knew I wanted it to be about International Auxiliary Languages, but none of my university’s professors seemed as enthusiastic as I was, so I had to abandon my project. I kept reading a lot about the topic, but never really worked on it again.

What is so fascinating about it? I think it’s now time to go back to my first question: isn’t English more convenient?

Short answer is yes. It is obviously more convenient. So convenient that, as much as I love the concept and the ideals behind auxlangs, not even I would “waste” time learning one.

At the same time, I think that all the efforts made to invent each one of those languages stem from what is arguably one of the main principles of sociolinguistics: no natural language should be considered more important or useful than others (I particularly like this, because it applies to human beings as well).

Now, this is essential. Many people would argue: “who cares? Languages are just means of communication”. But they aren’t really just means of communication, are they?

Languages are not only made of words. They express centuries of cultures, traditions, lifestyles, ideals, attitudes, history, politics, and so on. Languages contribute to shape (and, at the same time, are shaped by) our worldviews. Our language is a huge part of who we are.

By declaring that English, French, or … (any other language) is or should be the international language, native speakers of that language will be automatically in a privileged position. Not only that: a language will contribute to spread across the world the culture(s) related to it, giving it a dominant position.

The reason why this is not fair (and might be a threat to other “minor” languages and cultures) is obvious.

Avoiding cultural and linguistic dominance, therefore, was one of the main goals of most artificial auxlangs.

Among the most successful was Volapük, created in the late XIX century and largely displaced by Esperanto a few decades later (fun fact: in Esperanto, “volapukaĵo” also means “nonsense”) however, there have been several more auxlangs: Solresol (curiously based on music), Interlingua, Ido are just some examples. Many of them were supposed to be improved versions of Esperanto, which remained, however, the language with the most speakers and enthusiasts – I will always wonder why, as it’s far from being the best constructed one.

The problem with most auxlangs from the XIX-XX century was that many of them (especially the most successful ones) basically betrayed the ideals they were inspired by: though their creators claimed to be seeking equality, most of these languages were actually constructed on the basis of European languages, “excluding” speakers from four other continents.

Another problem is, obviously, the aforementioned reluctance to learn a new language “only” because it would be fairer, since English works pretty well as a lingua franca and is already spoken and understood all over the world.

At this stage, many questions remain open: will it ever be possible to create a neutral (that is, non-Eurocentric or not affected by any other type of imbalance) artificial language that could actually work as a vernacular and be equally easy to learn for speakers of every language of the world? And, even if it happened, could it really be adopted and used as a common language? How long would that take? Won’t people just stick to convenience?

Most of these questions will probably remain unanswered. As you can see, this is a very controversial topic, and talking about an artificial international language nowadays seems more of a utopia than a feasible solution.

Written by Silvia Morani

Communication Trainee at TermCoord

Sources and interesting reads:

International Auxiliary Languages (with plenty of useful links and resources)

The Life & Times of Jesus of Nazareth: Did You Know?

The population of Palestine in Jesus' day was approximately 500,000 to 600,000 (about that of Vermont, Boston, or Jerusalem today). About 18,000 of these residents were clergy, priests and Levites. Jerusalem was a city of some 55,000, but during major feasts, could swell to 180,000.

Children in Jesus' day played games similar to hopscotch and jacks. Whistles, rattles, toy animals on wheels, hoops, and spinning tops have been found by archaeologists. Older children and adults found time to play, too, mainly with board games. A form of checkers was popular then.

Tradesmen would be instantly recognizable by the symbols they wore. Carpenters stuck wood chips behind their ears, tailors stuck needles in their tunics, and dyers wore colored rags. On the Sabbath, these symbols were left at home.

The second commandment forbade "graven images," so there are few Jewish portraits showing dress at the time. Also because of this prohibition, the Jews produced little in the way of painting, sculpture, or carvings. The masonry and carpentry of the day appear utilitarian. One notable exception to the commandment seems to be the tolerance of dolls for children.

At the two meals each day, bread was the main food. The light breakfasts&mdashoften flat bread, olives, and cheese (from goats or sheep)&mdashwere carried to work and eaten at mid-morning. Dinners were more substantial, consisting of vegetable (lentil) stew, bread (barley for the poor, wheat for the rich), fruit, eggs, and/or cheese. Fish was a common staple, but red meat was reserved for special occasions. Locusts were a delicacy and reportedly taste like shrimp. (Jews wouldn't have known that, however, since shrimp and all other crustaceans were "unclean.") .

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What biblical prophecies were fulfilled in AD 70?

Much of importance happened in Israel in AD 70, and many link the events of that time to prophecies in the Bible. In studying this subject, it’s good to remember that prophecy does not describe the future in the same way that history describes the past. That’s why there are varied interpretations of biblical prophecy. Predictions dealing with the end times, a category known as eschatology, are of particular interest to many people. Within modern Christianity, most of these discussions are less about which events are predicted than when the events will happen. The most common point of reference for these opinions is the significant year of AD 70, when the Romans destroyed the Jewish temple.

Virtually all Christian interpretations of biblical prophecy agree that several prophecies were fulfilled in or before AD 70. Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple (Luke 21:6 Matthew 24:2) and, some would argue, the Jewish genocide at the hands of Rome (Luke 23:27-31). Historically, these events align extremely well with Jesus’ statements. There is broad agreement within most Christian interpretations that these prophecies were literally fulfilled in AD 70.

There is debate over whether additional prophecies, such as those found in Daniel chapter 9, Matthew chapters 24 and 25, and Revelation chapters 6&mdash18, were also fulfilled in AD 70 or if they are yet to come. Partial preterism and full preterism hold that most, if not all, of the prophetic events in the Bible were completed by the end of the first century, mostly prior to AD 70. Dispensationalism holds that only the temple destruction and possibly the genocide were actually fulfilled in AD 70 and that the rest of the prophecies will have a future fulfillment during the tribulation.

In terms of historical evidence, there is little to make a definitive case one way or the other. The events of AD 70 can be made to fit certain prophetic claims, depending on one’s perspective. Of course, if one is willing to apply a high enough degree of symbolic interpretation, any prophecy can be made to conform to almost any event. It should be noted, however, that most non-dispensational interpretations require the book of Revelation to have been written prior to AD 70, something that general scholarship does not support.

The most serious difficulties in claiming all the prophecies were fulfilled in AD 70 are theological. In particular, preterism requires scriptural passages to be interpreted with a chaotic blend of extremely literal and extremely figurative language. One would have to interpret words, verses, and phrases that appear in the same discourse, or even the same paragraph, with a different literal-figurative assumption.

The most reasonable interpretation is that the genocide and destruction of the temple were prophecies fulfilled in AD 70, and that the other events described in Daniel, Matthew, and Revelation are yet to occur. They are truly end-times predictions.

10 Oldest Known Names in the World

The earliest legitimate writing systems did not emerge until around 3200 BCE, so most of human history before this time has been lost. There are thousands of ancient peoples whose names or stories we’ll never know, but this list contains some of the earliest recorded names in the world. While many of these people were kings (and one queen), the oldest known person was an accountant, who signed what were basically ancient receipts and inventory lists.

10. Yax Ehb Xook

Year Written: c.90 CE
Country of Origin: Tikal (modern day Flores, Guatemala)
[ Writing System: pre-Columbian Maya Script

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Outside of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia/Sumeria, one of the earliest mentions of a ruler in the west comes from early period of Maya civilization. Yax Ehb Xook was the first ruler of the important and powerful city-state Tikal. He ruled much of the surrounding lowland region at the time and the city was called Yax Mutal in his honor. Yax Ehb Xook’s rule set Tikal up to dominate much of the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily for the next several centuries.

Did You Know?

Yax Ehb Xook translates to “First Step Shark.”

9. Anitta

Year Written: c.17th century BCE
Country of Origin: Kussara, Anatolia (modern day Turkey)
[ Writing System: Hittite Cuneiform

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Anitta was the first Hittite ruler to write a text in the Hittite language. His name appears on a dagger as well as the Anitta text or Proclamations of Anittas, the earliest known Indo-European text. Anitta detailed the rise of the Hittite state, as well as his own exploits. The Anitta text was so important to the Hittites that it was copied several times and well-preserved. The text is also a great example of archaic writing and grammar.

Did You Know?

The Anitta text is the only known Hittite text to make reference to the god Siu-summin (“our god” or “Our Sius”).

8. Hor-Aha

Year Written: c.3100 BCE
Country of Origin: Abydos, Egypt (modern day El-Bayana, Sohag Governate, Egypt)
[ Writing System: Egyptian Hieroglyphics

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Hor-Aha is yet another early Egyptian pharaoh whose exact identity is unknown. Most scholars believe that Hor-Aha was the second ruler of Ancient Egypt’s First Dynasty and Narmer’s successor and possibly his son. Others think that Hor-Aha was actually Menes, which conflicts with the theory that Narmer could have also been Menes.

Regardless of his true identity, Hor-Aha was important and his name appears on many artifacts. Hor-Aha’s tomb has also been discovered, which provides additional evidence for his existence.

Did You Know?

Hor-Aha was the first Ancient Egyptian pharaoh to have members of the royal household buried in his tomb as the earliest known retainer sacrifices in Egypt.

7. Neithhotep

Year Written: c.3150 to 3125 BCE
Country of Origin: Abydos, Egypt (modern day El-Bayana, Sohag Governate, Egypt)
[ Writing System: Egyptian Hieroglyphics

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Neithhotep is the earliest named woman in history, who held a position of great importance in Ancient Egypt. She was the queen consort of either Narmer or his successor Hor-Aha. While scholars don’t know for sure who Neithhotep was married to, they do know that she was very important because of the massive size of her tomb and the fact that her name is written with royal serekh. In fact, initially researchers thought Neithhotep was an unknown king because of her huge tomb.

Did You Know?

Along with Queen Meritneith, Neithhotep is the only Ancient Egyptian woman whose name is written with a serekh and whose tomb has its own cultic enclosure.

6. Narmer

Year Written: c.3150 to 3100 BCE
Country of Origin: Nekhen, Egypt (modern day Aswan Governate, Egypt)
[ Writing System: Egyptian Hieroglyphics

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Narmer was the successor to either Ka or Scorpion II, the earliest predynastic kings of Egypt. Considered the founder of the First Dynasty, Narmer is widely credited with unifying Upper and Lower Egypt to become the first true pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.

Narmer’s name has been found all over various artifacts, most notably the Narmer Palette. Not only does the palette contain some of the earliest Egyptian hieroglyphics, but it also clearly depicts Narmer as a king.

Did You Know?

Along with Queen Meritneith, Neithhotep is the only Ancient Egyptian woman whose name is written with a serekh and whose tomb has its own cultic enclosure.

5. Scorpion II

Year Written: c.3200 to 3000 BCE
Country of Origin: Nekhen, Egypt (modern day Aswan Governate, Egypt)
[ Writing System: Egyptian Hieroglyphics

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Like all of the earliest Egyptian pharaohs, the details and exact identity of Scopion II or King Scorpion’s life are hotly contested. There are many conflicting theories over Scorpion II’s identity. Some scholars believe Scorpion II was another name for Narmer, while others believe he is the ruler who came after Ka and before Narmer.

There is another theory that suggests Scorpion II was a rival ruler of Ka and Narmer. Regardless of who he actually was, Scorpion II’s name appears on several artifacts from Egypt’s predynastic period.

Did You Know?

While there are numerous artifacts supporting Scorpion II’s rule and existence, his tomb exact burial place is unknown, but there are two tombs – one in Umm el-Qa’ab (close to Abydos) and another in Hierakonpolis (Nekhen) – that are strong contenders.

Year Written: c.3200 BCE
Country of Origin: Abydos, Egypt (modern day El-Bayana, Sohag Governate, Egypt)
[ Writing System: Egyptian Hieroglyphics

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Ka or Sekhen is another predynastic Egyptian pharaoh, who may have been Iry-Hor’s successor. It is believed that Ka reigned sometime during the first half of the 32 nd century BCE. Ka would have ruled from Thinis, the first capital of city of the earliest Egyptian kings, which has not yet been uncovered.

Ka’s tomb was first discovered in 1902 and several artifacts, including flint knife fragments and pottery, bearing Ka’s name have been found over the years.

Did You Know?

Ka was the first Egyptian ruler to use a serekh, a box-shaped symbol that goes around a name to indicated kingship.

3. Iry-Hor

Year Written: c.3200 BCE
Country of Origin: Abydos, Egypt (modern day El-Bayana, Sohag Governate, Egypt)
[ Writing System: Egyptian Hieroglyphics

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Iry-Hor is the name of a mysterious predynatic pharaoh (he may have been the very first true king of the region) whose existence has been challenged despite the excavation of his tomb. The reason for the doubt over Iry-Hor’s significance is because his name is written in archaic hieroglyphics without a serekh. However, more excavations in Abydos and the discovery of another inscription of Iry-Hor’s name in 2012 confirms that he actually existed.

Did You Know?

Iry-Hor’s tomb has similar dimensions to Ka and Narmer, two of the earliest confirmed Egyptian pharaohs, which strongly supports the belief that Iry-Hor was also a pharaoh.

2. Gal-Sal and Slaves

Year Written: c.3200 to 3100 BCE
Country of Origin: Ancient Sumer (modern day southern Iraq)
[ Writing System: pre-Cuneiform archaic Sumerian

photo source:

Not much is known publicly about the Sumerian clay tablet containing three names: Gal-Sal and two slaves Enpap-x and Sukkalgir. Gal-Sal is typically only mentioned as a contender to Kushim for oldest known name. The tablet with Gal-Sal and his slaves names does come from the same time period as Kushims’ and features the same pre-Cuneiform script.

Did You Know?

Researchers know that Gal-Sal was most likely the owner of Enpap-x and Sukkalgir because their names are next to the symbols for male slave and female slave.

1. Kushim

Year Written: c.3400 to 3000 BCE
Country of Origin: Ancient Sumer (modern day southern Iraq)
[ Writing System: pre-Cuneiform (Uruk III) archaic Sumerian

photo source:

While there is some debate on who is the oldest named person on record, for the most part, many researchers agree that Kushim is the oldest known name in the world, dating back to around 3400 to 3000 BCE. Surprisingly, Kushim wasn’t a king or ruler, they were an account. All of the tablets baring Kushim’s name appear to be accounting reports for various goods like barley.

Did You Know?

Kushim’s name is mentioned in 18 tablets, and some researchers initially believed “Kushim” was a job title. However, it’s now widely accepted that Kushim was an individual person.



Askwith, Edward Harrison. The Epistle to the Galatians. London: Macmillan, 1899.

Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Trans. by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich. 2nd ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957.

Blass, F. and A. Debrunner. A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. and ed. by Robert W. Funk. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1961.

Boice, James Montgomery. “Galatians” in The Expositors Bible Commentary. ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. vol. 10. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976.

Bruce, F. F.The Epistle to the Galatians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, Commentary on Galatians. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982.

Burton, Ernest De Witt. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians. The International Critical Commentary. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1921.

Goetchius, Eugene Van Ness. The Language of the New Testament. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1965.

Guthrie, Donald. Galatians. New Century Bible Commentary. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd., 1973 reprint, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1981.

Harrison, Everett F. Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964.

Lightfoot, J. B. Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. London: Macmilland and Co., Limited, 1866 reprint, The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1957.

Longenecker, Richard N. Galatians. Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 41 Dallas: Word Books, Publisher, 1990.

Pliny Natural History. Loeb Classic Library.

Ramsay, W. M. A Historical Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Vol. 1. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1899 reprint, Minneapolis: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, 1978.

________. A Historical Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Vol. 2. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1899 reprint, Minneapolis: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, 1978.

________. The Church in the Roman Empire. 3rd ed. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1894.

________. St. Paul The Traveller and the Roman Citizen. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1949.

Tenney, Merrill C. Galatians: The Charter of Christian Liberty. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950.

The Holy Bible. New American Standard Version. Chicago: Moody Press, 1960.

Thiessen, Henry C. Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955.

Zahn, Theodor. Introduction to the New Testament. vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Kregal Publications, 1953.

Zerwick, Maximilian, Biblical Greek Illustrated by Examples. trans. Joseph Smith. 5th reprint, Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1990.

Periodical Articles

Bruce, F. F. “Galatian Problems. 2. North or South Galatians?” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 52 (Spring 1970): 243-66.

________. “Galatian Problems. 4. The Date of the Epistle.” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 54 (Spring 1972): 250-67.

Hoehner, Harold. “The Chronology of the Apostolic Age.” Th.D. Diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1965.

Hoerber, Robert G. “Galatians 2:1-10 and the Acts of the Apostles.” Concordia Theological Monthly 31 (August 1960): 482-91.

Polhill, John B. “Galatia Revisited, The Life Setting of the Epistle.” Review and Expositor 69 (Fall 1972): 437-48.

Stein, Robert H. “The Relationship of Galatians 2:1-10 and Acts 15:1-35: Two Neglected Arguments.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 17 (Fall 1974): 239-42.

Talbert, Charles H. “Again: Paul’s Visits to Jerusalem.” Novum Testamentum 9 (January 1967): 26-40.

Toussaint, Stanley D. “The Chronological Problem of Galatians 2:1-10.” Bibliotheca Sacra 120 (October-December 1963): 334-40.

Other Material

Teo, Peter. The Legitimacy of Aorist Participle of Subsequent Action and its Significance to the South Galatian Theory in Acts 16:6. Dallas Seminary: non-published paper for Advanced Greek Grammar, 1992.

1 For an excellent summary treatment of the meaning and significance of the message of Galatians, see William Hendriksen, “Galatians and Ephesians” in the New Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1968), 3, 4.

2 Merrill C. Tenney, Galatians: The Charter of Christian Liberty (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1950).

3 Richard N. Longenecker, “Galatians,” in the Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 41, ed. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas: Word Books Publishers, 1990), 43-57.

4 Luther, Commentary on Galatians, cited in Hendricksen, op. cit., 3.

5 James Montgomery Boice, “Galatians,” in The Expositors Bible Commentary, vol. 10, Gen. ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 409.

6 Ernest De Witt Burton says, “From the end of the second century quotations from our epistle are frequent, and no question of its Pauline authorship was raised until the nineteenth century.” Eernest De Witt Burton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1921), 69. According to Burton, Bruno Bauer is credited with the first person to doubt Pauline authorship, but many commentators point to the “Dutch School of critics” as those who attempted to popularize the notion—without success. See Donald Guthrie, “Galatians” in the New Century Bible Commentary, ed. Ronald E. Clements and Matthew Black, (Grand Rapids: W, B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973), 1. cf. also, Boice, op. cit.,420.

7 Donald Gutherie, New Testament Introduction, 4th ed. ( Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 465. cf. also, Richard N. Longenecker, op. cit. 63 John B. Polhill, “Galatia Revisited, The Life-setting of the Epistle,” Review Expositor 69: 4 (Fall 1972): 439. Ernest De Witt Burton, op. cit., 24, says that “ancient interpreters took it for granted without discussion that the churches were in the northern” region.

8 There does not seem to be, historically, any other widely advocated and supported option. It is either north Galatia or south cf. Burton, op. cit., 30. But, Longenecker, op. cit., (p. 67) makes reference to the work of J. Schmidt (whom most people think was the first scholar to really break with the totally North Galatia view) and J. P. Mynster as two scholars who held to a ‘Pan-Galatian’ view. Their view had serious problems and was never really embraced as viable. James Moffatt, An Introduction to the Literature of the New Testament, 3rd ed. (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1920), 92, says that “this modification attempts to do justice to the plain sense of Acts 16:6, but it fails to bring out the evident homogeneity of the churches addressed in Galatians and involves more difficulties than it solves.” But, cf. also Henry C. Thiessen, Introduction to the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), 216, as a contemporary expression of this position. He says that “we hold, then, that the Epistle to the Galatians is primarily addressed to the churches in South Galatia,” but allows for it also to be sent to the disciples in the north (cf. Acts 18:23).

9 F. F. Bruce, “Galatian Problems. 2 North or South Galatians?” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 52 (1969, 70): 243.

10 Gutherie, New Testament Introduction, 472. See also F.F.Bruce, “The Epistle to the Galatians: A Commentary on the Greek Text” in The New International Greek Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), 43—”The dating of the letter in the context of Acts will depend partly on whether the addressees are regarded as ‘South Galatians’ or ‘North Galatians.’”

11 F.F.Bruce, “Galatian Problems. 4. The Date of the Epistle,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 54 (Spring 1972): 251.

12 This, of course, requires the explanation of the relationship of Galatians 2:1-10 to Paul’s visits to Jerusalem as recorded in the book of Acts. This will be addressed later.

13 see Donald Gutherie, “Galatians” in The New Century Bible Commentary, 27-37.

14 Luke records five visits of the apostle Paul to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-30 11:27-30 12:25 15:1-30 18:22 21:15-23:35).

15 Apparently Manson believes that Galatians 2:1-10 describes a visit to Jerusalem just before the first missionary journey. This view is attractive, on the one hand, in that it does not need to be ‘fitted’ directly with particular statements in the text of Acts, but may, on the other, simply be an attempt to put to rest the tension between Luke and Paul on this point by giving up on a harmony of the known data. T.W. Manson, “St. Paul in Ephesus: The Problem of the Epistle to the Galatians,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 24 (April 1940): 59-80 cited by Stanley D. Toussaint, “The Chronological Problem of Galatians 2:1-10,” 334, footnote 3.

16 Stanley D. Toussaint, “The Chronological Problem of Galatians 2:1-10,” Bibliotheca Sacra 120 (1963): 334. cf. also Robert G. Hoerber, “Galatians 2:1-10 and the Acts of the Apostles,” Concordia Theological Monthly 31 (1960): 482 F. F. Bruce, “Galatian Problems, 4, The Date of the Epistle,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 54 (Spring 1972):250 Charles Talbert, “Again: Paul’s Visits to Jerusalem,” Novum Testamentum 9 (Jan. 1967): 26, 27.

17 The North Galatia theory will be evaluated first since in it’s fullest expression it antedated its rival.

18 This was briefly addressed in the introduction under the ‘Nature of the Problem,’ but will enlarged upon slightly here.

19 Richard N. Longenecker, op. cit., 62. For a discussion of Greek authors wherein the term is found see, J. B. Lightfoot, Saint Pauls Epistle to the Galatians, (London: Macmilland and Co., Limited, 1866 reprint, The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians: Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1957), 2-4.

20 F.F. Bruce, New International Greek Testament Commentary, 3.

21 Polhill, Galatia Revisited, 438.

22 Virtually all the commentators and writers (Boice, Bruce, Burton, Gutherie, Hendricksen, Longenecker, Ramsay, Lightfoot, Thiessen, Zahn) reconstruct the historical antecedents of the arrival of the Gauls in the land of the Phrygians along similar lines. Ramsay has the fullest development of the historical background in W. M. Ramsay, A Historical Commentary on St. Pauls Epistle to the Galatians, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1899 reprint, vol. 1, Minneapolis: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, 1978), 1-234.

23 Pliny, Natural History, 5:146, 7. “This district is occupied by Gallic settlers. Along the North and East of Galatia is Cappadocia. . .the towns are Ancyra. . .Tavium and Pissinus. Galatia also touches on Cabalia in Pamphylia. . . and the district of Orando in Pisidia, and Obizene which is part of Lycaonia.” From the recording of Pliny (23-79 a.d.) we can tell the region occupied as the Roman province of Galatia at the time of the writing of the book of Galatians.

24 Hendricksen, New Testament Commentary, 5. see also Lightfoot, The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians, 18.

26 According to Bruce, Galatian Problems, 2., (p. 250), “Lightfoot’s dismissal of the South Galatia view in favor of the traditional one was natural when he wrote, the South Galatia view had not yet been placed on sufficiently sound basis.” Ramsay was the individual who accomplished this some time later, perhaps by 1899. Lightfoot’s commentary first appeared in 1865.

28 Gutherie, “Galatians” in The New Century Bible Commentary, 16.

29 That is, Paul established churches there and is sending the letter to them.

30 As opposed to evidence external to Acts like the previous argument concerning the reference to conventional use of Galatians in 1st century understanding.

32 Luke refers to Antioch as Antioch of ‘Pisidia’ and Lystra and Derbe as cities of ‘Lycaonia’ (cf. Acts 13:14 and 14:6 respectively). Although these towns and cities were in south Galatia, Luke preferred the geographical term as opposed to the provincial one, i.e. Galatia.

33 Moffatt, Introduction, 93, holding to the North Galatia theory, says, “The phrase is not an equivalent for Phrygia-Galatica, or for the borderland between eastern Phrygia and Western Galatia: it denotes not one district but two.” Contra Lightfoot, (p. 22) who while also holding to the North Galatia theory, says, “the form of the Greek expression implies that Phrygia and Galatia here are not to be regarded as separate districts. The country now evangelized might be called indifferently Phrygia or Galatia. By this Lightfoot meant the region in the north i.e. the Phrygian area before it was settled by the Gauls. F. F. Bruce “Galatians” in The New International Greek Testament Commentary, 11 says this antiquarianism is uncharacteristic of Luke.

34 cf. Polhill, Galatia Revisited, 440 Longenecker, Galatians, 66.

35 Moffatt, Introduction, 95 argued that “ διέρχεσθαι ” in 16:6, taken with 18:23, implies preaching activity, not simply traveling.”

36 cf. the similar section under arguments for the South Galatia theory for the development of the grammatical and contextual issues.

38 Polhill, Galatia Revisited, 441. cf. also Gutherie, “Galatians” in The New Century Bible Commentary, 18.

39 Bell Gall. 4: 5 cited in Lightfoot, Galatians, 15. cf. also Hendricksen, New Testament Commentary, 8.

40 This may refer to the time of their conversion or to Paul’s last visit. The context suggests the time is to be taken from when they embraced the gospel (i.e. their salvation) as Lightfoot assumes cf. his commentary, p. 75.

41 F.F. Bruce, Galatian Problems, 2., 250. Bruce’s point of view, against Lightfoot, is typical of a number of scholars who reject the comparison as proof of anything essential to the question at hand.

42 cf. Moffatt, Introduction, 99, “Many internal arguments on both sides to prove the character of the people addressed in the epistle are of little independent value.”

43 Or perhaps the participle is more specifically causal with the idea that “since they were restricted from entrance into Asia, they went into Phrygia and Galatia. cf. Eugene Van Ness Goetchius, The Language of the New Testament, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1965), 188, 89. cf. also Acts 25:13 for an aorist participle of subsequent time, though according to Goetchius (p. 189) this use is rare. This is taken up further in the following section where it will be seen that Goetchius may not be entirely accurate as far as Luke is concerned.

44 There is textual variant here, wherein a Byzantine reading, διελθόντες was taken to be original instead of διῆλθον by commentators such as Lightfoot and Ramsay (cf. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller, 195 “But the strange form of construction by a succession of participles suits so perfectly the strange and unique character, the hurry, and the deep lying emotion of the passage that, as Lightfoot’s judgment, Bibl. Essays, p. 237, perceived, the inferior MSS. must here be followed.” But as Bruce (North or South Galatians, 257) points out, this was not necessary for the prohibition could have been given in enough time for the missionaries to change their plans. One might also add, that Ramsay et al. need to deal with external data more thoroughly than to just refer to the MSS. as inferior. The indicative reading is supported by MSS. such as p 74 a A B C 2 D E.

45 cf. Gutherie, New Testament Introduction, 467.

46 Again, it must be remembered that even if Paul went into the north in Acts 16:6 and 1823, it does not necessarily follow that he must needs have written this letter to them. If it could be ascertained with certainty that Acts 16:6 and 18:23 referred to the northern region, all this would imply is that at least we know that Paul did work in the north.

47 William M. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire Before A.D. 170, (3rd. ed. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1894), 78.

48 Polhill, Galatia Revisited, 440. He cites Kirsopp Lake as one who maintained that the term ‘Phrygian’ was not an adjective form in the New Testament period, but only a substantive. Everett F. Harrison, Introduction to the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans, 1964), 257 states that “in both cases [Acts 16:6 and 18:23] Galatia is an adjectival form.” cf. also Robert Hoerber, “Galatians 2:1-10 and the Acts of the Apostles” Concordia Theological Monthly 31 (1960): 486. He cites Liddel- Scott-Jones as support for the adjectival use of the term ‘Galatia’ here.

51 cf. Gutherie, Introduction, 468.

52 Edward Harrison Askwith, The Epistle to the Galatians, (London: MacMillan, 1899), 23. He says, “It is St. Luke’s habit when he’s narrating the Apostle’s travels over new ground to mention the name of the cities and to record what happened there” (p. 49). This information was taken from the book which is available only on microfilm.

53 Polhill, Galatia revisited, 440, 441., contra Bruce, Galatian Problems, 2., 258.

54 Some contend that it is Luke’s habit to review Paul’s travels, but each pericope must be examined on its own first. With this in mind, the phrase ἐλθόντες δὲ κατὰ τὴν Μυσίαν (v. 7) seems to imply continuous movement arising out of movement from the preceding section, namely, verses 5 and 6.

59 Bruce, Galatian Problems, 2., 259. The reference in 1 Cor. 16:1 to the churches of Galatia and the giving project for the saints at Jerusalem (i.e. most commentators take it as such), when combined with the fact that no north Galatian delegates are mentioned as being with Paul (Acts 20:4 only Timothy and Gaius of the South are mentioned in connection with project) may argue that the churches of 1 Cor. 16:1 are from the south, not the north. Again, this argument rests upon silence. Even Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire, 98, dismisses it as having “very little value. Timothy at least might be with Paul as a traveling companion, and several other churches have no representatives.” Moffatt, Introduction, 96, says, “besides, the Galatian contribution may have been sent independently.” According to Bruce and other commentators, the reference to ‘Galatia’ in 2 Tim. 4:10 is difficult to identify with certainty. Also, 1 Peter 1:1 seems to indicate the province in general. This is dealt with as the argument about the “Jerusalem Delegation in Gutherie, Introduction, 471.

61 Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire., 86. Ramsay finds it incredible that anyone could think that Paul preached in the north as a result of his sickness. He says that, “the truth is that no suggestion ever has been offered, and in view of the geography no suggestion can be offered, which will introduce rational coherence into the narrative in Acts on the supposition that on this journey St. Paul evangelized in Northern Galatia.”

62 Moffatt, Introduction, 97. It is interesting that Moffatt quotes the work of Ramsay on the geographical nature of north Galatia in support of his conclusion.

63 It was in this line that many advocates of the North Galatia view attacked their opponents, claiming that there is no mention of Paul’s illness in Acts 13 and 14. But, as Bruce says, “there is no hint of illness in the record of his passing through the Phrygian and Galactic region of Acts 16:6.” cf. Bruce, North or South Galatia, 260.

64 Boice, op. cit., 414. This argument will be more fully developed under the southern theory. cf. also Bruce, Galatian Problems, 2: 49.

65 Gutherie, New Testament Introduction, (p. 469) says Moffatt takes ‘Syria and Cilicia’ together indicating a Roman province. Gutherie makes the distinction that Paul is referring to his own travels, not the location of churches.

67 Bruce, Galatian Problems, 2., 263.

68 Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire, 43.

69 Ramsay, A Historical Commentary on Galatians, vol. 2, 320. He cites Tacitus as an example of the use of the term to refer to those in the south.

71 Askwith (The Epistle to the Galatians) cites Acts 25:13 (p. 39) claiming that the “predicative use for the participle is natural in Luke” (p. 43). Outside the book of Acts he references Luke 4:15 and 18:14. He says that in Luke 4:15 the emphasis is on the fact of Jesus’ preaching and not the reception he met with (p. 44). As far as Luke 18:14 is concerned he states, “the fact that the Publican went down to his house is of no importance whatever but, that he was justified in comparison to the Pharisee is the whole point of the parable” (p. 44). The point of these examples is to demonstrate the existence of the participle of subsequent action in Luke’s writing. However, the participle is used on several occasions to refer to antecedent time as well: Acts 1:6, 8 11:19 13:4 15:1 17:119:1, 2 21:11, etc. For an interesting discussion of the grammar of participles of subsequent time, see: Peter Teo, The Legitimacy of the Aorist Participle of Subsequent Time and Its Significance to the South Galatian Theory in Acts 16:6. (Unpublished Paper for Advanced Greek Grammar, DTS, 1992).

72 Gutherie, Introduction, 470

73 Conversely the Southern position is strengthened by the fact that we are reasonably sure that the churches there knew Barnabas. cf. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire, 97. He discounts this argument as not helpful in any regard. cf. also Bruce, Galatian Problems, 2., 252 agrees with his evaluation.

74 cf. also Moffatt, Introduction, 96. He argues that Paul’s references to “Barnabas do not necessarily imply that he was unknown to the readers.”

75 Burton, op. cit., 63. See Burton also for a reference to the minor arguments raised historically within the debate. He discusses issues such as: 1) the fact that Paul would not go into the geographical district of Galatia where Greek was not spoken 2) the argument that Paul would have kept only to the main roads with the inference that north Galatia was off ‘the beaten path’ 3) that the ‘marks of the Lord Jesus’ (Gal. 6:17) refer to the beating Paul received in Lystra 4) the illusion in Galatians 5:11 to the charge that Paul still preached circumcision seems an echo of the use made among the Galatians of his circumcision of Timothy, a person known primarily to those in the South and a fact used by the Judaizers against Paul 5) the placement of the incident between Peter and Paul in Galatians 2:11-21 as an argument for the North Galatians hypothesis. All these are based upon varying degrees of speculation and consequently add little to the rigor involved in establishing a destination.

76 The highly situational and intimate context of Galatians 2 makes it improbable that the ‘you’ is general, referring to the Gentiles, but rather is to be understood as specific, referring to the actual recipients of the letter. cf. Gutherie, Introduction, 472. Moffatt, Introduction, 97 that this “does not necessarily imply that the churches were in existence when the controversy at Jerusalem broke out. Paul was merely fighting the battle on behalf of all Gentile Christians who should believe.” However, this argument does not do justice to the personal nature of Paul’s recounting in Galatians 2:1-11.

77 In the next major section, the paper will contend that Galatians 2 is actually the famine visit of Acts 11. Acts 15 and the Council visit is assumed simply to provide the widest parameter i.e. there is no way that Acts 16:6 ff. describes the founding of these churches.

78 Talbert, Again: Pauls Visits to Jerusalem, 27-31. Concerning the Galatian errorists, Talbert says that the idea of Judaizers from Jerusalem was the standard interpretation at least until the 1930’s. Since then however, some scholars have contended that the errorists were one of the following 1) Judaizing Christians and ‘Spirituals’ 2) Gentile Judaizers or 3) Syncretists, Talbert’s own thesis. He thinks that Syncretists better account for the data: 1) focus on circumcision 2) astral worship and 3) ethical deviations.

79 Gutherie, Introduction, 472.

80 Bruce, North or South Galatians, 253.

81 cf. Acts 9:26-30 11:27-30, 12:25 15:1-30 18:22 and 21:15-23:35.

83 Gutherie, Introduction, 474.

84 cf. also Lightfoot, op. cit., 123, who says, “In support of this view may be urged the positive argument from the striking coincidence of circumstances, and the negative argument from the difficulty of finding an equally probable solution.” It appears that Lightfoot having given himself rather ardently to the North Galatia position would not allow the possibility of Galatians 2 referring to anything but Acts 15. It is essential to his thesis concerning the location of the churches in the North. But, indeed, Acts 11 is “an equally probable solution” as history has shown subsequent to Lightfoot’s work. Whether Acts 11 is correct is another matter, but it is equally probable.

85 Toussaint, op. cit. 335, 336. It should be noted that those who hold to the North Galatia theory have no choice, generally speaking, but to identify Galatians 2:1-10 with Acts 15. see, Gutherie, Introduction, 474.

87 Boice, op. cit., 418. The following arguments are succinctly laid out by Boice, though He says that Acts 15 should be paired with Galatians 2 due to the striking coincidence of circumstances. He is following Lightfoot for the most part.

90 cf. Robert Stein, “The Relationship of Galatians 2:1-10 and Acts 15:1-35: Two Neglected Arguments,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 17 (Fall 1974): 242. He says that at the time of the famine visit Paul had not even gone on his missionary journeys nor had much success in Troas so far as we can tell.

94 F. F. Bruce, Galatian Problems 4: 254.

97 F.F. Bruce, Galatian Problems, 4: 255. Bruce thinks Paul grew in his understanding of the resurrection body.

99 Stein, Two Neglected Arguments, 240. Stein also discusses the similarities such as geography, the issues (i.e. circumcision) the relation between Romans and Galatians, etc.

100 Robert G. Hoerber, op. cit., 484.

104 F. F. Bruce, Galatian Problems, 4: 252.

105 This seems to be the force of the πάλιν in Galatians 2:1.

109 Fourteen years back from 46 A.D. would be around 32 or 33. If Christ were crucified in A.D. 30 then there is no real problem in the chronology. Obviously this is not the place to debate the date of the crucifixion, but a date of A. D. 30 is apparently not uncommon among scholars.

110 Walter Bauer, et al. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans. by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979), 722. They say that “from a lexical point of view it is not possible to establish the thesis that Paul wished to differentiate between a later and earlier one [visit].”

111 F. F. Bruce, Galatian Problems, 4: 252.

112 F.F. Bruce, Galatian Problems, 4: 266.

Greg lives in Calgary Alberta, Canada with his wife and 4 kids. He has a passion to teach and disciple others, and holds a Th.M. and Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary. Greg is currently serving as Project Director for