The Heart Language

The language used in the ceremonies of the temple was ancient Hebrew. Many Jews had learned to speak Greek in order to bargain with foreign merchants. Dealing with the Roman soldiers and officials stationed throughout the empire had forced most to pick up Latin. One of those languages would have been understood by the assembled pilgrims.

Yet, to the people gathered that day, those were the languages of government, religion, and money. They hadn’t said their first words in Hebrew. Their mothers hadn’t sung to them in Latin. They didn’t talk to their children in Greek.

A foreigner in Jerusalem had to be careful to avoid his native tongue, which sounded like gibberish to the Aramaic-speaking citizens of Judea. No one in Jerusalem made the effort learn a foreigner’s language, and his fellow countrymen were far away. Imagine his surprise to hear the tongue of his home country being shouted in the temple courtyard.

The crowd pressed around the disciples to hear what was being said. ((Acts 2:6)) Pilgrims listened closely to single out the voice that spoke their language. Some, who had spent time around Jerusalem, were shocked to see that the men and women appeared to be Galileans. ((Acts 2:7)) They wondered what this could mean. ((Acts 2:8))

Others also recognized the speakers as Galileans. To them, the many foreign languages were only noise disrupting their religious experience. “Those Galileans are certainly hitting the new wine early, ((Acts 2:13))” they said. It felt good to have someone to mock.

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