In John 12:20–22 certain Greeks at the Passover festival request an audience with Jesus, a request made indirectly through Philip and Andrew. These disciples may have served not only as the brokers of this meeting but also as translators. Roman Palestine was multilingual, but a particular individual’s bilingual facility varied widely depending on the chronological period, locality, urban versus rural settings, educational level, commerce, cultural influences, and individual aptitude and need. Our linguistic knowledge about individuals is modest, but there is enough evidence reasonably to conjecture that Philip and Andrew had a greater ability to speak Greek than Jesus. Their names, hometowns, and other details are suggestive of this difference. In addition, recent research in bilingualism and the role of translators in antiquity has increased our understanding of first-century language barriers and the ways that they were overcome. All of this suggests that Philip and Andrew may have translated for Jesus at the Passover festival.


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pp. 145-174
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