Another American New Testament scholar who has challenged that notion of an Aramaic-teaching Jesus is Robert W. Funk of Sonoma, Calif., organizer of the nationwide Jesus Seminar voting on the authenticity of Gospel sayings.
"I have argued that there is good evidence that the Jesus tradition took shape in Greek and not in Aramaic," Funk said. "Aphorisms and parables were designed for the ear, not the eye. If that's the case, then on the basis of sound patterns and alliterations we have to say the tradition took place in Greek."
Proponents of an exclusively Aramaic-speaking Jesus have cited as evidence a number of sayings that contain Semitic expressions.
But both Funk and Claremont's Burton Mack said that is probably the consequence of being bilingual. "It's a universal phenomenon to mix things up a bit, to use a turn of phrase in another language," Mack said.
Mack contended that scholarly resistance to seeing Jesus primarily as a wisdom teacher may be derived from the desire to see Jesus as a Jewish reformer.
The resistance to Jesus as a Hellenistic-influenced sage might also be reinforced, Mack said, by the current Jewish-Christian dialogues in which Christian participants tend to emphasize the Jewishness of Jesus over other aspects emerging from literary and archeological studies.