Accents

June 18, 2011
by Lori Ciccanti

Matthew 26:71-73 – Then [Peter] went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, "This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth." He denied it again, with an oath: "I don't know the man!" After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away." (NIV)

During the past year, I had the opportunity to talk with one of my fellow PCCWeb Daily devotional writers and dear friend, Parise Arakelian. Being from the west coast, she was shocked the first day I spoke to her via telephone, since she was not expecting to hear what she reckoned — my pronounced northern accent. Contemplating this thought, I wondered about Jesus' accent and the various dialects at that time in history.

Our Lord's hometown of Nazareth was located in the northern part of Israel on an international trade route. During Jesus' day, that area was a multicultural province and the home of a mixed race of people including Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs, Romans, and other groups. The Bible describes this area as "Galilee of the Gentiles" (Isaiah 9:1 NIV). Thus, the foreigners in this district influenced the language of the Jewish people who lived in that vicinity.

An accent is defined as a way of speaking by a particular group of people. But often, the Galileans were looked down upon for not speaking appropriate Aramaic or Hebrew. Northerners pronounced certain words with a broader, harsher accent than their Jewish neighbours in the south. One commentary describes it as being like "slipshod speech". This new insight into the language and culture of Nazareth and the surrounding region brought to mind Nathanael's words in John 1:46 – "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" (NIV)

After Jesus' arrest, though Peter denied knowing Christ, he could not, however, deny that he was a Galilean, because his accent gave him away. It has been said that even when people try to cover up or disguise their origin, usually in a matter of time, fellow countrymen will recognize where they are from. But more importantly, in a spiritual sense, the Scripture teaches this basic principle: sooner or later our speech will betray us. One of the best examples comes from Jesus' own words: "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34b NIV)

Therefore, consider this food for thought: Next time the topic of religion comes up in everyday conversation, what will our audience observe? Will they first notice that we are from a particular group or denomination — or will they recognize that we have been with the Lord?

Prayer: Dear God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for the ministry of our Saviour rendered during His lifetime in the land of His birth. Allow our speech to reflect His in all situations. Keep our conversations seasoned with salt, always full of grace. Together, may our voices be in agreement with Christ, giving honour to You. In Jesus' precious name, we pray. Amen.

About the author:

Lori Ciccanti <dlalsina@mchsi.com>
Ocean View, Delaware, USA

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