Dear Kasatkin Fan,
I believe you that "Aramaic was the language of the Hebrews of the day. Biblical Hebrew would have been something akin to the Koine Greek of the GOC today."
This appears to be the most common opinion of Biblical scholars. Namely, that the self-identified Israelites spoke Aramaic, as for example the Talmud was written in Aramaic. But Biblical Hebrew is like Koine Greek of the Greek Orthodox Church, in that Biblical Hebrew was the language in which the Hebrew Scriptures were kept for religious purposes- although they were also recorded in Greek Septuagint form. I assume the synagogues typically tried to use Hebrew as the language of their services as the more traditionalist Rabbinical synagogue services do today. Similarly, Koine Greek is the language of most or much of the New Testament, and also early Church writings. And as I remember, the Greek Orthodox Church actually uses Koine Greek in its liturgy.
You are right that "There is still much scholarly debate about this, with arguments for everything from Hebrew to Aramaic to Greek."
In researching this question, I somewhat remember finding articles that claimed variously that Matthew's Gospel was first written in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. The standard opinion appeared to be that Jesus' sayings were collected in Aramaic by the compositor of Matthew's Gospel. However, I did also find articles, particularly by "Messianic Christian" authors, claiming that the typical common language in the Holy Land in Jesus' time was Hebrew, and that consequently Jesus' sayings were collected in Hebrew by the compositor of Matthew's Gospel.
Finally, I vaguely remember reading that there was another scholarly opinion that the Gospel was actually compiled in Greek, but I am doubtful if it actually was compiled in Greek, because of the similarities between some sayings and Aramaic, as well as the apparent fact that Aramaic was the common language Jesus would've spoken those sayings in. Still, it seems reasonably possible for me at this point to propose that the sayings by Jesus could have been in Aramaic, but that when the sayings were compiled for the gospel they were directly translated into Greek and thus first written down in Greek.
I seriously doubt whether "Papias (and several other early Fathers) definitely believed it was written in Hebrew." On one hand, several important Church fathers consistently specify that it was written in "Hebrew", rather than "Aramaic."
But on the other hand, as I believe you correctly point out: "Taken in its context, the phrase "Eβραίδι διαλέκτw" does not indicate some kind of Hebrew dialect (e.g. Aramaic). "Dialect" is a technical term from the rhetoric schools of the time. It has to do with one's literary style." This is similar to what Wikipedia says, as I quoted in my earlier message on the thread: "(..."Hebrew dialect") is a common construction in Greek and is seen in many different sources and contexts and seems to consistently refer to a style or subset of a language being spoken". Thus, when those Church fathers say it was written in "Hebrew", it does not appear to necessarily mean that it was written in the "Hebrew language", which is what we commonly think of when they hear that something was written "in Hebrew."
Here, when those Church fathers say it was written in the Hebrew dialect, rather than referring to the Hebrew language, as you pointed out it looks like those fathers could mean that it was written in a "Hebrew style" of Aramaic.
I doubt whether "The general consensus is that the Gospel were all written in Greek." By this, I think you mean that the consensus is that "the Gospels were all written in Greek." My impression is that the general consensus is that the three gospels besides Matthew- that is, Luke, Mark, and John- were written in Greek, based on style and that they were handed down in Greek. However, based on the Church fathers' claim that Matthew was compiled in the Hebrew dialect, I believe that the general consensus is that much, if not most, of Matthew was first recorded in Aramaic.
You are right when you say "Certainly there were some Aramaic words thrown into the mix just as Latin or Green words appear in our texts today. Koine Greek was the lingua franca(Latin word) of the Greco-Roman Empire - it was the language of the LXX.
As Gamliel pointed out, in Matthew, "why have you forsaken me?" appears explicitly in Aramaic, so clearly at least some Aramaic words were clearly thrown into the Greek text that was passed down, just as we see Greek or Latin words in the English translations that have been passed down to us. For example, the name "Moses" in the traditional King James Bible is a Greek version of the Hebrew word "Moishe". Similarly, I read that when the KJV was composed based on Latin texts of the Bible, the KJV's translators carried some Latin words into English or created some Latin-based English words from the corresponding Latin terms.
Furthermore, not only was Koine Greek the language of the Septuagint, it was as you said, the mutually shared common language throughout the Roman Empire. Except that I am doubtful whether it was the common language throughout the western Roman Empire, since the Greeks and earlier Greek empires had less contact with and control over the Roman Empire's western half. The Septuagint, I believe, was intentionally written in Greek so that it could be read outside the more limited Hebrew-language circles.
I am not sure how certain it is that "The biblical texts read by Jesus would certainly have been from the Greek LXX." The Greek LXX was quite widespread in Jesus' time and apparently many places in the New Testament are more closely quoted from the LXX than the Hebrew, based in part on the Hebrew Masoretic. On the other hand, the New Testament records that Jesus read from the scriptures in Nazareth's synagogue. My impression is that synagogue readings at that time, as today, used Hebrew language and Hebrew scriptures, as Hebrew was and is considered those scriptures' original language.
Health and Happiness to You.[color]
I am not sure either if Matthew's Gospel was in Aramaic, as it appears the oldest version handed down to us was in Greek, yet the common language Jesus spoke in was in Aramaic and the church fathers said the sayings were collected in the "Hebrew Dialect", which nonetheless it seems could mean just a Hebrew literary or linguistic style. Plus Greek was also a common language at the time, yet some of the passages in Matthew apparently have an Aramaic or Hebrew style to them even though they came down to us in Greek.
So I feel as you do about this when you say "I really don't know if it was originally in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek."
You are right when you say "When Jesus cried out In Matthew, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" ", My God . . ."is in Hebrew, while ". . . why have you forsaken me?" is in Aramaic." I have read this elsewhere in a scholarly article(s) as well. And since we find a mix of languages in this quote, it isn't clear how much of the original collection of writings in Matthew's gospel was in Aramaic or Hebrew, as it makes sense that other parts would also be in both languages based on this mix. For example, it makes sense that other places in Matthew's Gospel where Jesus or his disciples say "My God" may also be in Hebrew, since it is used here.
You asked: "Why are you not considering the possibility that it was written in Greek?"
The reason I was not considering this possibility is because so many of the Church Fathers said it was in the "Hebrew dialect" that for me this meant that either it was in the Hebrew language or a Hebrew dialect of Aramaic, which by my impression is a semitic language like Hebrew. The Church fathers' statement seemed to me to outweigh the possibility it was in Greek, despite the fact that other New Testament books were in Greek.
However, since pensateomnia reminded me that some scholarly opinions are that it was in Greek, it seems to me a small possibility. For example, the term "Hebrew dialect" could mean that it was written in a Hebrew style, even if the language was in Greek, and Greek after all was a widespread language in the eastern Mediterranean at that time. I somewhat remember that chiastic writing structure, which I somewhat remember reading is found in Matthew's Gospel some places, is associated with a Hebrew Biblical writing style.
But in any case, I think that the term "Hebrew dialect" goes beyond just a writing style and means or suggests a subset of a language, just as we today may talk of a Quebec dialect of French, or Macedonian Greek as a Greek dialect. Deciding that it refers to a subset of a language would rule out saying that it was in the "Hebrew language". However, some scholars and translations use the term "Hebrew dialect" to refer to the Hebrew language, as I vaguely remember the KJV translating the term Hebrew dialect this way.
Health, Happiness, and Kind Regards to you, deusveritasest.[color]