A language belonging to the Indo-European family and the parent of the Romance languages, namely, Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Romanian. The last half of the second century C.E. saw a move on the part of the religious powers of Rome to have Latin replace Greek as the language of the Roman bishopric. Among the results of this was the production of the Latin Vulgate, by Jerome of the fourth and fifth centuries C.E., second only to the Greek Septuagint as a noted ancient Bible translation.
Latin was the language of Imperial Rome and hence, when Jesus Christ was on earth, it was the official language of Palestine, though not the popular language of the people. It is therefore not surprising to find some Latinisms in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The word “Latin” itself occurs but once in the Bible, at John 19:20, where we are told that the inscription placed above Jesus on the torture stake was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.
Latin in the Christian Greek Scriptures occurs in various forms. They contain over 40 proper Latin names of persons and places, such as Aquila, Luke, Mark, Paul, Caesarea, and Tiberias. In this part of the Bible are found Greek equivalents of some 30 Latin words of military, judicial, monetary, and domestic nature, such as centurio (Mr 15:39, army officer), denarius (Mt 20:2), and speculator (Mr 6:27, body guardsman). Certain Latin expressions or idioms also occur, such as “wishing to satisfy the crowd” (Mr 15:15) and “taking sufficient security.” (Ac 17:9) The syntax, or pattern of phrases and sentences, sometimes suggests Latin influence. However, the amount of this is disputed by various scholars.
Latinisms are found mostly in Mark and Matthew, Mark having used them more than any other Bible writer. This lends credence to the belief that he wrote his Gospel in Rome and mainly for Gentiles, particularly the Romans. Paul made little use of Latinisms; none occur in the Greek Septuagint.
The appearance of Latinisms in the Scriptures is of more than academic interest to Bible lovers. It is in keeping with what the Bible shows about Palestine’s being occupied by Rome when Jesus Christ was on earth. Further, the use of these Latinisms by the best secular Greek writers of the same period argues that the Christian Scriptures were indeed produced during the times about which they tell. This fact, therefore, further testifies to the authenticity of the Christian Greek Scriptures.