Fact check failure: BBC recycles story Reuters got wrong

“Spar: To bandy words about in argument; dispute.” (source)

The ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page included an article titled “Who, What, Why: What language would Jesus have spoken?” on May 27th. The article opens: [emphasis added]BBC art language Jesus

“Israel’s prime minister has verbally sparred with the Pope over which language Christ might have spoken. Several languages were used in the places where Jesus lived – so which would he have known, asks Tom de Castella.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Pope Francis appeared to have a momentary disagreement. “Jesus was here, in this land. He spoke Hebrew,” Netanyahu told the Pope at a public meeting in Jerusalem. “Aramaic,” interjected the Pope. “He spoke Aramaic, but he knew Hebrew,” Netanyahu shot back.”

But did Netanyahu and the Pope really ‘spar’ or have a “disagreement” over the issue of Jesus’ language skills? As Yair Rosenberg points out, the media – BBC included – has inflated and distorted what was in fact a few seconds of amicable conversation.

“Yesterday, the press reported a sparring match between Pope Francis and Benjamin Netanyahu that never really transpired. To judge by media reports, the Israeli Prime Minister had a testy exchange with the Supreme Pontiff over whether or not Jesus spoke Hebrew. Reuters broke the story with the headline “Pope, Netanyahu spar over Jesus’ native language.” Using the language of verbal combat, the piece reported the Israeli leader as saying, “Jesus was here, in this land. He spoke Hebrew.” The Pope was said to have “interjected” with a correction: “Aramaic.” To this, Bibi “shot back” that Jesus “spoke Aramaic, but he knew Hebrew.” The Chicago Tribune soon dubbed the incident a “spat,” and by the time it made its way to The Age in Australia, Netanyahu was said to have “publicly bickered” with the Pope, evincing the “sour undertone” of the Catholic leader’s entire visit to Israel. […]

But unfortunately for headline writers hoping to gin up controversy for clicks, there is video of this supposed smackdown, and it shows nothing of the sort.”

The BBC article includes a link to the Reuters report upon which it appears to be based. There too, the words ‘spar’ and ‘shot back’ appear.

Reuters art language

The fact that the BBC joined the ranks of the many media organisations which got this story wrong is entirely attributable to an obvious failure to check the facts before recycling this Reuters piece. 

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4 comments on “Fact check failure: BBC recycles story Reuters got wrong

  1. One thing’s certain – Jesus didn’t speak “Palestinian”, whatever that is…

  2. When the Christians all Christians will realize and understand what “Neten” with Zionist’s ideas want to do, to change the world believes into Zionist ideas.
    The two signs in Nazareth there are other minorities, Christians and Moslem and both are Arab Palestinian the two signs represent Islam, in front a mosque.
    The reporter or whoever posted the signs should point a Christian church and not a Moslem Mosque or even both to proof a point that there are other minority live in “Israel”
    “Neten.” knows that Palestine at that time was ruled by the Roman Impire, which mean that was occupied by a foreign country army; their government language was Roman, and not Hebrew and all Jews spoken Roman. Beside that they were minority and not a majority to make their language is in the top of others.

    • Palestine may have been under Roman rule at the time of Christ, but that was Roman rule, from Rome itself, as an occupying force, not as indigenous population. Jews were most certainly NOT in the minority in the region at that time: they were actually the majority population by far. Therefore most people in the region who weren’t an integral part of the Roman system of rule (i.e not most ordinary people) would have spoken Aramaic or Hebrew at home, and only those Jews who had significant dealings with the persons inmplementing the Roman ruling system would have spoken Latin on a routine basis(FYI, there never was any such language as ‘Roman’). The region was not actually named ‘Palestine’ until the Romans named it such after quelling the Jewish Revolt, which happened AFTER the time of Christ. Priot to that, the south of the region was called JUDEa (you know, JUDE as in ‘Jew’)and the Northern part was called Israel – and was also majority Jewish.
      Learn some History. And if you are going to try to post in English, you’ll need to improve on that, too.

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