Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Robert Stein: Literacy rate in biblical times

William Harris- 5-10% (Ancient Literacy)
Catherine Hezser- 10-15% (Jewish Literacy in Roman Palestine)
Harry Gamble- 15-20% (Books and Readers in the Early Church)
  • Col. 4:16
  • 1 Thess.5:27
  • Rev.1:3; 22:18
  • 1 Tim. 4:13
  • Acts 15:21,31
  • Luke 4:16-21

"These, and the other letters of the New Testament, were meant to be read aloud. If, as I assume, Paul was a careful writer, he would therefore have penned these letters more for his readers' ears than for their eyes"
"... the New Testament writers anticipated that the members of this corporate audience would not have individual copies of their works before them, but that someone would read aloud what they have written... The main sense involved was not their eyes but their ears, and the experience was not a visual one but an auditory one.
"... the person who brought  the gospel to them... knew the context of the work and may very well have practiced reading the gospel aloud before he read it publicly..."
"In this respect it is probable that the bearers of Paul's various letters brought with them, not only the letters themselves, but an understanding of the content of those letters from the Apostle. Thus such messengers would have been able to provide a "commentary" and answer questions that the hearers might have had."

Robert Stein
Is Our Reading the Bible the Same As the Original Audience's Hearing It?
- A Case Study in the Gospel of Mark
 Journal of Evangelical Theological Society (March 2003)

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