Jewish Literacy in Roman Palestine

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Mohr Siebeck, 2001 - Religion - 557 pages
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Since Judaism has always been seen as the quintessential 'religion of the book', a high literacy rate amongst ancient Jews has usually been taken for granted. Catherine Hezser presents the first critical analysis of the various aspects of ancient Jewish literacy on the basis of all of the literary, epigraphic, and papyrological material published so far. Thereby she takes into consideration the analogies in Graeco-Roman culture and models and theories developed in the social sciences. Rather than trying to determine the exact literacy rate amongst ancient Jews, she examines the various types, social contexts, and functions of writing and the relationship between writing and oral forms of discourse. Following recent social-anthropological approaches to literacy, the guiding question is: who used what type of writing for which purpose? First Catherine Hezser examines the conditions which would enable or prevent the spread of literacy, such as education and schools, the availability and costs of writing materials, religious interest in writing and books, the existence of archives and libraries, and the question of multilingualism. Afterwards she looks at the different types of writing, such as letters, documents, miscellaneous notes, inscriptions and graffiti, and literary and magical texts until she finally draws conclusions about the ways in which the various sectors of the populace were able to participate in a literate society.
  

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Contents

Introduction
1
The Conditions for the Development of Literacy
37
The Costs and Distribution of Texts
110
The SocioEconomic Functions of Literacy
169
Religion and Literacy
190
Language Usage
227
The Occurrence of Writing
251
Documents
291
Literary Writing
422
Magical Writing
436
Summary
445
Participation in a Literate Society
449
The Writers of the Texts
474
Degrees and Distribution of Literacy
496
Bibliography
505
Index of Literary References
537

Miscellaneous Notes
331
Inscriptions
356

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About the author (2001)

Catherine Hezser, Born 1960; 1986 Dr. theol. at the University of Heidelberg; 1992 Ph.D. at the Jewish Theological Seminary New York; 1997 Habilitation at the Free University Berlin; Professor of Jewish Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.

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