[b-hebrew] Literature and literacy contemporary to the Torah.

Jack Kilmon jkilmon at historian.net
Wed Jul 7 21:33:27 EDT 2004

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Christopher V. Kimball" <kimball at ntplx.net>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>; "Christopher V. Kimball"
<kimball at ntplx.net>
Sent: Wednesday, July 07, 2004 7:13 PM
Subject: [b-hebrew] Literature and literacy contemporary to the Torah.

> Taking the Torah as a 5-6 th century BCE document, what other documents OF
> COMPARABLE LENGTH, in any language, of this period are available?

Each book, Bereshyt, Shmot, Vayikra, Ba-Midbar, Devarym were separate
scrolls.  Each of the Nabiym and Ketuvim were separate scrolls in the 6-5th
c. BCE and obviously some that had not yet been composed, like Daniel.  The
custom of combining the "5 books of Moses" into one scroll of about 150 feet
came later.  The oldest Torah scrolls date between the 8th and 12th

> Again focusing on the 5-6 th century BCE, how many people (of a population
> of how many) could read the Torah, if they had a copy?
> Chris Kimball

About 3% according to:

Bar-Ilan, M., 'From Scroll to Codex and its Effect on Reading the Torah',
Sinai, 107 (1991), pp. 242-254 (Hebrew).
Bar-Ilan, M., 'Illiteracy in the Land of Israel in the First Centuries
C.E.', S. Fishbane, S. Schoenfeld and A. Goldschlaeger (eds.), Essays in the
Social Scientific Study of Judaism and Jewish Society, II, New York: Ktav,
1992, pp. 46-61. http://faculty.biu.ac.il/~barilm/illitera.html
Bar-Ilan, M., 'The Literate Woman in Antiquity', a chapter in the book by:
idem. Some Jewish Women in Antiquity, Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press (Brown
Judaic Studies 317), 1998 (Abstract).

Jack Kilmon

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