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

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Thu Jul 8 00:18:05 EDT 2004

Rabbinic sources from about the 3rd or 4th century, if not earlier, refer to
the "sefer Torah" as one scroll. True, no such scroll was found at Qumran,
but there is one of Genesis and Exodus together. The entire Pentateuch would
have had to be considered one long "book" from the start, otherwise the
Priestly redaction makes no sense - although it may well have been commonly
divided into separate scrolls, just like many Jewish "humashim" (individual
volumes of each book, usually with commentaries) today.

As for literacy, only a small percentage of people in antiquity could read,
and books were very expensive. That's exactly why Judaism, perhaps beginning
with Ezra, developed the practice of public reading of the Torah - to make
it accessible to all.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jack Kilmon" <jkilmon at historian.net>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>; "Christopher V. Kimball"
<kimball at ntplx.net>
Sent: Thursday, July 08, 2004 3:33 AM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Literature and literacy contemporary to the Torah.

> ----- 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
> > 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
> c. BCE and obviously some that had not yet been composed, like Daniel.
> custom of combining the "5 books of Moses" into one scroll of about 150
> came later.  The oldest Torah scrolls date between the 8th and 12th
> centuries.
> >
> > Again focusing on the 5-6 th century BCE, how many people (of a
> > 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
> 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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