To: Mike [Grondin],
The statement 5-10% is the generally
accepted estimate among both historical and religious scholars. To name a few, in addition to
a direct seminar of Walt Russel, Phd (Biola University) I have heard it lately
from at least�four University Professors in video presentations from the
Teaching Company. One Professor, Luke Timothy Johnson, Phd is from Emory
University while the another is from Eastern University. A third, Kenneth W. Hart is more
of a history Professor as ia a fourth, �William R Cook. These are just a few of the
sources I have read or heard. All these Professors make the point that the text was
dictated orally to a scribe and then read to the audience.
It is true that highly educated Greeks read
Plato, Aristotle, Homer and the Gilgamesh epic while highly educated Jews read
the Jewish Scriptures but this was a very small percentage of the population.
It is very unlikely that any of the 12 Apostles, or Jesus was literate in the
sense we have today, save possibly Matthew. In fact the Pharisees were amazed at
Jesus’ command of the Scripture because he was not “learnered”. Paul was
literate but still used a scribe and Luke was probably literate. Among most Jews,
literacy was limited to reading a verse or two of the Scripture. The ability to
sit down and study a text as we do today was limited by both the ability and the availability of the text.
The answer to one question you ask nay be
interesting. “What interest is there in capturing what the early
Christians received even if that were possible?” I will send you directly a
couple of PDF articles on this subject that you can choose to post or otherwise
share if you wish.
In summary, there are three methods of interpretation.
1-Historical, Author Centered
The secret of the historical, author centered
approach is to capture the original purpose of the author of the text. The
historical part is understanding the historical setting at the time it was
written and the people it was written to. The analysis is top down meaning one
must discover the overall purpose before drilling down to specific passages.
Another consideration is genre. What is the genre of the text. For example, one
would interpret poetry different from a historical narrative.
In the case of GT, there is a dispute about who
wrote it, where and when. If the text was written relatively early in Judah we
know both the historical setting and the culture of the audience. OTOH, if it
was written outside Judah, there is the different culture of a mixed Jewish-Greek
nature. If it was written around the turn of the century, both the historical
setting, culture and audience has changed dramatically. Finally, if it was
written in the early-mid second century the culture was largely Greek. Note
that in each of these time periods the likely author has changed.
In the historical-author centered method the challenge
of GT is to determine the purpose of the author. This analysis will change
depending on the period postulated for GT’s writing. We assume that the text
was used within the historical context, received by the audience in the culture
of the time and responded to based on the cultural attitudes of the hearers.
It, therefore, seems reasonable to interpret the
text as it would have been understood within each cultural-historical setting
in order to determine what we can about the author’s purpose.
From: Mike Grondin
Sent: Sunday, December 30, 2012 10:20 PM
Subject: Re: [GTh] Re: Xmas Season Greetings
> My understand [sic] is that the population was 5-10% literate
What population? My understanding is that the literacy rate in Judaea
(and among diaspora Jews, hence among Jewish Christians) was
> ... and virtually everything was presented orally. Except for
>�most writings were memory/study aids.
I doubt it. There were letters, for example. To say nothing of the
of Plato and Aristotle, e.g.. Do you have any examples of memory
>�In [sic] was not till the mid-second century that NT books
>�analysized [sic]�as we do so now.
That kind of analysis isn't much like what we do today.
> Multiple works assert that all NT writings should be
>�a trained orator, in order to capture how the early Christians
What are some of these "multiple works"�that assert that NT
should be listened to (in the original language?)? And what interest is
there in "captur[ing] how the early Christians actually received them",
even if that were possible? Actually, we do know some of that, from
the interpretive material added by the evangelists in their gospels. But
of course they weren't illiterate, so by your standards they weren't
representative. Then again, who can be, unless they're illiterate,
speaking, and live in the first century?