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On the Probability of Literacy

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  • Mike Grondin
    I want here to add a few remarks of a general nature to my comments on Tom Reynold s apparent assumption that the authors of GThom were unlikely to have been
    Message 1 of 10 , Aug 22, 2013
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      I want here to add a few remarks of a general nature to my comments on
      Tom Reynold's apparent assumption that the authors of GThom were
      unlikely to have been able to read GJn. (I'm assuming that that is his claim,
      not that it's unlikely that they had access to the text of GJn.)
       
      It may seem patently obvious that if the majority of a given population
      fails to have property P, then it's more likely than not that a specific
      individual within that population fails to have P. This is true, however,
      only if the individual is randomly selected. If not, then the individual
      (or group) selected may fall into a sub-population wherein P is common.
       
      Here's what I mean: Given that most of the world doesn't know beans about
      physics, it follows that an individual randomly selected doesn't know beans
      about physics. But it doesn't follow, of course, that an individual selected
      from the faculty of the physics department at MIT doesn't know beans about
      physics (altho in the odd case, that may be true :-). Similarly, even if most of
      the population of the Mediterranean area in the first centuries CE couldn't read,
      it doesn't follow that a scribe was unlikely to be able to read. Scribes were
      obviously an exception to the general rule. A general rule can't be extended
      willy-nilly to just any individual or group at all. We have to consider whether
      that individual/group might be an exception.
       
      The bottom-line is this: it seems to me that the folks involved in the writing of
      books in the period in question (or any time, I suppose) were (are) more likely
      to be able to read than not.
       
      Mike Grondin
    • Tom Reynolds
      Mike-   My view is that it is more complicated than that. Estimates of literacy range between 2-4% to 5-10% mostly concentrated in the upper classes. The
      Message 2 of 10 , Aug 22, 2013
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        Mike-
        My view is that it is more complicated than that. Estimates of literacy range between 2-4%�to 5-10% mostly concentrated in the upper classes. The upper classes typically read in attic Greek and considered koine Greek beneath them. (Source: Fall of the Pagans and the Origins of Medieval Christianity, Professor Kenneth W. Harl, Yale, Tulane.) That makes the population of individuals very small that read and wrote in koine Greek. The group was mostly composed of scribes that transcribed financial transactions for the common folk.
        If we add to that the need for an individual to actually possess a copy of GTh (rare and expensive) in order to study the text as we do today, the popuation is smaller still. Finally, even if an individual had the means and education to do so, the cultural norm was reading aloud. (Source: Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, Malina, Bruce, Rohrbaugh, Richard L)
        Therefore, you are correct that an author is more likely to be able to read even if, like Paul, he used a scribe, but the probably is still low.
        When comparing the above with an obvious alternate, that the author was influenced by Marcion (who I incorrectly labeled a gnostic) seems much more likely.
        Regards,
        Tom Reynolds
      • Jack Kilmon
        Literacy estimates for the ancient world discuss two categories, the literate and the illiterate. They often omit a large group of the population that was
        Message 3 of 10 , Aug 22, 2013
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          Literacy estimates for the ancient world discuss two categories, the literate and the illiterate.  They often omit a large group of the population that was “quasi-literate.”  I became aware of this group while studying ossuarial and graffiti epigraphy.  Modern literate researchers have an a priori impression that a literate scribe wrote everything that was written and then debate over a word or phrase that sometimes is just poor spelling and orthography. Sometimes I wonder if modern literates really understand the ancient oral societies.
           
          Regards,
          Jack kilmon
           
          Sent: Thursday, August 22, 2013 6:31 PM
          Subject: Re: [GTh] On the Probability of Literacy
           


          Mike-
          My view is that it is more complicated than that. Estimates of literacy range between 2-4%�to 5-10% mostly concentrated in the upper classes. The upper classes typically read in attic Greek and considered koine Greek beneath them. (Source: Fall of the Pagans and the Origins of Medieval Christianity, Professor Kenneth W. Harl, Yale, Tulane.) That makes the population of individuals very small that read and wrote in koine Greek. The group was mostly composed of scribes that transcribed financial transactions for the common folk.
          If we add to that the need for an individual to actually possess a copy of GTh (rare and expensive) in order to study the text as we do today, the popuation is smaller still. Finally, even if an individual had the means and education to do so, the cultural norm was reading aloud. (Source: Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, Malina, Bruce, Rohrbaugh, Richard L)
          Therefore, you are correct that an author is more likely to be able to read even if, like Paul, he used a scribe, but the probably is still low.
          When comparing the above with an obvious alternate, that the author was influenced by Marcion (who I incorrectly labeled a gnostic) seems much more likely.
          Regards,
          Tom Reynolds
        • Tom Reynolds
          A couple of my Professors argued that modern literates absolutely do NOT understand the ancient oral societies. This was a hermeneutics class so it applied
          Message 4 of 10 , Aug 23, 2013
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            A couple of my Professors argued that modern literates absolutely�do�NOT�understand the ancient oral societies. This was a hermeneutics class so it applied to everyone, not just a specific group such as linguists, and extended well beyond single words or phrases to�our basic intrepretation of a section.
            One Professor showed up in huge green glasses. The glasses, he explained, were our cultural lens, a lens we needed to remove to understand ancient texts. He pointed me to an author who writes social science commentaries on the NT. The commentaries explain how the hearer of a story in the original culture would react. The explanations completely turned around traditional intrepretations of common sections, the Good Samaritan for example.
            Another Professor completely exploded some of the old saws of Christianity, "the Church grew on the blood of the martyrs" for example, by explaining how life really was back then. The Professor made much of the upper classes distain for koine greek and argued that Christian writings had little effect on the upper class until a much later writer (I forgot who) wrote in attic Greek in the proper form.
            Interestingly, in my ministry, I no longer read from the Scripture. I paraphrase it. For example I was comparing the reactions of Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. If I tried to read the two chapters orally, the congregation would fall asleep. There is a reason why the Preacher intones "Open your Bible to ......".�� We are so far removed from a oral society we can't even grasp a couple of chapters read orally.

            [Tom Reynolds]


            From: Jack Kilmon
            To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
            Sent: Thursday, August 22, 2013 11:09 PM
            Subject: Re: [GTh] On the Probability of Literacy
            Literacy estimates for the ancient world discuss two categories, the literate and the illiterate.� They often omit a large group of the population that was “quasi-literate.”� I became aware of this group while studying ossuarial and graffiti epigraphy.� Modern literate researchers have an a priori impression that a literate scribe wrote everything that was written and then debate over a word or phrase that sometimes is just poor spelling and orthography. Sometimes I wonder if modern literates really understand the ancient oral societies.
            Regards,
            Jack kilmon
          • Jack Kilmon
            It has always been my position, since I was 10, that proper text critical analysis of the Greek NT...and even the Greek-to-Coptic GoT...cannot be accomplished
            Message 5 of 10 , Aug 23, 2013
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              It has always been my position, since I was 10, that proper text critical analysis of the Greek NT...and even the Greek-to-Coptic GoT...cannot be accomplished in an Aramaic vacuum.  Any words of Jesus/Yeshua in Greek or Coptic must be studied first in Aramaic.  Judean Aramaic was the language of the everyday folks to whom Jesus directed his speeches.  He was a skilled speaker who fashioned his phrases and aphorisms for an oral society, hence laced with mnemonics such as rhyme and meter, paronomasia, alliteration so that the ear witnesses could go home and repeat. This is a skill that we today know nothing of.  I agree with you that knowing as much as possible about the cultural and social anthropology and how it affected the idiom is important for interpretation. An example:
              When a young Jewish male had been taught all he could learn from father or a Beyt Sefer and went with a master teacher, a rabban, his parents were set aside in favor of the teacher.  The teacher became the talmids father.  There is a mistranslation in Luke 14:26 and in the Coptic GoT as a result of this.
               
              This will go on a bit but describing the relationship between teacher and student is important to understanding the historical Jesus and the text.
               
              Εἴ τις ἔρχεται πρός με καὶ οὐ μισεῖ τὸν πατέρα ἑαυτοῦ καὶ τὴν μητέρα καὶ τὴν γυναῖκα καὶ τὰ τέκνα καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ τὰς ἀδελφάς ἔτι δέ καὶ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ψυχὴν οὐ δύναται μου μαθητής εἶναί
              EI TIS ERXETAI PROS ME KAI OU MISEI TON PATERA
              If someone comes to me and does not hate the father
              EAUTOU KAI THN MHTERA KAI THN GUNAIKA KAI
              of himself and the mother and the wife and
              TA TEKNA KAI TOUS ADELFOS KAI TAS ADELFAS
              the children and the brothers and the sisters
              ETI TE KAI THN YUXHN EAUTOU OU DUNATAI
              and in-addition also the life of himslef he is not able
              EINAI MOU MAQHTHS
              to be ny disciple

              The Aramaic would be:
              מן דאתא לותי ולא סנא לאבוהי ולאמה ולאחוהי ולאחותה ולאנתתה ולבנוהי ואף לנפשׁה תלמידא לא משׁכח דנהוא לי׃

              MAN DATE L'WATE W'LA SANE L'ABUHY
              Whoever comes to me and does not set aside his father
              W'L'IMMEH W'LATT-TEH
              and his mother and the wife
              W'LABNAWHY W'L'AXAWHY W'L'AXWATEH
              and the children and the brothers and the sisters
              WAP L'NAPSHEH TALMIDA LA MISHKAX DIHWE LY
              even his own life disciple not of mine can he be

              Immediately apparent is the couplet parallelism that so often is a high mark of "Jesus stuff" which I attribute to mnemonic devices for oral transmission. Bultmann attributes this as an "I" saying (History of the Synoptic Tradition 163 also in James Dunn and Scott McKnight, "The Historical Jesus in Recent Research" Sources for Biblical and Theological Study Vol 10) from the primitive Jerusalem group and its Aramaic origin is discussed by Jeremias,"Die Sprache der Lukasevangeliums 1986, Denney, ExpTim 21(1909-1910) and T. W. Manson "The Teachings of Jesus" Cambridge U.P 1955 237 and, of course, there is an enormous corpus of books on the Aramaic of Jesus. Another aspect for me, not only the Aramaic prose parallelism but the biographical confirmation from Mark 6:3. Jesus is referring to his own family as an example but did he really use the expression "hate?" It does not make sense from a Torah observant teacher.

              Lets look at the treatment of this Q source saying by Matthew 10:37 "He that loves father or mother MORE than me...." Was this a Matthean redaction of the Aramaic source or was Luke's a Lukan Redaction? This requires that we look closer at the Aramaic word "sana" in the Aramaic version above. Sana could indeed be translated into Greek as "hate."

              I have often pointed out that Aramaic words had multiple meanings. This has been the cause of a number of Greek variants on translations between text types...variants that will distill to one on back-translation. The Aramaic word sana means "hate" or "stand up straight' or "put out a light" or "threshing floor" or "set to one's side." (Errico "Let There be Light" 1985). It has been used also in the LXX and Targums for "love less." "To set aside" one's family also conforms with Jesus' remark at Matthew 12:50. Matthew, therefore, redacted his source as mentioned above.

              Aramaic lacks comparatives so "more than" or "less than" can be "first" and "last." The Hebrew cognate for the Aramaic sana is "shana" and is used in much the same way as you will see in Deuteronomy 21:15-17 and Malachi 1:2-3.

              Similarly the Talmud enjoins students to have more affection for their teachers than their fathers...." his teacher has priority, for his father brought him into this world, but his teacher, who has taught him wisdom, brings him into the world to come."  The correct translation of Luke 14:26 should have been “whoever.....does not SET ASIDE father and mother, etc.”  GThomas Logion #55 is a good exemplar when discussing source criticism.  The word "hate" (coptic MESTE) is a translational transmitted Aramaism of mistranslation from the Greek source for Thomas.  It is, in fact, one of the proofs that the Coptic Nag Hammadi version of GoT is a translation from a Greek document used by both Luke and Matthew.
               
              Did I go on too much?
              Jack Kilmon 
               
              Sent: Friday, August 23, 2013 11:16 AM
              Subject: Re: [GTh] On the Probability of Literacy
               


              A couple of my Professors argued that modern literates absolutely�do�NOT�understand the ancient oral societies. This was a hermeneutics class so it applied to everyone, not just a specific group such as linguists, and extended well beyond single words or phrases to�our basic intrepretation of a section.
              One Professor showed up in huge green glasses. The glasses, he explained, were our cultural lens, a lens we needed to remove to understand ancient texts. He pointed me to an author who writes social science commentaries on the NT. The commentaries explain how the hearer of a story in the original culture would react. The explanations completely turned around traditional intrepretations of common sections, the Good Samaritan for example.
              Another Professor completely exploded some of the old saws of Christianity, "the Church grew on the blood of the martyrs" for example, by explaining how life really was back then. The Professor made much of the upper classes distain for koine greek and argued that Christian writings had little effect on the upper class until a much later writer (I forgot who) wrote in attic Greek in the proper form.
              Interestingly, in my ministry, I no longer read from the Scripture. I paraphrase it. For example I was comparing the reactions of Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. If I tried to read the two chapters orally, the congregation would fall asleep. There is a reason why the Preacher intones "Open your Bible to ......".�� We are so far removed from a oral society we can't even grasp a couple of chapters read orally.

              [Tom Reynolds]

               
              From: Jack Kilmon
              To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Thursday, August 22, 2013 11:09 PM
              Subject: Re: [GTh] On the Probability of Literacy
              Literacy estimates for the ancient world discuss two categories, the literate and the illiterate.� They often omit a large group of the population that was “quasi-literate.”� I became aware of this group while studying ossuarial and graffiti epigraphy.� Modern literate researchers have an a priori impression that a literate scribe wrote everything that was written and then debate over a word or phrase that sometimes is just poor spelling and orthography. Sometimes I wonder if modern literates really understand the ancient oral societies.
              Regards,
              Jack kilmon
            • Tom Reynolds
              Did I go on too much?   Not to me. It was quite an experience for me to understand various sections in light of the cultue and remember how so many
              Message 6 of 10 , Aug 23, 2013
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                "Did I go on too much?"
                 
                Not to me. It was quite an experience for me to understand various sections in light of the cultue and remember how so many Ministers, including, misunderstood what was being said. I think you should write a commentary  from an aramaic perspective on a single book.
                 
                Tom

                   
              • Mike Grondin
                Although the general picture of literacy in the time and place we discuss here may be as bleak as the top-down view of Malina, et al, suggests, there were
                Message 7 of 10 , Aug 24, 2013
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                  Although the general picture of literacy in the time and place we discuss here
                  may be as bleak as the top-down view of Malina, et al, suggests, there were
                  certainly centers or clusters of learning that such a view slights. A bottom-up
                  approach would focus on the reality of such loci as the rabinnical schools, the
                  Library at Alexandria, the monasteries along the Nile, inter alia. We know
                  that the latter, for example, had copies of the NT. Whether those copies were
                  expensive or not, they were obtained. The very monasteries, then, in close
                  proximity to the Nag Hammadi find were centers for study of the NT. Such
                  facts cannot be erased by a view which is wrongly interpreted to imply that
                  they're unlikely.
                   
                  Mike Grondin
                • Tom Reynolds
                  Jack-   Is this translation any good for somebody not an expert in Aramaic or Greek?   The Peshitta Aramaic-English New Testament- an Interlinear Translation
                  Message 8 of 10 , Aug 24, 2013
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                    Jack-
                     
                    Is this translation any good for somebody not an expert in Aramaic or Greek?
                     
                    The Peshitta Aramaic-English New Testament- an Interlinear Translation (6th edition)
                     
                    Regards,
                     
                    Tom

                      
                  • Jack Kilmon
                    It gets sticky, Tom. The Peshitta is a translation of the Greek New Testament into Syriac which is a late Eastern dialect while the dialect spoken by
                    Message 9 of 10 , Aug 24, 2013
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                      It gets sticky, Tom. The Peshitta is a translation of the Greek New Testament into Syriac which is a late Eastern dialect while the dialect spoken by Jesus/Yeshua was Middle Western (Judean Aramaic). The Peshitta, therefore, is going to translate the same as the Greek NT.  Thomas is even more challenging for the Vox Iesu because it went from Judean Aramaic to Greek to possibly Syriac and then to Coptic.  I have sometimes been at odds with the philosophy of TC where the “doctrine” is to stick with the Greek manuscripts that are extant....at least for the sayings and aphorisms of Jesus. They left his lips in Aramaic, not Greek.  Aramaic is a very idiomatic language that has multiple meanings for a word. The Greek into which they were translated has different words for one meaning.  As a result there are Greek variants which is the bread and butter of the text critic.  Often these variants will distill to ONE word when back translated to Aramaic. For most purposes, the Nestle-Aland interlinear NA28 reflects the up to date hard work of TC.
                      Best,
                      Jack
                       
                      Sent: Saturday, August 24, 2013 4:53 PM
                      Subject: Re: [GTh] On the Probability of Literacy
                       


                      Jack-
                       
                      Is this translation any good for somebody not an expert in Aramaic or Greek?
                       
                      The Peshitta Aramaic-English New Testament- an Interlinear Translation (6th edition)
                       
                      Regards,
                       
                      Tom
                       
                       
                    • Scott Rhodes
                      Hi Mike Just to let you know, I am getting these posts ok through the yahoo list. I have received both the original posts and your re-postings. As far as I can
                      Message 10 of 10 , Aug 25, 2013
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                        Hi Mike
                        Just to let you know, I am getting these posts ok through the yahoo list. I have received both the original posts and your re-postings. 

                        As far as I can tell I've not missed any thing in the thread and don't see anything new in the "original message" clips at the bottom of each post.

                        Scott


                        On Aug 25, 2013, at 1:46 PM, "Mike Grondin" <mwgrondin@...> wrote:

                         

                        (Here is the last of four notes that were posted to our website Friday, but apparently
                        not sent out via email, due to an apparent technical glitch at Yahoogroups. - MWG)
                        ---------------------------------------------
                         
                        ----- Original Message -----
                        Sent: Friday, August 23, 2013 10:16 PM
                        Subject: Re: [GTh] On the Probability of Literacy

                        "Did I go on too much?"
                         
                        Not to me. It was quite an experience for me to understand various sections in light of the cultue and remember how so many Ministers, including, misunderstood what was being said. I think you should write a commentary  from an aramaic perspective on a single book.
                         
                        Tom

                           

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