Jesus' Literacy

Jesus' Literacy : Scribal Culture and the Teacher from Galilee

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Jesus' Literacy: Education and the Teacher from Galilee provides the first book-length treatment of the literate status of the Historical Jesus Despite many scholars' assumptions that Jesus was an illiterate peasant or, conversely, even a Pharisee none have critically engaged the evidence to ask 'Could Jesus read or write?' Some studies have attempted to provide a direct answer to the question using the limited primary evidence that exists. However, these previous attempts have not been sufficiently sensitive to the literary environment of Second Temple Judaism, an area that has seen significant scholarly progression in the last ten to fifteen years. They have provided unnuanced classifications of Jesus as either 'literate' or 'illiterate' rather than observing that literacy at this time did not fall into such monolithic categories. An additional contribution of this work will is in the area of criteria of authenticity in Historical Jesus studies. Emphasizing plausibility and the later effects of the Historical Jesus Chris L. Keith argues that the most plausible explanation for why the early Church remembered Jesus simultaneously as a literate Jewish teacher and an illiterate Jewish teacher was that he was able to convince his contemporaries of both realities.

Formerly the Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement, a book series that explores the many aspects of New Testament study including historical perspectives, social-scientific and literary theory, and theological, cultural and contextual approaches. The Early Christianity in Context series, a part of JSNTS, examines the birth and development of early Christianity up to the end of the third century CE. The series places Christianity in its social, cultural, political and economic context. European Seminar on Christian Origins and Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus Supplement are also part of JSNTS.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 240 pages
  • 155.96 x 233.93 x 12.95mm | 345g
  • T.& T.Clark Ltd
  • Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Reprint
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0567533972
  • 9780567533975
  • 677,954

Table of contents

Foreword Dale C. Allison, Jr.
Introduction: Jesus, Reading and Writing
1: Jesuses Literate and Illiterate
2: Jesus Tradition, Memory, and What Really Happened
3: Scribal Culture in the Time of Jesus
4: Jesus' Scribal -Literate Status in Early Christianity
5: Jesus and Scribal Literacy
Concluding Remarks: the Controversy of Jesus the Teacher
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Review quote

Keith's work presents the most innovative approach to the question of Jesus' literacy to date. Jesus' Literacy is well-researched and its arguments are persuasive, moving forward significantly the scholarly discussion of Jesus' scribal-literate status. It is highly recommended, if not indispensable, for New Testament scholars and theologians involved in research on the historical Jesus. * The Biblical Annals * `Chris Keith's work on the question of Jesus' literacy charts new territory in historical Jesus studies. Keith makes two important contributions to the ongoing exploration of Jesus' life - he demonstrates the strengths of an emerging methodology in Gospel studies, what he identifies as the `Jesus-memory approach', as well as nuances the category of literacy to better reflect the historical situation in first century Galilee and Judea. His even-handed critique of the criteria of authenticity and his careful examination of the various levels of reading and writing abilities evidenced in the ancient sources further support his case. Jesus' Literacy: Scribal Culture and the Teacher from Galilee opens compelling vistas in the study of Jesus and the Gospels; his compelling arguments deserve careful attention.' - Lynn H. Cohick, PhD, Associate Professor, New Testament Biblical and Theological Studies Dept. Wheaton College, IL, USA. -- Lynn H. Cohick `The traditions about Jesus often remember him as having quoted, alluded to, and rewritten the law and the prophets. But if he did such things, how did he learn to do so? Everybody agrees that Jesus was a teacher, but what sort was he-an uneducated text-broker or a scribally-educated text-broker? Keith's work is the first book-length treatment of the topic. Happily, it is first-rate. Indeed, all subsequent discussions will inevitably take their bearings from Jesus' Literacy. The work is comprehensive, well-informed, and well-argued, and time and time again it reveals that almost everybody who has addressed the pertinent issues has come to premature conclusions.' - Dale C. Allison, Jr., Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, USA. -- Dale C. Allison, Jr. `Chris Keith offers scholars the learned study of the literacy of Jesus that has been much needed. For too long scholars have made assumptions about the literacy or illiteracy of Jesus and his followers. Offering a critical analysis of all of the relevant data Keith's impressive book sheds a great deal of light on this important topic. I recommend it enthusiastically.' - Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College, Nova Scotia, Canada -- Craig A. Evans Summarized. * New Testament Abstracts * [Keith's] study [is] impressive in both its precise exegetical analyses and compelling argumentation. * Theologische Literatrzeitung *
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About Chris Keith

Chris Keith is Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity and Director of the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible at St. Mary's University College, Twickenham, UK. He is the author of The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus, a winner of the 2010 John Templeton Award for Theological Promise, and Jesus' Literacy: Scribal Culture and the Teacher from Galilee. He is also the co-editor of Jesus among Friends and Enemies: A Historical and Literary Introduction to Jesus in the Gospels, and was recently named a 2012 Society of Biblical Literature Regional Scholar.
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