Social Settings of Literacy and Scribal Orality

Martin S. Jaffee

in Torah in the Mouth

Published in print May 2001 | ISBN: 9780195140675
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834334 | DOI:
 Social Settings of Literacy and Scribal Orality

Show Summary Details


Explores the role of orality and oral‐performative tradition in the written literary activities of various scribal communities in Second Temple Judaism. It points out that true literacy was rare among Jews in this period, and was confined to various professional scribal groups associated with the Temple and its governing agencies. Even among scribal groups who created literary works, writing and literary transmission was highly oral in character. Nevertheless, these groups did not radically distinguish oral tradition from the written tradition of books claimed to stem from prophetic revelations. Rather, books were seen to stem from a kind of oral dictation from God to the prophet, as in the Testament of Levi and 4 Ezra, who functioned as a kind of scribe in transmitting the words of a divine or angelic author.

Keywords: 4 Ezra; literacy; oral tradition; orality; prophetic revelations; scribal groups; Second Temple Judaism; Testament of Levi

Chapter.  6928 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.