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Recognizing Greek Literacy in Early Roman Documents from the Judaean Desert

Charlesworth, Scott D. (2014) Recognizing Greek Literacy in Early Roman Documents from the Judaean Desert. Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists, 51. pp. 161-189. ISSN 0003-1186


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It is not possible to quantify Greek literacy in early Roman Palestine by counting and comparing the number of Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek documents found in the Judaean desert. The three second-century archives of Babatha, Salome Komaise, and Bar Kokhba probably derive from a similar socio-economic level, and most of the documents they contain were written by scribes. What about individual Greek literacy and bilingualism? Someone who could understand, speak, read, and write a second language and someone who could only understand and speak it were both bilingual, but only one was literate. First-century texts from Masada written in Aramaic, Greek, and Hebrew were produced and used for the same purposes, implying that two or indeed three languages were spoken by many and read by some. Some witnesses in the second-century archives signed their names in Greek with practised hands. Some or even many who lacked literacy probably could understand and speak Greek. Law courts, dealings with Romans, and business activities required communication in Greek. But it seems that few or only some acquired Greek literacy.

Item Type: Published Articles
Additional Information: The article is freely available at http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.0599796.0051.001:13
Repository Version: Published Version
Keywords: Greek, literacy, Judaean Desert, papyrology, papyri, early Roman
Fields of Research: 21 History and Archaeology > 2103 Historical Studies > 210306 Classical Greek and Roman History
21 History and Archaeology > 2103 Historical Studies > 210399 Historical Studies not elsewhere classified
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2204 Religion and Religious Studies > 220404 Jewish Studies
Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950599 Understanding Past Societies not elsewhere classified
E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology
Type of Activity: Pure Basic Research
Subjects: A - Humanities, general
A - Languages
B - New Testament
College/Association with University of Divinity: Trinity College Theological School
Depositing User: Dr Scott Charlesworth
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2016 04:46
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2019 03:53
URI: http://repository.divinity.edu.au/id/eprint/2016

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