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Writing in Ancient Israel and Early Judaism

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores the art of writing, its adoption and its diffusion in the biblical period, and how it impinged on education and shaped religious beliefs and institutions in ancient Israel. It illuminates the social status, literary activity and realia of the Jewish scribes, the bearers of the biblical tradition in late antiquity i.e. from the Hellenistic age until the end of the rabbinic period. The earliest written documents were found in Uruk dating from ca. 3100 B.C.E. Though the modern Jewish scribe (sôfēr stam ) is known for his skill in traditional calligraphy, the scribe in antiquity was simply the man who could write in the social-religious sphere, where most people were illiterate or lacked expertise. Rabbinic and sectarian views reflected in the inter-testamental literature only emphasize the continuity of the importance of the book in the life of the heirs of biblical Israel.

Keywords: ancient Israel; modern Jewish scribe; rabbinic period; religious beliefs; Uruk

10.1163/9789004275102_002
/content/books/b9789004275102s002
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