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On The Diffusion Of Literacy and Schools in Ancient Israel

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Chapter Summary

As a proof for the diffusion of literacy in Israel in the biblical period scholars point to the fact that in the Old Testament the common people are sometimes portrayed as literate. A close examination of all the presumably direct pieces of evidence for the diffusion of literacy in biblical Israel easily shows that they are only apparent proofs and mostly have to deal with writing of a simple order and at a low level. The argument that abecedaries are evidence of schools, however, was restricted to Israel of First Temple times alone. The Aramaic seals bearing the first four to twelve letters of the alphabet provide one of the answers to the question of the identity of those who wrote the abecedaries. Craftsmen of various kinds could gain facility in using the alphabet even without being fully adept or literate.

Keywords: abecedaries; alphabetic writings literacy; ancient Israel; Aramaic seals; craftsmen; Old Testament



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