Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Unloading 35 Loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" 25/35

Steve Ray has a list of 35 loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" (quotation marks his)(link to the whole list). This is number 25/35. I'm trying to provide the answers in a common format, for easy reference.

25) If Christianity is a “book religion,” how did it flourish during the first 1500 years of Church history when the vast majority of people were illiterate?

Simple Answer(s):


Important Qualification(s):

1) Literacy was actually much higher in the Roman empire in the early part of that period than Mr. Ray seems to think. Yes, toward the end of the medieval period in Europe literacy got low among the poor.

2) Those who could not read could still listen to the book being read.

3) Although the old churches had various liturgies, all of those liturgies read and sung Scripture.

4) It's hard really to view the Western church of the late medieval period as "flourishing" in anything other than numbers.

- TurretinFan


OumAmir said...

Oddly enough, this is exactly what I needed to brighten my day.

Thank you.

Turretinfan said...

You're welcome!

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Some additional scholarship on the issue:

...for in antiquity one could hear texts read even if one was unable to read, so that illiteracy was no bar to familiarity with Christian writings. Because neither the existence of Christian literature nor its broad circulation and use can reveal the extent or levels of literacy within Christianity...

If most Christians were illiterate, it did not prevent them from participating in literacy or from becoming familiar with Christian essential element of Christian liturgical gatherings was the reading of Scripture. In early centuries scripture was not read in snippets but in long segments. Near the middle of the second century Justin Martyr commented (Apol. 1.67) that in the weekly service of worship "the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits." With such regular and lengthy readings, followed by their homiletical exposition, Christians who could not read nevertheless became conversant with the substance of scriptural literature and also with other texts that were occasionally read in the setting of worship. Thus, although the limited extent of individual literacy certainly had a bearing on the composition, transcription, private use, and authoritative interpretation of Christian texts, it had little adverse effect on the ability of Christians generally to gain a close acquaintance with Christian literature
(Harry Gamble, Books and Readers in the Early Church [Yale University Press, New Haven and London], p. 4, 8-9).

Turretinfan said...

Which we may contrast with late medieval Europe, in which Latin obscured the Scriptures from the average layman's perception.

Anonymous said...

Don't you just love it to see one reasoning in business not his own?

I would encourage SR to ask the next Angel he encounters seeing they are the ones sent to the Elect people of God in every generation.

Aaah, on second thought.... .

Heb 1:13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"?
Heb 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Coram Deo said...

4) It's hard really to view the Western church of the late medieval period as "flourishing" in anything other than numbers.

Au contrare, TF!

It flourished in ignorance under Rome's deathgrip, or is the appropriate verb languished?

But seriously, I'm very thankful that Rome has stopped murdering people like me for believing the way I do.

In Christ,