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The Use and Dissemination of Religious Knowledge in Antiquity

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Ancient Mesopotamian, biblical, rabbinic, and Christian literature was created and transmitted by the intellectual elite and therefore presents their world views and perspectives. This volume investigates for the first time whether and to what extent religious knowledge – e.g., “sacred” narratives, customary practices, legal rules, family traditions, festival observances -- was accessible to and known by ordinary people beyond religious functionaries.

Which contexts (e.g., family, synagogue and church, private and public study, communal rituals) enabled the dissemination and acquisition of religious knowledge beyond scholarly circles? In which forms other than written texts was such knowledge available and who (e.g., parents, teachers, scribes, rabbis, priests, monks) mediated it to a public that was largely illiterate? Can we assume that the majority of those who identified themselves as Jewish or Christian would have possessed a “working knowledge” of the respective religious traditions and customary practices? Would that knowledge have differed from one person to another, depending on gender, socio-economic status, religious commitment, and the general circumstances in which one lived?

This book is the first collaborative interdisciplinary study of this important subject area with chapters written by international experts on ancient Mesopotamia, the Hebrew Bible, Qumran literature, rabbinic literature, and early Christianity including apocrypha and monastic traditions.

Published: Aug 20, 2021

Section Chapter Authors
Acknowledgements Catherine Hezser
Introduction Catherine Hezser
Part One: Ancient Mesopotamia
1. Access to Religious Knowledge in Ancient Babylonia Andrew George
2. Public Lamentation in Ancient Mesopotamia Sam Mirelman
Part Two: Ancient and Medieval Judaism
3. Textual Strategies for Disseminating Torah Knowledge among Ordinary Jews ca. 350-200 BCE Diana Edelman
4. The Production and Dissemination of Knowledge within the Qumran Community David Hamidovic
5. ‘If They are Not Prophets, They Are Sons of Prophets': Folk Religion (Minhag) as a Source of Law in Rabbinic Judaism Philip Alexander
6. Interaction between Rabbis and Non-Rabbinic Jews in Palestinian Rabbinic Literature of Late Antiquity Catherine Hezser
7. Medieval Jewish Liturgy as Religious Education Stefan Reif
Part Three: Early and Byzantine Christianity
8. Reading Thecla: Holy Women as Transmitters of Knowledge Christine Amadou
9. The Dissemination of Religious Knowledge through Apocrypha in Egyptian Monasteries Hugo Lundhaug
10. Religious Knowledge and Models of Authority in Sixth-Century Gaza Jan Stenger
End Matter
Subject Index Catherine Hezser, Diana Edelman
Index of Sources Catherine Hezser, Diana Edelman
Index of Modern Authors Catherine Hezser, Diana Edelman