The Reading Culture of Early Christianity


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The Reading Culture of Early Christianity From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts 400,000 Textual Variants 02
Edward D. Andrews
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored 220+ books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

There is evidence of universality in the early orthodox Christian manuscripts. While the elite of the Roman society preferred the roll or scroll for their pagan literature, the Christian preferred the codex book form. This is even the case with the roll or scroll being preferred for apocryphal apostate Christian literature as opposed to the codex. Except for P22 (John 15:25–16:2, 21–32), all of the third/fourth-century canonical gospel manuscripts were papyrus codices. Going back to the second/third centuries, we also find that the Gospel codices were given some special status, as they were all produced in standard sizes that were smaller than the other canonical NT books. The gospels were 11.5–14 cm in width and height at least 3 cm higher than width, while other NT books were 12–14 cm in width and height not quite twice that.  Even so, while the other NT books might have been a little taller, they all were easily carried. (Hill and Kruger 2012, 38) The codex came to be used toward the end of the first century, and the Christians were commonly using it after the first century.[1] The evidence for such a conclusion comes from our earliest Christian manuscripts that are still in existence, which were produced in codex form. The manuscripts include the Old Testament that was used by the Christians and the New Testament texts, as well as the Apostolic Fathers, the Apologists, and other early Church Fathers.


Another piece of evidence of universality in the early orthodox Christian manuscripts was the nomina sacra (Lat. “sacred names”), which were contractions and abbreviations of several frequently occurring divine names or titles in the early texts, the Greek counterparts of God, Lord, Jesus, Christ, Son, Spirit, David, Cross, Mother, Father, Israel, Savior, Man, Jerusalem, and Heaven. (Metzger 1981, 36-37) Early on there was universality with the four divine names or titles God, Jesus, Christ, and Lord, to which were later added the other sacred names above. Even how the sacred names were to be contracted in the manuscripts was standardized and universal. It was decided early that regardless of whether sacred names were used in a sacred or mundane way, they were to be contracted. For example, whether the Greek kurios (Lord) was used in reference to the Son Jesus (sacred) as opposed to the master of a household (mundane/non-sacred), it was to be contracted. Another example of whether the Greek pater (Father/father) was used in reference to the Father (sacred) or a father in some narrative or parable (mundane/non-sacred), it was to be contracted. For example, in P66 (c. 200 C.E.),[2] kurios (“Lord”) is contracted through the entire manuscript whether it was sacred or mundane in its use. We have the same situation with pneuma (spirit) in P75 (c. 175-225 C.E.),[3] even when it is a reference to an unclean spirit. This is evidence of a universal, systematic approach to the Christian canonical books, which shows a concern for the accuracy of the content and the handiness, convenience, and portability of the New Testament books in the latter half of the second-century C.E.[4]


The Reading Culture of Early Christianity

Textual scholar Larry Hurtado (Hill and Kruger 2012, 49) borrows an approach from William A. Johnson in his book Readers and Reading Culture in the High Roman Empire: A Study of Elite Communities, and I would like to take the liberty of borrowing this concept as well. Johnson, under the heading, CONTEXTUALIZING READING COMMUNITIES, writes, “The more proper goal, as I [Johnson] have argued, is to understand the particular reading cultures that obtained in antiquity, rather than to try to answer decontextualized questions that assume in ‘reading’ a clarity and simplicity it manifestly does not have.” (Johnson 2012 (Reprint), 14) Johnson focuses his reading culture on “‘the reading of Greek literary prose texts by the educated elite during the early empire (first and second centuries AD)’” (Hill and Kruger 2012, 49), just one of many surrounding reading cultures of the time. We are going to focus our attention on the reading culture of early Christianity, namely, the first three centuries. Just as the manuscript evidence above gave us proof of a universal approach of early Christianity to the publication of their canonical books, showing concern for the accuracy of the content, this will be an extension of that.

What made Johnson’s work so appetizing for Hurtado is the Roman elite reading culture and how he demonstrated that their approach was actually designed to keep out anyone who could not handle the difficulty with which their reading community functioned. The Roman literary world had long had word separation within their texts, but the elite reading culture of the Roman world in the second and third centuries returned to scriptio continua (Lat. for “continuous script”), a style of writing without spaces or other marks between the words and sentences. This choice of writing style over others that were current and common, with spaces between words and sentences as well as punctuation, diacritical marks that indicate how words are to be pronounced, and distinguished letter case, is evidence that they were putting up roadblocks to keep the uneducated out of their elite reading culture.

This is even further evidenced when we consider that they ignored the codex and stayed with the rolls or scrolls that were held horizontally, with the text being read vertically. The text was in “columns ranging from 4.5 to 7.0 centimeters in width, about 15–25 letters per line, left and right justification, and about 15–25 centimeters in height, with about 1.5–2.5 centimeters spacing between columns. The letters were carefully written, calligraphic in better quality manuscripts, but with no spacing between words, little or no punctuation, and no demarcation of larger sense-units. The strict right-hand justification was achieved by ‘wrapping’ lines (to use a computer term), ending each line either with a given word or a syllable and continuing with the next word or syllable on the next line, the column ‘organized as a tight phalanx of clear, distinct letters, each marching one after the other to form an impression of continuous flow, the letters forming a solid, narrow rectangle of written text, alternating with narrower bands of white space’.” (Hill and Kruger 2012, 50)

Another feature of this elite reading culture was the fact that they cared deeply about the elegant and beautiful or artistic handwriting that was pleasing to the eyes but not as reader-friendly as the rounded, unadorned writing in the Christian texts. Indeed, the elite reading culture cared about the accuracy of the content in their documents as well, but it took a backseat to visually stimulating handwriting. The reader had the task of bringing to life this text with no sense breaks or punctuation.

The early codex manuscripts present us a picture of early Christianity that was a book-buying, book-reading, and book-publishing culture unlike no other, as they turned to the book form, i.e., the codex, finding it handy, convenient, and portable. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, and Jude were moved along by the Holy Spirit, penning their books. The writings were then delivered and distributed by a trusted traveling companion, who then read it aloud to the Christian congregation(s).

Paul in his final greeting to the Ephesians, writes, “So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.” (Eph. 6:21-22, ESV) Paul tells the Christians in Colossae, “Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts.” (Col. 4:7-8, ESV) The first Christians were encouraged to read the Scriptures during their religious services and to discuss them. (1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:18-19; Col. 3:16; 1 Tim. 4:13; See Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14; Rev. 1:3)

The members of these early Christian congregations were from a wide-ranging spectrum; the poor, slaves, freedman (emancipated from slavery), male and female, old and young, children, workers, business owners, landowners, and even some from the wealthy segment of society. Generally, the powerful political leaders of the day and the very wealthy were missing from these Christian meetings. The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy, “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” (1 Tim 4:13, UASV) Writing about 155 C.E., Justin Martyr says of the weekly Christian meetings, “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.[5]

Gamble says that Justin Martyr’s words suggest what was typical in mid-second century weekly Christian meetings in Asia Minor and Rome. Scholars agree that the reading of Scripture at Christian meetings, offering an exposition of what had been read, was common and likely universal in Justin’s day, the practice originating with the first-century Christians. (Gamble 1995, 151-152) By the end of the first century, it is likely that every Christian community in the then-known world had as many of the New Testament books as were available (excluding the Gospel of John, his three epistles, and the book of Revelation, since they were written between 95-98 C.E.). Also, they would have had Old Testament books as well. These congregations would have had several readers who were responsible for the congregation’s library. Further, it is highly likely that many Christians themselves could read. In addition, it is likely that these assigned readers were also serving as scribes. In some cases, these readers/scribes would likely have had the same training as the Jewish Sopherim (scribes), meaning that they possessed excellent reading, copying, translating, and interpreting skills. It might even have been that these were Jewish converts to Christianity, very familiar with the synagogue practice of copying manuscripts, studying the texts, and reading and interpreting the texts. As Comfort points out, ‘the relationship between scribes and readers is found in the subscription to 1 Peter and to 2 Peter in P72, wherein both places, it says, “Peace to the one having written [i.e., the scribe] and to the one having read [i.e., the lector].’ As such, the scribe of P72 was asking for a blessing of God’s peace on the scribe [presumably himself] and on the lector. As such, the scribe knew that the publication of 1 Peter and 2 Peter was dependent on the twofold process–the copying of the text and the oral reading of it.”[6]

When we look at the evidence for the first three centuries of Christianity, we find that most early Christians were from a lower social stratum, a minority from the middle level, and a minute few from the upper levels of society. (Hill and Kruger 2012, 55) It would seem that the early Christian manuscripts were prepared for the early Christian reading culture. We have already spoken at length about the book form of the codex, as opposed to the roll or scroll with its continuous text. Unlike the elite reading culture that Johnson surveyed, the Christian reading culture was not aiming for what was pleasing to the eyes, i.e., elegant handwriting. The highest priority was creating a text that was accurate in content and reader-friendly. While the elite reading culture during this same period was creating texts designed to keep the uneducated out (too overwhelming for the average reader), the Christian texts were prepared in such a way that they placed fewer demands on the reader (more Christians could reach out to be readers), so as to bring this to a more diverse audience. If we are to understand fully early Christianity, the early reading culture, and their view of their text, we need to look to the early papyri and scribal activity, the patristic quotations, and any early attitudes that have been expressed about textual transmission.

Literacy in the Roman Empire and the Early Church

The question of reading, writing, and literacy levels in the Roman Empire and the early Church is not as settled or decided as secular scholarship might like us to believe. We can start by noting that there is a difference between what we deem literate today, and what the situation was in the Roman Empire and the first three centuries of the Church. Being literate today means having the ability to read and write, while literacy in the Roman Empire mainly applied to those who could read. The ability to write was not necessarily assumed.[7] Secular sources suggest that the literacy level in the Greco-Roman world was rarely if ever more than twenty percent. Scholars argue that the average was possibly not much more than ten percent in the Roman Empire. They point out that it varied within different regions, which however would be true for any period. They further argue that in the western province’s literacy never rose above five percent.[8] Some Bible scholars are unfamiliar with the reading culture of early Christianity.

In many cases, the scholars fail to mention the overabundance of evidence for a literate culture between 50 B.C.E. and 325 C.E. What is more; there is considerable evidence that the early Christians’ literacy rates were higher than those of the Roman Empire in general. Bible scholar Christopher D. Stanley offers us the commonly accepted misconception about the literacy level among the early Christians:

Literacy levels were low in antiquity, access to books was limited, and most non-Jews had little or no prior knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures. Of course, Gentile Christians who had been Jewish sympathizers (Luke’s “God-fearers”) would have been exposed to the Jewish Scriptures, but we have no reason to think that their literacy levels differed appreciably from their contemporaries.[9]

In the Greco-Roman world, education was voluntary. Nevertheless, we do know that elementary schools were widespread. The archaeological evidence, especially the papyri, actually points to a literacy rate in the Hellenistic-Roman world that was higher than at any other time outside modern history. We have already spoken at length on the literacy level of early Christianity in the previous chapter and will briefly look at more evidence here in this chapter.



From the days of Gaius Octavius, who became the first emperor of Rome (thereafter known as Caesar Augustus), to almost two centuries after the execution of Christ (59 B.C.E. to 222 C.E.), the Roman Empire published and distributed a regular news publication for the city of Rome. The Latin phrase Acta Diurna (Daily Acts/Events or Daily Public Records) were the official notices from Rome, a sort of Daily Roman Times. Much of the news out of the city of Rome was also published broadly across the Empire as well.[10] Acta Diurna introduced the expression “publicare et propagare,” meaning, “Make public and propagate.” The expression was placed at the end of the news release, which was to both Roman citizens and non-citizens. There was a daily papyrus newspaper, which informed all who could read of the daily events. It was distributed throughout Rome, in such places as the public bathhouses,[11] as well as message boards.

Pliny the Elder (23 C.E. – 79 C.E.) was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as a naval and army commander. Pliny informs us that there were different grades of papyrus, such as the low-grade Saitic paper, so called from the city of that name in Lower Egypt, as well as the taeniotic paper, possibly from Alexandria.[12] These low-grade papyruses were likely used for the public notices, which would also explain why we have never discovered a single piece of the Acta Diurna (Daily Events). This Daily Newspaper of Rome covered such important information as royal or senatorial decrees and events, military and political news, deaths, crimes, trials, as well as economic insights. It also offered social information like weddings and divorces, births, festivals, astrology, human-interest stories, and even gossip. On this, Brian J. Wright writes,

The Latin term Acta in its broadest sense means ‘the things that have been done,’[13] or more simply, ‘events’. Without any additional qualifiers, these events could – and did – include public and private activities; secular and sacred matters; government and civilian affairs. With additional qualifiers, these events had a narrower and even more specialized meaning. The Acta Militaria refers to published military events,[14] the Acta Senatus indicates published senatorial events,[15] and the Acta Triumphorum denotes the published triumphs of emperors.[16] The main qualifier for the purposes of this study is diurna, which simply means ‘daily’. Thus, the Acta Diurna represents published ‘daily events’.[17] Though there are no authentic fragments of these specific kinds of acta,[18] and thus no physical features to discuss, there are ample references to them in ancient authors (again, by various nomenclature). Both Tacitus and Suetonius used these Acta as sources for information about the Empire’s earlier emperors when they were writing their histories of Rome.[19] (Wright 2016)[20]

How to Interpret the Bible-1

Moreover, it should be noted that the Roman Acta Diurna (Daily Acts/Events or Daily Public Records) was not the only newspaper of its kind during this period of 59 B.C.E. to about 222 C.E. Around 225 C.E., we find a Roman official ordering several mayors in the Hermopolite region of Egypt to post copies of his letter ‘in well-known places so that all may be aware of his pronouncements’ (P. Oxy. 2705). When we consider these things on face value, they indicate that notices were being written so that the populace could be updated about current affairs by reading them, not having them read to them.

We can conclude from these facts that reading, writing, and the dissemination of information was far more extensive than has long been held, with a much higher basic literacy level, which then adds to our understanding of the writing, publication, and distribution of the Greek New Testament letters that were read in the Christian congregations throughout the Roman Empire (Col. 4:46; 1 Thess. 5:27; 1 Tim. 4:13; Jam. 1:1; Rev. 1:3). Evidence indicates a far higher level of basic literacy throughout the Roman Empire than thought, as well as Christians who originated primarily as Jewish converts who prided themselves on their ability to read and write, coupled with a message that they were commanded to evangelize to the whole inhabited earth (Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20; Ac 1:8). As a result, it is no exaggeration to say that Christians were able to take over the Roman power that had a military unlike any other up to that time, by growing the faith in a pagan world. They went from 120 disciples at Pentecost in 33 C.E. to over one million disciples about a century later.


Jewish education under this same period was significantly different as to the content, though in some respects they had stages similar to Greco-Roman education. The primary objective of Jewish education was knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures. The parents were the first and primary educators of their Jewish children, especially their earlier elementary education in reading, writing, and understanding the Torah (2 Tim 1:5; 3:14-15). We read briefly of young Jesus as he grew up in Nazareth. He would have received his education from three sources: Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather, would have played a major role in his education. Paul said that young Timothy was trained in “the sacred writings” by his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother Lois (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15). Certainly, if Timothy received education in the Scriptures from his mother though his Father was a Greek (Acts 16:1), no doubt Jesus did as well from Joseph during his childhood. Jesus would have also received education in the Scriptures from the attendant at the synagogue, which was a place of instruction.

We know that another source of knowledge and wisdom for Jesus was the divine Father. Jesus said, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me,” i.e., the Father (John 7:16, UASV). Mark 1:22 reads, “And they were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (UASV).

The third-century Rabbi Judah b. Tema outlines the stages of Jewish education. “At five years old one is fit for the Scripture, at ten years for Mishnah, at thirteen for the commandments, at fifteen for Talmud, at eighteen for marriage, at twenty for retribution (a vocation).”[21] Again, the home was the primary place of Jewish education in reading, writing, and the memorization of the Hebrew Scriptures. In the first century, there were a number of primary schools in Jerusalem, but it was not until the second century C.E. that they grew more numerous outside of Jerusalem. Children began their studies as early as age 4-5 in primary school Beth Sefer (“house of reading”). Both boys and girls could attend the class in the synagogue, or in an adjoining room. (Ferguson 2003, 112)

First-century Jewish historian Josephus (30-100 C.E.) said of the Jewish life, “Our principle care of all is this, to educate our children well.”[22] In speaking of what the Mosaic Law commands, he wrote, “It also commands us to bring those children up in learning and to exercise them in the laws, and make them acquainted with the acts of their predecessors, in order to their imitation of them, and that they may be nourished up in the laws from their infancy, and might neither transgress them, nor yet have any pretense for their ignorance of them.”[23] We have even more texts, especially from the later Rabbis, which make similar statements. If we take these comments at face value, it is evidence of a reading culture among the Jews that is surely higher than that of the Roman Empire, which was certainly higher than the secular sources claim.

Five hundred years from now, what if we were to ask the historian, “how well could the Amish in America read and write?” It would be difficult to be accurate because they teach themselves. It is 2017, and they have one-room county schoolhouses with chalkboards, which remind us of the pioneer days in America, or some Laura Ingalls Wilder novels. The historian might find slate chalkboards and tablets that are blank, so they could only guess at the level of the reading and writing. Would it surprise anyone that this highly religious community, who value the ability to read their religious books, very similar to the first-century Jewish community, can speak two to three languages (Dutch or German and English), as well as read and write well?

When we see signs of a reading environment, it suggests a populace with at least a basic reading level. In the first-century Roman Empire, there were hundreds of public inscriptions of dedications, imperial decrees, lists of names, laws, and regulation, and even directions. Even the gravestones of the time were meant to do more than mark the name of the person. Some had lines of poetry; others had threats and curses for any who even thought of robbing the graves. The painstaking time taken to publish these things indicates the expectation that the public is able to read them, even lowly grave robbers.

We have almost a half-million papyrus documents (likely there were millions more that did not survive) in garbage dumps in the dry sands of Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. This is but one city in the entirety of the Roman Empire. Are we to believe that Oxyrhynchus is the exception, and some of the biggest cities, such as Rome, Corinth, Athens, Pergamum, Ephesus, Smyrna, Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Carthage, which numbered anywhere from one hundred thousand to over a million in their population, did not have equal or greater writings discarded in their dumps? Then we should consider the temples and the libraries that boasted of having tens of thousands of books. Reportedly, by the first century C.E., the Alexandrian library housed one million scrolls. In fact, Mark Antony took 200,000 scrolls from the library at Pergamum to replenish the Alexandrian library for Cleopatra. Because of moisture damage and they’re being written on perishable material, we cannot discover the documents of these centers of education as we have in the dry sands of Egypt. Yet, should we for a moment believe that their garbage dumps saw any fewer books than were discovered at Oxyrhynchus, Egypt?

We have such great quantities of written material, so as to suggest a much higher literacy level than most are willing to accept. Only ten percent of the Oxyrhynchus papyri have been investigated, but they offer insight that indicates a more literate society, not less. Many men and women who wrote had scribes pen their words, indicating that they were literate by what they said, while their signatures at the end of letters show only that some of them had poor penmanship. We should not judge their literacy level by the limitations of their penmanship. We must remember, in that period, that it was reading that dictated one’s level of literacy.

We also have the Vindolanda Writing Tablets. “The writing tablets are perhaps Vindolanda’s greatest discovery and have been previously voted by experts and the public alike as ‘Britain’s Top Treasure.’ Delicate, wafer-thin slivers of wood covered in spidery ink writing, the tablets were found in the oxygen-free deposits on and around the floors of the deeply buried early wooden forts at Vindolanda and are the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain. Like postcards from the past, the tablets allow a rare insight into the real lives of people living and working at Vindolanda near Hadrian’s Wall nearly 2000 years ago. They provide a fascinating and compelling insight into private and military lives from a very different time but are hauntingly familiar, covering matters from birthdays through to underpants! Have we changed that much in two millennia?”[24]

The Vindolanda Writing Tablets, like the papyri in the dry sands of Oxyrhynchus, offer us insights into the literacy of the Roman officers who we would expect to be literate but also indicate the literacy of the low-ranking soldiers, wives, friends, and servants. The handwriting of these tablets ranges from writing that is barely legible, to the professional hand. We have to ask ourselves the same question: if these common soldiers had some basic writing skills, some even to the document hand level, and even a few at the professional hand, what are we to think of the literacy level of the Roman Empire?[25] Must we keep disputing the obvious? If the evidence suggests, as it does, a far higher literacy level than a mere 5-10 percent throughout the Roman Empire, what are we to expect from the Christian community that grew out of the Jewish populace that so valued reading, writing, and memorization, that was commissioned with evangelizing the entire inhabited earth?




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[1] T. C. Skeat, Zeitschrift für Papyrus und Epigraphic 102 (1994): 263–68.

[2] CONTENTS: John 1:1–6:11; 6:35–14:26, 29–30; 15:2–26; 16:2–4, 6–7; 16:10–20:20, 22–23; 20:25–21:9, 12, 17.

[3] CONTENTS: Luke 3:18–22; 3:33–4:2; 4:34–5:10; 5:37–6:4; 6:10–7:32, 35–39, 41–43; 7:46–9:2; 9:4–17:15; 17:19–18:18; 22:4–24:53; John 1:1–11:45, 48–57; 12:3–13:1, 8–10; 14:8–29; 15:7–8.

[4] What we have learned here and in the whole of THE TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT undermine what secular scholars such as Walter Bauer, Robert A. Kraft, and agnostic Bart D. Ehrman maintain. These argue that Gnosticism (a false philosophy, speculation, and pagan mysticism of apostate Christianity), Montanism (a heresy based on the teachings of the charismatic prophet Montanus), and Marcionism (condemned as a Christian heresy that rejected the Old Testament) were just alternative forms of Christianity, just as organized and fast-growing if not faster. They have maintained, moreover, that the form of Christianity in Rome prevailed in the fourth century and became the standard, causing these groups and others to be seen as apostate forms of Christianity. This is not the case. First, the early evidence is that these groups were only tiny apostate offshoots of true Christianity, who broke away, abandoning the truth. Second, they were busy arguing amongst themselves over doctrine, as opposed to making disciples. Third, the apocryphal non-canonical Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Peter, the so-called Egerton Gospel, and the Gospel of Judas were composed in the second century C.E. by no apostle or anyone associating directly with Jesus, not to mention that they all indicate that they were private manuscripts, having no earmarks that they were meant to be universal. Finally, if these heresies and their apocryphal writings were just as far-reaching as Orthodox Christianity, why are there no citations of them in the second/third century apostolic fathers? Only the Gospel of Thomas has two early third-century citations. If they were as impactful as the canonical gospels, they should have been cited as much. The early papyri do not support Walter Bauer, Robert A. Kraft, and Bart D. Ehrman’s in their views of early Christianity.

[5] Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 186.

[6] Philip Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2005), 52.

[7] See Eric A. Havelock, The Literate Revolution in Greece and its Cultural Consequences (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1982), 38-59.

[8] William V. Harris, Ancient literacy (Harvard University Press, 1989) 328.

[9] Christopher D. Stanley, Arguing with Scripture: The Rhetoric of Quotations in the Letters of Paul (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 3.

[10] Propertius 2.7.17–18; Pliny the Elder, Naturalis historia 35.2.11; Epigrams 7.17; Epigrams 5.5; Tristia 4.9.20-25; Tristia 4.10.130.

[11] The largest of these was the Baths of Diocletian, which could hold up to 3,000 bathers.

[12] Pliny, Natural History, book 13, ch, 23

[13] John Percy Vyvian Dacre and Andrew William Lintott, ‘Acta’, in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 4th ed., ed. Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth (Oxford: UP, 2012), 10.

[14] The first-century papyrus PSI 13.1307 is one example. For further details, see J. F. Gilliam, ‘Notes on PSI 1307 and 1308’, Classical Philology 47.1 (1952), 29-31. Cf. Sergio Daris, ‘Osservazioni AD alcuni papyri di carattere militare’, Aegyptus 38 (1958), 151-58, esp. 157-58; Sergio Daris, ‘Note di lessico e di onomastica militare’, Aegyptus 44 (1964), 47-51. For other examples from inscriptions and ancient authors see M. Léon Renier, Inscriptions Romaines de l’Algérie (Paris: Imprimerie Impériale, 1855); J. F. Gilliam, ‘Some Military Papyri from Dura’, in Yale Classical Studies: Volume 11, ed. Harry M. Hubbell (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1950), 171-252, esp. 209–252.

[15] The bulletin of daily news was almost exclusively a private affair before Julius Caesar made it regular and official in 59 BC. Although private publications continued, he ordered that these occasionally published Acta were to be published daily for mass consumption under the authority of the government from the court reporters’ notes (e.g. Seneca the Younger Apocolocyntosis 9). After Julius Caesar’s death, a custom arose that future emperors (and their magistrates every January) were to swear to keep and respect all previous Acta Senatus from their predecessors (e.g. Dio Cassius 47.48; cf. 37.20); with a few exceptions (e.g. Dio Cassius 56.33). For inscriptional evidence of how emperors dealt with the acta of their predecessors, see Benjamin Wesley Kicks, ‘The Process of Imperial Decision-Making from Augustus to Trajan’ (Ph.D. dissertation, Rutgers, 2011), 86-91, the case study regarding the Epistula Domitiani ad Falerienses. For additional details and texts, see, among others, William Smith, William Wayte, and G. E. Marindin, eds., A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (London: John Murray, 1890); Harry Thurston Peck, ed., Harper’s Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities (New York: Cooper Square, 1965), 14-15.

[16] Pliny, Naturalis historia.  37.6.

[17] Too much emphasis should not be placed on the word ‘daily’ since it is possible that it could mean ‘everyday’ events, as in ‘current events.’

[18] I say ‘authentic’ here because some forgeries have been published. For example, eleven fragments of the Acta Diurna were published in 1615 by Pighius, and defended by Dodwell. Though the fragments were exposed as a fifteenth century forgery (by Wesseling, Ernesti et al.), some scholars still attempted to defend their authenticity at least as far as 1844; with Lieberkühn. For more details and background to this story, see Wilhelm Sigismund Teuffel, A History of Roman Literature: Volume One, The Republican Period, trans. Wilhelm Wagner (London: George Bell and Sons, 1873), 381. Cf. Hermann L. G. Heinze, ‘ De Spuriis Actorum Diurnorum Fragmentis Undecim: Fasciculus Prior’ (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Greifswald, 1860), 11-24; Andrew Lintott, ‘Acta Antiquissima: A Week in the History of the Roman Republic,’ Papers of the British School at Rome 54 (1986), 213-28.

[19] A. W. Mosley, ‘Historical Reporting in the Ancient World’, NTS 12.1 (1965), 10-26.

[20] COMING FALL 2017

Brian J. Wright, Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus: A Window into
Early Christian Reading Practices
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017).

[21] Robert Henry Charles, ed., Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, vol. 2 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913), 710.

[22] Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987).

[23] Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987).

[24] Vindolanda Writing Tablets – Roman Vindolanda and Roman .., (accessed March 23, 2017).

[25] (Bowman 1998, 82-99)

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