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Scribal Education And Literacy In Ancient Israel

2319 words - 10 pages

There has been much debate among researchers about the presence of formal education in Ancient Israel. There are scholars who believe the development of the linear alphabet led to widespread literacy in Ancient Israel and other parts of the Near East. However, there are others who believe, that while the linear alphabet was less extensive than the previously, pictographic texts used by the Phoenicians and Egyptians, there was still a learning curve which would have taken more than just a few days to learn. Even if it was possible to learn the alphabet in a few days and even be able to read shortly thereafter, it did not necessarily mean a person could write. By looking at the morphology of words and even the use of proper grammar in certain texts including proper spacing between words, found in the archaeological record, researchers can see that certain individuals had more skill when it came to executing the letters of the alphabet properly and consistently and create sentences that made sense while others could perhaps write the alphabet but not necessarily in a uniform and concise manner. This would suggest there was a certain amount of formalized training when it came to literacy. It would also suggest a learning curve when it came to writing as well as different skill levels when it came to literacy. The Development of literacy was a gradual process and probably had more to do with a changing economy rather than based solely on the development of the linear alphabet. Perhaps one of the largest challenges this field of study has had to overcome and is still overcoming is the integration of both Biblical evidence of literacy as well as evidence of literacy found in the archaeological record. William Schniedewind states that “one consistent deficiency in most of the descriptions of literacy under review is their unfamiliarity with or cursory treatment of archaeological and inscriptional evidence.” (Schniedewind 330) The need to be aware of both types of evidence is necessary to perhaps place literacy and formalized education within a certain time period or to validate the existence of formalized places of education and when they may have developed.
In his article, “Orality and Literacy in Ancient Israel”, William Schniedewind discusses the research done by many scholars tackling the issue of literacy and formalized education in Ancient Israel. He discusses both those who have done primarily Biblical research for evidence of literacy and education as well as scholars who have looked at both Biblical and archaeological evidence. This article is extremely useful in letting people know what research has been done on this topic. He discusses the research of Jamieson- Drake, Susan Niditch, Simon Parker, Philip Davies, E.W. Heaton, and James Crenshaw.
First Schniedewind discusses Jamieson-Drakes contributions to scribal education. Jamieson-Drake focuses “on the physical mechanisms of schools and scribes.” (Schniedewind 328) Jamieson- Drake studied...

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