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Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus: A Window into Early Christian Reading Practices

ISBN: 9781506432502
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Much of the contemporary discussion of the Jesus tradition has focused on aspects of oral performance, story telling, and social memory, on the premise that the practice of communal reading of written texts was a phenomenon documented no earlier than the second century C.E. Brian J. Wright overturns that premise by examining evidence that demonstrates communal reading events in the first century. Wright disproves the simplistic notion that only a small segment of society in certain urban areas could have been involved in such communal reading events during the first century; rather, communal reading permeated a complex, multifaceted cultural field in which early Christians, Philo, and many others participated. His study thus pushes the academic conversation back by at least a century and raises important new questions regarding the formation of the Jesus tradition, the contours of book culture in early Christianity, and factors shaping the transmission of the text of the New Testament. These fresh insights have the potential to inform historical reconstructions of the nature of the earliest churches as well as the story of canon formation and textual transmission.

Listed as one of the "Best Books in 2017" by Exegetical Tools Today.

Resource Experts
  • 1. Introducing a New Control Category
  • 2. Finding Communal Reading Events in the Time of Jesus
  • 3. Economic and Political Factors
  • 4. Social Context
  • 5. Communal Reading Events in the First Century: Selected Authors and Texts
  • 6. Communal Reading Events in the First Century: The New Testament Corpus
  • 7. Concluding Remarks
Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus: A Window into Early Christian Reading Practices, is a solid and valuable contribution to our grasp of how texts functioned in early Christianity.

-Larry Hurtado, Professor Emeritus of New Testament language, literature, and theology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland

This is a thorough study of an important topic. It is thorough in demonstrating that communal reading events were ubiquitous in the first-century world in general and in the early Christian movement in particular. Virtually everybody, it seems, would often hear texts read aloud. There are important implications for the much discussed relationship of the oral and the textual in early Christianity. Texts were more available and more stable than we may have thought.

-Richard Bauckham, Professor Emeritus of New Testament Studies at the University of St. Andrews

Why did early Christians write? When and where did they read? What did reading mean in the social contexts and practices of the first century? Meticulously sifting a wide range of evidence, Wright introduces us to ‘a complex, multifaceted cultural field’ that shaped that reading. His results demand a reconsideration of the whole process by which texts were controlled and, eventually, a canon emerged.”

-Wayne A. Meeks, Woolsey Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Yale University

  • Title: Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus: A Window into Early Christian Reading Practices
  • Author: Brian J. Wright
  • Publisher: Fortress Press
  • Print Publication Date: 2017
  • Logos Release Date: 2020
  • Language: English
  • Resources: 1
  • Format: Digital › Logos Research Edition
  • Subjects: Church history › Primitive and early church, ca. 30-600; Christians › Books and reading; Books and reading › History--To 1500
  • ISBNs: 9781506432502, 9781506438498, 1506432506, 1506438490
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Metadata Last Updated: 2022-09-29T22:48:22Z

In the Logos edition, this digital volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Citations link directly to English translations and original-language texts, and important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, commentaries, and theology texts. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.


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  1. Veli Voipio

    Veli Voipio


    I've finished reading this, and recommend it to all. It gave me an impression that communal reading based on written sources was indeed common. Therefore I think it was totally possible, even probable, that there were short written documents already in Jesus' lifetime that were read communally for those interested, all over the Roman empire.


Digital list price: $26.99
Save $6.00 (22%)