Don't Believe Everything You Hear: The Privilege (and Burden) of Reading

What Jesus expects of those who can read.

Johannes Krupinski


If you were a Jewish person living in the first century, there's a good chance you wouldn't know how to read.

Or at least not know how to read well.

It's hard to say for sure, but literacy estimates I've encountered range from 3 to 30 percent. Catherine Hezser, professor of Jewish studies at the University of London, concludes that only 10 percent of Jewish people in first century Israel could do more than write his or her own name.[1] Jewish culture valued reading and writing, perhaps more than any ancient culture, but it reserved such tasks for the scribes and other elites like the Sanhedrin.

With this context in mind, it is interesting to examine some of Jesus's own words when teaching or rebuking his fellow countrymen.