Oral and Written Communication and Transmission of Knowledge in Ancient Judaism and Christianity

This paper examines the contexts of oral communication and the use of written messages in Josephus’ writings, the New Testament, and rabbinic literature, and discusses the possible reasons for using orality or writing in the respective Jewish and Christian contexts in antiquity. It is argued that an individual’s social power depended on his position within the communication network and his ability to control and manipulate the dissemination of knowledge among his co-religionists. Mobility was an important means of creating these networks and the most mobile rabbis would have been the most well-connected.