Original Research

Living voice and lifeless letters: Reserve towards writing in the Graeco-Roman world

P. J.J. Botha
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 49, No 4 | a2519 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v49i4.2519 | © 1993 P. J.J. Botha | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 January 1993 | Published: 13 January 1993

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P. J.J. Botha, University of South Africa, South Africa

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Abstract

This study contributes to the understanding of communication in antiquity by analysing a few specific references to oral and literate traditions in Hellenistic and Christian texts. In the Graeco-Roman world we find a surprising widespread reticence towards writing, varying from mere indifference to active scepticism. The scribal culture of antiquity exhibits a strong bias towards orality, with even literates expressing little confidence in writing. There was a prevailing preference for the ‘living voice’ in education, and a strong belief that corpora of teaching which were never written down, and could not be written down, distinguished the insiders from the outsiders.

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