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Apart from the Ethiopian, whom Philip meets Acts 8;29, is there any evidence for the private ownership of any works of Scripture before about 400 A.D.? Otherwise, what is the earliest evidence that anyone has heard of?

  • This question is relevant because it speaks to whether the modern valuation of Scripture as the source for divine revelation is right, if this was intended by Biblical writers, or if valued this way by historical readers. However, this question is making a false presupposition: "Scripture" was often just one book: Isaiah, or Psalms, etc.. It is not plausible that "just anyone" had and maintained "every" book of "Scripture"; this particular eunuch seems to have had royal authority . No authority, (divine, prophetic, etc.), has ever affirmed the "works of Scripture" - apart from popular vote. – elika kohen Oct 19 '17 at 13:25
  • Although this is off topic it is an important question and I do hope you have or will pursue it on christianity.stackexchange.com In fact, if a search does not show it there I think I'll post it there. – Ruminator May 18 '18 at 11:05
  • Even after the invention of movable type printing, because of illiteracy a crier was used to communicate to the masses of England until the 19th century! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Town_crier#Europe The Catholic Church, I believe, did not permit people to read the scriptures for themselves. Can someone confirm that? – Ruminator May 18 '18 at 11:32
  • I decided to start with this question: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/63707/… – Ruminator May 18 '18 at 11:59
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It seems appropriate to postulate that among Paul's documents he would have had some scripture:

Berean Literal Bible 2 Timothy 4:13 Upon coming, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus in Troas, and the books, especially the parchments.

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  • (+1) I had always assumed that books and parchments both referred to Paul's notes and writings; but I agree, now it is mentioned, that specifyng the two would indicate scriptures, though which is which I do not know. – Nigel J Oct 19 '17 at 2:09
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According to Luke, in the book of Acts, the members of the church in Berea seem to have possessed ownership of the scriptures since he records:

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so

Acts 17:11 KJV

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  • thanks for this. I am really interested in private ownership of any scripture.is there any evidence? Philo? Josephus? other sources? – f j lynch Oct 20 '17 at 9:19
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The very rudimentary - though highly expressive - language of the book of Job, and its basic yet imaginative content lead me to suspect that Moses translated it from (perhaps) cuneiform into Hebrew when either he was in Midian for forty years or when he was in the desert for forty years.

If it is the case that Jethro the priest, in Midian, Moses' father in law, was a 'priest' - whatever that meant at the time prior to Levitical priesthood - then his priesthood may have been a feature of his possessing the book of Job.

Either he was a priest because he possessed it or he possessed it because he was a 'priest'.

Given Job's longevity and given various clues in the book, Job would have been contemporary with Abraham's grandfather. Thus the book of Job, written either by Job himself, or, more likely, by Elihu, would be the oldest known - coherent - writing on earth.

All other artefacts, which can be sensibly dated, are around 2,000 to 2,500 BC. The book of Job is by far the most extensive book, from any source upon earth, from that period.

I suggest that Elihu wrote the book; Jethro inherited it; and Moses translated it into Hebrew.

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