One would be hard-pressed to be able to prove that the * democratization* of access to scripture really changed much at all.
Dottard's point is valid: that, on the one hand, with more access to scripture, more weirdness had arisen. But also, there has been more access to the truth of scripture.
Nigel's point is also valid: The Jewish leaders had so very much access to scripture. It didn't help them. A person can have as much scripture piled up in front of them, what Paul says is true: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV11-GKE)
My thoughts coincide with these ones. But, in my own research, I don't really find that the early church was that lacking in scripture as we might think. The libraries (both personal and more public) that early church fathers had access to were staggering in their scope. But even more than that, we shouldn't discount the role of the "people in the pew"—their role in making sure their teachers stayed on track. Hurtado writes:
The regular liturgical reading of the four canonical Gospels also
helps to account for the abundance of harmonizing variants, especially
frequent in Mark.
But repeated public reading of New Testament writings would also have
set real limits on how much a writing could be changed, at least in a
given circle, without people noticing (and probably objecting), as
anyone familiar with what happens when liturgical changes are
introduced can attest.
(Transmission and Reception; New Testament in the Second Century. p.
Hurtado's article is a fascinating read. For it dispels the notion that, in the context of the possession of scripture, the leity were helpless pawns in a misguided struggle that was out of their reach.
First, it is amazing (and somewhat shocking when you think it through) how much circulation of texts there was in the very early stages of the NT. The assumption of the existence of so-called 'text types' is dead today because there was this real and ongoing transporting of scripture from one part of the Roman Empire to another.
Second, It is amazing to see the role that liturgy plays. And this is a point that is, for the most part, lost on American society that has large chunks of its Christian grouping that are non-denominational. And even those that are Denominational are not liturgical. In the early church, the Lector was a big deal. The one who went up and read scripture publicly, up in front of the people, was trained for the position. And every word he said was held up to scrutiny precisely for the reason that so many of the people could not read. So they memorized large chunks of scripture. And if the lector deviated, he was called to account.
So the thesis that, in the early NT, there wasn't much democratization of access to texts is offset by the actual history in the early stages of the NT itself.
We also add to this the fact, that in the early stages of the church, there was a massive democratization of access to scripture. The proof of this is found in John's epistles: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1 NIV11-GKE)
All of the apostles aren't even dead yet, and, seemingly, every heretic that can get his hands on a portion of the NT, comes out of the woodwork to promote their own brand of Christianity. That sound very much like today. Today, there are so many 'instant experts' who, without guidance from either scripture itself or from studying the struggles that happened in the past, promote their own ideas. And for a time, they have a following. But what Paul writes is true:
“<11> For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already
laid, which is Jesus Christ. <12> If anyone builds on this foundation
using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, <13> their work
will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.
It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of
each person’s work.” (1 Corinthians 3:11–13 NIV11-GKE)
At the end of the day, What Solomon wrote so long ago is true: ”וְאֵ֥ין כָּל־חָדָ֖שׁ תַּ֥חַת הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ“ (Ecclesiastes 1:9 HMT-W4) ("There's nothing at all new under the sun.")