I do not think this is a crucial question. If one thinks Jesus did not have scribal literacy, it follows that gospel passages that depend upon the quotation of texts from the Hebrew Bible are the product of post-Easter Christian scribal activity. Note that it is only quotation of texts that is affected; Jesus would have known the stories of the Hebrew Bible and the practices of Judaism through participation in the Jewish tradition, whether he had scribal literacy or not.



See Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “Did Jesus Speak Greek?” BAR 18:05.


The claim that Jesus as a peasant would not have had “scribal literacy” is a feature of John Dominic Crossan’s works on Jesus; see The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (HarperSanFrancisco, 1991) and Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (HarperSanFrancisco, 1994).


See my Jesus: A New Vision (San Francisco: Harper, 1987), pp. 4–8.


See my Jesus: A New Vision, pp. 25–26, and Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1994), pp. 13–15, 31–39.


Andrew Greeley in his book Ecstasy! A Way of Knowing (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1974) reports that about 50 percent of a sample of 1,500 adult Americans affirm having had at least one such experience; see his tables of data on pages 139–142, which also report the “triggers” of the experiences. The title of his book succinctly makes the point I am making: Ecstatic religious experience is a way of knowing, and not simply an altered state of consciousness or intense feeling. The same claim is made by William James in his classic study, The Varieties of Religious Experience, in which he observes that mystical experiences have a strong noetic quality (see lectures 16 and 17).


See Geza Vermes, especially in Jesus the Jew (New York: Macmillan, 1973), the first of his three books on Jesus; and James D.G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975).