I received a very interesting question recently on a topic I’ve never been asked about, ever, to my recollection, but which I’ve thought about a good deal. Here ‘tis:
Given that most people in the ancient world could not read, and that gospels, letters and so forth were read to gatherings to help propagate Christianity, is there any evidence that readers were not always faithful to the written word, but changed it as they read to reflect their own beliefs?
This is such an important issue that it is amazing the question hasn’t occurred to most people. Including, I should emphasize, the vast majority of biblical scholars! Go figure.
Scholars are well aware, of course, that scribes copying the early Christian texts modified them on occasion, often in minor ways and sometimes significantly. But what about other kinds of alterations, arguably every bit as important, made when the texts were being read aloud to ancient congregations?
The first thing I’ll say is that …