A caller named Julie asks, “Why didn’t Jesus write a Gospel? The only time we hear about him writing is when the woman was caught in adultery, and he wrote in the sand.”
Father Dave responds, “I’ve looked at some research where there are two schools of thought, and I don’t think one of them is more dominant than the other as to whether or not Jesus would have been illiterate because of the context in which he grew up. In fact, most people [in those times] were illiterate. There have been some scholars that have suggested that it’s possible.” Father Dave mentions that people will sometimes point to places in the Bible where Jesus reads from the scrolls in the temple. However, it was also common in that time period to memorize passages of Scripture through oral tradition.
“We also take for granted things that all of us do,” Father Dave continues. “Everybody has a cell phone these days, whereas you don’t have to look way back in the history of the world to a time when one person in a town had a phone. We’re talking about 2000 years ago. Not everybody wrote stuff. There were a few select people that could actually read. We think today, ‘Well, of course everybody would write!’ But that wasn’t the case.”
“Our egocentric world would say, ‘Hey, this is your original idea. This is your content. You have to have your name on that book.’ Whereas, back then, Jesus would be saying great stuff and somebody else would write it down and circulate it. The writer was way more of a servant. It was like a sous chef. It’s like, I’m the one chopping the vegetables. I didn’t come up with the recipes. My name is not on the restaurant. This is my function.”