In yesterday’s post I told you about a new book called The World of the New Testament. I read the chapter by E. Randolph Richards on “Reading, Writing, and Manuscripts.” In a short sidebar Richards makes the following observation:
“Scriptures were not gathered into a single volume or discrete collection until after the NT period. A complete ‘Bible’ would require seventy-eight papyrus rolls. Also, writings were very expensive. Most synagogues in Jesus’ day could afford only a few scrolls. This may explain why Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy, Isaiah, and Psalms. Perhaps Nazareth could afford only one from each section of Scripture. Certainly a complete OT (an anachronistic term for several reasons) would have been found in few places, perhaps only in the Judean temple. Likely there were entire books of the Jewish Scriptures that Peter or John had never even heard. Having a complete set of Scripture is a modern experience.” (355)
This made me really think. I was always told the reason Jesus quoted Deuteronomy, Isaiah and Psalms the most was because they were his favorite books. If Richards is correct (I admit there is some speculation here as does Richards–he says, “perhaps.”) then Jesus may have simply been more familiar with these three books because that is what he had most access to. It’s something to think about.