Scripture memory in the ancient world

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Josh Hunt | Forum Activity | Posted: Fri, Jul 21 2017 6:49 AM

I have heard that all good Jewish boys in the time of Jesus would have memorized the whole Pentateuch. 

Is this right?

How would I use Logos to find out?

Posts 332
Steve Farson | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 21 2017 9:21 AM

Rob Bell describes the rigorous study and memorization, by young Jewish boys, of all the Torah and other Hebrew scriptures in one of his nooma videos.  Then I read somewhere a few years ago this wasn't the case, that not all of the Torah was memorized.  A Google search would provide some insight.  I had Logos search my entire library for "memorize NEAR Torah" and received dozens of hits.  The two quotes below are typical.  And when an author writes how Torah memorization was a practice, does it mean all of Torah or just portions?  Anyway...


Educating Jewish Boys Childhood education started early in first-century, observant Judaism. At age five, young boys went to the local synagogue school to learn Hebrew and memorize the Torah. By the time of his bar mitzvah at age 13, a typical Jewish young man was very conversant with God’s Word having memorized the Torah (Pentateuch), the Neviim (The Prophets) and the Kituvin (The Writings), which comprised all of the Hebrew Scripture (Tanach) of that day.1

Doug Greenwold, Reflections, A Digging Deeper Faith Study (Gaithersburg, MD: Doug Greenwold, 2011).


Here, we see that Yeshua’s participation in local synagogue worship and custom was his usual activity. Yeshua was educated in the Torah in his local synagogue. As every Galilean Jew, Yeshua learned the Torah—how to read it, memorize it, and its principles and customs, from both his family and his local synagogue. It was part of his life as a Jew.

David Friedman, They Loved the Torah: What Yeshua’s First Followers Really Thought about the Law (Baltimore, MD: Messianic Jewish Publishers, 2001), 36.

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