Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought

By Joshua A. Berman | Go to book overview

4
Egalitarian Technology
Alphabet, Text, and Class

The year is 1520. Across the wide swath of territory encompassing Christian Europe, and south and across the breadth of the Ottoman Empire, there is no a center of religious learning that is unfamiliar with Johannes Gutenberg’s remarkable printing press, invented seventy years earlier, and the texts such presses have produced. Yet familiarity, apparently, does not always result in an embrace of the nascent technology. In fact, in some quarters, the opposite happens. In western Europe, Luther’s thirty books have sold more than three hundred thousand copies in the space of just three years. For the first time in history, a great reading public has judged through a mass medium the validity of revolutionary ideas directed against an established institution, the Catholic Church.1 In Catholic strongholds, the reception offered the opportunity to mass-produce texts is decidedly cooler. Here, no Bibles are printed in the vernacular languages, though the new technology is harnessed for the standardization of liturgy and Church practice. Farther to the south, in the Ottoman Empire, no religious texts at all are being printed for distribution. Indeed, to do so is considered a sin.2

These observations provide a key insight into the relationship between technology and culture. Changes in the technology of communication—such as the invention of the printing press or the internet—are widely understood as the key to explaining or even causing fundamental historical transformation.3 Yet, advances in the technology of communication have diverse implications in diverse

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Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents xi
  • List of Abbreviations xiii
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Egalitarian Theology 15
  • 2 - Egalitarian Politics 51
  • 3 - Egalitarianism and Assets 81
  • 4 - Egalitarian Technology 109
  • 5 - Egalitarianism and the Evolution of Narrative 135
  • Conclusion 167
  • Notes 177
  • Select Bibliography 223
  • Index of Scriptural - References 243
  • Subject Index 247
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