Why do we not have any written material from Jesus himself?

Hey Mike, I just had this question pop into my head and thought to post it here.
Why do we not have any written material from Jesus himself?

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Hi Jeremiah,

Thanks for your question! I am not sure I have a complete answer on this one, so let me shoot from the hip and offer a few preliminary thoughts.

Firstly, when we consider the evidence it is very likely that Jesus was literate. Three passages in the Gospels suggest Jesus could read:
(1) In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus stood up to read from the scroll of Isaiah (Lk 4:16-20).
(2) In John’s Gospel, we are told Jesus bent down to ‘write’ something with his finger in the dust (Jn 8:6; though this may have been nothing more than doodling and so is inconclusive about his literacy).
(3) In John’s Gospel again, it is asked of Jesus: “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” (Jn 7:15). Craig A. Evans in his book Jesus and His World points out the importance here: “Literally, they have asked how he ‘knows letters’ (Gk grammata oiden), ‘not having studied’ or ‘not having learned’” (p. 202).

Evans offers a conclusion: “Although there is no unambiguous evidence for the literacy of Jesus, there is considerable contextual and circumstantial evidence that suggests that in all probability he was literate” (p. 206).

The question then is: assuming Jesus was literate, why did he not write anything himself? Here we get into a bit of conjecture. It seems that Jesus had a very specific focus to his ministry - that of proclaiming and demonstrating the Kingdom of God. After a successful day of healings, Jesus removes himself from that situation to refocus on the core of his mission. He says to the crowds: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” (Lk 4:43, bold mine). Perhaps this singular focus accounts for his lack of direct written testimony. Or perhaps the intention the whole time was for his apprentices to take up that responsibility at some point.

We are conjecturing a bit here, but the good news is that we have written evidence about the person and ministry of Jesus from credible, eyewitness sources (his disciples). This meant that while Jesus was getting on with his specific work of the kingdom, they were watching, listening, perhaps even recording what they witnessed.

I hope this helps to stir further thought, your question certainly has for me!
Mike

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