1st century literalists
Difficulty with understanding the "spirit of the law"-- an over-literalization of the Bible-- was presumably as common in the first century as it is today.
Today, we see it among some Christians, and ironically, some opponents of Christianity.
In the Old Testament, it is rampant in a reductionistic understanding of the sacrificial symbolism. In the days of Jesus, we see it in the worldview of the Pharisees. But on Sunday, we came across a smaller example in John 6:51-52.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"