Reading the Bible out loud is an ancient practice that offers us an example for a different way of engaging the Scriptures.
Public Reading of Scripture
Reading the Bible aloud with a group of people is an ancient practice. In fact, the origins of the Bible are rooted in its being read aloud in public. Explore with us the origins and development of this fascinating biblical topic, and how its offers us a model for engaging the Scriptures in our own day.
Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.
There's a verse in 1 Timothy 4:13 that says, "Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching." In this verse, Paul is instructing a young preacher named Timothy in the ways that he can keep his congregation engaged. The importance of preaching and teaching are easy enough to understand, but what about the public reading of Scripture?
For Paul, reading Bible verses in public was a highly important practice.
For Paul, reading Bible verses in public was a highly important practice. In fact, it's a practice that dates all the way back to Mt. Sinai when the Israelites were first rescued from Egypt. No longer slaves to the Egyptians, the Israelite people needed a new identity, a new story to identify with. To solve this problem, Moses gathered the people together and read the Scriptures aloud to them, reminding them of where they came from, who they are, and the new future they have been called to live for. This is the first example we are given of public reading from Holy Scripture.
When the Israelites arrived in the Promised Land, Joshua read Scriptures aloud to them again. However, upon Joshua's death, we really don't see much more public reading of Holy Scripture for a period of time. During this period, the Israelite people forget their story and the mission they were called to. This led to a generation that did not know God. Centuries later though, a king named Josiah rediscovered the Scriptures and called the people together to have them read aloud.
The practice of reading Scriptures aloud was renewed once again, and the people of Israel came back to God; at least, they did until public Scripture reading diminished once again. When the Israelites came back to God once more later on in the story, it was yet again the public reading of His word that brought them back.
Due to the powerful effect of public Scripture reading, reading Scripture aloud became a key practice in the Jewish faith. Even Jesus Himself participated in this practice, and it was during the weekly reading of Scriptures that He first launched His mission. He read from the scroll of Isaiah and then told everyone that the words He read were written about Him. After this event, the timeline of public Scripture reading brings us back around to when Paul instructed Timothy in the importance of the practice.
Due to the powerful effect of public Scripture reading, reading Scripture aloud became a key practice in the Jewish faith.
Paul and other Apostles writings were routinely read publicly.
Of course, in Biblical times, few people knew how to read, meaning that unless the Scriptures were read aloud they would never hear them. Nevertheless, it's important not to underestimate the power that public Scripture reading still has for Christians today. Reading alongside other people guards us against distractions and provides us with fellowship. It's a practice that God's people have always done to remind themselves of who they are and what they have been called for, and it's still a powerful practice for us today.
Continue Your Learning Journey
How to Read The Bible
This is a starter video series that helps you read the Bible while understanding its unique design and literary devices.
3 Easy Ways to Engage the Bible & Help to Get You StartedThe Bible Project
Here at The Bible Project we love the Bible. But you probably know that by now. We believe it's a divine-human book that speaks God's Word to his people and ultimately leads us to Jesus, the one who has power to change lives. Amazing, right? Through the Bible, Jesus can tran...