We met, as we had often done. But this time it was different. He brought his Bible. I asked him what had changed. He explained.
I realized something as we’ve been meeting over the past months. You would share a passage of Scripture, turn to it, we’d read it, and discuss it. I found myself wanting to share some idea that I thought was found in Scripture. But rather than recalling the passage, I found myself pulling out my laptop, opening up my Bible app, and searching for something I vaguely recalled. And I realized I hadn’t been reading Scripture.
I know—that’s just anecdotal. No serious qualitative analysis; just an exchange between two brothers. But what my friend shared has come up in other conversations. Christians are “reading” the Bible in ways other than in a printed book, and it seems that it might be changing how we read.
While accepting the complete OT canon of the Jews, NT-era Christians also recognized additional written works as divinely-inspired and therefore authoritative. As the various Apostolic writings were composed and circulated, their authority was recognized and they began to be read in the churches in addition to the Old Testament Scriptures.
In 1 Timothy, Paul’s “textbook” on “church polity” (see 3:14-15), he instructs Timothy, proseche tei anagnosei, “devote yourself to the reading” (4:13). That this is the public reading of the Scriptures and not simply an exhortation to extensive private study is evident, first, from the presence in Greek of the definite article, “the reading,” that is, something well-known The article is similarly used in the references to the reading of the Scriptures in the synagogue, Acts 13:15; 2 Corinthians 3:14. Second, the two following activities, “the exhortation, the instruction,” are clearly public activities carried out in the assembly. Most commentators seem to understand the reading to be public and in the church, rather than private. Included in this number are Alford,1 Ellicott,2 Fairbairn,3 Van Oosterzee,4 Liddon,5 White,6 Lock,7 Robertson,8 Hendricksen,9 and Earle.10 On the other hand, there are those who understand the verse to mean private study, including Calvin,11 Gill,12 and Barnes13 (Clarke understands it of both public and private reading).14
Inasmuch as Bible instruction was an important function of both the synagogue and the church, it is no surprise to discover that the public reading of the Scriptures was among the regular activities of both. The value, even necessity, of the reading of Scriptures orally in both the synagogue and the church is further recognized when it is pointed out that considerable numbers of individuals in the first century were completely illiterate and could not read the sacred text for themselves at all. Besides this, the high cost of manuscript copies of the Bible made private possession and private reading of the Scriptures well beyond the reach of most individuals.
"I wonder, what's the reading level of Hebrews? We see in this warning that the writer had to condescend to a lower level of teaching than he wanted. And yet I think many of us today would agree that Hebrews is very meaty. This should cause us to stop and evaluate whether we are growing in our knowledge of the Lord." Ref21