What did they do before there were Bibles?

At the beginning of any new year, you’ll see lots of read through the Bible in a year or two plans promoted. Be sure to check out this blog that talks about what to do when you’ve already fallen behind in your resolve to read the Bible.

Here’s my question: how did Christians read their bibles and do their personal devotions before there were bibles you could own and read? Printed bibles have only been around for about 500 years. Before that, there were hand-copied bibles in churches and universities, but virtually no one had one at home. Before that, there was just the Old Testament, and they kept and read those scrolls in the synagogues. Get this: Jesus didn’t even own a Bible!

I’m guessing that the answer is, for the most part, they didn’t. If you were a monk in the middle ages, I guess you could go to the prayer hours (matins, vespers, etc.) and hear the Word read there. Otherwise, the Word was read at mass each week. In the earliest days of the church, you got your teaching live from an apostle who recounted the things they had heard from Jesus and seen Him do. That must have been very cool. And before that, you got your daily dose of the Word from the Word Himself, Jesus. And before that you would have gotten the Word from the prophets, who spoke for God, but hardly anyone listened to them anyway.

I’m not sure where I’m going with all this, but I believe it’s important to remember that the current emphasis on bible reading and study, which really drives a lot of our programs, is a fairly recent one in the history of the church. And since we do have bibles coming out our ears (and electronic devices), we should take advantage of them. There doesn’t seem to be much excuse to not know what’s in the Bible or what God says about something. But I read somewhere that biblical illiteracy is disturbingly high among self-proclaimed Christians. You know what that means: job security for me.

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