Reading scripture aloud

Church bulletin:

I don’t think I need to argue the point that we should read the Bible. We are all well versed in the many passages which emphasise this. But do we ever think of reading the Bible out aloud? Many scholars believe that up until the 17th century most people who could read, read aloud to themselves. There are various reasons suggested as to what led to change which I won’t mention now.

In Augustine’s Confessions, he notes the practice of Ambrose the famous bishop and preacher of Milan. “But when Ambrose used to read, his eyes were drawn through the pages, while his heart searched for its meaning; however, his voice and tongue were quiet. Often when we were present—for anyone could approach him and it was not his habit that visitors be announced to him—we saw him reading in this fashion, silently and never otherwise” Ambrose read silently which apparently was an anomaly; for this reason Augustine draws attention to it. Reading aloud may feel awkward, but perhaps it’s just because we not accustomed to it.

Here is some food for thought.

1. Reading aloud stimulates the memory. Research published in the Journal Memory indicates that the act of speaking the text aloud is a more effective way to remember information than reading it silently or just hearing it read by someone else. The dual aspect of speaking and hearing helps encode the memory more strongly. It stands to reason, if we are engaging with truth in different ways – seeing, speaking and hearing, the mind is being stimulated in several different ways. Anything which helps us to retain God’s Word is a good thing.

2. Reading aloud is a way of emphasising and expressing truth. Unlike silent reading when we are internalising, through audible reading we are affirming truth before God; in the same way we audibly sing hymns and pray as worship before God. Perhaps it is an aspect of worship we haven’t considered – declaring truth before the Lord as an affirmation of faith. It brings with it a sense of ownership. I am giving verbal ascent to God’s Word because it is my Word.

3. Reading aloud enhances the experience. In a sense, reading silently is one dimensional, speaking and hearing add other dimensions. We are not only engaging with scripture through the medium of our eyes but also through our mouths and ears. I have noticed with literature particularly poetry, while I may enjoy reading a piece of writing, hearing it brings another level of appreciation. In a similar way we appreciate food on different levels – sight, smell, taste and texture.

In your quiet time perhaps reading aloud is something you could try. The Lord may add His blessing in a way you have not known before. Josh 1:8, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth” – not only speaking it to others, but speaking it to ourselves.