Monday, October 06, 2008

Hear, O Israel

In Nehemiah 8:2, the scribe Ezra brings out the Book of the Law before the assembly made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He reads it aloud from daybreak until noon and everyone present listens attentively.
Indeed, many of them weep as they listen to the words of the Law (8:9).

Saturday afternoon at the Zoe Conference, attendees listened to Revelation as led by Mike Cope, Randy Harris and Larry Mudd. The Zoe Group interspersed hymns among the reading and emoting. It was an unusual and moving experience. How often do we listen to long readings of the Bible?

It struck me later that this was the way the early Christians heard the Word. Paul's letters were read to the churches. The Torah was read in the synagogue and everyone listened. Before the printing press, the Word was read by priests to the congregation, because very few laity could read, even if they had a Bible. Then along came Gutenberg, Wycliffe and Martin Luther.

It is almost mind-boggling to think about the development of the printed Word we have today. Ten years ago, Brandon gave me a book A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel in which a chapter called Beginnings details the training and history of scribes. In the Beginning, The Story of The King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation , a Language and a Culture by Alister McGrath is also fascinating as it details how dangerous it was to translate the Bible into a common tongue. Eugene Peterson's Eat This Book looks at translations in a chapter called "God's Secretaries". All very interesting.

But suppose you had never heard the Word, never read a commentary, never read a translation--what would it be like?
What pictures would you conjure up as the "raw" word was read? What new understandings and flashes of insight would come to you?

It is hard for us in our print saturated society to even imagine. But I got a taste of it on Saturday and enjoyed it. Thanks, Mike, Randy and Larry.

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