This Post Should Be a 'Sticky'

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Puritan Board Junior
I browsed the forum menu, and I don't know exactly where, but I found the post so informative, that I would hate to see it disappear into the ether. I leave it to the staff to decide if my suggestion has merit, and if so, where the appropriate location for the post to be seen would be.
The thread title by the OP was;
"I only read the Bible..."
Discussion in 'General discussions' started by UKPuritan40, Thursday at 11:54 PM.
My greetings to your dear husband (and my friend Glenn!).

Great answers here, but let me put it a bit stronger, as this position ("I read the Bible only") is relatively recent.

No one in the early or medieval church (before the development of the printing press in the West in the mid 15th c.) had the widespread availability of the Bible (copies for personal use). Such as was available was chiefly for clerical (regular or secular) use and not in the vernacular (Jerome's Vulgate was the AV). Most were illiterate and could not have read anything in their own languages, never mind the Latin of the Vulgate (and certainly not Greek or Hebrew). Many of the lower secular clergy were illiterate and not able to read the Bible in any language (having simply memorized the Latin of the Mass).

The churches on the whole were not redolent with great preaching, relying on the stained glass windows to "tell the Christian story" to the illiterate masses, much of the preaching coming from the mendicants among the regular clergy who went about preaching the gospel (as it was understood) in the vernacular, especially the Dominicans (the Order of Preachers). The Reformation involved in no small measure a real revival in the reading and preaching of Scriptures in the churches.

Even then, it did not mean everyone having their own Bible and believing that the personal study of it was paramount. No, the Reformation, in being a recovery of the Word and its preaching, understood what had always been understood by the Church at its best: the Bible was the Word of God, given in the Church and to the Church, to be understood in that context, that is, the Word was never to be an unexposited Word but a preached Word, given to and to be understood in the communion of the saints.

So the notion that the Bible is to be understood outside of the communion of the saints is utterly foreign to the history of the church. For years, people did not read it themselves at all. Rather they heard it read in church and then explicated. The Reformation involved a restoration of this, with the Puritan service coming to be about three hours morning and afternoon, with about half of it being dedicated to the reading and preaching of Scripture (contrary to popular belief sermons were not hours, but usually an hour or so; the other half of the service was singing and praying, the "long prayer" being often close to an hour).

It is true that coming out of the Reformation was a great emphasis on literacy and, ultimately, a commitment to make it possible for all to have their own Bibles. This latter has come to pass only since the 19th c. All this is to say that a position that nothing is more important or desirable than personal Bible study (I want to encourage it--let's be clear--and I commend to all a read-through at least yearly) is simply out of line with deeper as well as Reformational commitments.

Nothing is more important for a right understanding of the Word than its public reading and preaching (WLC 155--"especially the preaching"). All of our private (family) and secret (personal) use of it should occur within that context, and not undermine the public but serve in the support and extension of it.

It's a lesson taken from heretics and the worst of the Radical Reformers to emphasize one's own personal reading and study of the Word as the chief means of grace: it has never been such and it will never be such until Christ returns. The right private and secret use of the Word will enrich one's public experience even as the latter serves to shape the former. What we need again is a true recovery of the reading and preaching of the Word of God in churches throughout this land and throughout the world.


Last edited: Yesterday at 1:05 PM
Alan D. Strange
Minister, OPC
Professor, Mid-America Reformed Seminary
Dyer, IN
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