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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Reader

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READER.—The Gospels frequently refer to private reading of Scripture, and Jesus Christ assumes that His hearers have the sacred books and read them for themselves, e.g. Mark 2:25; Mark 12:10; Mark 12:26, Matthew 12:3, Luke 6:3. At Nazareth, Jesus took the place of the public reader in the synagogue (Luke 4:16). The expression, ‘Let him that readeth understand,’ in Matthew 24:15, cannot refer to the reading of Daniel 9:27, because, although Daniel is mentioned earlier in this passage of Mt. (i.e. at v. 15), in Mk.’s parallel passage there is no reference to Daniel (see Mark 13:14). Therefore the words cannot be part of our Lord’s utterance, and must be taken as a note interjected by the Evangelist, the writer of his source, or a reviser. Taken thus, they appear to point to the function of the reader in the primitive Church. That this function was known in very early times is indicated also by Revelation 1:3, where public reading is unmistakably indicated, because it is associated with hearing by others: ‘Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear,’ etc. In this respect, as in many other matters, the order of the Christian assembly was moulded on that of the synagogue. Among the Jews any member of the congregation—even a minor—might be the reader both of the Law and of the Prophets, although if a priest or a Levite were present he should have precedence (Gittin, v. 8). Therefore it was quite in order that Jesus, although neither a scribe nor a synagogue official, should have the Prophet roll handed to Him to read. For this reason we may conclude that the reader in the primitive Church was not a man in any sense ‘in orders.’ For convenience, the same person might read on every occasion; but there is nothing to show that this was the case. We do not meet with the reader among the Church functionaries referred to by St. Paul. Tertullian is the earliest Patristic writer to mention this official (de Prœscr. c. [Note: circa, about.] 41). In the 3rd cent, he was included among the minor orders (Cyprian, Epp. 29, 38, etc.). See Sehürer, GJV [Note: JV Geschichte des Jüdischen Volkes.] 3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] ii. ii. 27; Smith’s DCA [Note: CA Dictionary of Christian Antiquities.] , vol. i. pp. 79, 80; Harnack, Sources of the Apostolic Canons, pp. 54–92.

W. F. Adeney.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Reader'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/r/reader.html. 1906-1918.

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