Quote of the Day–More Hebrew Please Aloud not Silent

Torah 2

I have always realized that a sermon or homily is best heard through its deliverance by the preacher than merely read privately.  Much is conveyed through the preacher’s tone of voice, facial expression, gestures and mannerisms which is simply lost in a private reading of a written text.   Delving into another Five Books of Moses, this time a translation by Everett Fox I found this statement:

Recent research (this book was published in 1995) reveals that virtually all, literature in Greek and Roman times – the period the Hebrew Bible was put more or less into the form in which it has come down to us (but not the period of its composition) – was read aloud. This holds for the process of copying and writing, and also, surprisingly, for solitary reading.  As late as the last decade of the fourth century Saint Augustine expressed his surprise at finding a sage who read silently.

So the Bible, if not an oral document, is certainly an aural one; it would have been read aloud as a matter of course.  …the implications of this for understanding the text are considerable.  The rhetoric of the text is such that many passages and sections are understandable in depth only when they are analyzed as they are heard. Using echoes, allusions, and powerful inner structures of sound, the text is often able to convey ideas in a manner that vocabulary alone cannot do.

A few minutes ago I addressed an email to a group of daily office officiants at our parish and after repeating the quote form Fox I said: “While we cannot savor the subtle nuances of the original Greek and Hebrew directly we can systematically read our English version aloud on a daily basis and experience the message in a greater dimension than reading it privately.  … We therefore carry a great responsibility to provide a more expansive presentation of God’s word through our oral reading at the offices than is practical to present on a given Sunday.”

Those who lead the daily office should understand how close to the Synagogue they come. The gist here is that there is more to studying the Bible than merely reading it silently or talking about it privately.   As with liturgy we must employ all our senses and feel the word as well as hear it much as a musician “feels” the music he or she is playing.  We could therefore characterize liturgy as the guide by which we play the music of the scriptures.




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