How the Early Church Engaged with Scripture (Brian J. Wright)

When we think of the early church, some of us might imagine groups of illiterate believers guided by one or two trained readers or teachers. In fact, the historical reality was very different. Brian J. Wright describes an ancient world obsessed with reading—especially public, communal reading of significant texts, including lots of questioning and dialogue.

In this episode, Dru Johnson and Brian Wright examine literacy levels in the Roman Empire, the early church’s engagement with Paul’s letters, and historical evidence about reading in the first and second centuries. They also discuss the modern church’s Bible engagement, and how we can take a more dialogical and active approach to reading Scripture.

Brian J. Wright is an associate pastor at Denia Community Church, an adjunct professor, and author of Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus: A Window into Early Christian Reading Practices. He studies communal reading in the scholarly context, challenging long-held views about literary culture, and also encourages contemporary communal reading practices.

Show notes:

  • 0:00 The “public reading mania” of the early Christian era
  • 3:20 Transformative, communal texts
  • 5:53 Literacy levels in the Roman Empire
  • 9:40 Defining “communal”
  • 12:23 Jewish practices for reading and debating Scripture
  • 14:18 A culture of collective correction
  • 17:27 Early Christian dialogue
  • 21:11 Dialogue in the modern church
  • 26:47 Reading entire epistles
  • 32:40 Reading “as long as time permits”
  • 35:28 Augustine about Ambrose reading

Tweetable Quote

“There’s wisdom in us doing it [reading and teaching] together. Everything about the community is really at the heart of the conversation.”

Show notes by Micah Long

Image created by Rubner Durais

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