Reading the Bible Out Loud- Five Minutes to Better Bible Reading

Writing Your Way Through the Bible- Five Minutes to Better Bible Reading

An Exercise of Emphasis

Let’s do a quick exercise. I want you to read out loud the title to this blog post. How did you say it? What ways did you emphasize the words? Let me demonstrate what I mean below. Which one of these describes the way you emphasized:

What You Say and How You Say It.

or is it….

What You Say and How You Say It.

but maybe it’s….

What You Say and How You Say It.

eh, what about…..

What You Say and How You Say It.

ok, let’s go with…..

What You Say and How You Say It.

Reading the Bible Out Loud Makes All the Difference

Now that you see all the varieties of the apparently not so straight forward statement, it is no longer clear exactly which emphasis is the right emphasis. After all, each variance could be right, right? You see, while we have the incredible ability to process written words, there are still some difficulties that come with the territory of written communication. When we compare this to audible communication, written communication seems to be at a huge disadvantage. So how does this relate to reading and studying the Bible?

Answer: the benefit of reading the Bible out loud.

Maybe you’re new to the reading out loud concept, so first I would like to establish the concept to you by drawing your attention to the first part of the final book in the Bible, Revelation. In the beginning of Revelation, the reader is offered a very interesting blessing. By the way, I covered this introduction to Revelation on a recent podcast episode:

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3).

Reading the Bible Out Loud: A Voluminous Promise

This is quite an amazing promise given to those who embark on the journey to read the Bible, especially a book that is conceived as one of the most confusing to all readers. But there it is: blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy. Now, I don’t think that there is any reason to argue that this verse is discouraging those who read the words to themselves, as if the blessing doesn’t count if it is not a spoken word. However, there is at the very least a wonderful incentive for us to think and practice reading the Bible out loud, not just Revelation but other books as well.

The Bible is not one of those that you move beyond. The very best of books may capture our interest enough to read them again a second or third time at some point, but Bible reading is a repeatable process- a cycle of life that continues year after year.”] Because of this, our reading can sometimes become superficial or even nonexistent. Sure our eyes might travel across sentences and paragraphs, but the reading comprehension and analysis can easily become quite passive. More on that here.

Reading the Bible Out Loud: Audible Memory

Some of you may have a favorite movie that you can literally quote from beginning to end because of how many times you have seen it. Certain scenes in a favorite thriller movie may initially scared you, but the more you watch the movie, the better, since you can anticipate each scene. This makes for a more passive watching experience. In other words, you don’t experience the raw emphasis of every scene as you do during the initial viewing.

If we apply that concept to Bible reading, it would occur in the familiar passages we tend to skim across. We lose the initial edge that came with the text the first time we read it. So you might be asking, is this a problem we can fix? While there are many ways to tackle this problem, one of the ways is certainly by developing a habit of reading the Bible out loud. Why? Because when we read things out loud, we have no choice but to emphasize what we say. When we process the pronunciation of words and the articulation of sentences in spoken form, we consider not only what we say, but how we say it.

Reading the Bible Out Loud: Emphasis Is Everything

At this point I want to say congratulations because now you know how to emphasize the title of this blog post. You know this because I just added an incredibly useful tool that gives readers an indicator of emphasis. We call this the use of italics. (Yes, I just italicized the word!). The problem with this is that the Bible does not give us italics. We must determine where to emphasize by studying the context of any given sentence. While studying context is an essential part of interpreting the Bible, we often forget that a rather easy and doable method of context is the method of reading a passage out loud. This enables us to hear the different emphasis options of a sentence.

You may be wondering if this really makes any difference. Let me share an example by placing the emphasis in different spots in one of the most popularized passages in all the Bible:

  1. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life

  2. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life

  3. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life

  4. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life

So now I ask, which is it?

Concluding Thoughts to Leave You With

While it isn’t so much an issue of which one is wrong, it is an issue which emphasis is best and whether we emphasize the right words when we read to ourselves. The answer might be difficult to determine by reading and re-reading to yourself. But try reading out loud; this forces you to think about emphasis and decide on emphasis with much more attention and focus. At the end of the day, it really matters both what you say and how you say it.

Give it a try! Which words have you emphasized in familiar Bible passages? Has reading out loud strengthened your emphasis or have you changed your mind after reading the passage out loud? Let me know in the comment section below!

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