Why we should all be using printed Bibles


It’s not uncommon in churches, when the time comes for the Bible reading, to see people reach not for a printed pew Bible, but for their phones, to read the Bible on a phone app. Since the pandemic, people have become even more nervous about picking up a printed Bible in church—despite the lack of evidence of any risk, this is a hangover from the first regulations in March 2020, when it was thought that Covid-19 could be transmitted via surfaces.

When I was in a session at New Wine a couple of years ago, the speaker at the morning Bible study (Miriam Swaffield) commented that she thought it was better for people to read print Bibles than read them from a screen. It made me sit up, since I say this frequently when teaching in different contexts, but this was the first time I had heard someone else say it from ‘up front’. When I commented on this on social media, I was taken back by the torrent of reactions—I hadn’t realised that this was quite such a controversial suggestion!

Electronic texts are very useful for certain purposes. I probably spend 98% of my time working with the electronic text of the Bible on my computer, because I am often looking for particular texts and wanting to copy the English or Greek into something that I am writing. (It isn’t very easy to find the seven occurrences of ‘cried out in a loud voice’ using a specific grammatical construction in the Book of Revelation in a printed text!) And I will often read on my phone (using the same app, Accordance) when I want to read along in Hebrew or Greek in a church context.

Some people read on their phone because it is easier to make the type size larger (this concerns people of a certain age!)—for the sight-impaired, this is really important—and electronic texts allow you to read in different translations easily and compare them. But I suspect that the reason why most people read the Bible on a phone app is because

a. it is convenient as I already have the phone in my pocket and

b. all of my life is on the phone, so it is something that I am used to.

(I omit c. it means I can easily check social media when the sermon gets boring without anyone really noticing.)

Apart from avoiding the distractions of really urgent text messages and social media notifications the must be attended to, there are other really important reasons why print Bibles (technically called a codex) offer a better reading experience.

Navigation 

When a reading is announced, it is quicker and easier for those with print Bibles to find the reading, especially when the page number in common pew Bibles is given. The basic reason for this is that electronic texts are, in effect, scrolls; they read across, but are a virtual form of a continuous linear text. It is rather ironic to note that codices became the preferred form of text because they were smaller, cheaper, more convenient, and easier to find one’s way around than scrolls, and these issues became the main drivers when ordinary people, becoming Christians, were interested in the Christian scriptures. Electronic scrolls are, essentially, two dimensional; books are three dimensional, and that makes all the difference.

Because of their easy navigability, paper books and documents may be better suited to absorption in a text. “The ease with which you can find out the beginning, end and everything inbetween and the constant connection to your path, your progress in the text, might be some way of making it less taxing cognitively, so you have more free capacity for comprehension,” Mangen says.

Supporting this research, surveys indicate that screens and e-readers interfere with two other important aspects of navigating texts: serendipity and a sense of control. People report that they enjoy flipping to a previous section of a paper book when a sentence surfaces a memory of something they read earlier, for example, or quickly scanning ahead on a whim. People also like to have as much control over a text as possible—to highlight with chemical ink, easily write notes to themselves in the margins as well as deform the paper however they choose.

Canon

When you open a print Bible, you are immediately aware of where the text you are reading comes in the Bible as a whole. Genesis is at the beginning; the Psalms are in the middle. Revelation is at the end. Noticing these, even unconsciously, is contributing to your biblical literacy—your overall understanding of the shape of the biblical story—and this is a crucial skill in reading and interpreting well.

Of course the canon of Scripture as we have it is in a rather odd order. We would naturally arrange things chronologically, rather than first by kind of writing and second by length, starting with the longest and going down to the shortest. But understanding this grouping also helps our biblical literacy: the psalms are not the only example of ‘the writings’; Isaiah is not the only ‘major prophet’; 1 and 2 Kings are not the only ‘histories’ (or ‘former prophets’ if you are Jewish); there are four gospels; and so on. You might argue that these things are common knowledge or are easily discovered—but the point is that you discover them in the process of reading a print text, which you don’t when reading from a screen.

Even more importantly, print Bibles naturally give you the immediate context of a reading. To read a short extract is to artificially decontextualise a reading. In the church where I grew up, the Bible readings were extracted and printed in the service sheets, which completely eliminated the context—and projecting readings on a screen does the same. If I have my print Bible open, I see as part of my reading the passages preceding and following, and with the turn of the page the wider context still. This is not simply harder with electronic texts; it is not a natural part of the reading process.

Learning and cognition

The issue of canonical understanding relates to wide questions about effective learning. There is a significant move gathering pace in higher education away from electronic resources and screens, because the research evidence suggest that screens actually inhibit learning for a variety of reasons.

Average final exam scores among students assigned to classrooms that allowed computers were 18 percent of a standard deviation lower than exam scores of students in classrooms that prohibited computers. Through the use of two separate treatment arms, we uncover evidence that this negative effect occurs in classrooms where laptops and tablets are permitted without restriction and in classrooms where students are only permitted to use tablets that must remain flat on the desk surface.

I can still remember very clearly where on the page certain passages come, not least in relation to the Annie Vallotton pictures in the Good News Bible I read as a teenager. Our brains are not abstract processors of communication; we are embedded in the real world, and real world experiences make a difference to how we think. That is why walking through a doorway makes us forget why we went into the room in the first place—and conversely why thinking about physical spaces can actually enhance our ability to remember things. In fact, the brain has no other way of conceptualising what writing is other than as a physical object.

We often think of reading as a cerebral activity concerned with the abstract—with thoughts and ideas, tone and themes, metaphors and motifs. As far as our brains are concerned, however, text is a tangible part of the physical world we inhabit. In fact, the brain essentially regards letters as physical objects because it does not really have another way of understanding them.

We are not spirits trapped in physical bodies, waiting to escape to an immaterial spiritual world. We are body-soul unities, and our future hope is physical, in the resurrection of the dead and a new heaven and earth. No wonder the physically of texts matters to us.

Real and lasting

For most of us, electronic texts are ephemeral whilst printed texts are, in some distinct sense, real and lasting. (A curious anecdote: when I first started regularly writing on this blog, my instinct was to capture what I wrote physically, so I was in the habit of printing out all the blog posts and filing them away carefully. I soon realised this was not practical, and this weekend just cleared out the file and threw all the printouts away.) That is why we are happy to read the holiday novel on Kindle, but technical and reference books are still almost all bought as physical texts. Which is the Bible closest to?

Justin Hardin, who teaches in a seminary in the States, commented in discussion:

The others senses are deprived when we read electronically. The smell of the paper. The weight of the book in our hands. The rustle of the pages as we flip to new sections. How can we immerse ourselves into the work of reading when we reduce it to a screen? (And this doesn’t address silent reading v. reading aloud.) I have had technology-free classrooms my whole career, and with each crop of students, they find it more and more refreshing.

In this context, I find it fascinating to note that scripture refers to itself less as ‘what was said’ and more as ‘it is written’. The inscription of text in a physical form gives it a permanence and a reality which electronic texts can never have. God made himself known in a physical, personal expression in Jesus, and continues to make himself known in the physical, written expression in scripture.

Public

Books are public; by and large screens are private. If you are studying the Bible in a small group, the dynamic feels quite different when all are reading print Bibles on public display compared with everyone reading on their phones. Try it! scripture is ‘public truth’, public testimony about who God is and the person and work of Jesus, and we need to keep it public.


Now some would object: weren’t what we have as biblical text first heard, and not read or studied? That is true, not least as a reflection (in relation to the New Testament) of the low levels of literacy (perhaps around 14% of the population) in the Roman Empire. But the evidence of the role of letter carriers, the historical development of the codex, and the texts themselves (often very carefully constructed) all demonstrate that the biblical authors expected their writings to be studied in great detail, and that in fact they were.

So here is (electronically!) the bottom line: if you want people to engage well in reading Scripture, to remember what they have read, and to engage in a life-changing immersive experience of Bible reading, don’t put your Bible readings on screen. Buy pew Bibles! And as you encourage people to return to worship God in a shared physical space, encourage them to read a real, physical Bible—for just the same reasons. (A version of this previously published in 2018.)


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39 thoughts on “Why we should all be using printed Bibles”

  1. I prefer to read the printed book at all times. It certainly does seem odd for anyone to be following the Bible reading on their phone, while it’s on a screen above as well! But if we’re in church hearing a Bible reading, we don’t actually need to “read” it at all; we can just listen.

    Reply
    • Yes, I think we have often lost sight of the value of listening rather than reading, especially when a slightly different text leads to the ‘translation’ focus. We have that with different editions of the NIV in use at home or in Church, let alone those who use other versions! But the Bible was originally heard by most Christians – Codices were *not* produced for everyday Christians, as they were too expensive and time-consuming to produce. They were produced for libraries and for congregational reading.
      So until Gutenberg, Christians mainly only heard scripture rather than read it, unless they were clergy (and many of them were illiterate) or monks. Early Christians also learned it – reciting and remembering the texts, particularly in the initial decades.

      Reply
  2. Dr Paul,
    At first I thought you were wrong, I’m glad I read through to the end.

    I study the Bible mostly from a laptop, with a phone as a backup. But then I realised that despite the occasional time two windows on the laptop are open, plus the phone and a tablet. Online is a great help to understanding. My You Version is full of all the highlighting you mentioned was found in print Bibles. I am currently finding Jewish commentaries on the psalms very illuminating. I may never have found them without search engines.

    Then I realised there is always my ESV study bible close to my elbow and my RSV held together with Gaffer’s tape, with all my old notes of over 40 years is nearby. If an internet search fails the old memory trich of halfway down a left-hand column.

    But I am not going to say that I find either online or printed is better: I find them complementary.

    Reply
    • Yes, that is true. They are. And I say so at several points. The key question I am asking is: when we meet together, what is the best thing to encourage our congregations to do?

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  3. I work in Bible translation in West Africa. Even there this question causes debate, though the last time I was questioned about it, it was from the fear that people wouldn’t buy the print Bible if they could have the electronic form for free. From that point of view I pointed out that we aren’t trying to make money, so we should just rejoice that people are getting the Bible in their own language. In reality, I know that those who really care about reading and studying the Bible are going to buy it in paper form, for many of the reasons you list!

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  4. When I read a passage out loud in a church service I always read from a printed sheet on which I have marked the likely stumbling points, discovered by reading it out loud twice the night before. The standard of reading-out by many congregation members (NB I am not in church leadership) is shockingly low, with much stumbling and mispronunciation, and this could be improved by expecting them to read it out loud twice the night before.

    If there is a ceremonial Bible at the front of the church then I put the printed sheet on it. If not, I just read from the sheet.

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  5. I agree with both Anton and yourself, that reading aloud is a crucial missing skill from many churches.

    I try and read my bible aloud, to empty space usually, as often as I can. We can be scared as churches of making parts of what we do a ‘performance’, but I do believe that a little bit of rehearsal, practice and emotion in the delivery of scripture (especially the epistles) does wonders, and even moreso if the person reading can do it from memory.

    Mat

    Reply
    • I learnt – I don’t know where – that one is supposed to deliver scripture without emotion (not necessarily monotone – a vicar-style sing-song is fine). Is that not actually the rule?

      Reply
      • Anybody who does not inject a bit of drama into reading out the following passages… well, you get the idea.

        Genesis 3:11 “Who told thee that thou wast naked?”

        Genesis 3:19 “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”.

        Genesis 45:1-7 Joseph discloses himself to his brothers

        Exodus 3:14 I AM

        Exodus 10:28-9 Moses vs Pharaoh

        Deuteronomy 30:15-20 “I have set before you life and death…”

        1 Samuel 17:41-50 David slays Goliath

        2 Samuel 1:19-27 David’s lament for Jonathan and Saul

        2 Samuel 18:31-3 News of Absalom’s death

        Job 28 Mining for ore and wisdom

        Job 38,39 God speaks and searches Job

        Isaiah 14 Curse on the satanic king of Babylon

        Ezekiel 16 Allegory about Jerusalem

        Daniel 5:5-6 & 25-8 Belshazzar’s feast: the writing on the wall

        Amos 4:12: Prepare to meet your God, O Israel…

        Zechariah 12:8-11 They shall gaze on him whom they pierced…

        Matthew 10:34 “I came not to bring peace, but a sword.”

        Matthew 23:27-39 The exposing of the Pharisees, and Jesus’ pain for Jerusalem

        Luke 4:21 “Today, in your hearing, this scripture is fulfilled.”

        Luke 12:20 “Tonight your soul will be demanded of you.”

        John 8:58 “Before Abraham was, I am.”

        John 11:43 Raising of Lazarus

        John 18,19 (especially 18:37-40, 19:5-11, 19:15) Jesus’ arrest and trials

        John 20:13-6 Jesus reappears alive (“Mary”)

        Acts 17:23 “Whom ye did not know, Him declare I unto ye.”

        Acts 25:12 “To Caesar you have appealed. To Caesar you shall go!”

        Revelation 18:21-4 Pronouncement against New Babylon

        Reply
      • I passionately disagree. Scripture should be read with feeling. By all means let’s avoid overdramatising when reading the Bible in public but there are surely few sounds more insufferable to the human ear than sing-song vicar intonation!

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    • Reading aloud in a well-prepared and interesting way adds immeasurably.

      Working out Paul’s train of thought means finding which words need emphasis (usually because of contrast with another word which is also emphasised). The interplay of emphasised and non-emphasised words helps people understand what points Paul is making.

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  6. A slightly different point – forgive the digression – but the availability of the Bible on microSD cards for use on mobile phones (basic and smart) in restricted-access countries, where paper Bibles are either difficult to obtain or else a danger to possess, is a great boon.

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      • May I suggest that calling someone’s opinion ‘Idiotic’ falls outside the boundaries of ‘well-argued and respectful’. 😉

        I jest a little.

        I do however think that Karl is perhaps too defensive, even if he makes several points I agree with. My reading was that this article asserts *not* the intrinsic superiority of text over digital, but rather asserts the value of text in a world where it seems to be fading out of use…. It is not an argument against something, but an argument in favour of something and that’s an important distinction. The concession is made almost immediately that Ian himself uses digital software and a computer to do the overwhelming majority of his work with the text, and nothing negative was said at all about those resources.

        I think it’s a fair inference that Ian values and supports the continued work and development of said resources, rather than lamenting them.

        I quite agree with Karl that the article makes some suspect claims, and I do not know what Ian means when talking about scrolls being 2-dimensional either, but it is my understanding that some of these things at least are borne out in the research, particularly the comments about memory and cognition. At the very least this is a debatable point, and not something so cut and dry as to be dismissed out of hand (especially without a counter-citation).

        The main thrust though is that there are things of value that can be gained from using a physical bible, that are harder, if not impossible, to gain from a mobile device (and vice-versa of course!) so even if you can argue the details of what those are and about how much prominence they should be given, I certainly don’t think what’s been written is an egregious affront to anyone, intentional or otherwise?

        Mat

        Reply
      • Hmmm…I am not so sure. (Karl’s response would be easier to engage with if he summarised the points here, rather than linking to FB).

        I think what Karl is doing here is comparing the best of one scenario (electronic) with the worst of another (paper) which is not the way to win an argument.

        He also seems to assume (since he works in this field) that everyone has invested in the best electronic Bible, and is supremely competent at using it. That in itself raises a question. I am making observations from actual use by actual people in actual churches.

        I think he is ignoring the quite well established research evidence on learning. One of my links here is broken, but it is not hard to find recent research which supports these points.

        It is also worth noting that I think *every single* other person who commented on FB agreed with most of these points, both from their own personal experience, and from research evidence, including those in teaching in universities and seminaries, like the link to the piece by Wes Hill at the bottom.

        Finally, I think Karl is avoiding the theological and anthropological point: we are bodily creatures, not brains on sticks. The physical matters. Scripture (meaning ‘What has been written’) has historically been a physical thing, not simply a collection of ideas, and that has mattered both theologically and practically.

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  7. All my paper version Bibles have fallen apart!

    I love the fact that you can carry around multiple Bible translations on one device; press on a word and instantly you have the Hebrew or Greek translation.

    Saves a lot of bookshelf space!

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  8. If only ppl would learn their bibles then the reader could just quote the reference and we could all move on to the next item. Like the joke where the comedy club knows the whole routine and the comedian only has to say “N°212” to get a laugh. Of course, it’s the way you tell them, Kyle, so sing-song is a must.

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  9. Just “yes”!

    I’ve been reading the printed bible for well over 50 years. I don’t think it can be beaten for creating a scripture map rather than disconnected passages.

    It’s far easier to flip to other passages and look at them together… Your original split screen using fingers or sticky tabs…

    I do use an electronic version for my reading through the whole bible as I try to every other year or so… But then the map is in my head. I do find the font size enlargement helpful… some churches have absolutely rubbish lighting.

    I give printed (Gospels) to enquirers as it’s not so threatening and bite sized.

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  10. you last posted this in 2018. I fear it has got far more than three years out of date with those of us who aren’t nearing the age where we draw our state pension. I had to chuckle, for example, at your belief that it is “quicker and easier” to find the passage with the physical text than with the electronic text. That may be your experience if you aren’t up to date with bible apps such as the superb (and free) Olive Tree. I can assure you that anyone who is familiar with them (and that will be most Christians under the age of 40) will find a bible passage in seconds – far quicker than any fan of the physical text would find it in a pew bible.

    The point should surely be that whatever medium works best for you to grow in your love and understanding of Christ through the word of God is the best for you. I’m sure when books were invented, there were blog posts by scroll fans who quoted stats on how cognition was for lower with these new fangled pieces of technology.

    And interestingly, what of the fact that the canon of scripture as a personal physical text possessed by individual believers is an incredibly recent phenomenon? For the vast majority of the history of the people of God, the text was received aurally anyway. After all, somewhere, someone said “Faith comes by hearing”. If only I had a paper bible handy to look up the reference!

    Reply
    • Hi John…

      It’s a shame you didn’t engage with… “It’s far easier to flip to other passages and look at them together…” rather than your cut and paste extract.

      And re your ageist assumptions… I first trained in electronics and some computing in the 1960’s and 70’s. I’ve often been an early adopter of technology and I do know what olive tree software is (other versions have long been available!). I know my BIOS from my DOS and CMOS from MOSFET…. How’s your PCM knowledge? I introduced computers into church office in the 1980s… I use a tablet for daily personal reading but not for all of it… I’ll try not to take insult from your comment, despite your “chuckle”.

      Of course one should use “what works best for you”… But that doesn’t deal with the what I contributed. 2018 eh. You still have not engaged then.. .

      I’m not convinced that I’d always be much slower than you looking up a text… But is that super speed entirely a gain? What’s the loss?

      Reply
  11. I always stick to one edition of my (NIV) bible because, when cross-referencing, somehow I just know/remember where the relevant verses are located, whether top middle or bottom of one of the 4 columns in 2 facing pages.

    In fact, sometimes I don’t even remember what exact verse I am looking at, but I know the ‘feel’ of verses in a particular location on a particular page.

    It’s probably my age, and the fact that I don’t own a smart phone (my phone just does texts and spoken phone calls – £9-99 Nokia)… but I know my way around my NIV Bible and that’s how it works for me.

    I like to ‘open’ to the text when I turn to my Bible and I think the Spirit leads us as we read and open up to God.

    For me, interaction with the Bible is mostly a ‘feeling’, and different passages have different moods, and I remember them by how they make me feel. I also seem to associate colours with various books and passages.

    Having my own personal bible provides me with a platform I know how to navigate, and familiarity helps me make leaps between books. But a lot of that is about position on the page, so I know where to look.

    I think people have diverse neurologies. Some people think in words, some people think in pictures, some people think in the mood and feeling of ideas, and the associations those moods and feelings trigger.

    And sometimes, knowledge seems to be imparted whole, without consciously working it out. Openness and receptivity are a valuable character trait for some people.

    God is interactive with us as we try to open our hearts and minds. Revelation can come through biblical passages, but also through direct revelation from God. God interacts with our feelings, with our minds, and at both conscious and subconscious levels.

    For me, the Bible is a physical presence in the house – not a person, but a kind of portal. You open its pages and step through into conversations and encounters with God. Some passages resonate at the level of myth or symbol, deeper than literal surface words. I find something precious about physically holding my Bible. It’s part of my life and the journey I have shared with God over many years.

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  12. Also, to add, our family has a large family bible with details of births, christenings, deaths going back to the 1820s. It’s not the same as my lighter, smaller personal bible but it feels like something permanent through the generations, somehow less ephemeral than websites and the virtual world. It’s quite a thing to be turning the pages your gt-gt-gt grandparents also turned 200 years ago. Rather like old churches, I think physical Bibles can sort of accompany us through the cycles of the seasons of our lives and the turning of the years. I think it’s helpful to have tangible artifacts, and Bibles remind us of God’s presence and alongsideness with us through years, and even generations, and through good times and through bad times, on our journey.

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  13. Really good post Ian – I entirely agree

    I use technical online software Bible tools daily (esp: Accordance for Mac etc)
    but there is no substitute for the book in the hand

    It is three dimensional and more senses are engaged and the brain can more easily remember what it sees and associates with feel, touch, smell.
    I can recall what I have seen & read on the paper page and where exactly – never with screen text

    The Bible on the screen/computer/phones struggles to be differentiated in my mind from the same text on the same screen as emails n amazon n wot not

    Engaging with the Bible on screen seems removed, technical, academic, but when I open my printed Bible it is more personal, existential.

    I am old school and think that a quality binding (for repeated use) and leather bound with gold block befit the sacred content.

    I liked what Susanna said that for her, “the Bible is a physical presence in the house – not a person, but a kind of portal. You open its pages and step through into conversations and encounters with God.” this is my experience too

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  14. And there was I thinking that forgetting what I had gone to fetch in the room above was a sign of encroaching senility.

    Anything that resists the digitalisation of human experience has to be good, and I am impressed by the many different considerations brought to bear on this particular issue.

    You must have re-read the 2018 version before re-posting it, so I am surprised you remained happy that you “through” all your printouts away. If you had read a printed version, you might have noticed!

    The link https://seii.mit.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/SEII-Discussion-Paper-2016.02-Payne-Carter-Greenberg-and-Walker-2.pdf is now defunct.

    Reply
  15. I prefer a Kindle: lightweight; adjustable text size; can carry around multiple books; easy to search for verses or topics; instant definitions for any word, accessible footnotes; text can be highlighted and highlights can be removed again; backlight so can be read in any lighting conditions; no temptation to show off by having the right book on display; waterproof.

    Quite a list of advantages.

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  16. While I subscribe to the importance of reading slowly, carefully, maybe following cross references, I have found benefit in using a Reader’s Edition, where nuumbered verses are omitted, seeing links which I hadn’t previously noticed. And there is less distraction when reading s whole chapter aloud.
    Quality of the printed paper used adds to a sense of handling living profundity.

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  17. One ancient ministry in the church is that of Lector. The person who reads the word of God in public worship, if they have prepared carefully, does so as a gift to the whole congregation and it is both a courtesy, and also a proper understanding of public worship, to put away any text, paper or electronic, and simply listen – especially for the gospel where standing, reinforces the understand that we are all together the people of God, listening, together, to his word.

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  18. About one in six adults in the UK has some degree of functional illiteracy. A clear reading of the scriptures in public worship is essential. Unless the preacher/ worship leader knows everyone in the congregation, he or she should not assume that they can all read.

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    • This is a much underappreciated point, Simon. Those who are, are usually well adept at covering it up.
      And reading from a screen would not be possible either, such as may be projected during a communion service.

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    • There is probably a reason Jesus spoke to people in quite visual parables and stories, in a time when probably many people could not read. Not everyone is capable of navigating the scriptures with a fine verbal tooth-comb, but stories and visually imaginable narratives have a language of their own. Like Geoff (if I recall correctly), I was an English teacher for 25 years. Dyslexia and problems with reading can for some people be like a repeated interruption of narrative, reducing comprehension to one word at a time. The printed word can become a kind of fog of despair. We need multiple ways of communicating: visual, spoken, parables, anecdotes, and targetted explanation of text. People’s neurologies and modes of reception are more diverse than we often suppose. Our brains are not all homogenous. I have high IQ but my spatial awareness is weak (as witnessed by multiple failure with driving tests). Failure made me feel so stupid (not noticing I was driving the wrong way down a one-way street, inability to reverse into a parking slot, riding pavements and curbs on corners) and yet I know I am not actually stupid. Same with a person with dyslexia or dyspraxia. So the printed bible is clearly amazing for someone verbal like me, but for some people the visual, the spoken story, the group conversation may have more impact. Jesus’s parables certainly did.

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      • Susannah,
        That takes me back with something of a heavy heart. I worked as a legal aid solicitor into areas law which included crime and mental health law and then into the secondary care mental health services, as an independent advocate for *service users*. It was there, in particular, where illiteracy was apparent.
        Closer to home, as it were, a family friend, who was an adult convert to Christ couldn’t read, although her understanding is acute. She had lost a huge amount of schooling as a child due to contracting TB.
        Clearly, it is not a problem confined to the past. I understand that Scotland, a country of former high educational attainment, now, also has similar functional illiteracy levels, to England.
        I doubt that Covid lockdowns, will have improved things, notwithstanding the glut of high exam results.

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  19. I have come to this rather late, but here goes.
    Some years ago Thomas Boomershine while translation consultant at American Bible Society produced a fascinating paper (I cannot now locate my copy, and I can’t find it on the web) in which he argued that with each change in the medium in which Scripture was transmitted there came a paradigm shift in interpretation. So, in his view, when oral transmission was replaced by a handwritten text (be it scroll or codex), the hermeneutical paradigm shifted. This also occurred when the handwritten text was replaced by a printed text. I cannot now remember whether he engaged with digital texts to any degree – he was writing on the cusp of the development. I wonder if this is an idea worth revisting.
    I also remember reading an article (again some years ago) by Douglas Groothuis in which, as I recall, he argued that a digital text could be perceived to carry less authority then a written text on the grounds that it could be manipulated by readers who therefore had a different relationship to the text than they might have done to a written and therefore more fixed text (textual critics may avert their gaze at this point!). Possibly digital natives may disagree, but again worth thinking about, but no doubt other work has been done on this of which I am unaware.

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