Let the Reader Understand

Ben Witherington points out that the word “reader” in Bible times had a different meaning than it does today.

Both in Mk. 13.14 and in Rev. 1.3 the operative Greek word is ho anaginōskōn a clear reference to a single and singular reader, who in that latter text is distinguished from the audience who are dubbed the hearers (plural!) of John’s rhetoric.

As Mark Wilson recently suggested in a public lecture at Ephesus, this surely is likely to mean that the singular reader is in fact a lector of sorts, someone who will be reading John’s apocalypse out loud to various hearers. We know for a fact that John is addressing various churches in Asia Minor (see Rev. 2-3), so it is quite impossible to argue that the reference to ‘the reader’ singular in Rev. 1.3 refers to the audience. It must refer to the rhetor or lector who will orally deliver this discourse to the audience of hearers.

I would suggest that we must draw the same conclusion about the parenthetical remark in Mk. 13.14, which in turn means that not even Mark’s Gospel should be viewed as a text, meant for private reading, much less the first real modern ‘text’ or ‘book.’ Rather Mark is reminding the lector, who will be orally delivering the Gospel in some or several venues near to the time when this ‘abomination’ would be or was already arising that they needed to help the audience understand the nature of what was happening when the temple in Jerusalem was being destroyed.

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