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When the king heard the words of the Law...
2 Chronicles 34:19
A couple of years ago, I was in a Women's group, and listening to a speaker. She was talking about engaging with the Bible. The speaker suggested a way that worked for her was listening to the Bible using an audio Bible app. Several of the women in my group loved the idea. I was more skeptical but didn't say anything. I soon forgot all about it. So, when I came across an article that asked the question, Audio Bible Listening: Is it Cheating?, I was intrigued.
The article begins by asking why this question is even controversial? Shouldn't every way we engage with the Bible be good? Many who were raised in the church were inadvertently taught that reading is not only better but necessary. How else can you study it? Studying the Bible is valuable, but does that discount listening?
I was raised on memorizing Bible verses and using flash cards to help with remembering. But as an adult when I wanted to memorize, I recorded myself saying the verses I wanted to learn. I started by listening over and over. Eventually, I began saying the verse with the recording, and then finally shutting off the recorder as I said it alone.
People in the Bible didn't have a copy of the Scriptures. All they had was listening to the Law being read to them. The Law was written on scrolls and kept in the temple and later the synagogue.
When Josiah was king, the scroll had been lost. When Hilkiah, the priest, found the Law of the Lord in the temple, it was brought and read to Josiah. When the king heard what was written in the Law, he tore his clothes in despair. He understood that he and the people were being disobedient to the Lord. Josiah had already started to make reforms in Judah, but he was not going far enough. Hearing what the Scriptures said made him aware. By tearing his clothes, He was humbling himself and repenting. It wasn't enough to make the reforms; the people needed to repent and renew their covenant with the Lord. The king gathered them together and read the entire Book of the Covenant to them, and then he publicly renewed the covenant in the Lord's presence. He pledged to obey the Lord by keeping the commands, laws, and decrees with all his heart and soul. He required the people to make a similar pledge to God to which they did (2 Chron 34:14-33). And it all started when Josiah heard the Scriptures being read to him.
In the New Testament, the Good News was first spoken and heard. When Jesus began His public ministry, He went into the synagogues and preached. The people listened. Today having a Bible is not unusual, but back then there were no printing presses or internet. Most of the people relied on hearing the Word spoken.
I am not trying to make a case for listening only, but I am suggesting that listening to the Bible audibly is a valid way to know what it says. Even though I was skeptical in the past, I now understand that hearing the Scriptures read is just as good as reading it yourself. So, the answer to the question is "No. In my opinion, reading the Bible is not better than audio Bible listening."