While the first use of the Bible was in corporate worship, early in the life of the church, certain Scriptures were used by the faithful for personal devotion. Without a printing press, the Scriptures had to be copied by hand and so full copies of all the books of the Bible bound together were rare. However, different verses and chapters were much easier to share from person to person, from community to community. As well, ancient practices of memorization were rather astounding so that a person could have Paul’s letter to the Galatians, for example, for a week and have the entire thing memorized. Then they would be able to share the text with another person
Personal devotions did not look like they do today. There were not a lot of personal reflections on top of the scriptures. Instead, verses were prayed in detail in the practice that has now become known as lectio divina. Verses came to exist as a way to pray the scriptures. Paul did not write verses or chapters in his manuscripts. Chapter numbers and verse numbers came from later editors who wanted to distinguish what should be prayed corporately (the chapter) and what should be prayed personally (the verse). This is, of course, a rough simplification of a phenomenally complex process.
Lectio divinameans holy reading in Latin. To practice lectio divinais to take a verse, like Galatians 3:27, for instance: “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (CEB). You read the verse. You read it again. You focus on one word the sticks out to you. Maybe clothed. What does it mean to clothe myself with Christ? You pray about it. The point is not comprehension nor getting to what Paul meant. The reading is holy. It is good. How is God speaking to you through it?
God offers the Bible through the community of the followers of Jesus Christ known as the church. The entire Bible is not handed to Paul as God hands Moses the tablets or as Jibreel hands Mohammed the Quran. This doesn’t make the Bible less valid but places its validity and truthfulness less as a stand-alone object and more on the community in which it is read and proclaimed, and the Triune God which is revealed therein.
Lectio divina is only part of the gift of scripture but it is important. God offers himself to us. God offers the Word of God in the form of words on a page or words recited. What an amazing gift?