Lector (ἀναγνώστης) or READER was the name of an officer in the ancient Church whose place it was to read the holy Scriptures and other lessons (for instance, the Acta martyrum) in public worship. He was also entrusted with the keeping of the sacred volumes. This reading of the Word of God formed an important part in the service of the Jewish synagogues (see Lu 4:16; Ac 13:15,27; 2Co 3:14), and was introduced into the Christian Church from thence. But we do not know at what period the performance of it became a special office. Yet Tertullian, De praescr. hapr. c. 41, expressly speaks of the lector as a special officer in the Church, and Cyprian (Ep. 33, and edit. Oberth. 34) mentions the ordination of two readers. The early Church councils (Concil. Chalcedon. a. 451, c. 13, 14; Tolet. 7, 2; Vasense, 2:2; Valentin. c. 1; A rausial, 1:18) give directions about the duties of readers. Still, although the most eminent fathers laid great stress on the reading of Scripture in the churches, and Cyprian declares their office one of great honor (Epist. 34), it was yet classed among the ordines inferiores. This is easily accounted for from the fact that the simple reading, wnithout any exegetical or homiletical explanations (which are not in the province of the reader), was a mere mechanical performance, and in after times often entrusted to children. After the form of the liturgy of the mass was finally settled, the lectors were forbidden to read the pericopes occurring in the missa fidelium. They were also thereafter excluded from the altar, and suffered to read only at the pulpitum, and finally were obliged to leave to the deacon or presbyter the pronouncing of the formula solennis. probably because the reader was of lower degree in the hierarchy. Yet in some churches the ordination of readers was a very solemn affair, especially among the Greeks, where it was accompanied by imposition of hands. In course of time the office of reader in the Romish Church came to be absorbed in the deacon's, and identified with it. See C. Schone, Geschichtsforschungen ü.d. Kirchl. Gebr. 3:108 (Berlin, 1822); Jo. Andr. Schmidt, De primitivae eccles. lectoribus illustribus (Helmstadt, 1696); Bingham, De origin. eccles. 2:29; Suicer and Du Fresne, Lexica; Augusti, Denkwürd. vol. 6; Handb. d. chr. Arch. 1:262; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 8:268.

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