Are we supposed to stand when the Bible is read?

Standing in the presence of something holy, or important, or honored, is a sign of respect in many cultures. Some churches follow a tradition of standing when the Bible is read.

Some churches claim an incident in Nehemiah as the impetus for their standing when the Bible is read. Nehemiah records some of the history of the Israelites when they returned from their captivity in Babylon, rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem, and restored service at the temple. In Nehemiah 8, the people gathered together and Ezra, the priest, read from the Book of the Law of Moses. Nehemiah tells us that Ezra stood on a wooden platform, but when he opened the scriptures to begin to read, everyone who had gathered rose to stand (Nehemiah 8:5).

As we read further, we see that "Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, 'Amen, Amen,' lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground" (Nehemiah 8:6). It appears they did not stand for long. We also see that, "… the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading" (Nehemiah 8:7–8). This seems to be a time of teaching, and possibly translating, the Law so the people understood. Nehemiah proclaimed the day holy to the Lord and told the people not to be grieved (they had wept at the reading of the Law). "And all the people went on their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them" (Nehemiah 8:12). The Feast of Booths ensued.

This incident in Nehemiah seems to be a one-time celebration more than a habitual occurrence. Also, this was a reading of the Law in Israel, not the Bible in the church. Scripture nowhere gives us a rule or expectation to stand when the Bible is read. There is also no historical account of this being done in the early church.

It is not mandated to stand when the Bible is read, but it is not wrong either. Those who choose to stand out of respect can do so with freedom, and those who choose not to, can also do so with freedom (cf. Romans 14).

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