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LECTOR, or READER, a minor office-bearer in the Christian Church. From an early period men have been set apart, under the title of anagnostae, leclores, or readers, for the purpose of reading Holy Scripture in church. We do not know what the custom of the Church was in the first two centuries, the earliest reference to readers, as an order, occurring in the writings of Tertullian (De praescript. haeret. cap. 41); there are frequent allusions to them in the writings of St Cyprian and afterwards. Cornelius, bishop of Rome in A.D. 251-252, in a well-known letter mentions readers among the various church orders then existing at Rome. In the Apostolic Church Order (canon 19), mention is made of the qualifications and duties of a reader, but no reference is made to their method of ordination. In the Apostolic Didascalia there is recognition of three minor orders of men, subdeacons, readers and singers, in addition to two orders of women, deaconesses and widows. A century later, in the Apostolic Constitutions, we find not only a recognition of readers, but also a form of admission provided for them, consisting of the imposition of hands and prayer (lib. viii. cap. 22). In Africa the imposition of hands was not in use, but a Bible was handed to the newly appointed reader with words of commission to read it, followed by a prayer and a benediction (Fourth Council of Carthage, can. 8). This is the ritual of the Roman Church of to-day. With regard to age, the novels of Justinian (No. 123) forbade any one to be admitted to the office of reader under the age of eighteen. (F. E. W.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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