Why do high-church people call their personalized Bible study exercises "devotionals", as in the Catholic and high-church Anglican traditions?

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    Do they? I don't think it's something I've ever come across. You learn something every day! – Andrew Leach Feb 8 '14 at 16:29
  • @AndrewLeach I got the info from the Wikipedia article on Bible Study. It seems to be a Catholic and Anglican thing. That translates in my mind as Catholic and high-church Anglican, which I find to be plausible, because there is always a priest or a saint between the laity and God in those traditions. I now suspect my question is built on a false premise. – Double U Feb 8 '14 at 16:37
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    To say there is always a priest or a saint between the laity and God is also a false premise, I'm afraid. However, there is an answer to the question. Hang on a bit... – Andrew Leach Feb 8 '14 at 16:41
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    Of course there's no barrier. The veil of the Temple was torn in two. Priests and the saints are all part of the Body of Christ, the Church. But I think this is beside the point of this particular question. – Andrew Leach Feb 8 '14 at 19:22
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    @Anonymous You shouldn't believe everything you read in Wikipedia, especially stuff that is unreferenced in an article that has "multiple issues". I may even go and try to fix that article. – DJClayworth Feb 9 '14 at 4:05

The name 'devotionals' is actually fairly common, not just among high-church Christians. I've heard it used by Baptists, Mennonites, Anglicans of different persuasions and all sorts of people. There's nothing special about the name. "Our Daily Bread" describes itself as a 'daily devotional' and is certainly not 'high church'. The same applies to devotionals produced by crosstalk.com, biblegateway.org and Joyce Meyer.

However most important is that a 'devotional' is much more than just Bible study. 'Devotionals' may include prayer, worship, and possibly meditation, journaling or reflection. 'Devotionals' also applies to short homilies, which are again more than simple Bible study. Those that practice 'devotionals' will also do plain Bible study, which they call 'Bible study'. If it's more than that, they call it 'devotionals'.

  • Devotionals can be more than bible study, but also much less... – curiousdannii Feb 14 '14 at 6:53

It's an old word, not usually used as a noun these days. OED has

B. n.

A devotional composition; a form of prayer or worship. Obs. rare.

1659 J. Gauden Ἱερα Δακρυα 87 In their disputings against the Devotionals of the Church of England.

The use of what are now adjectives as nouns wasn't particularly uncommon in the seventeenth century.

It's a similar word to sacramental:

B. n.

1. Ecclesiastical. A rite, ceremony, or observance analogous to a sacrament, but not reckoned among the sacraments; e.g. the use of holy water and of holy oil, the sign of the cross.

1529 Petition of Commons in Froude Hist. Eng. (1856) I. 194 To exact and take of your humble servants divers sums of money for the sacraments and sacramentals of Holy Church.

That is, just as a sacramental is analogous to a sacrament, a devotional is analogous to a devotion. Not actually a devotion, but an activity helpful to devotion.

  • Sacramental is the adjective of 'sacrament'. A 'sacramental' marriage is not one that is analogous to a sacrament, but one that is a sacrament. – DJClayworth Jul 2 '14 at 14:18
  • A sacramental can be a noun in its own right, as well as an adjective. – Andrew Leach Jul 2 '14 at 14:21

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