On January 1, 1519, Zwingli preached from Matthew 1:1, beginning the Reformation in Switzerland.* Thereafter he continued to preach linearly through Matthew. This manner of preaching (or reading) Scripture is known in Latin as lectio continua, and from what I know it seems to be the dominant approach to preaching in Protestant Christianity. It is also sometimes known as systematic expository preaching.

The Wikipedia article on lectio continua mentions that as a practice of reading it has early church precedence. I'm wondering, though, whether there was also the precedence of preaching in this manner? In other words, was Zwingli going back to something that had previously been done, or was it something new to him?

  • AFAIK, this is more common in Catholic churches than protestant ones. Protestant churches tend to be far more free-form, and topical sermons are very common (although arguably less effective). – Flimzy Jun 15 '14 at 20:20
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    @Flimzy Interesting. Another (separate) question then might be at what point this became common in the Catholic church, because when Zwingli first did it it was an aberration from contemporary practice. Also, I'm sure it depends upon what part of the Protestant church one is in; in the churches I have been in (conservative Presbyterian), topical sermons are much less common than expository ones. – Kazark Jun 15 '14 at 21:02
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    What about John Chrysostom? reformedworship.org/article/june-1988/… – david brainerd Jun 15 '14 at 22:32
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    @Flimzy, The RCC goes by a lectionary, but the Sunday lectionary does not go in order through scripture. And I could be mistaken, but I think the daily lectionary going through Scripture in order post-dates the Reformation by a lot. Plus, it skips verses. – david brainerd Jun 16 '14 at 3:41
  • @davidbrainerd: It needn't go in order through all of scripture to be lectio continua, by my understanding. – Flimzy Jun 16 '14 at 17:39

Erskine Theological Seminary professor Hughes Oliphant Old says no. In volume 7 of his history of preaching, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, he lists Chrysostom, Augustine, and Origen as having done it previously. He also implies that many others had probably done so given the ubiquity and appropriateness of expository preaching in general, going back to the apostles. The discussion can be found on page 172.

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