If the Catholic religion discourages individuals reading sacred texts themselves and encourages receiving guidance from a priest, how do modern-day Catholics and Jews view Nehemiah’s charge to the Hebrew people to read the text themselves?

I apologize in advance for anything I get wrong when I answer your question. First of all, I think that people mainly listened to the bible more than reading it. I do think the Jews were more literate, and more likely to be literate, than many members of the ancient near East. But there couldn’t have been more than one or two copies of the Torah available, so it would have been closely guarded. We know that the Essenes, the Jews who made the Dead Sea scrolls in the first century CE, had copies of all the Hebrew bible texts except Esther. But we also know the third-century BCE Jewish community in Elephantine, in Egypt did not have a Torah and had write to Jerusalem for advice on how to celebrate Passover. At any rate, Ezra and Nehemiah have the Torah performed aloud and translated and/or interpreted so that people could “listen with understanding” (one assumes they could no longer read Biblical Hebrew after the exile, if they ever could). They make the people sign or make a mark saying that they accept the teaching. But I probably misspoke when I implied that ordinary people were encouraged to read.  

So it’s quite possible that the Catholics thought Nehemiah had it right and believed that he was interpreted and guiding interpretation even then. Still, that’s a lot different from reading the passages in Latin to an audience that doesn’t know Latin, as Catholic texts were read until 1968 and even later.

I’m less sure of the answer to your question about modern-day Jews, but where I grew up most observant Jews studied ancient Hebrew and/or Yiddish, which is the language that the Mishnah and Talmud were written in (the Talmud being the medieval body of Jewish interpretive literature). The very fact that Jews tend to concentrate on Mishnah and Talmud instead of the Hebrew bible is proof that they promote a mediated experience of the bible. But they also encourage individual study, and they promote reading these works in their original languages.

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