Bible Question:

How and when did the chapters and verses get in the Bible?

Bible Answer:

The modern chapters and verses that are found in our Bibles today are provided to help in private and public reading. Chapter and verse divisions were not in the original Hebrew and Greek autographs and were added in the sixteenth century. An autograph is the original document that the authors of the Bible wrote of each of the books of Genesis, Daniel or Acts, for example.

Chapter Divisions of the Bible

Historical records reveal that Jews had divided the Pentateuch into fifty-four parshioth or sections. They were divided by the Masoretes into 669 sidrim or orders. There were also divisions in the Greek and Latin manuscripts but they are different from those found in the Hebrew manuscripts. These divisions were irregular and very different compared to our modern Bibles. The New Testament was divided into titles and chapters. [1]

Geisler and Nix state that there was some form of divisions provided before our modern chapters were added.

Ancient verse indications were merely spaces between words, [since] the words were run together continuously through a given book . . . After the Babylonian captivity, for the purpose of public reading and interpretation, space stops were employed, and still later additional markings were added. These “verse” markings were not regulated and differed from place to place. It was not until about A.D. 900 that the markings were standardized.

The originator of the modern chapter divisions found in both the Old and New Testaments is in dispute. John McClintock and James Strong state,

The numerical division of the Old and New Testaments into modern chapters is by some ascribed to Lanfranc, who was archbishop of Canterbury in the reigns of William the Conqueror and William II, while others attribute it to Stephen Langton, who was archbishop of the same see in the reigns of John and Henry. Its authorship, however, is usually ascribed to the schoolmen, who, with cardinal Hugh of Cher, were authors of Concordance for the Latin Vulgate, about A.D. 1240 . . . This Latin Bible . . is generally supposed to be the first Bible divided into the present chapters.[2]

Verse Divisions of the Bible

Verses were added after chapter divisions were added. Verse divisions help to locate quickly smaller sections of the text of the Bible. Geisler and Nix state,

Reformation verse indications appeared in the sixteenth century. In the Bomberg edition (1547), every fifth verse was indicated; in 1571 Montanus indicated each verse in the margin for the first time.[3]

 These markings first occur in the fourth edition of the Greek New Testament published by Robert Stephanus, a Parisian printer, in 1551. These verses were introduced into the English New Testament by William Whittingham of Oxford in 1557. In 1555, Stephanus introduced his verse divisions into a Latin Vulgate edition, from which they have continued to the present day.[4]

Chapter and Verse Divisions of the Bible

John McClintock and James Strong state that the first printed Bible that contained both chapters and verses was published in 1557.

Morinus (Exercit. Bibl.), who is followed by Prideaux (Connection), attributes the verses to Vatablus, without naming a date, while Chevillier (Hist. de l’Imprimerie) and Maittaire (Historia Stephanorum) assert that Stephens divided the chapters into verses, placing a figure at each verse, in the New Test. in 1551, and in the Old in 1557.[5]

The first Bible to include both chapter and verse divisions was the Latin Vulgate edition of Robert Stephanus in 1555. The first English Bible to include chapters and verses was the Geneva Bible of 1557.[6]

Conclusions:

The first English Bible that contained chapters and verses was published in 1557. Chapter and verse divisions help us quickly locate a passage of scripture. But they are also a problem on occasions.

Issues With Chapter Divisions in the Bible

For example, some chapter divisions should not exist because the break from chapter-to-chapter often leaves the reader with the impression that a new thought or idea is being introduced just as occurs in English books and articles. 1 John 1 and 2 is an example of a bad chapter break,

1 John 1:9-10  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and  His word is not in us.

1 John 2:1-2  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is  the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

Notice that 1 John 1:6-2:2 is discussing sin. Verse 6-7 is about the person who claims that they are a Christian but they willingly continue sinning. The Holy Spirit says that person is a liar. Verse 7 describes the person who claims they never sin. They lie too! Verse 9-10 states that the mark of a Christian is that they confess their sins. They admit they sin. Then 1 John 2:1-2 continues talking about a Christian and their sin. If a Christian sins, Jesus defends them. The chapter division is not serious, but it can lead to a misunderstanding.

Another example of a poor chapter division occurs between Daniel 10 and 11. In Daniel 10:10-21 an angel touches the prophet Daniel and speaks to him from verses 11-21. Due to the chapter division it would appear that Daniel 11 is a new topic. But Daniel 11:1 says “I arose.” The “I” is the angel who appeared in Daniel 10:10. He is still speaking. This chapter division can lead to confusion.

There are other confusing chapter divisions, but we must remember that the authors of the chapter and verse divisions did their best and we should not condemn them.

Issues With Verse Divisions in the Bible

Some verse divisions break the flow of an idea too! For example, consider Ephesians 1:4-5 where at the end of verse 4 we read, “In love He” and then the verse ends and the sentence continues in verse 5.

4   just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He
5   predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the  kind intention of His will,    Ephesians 1:4-5 (NASB)

However, in the Greek text the apostle Paul’s sentence starts in verse 3 and continues through verse 14. Therefore, it is important to notice such breaks in the flow of thought in the Bible are man-made and do not exist in the autographs.

May the Lord bless you as you read His Word – the Word of Truth!

References:

1. John McClintock and James Strong. Cyclopedia of Biblical Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. Baker Book House. 1981, vol. X, p. 759.
2. Ibid.
3. Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible., Moody Press., 1973., pp. 230-231.
4. Ibid., pp 232-233.
5. John McClintock and James Strong. Cyclopedia of Biblical Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. Baker Book House. 1981, vol. X, p. 759.
6. McClintock and Strong. Ibid. , p. 233.

 

Recommended Reading:

Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible., Moody Press., 1973.

Reference Links:

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