Chapter and verse…. adding to the Bible?

We are so accustomed to the handy chapter and verse divisions that I don’t think we usually remember that they are fairly new to the Bible.  The individual books had been grouped together in various ways throughout the years, but it wasn’t until the 13th century that the chapter system was developed and added by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton.  The even more specific referencing of verses came in the 16th century by Robert Estienne (also known as Robert Stephanus). It is great to be able to pinpoint exactly where in 66 books a specific passage is located, but could it be considered “adding” to the word of God?  I have wondered this a time or two, especially since people love to cherry-pick, but that’s for another post.

I got thinking about this yet again today when my youngest was doing Bible copy.  He started after the rest of us, and has just finished up chapter 1 in Genesis.  As I was writing the last two verses on the whiteboard for him, I realized that it stops short of the full creation account.  We all know a week is a complete unit of time, so why does did Stephen Langton stop with day 6 and leave the sanctifying of the seventh and God resting until the next chapter?  I mean even verse 4 of chapter 2 sounds like it is starting up a new thought….

Here’s Genesis 1:31- 2:5a (using KJV today) with what seems like a more natural division, but with chapter 2 in green

And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.  And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.  Thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.  And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it:  because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, and every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew….”

I realize this doesn’t change drastically what is being said, but it just makes me wonder again how it changes our perception of what is being said.  We are prone to reading to the end of a chapter instead of the end of a flowing passage, so we may miss out on things or incorrectly separate things that belong together.

Maybe I’m taking Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32, and Revelation 22:18 too literally, but we should always remember that the convenient numbering system wasn’t inspired by God!


4 thoughts on “Chapter and verse…. adding to the Bible?

    • I wasn’t thinking specifically about the bad theology that comes from the breaks, though I have seen that aspect in the past; and wrong theology can happen in any camp, none of us have it all right or all the parts 🙂

      I was thinking more in a general way seeing how we are accustomed to other books we read being broken into chapters, and since the Bible is presented that way, we think it was written with that same thought pattern in mind, and it wasn’t.

      I don’t think most people are necessarily being lazy, more likely they don’t know any better. How many people actually know that the Bible wasn’t written like that originally? I didn’t for most of my walk as a believer. Even now I still catch myself separating what is being said because of a new chapter, usually in the epistles, and have to back up and start again.

      For many years I have preferred Bibles that come in paragraph form instead of each verse starting a new line, as I didn’t always notice the bold verse number to indicate a new paragraph (though those are also placed by the translator since they weren’t in the original). And that’s another reason I’ve enjoyed Bible copy because I don’t make a big deal about chapter or verse. I only mark in the margin for chapters just so I can find my place quickly.

      • Your post was being discussed on this morning and I made the comment that the ‘additions to Scripture’ that make me crazier than the verse numbering are the editorial titles for chapters… Like, ‘The Conversion of Paul.’

        Gah! Paul wasn’t converted to anything. He remained a Jew, a Pharisee, etc… Yes, He met and submitted to the Messiah, but not to start a new religion, etc…

        As far as chapter divisions and odd doctrines, my favorite example is the placement of division between I Thes. 4 & 5. That division in thought leads to significant error in eschatology. The thought Paul begins at 4:13 doesn’t end until 5:9 or so…When broken in the middle, it leads to significant misunderstanding.

        While in seminary a professor printed the Apostolic letters w/o chapter of verse markings… Only as letters. Makes them interesting… We wonder how our spouse would feel if we took a love letter, added chapter and verse divisions and then referred to the favorite ‘verse,’ while not reading or accounting for the context. Funny.

        Good post! Appreciate your writing!

      • Oh, I totally forgot the titles, they definitely add to Scripture!!

        I love my NASB for the paragraph format and the great references, but I can’t find it without the headings, unlike my kiddos NKJV with each verse separate and so-so referencing, but no headings. It really plants in your mind what “they” want you to believe the passage is talking about. I cross out italics that change the meaning, so maybe I’ll start crossing out the headings too. I also removed another division that was uninspired – the dividing page between the Old and New Testament.

        Good example with 1 Thes and misunderstanding because of division.

        Great point about the love letter… I’m sure my spouse wouldn’t appreciate that, lol! I read through Galatians that Nathaniel had printed out as a letter, and I was able to understand a few parts that had I hadn’t gotten before.


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