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Where Did we Get the Chapters and Verses?

Where did the chapters and verses our Bible come from?

A man named Stephen Langton (ca. 1150–1228), a theology professor and archbishop of Canterbury, is generally credited as the creator of chapters in our Bible as we have them today. He did this in the 12th century in a popular Latin version of the Bible called the 'Vulgate'. His reason for doing so, as a professor and scholar, was so that commentaries could be written about the Bible. Having chapters allowed a commentator to more easily reference specific parts of the Bible.

Then in 1551, Robert Estienne (a.k.a. Robert Stephanus) was condemned as a heretic for printing Bibles. As he fled persecution on horseback (between Paris and Lyons) he arbitrarily added the verse divisions to Langton's chapter divisions. This became the 31,000+ verses that we have today.

Not the story you were expecting, huh?

More importantly, who cares?

Here are two reasons this matters:

1) The chapters and verses are not inspired since they were not in the original texts. When we talk about God's Word and the inspiration of Scripture, we need to be clear that it does not include the chapter and verse breaks.

2) Sometimes having a chapter and verse has a downside. Though the books of the Bible were originally complete books or letters, when they are broken into chapters and verses its readers (you and I) can tend to more readily take things out of context. We memorize Scripture and have no idea of the context.

Quick quiz: What is John 3:15? John 3:17?

Don't get me wrong, I am glad there are chapters and verses in our Bibles, and the fact that they were added hundreds of years later is irrelevant. I just want to be careful quoting verses and not giving context, which brings the full meaning to light.

(Incidentally, the English Standard Version has a "Readers Version" of the whole Bible, just the gospels, and the letters of Paul. In these versions, they took out the chapters and verses. I have a couple on my shelf and will use them every so often.)

See you Sunday!
-Jim