By way of introduction let me say that a majority of the present generation of Bible readers would favour the Bible without the breaks into chapters and verses. Well, originally there were no divisions as we have it today. It was written in larger sections that flow between plots, just like other letters or narratives. The only division would have been sections like the Psalms and Proverbs. So where did the division into chapters and verses come from in our Bibles?
The brief history of the chapters (esp. the New Testament), is as follows. These were not added until late in the medieval period. The Bible is said to have been first divided into chapters about 1250 by Cardinal Hugo, for references in a Latin concordance. Although there may be more evidence for the Bible being divided into chapters first by about 1228 by Stephen Langton, the archbishop of Canterbury.
It is believed that the Bible was divided into slabs of words, which became chapters, as they were more suitable for public reading, study or teaching. The purpose of the present division into chapters was to favour reference finding. These divisions sometimes (but not always), ignore logical and natural plot flow and division.
Down through the ages, it has been asked if this chapter division has had an unintended effect and hindered the fuller meaning of the text. It could be asked, was the idea of chapter divisions based on an Old Testament biblical practice? For example, we see some of this in the Old Testament.
· The Psalms are individual songs and were separate from the beginning.
· In a sermon, Paul quotes from the ‘second psalm’ (Acts13:33).
· Lamentations was divided into five separate poems. Four of these five poems are 22 verses each (the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet).
It seems clear that this size of text was conveniently chosen for reading, study, etc. Next week we will take a look at breaking the Chapters into verses.
Hmm, something to mull over as we read the Bible.