Last week we looked at how the Bible came to be broken into chapters. Hopefully, this was helpful in understanding the God-given book that we read daily. This week we will look at how we got verses from the chapters of the Bible. Was it a natural follow on from having divided the Bible into chapters, or was it more random?
The short history of the verses (esp. the New Testament), is as follows. The obvious reason verses were added was to separate the Bible text into lengths suitable for referencing, quotation and memorisation. But when did this happen? Well, it has been suggested that the first verse divisions were added early in the piece by the Ben Asher family of scribed about 900 A.D. They used the use of a large colon (:), to distinguish the end the verses.
One R. Nathan is said to have divided the Latin Old Testament into verses in 1448. Then a French printer named Robert Estienne (Robert Stephanus in Latin and Robert Stephens in English) is believed to have divided the New Testament into verses in 1551. The first Bible thought to have been printed with verses was an Old Testament Latin edition by one Pagninus (an Italian scholar), which was printed in 1528. The first complete English version of the Bible divided into verses was the Geneva Bible, printed in 1560. However, it was Robert Estienne who in his Greek New Testament first divided the New Testament into verses in 1551. While in 1560, the Geneva Bible (an English translation of the Bible made by the English persons in exile in Geneva), was divided into verses as we have it today.
There are some New Testament quotes from the Old Testament that would appear to set the configuration for the length of a verse. For example, Matthew 1:22-23 gives an example where Isaiah 7:14 is quoted as a promise of the virgin birth.
22 “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 ‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel,’ which being interpreted is, God with us.”
So, the Bibles that we have today still have this Chapter and verse breakdown. Do you find that it helps or hinders how you read the Bible?
Hmm, something to mull over as we read the Bible.
 Wegner, Paul D. The Journey from Tests to Translations: The Origin and Development of the Bible. (Grand Rapids, IL: Baker, 2000), 214, 267-269.