Origin of the Chapters and Verses of the Bible
by Jim Myers
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It is not unusual for average Bible readers to assume that the original authors of the books that are found in their Bibles were the ones who put the chapters and verses in them.  However, as we have seen on many occasions, assuming can get us in trouble.  

The fact of the matter is that there were no chapter divisions in any Bible before the 13th century CE.  A Frenchman and professor at the University of Paris is responsible for the divisions into chapters found in all Bibles at the present time.  He was Stephen Cardinal Langton, later archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1228).  Therefore, the Scriptures were without chapter divisions for, at the least, over 1000 years after the books were written! 

It would be another 300 years before those chapters would be divided into verses.  The first phase was in 1528 when Santes Pagnino, O.P., edited the first part of the Old Testament.  The second phase was in 1551 when Robert Stephens published his Greek edition with verses.  Every time you open your Bible and see the chapter and verse markers, you are being influenced by the work of the above three men.

Numerous scholars have commented on the fact that the divisions were frequently so haphazard, meaningless, or erroneous that false interpretations easily arise.  Remember the men who supplied the verses allowed the established chapter divisions to guide their work.  They didn’t go back and review Professor Langton’s work for accuracy.

One example that every serious Bible student has encountered is found in the Book of Genesis.  It is very obvious that the first section shouldn’t end with the last verse in chapter one.  You have to read the next few verses about God’s decision to rest for a day before you finish the section.  There are numerous examples of this type that need to be corrected.  But, do you think the institutional organizations that govern the beliefs of almost two billion people have any plans to make such a correction?  

Copyright 1999 [Jim Myers].
P.O. Box 79 - Cleburne TX 76033-0079All rights reserved. Revised: 12/01/09

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