The Bible: Chapter And Verse?

by Rich Dixon on March 2, 2011

Note: This article continues our Wednesday series about the Bible. You can check out previous entries here.

Do you ever think about the chapter and verse divisions of the Bible?

It’s pretty obvious that the Bible’s chapters and verses weren’t part of the original manuscripts. We’re so accustomed to them that we take them for granted.

It’s not a big issue–except when it is.

The books of the Bible are stories, letters, and poetry. The original writers didn’t divide their work into the chapters and individual verses of modern Bibles.

The current system of chapter divisions was adopted during the 13th century. The Geneva Bible of the 16th century included the verse divisions still used today. If you’re interested, a quick Google search will give you as much detail as you can handle.

Why does it matter?

The system of chapters and verses provides a convenient reference system that makes studying Scripture easier. But there’s a danger.

Individual verses, and sometimes chapters, don’t always tell the whole story. Treating these pieces in isolation can cause us to lose context.

Many misunderstandings and so-called contradictions are artifacts of this loss of context. Correct interpretation requires looking across chapter/verse divisions.

Remembering that these artificial divisions weren’t part of the original writings reminds us to look at the big picture. Considering the entire story or an author’s overall point is the only way to assure accurate understanding of God’s revelation.

I’m frequently too quick to jump to a question or conclusion based on an isolated statement or event from Scripture. I’m trying to learn the discipline or reading an entire story from beginning to end before I dissect its pieces.

Do you ever encounter confusion that’s caused by the chapter/verse divisions of the Bible?

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previous entries in this series

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

AnonNo Gravatar March 2, 2011 at 1:27 pm

the whole 66 books used to confuse me. I thought one book contradicted another. Until I discovered it had one (somewhat) un-named but yet often mentioned author. But yes, even I’m mis-understood when taken out of context.


Carine PearsonNo Gravatar March 2, 2011 at 8:51 pm

You raise great points about the Bible. A couple of years ago, I read the Bible cover to cover and realized that the things I grew up hearing over and over made more sense after reading through the whole Bible. I agree that taking things out of isolation is dangerous. That is why I like Bible studies on whole books of the Bible (example study on Esther). The reason why is because you get the whole perspective or big picture of the book and can then take it apart and learn more of the nitty gritty meaning of certain verses. It is so much more meaningful.

I would like to read the Chronological Bible to see how things fit in time rather than the placement of the 66 books. It would be an interesting challenge. Please keep up the great work. Carine


Rich DixonNo Gravatar March 3, 2011 at 7:02 am

I’ve never read it all the way–maybe a goal at some point. I just talked to a guy who’s reading a chronological Bible, and he says it’s a really fresh perspective. Let us know about the experience.


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