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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