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FOUNDATIONS  OF  THE   BIBLE

DIVISIONS OF THE TEXT

 

Writing material and instruments were the means by which revelation could be expressed in the media of  language. However,  the ancients for the most part felt no need for dividing the text into such smaller and meaningful units as chapters,  paragraphs,  or verses. 

These divisions came into being much later than the time when the Scriptures began to be preserved in written form.

OLD  TESTAMENT  DIVISIONS

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Chapters (sections)

There was apparently some divisions in the autographs of the Old Testament:  for example,  the book of Lamentations and Psalm 119:10  which are indicated by the use of the letters of  the Hebrew alphabet. These cases are not numerous but they do reflect at least some natural divisions in the Hebrew text.

Palestinian Sections Palestinian sections were begun prior to the Babylonian captivity (586 B.C.),  and consisted of 154 sections for the Pentateuch. These sections were called sedarim (seder, singular), and were designed to provide lessons sufficient to cover a three-year cycle of reading.
Babylonian Sections Babylonian sections appeared during the captivity (prior to 536 B.C.),'  when the Torah was divided into fifty-four sections called parashiyyoth (parashah, singular). These were later subdivided into 669 sections for reference purposes.
These sections were utilized for a single-year cycle.
Maccabean Sections Maccabean sections appeared during the period at about 165 B.C.
These fifty-four sections,  corresponding with the Sedarim of  the Law,  covered the Prophets and were called  haphtarahs.
Reformation Sections After the Protestant Reformation,  the Hebrew Bible for the most part followed the same chapter divisions as the Protestant Old Testament.  These divisions were first placed in the margins in 1330.
They were printed into the text of the  Complutensian Polyglot (1517 A.D.),  and the text was divided in the edition of  Arias Montanus (1571 A.D.).

Verses

Ancient Ancient verse indications were merely spaces between words,  as the words were run together continuously through a given book.
Each book was separate,  and there were no vowel points until the Masoretes added them (fifth to tenth century A.D.).
After the Babylonian captivity,  for the purpose of public reading and interpretation,  space stops were employed,  and still later additional markings were added.
These  "verse"  markings were not regulated,  and differed from place to place.
It was not until about A.D. 900 that the markings were standardized.
Reformation Reformation verse indications appeared in the sixteenth century.
In the Bomberg edition (1547)  every fifth verse was indicated;
in 1571 Montanus indicated each verse in the margin for the first time.
   

NEW  TESTAMENT  DIVISIONS

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Ancient Sections

Old Greek Division The autographs of the New Testament were undoubtedly written in an unbroken manner,  similar to the Old Testament,  especially since they consisted mostly of  shorter books than the gospels and Acts.
However,  there was an early sectioning that took place,  and it is commonly referred to as the old Greek division into paragraphs (kephalaia).

These divisions appeared prior to the Council at Nicea (325),  and differed from modern chapter divisions.

Codex Vaticanus During the fourth century,  the Codex Vaticanus (B) utilized another system of marking sections. In total there were 170 sections in Matthew,  62 in Mark,  152 in Luke,  and 50 in John.
That system is not completely known today,  as the Vaticanus manuscript is broken off  at Hebrews 9:14.
As a result,  only the  kephalaia  markings down to that point are known.
Codex Alexandrinus Another system of chapter divisions is found in Codex Alexandrinus (A) of  the fifth century as well as in most other Greek manuscripts.  According to this capitulation in Matthew there are 68 kephalaia,  in Mark 48,  in Luke 83,  and in John 18.13.
Eusebius The historian Eusebius of  Caesarea attempted still another means of sectioning the New Testament.
He devised a system of  short paragraphs,  which he cross-referenced on a series of tables,  for the gospels.
Those paragraphs were longer than modern verses but shorter than current chapters. In his work, Mathew had 335 sections, Mark had 233 (later changed to 241), Luke had 342, and John 232.14

Modern Sections

English New Testament It was not until the thirteenth century that those sections were changed,  and then only gradually.
Stephen Langton,  a professor at the University of  Paris and afterward Archbishop of  Canterbury,  divided the Bible into the modern chapter divisions (c. 1227).
That was prior to the introduction of  movable type in printing.
Since the Wycliffe Bible (1382)  followed that pattern,  those basic divisions have been the virtual base upon which the Bible has been printed to this very day.
Latin New Testament The Vulgate New Testament was printed by Gutenberg in 1456 and is known as the Mazarin Bible.
This edition followed the thirteenth-century chapter divisions and paved the way for such sectioning in the Rheims-Douay Version (1581-1609),  which became the authoritative English edition by decree of Pope Sixtus V in 1585.
The only major revision it experienced was by Bishop Challoner (1691-1781).
Greek New Testament This was first printed in 1516,  by Desiderius Erasmus.
It was done in an effort to beat Cardinal Ximenes to the market,  as the latter's work was already printed but bogged down in ecclesiastical machinery in the matter of publication.
Erasmus followed the chapter divisions of the Mazarin Bible (1456) and therefore gave the same chapter divisions to the Protestant world that Mazarin gave to the Catholics.
That provided a valuable common ground for cross-references of  biblical texts between Catholics and Protestants .

Modern Verses

These were actually developed later than the chapters,  apparently in an effort to further facilitate cross-references and make public reading easier.

The markings first occur in the fourth edition of  the Greek New Testament published by Robert Stephanus,  a Parisian printer, in 1551.  These verses were introduced into the English New Testament by William Whittingham of  Oxford in 1557.

In 1555, Stephanus introduced his verse divisions into a Latin Vulgate edition,  from which they have continued to the present day.


DIVISIONS  OF  THE  WHOLE  BIBLE

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Latin Vulgate

The first Bible to use both the modern chapter and verse divisions was the Latin Vulgate edition of Robert Stephanus (1555).  He had previously used those divisions in his Greek New Testament (1551).

Geneva Bible

The first English Bible to incorporate both the modern chapter and verse divisions was the Geneva Bible (1560).

It was actually done in two parts:

A.D. 1557 In 1557, the New Testament was done by Whittingham, as a stopgap measure.
A.D. 1560 In 1560,  the entire Bible was completed in the same tradition.
It employed modern chapter and verse divisions,  and even introduced italicized words into the text where English idiom required fuller treatment than a simple Greek translation.
The Bible had attained its  "modern"  character before the translation work of  either the Rheims-Douay or the so-called  "authorized"  versions of the Bible.



  

 

Bibliography

 


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