Chapters and verses of the Bible: Wikis

  

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The books of the Bible that are considered canonical number 24 for Jews, 66 for Protestants, 73 for Catholics, and 78 for most Orthodox Christians. In addition to these, many versions of the Bible contain books which have not necessarily been considered canonical by their publishers, called apocrypha. All these books vary in length from a single page of modern type to dozens of pages. All but the shortest are divided into chapters, generally a page or two in length.

Each is further divided into verses of a few short lines or sentences. Pasuk (plural pesukim) is the Hebrew term for verse.

The Jewish divisions of the Hebrew text differ at various points from those used by Christians. For instance, in Jewish tradition, the ascriptions to many Psalms are regarded as independent verses, making 116 more verses, whereas the established Christian practice is to count and number each Psalm ascription together with the first verse following it. Some chapter divisions also occur in different places, e.g. 1 Chronicles 5:27-41 in Hebrew Bibles is numbered as 1 Chron 6:1-15 in Christian translations.

Contents

History

Chapters

The original manuscripts did not contain the chapter and verse divisions in the numbered form familiar to modern readers. Some portions of the original texts were logically divided into parts following the Hebrew alphabet; for instance, the earliest known copies of the book of Isaiah use Hebrew letters for paragraph divisions. (This was different from the acrostic structure of certain texts following the Hebrew alphabet, such as Psalm 119 and the book of Lamentations.) There are other divisions from various sources which are different from what we use today.

The Old Testament began to be put into sections before the Babylonian Captivity (586 BC) with the five books of Moses being put into a 154-section reading program to be used in a three-year cycle. Later (before 536 BC) the Law was put into 54 sections and 669 sub-divisions for reading.

By the time of the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, the New Testament had been divided into paragraphs, although the divisions were different from the modern Bible.

An important canon of the New Testament was proclaimed by Pope Damasus I in the Roman synod of 374. Pope Damasus also induced Jerome, a priest from Antioch, to undertake his famous translation of the entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments, from Hebrew and Greek into Latin, the official language of the time. This translation is known as the Vulgate. The Church continued to finance the very expensive process of copying and providing copies of the Bible to local churches and communities from that point up to and beyond the invention of the printing press, which greatly reduced the cost of producing copies of the Scriptures.

Churchmen Archbishop Stephen Langton and Cardinal Hugo de Sancto Caro determined different schemas for systematic division of the Bible in the early 13th century. It is the system of Archbishop Langton on which the modern chapter divisions are based.[1][2]

Verses

It is presently unknown how early the Hebrew verse divisions were incorporated into the books that comprise the Biblical canon. However, it is beyond dispute that for at least a thousand years the Tanakh has contained an extensive system of multiple levels of section, paragraph, and phrasal divisions that were indicated in Masoretic vocalization and cantillation markings. One of the most frequent of these was a special type of punctuation, the sof passuq, symbol for a full stop or sentence break, resembling the colon mark (:) of English and Latin orthography. With the advent of the printing press and the translation of the Bible into English, Old Testament versifications were made that correspond predominantly with the existing Hebrew full stops, with a few isolated exceptions. A product of meticulous labour and unwearying attention, the Old Testament verse divisions stand today in essentially the same places as they have been passed down since antiquity. Most attribute these to Rabbi Isaac Nathan around 1440.[2]

The first person to divide New Testament chapters into verses was Italian Dominican biblical scholar Santi Pagnini (1470–1541), a system that was never widely adopted.[3] Robert Estienne created an alternate numbering in his 1551 edition of the Greek New Testament.[4] The first English New Testament to use the verse divisions was a 1557 translation by William Whittingham (c. 1524-1579). The first Bible in English to use both chapters and verses was the Geneva Bible published shortly afterwards in 1560. These verse divisions soon gained acceptance as a standard way to notate verses, and have since been used in nearly all English Bibles.

Unlike the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the structure of the Greek language makes it highly susceptible to being broken up into divisions that would be syntactically inappropriate and even contrary to the sense of the passage. Inexact apportionment of the Greek into verses therefore could easily have obscured the intent, relation, emphasis and force of the words themselves, and thus elicited the most strenuous objections of theologians. The retention of Robert Estienne's verse divisions essentially without alteration is a tribute not only to the inherent utility of his contribution to Bible study, but also to his excellent knowledge of the scriptures and grasp of the fine points of the ancient Greek language.

Role of the Masoretic text

The Hebrew Masoretic text contains verse endings as an important feature. According to the Talmudic tradition, the verse endings are of ancient origin. The Masoretic textual tradition also contains section endings called parashot, which are usually indicated by a space within a line (a "closed" section") or a new line beginning (an "open" section). The division of the text reflected in the parashot is usually thematic. Unlike chapters the parashot are not numbered, but some of them have special titles.

In early manuscripts (most importantly in Tiberian Masoretic manuscripts, such as the Aleppo codex) an "open" section may also be represented by a blank line, and a "closed" section by a new line that is slightly indented (the preceding line may also not be full). These latter conventions are no longer used in Torah scrolls and printed Hebrew Bibles. In this system the one rule differentiating "open" and "closed" sections is that "open" sections must always begin at the beginning of a new line, while "closed" sections never start at the beginning of a new line.

Another related feature of the Masoretic text is the division of the sedarim. This division is not thematic, but is almost entirely based upon the quantity of text. For the Torah, this division reflects the triennial cycle of reading that was practiced by the Jews of Babylon.

The current division of the Bible into chapters and the verse numbers within the chapters has no basis in any ancient textual tradition. Rather, they are medieval Christian inventions. They were later adopted by many Jews as well, as technical references within the Hebrew text. Such technical references became crucial to medieval rabbis in the historical context of forced debates with Christian clergy (who used the chapter and verse numbers), especially in late medieval Spain.[5] Chapter divisions were first used by Jews in a 1330 manuscript and for a printed edition in 1516. However, for the past generation, most Jewish editions of the complete Hebrew Bible have made a systematic effort to relegate chapter and verse numbers to the margins of the text.

Christian versions

The Byzantines also introduced a chapter division of sorts, called Kephalaia. It is not identical to the present chapters.

Cardinal Hugo de Sancto Caro is often given credit for first dividing the Latin Vulgate into chapters, but it is the arrangement of his contemporary and fellow cardinal Stephen Langton who in 1205 created the chapter divisions which are used today. They were then inserted into Greek manuscripts of the New Testament in the 1400s. Robert Estienne (Robert Stephanus) was the first to number the verses within each chapter, his verse numbers entering printed editions in 1551 (New Testament) and 1571 (Hebrew Bible).[6][7]

The division of the Bible into chapters and verses has often elicited severe criticism from traditionalists and modern scholars alike. Critics charge that the text is often divided into chapters in an incoherent way, or at inappropriate rhetorical points, and that it encourages citing passages out of context, in effect turning the Bible into a kind of textual quarry for clerical citations. Nevertheless, the chapter divisions and verse numbers have become indispensable as technical references for Bible study.

See also

References

  1. ^ Hebrew Bible article in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
  2. ^ a b Moore, G.F. The Vulgate Chapters and Numbered Verses in the Hebrew Bible at JSTOR.
  3. ^ Miller, Stephen M., Huber, Robert V. (2004). The Bible: A History. Good Books. p. 173. ISBN 1561484148.  
  4. ^ "Chapters and Verses: Who Needs Them?," Christopher R. Smith, Bible Study Magazine (July-Aug 2009): 46-47.
  5. ^ See Spanish Inquisition.
  6. ^ Chapters and Verses.
  7. ^ The Examiner.

External links


Simple English

The books of the Bible that are considered canonical number 24 for Jews, 66 for Protestants, 73 for Catholics, and 78 for most Orthodox Christians. In addition to these, many versions of the Bible contain books which have not been considered canonical by their publishers, called apocrypha. All these books have different lengths from a single page of modern type to dozens of pages. All but the shortest are divided into chapters, generally a page or two in length.








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