The Bible: Chapters and Verses

I always find it humorous when someone comes out with a new fancy Bible "code" that's based on chapter and verse notation.  If you're one of those people who get excited about these goofy things, please let me explain.

The Bible in its original form had no chapter or verse notations.  In fact, it wasn't even collected into a single binding like we have today.  Originally, each book or epistle was composed and copied on its own individual scroll (or in some cases, like Psalms, more than one scroll).  Sometimes they would even run out of room and have to write on the back (maybe the case for the scroll mentioned in Revelation 5:1).  Eventually, collections of books were assembled into a type of binding called a codex (the precursor of the book).  Based on what we know from archeological findings, it is highly unlikely that the original books had the same paragraph structure or punctuation we see today.  Actually, they didn't have any punctuation at all.  And even among the canon, there is no requirement that the books be collected in the same order as we see in the typical printed Bible of our day.  

In Jesus' day, the Scriptures were divided into the Law and the Prophets.  Of course after the canonization of New Testament, we could delineate between the Old and New Testaments.  And with the Old Testament, the common divisions are the Law (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), History (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1st & 2nd Samuel, 1st & 2nd Kings, 1st & 2nd Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Ester), Wisdom (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon), and the Prophets--broke up by major and minor books by length (majors are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentation, Ezekiel, and Daniel; minors are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi).  For Protestants, this is where the Old Testament ends, with 39 books.  For Catholics, the Deutero-Canonical books also known as the Apocrypha, are another category found in with the binding of their Bibles.

The New Testament is also broke up by common divisions.  These are the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), History (Acts), Epistles (Romans, 1st & 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1st & 2nd Thessalonians, 1st & 2nd Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, 1st, 2nd, & 3rd Peter, 1st, 2nd, & 3rd John, and Jude), and Apocalyptic (Revelation).  These are the 27 books of the New Testament.  Together with the Old Testament, 66 books make up the canonized Christian Bible. 

However, even with these divisions, it's very difficult to find a single passage of Scripture.  For example, the ESV translation of the Bible contains 757,575 words--it's a big book.  The Jews did have some kind of breakdown by verse to make synagogue reading a bit easier, but the chapter breakdown didn't come until the 13th century.  Some credit Hugo de St Caro with the addition of chapters to the Bible, but others say it was Stephen Langton.  Either way, it is clear that chapters were not a part of the original books and they are not a part of the Word of God.  The verse identification within the chapters was soon to follow.  But even with the addition of chapter and verse notation, reading older commentaries from guys like Luther and Calvin, it is clear that there was not a consistency among the notations.  That too came later.

So when the next book, article, or blog post published about a newly discovered Bible code, remember what parts of the Bible are the Word of God and what parts are not.  It might also be helpful to remember, "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9, ESV).

For those who are interested, here are some statics about the Bible (but don't bother trying to find secret codes in these numbers because that's just a silly waste of time):

Number of Chapters in the Bible: 1,189.
Number of Chapters in the Old Testament: 929.
Number of Chapters in the New Testament: 260.

Number of verses in the entire Bible: 31,218.
Number of verses in the Old Testament: 23,261.
Number of verses in the New Testament: 7,957.

Number of words in the King James Version (KJV): 790,676.
Number of words in the English Standard Version (ESV): 757,575.
Number of words in the New International Version (NIV): 726,109.
Number of words in the New Living Translation (NLT): 747,974.