Did Paul even know when writing letters to the churches that his letters would become a part of Scripture? I can’t answer that, but I doubt that he wrote the letters with chapters and numbers assigned! And that got me thinking – how did that happen? It’s a useful tool for reference, but on the flip side, this can make it easier to pick out a verse and take it out of context.
Answer: As I suspected, the Bible was not originally broken into chapters and verses. The chapter divisions similar to we know them was done by an Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, around 1227 A.D. The first Bible to use these was the Wycliffe Bible in 1382. And after that one, nearly all the Bibles included the chapters.
The Hebrew Old Testament was separated into verses by Nathan, a Jewish Rabbi, in A.D. 1448. The first to separate the New Testament into standard numbered verses, in 1555 was Robert Estienne (also known as Stephanus). Since the Geneva Bible, the verses assigned by Stephanus have been in all Bibles.
This led me to ask other questions, such as why the Bible’s books are in the order they are instead of chronologically. The Old Testament books are ordered by type. First is historical accounts (Genesis – Esther), then poetry (Job – Song of Solomon), and lastly, prophecy (Isaiah – Malachi). The New Testament is the same. Historical (Matthew – Acts), Letters (Romans – Jude), and prophecy (Revelation). But within these types, the books are chronological.
With that being said, chronological Bibles do exist. (Click the link if you want to see a sampling.) It attempts to put everything in order, meaning that some books, such as the prophets, might end up in the middle of other books such as Kings and Chronicles. It also makes an effort to put the Gospel events in order. I’d actually love to see what that looks like. 🙂
(All photos are mine. 😉 )