Chapter Divisions in the OT & NT

When talking to students about studying the Bible, I often tell them that they should ignore the chapter divisions because they were added latter. I have found on many occasions that the chapter divisions obscure accurate reading of the text. One case in point is the Nicodemus story in John 3. The actually story begins in John 2:23-25. Neglecting to read these few verses together with the Nicodemus story will surely set a reader on the wrong foot from the beginning.

Do  you know when the chapter divisions were added? It will no doubt come as a surprise to many Bible readers just how late in the game the chapter and verse divisions (esp. in the NT) emerged. Here’s a good historical summary from Daniel Fuller in his book The Unity of the Bible:

The present chapter divisions for both the Old and the New Testament were not decided upon until 1205. At that time Stephen Langton, a professor in Paris engaged in editing a Latin version of the Bible, introduced them to make it easier for people to locate a passage. In 1330 his system was then adopted by the Jews for a new hand-copied manuscript of the Hebrew Old Testament, and in 1516 these same chapter divisions were used in the first Hebrew Bible. The verse divisions in the Old Testament had been inserted much earlier (ca 200) . . . The New Testament’s verse divisions were the work of Robert Stephanus, a Parisian printer, in 1551. Using Langton’s chapter divisions, he then divided up the New Testament into verses as he rode on horseback in the rain from Paris to Lyons to meet a printer’s deadline (102-03).

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  • PS

    Have you seen “The Books of the Bible” by Biblica? It is a straight reading of the NT texts without chapter or verses. It also arranges the canonical order in a different way. I just happened upon it at a conference last week and picked one up. I was thinking that it might be a good tool for an intro NT course.

  • Mark Stephens


    In almost every class I teach, I say to my students that chapter and verse is a finding guide not a reading guide. Just as the world doesn’t “fit itself” to latitude and longitude.

  • KIM