Welcome to the Bible: Chapters and Verses Bring Convenience and Challenges ~ Part 2 ~ Context Matters

Welcome to the Bible: Chapter & Verse Part 2 - Context Matters (www.JeanWilund.com)

God Inspired the Bible. Man Added Chapters and Verses, And a Few Challenges: Loss of Context.

I’m thankful man added chapters and verses to the Bible. I’m also thankful I learned about the challenges that come with them.

Last time we looked at the first of three challenges that come with breaking up the divine text into chapters and verses. (There may be more challenges, but these are the three that stood out to me.)

Today we’ll look at the second of those challenges.

1. The Bible’s chapters and verses are handy man-inspired tools, not God-inspired division.

2. Man-inspired chapters and verses can lead to misunderstanding the God-inspired text through loss of context.

3. Chapters and verses can encourage snacking on Scripture rather than dining.

Loss of Context

Chapters and verses cause us to pause.

Sometimes those man-made pauses indicate a change in thought, time, or events. But not always.

Remember, originally, the first word in each chapter or verse was just the next word in the book or letter. They weren’t written with the mindset that they’d be broken up into chapters or verses.

When studying a passage, we need to look before and after the passage to avoid misunderstandings.

BIBLE STUDY TIP: If a sentence begins with a “look-back word” like “And” or “Therefore,” be sure to look back at what came before it.

BIBLE STUDY TIP: When you see the word “therefore,” ask yourself what the “therefore” is there for?”

Example #1: Colossians 2:21

Forbidden or Free

“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” ~ Colossians 2:21

Colossians 2:21 seems to teach us what we shouldn’t do.

Until we read the verse right before it.

“Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules.” ~ Colossians 2:20

Rather than Paul encouraging physical self-denial, he’s actually preaching freedom from man-made rules—freedom in Christ.

Example #2: Luke 21

The Poor Widow — Commendation or Condemnation?

And He [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on” (Luke 21:1-4, NASB).

Most teachings I’ve heard on Luke 21:1-4 never mention the context. They don’t even seem to consider chapter 20 or the verses after Luke 21:4.

The focus most often falls on the poor widow’s generous giving, teaching that Jesus is commending the widow and instructing us to give as generously.

But, when we read this passage in context, we can see an alternative meaning.

Luke 20:45-47: And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”

Verse 45 begins with the “look-back” word “And,” so we need to keep looking back to get the full meaning.

From the beginning of chapter 20, certain religious leaders attempted to trick Jesus into condemning Himself. They came to Him under the pretense of wanting to understand truth, but Jesus exposed the true motive of their hearts.

Jesus warned His disciples of the leaders’ evil intent and ways, mentioning they “devour widows’ houses.”

It’s right after these warnings that Jesus pointed out the poor widow as she placed her last coins into the temple box. She gave all she had left to survive on.

Jesus commented only on what she gave. Nothing more about her. Nothing about her attitude. Only that she gave all she had left to survive on.

Then He immediately talked about the Temple and warned about being led astray by false teachers and leaders.

And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said, “As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.” They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them. ~ Luke 21:5-8

Two Interpretations

Is Luke 21:1-4 a teaching on giving generously or about abuse of the poor by religious leaders?

Is Jesus commending the poor widow or is He condemning the disreputable leaders?

I’ll leave it to the Biblical scholars to debate the correct interpretation of this passage. My point is that when we look at passages in isolation rather than context, it can lead us to see the message of the passage differently.

For more insight check out these links:
Does God Wants Us To Give Everything by Grace To You
Abusing the Poor by Grace to You
Jesus and the Widow’s Offering by Bible.org
Giving, It’s a Good Thing by Calvary Baptist Church
Luke Part 45: Games People Play Part 3 by Matt Chandler
The Widow and Her Two Coins: Praise or Lament? by Boston Bible Geeks

Context Matters

The division of chapters and verses makes studying and memorizing the Bible much easier, but remember to read it in context.

REMEMBER: Man-inspired chapters and verses can lead to misunderstandings. Read Scripture in context, not in isolation.

(For more information check out Don Stewart’s article Why Is the Bible Divided into Chapters and Verses? on www.blueletterbible.com.)

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Welcome to the Bible: Chapters and Verses Bring Convenience and Challenges ~ Part 1 ~ Handy, But Not God-Inspired

Welcome to the Bible: Chapter & Verse Part 1 -- The Bible's Chapters and Verses are handy man-inspired tools, not God-Inspired division (www.JeanWilund.com)

John, Chapter 3, Verse 16

I bet you can quote John 3:16.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

You may know that verse, but do you know who to thank for giving it an address: John, chapter 3, verse 16?

Without the Bible broken down into books, chapters, and verses, it might resemble a novel — a mammoth one, like Leo Tolstoy’s 1,125-page novel War and Peace.

The Bible averages 1,200 pages.

Can you find the following quote in the Bible without my giving you the chapter and verse? And without using Google?

Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.”

No? Me neither.

That’s why we should celebrate Stephen Langton, Rabbi Mordecai Nathan, and Robert Stephanus.

Chapters and Verses

Around A.D. 1227, Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury and a University of Paris professor, divided the Bible into chapters.

I’m surprised it took over a thousand years to decide to do this.

Over 200 years later, the Jewish rabbi Mordecai Nathan took it further and divided the Hebrew Old Testament into verses in A.D. 1448.


A mere 103 years later (in A.D. 1551), Robert Stephanus, a French printer, divided the New Testament into verses.


Thanks to Stephen, Mordecai, and Robert, the Geneva Bible — the first full Bible with both chapters and verses — rolled off the presses in A.D. 1560.

I don’t think anything actually “rolled off” the presses back then. I think they lifted off.

Great Convenience, Minor Challenges

Conveniences can be life-changing. Ah, the internet. So convenient.

But often, with the added convenience comes added problems. Yikes, the internet. So problematic.

When we practice caution, conveniences can be worth their challenges.

The challenges that come with chapters and verses in the Bible are easy to handle when we remember these three points:

  1. The Bible’s chapters and verses are handy man-inspired tools, not God-inspired division.

  2. Man-inspired chapters and verses can lead to misunderstanding the God-inspired text.

  3. Chapters and verses can encourage snacking on Scripture rather than dining.

Today, we’ll look at the first of the three points:

1. The Bible’s chapters and verses are handy man-inspired tools, not God-inspired division.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

All scripture was inspired by God, but the division of chapters and verses wasn’t.

They’re handy, convenient, and effective tools, but don’t force spiritual meaning into man-made conveniences.

Few of us mean to do it, but it’s easy to fall into that trap. For instance . . .

God-Given vs Man-Forced Spiritual Meaning

In Scripture, God uses the number seven to symbolize divine perfection or completeness.

God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh after the world was perfect and complete (Genesis 2:2).

God commanded Joshua (and Israel) to march around Jericho seven times on the seventh day. Seven priests were to sound seven rams’ horns as they marched (Joshua 6:3-4).

God gave the number seven the spiritual meaning of divine perfection or completeness in the text of Genesis 2:2 and Joshua 6:3-4. He didn’t give the address that spiritual meaning.

And He didn’t make the seventh chapters or verses in any book more divinely perfect or complete than the other chapters and verses.

The number 40 in Scripture symbolizes trials and testing.

It rained for 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:12).

Israel wandered the wilderness for 40 years (Deuteronomy 29:5).

Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days when the Holy Spirit led Him there to be tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1).

God infused the number 40 with spiritual meaning, but the fortieth chapters or verses in any book aren’t more trying than the others.

Don’t force spiritual meaning into man-inspired chapter and verse addresses in the Bible.

“Special Verses”

Another example of forcing spiritual value into the chapter and verse addresses is getting too excited about “special verses,” like the “center verse of the Bible.”

In some translations, Psalm 118:8 is the center of the Bible.

But since the King James Version has an even number of verses, the center falls between Psalm 118:8 and Psalm 118:9.

Who cares? The verse divisions weren’t given by God. The text was, but not the divisions.

Psalm 118 is a powerful chapter, but there’s no spiritual meaning to it containing the center of the Bible.

REMEMBER: Appreciate the breakdown of the Bible’s books into chapters and verses, but don’t force spiritual meaning into how they’re divided. They’re handy man-inspired tools, not God-inspired division.   

We’ll look at the next two points in my next two posts. Stay tuned.

Oh, and that quote from the Bible at the beginning of this post? It’s Jeremiah 1:9. (Thanks, Stephen, Mordecai, and Robert. Without you, it would’ve taken me a LONG time to find it.)


God is Incomprehensible

God is Incomprehensible: From the Never-ending, Ever-growing List of the Character Traits of God. (www.JeanWilund.com)


There’s much I don’t understand. Surprising, I know.

For instance, I’ll never understand how I can sit on my porch in South Carolina and talk into a small handheld metal box that transmits a living image of me to a satellite in space and then to my daughter’s phone on the beach in Hawaii, which then shoots her image to the satellite and back to my phone for an hour as we chat casually, instantly, and seamlessly.


I don’t understand any of that — except the part where she’s sitting in Hawaii, and I’m on my back porch in South Carolina.

Oh, and the talking part. I get that, too, sort of. Ok, not really. How do our brains tell our vocal chords what vibrations to make? And how do our bodies turn them into words other people understand?

If I can’t understand all the wonders of the world God created, how do I begin to understand Him?

God is Incomprehensible

Incomprehensible — the inability to be understood. 

God is beyond our ability to understand fully.

We can understand much of God, but not all of Him.

If we combined all the brilliant minds in history into one super brain, it wouldn’t be enough to comprehend all God is.

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.
~ I Corinthians 2:11

God is unique unto Himself. No one and nothing is like Him.

When we try to explain what He’s like, we have to grab images we can understand to explain the God we never can.

But beware. Many try to reduce God to an image they not only can understand but one they think they can control.

Words like “appearance” and “like” pop up whenever we try to explain God. Even in the Bible.

God is like the sun in all its glory, except more. Much more.

As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking.
~ Ezekiel 1:28

If We Can’t Comprehend God, Should We Even Try?

Absolutely, we should try. But understand…

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever.
~Deuteronomy 29:29

God only keeps some things secret.

We should seek to understand God as much as He’ll reveal Himself to us and then accept the rest as “the secret things” that “belong to the Lord.”

God wants us to know Him. He even gave us a thick Book to teach us about Him.  

Understanding God is Incomprehensible Makes a Difference in Our Lives Today

Like all of God’s character traits, understanding that He can’t be fully understood makes a difference in our lives today.

For some, understanding and accepting this is a stumbling block. For others, it’s a path to peace.

Some people refuse to believe what they can’t understand. That was my husband at first.

When friends first introduced Larry to Christ, he battled trusting in Him because too much of the Bible seemed incomprehensible. He refused to trust what he couldn’t understand. For years.

Then one of those friends, Karen, shared a verse with him:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
~ Proverbs 3:5-6

God is Incomprehensible: From the Never-ending, Ever-growing List of the Character Traits of God. (www.JeanWilund.com)This verse helped Larry realize that his finite ability to understand an infinite God would always be limited.

He recognized that if God were small enough to be understood, He wouldn’t be big enough to be God.

After thinking on Proverbs 3:5-6, Larry knelt down on his knees in his bedroom and placed his faith in Jesus Christ.

He’d found a God he couldn’t comprehend but could fully trust.

Don’t let God’s incomprehensibility be a stumbling block. Let it be a springboard to a life of faith.

When we rest in what we know and don’t fight over what we don’t, we can experience peace in normal everyday life as well as in the midst of heart-wrenching trials.

I don’t have to understand why God wants my oldest daughter to live 4,766 miles away right now. I only have to trust Him. 

He knows my heart and how I miss her while she’s in Hawaii. And He cares.

He’s with her always. He can reach her no matter where she goes.

And He knows how all this fits into His bigger picture for our good and His glory — even if I don’t.
If #God were small enough to be understood, He wouldn't be big enough to be God. #GodIsIncomprehensible Click To Tweet

I don’t have to understand why God has allowed my friend’s child to suffer unrelieved pain for months. I only have to trust Him.

He knows what’s wrong and how to heal him.

He knows the desperate desire my friend feels every moment to see her son enjoy life again. And He cares.

And He knows how all this fits into His bigger picture for our good and His glory — even if they don’t.

God gives us what we need to know when we need to know it.

Let’s not confuse wants and needs.

We want all the answers, but we don’t need them.

We need to trust in the One who understands all. 

God’s Word on His Incomprehensibleness

All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.
~ Matthew 11:27 NASB

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
~ Romans 11:33 NASB

Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised, And His greatness is unsearchable.
~ Psalm 145:3 NASB

“Can you discover the depths of God?
Can you [by searching] discover the limits of the Almighty [ascend to His heights, extend to His widths, and comprehend His infinite perfection]?
His wisdom is as high as the heights of heaven. What can you do?
It is deeper than Sheol (the nether world, the place of the dead). What can you know?
“It is longer in measure [and scope] than the earth,
And broader than the sea.
~ Job 11:7-9 AMP

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
~ Isaiah 55:9 NASB

God may be incomprehensible, but He’s not unapproachable.

Seek God with all your heart. When you come to know Him as He reveals Himself in each of His character traits, He’ll make your life more than you could’ve hoped it to be.

Only God knows what that will look like, but you can trust Him, even if you can’t comprehend Him. 

The more I come to know #God the more I understand He can't be fully understood. #KnowingGod Click To Tweet

E-Bible or Printed Bible? Why I’ll Never Give Up My Printed Bible

E-Bible or Printed Bible? Why I'll Never Give Up My Printed Bible by Jean Wilund via www.JeanWilund.com

I sort of freaked the other day. I couldn’t find one of my Bibles. The one in the photo above.

I bought a new study Bible a few months ago that I’ve been using lately and couldn’t remember where I’d placed the other one.

My heart ached at the thought of all I’d lose if I couldn’t find it.

And it inspired this post.

E-Bible or Printed Bible?

Do you have any E-Bible apps on your phone?

I do.

I have a few I love, but I can’t imagine ever substituting a printed Bible for a digital one.

When I travel, I take my printed Bible with me. If I’m going to be gone long, I’ll even take my thick study Bible.

And I write all over every page.

If you’ve ever been in a Bible study with me, depending on the Bible I brought with me, you may see me tuck it in my lap.

I’m hiding it from you.

When people see how many notes cover the pages of my Bible, they get a little bug-eyed.

So Many Notes!

If you’ve seen the lovely modern style of Bible journaling with its artwork and flourishes, you won’t find that in mine.

Nothing beautiful about my handiwork, unless you enjoy microscopic notes in every nook and cranny.

It’s not that I’m super spiritual. I’m just super forgetful.

I’ve read quotes in my Bible and thought, “Wow. That’s powerful. When did I write that quote?”

I’m looking at my own handwriting, but I have no memory of having read it before. I certainly don’t remember writing it into the margin.

E-Bible or Printed Bible? That is the Question by Jean Wilund via www.JeanWilund.com

The Best Argument for Using a Printed Bible

Blogger and author Tim Challies had made the switch to E-Bibles over printed ones until he flipped through George Müller’s, Amy Carmichael’s, and William Carey’s Bibles.

Check out Tim’s post and see their Bibles: The Best Argument for Using a Printed Bible

I feel even better about writing all over the pages of my Bible after seeing theirs. I’m in great company.

Who knows what will happen to my Bibles after I’m gone. I pray others will pick them up and be blessed.

What Will God Do With Your Bibles?

Imagine being able to light a fire in the faith of one of your great-grandchildren or great-great-grandchildren through one of your Bibles.

Picture them stumbling upon a note you’d scribbled in a corner of the book of John that strengthens their understanding of God.

What if they come to faith through reading your Bible?

I ran across an old calendar of my great-grandfather’s several years ago. Before I found it, I’d had no idea if he was even a Chrisitan. But then I opened the pages of his calendar and found Bible verses and a simple statement of faith in God’s sovereignty that I’ve never forgotten. He wrote: What is, is best.

I never met my great-grandfather, but he touched my life through a note he wrote long ago.

On almost every page of my Bible, I’ve scribbled insights and explanations from great commentaries and teachers.

I’ve noted reflections and connections I’ve seen in the Bible as the Holy Spirit has led me through His Word.

And I’ve poured out my heart as God has poured in His Word.

No, I can’t imagine ever giving up using a printed Bible.

Having said that, I do love E-Bibles, but not as my main Bible.

Click to read My Top Five Favorite Bible Study Apps via www.JeanWilund.com

Click to read My Top Five Favorite Bible Study Apps via www.JeanWilund.com

I’ve written a couple of posts on Bible Study Apps I love. And I’ve got another in my mind to write soon.

Bible Apps are wonderfully helpful, but they’ll never replace my printed Bible.

My husband said it makes him sad to see so few people bringing printed Bibles to church anymore. I agree. #TeamPrintedBible

What about you? Which do you prefer?

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E-Bible or Printed Bible? Why I'll Never Give Up My Printed Bible by Jean Wilund via www.JeanWilund.com

How the Books of the New Testament Are Organized

Welcome to the Bible: How the New Testament Books are Organized via www.jeanwilund.com

Confused Yet?

If you were brand new to the Bible and started in the New Testament, it might confuse you at first.

My friend Ray received a New Testament and started at the beginning — like most people do with any book. 

He loved the story of Jesus in Matthew and looked forward to what the next book held.

Surprised to find that the book of Mark was basically the same story, he shrugged his shoulders and kept reading. 

Then he flipped to Luke.

Same story.

He kept reading but said, “If the next book is the same story, I quit!” 

He turned to the book of John. And began to read. And kept reading anyway.

Fortunately, God had already grabbed Ray’s heart. He’d transformed it by the truth Ray had read — now four times. 

When he flipped to the next book, Acts, he realized all 27 books of the New Testament are not the same story after all. But they are about the same person, Jesus Christ.

The New Testament is organized like the Old Testament, by the type of literature contained in it. 

Let’s take a look:

The Five Groups of the New Testament

1. The Four Gospels

(Mattew, Mark, Luke, and John)

The Gospels tell the most important story of all — Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

The four books follow Jesus from the crib (the manger, to be exact) to the grave and up into heaven after He rose from the dead.

Just before Jesus rose to heaven, He told His closest friends, the disciples, to go into all the world, preach the gospel, and make new disciples (students of Jesus Christ).

2. The One Book of History


The book of Acts tells of the extraordinary acts of the apostles of Jesus as they went into the world to share the gospel and make disciples.

Amazing events occurred along the way.

Peter raised a woman named Tabitha back to life (Acts 9:36-42).

An angel later miraculously snuck Peter out of prison (Acts 12:6-18).

Paul and Silas were shackled in prison singing praise songs when an earthquake shook the prison doors open. (Acts 16:25-40)

3. The 13 Pauline Epistles and Hebrews

(Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews)

Epistles are letters written to specific groups or individuals but for public benefit.

The Pauline Epistles are letters from the apostle Paul, not a woman named Pauline.

Paul had once been Saul, a violent enemy of the church. But on his way to arrest Christians, he met Jesus.

On the road to Damascus, Jesus changed Saul’s life forever. God resurrected Saul in a way. He transformed him into Paul, one of the greatest preachers and church leaders in history.

And a prolific author.

Paul wrote 13 letters to churches and/or individuals addressing concerns and teaching spiritual truths.

He may, or may not, have written the last book in this group, the book of Hebrews. No one knows for sure.

4. The Seven General Epistles

(James, 1, 2, & 3 John, 1 & 2 Peter, and Jude)

James, John, Peter, and Jude wrote a total of seven letters to the church in general (all Believers) instead of to specific churches or individuals.

Each epistle addressed different concerns or themes as God’s Spirit directed them such as love, faith, and false teachers.

5. The One Book of Prophecy


The final book of the New Testament, and of the Bible, is titled in English the Book of the Revelation to John.

It’s usually shorted to Revelation, but often mistakenly called Revelations.

Revelation is the only book that’s solely dedicated to prophecy and offers a blessing to any who study it.

It describes, in literal terms and brilliant symbolism, the second coming of Christ to set up His eternal kingdom and deal the final blow to Satan and his demons.

Revelation’s soundtrack would be epic.

Next Time

Next time we’ll zoom in further and look at the benefits of having the books of the Bible broken down into chapters and verses.

We’ll also look at the challenges it brings — challenges you may not have considered but must. 

Ever wondered how the New Testament is organized? #Biblestudy #God Click To Tweet

Welcome to the Bible: How the New Testament Books are Organized via www.jeanwilund.com


In case you missed these earlier posts in the Welcome to the Bible series, click the photos:

1) An Introduction to this Introduction to the Bible:
See the Big Picture

Welcome to The Bible: So Much to Confuse and So Little to Understand -- Wait a Minute. Strike That. Reverse It. -- See the Big Picture to Increase Understanding and Reverse Confusion (via www.JeanWilund.com)

2) An Overview of Who Wrote the Bible:
A Thick Book With Lots of Authors

Welcome to the Bible: A Thick Book With Lots of Authors — An Overview of Who Wrote the Bible

3) Books, Chapters, & Verses, Oh My!:
Why Two Testaments?

Welcome to the Bible Why 2 Testaments? via www.jeanwilund.com

4) How Are the Books of the Old Testament Organized?

Welcome to the Bible: How the Old Testament Books are Organized