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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:
- The Bible’s chapters and verses are handy man-inspired tools, not God-inspired division.
- Man-inspired chapters and verses can lead to misunderstanding the God-inspired text.
- 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.
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.)