Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Chapters and verses of the Bible

Chapters and verses of the Bible

Overview
The Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 is a compilation of many shorter books
Books of the Bible
The Books of the Bible are listed differently in the canons of Judaism and the Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Slavonic Orthodox, Georgian, Armenian Apostolic, Syriac and Ethiopian churches, although there is substantial overlap. A table comparing the canons of some of these traditions...

 written at different times and later assembled into the Biblical canon
Biblical canon
A biblical canon, or canon of scripture, is a list of books considered to be authoritative as scripture by a particular religious community. The term itself was first coined by Christians, but the idea is found in Jewish sources. The internal wording of the text can also be specified, for example...

. All but the shortest of these books have been divided into chapter
Chapter (books)
A chapter is one of the main divisions of a piece of writing of relative length, such as a book. Chapters can be numbered in the case of such writings as law code or they can be titled. For example, the first chapters of some well-known novels are titled:*"The Boy Who Lived" – Harry Potter...

s, generally a page or so in length, since the early 13th century. Since the mid-16th century, each chapter has been further divided into "verses" of a few short lines or sentences. Sometimes a sentence spans more than one verse, as in the case of , and sometimes there is more than one sentence in a single verse, as in the case of .
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Chapters and verses of the Bible'
Start a new discussion about 'Chapters and verses of the Bible'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Recent Discussions
Encyclopedia
The Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 is a compilation of many shorter books
Books of the Bible
The Books of the Bible are listed differently in the canons of Judaism and the Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Slavonic Orthodox, Georgian, Armenian Apostolic, Syriac and Ethiopian churches, although there is substantial overlap. A table comparing the canons of some of these traditions...

 written at different times and later assembled into the Biblical canon
Biblical canon
A biblical canon, or canon of scripture, is a list of books considered to be authoritative as scripture by a particular religious community. The term itself was first coined by Christians, but the idea is found in Jewish sources. The internal wording of the text can also be specified, for example...

. All but the shortest of these books have been divided into chapter
Chapter (books)
A chapter is one of the main divisions of a piece of writing of relative length, such as a book. Chapters can be numbered in the case of such writings as law code or they can be titled. For example, the first chapters of some well-known novels are titled:*"The Boy Who Lived" – Harry Potter...

s, generally a page or so in length, since the early 13th century. Since the mid-16th century, each chapter has been further divided into "verses" of a few short lines or sentences. Sometimes a sentence spans more than one verse, as in the case of , and sometimes there is more than one sentence in a single verse, as in the case of . As the chapter and verse divisions were not part of the original texts, they form part of the Bible's paratext
Paratext
Paratext is a concept in literary interpretation. The main text of published authors is often surrounded by other material supplied by editors, printers, and publishers, which is known as the paratext. These added elements form a frame for the main text, and can change the reception of a text or...

.

The Jewish divisions of the Hebrew text differ at various points from those used by Christians. For instance, in Jewish tradition, the ascriptions to many Psalms
Psalms
The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

 are regarded as independent verses, making 116 more verses, whereas the established Christian practice is to count and number each Psalm ascription together with the first verse following it. Some chapter divisions also occur in different places, e.g. in Hebrew Bibles is numbered as in Christian translations.

Chapters


The original manuscripts did not contain the chapter and verse divisions in the numbered form familiar to modern readers. Some portions of the original Hebrew texts were logically divided into parts following the Hebrew alphabet
Hebrew alphabet
The Hebrew alphabet , known variously by scholars as the Jewish script, square script, block script, or more historically, the Assyrian script, is used in the writing of the Hebrew language, as well as other Jewish languages, most notably Yiddish, Ladino, and Judeo-Arabic. There have been two...

; for instance, the earliest known copies of the Book of Isaiah
Book of Isaiah
The Book of Isaiah is the first of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, preceding the books of Ezekiel, Jeremiah and the Book of the Twelve...

 use Hebrew letters for paragraph divisions. (This was different from the acrostic
Acrostic
An acrostic is a poem or other form of writing in which the first letter, syllable or word of each line, paragraph or other recurring feature in the text spells out a word or a message. As a form of constrained writing, an acrostic can be used as a mnemonic device to aid memory retrieval. A famous...

 structure of certain texts following the Hebrew alphabet, such as Psalm 119
Psalm 119
Psalm 119 is the longest psalm as well as the longest chapter in the Bible. It is referred to in Hebrew by its opening words, "Ashrei temimei derech" . It is the prayer of one who delights in and lives by the Torah, the sacred law...

 and most of the Book of Lamentations
Book of Lamentations
The Book of Lamentations ) is a poetic book of the Hebrew Bible composed by the Jewish prophet Jeremiah. It mourns the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple in the 6th Century BCE....

.) There are other divisions from various sources which are different from what we use today.

The Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 began to be put into sections before the Babylonian Captivity
Babylonian captivity
The Babylonian captivity was the period in Jewish history during which the Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in Babylon—conventionally 587–538 BCE....

 (586 BC) with the five books of Moses
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 being put into a 154-section reading program to be used in a three-year cycle. Later (before 536 BC) the Law was put into 54 sections and 669 sub-divisions for reading
Parsha
This article is about the divisions of the Torah into weekly readings. For this week's Torah portion, see Torah portionThe weekly Torah portion |Sidra]]) is a section of the Torah read in Jewish services...

.

By the time of the Council of Nicaea
First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in Bithynia by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325...

 in 325 AD, the New Testament had been divided into paragraphs, although the divisions were different from the modern Bible.

Archbishop Stephen Langton and Cardinal Hugo de Sancto Caro developed different schemas for systematic division of the Bible in the early 13th century. It is the system of Archbishop Langton on which the modern chapter divisions are based.

Verses


For at least a thousand years the Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

 has contained an extensive system of multiple levels of section, paragraph, and phrasal divisions that were indicated in Masoretic vocalization and cantillation markings
Cantillation
Cantillation is the ritual chanting of readings from the Hebrew Bible in synagogue services. The chants are written and notated in accordance with the special signs or marks printed in the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible to complement the letters and vowel points...

. One of the most frequent of these was a special type of punctuation, the sof passuq, symbol for a full stop or sentence break, resembling the colon
Colon (punctuation)
The colon is a punctuation mark consisting of two equally sized dots centered on the same vertical line.-Usage:A colon informs the reader that what follows the mark proves, explains, or lists elements of what preceded the mark....

 (:) of English and Latin orthography. With the advent of the printing press and the translation of the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 into English, Old Testament versifications were made that correspond predominantly with the existing Hebrew full stops, with a few isolated exceptions. A product of meticulous labour and unwearying attention, the Old Testament verse divisions stand today in essentially the same places as they have been passed down since antiquity. Most attribute these to Rabbi Isaac Nathan ben Kalonymus
Isaac Nathan ben Kalonymus
Isaac Nathan ben Kalonymus was a French Jewish philosopher and controversialist. He lived at Arles, perhaps at Avignon also, and in other places, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries....

's work for the first Hebrew Bible concordance
Bible concordance
A Bible concordance is a verbal index to the Bible. A simple form lists Biblical words alphabetically, with indications to enable the inquirer to find the passages of the Bible where the words occur....

 around 1440.

The first person to divide New Testament chapters into verses was Italian Dominican biblical scholar Santi Pagnini (1470–1541), but his system was never widely adopted. Robert Estienne
Robert Estienne
Robert I Estienne , known as Robertus Stephanus in Latin and also referred to as Robert Stephens by 18th and 19th-century English writers, was a 16th century printer and classical scholar in Paris...

 created an alternate numbering in his 1551 edition of the Greek New Testament which was also used in his 1553 publication of the Bible in French. Estienne's system of division was widely adopted, and it is this system which is found in almost all modern bibles.

The first English New Testament to use the verse divisions was a 1557 translation by William Whittingham
William Whittingham
William Whittingham was an English Biblical scholar and religious reformer. Educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, he became a zealous Protestant; as such he found it prudent to flee to France when Mary I ascended the throne of England....

 (c. 1524-1579). The first Bible in English to use both chapters and verses was the Geneva Bible
Geneva Bible
The Geneva Bible is one of the most historically significant translations of the Bible into the English language, preceding the King James translation by 51 years. It was the primary Bible of the 16th century Protestant movement and was the Bible used by William Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell, John...

 published shortly afterwards in 1560. These verse divisions soon gained acceptance as a standard way to notate verses, and have since been used in nearly all English Bibles and the vast majority of those in other languages.

Jewish tradition



The Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 Masoretic text
Masoretic Text
The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible and is regarded as Judaism's official version of the Tanakh. While the Masoretic Text defines the books of the Jewish canon, it also defines the precise letter-text of these biblical books, with their vocalization and...

 of the Bible notes several different kinds of subdivisions within the biblical books:

Verse endings


Most importantly are the verse endings. According to the Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

ic tradition, the division of the text into verses is of ancient origin. In masoretic versions of the Bible, the end of a verse is indicated by a small mark in its final word called a silluq (which means "stop"). Less formally, verse endings are usually also indicated by a two horizontal dots following the word with a silluq.

Parashiyot



The Masoretic textual tradition also contains section endings called parashot, which are usually indicated by a space within a line (a "closed" section) or a new line beginning (an "open" section). The division of the text reflected in the parashot is usually thematic. Unlike chapters the parashot are not numbered, but some of them have special titles.

In early manuscripts (most importantly in Tiberian
Tiberian vocalization
The Tiberian vocalization is a system of diacritics devised by the Masoretes to add to the consonantal Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible; this system soon became used to vocalize other texts as well...

 Masoretic manuscripts, such as the Aleppo codex
Aleppo Codex
The Aleppo Codex is a medieval bound manuscript of the Hebrew Bible. The codex was written in the 10th century A.D.The codex has long been considered to be the most authoritative document in the masorah , the tradition by which the Hebrew Scriptures have been preserved from generation to generation...

) an "open" section may also be represented by a blank line, and a "closed" section by a new line that is slightly indented (the preceding line may also not be full). These latter conventions are no longer used in Torah scrolls and printed Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

s. In this system the one rule differentiating "open" and "closed" sections is that "open" sections must always begin at the beginning of a new line, while "closed" sections never start at the beginning of a new line.

Sedarim


Another division of the biblical books found in the masoretic text is the division of the sedarim
Seder (Bible)
A seder is part of a biblical book in the masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible.The division of the Torah into roughly 150 sedarim is related to the Babylonian Jewish tradition of a triennial cycle for Torah reading....

. This division is not thematic, but is almost entirely based upon the quantity of text. For the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

, this division reflects the triennial cycle of reading that was practiced by the Jews of Babylon.

Absence of chapters


The current division of the Bible into chapters and the verse numbers within the chapters has no basis in any ancient textual tradition. Rather, they are medieval and early modern Christian inventions. They were later adopted by many Jews as well, as technical references within the Hebrew text. Such technical references became crucial to medieval rabbis in the historical context of forced debates with Christian clergy (who used the chapter numbers), especially in late medieval Spain.

The earliest extant Jewish manuscript to note the chapter divisions dates from 1330, and the first printed edition was in 1516 (several earlier Masoretic Bibles did not note the chapters). Since then, all printed Hebrew Bibles note the chapter and verse numbers out of practical necessity. However, ever since the 1961 Koren
Koren Publishers Jerusalem
Koren Publishers Jerusalem is an Israeli publisher of Jewish religious texts. It was established in 1961 by Eliyahu Koren, with the aim of publishing the first Hebrew Bible designed, edited, printed, and bound by Jews in nearly 500 years...

 edition, most Jewish editions of the Bible have made a systematic effort to relegate chapter and verse numbers to the margins of the text, as an indication that they are foreign to the Masoretic tradition.

Christian versions


The Byzantines also introduced a concept roughly similar to chapter divisions, called kephalaia (singular kephalaion, literally meaning heading). This system, which was in place no later than the 5th century, is not identical to the present chapters. Unlike the modern chapters, which tend to be of roughly similar length, the distance from one kephalaion mark to the next varied greatly in length both within a book (the Sermon on the Mount
Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of sayings and teachings of Jesus, which emphasizes his moral teaching found in the Gospel of Matthew...

, comprising three chapters in the modern system, has but one kephalaion mark, while the single modern chapter 8 of the Gospel of Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

 has several, one per miracle) and from one book to the next (there were far fewer kephalaia in the Gospel of John
Gospel of John
The Gospel According to John , commonly referred to as the Gospel of John or simply John, and often referred to in New Testament scholarship as the Fourth Gospel, is an account of the public ministry of Jesus...

 than in the Gospel of Mark
Gospel of Mark
The Gospel According to Mark , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Mark or simply Mark, is the second book of the New Testament. This canonical account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth is one of the three synoptic gospels. It was thought to be an epitome, which accounts for its place as the second...

, even though the latter is the shorter text). In the manuscripts, the kephalaia with their numbers, their standard titles (titloi) and their page numbers would be listed at the beginning of each biblical book; in the book's main body, they would be marked only with arrow-shaped or asterisk-like symbols in the margin, not in the text itself. The titles usually referred to the first event or the first theological point of the section only, and some kephalaia are manifestly incomplete if one stops reading at the point where the next kephalaion begins (for example, the combined miracle story of the daughter of the synagogue leader
Daughter of Jairus
The record of the daughter of Jairus is a combination of miracles of Jesus in the Gospels .The story immediately follows the exorcism at Gerasa. Jairus, a patron of the synagogue, asks Jesus to heal his dying daughter. However, according to Matthew, his daughter is already dead, not dying...

 and of the woman with the flow of blood gets two marked kephalaia, one titled of the daughter of the synagogue ruler at the beginning when the ruler approaches Jesus and one titled of the woman with the flow of blood where the woman enters the picture – well before the ruler's daughter is healed and the storyline of the previous kephalaion is thus properly concluded). Thus the kephalaia marks are rather more like a system of bookmarks or links into a continuous text, helping a reader to quickly find one of several well-known episodes, than like a true system of chapter divisions.

Cardinal Hugo de Sancto Caro
Hugh of St Cher
Hugh of St Cher was a French Dominican cardinal and Biblical commentator. He was born at St Cher, a suburb of Vienne, Dauphiné, and while a student in Paris entered the Dominican convent of the Jacobins in 1225....

 is often given credit for first dividing the Latin Vulgate into chapters in the real sense, but it is the arrangement of his contemporary and fellow cardinal Stephen Langton
Stephen Langton
Stephen Langton was Archbishop of Canterbury between 1207 and his death in 1228 and was a central figure in the dispute between King John of England and Pope Innocent III, which ultimately led to the issuing of Magna Carta in 1215...

 who in 1205 created the chapter divisions which are used today. They were then inserted into Greek manuscripts of the New Testament in the 15th century. Robert Estienne
Robert Estienne
Robert I Estienne , known as Robertus Stephanus in Latin and also referred to as Robert Stephens by 18th and 19th-century English writers, was a 16th century printer and classical scholar in Paris...

 (Robert Stephanus) was the first to number the verses within each chapter, his verse numbers entering printed editions in 1551 (New Testament) and 1571 (Hebrew Bible).

The division of the Bible into chapters and verses has often elicited severe criticism from traditionalists and modern scholars alike. Critics charge that the text is often divided in an incoherent way, or at inappropriate rhetorical points, and that it encourages citing passages out of context. Nevertheless, the chapter and verse numbers have become indispensable as technical references for Bible study.

Statistics


Except where stated, the following apply to the King James Version of the Bible in its modern Protestant form, including the New Testament but not the deuterocanonical books
Deuterocanonical books
Deuterocanonical books is a term used since the sixteenth century in the Catholic Church and Eastern Christianity to describe certain books and passages of the Christian Old Testament that are not part of the Hebrew Bible. The term is used in contrast to the protocanonical books, which are...

. The number of words can vary depending upon aspects, such as whether the Hebrew alphabet in Psalm 119 or the superscriptions listed in some of the Psalms and New Testament are included.

Chapters
  • There are 929 chapters in the Old Testament
    Old Testament
    The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

     and 260 chapters in the New Testament
    New Testament
    The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

    . This gives a total of 1,189 chapters (on average, 18 per book). is the middle chapter of the Bible, being the 595th Chapter.
  • Psalm 117 is also the shortest chapter of the Bible. is the longest chapter of the Bible.


Verses
  • There are 23,145 verses in the Old Testament and 7,957 verses in the New Testament. This gives a total of 31,102 verses, which is an average of a little more than 26 verses per chapter.
  • Contrary to popular belief, Psalm 118 does not contain the middle verse of the Bible. The King James Version has an even number of verses (31,102), with the two middle verses being . ("Eber, Peleg, Reu") is the shortest verse in the Old Testament.
  • The shortest verse in the Greek New Testament
    Novum Testamentum Graece
    Novum Testamentum Graece is the Latin name editions of the original Greek-language version of the New Testament.The first printed edition was the Complutensian Polyglot Bible by Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, printed in 1514, but not published until 1520...

     is ("και ο δευτερος", "And the second") with twelve letters, according to the Westcott and Hort
    The New Testament in the Original Greek
    The New Testament in the Original Greek is the name of a Greek language version of the New Testament published in 1881. It is also known as the Westcott and Hort text, after its editors Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort...

     text. In the Textus Receptus
    Textus Receptus
    Textus Receptus is the name subsequently given to the succession of printed Greek texts of the New Testament which constituted the translation base for the original German Luther Bible, the translation of the New Testament into English by William Tyndale, the King James Version, and for most other...

    , the shortest verse is ("παντοτε χαιρετε", "Rejoice always") with fourteen letters, since Stephanus
    Robert Estienne
    Robert I Estienne , known as Robertus Stephanus in Latin and also referred to as Robert Stephens by 18th and 19th-century English writers, was a 16th century printer and classical scholar in Paris...

    ' rendering of Luke 20:30 includes some additional words. ("Dicet enim") is the shortest verse in the Latin Vulgate
    Vulgate
    The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was largely the work of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations...

    . ("Jesus wept
    Jesus wept
    Jesus wept is a phrase famous for being the shortest verse in the King James Version of the Bible, as well as many other versions, though it is not the shortest in the original languages...

    ") is the shortest verse in most English translations. Some translations — including the New International Version, New Living Translation, New Life Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible and New International Reader's Version — render as "He said". However, this is a translators' condensation of the Hebrew which literally translated is "And Job answered and said." is the longest verse in the Masoretic Text. The discovery of several manuscripts at Qumran
    Qumran
    Qumran is an archaeological site in the West Bank. It is located on a dry plateau about a mile inland from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, near the Israeli settlement and kibbutz of Kalia...

     (in the Dead Sea Scrolls
    Dead Sea scrolls
    The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible and extra-biblical documents found between 1947 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name...

    ) has reopened what is considered the most original text of 1 Samuel 11; if one believes that those manuscripts better preserve the text, several verses in 1 Samuel 11 surpass Esther 8:9 in length.
  • Using numbers of pages in the CUV/ESV Bible, the New Testament comprises 22.7% of the Bible.

External links