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Bob Was Tired

    The New Testament books were not written with chapters and verses, those were added later.  We know the men who made those contributions:  Stephen Langton was Archbishop of Canterbury and divided the NT into chapters in the early 1200s; Robert Estienne, also called Robert Stephanus, was a book publisher who lived in Paris and divided the NT into verses by 1551.     

    We do not know the circumstances under which Langton divided the NT into chapters, but we have more information about Stephanus.  As a publisher in Paris, he oversaw the printing of classics, Bibles, and school books.  Concerning the Bibles, his Parisian printing press produced three copies of the New Testament in Greek, 1546, 1549, and 1550.  But his fourth edition of the Greek New Testament, published in Geneva in 1551, is the most remarkable.  That edition contained the verse division of the New Testament which all Bibles use today.  Apparently he wanted to add a feature which would make that edition of the NT stand out from others.  (Much like Bible publishers today will make a Bible with a dictionary or a Bible focused on teenagers.)  His edition of the Bible must have been popular because his verses system is the one used in all NTs today.

    We even know when Stephanus accomplished the actual task of dividing the NT into verses.  His son reported that one time Stephanus went on a horseback trip from Paris to Lyon, a distance of about 280 miles.  How much time did that take?  Riding on horseback, and averaging say 20 miles a day, this would take two weeks; averaging 30 miles a day this would take about nine days.  And while he stayed in the inns at night, he worked his way through the NT chapters, dividing them into verses.  That is a lot of reading and numbering, the whole New Testament in a week-and-a-half to two weeks.  Plus after riding a horse all day long.  That is incredible.

    But to the point of this article.  Notice these verses from II and III John.  From II John, verses 12 and 13:  “(12) I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink.  Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.  (13) The children of your chosen sister send their greetings.”  From III John, verses 13 and 14:  “(13) I have much to write to you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink.  (14) I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.  Peace to you.  The friends here send their greetings.  Greet the friends there by name.”

    Focus on the phrase “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use (or “do to so with”) paper and ink.”  In II John, this is included in verse 12 and Stephanus added “Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” to make one verse.  In III John this phrase is a single verse.  It would seem that the same phrase would be counted the same in both II and III John, either a verse by itself, or as part of a verse.  But instead in II John it is the first half of the verse, and in III John it is the whole verse.  So what is going on here?

    Think of it this way.  Stephanus rode all day on horseback, and at night, when he was tired, he read through the NT and divided the chapters into verses.  By the time he got toward the end of the trip, and the end of the NT, he was probably tired and did not realize that he had divided the same phrase differently in II and III John.  So why the difference between II and III John?  Probably because Bob was tired.

©2009 Mark Nickens

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