Eavesdropping into a Great Discussion on the Bible…worth looking at!

I’m a regular reader of Mark Roberts blog…great guy.  He was the Senior Pastor of a Presbyterian church in Irvine, CA while I was doing a similar gig "down the street" at Good Shepherd Lutheran.  Anyway, over the last couple of days, he’s been posting a very good discussion on aspects of the Bible that I thought you would like to see…you can check out the rest of the discussion at Mark’s website.  He’s talking with Chris Smith who worked on the International Bible Society’s Books of the Bible. This aspect of the discussion comes after a question Mark poses about the chapters and verses in the bible…enjoy:

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The chapters and verses that the Bible was divided into came many
centuries after its books were written. Chapters were introduced around
1200 AD, so that authors of commentaries could refer to passages more
easily. Verses were added around 1550 AD, originally so that a
concordance to the Greek New Testament could be prepared. In other
words, chapters and verses were introduced so that reference works
could be created. They were never intended to guide devotional reading
or to structure public teaching.

Mark: It seems strange to think of the Bible without the chapters
and verse numbers, since they’re so much a part of the Bibles we read
today. They almost seem sacred, though I know they’re not. Why do these
get in the way of our understanding of Scripture?

Chris: Chapters were intended to be roughly all the same length. But
the natural sections of biblical books are of greatly varying lengths.
Thus chapters tend to divide up a longer sections into shorter ones, or
else put shorter sections together into what looks deceptively like a
coherent unity. For example, in 1 Corinthians, discussions of single
topics have been divided into chapters 1, 2, 3 and 4; into chapters 8,
9 and 10; and into chapters 12, 13 and 14. Meanwhile, two shorter
discussions have been combined in chapters 6, 7, and 11. Another short
discussion is attached to Paul’s travel plans and greetings in chapter
16. Only chapters 5 and 15 consist of a single discussion in its
entirety. How can anyone understand a book that’s been divided up like
this, if they try to read it chapter by chapter?

Mark: When I’ve read devotionally through the Bible, going chapter
by chapter, I’ve experienced what you’re talking about. But I’ve never
given this too much thought, honestly. So what’s wrong with the verse
numbers?

Chris: Adding verses to chapters made things even worse. Verses
create the impression that the Bible consists of series of independent
statements–that it’s a collection of authoritarian rules or doctrinal
propositions. This is particularly deadly for a postmodern audience,
which is not really receptive to those things. But postmodern people
are very receptive to art, music, poetry and the like. If we can make
the original literary forms of the biblical books visible once again,
postmoderns will be much better able to receive the message the Bible
has been trying to convey all along through its stories, songs, letters
and poems. All of us, in fact, would do better to engage the Bible as a
collection of literary creations that together trace the path of God’s
redemptive work.

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