History of the Bible
If someone asked you where to find the Bible verse that
begins, For God so loved the world
youd probably know he was asking about
John 3:16. If you had a Bible, you could find it for him in no time. But there was a time
when no one could find a single verse in the whole Bible. There was no John 3:16, Genesis
l:l or any other verse because the Bible wasnt divided into verses or even chapters.
Worse yet, there were hundreds of years when there werent even any word divisions.
Punctuation marks, capital letters and even vowels were omitted. In those days, if Genesis
had been written in English, it would have started: NTHBGNNNGGDCRTDTHHVNSNDTHRTH.
You would have had to spend hours or days just to find your favorite verse.
Words were divided by Jesus time, but vowels
werent used in Hebrew Old Testaments until the sixth century A. D. Gradually,
capitalization, punctuation and paragraphing worked their way into the Old and New
Testaments. But Bible chapters such as we have today didnt come into being until the
13th century. They were the work of Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
For the next 200 years, the Bible, now divided into
chapters, continued to be copied by hand. Then in 1448, Rabbi Nathan startled the world by
breaking the Old Testament into verses. The New Testament wasnt divided into
numbered verses until 1551 when a French printer, Robert Estienne did the job. He was
planning a study Bible that would have side-by-side columns in three translations when he
got the idea. He was so rushed for time he decided to do the dividing on a trip from Paris
to Lyons. Some people have suggested he did the work on horseback and his sometimes
awkward divisions resulted when his jogging horse bumped his pen in the wrong
places. Yet, with a few exceptions, Estiennes divisions provide us with the
verses we have today.
So just as number of people were used in writing of the
Bible over a period of centuries, it was the contribution of countless scribes, hundreds
of years, and three men in particulara Catholic archbishop, a Jewish rabbi and a
Protestant printerwho turned NTHBGNNNGGDCRTDTHHVNSNDTHRTH into Genesis
Clarke, Campus Life, March, 198l, p. 40.