Divisions of the New Testament

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WE are all familiar with the ordinary chapters and verses in our Bible, but these are comparatively a recent addition. When Paul wrote an Epistle, he would naturally write it without divisions of any sort, except, perhaps, breaking it up into paragraphs. The Gospels were doubtless written in the same style.
But though our modern chapters and verses are not found in the oldest manuscripts, yet they possess other divisions which we have not now. There were at first divisions marked in the margin, breaking a book into portions. But in these divisions the manuscripts do not agree. For instance, in the Codex Vaticanus, Matthew is divided into 170 parts, Mark 62, Luke 152, John 80, &c. It will be seen that these portions are much shorter than our chapters. By whom they are made is not known.
In the Codex Alexandrinus, and others, Matthew is marked for 68 divisions, Mark 48, Luke 83, and John 18. These are supposed to have been done by Titian, a disciple of Justin Martyr. These were called τίτλοι, titles, probably because each division had a title to it. Other portions were called κεφάλαια, divisions or chapters. It is supposed that these divisions embraced the first attempt at a "harmony" of the Gospels, that is, a system by which one continuous history could be read by taking a piece from each of the Gospels that appeared to relate to the same event or the same discourse, and reading them together; or simply for reference.
But these attempts gave place to a fuller system, by Ammonius of Alexandria, who, taking Matthew as his standard, drew up a table to form a "harmony," marking portions of the other three Gospels alongside each portion of Matthew, which he judged to refer to the same part of our Lord's life. These are commonly known as the AMMONIAN SECTIONS.
This system was again attempted to be improved, upon by Eusebius, whose plan is known under the title of EUSEBIUS'S CANONS. It would appear that he used the divisions of Ammonius, and worked them out into a yet more elaborate system. He arranged the divisions into ten classes: thus, 1, those portions contained in the four Gospels. 2, those contained in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. 3, those in Matthew, Luke, and John 4, those in Matthew, Mark, and John 5, those in Matthew and Luke 6, those in Matthew and Mark 7, those in Matthew and John 8, those in Mark and Luke 9, those in Luke and John 10, those in one Gospel only. The canon was arranged thus:—
Matthew. Mark. Luke. John.
8 2 7 10
11 4 10 6
which meant that the portion marked in Matt. 8 corresponded to the portion marked 2 in Mark, and to 7 in Luke, and to 10 in John. The passages as marked stand thus:—
On referring to the Testament, the reader will see that the first line speaks in each of the Gospels of the saying by Esaias, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord;" and in the second line to John's saying that one mightier than he was coming. These references, therefore, correspond, as nearly as may be, to the references in the margins of our Testaments. Thus, at this early date—the fourth century—did the readers of the Gospels have this advantage of reference from one Gospel to another; and though such a system is generally called the harmony of the Gospels, it is useful in pointing out the characteristic differences of the Gospels, always remembering that those who formed these lists (whether ancient or modern) were liable to mistake, and to place two passages together which have no real connection.
These Canons are useful to us for another purpose, namely, to determine the age of the manuscript. As Eusebius did not draw up his canons until the fourth century, no manuscript containing them can be earlier than that date, unless, of course, they have been added by a later hand, but which can nearly always be detected.
If the reader will turn back to the printed specimen of the Codex Sinaiticus , he will see in the margin these letters, NA, with a Δ underneath them. The Δ points to IV. of, the Canon of Eusebius, which (as will be seen above) stands for passages contained in "Matthew, Mark, and John;" and NA stand for the Ammonian section 51. It stands in the Canon thus:—
John 51; Matthew 150; Mark 67;
Most of the Greek manuscripts have these sections and canons, though some have only the Ammonian Sections, and in some they are left incomplete. They are inserted in colored ink. Eusebius says vermilion, but they are sometimes blue or green. They have been copied into the modern printed editions of the Greek Testament of Tischendorf, Tregelles, and Wordsworth; and the last-named gives the Canon of Eusebius in full in his first volume.
The Acts and the Epistles were also divided into portions, but they appear to have been done at a later period. By the printed copies, it does not appear that the Codex Sinaiticus has divisions of any sort, except in the Gospels. The Codex Vaticanus has divisions marked throughout, but which are not found in the Codex Alexandrinus, nor Codex Ephraemi, of the fifth century.
Divisions were made in the fifth century to the Acts and Epistles, by Euthalius, deacon of Alexandria, but it is supposed that he adopted them from copies already so divided. The Apocalypse was divided still later.
Thus the copies remained, marked in different manners, or not at all, until about A.D. 1248, when an index of words was attempted for the whole Bible, by Cardinal Hugo, and then the books were divided into the chapters which we now have; and these again were subdivided (or rather marked in the margin) with the letters A, B, C, &c. These chapters were adopted in the Latin Vulgate, and became afterward common in Greek manuscripts and printed copies.
Still there were no verses. Long before this there had been stichoi, στίχοι (called versus in Latin manuscripts); but they appear to have been rather lines than verses, when an attempt was made to arrange the manuscripts into a sort of poetry, yet without measure or rhyme. Thus, at the end of 2 Thessalonians, the Codex Sinaiticus has στιχων ρπ, "180 stichoi, or verses" (the manuscript has really 291 lines), none of these are marked in the margin, and it is not easy to see to what the 180 refers; other manuscripts put the number at 106.
It was Robert Stephens, the celebrated printer and editor of the Greek Testament, who, feeling with others, that for reference shorter divisions than those of Cardinal Hugo were needed, set to work to divide the chapters into short verses. This he did on a journey from Paris to Lyons-it is supposed at the various places at which he rested.
Our present verses are the result of his labors. They were first published in Stephens's Greek Testament, 1551, and from thence copied almost universally.
There is still one other branch of the subject demanding a word, namely the divisions into paragraphs. We suppose we must say that the ancient Greek manuscripts have no paragraphs; not that they have no breaks which might have the appearance of paragraphs, but they have not this significance. Take, again, the specimen of the Codex Sinaiticus (p. 28), it will be seen that the sixth line stands out a little into the margin. Letters standing out thus occur very frequently, and often follow a short line, which has every appearance of marking a paragraph. But here it is at verse 15 (of John 6), where, we suppose, no one makes a paragraph. On the other hand, the common Greek text has a paragraph at verse 16, where Codex Sinaiticus has none. It has also one at verse 22, where Codex Sinaiticus has none. Codex Sinaiticus, however, has an apparent break at verse 23, where no one makes a paragraph.
Now this is not only interesting to us as students of scripture, but it has this importance, that we learn that none of the divisions of the New Testament have any authority. The divisions into chapters, paragraphs, and verses have all been made by man; God may have overruled it in the main, but it is believed that in some places better divisions might have been made, because the present ones destroy the connection. For instance, the last verse of Rev. 11 belongs to chapter xii. It would be better for chapter 11. to end with verse 18. Again the verses of Rom. 8:33-3533Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 34Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (Romans 8:33‑35) would have been better divided thus: "It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? | It is Christ that died.... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”
The arrangement of the chapters and verses is not now attempted to be altered, on account of its use for reference, but each editor of the Greek Testament has to make paragraphs as he thinks best.
A paragraph Testament is best for common use as we are all too apt to read by verses or chapters, instead of the Gospels by sections, and the Epistles as letters. But the reader must understand that even in paragraph Bibles the paragraphs have no authority: the editors are not at all agreed as to where they should be placed. A spiritual-minded reader will be the best judge in such a question.