When Was the Bible Divided Into Chapters and Verses?

The system of dividing the Bible into chapters and verses is manmade and of comparatively recent origin. The Bible, as inspired by God, had no such divisions.

Chapters and verses are helpful in finding passages in the Bible, but such divisions have often obscured the meaning of Scripture by breaking sentences in the middle or by separating thoughts that should be joined together. Too many people merely lift a verse out of its setting and read a false meaning into it because they do not read the context in surrounding verses.

The first attempted division of the Bible was undertaken by the early Jews. During the time following the Babylonian captivity, they marked off the scrolls into divisions and subdivisions. However, this system was quite different from the one that is in use today.

The first modern system of dividing the Bible into sections was devised by Catholic Cardinal Hugo in the mid-thirteenth century. Hugo, who was compiling a concordance to the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible, found it necessary to divide the Bible into sections. These sections basically became the chapters we are acquainted with today. As yet, there were no divisions into verses.

Later, in 1445, Mordecai Nathan, a Jew, divided the Hebrew Old Testament into chapters. He and a later scholar by the name of Athias are credited with the further breakdown of the Old Testament into verses.

In 1551, the New Testament was similarly subdivided into verses. This work was accomplished by the famous English printer, Robert Stephens—of all things, while riding on horseback from Switzerland to France! Ever since that time, the Bible has followed his chapter-and-verse system.

Being man-devised, such a system is not perfect. In some places, Stephen's divisions are inaccurate and tend to break the sense of the subject. Because of such imperfections, a new system of supplementing the chapter-verse division with paragraph arrangements has been adopted in most of the newer versions of the Bible. This often helps the reader to better comprehend the subject matter.

It must always be remembered that these division systems were not inspired by God but devised by men to aid in studying the Bible.