Is reading the Bible ever tedious? Do you sometimes skip over the genealogies to get to the “good stuff?” Ever find yourself in a routine of reading a specific amount of chapters or verses daily to “fulfill” a daily reading plan? What if there was a better way?

Bible | Bible Study | Reader's Bible | Apologetics | Christian

Is reading the Bible ever tedious? Do you sometimes skip over the genealogies to get to the “good stuff?” Ever find yourself in a routine of reading a specific amount of chapters or verses daily to “fulfill” a daily reading plan?

What if there was a better way?

What’s in a book?

Luke 14:16-20

16He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. He entered, as was his custom, into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He opened the book, and found the place where it was written,

18″The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim release to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to deliver those who are crushed,

19and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” 20He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him

Our Bibles are formatted today like this. But is this what the Bible that Jesus picked up and read from looked like?

Recently I have rediscovered the joys (or maybe discovered a new joy?) of reading a different type of Bible. The Reader’s Bible.

Written without headings, chapters, verse breaks or numbering, The Reader’s Bible allows the reader to read Scripture much in the same way as Jesus did.

Why is this important?

To answer that question, allow me to introduce you to the concept of paratext.

When Jesus read from the Isaiah scroll, what did the text look like? Click To Tweet

Technical Word Alert

Paratext is a concept in literary interpretation, in which meanings are alluded to beyond the printed text. Paratext can change the reader’s interpretation of the content.

Gerard Genette, in his book Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation (Literature, Culture, Theory), defines paratext[1] as:

those things in a published work that accompany the text, things such as the author’s name, the title, preface or introduction, or illustrations. (p. 1)

Headings, introductions, chapters, and verses are all examples of paratext.

Why Is The Bible Divided Into Chapters And Verses? Who’s to blame – or congratulate?

The first person who divided scripture into chapter/verse segments was Cardinal Stephen Langton of France and England, who served as the Archbishop of Canterbury. He is thought to have created the chapters and verses in about 1205.

While his decisions on the placement of chapters and verses were somewhat subjective, he used the then current paragraphs and sections to decide chapter breaks. Rather than further divide the chapters into verses, Langton simply noted every fifth verse in the margins of the Bible.

If chapters are good, then a further break down into verses would be better, right?

That’s certainly what Mordecai Nathan and Robert Stephanue thought, and so an individual verse numbering system for the Old Testament was created in 1448, with the same created for the New Testament around 1551.

The Geneva Bible from the sixteenth century was the first Bible to include both chapter and verse divisions for both Old and New Testaments. In total, the Bible includes 1,189 chapters and 31,173 verses.

No wonder we struggle to study a specific number of chapters or verses.

Does this systematic division of the Bible provide clarity – or confusion?

Although this systematic division of the Bible makes it easier to memorize specific verses and passages (think John 3:16) and speeds up locating specific scripture (think children’s Bible drills), it can also be distracting.

Comprehension of the full meaning of a passage may be more difficult when thoughts are separated by chapters or numbers.

Back to the Reader’s Bible

Here is the same passage from the beginning of this article, without the chapter and verse divisions:

And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as
was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and
stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to
Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was
written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me
to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release
to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those
who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” And
He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and
the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him.

And here is what the scroll Jesus read from would have looked very similar to

Codex Sinaiticus (c. 350) contains the oldest complete copy of the New Testament, as well as most of the Greek Old Testament, known as the Septuagint. Photo: Wikimedia

No chapters, no subheadings, no verses. They didn’t even use spaces between words. Or paragraphs. No punctuation, either.

And yet, somehow they managed to understand the meaning of the Biblical texts without the systematic division we have today.

Which way reads smoother and is easier to understand? You decide!

Recommended Reading:

Thinking you want to try out a Reader’s Bible? There are plenty to choose from in different translation versions, so you’re sure to find one that suits you.

You can download a free sample of the Reader’s Bible (NASB) to check it out.

If you prefer to hold an actual print Bible in your hands, then we recommend the following:

KJV Reader’s Bible by Holman Bible Staff

The KJV Reader’s Bible provides readers the perfect opportunity to read the text in its original, simplified form without the verses and chapters, allowing a fresh experience with the text.

Read the Bible as a story simplified, without verses and chapters to break up the text
Uses bestselling KJV translation
Provides an opportunity to study the Bible in a unique way
A fresh look giving readers the chance to enjoy God’s Word in a simplified format

NIV Reader’s Bible by Zondervan

Find a quiet, comfortable spot and enter into the story of God’s Word with the NIV Reader’s Bible. Designed for a seamless reading experience, this Bible contains the complete text of the accurate, readable, and clear NIV translation in single-column format without chapter and verse numbers in the text so you can immerse yourself in the story of Scripture. With footnotes at the back of each book and scripture references elegantly noted at the top of each page, you can smoothly read from Genesis to Revelation while accessing the references you need.

Features:

Complete text of the accurate, readable, and clear New International Version text
Readable single-column, black letter text
Line-matched text for the optimum reading experience
Verse numbers removed throughout text
Footnotes follow every book
Scripture reference included at the top of each page
Ribbon marker
10.5-point type size

NKJV Deluxe Reader’s Bible by Thomas Nelson

Perfect for both devotional and extended reading, the beautifully designed NKJV Deluxe Reader’s Bible features the exceptionally readable Thomas Nelson NKJV Typeface in an elegant single-column format. Premium, high-contrast paper, classically sewn lay-flat bindings, and an innovative approach to chapter and verse markers combine to create a distraction-free reading experience you’ll want to return to again and again.

Features include:

The New King James Version, known for its literary beauty and trustworthy accuracy
Single-column layout, designed for optimal readability
Beautiful Thomas Nelson NKJV Typeface
Two satin ribbon markers
Classic slipcase for protection and display

In Conclusion

Did you notice a difference in reading a passage with verse numbering in comparison to reading it without? Do you have a Reader’s Bible or plan on getting one? Let us know what you think in the comments below!


[1]”paratext.” Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2018. Web. 9 Jul 2018. .

2 Comments

  1. I remember the first time that I listened to the Bible by Alexander Scourby of course, and was able to just pick up the running themes!
    Several years later I had the ESV version and was listening to the books of Paul and I felt like he was just speaking to me.
    Both of these instances the only designation were the chapters, and even today when I am allowing my YouVersion app to read the scriptures to me oh, I hate that it breaks at every chapter!
    I had never heard how the chapters and verses ended up, I totally enjoyed this enlightenment!

    1. Hi Christine, thanks for reading and commenting! I listen to the YouVersion Bible app as well (NLT) and yes – it does break the text up by chapters and subheadings. That can be quite distracting. Interesting to think about how the early church did things and compare it to how do things today differently, isn’t it? It makes me wonder if some of the things we do are the best way. Had you heard of a Reader’s Bible before this article and what do you think of the idea of reading the Bible without the format we have become so accustomed to?

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