Chapter and Verse (January 16, 2013)

…Opening To…

When you read God’s Word, you must constantly be saying to yourself, “It is talking to me, and about me.” (Søren Kierkegaard)

…Listening In…

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. (John 3:16; context)*

…Filling Up…

The second thing you might not know about the Bible is that the chapter and verse numbers are nowhere to be found in the original texts. The chapter breaks became fashionable in the early thirteenth century (over a thousand years after the last New Testament letter was composed), and the verse separators weren’t added until the mid 1500s, well after the printing press had started churning out Bibles. (Of course, our modern Bibles have many things that the original texts did not have: spaces in between words in the Greek portions and vowels in the Hebrew portions, to name a few.)

So why, you might be wondering, is it important to know that the chapters and verses are not original to the texts? Think about it like this. When you go to the theater and watch a (non-digital) film, the movie projector runs one frame at a time, 24 frames a second. Because the frames flit by so quickly, your eye doesn’t register that each one is a discreet unit, a single snapshot in a line of thousands of other single snapshots. Reading the Bible verse to verse is something like watching a film frame by frame: you get the gist of what’s going on, but it’s certainly not the way it was intended to be watched.

You see, when we give undue weight to the verse separations, we run the risk of taking single verses out of context simply because someone 500 years ago decided that, for convenience, it would be nice to divide the texts of the Bible into smaller units than the chapters. Of course, the verse numbers are great in that they tell you where you are, but that is as far as folks should ever use them.

When the Bible was broken down into individual verses, it became even easier to take a verse out of context and use it to prove a point you are trying to make. This is not a good way to use the Bible. It’s better to let the verses live and breath in their own natural environments — the chapters and books to which they belong. When we encounter our favorite verses “in nature,” as it were, maybe they will encounter us differently than they ever have before.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you gave countless people the grace to be witnesses for you in the texts of the Bible. Grant me that same grace so that I may be a graceful, grace-filled witness today, always proclaiming your love. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, hoping for an encounter with you as I read about your presence in the lives of your people.

* (the most famous verse taken out of context everyday)

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