While grazing through the “Abingdon Bible Commentary” I acquired recently, I came across this interesting bit of info in the opening article: “…our older version breaks up the Bible into chapters and verses. But there are no chapters and no verses in the original. There never were any in any version until the thirteenth century. One evil effect of this splitting up of the Bible is to give it an artificial and unreal appearance.” (From “How to Study the Bible” by Professor F.J. Rae.)
When one stops to think about it, it’s pretty obvious that this is so. The ancient Hebrew scriptures were on scrolls. Not even a page number there. But many of our modern Bibles not only have chapter and verse divisions, but also little letters and numbers scattered all throughout the text with verse cross references and short commentaries in the margins and at the bottom of the pages. This can be distracting and is not conducive to really reading the biblical text. Plus, it can be quite a turn-off to any newcomer who wishes to explore the Bible. But what to do?
Well, what I did is went out and found myself a copy of “The Reader’s Digest Bible.” Don’t laugh. Reader’s Digest has a long history of publishing excellent Bible reference books aimed at the general public. Here, they’ve taken the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, put their crack editors to work reducing many of the repetitions in the text, and then published it in a handsome hardcover edition. The titles of the biblical books are all there, but there are no chapter or verse numbers in the entire volume. Presto! Just what the professor ordered.
So how do I like reading the Bible this way, you ask? Stay tuned.