August 10, 2012

Partitions: Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

As A Whole

The Word of God comes to us as a whole and it comes in two parts. The first part written in manuscripts that are mostly in Hebrew and the rest in were in Aramaic (Ezra and parts of Daniel). The second half comes to us in Koine Greek manuscripts. All of these languages were the languages of the common man. The blue collar so to speak. God gave his word in the language of the mostly humble people or common folk. Two different languages tied together by a silent Inter-Testamental period between about 450 BC and 4 BC. The testament divisions are of God as it is God and His prophets that go silent after Malachi until the writings of the New Testament begin. They are not human divisions. They are divine.

Up to the second century AD the term "Old Covenant" was used by the Greeks to describe the Hebrew Bible. When Jerome wrote it, this passed into the Latin Vulgate as "Vetus Testanentum" from which our English term" Old Testament" was derived. So likewise the Greek portion would be referred to as the New Testament. Regardless, the names are not divinely inspired.

Book Partitions

When we break down the Bible into distinct books we begin to see the element of humanity become visible even though we know that the inspiration is divine. Books of the New Testament. are generally broken down into five categories: the Gospels, the Acts, the General Epistles, Paul's Epistles, and the Apocalypse. The Epistles themselves can be further broken down into epistles which are directed to groups of people like Romans and Corinthians and letters which are directed to individual people like Timothy and Titus. The specific order of these groups varies depending on the source manuscript.

Chapters & Verses

The current division of the Bible into chapters and the verse numbers within the chapters has no basis in any ancient textual tradition. They are medieval and early Christian inventions. They were later adopted by many Jews as well, to act as technical references within the text.

Stephen Langton (1150 - July 9, 1228) was Archbishop of Canterbury and is believed to be the one who divided the Bible into the standard modern arrangement of chapters. He was not the first to attempt divisions for reference in the text but it is his that stuck. While Cardinal Hugo de Sancto Caro is also known to come up with a systematic division of the Bible (between 1244 and 1248), it is Langton's arrangement of the chapters that remains in use today. Hugo de Sancto Caro used Langton's chapters and added subdivisions which he indicated by letters. Robert Estienne (1503 - September 7, 1559), known as Robertus Stephanus in Latin or Robert Stephens found these letters inadequate and introduced numbers in their place in his Greek Testament of 1551. This apparently is the origin of our verse-divisions, which were first introduced into the English Version known as the Geneva Bible (1560), and then into our Authorized Version in 1611. As can be expected, these verses do not always match up with those of the Hebrew Bible.

In the end it must be understood that chapter divisions and verse are not inspired. It must be understood how chapters and verse are modern, and human (and therefore) devoid of all divine authority. Conversely, they are most extremely useful for purposes of reference but we must be extremely careful never to use them for interpretation, or for doctrinal teaching. The breaks seldom accord with the breaks required by the Structure, context or setting. In some cases there have been really poor breaks put into the text that have cause lasting confusion such as the "the scribes who devour widow’s houses" in Luke 20:45-47; Luke 21:1-4. An improper division or break should be understood as any place they were put into the text and they interfere with proper continuity or understanding of the text. This happens in a few places in the Bible as mentioned above.

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