Bible is a compilation of many shorter books written at different
times by a variety of authors, and later assembled into the biblical
canon. Since the early 13th century, most copies and editions of the
Bible present all but the shortest of these books with divisions into
chapters, generally a page or so in length. Since the mid-16th century
editors have further subdivided each chapter into verses - each
consisting of a few short lines or sentences. Sometimes a sentence
spans more than one verse, as in the case of
Ephesians 2:8–9, and
sometimes there is more than one sentence in a single verse, as in the
case of Genesis 1:2.
As the chapter and verse divisions did not appear in the original
texts, they form part of the paratext of the Bible.
The Jewish divisions of the Hebrew text differ at various points from
those used by Christians. For instance, in Jewish tradition, the
ascriptions to many
Psalms are regarded as independent verses or parts
of the subsequent verses, making 116 more verses, whereas established
Christian practice treats each Psalm ascription as independent and
unnumbered. Some chapter divisions also occur in different places,
e.g. Hebrew Bibles have
1 Chronicles 5:27–41 where Christian
1 Chronicles 6:1–15.
2 Jewish tradition
2.1 Verse endings
3 Christian versions
5 See also
7 External links
"...they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears
into pruning hooks: Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more." ~
Isaiah 2:4 KJV (
across the street from the
United Nations Building
United Nations Building in New York City)
Early manuscripts of the biblical texts did not contain the chapter
and verse divisions in the numbered form familiar to modern readers.
In antiquity Hebrew texts were divided into paragraphs (parashot) that
were identified by two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Peh פ
indicated an "open" paragraph that began on a new line, while Samekh
ס indicated a "closed" paragraph that began on the same line after a
small space. These two letters begin the Hebrew words open
(patuach) and closed (sagoor), and are, themselves, open פ and closed
ס. The earliest known copies of the
Book of Isaiah
Book of Isaiah from the Dead Sea
Scrolls used parashot divisions, although they differ slightly from
Masoretic divisions. (This is different from the use of
consecutive letters of the
Hebrew alphabet to structure certain poetic
compositions, known as acrostics, such as several of the
most of the
Book of Lamentations.)
Bible was also divided into some larger sections. In Israel
Torah (its first five books) were divided into 154 sections so
that they could be read through aloud in weekly worship over the
course of three years. In Babylonia it was divided into 53 or 54
sections (Parashat ha-Shavua) so it could be read through in one
New Testament was divided into topical sections known as
kephalaia by the fourth century.
Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea divided the
gospels into parts that he listed in tables or canons. Neither of
these systems corresponds with modern chapter divisions. (See
fuller discussions below.)
Chapter divisions, with titles, are also found in the 9th century
Tours manuscript, Paris Bibliothèque Nationale MS Lat. 3, the
Bible of Rorigo.
Stephen Langton and Cardinal
Hugo de Sancto Caro
Hugo de Sancto Caro developed
different schemas for systematic division of the
Bible in the early
13th century. It is the system of Archbishop Langton on which the
modern chapter divisions are based.
While chapter divisions have become nearly universal, editions of the
Bible have sometimes been published without them. Such editions, which
typically use thematic or literary criteria to divide the biblical
books instead, include John Locke's Paraphrase and Notes on the
Epistles of St. Paul (1707), Alexander Campbell's The Sacred
Daniel Berkeley Updike’s fourteen-volume The
Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments and the Apocrypha,
Richard Moulton's The Modern Reader's
Bible (1907), Ernest
Sutherland Bates's The
Bible Designed to Be Read as Living Literature
(1936), The Books of the
Bible (2007) from the International Bible
Society (Biblica), Adam Lewis Greene’s five-volume Bibliotheca
(2014), and the six-volume
ESV Reader's Bible (2016) from
Since at least 916 the
Tanakh has contained an extensive system of
multiple levels of section, paragraph, and phrasal divisions that were
Masoretic vocalization and cantillation markings. One of
the most frequent of these was a special type of punctuation, the sof
passuq, symbol for a full stop or sentence break, resembling the colon
(:) of English and Latin orthography. With the advent of the printing
press and the translation of the
Bible into English, Old Testament
versifications were made that correspond predominantly with the
existing Hebrew full stops, with a few isolated exceptions. Most
attribute these to Rabbi Isaac Nathan ben Kalonymus's work for the
Bible concordance around 1440.
The first person to divide
New Testament chapters into verses was
Italian Dominican biblical scholar
Santi Pagnini (1470–1541), but
his system was never widely adopted. His verse divisions in the
New Testament were far longer than those known today. Robert
Estienne created an alternate numbering in his 1551 edition of the
Greek New Testament which was also used in his 1553 publication of
Bible in French. Estienne's system of division was widely adopted,
and it is this system which is found in almost all modern Bibles.
Estienne produced a 1555
Vulgate that is the first
Bible to include
the verse numbers integrated into the text. Before this work, they
were printed in the margins.
The first English
New Testament to use the verse divisions was a 1557
William Whittingham (c. 1524–1579). The first Bible
in English to use both chapters and verses was the Geneva Bible
published shortly afterwards in 1560. These verse divisions soon
gained acceptance as a standard way to notate verses, and have since
been used in nearly all English Bibles and the vast majority of those
in other languages. (Nevertheless, some Bibles have removed the verse
numbering, including the ones noted above that also removed chapter
numbers; a recent example of an edition that removed only verses, not
chapters, is The Message: The
Bible in Contemporary Language by Eugene
Tanakh § Chapters and verse numbers, book
Masoretic text of the
Bible notes several different kinds
of subdivisions within the biblical books:
Main article: Sof passuk
Most important are the verse endings. According to the Talmudic
tradition, the division of the text into verses is of ancient
Masoretic versions of the Bible, the end of a verse is
indicated by a small mark in its final word called a silluq (which
means "stop"). Less formally, verse endings are usually also indicated
by two horizontal dots following the word with a silluq.
Main article: Parashah
Masoretic textual tradition also contains section endings called
parashot, which are usually indicated by a space within a line (a
"closed" section) or a new line beginning (an "open" section). The
division of the text reflected in the parashot is usually thematic.
Unlike chapters, the parashot are not numbered, but some of them have
In early manuscripts (most importantly in Tiberian Masoretic
manuscripts, such as the Aleppo codex), an "open" section may also be
represented by a blank line, and a "closed" section by a new line that
is slightly indented (the preceding line may also not be full). These
latter conventions are no longer used in
Torah scrolls and printed
Hebrew Bibles. In this system, the one rule differentiating "open" and
"closed" sections is that "open" sections must always start at the
beginning of a new line, while "closed" sections never start at the
beginning of a new line.
Another division of the biblical books found in the
Masoretic text is
the division of the sedarim. This division is not thematic, but is
almost entirely based upon the quantity of text. For the Torah, this
division reflects the triennial cycle of reading that was practiced by
the Jews of the Land of Israel.
The Byzantines also introduced a concept roughly similar to chapter
divisions, called kephalaia (singular kephalaion, literally meaning
heading). This system, which was in place no later than the 5th
century, is not identical to the present chapters. Unlike the modern
chapters, which tend to be of roughly similar length, the distance
from one kephalaion mark to the next varied greatly in length both
within a book and from one book to the next. For example, the Sermon
on the Mount, comprising three chapters in the modern system, has but
one kephalaion mark, while the single modern chapter 8 of the Gospel
of Matthew has several, one per miracle. Moreover, there were far
fewer kephalaia in the
Gospel of John
Gospel of John than in the
Gospel of Mark, even
though the latter is the shorter text. In the manuscripts, the
kephalaia with their numbers, their standard titles (titloi) and their
page numbers would be listed at the beginning of each biblical book;
in the book's main body, they would be marked only with arrow-shaped
or asterisk-like symbols in the margin, not in the text itself.
The titles usually referred to the first event or the first
theological point of the section only, and some kephalaia are
manifestly incomplete if one stops reading at the point where the next
kephalaion begins (for example, the combined accounts of the miracles
Daughter of Jairus
Daughter of Jairus and of the healing of the woman with a
haemorrhage gets two marked kephalaia, one titled of the daughter of
the synagogue ruler at the beginning when the ruler approaches Jesus
and one titled of the woman with the flow of blood where the woman
enters the picture – well before the ruler's daughter is healed and
the storyline of the previous kephalaion is thus properly concluded).
Thus the kephalaia marks are rather more like a system of bookmarks or
links into a continuous text, helping a reader to quickly find one of
several well-known episodes, than like a true system of chapter
Hugo de Sancto Caro
Hugo de Sancto Caro is often given credit for first dividing
Latin Vulgate into chapters in the real sense, but it is the
arrangement of his contemporary and fellow cardinal Stephen Langton
who in 1205 created the chapter divisions which are used today. They
were then inserted into Greek manuscripts of the
New Testament in the
Robert Estienne (Robert Stephanus) was the first to
number the verses within each chapter, his verse numbers entering
printed editions in 1551 (New Testament) and 1571 (Hebrew Bible).
The division of the
Bible into chapters and verses has received
criticism from some traditionalists and modern scholars. Critics state
that the text is often divided in an incoherent way, or at
inappropriate rhetorical points, and that it encourages citing
passages out of context. Nevertheless, the chapter and verse numbers
have become indispensable as technical references for
Several modern publications of the
Bible have eliminated numbering of
chapters and verses.
Biblica published such a version of the
2007 and 2011. In 2014, Crossway published the
Bibliotheca published a modified ASV. Projects such as Icthus
also exist which strip chapter and verse numbers from existing
The number of words can vary depending upon aspects such as whether
Hebrew alphabet in Psalm 119, the superscriptions listed in some
of the Psalms, and the subscripts traditionally found at the end of
the Pauline epistles, are included. Except where stated, the following
apply to the
King James Version
King James Version of the
Bible in its modern 66-book
Protestant form including the
New Testament and the protocanonical Old
Testament, not the deuterocanonical books.
There are 929 chapters in the Old Testament.
187 chapters in the Pentateuch
249 chapters in the Historical books
243 chapters in the Poetic books ("Wisdom")
183 chapters in the Major prophets
67 chapters in the Minor prophets
There are 260 chapters in the New Testament.
89 chapters in the Gospels
28 chapters in Acts
87 chapters in the Pauline Epistles (excluding Hebrews)
34 chapters in the General Epistles (including Hebrews)
22 chapters in Revelation
This gives a total of 1,189 chapters (on average, 18 per book).
Psalm 117, the shortest chapter, is also the middle chapter of the
Bible, being the 595th Chapter.
Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter of the Bible.
Psalm 119 is the longest chapter of the Bible.
Five books are a single chapter: Obadiah, Philemon, 2 & 3 John,
Jude. In many printed editions, the chapter number is omitted for
these books, and references just use the verse numbers.
Old Testament - 929 chapters
Book / Division
Pentateuch (or the Law)
Books of Wisdom (or "Poetry")
Song of Solomon
New Testament - 260 chapters
Book / Division
There are 23,145 verses in the
Old Testament and 7,957 verses in the
New Testament. This gives a total of 31,102 verses, which is an
average of a little more than 26 verses per chapter.
Contrary to popular belief, Psalm 118 does not contain the middle
verse of the Bible. The
King James Version
King James Version has an even number of
verses (31,102), with the two middle verses being Psalm 103:1–2.
John 11:35 ("Jesus wept") is the shortest verse in most English
translations. Some translations — including the New International
Version, New Living Translation, New Life Version, Holman Christian
Bible and New International Reader's Version — render Job
3:2 as "He said". However, that is a translators' condensation of the
Hebrew which literally translated is: "And
Job answered and said."
The shortest verse in the Greek
New Testament is Luke 20:30 ("και
ο δευτερος", "And the second") with twelve letters, according
to the Westcott and Hort text. In the Textus Receptus, the shortest
1 Thessalonians 5:16 ("παντοτε χαιρετε",
"Rejoice always") with fourteen letters, since Stephanus'
rendering of Luke 20:30 includes some additional words.
Isaiah 10:8 ("Dicet enim") is the shortest verse in the Latin
Esther 8:9 is the longest verse in the
Masoretic Text. The discovery
of several manuscripts at
Qumran (in the Dead Sea Scrolls) has
reopened what is considered the most original text of
1 Samuel 11; if
one believes that those manuscripts better preserve the text, several
1 Samuel 11 surpass
Esther 8:9 in length.
List of omitted
^ Ernst Würthwein, The Text of the
Old Testament (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1998), p. 20.
^ a b Würthwein, The Text of the Old Testament, n. 28.
^ Kurt and Barbara Aland, The Text of the
New Testament (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans and Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1989), pp. 252 ff.
^ Consortium, Europeana Regia. "Europeana Regia - Paris Bibliothèque
nationale de France MSS Latin 3".
Bible article in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
^ a b Moore, G.F. The
Vulgate Chapters and Numbered Verses in the
Hebrew Bible, pages 73–78 at JSTOR. page 75
^ Bruce M. Metzger, The early versions of the New Testament: Their
origin, transmission and limitations, Oxford University Press (1977),
p.347. Cited in
Stephen Langton and the modern chapter divisions of
the bible by British translator Roger Pearse, 21 June 2013.
^ London: Awnsham and John Churchill, 1707
^ 1826; repr. Nashville:
Gospel Advocate Restoration Reprints, 2001
^ New York: Macmillan, 1907
^ New York: Simon and Schuster, 1936)
^ "Bibliotheca Multivolume Readers'
Bible Homepage". BIBLIOTHECA.
^ "The Bible's a mess, but a designer is fixing it". The Verge.
^ Miller, Stephen M.; Huber, Robert V. (2004). The Bible: A History.
Good Books. p. 173. ISBN 1-56148-414-8.
^ a b "Pitts Theology Library Exhibit on the Verses of the New
^ "Chapters and Verses: Who Needs Them?," Christopher R. Smith, Bible
Study Magazine (July–Aug 2009): 46–47.
^ Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002
Talmud Nedarim 37b
^ Snapp, James (15 April 2016). "Kephalaia: The Ancient Chapters of
the Gospels". Retrieved 31 March 2018.
^ The Examiner.
^ Zylstra, Sarah Eekhof (25 July 2014). "Introducing the Bible! Now
with Less!". Christianity Today. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
^ The Center of the
Bible Archived August 28, 2005, at the Wayback
Machine. at BreakTheChain.org
^ a b c Study Resources: The Books of the
Bible at BlueLetterBible.org
^ King James
Bible Statistics at BibleBelievers.com
^ First Thessalonians 5:12–28,
John Walvoord at Bible.org
^ Luke 20:30 και ο δευτερος – and the second with
interlinear Greek-English and KJV
Luke 20:30, in the 1550 Stephanus
New Testament and the 1881
Westcott-Hort New Testament.
^ Isaias 10 at LatinVulgate.com
Books of the Bible
Old Testament Protocanon
Additions to Esther
Baruch / Letter of Jeremiah
Additions to Daniel
Song of the Three Children
Bel and the Dragon
Prayer of Manasseh
1, 2, and 3 Meqabyan
Paralipomena of Baruch
Letter of Baruch
Chapters and verses
Major prophets / Minor prophets
Old Testament canon
New Testament canon
Dead Sea Scrolls
New Testament manuscript categories
New Testament papyri
New Testament uncials
Other books referenced in the Bible
New Testament apocrypha
Synod of Hippo