There was no chapter and verse divisions in the Old Testament when the New Testament was written. See Who divided the Bible into chapters and verses? @GQM. Without these divisions, if we want to refer to John 3:16, we would have to say something along this line, “Remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus?” or “Jesus said to Nicodemus, ‘For God so loved the world…’”
And that’s how Jesus did it,
“even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (KJV)
“But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’” (NKJV)
Jesus couldn’t say Exodus 3:6 because chapter and verse divisions didn’t exist. Thanks to Stephen Langton, we can now easily point people back to the burning bush passage, or to that famous saying Jesus told Nicodemus! With these divisions it makes Bible studying, searching, and referencing a lot easier, even helps with Scripture memorization. However, there are a few problems…
- It can be very distracting when all you want to do is just read your Bible. This is easily solved with Reader’s Bible without completely eliminating the divisions from existence.
- Those that don’t study their Bible can easily take a passage out of its context. We have to constantly remind ourselves and others to read at least 10 verses before and after.
- The system is not perfect. And it’s this last point that I want to focus on here in this post.
We can’t shift the divisions around because everyone is used to it, others have memorized it, and the system is heavily embedded in printed Bibles. So there’s simply no way to change or modify the system. We’re pretty much stuck with it! But even if we could change it, who will get to decide on the new divisions? What if later people suggest that it should be shifted around again as our knowledge and understanding of Scriptures is evolved? At fist I was uncomfortable with the current system, but now fully embrace it for what it is because there’s a simple solution to all this: Headings.
Based on my studies and understanding of John 3, I believe that it makes a lot more sense for the chapter division to start at John 2:23 (and not John 3:1) and ends at John 3:21. In my debates and discussions with others on the New Birth, I had to (many times) remind others of what came before Nicodemus showed up. Very often we assume that a new chapter is a beginning of a whole new thought and it tricks us into reading it in isolation, forgetting that chapter and verse divisions isn’t part of the Scripture originally. So as you can see, I was pleasantly surprised when I got my KJV and NLT from Tyndale. For John 3, the heading starts perfectly at John 2:23 and ends at John 3:21. If you study Isaiah 53, you will also know that it should start at Isaiah 52:13 and Tyndale House Publishers got it right.
Headings and Sub-headings is a simple solution that fixes incorrect chapter and verse divisions without making any changes to the actual divisions in our current system. I now use these artificial divisions as an aid in my studies of the Scriptures.