Dividing the Bible into verses

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Dividing the Bible into verses

When was the Bible divided into verses?
And why verses?

Division into books

The division is mainly due to the scrolls.

Dividing the Tanakh

  • Torah (5 scrolls) - 1 book, later it became 5, but there were no names, and no, they are called by the first word.
  • Samuel (2 scrolls) - 1 book (we have 1-2 Kings)
  • Kings (2 scrolls) - 1 book (we have 3-4 books of Kings)
  • Chronicle (2 scrolls) - 1 book (we have 3-4 books of Chronicles)
  • Thilim (5 scrolls - 1 book, (we have a Psalter)
  • Minor prophets (1 scroll) - 1 book, because it is more convenient to combine them into a single scroll than to make a separate one for each)
  • Ezra/Nehemiah - were also combined into 1 branch and in general it was a single book.
As you can see, some books did not fit into 1 scroll and therefore were simply 2-volumes or 5-volumes.
Other books according to the principle: 1 scroll - 1 book.

Division of the Old Testament

The Septuagint divided the books according to the principle: 1 scroll - 1 book, and also divided the minor prophets.
The exception was the book of the Psalter, 5 scrolls remained a single book.
This is how the books with numbers came out (1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles), got the names of the books of the Pentateuch of Moses.
There are no groups of books.

Verse division

Torah without spaces
Torah without spaces

6th century The division of the Bible into verses was first done by the Masoretes.


The main goal of the work of the Masoretes was to unite the Jews scattered throughout the world with a holy book.
They believed in the revival of the state of Israel, and the only thing that united the Jews (there was no temple and the promised land) was the BOOK.
Hebrew has not been the main language of the Jews for hundreds of years. During the Babylonian captivity, the Jews crossed over And those who knew the language already spoke in their own way, dialects appeared.
There was a need to determine and record the correct pronunciation of the text of the Tanakh.

Tanakh division

The main reason was not dividing the text into short segments, but working with words.
If such work were carried out today, then simply a continuous text would be divided into words, punctuation marks and paragraphs would be added.
A division into chapters would suffice.

But since there were no punctuation marks yet, we had to create our own new system.

There is another feature of the Hebrew text, it was sung in the synagogue on Shabbat.
A segment was taken (today it is 1 verse) and recited in a singsong voice.
This is called Shabbat Torah Reading.

Masoretic vocalization.

Masoretic Torah
Masoretic Torah

This is what caused the division of the text into verses.
The Masoretes came up with a system of vocalizations, and there were several letters A, several letters E (open and closed sounds).
They also had some kind of stress (Greek has 2 stresses) and had to somehow separate the segments of the text. and there were no commas and periods yet, so they divided them into rhythmic-syntactic units called verses.
Each verse, in turn, is divided into two half-lines.

New Testament division

This idea turned out to be convenient to use.
Later, a similar division into verses was made in the New Testament, but at first not as detailed as the Masoretes.
With the appearance of printing in the New Testament, a modern division into verses was made.

In 1551, the Parisian printer Robert Stephen published the New Testament divided into verses, and in 1555 the entire Bible.