Saturday, January 25, 2020

The Bible doesn't have verses

I was pleased to come across a talk by Greg Koukl (he called it an hour of "mentoring"; being Australian, I'd call it an hour of talk....Americans and their terminology! One mentors another in a dyadic relationship, it's not a 1:10,000 thing) where he pointed out that the Bible doesn't have verses.

Good call, Greg. It doesn't. At least, the Holy Spirit didn't inspire 'verses'. They are just a handy reference system applied to the text retrospectively, by a fellow with the bright idea in the 1550s. Good idea too. We have systems of references in legal documents, legislation, textbooks. In some legal documents, you will even find every line of text numbered, so a reference system is a useful feature for the Bible.

But the point is, the verse and chapter divisions mean nothing to the meaning of the text. Some people, even some Christians, seem to think that the Bible is a collection of 'verses', of sayings just strung together. It is not. Its a collection of literature: regular literature as in history, narrative, poetry, correspondence, instructions, declamations, (there's even some humour, 'rule the fish' sticking in my mind for that one) you just don't go verse harvesting to suit your immediate need.

As Peter says,  there is no 'private interpretation' of Scripture, Stanley Fish's reader-response theory is out the door as far as the Scripture is concerned (indeed, as far as any text is concerned).

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