Christians all over the world are used to citing the Bible by chapters and verses. However, this wasn’t the case before now. In fact, dividing up scripture in the way it’s now is rather new and developed during the past few centuries.

Being that the book of Genesis dates back to 1,400 BC, the invention is something that Jews and Christians never had for many years.
It was until the 13th century that a Catholic cardinal in England divided up the sacred text into the chapters which we are familiar with today.

Previously, the Bible was copied on individual scrolls. The Old Testament was separated into paragraphs and sections already, but it did not have a specific numbering system. Also in a traditional system, both the New and Old Testaments were transmitted orally.

Particularly, chanting sacred scripture was a traditional way of passing on the words of Divine Revelation to the next generation. In this way, Christians learned the method from the Jewish people, who have been chanting the words of scripture for thousands of years ago.

As a result of that, in ancient and early medieval homilies, there is no citation of biblical verses. However, quotations from scripture came from memory or they were copied from scrolls or books used by clergy and religious.

The laity never had any access to any physical copies and they passed on the Bible to their children from what they heard at Mass as well as through the artwork which they saw in paintings and church architecture.

Then during the 13th century, everything changed with Cardinal Stephen Langton, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury. Cardinal Stephen divided up the Latin Vulgate into chapters, upon which all other modern Bibles have based their own numbering system.

After, it was the work of Robert Estienne, who was a Protestant layman in the 16th century, to further separate the Bible into verses. Robert Estienne is often credited as the first person to print the Bible with verse numbers in each chapter.

Ever since then, Bibles around the world have been produced with chapters and verses so to help all people study the words of the Sacred Scripture.

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