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Chapter and verse

November 16, 2012

Biblegateway blog introduces an amazing new Biblical Studies resource! According to Biblegateway Blog, HT James McGrath, HT The Biblical World,  we know who introduced verses into the Bible because wikipedia says so. Biblegateway blog states,

But while chapters are a useful organizational tool, the ability to refer to specific phrases within those chapters would make the system even more usable.Robert Stephanus (aka Robert Estienne) created a verse numbering system in the mid-16th century and was the first person to print a Bible with verse numbers in each chapter.

But, did the author of the Biblegateway blog read what else is written in wikipedia? This is written about Pagninus,

The merit of his Veteris et Novi Testamenti nova translatio (Lyon, 1527) lies in its literal adherence to the Hebrew, which won for it the preference of contemporary rabbis and induced Leo X to assume the expenses of publication until his death. This version is also notable for introducing verse numbering in the New Testament, although the numbering system used there is not the same as the system used in modern bibles.[1] 

It seems that the Biblegateway author did not see this entry. The author of the blog continues,

The history of Bible reference numbers may be interesting in its own right (at least to Bible scholars and history geeks), but it’s also had an important influence on the ways that each of us reads the Bible today. Not everyone is happy with the chapter/verse numbering system—and in fact, it’s worth taking a moment to consider some of the implications of this familiar system.

In my experience, when somebody refers to someone – ostensibly to themselves – as a “geek”, they imply that they actually are not informed in the usual manner, but just picked up this information casually. Reader beware.

One of the reasons that nobody knows about the Pagninus Latin Bible is that apparently nobody in the bible software world knows about it. And yet they should. I emailed Mike Heiser and asked him if it could be included in some software. I haven’t heard back. In fact, the Pagninus’ Latin Bible is arguably the most influential of all Bible translations after the Septuagint and Jerome and Paula’s translation. Pagninus’ Latin Bible was used by almost all translators at the time of the Reformation. (Zwingli would likely not have had access to it.)

The topic is worthy of further research, because I read that LeFèvre DÉtaples printed a Psalter with verses. And all of this makes me recall that the Masoretic text had verse divisions. But somehow Robert Stephanus won the Bible verse lottery. I don’t know how.

Here is some good commentary on the situation from The Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter, Volume 10 By John W. Sproull, Thomas Sproull, David Burt Willson, James McLeod Willson. page 42. While the verses are not the same as those of Robert Stephanus, nonetheless, the Latin Bible of Pagninus, 1528, was the earliest complete Latin to introduce verses, as far as I have heard so far.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. James Dowden permalink
    November 16, 2012 7:55 am

    Weird how elusive it is. I can’t even find a scanned copy on any of the usual sites.

  2. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    November 16, 2012 10:40 am

    I have photos of the book of Genesis, but they are from a later edition, so I have not made them public. I also own a Pagninus Psalter printed in the 17th century. I believe that somebody ought to make a digital copy available, but there seems to be no interest.

  3. November 16, 2012 1:06 pm

    I think this is Pagnini’s 1528 edition. It’s the whole Bible and does have non-standard versification. (It’s a Google Books link)

  4. November 16, 2012 1:31 pm

    Just looking at his Latin in the Gospel of Mark, and it is a unique Latin version. It is not the Vulgate. Somewhat closer to the 1598 Clementine but not the same, so it does look like a somewhat independent translation based on something at least close to the 1550 Stephanus Greek. (I also note that unfortunately the scanner missed 2 pages of Mark 15-16.)

  5. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    November 16, 2012 1:52 pm


    This is brilliant! I have been wanting access to a Pagnini Bible for a long time. It is the only completely independent Latin translation other than Jerome’s. I argue that it is the most influential Bible translation of the Reformation, or pre-Reformation, one might say.


  1. Geeky! « BLT

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