the weblog of Alan Knox

More Bibles…

Posted by on Jun 22, 2007 in scripture | 8 comments

A few weeks ago, in a post called “The Message“, I explained that I had begun reading The Message translation because it is not divided into verses. In the comments of that thread, Isabel told us that the International Bible Society is working on a Bible without chapter or verse divisions.

Now, “Out of Ur” reports on this new Bible which is being called “The Books of the Bible”. (see the IBS web site “The Books of the Bible“) IBS is releasing this Bible in the TNIV translation with a different book ordering. I have not read enough to understand the reasons they changed the ordering of the books from either the Hebrew (MT) order, the Greek (LXX) order, any of the original NT manuscript orders, or the current order. However, I hope to read more about it.

I am very excited about reading a Bible without chapter and verse division. Do you also think this will be helpful? Why or why not?


8 Comments

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  1. 6-22-2007

    Alan,

    I don’t really think of that as something new. I’ve seen several Bibles where the verse number is so small you have to search to find it. I think those are still broken by chapter though. They also use natural paragraph notation.

    I do find the rearranging of the books interesting. The current order makes sense to me. Maybe they want to go back to the way the OT was originally split up (No more 1st and 2nds in the OT). Or maybe alphabetical? chronological? number of words? number of miracles?

  2. 6-22-2007

    As a certified book geek, yes, I think it would be very cool, just for the readability factor. But then I’d like it in the NASB.

    That’s part of the problem. When I found out that the Zondervan catalogue has 66 pages of Bibles with various translations, page layouts, covers, fonts, study notes, targeted devotional themes, it seems to be an embarrasment of riches. And I still haven’t gotten my wife her Christmas present because we can’t find Just The Right One.

    Back in the day, it was a big deal for a synagogue to have a Torah. And what would a Christian in North Korea give to have a single bible for his church?

    I realize that by the IBS making so many Bible choices available for Americans at inflated prices, it makes it possible for them to supply others in the rest of the world too. I hope so, anyway.

    But at some point, doesn’t God say, “You have my word. Isn’t that enough?”

    Sorry. Didn’t mean to be a downer on the subject. I still think it’s a good idea, mainly because the less editorial comment that we inject, the more of God’s word we get.

  3. 6-22-2007

    Alan,

    I think this is a great start. I hope to see more in the future. I am not hip to the ordering of the O.T. and it seems like they have messed up this version a little by adding “introductions” between the sections.

    If I could have it my way, it would be an NASB or ESV, no chapters or numbers, full page – single column, OT in Massoretic ordering (as an option). Also the option to have original languages side by side (on the next page or something).

    Can you tell I was raised in America?

    Thanks for the links,
    Lew A

  4. 6-22-2007

    They have some sample pages online – including the Preface… this is what they wrote:

    • individual books that later tradition divided into two or more books are made whole
    again; and
    • the books have been placed in an order that we hope will help readers understand
    them better.

    I know this answers some questions that have been asked already.

    Lew

  5. 6-22-2007

    Chad,

    Perhaps the chapters and verse do not distract everyone. Unfortunately (to me), the ordering of this new Bible is not in any of the older orders. This is a new ordering of books. It may work. I would like to see one of the older orders.

    David,

    I don’t think you were a downer. In fact, I think you pointed out one reason that I think a Bible such as this can be important. All that stuff has been stripped away, and we are left with the words of Scripture.

    Lew,

    Thanks for the info. I am excited about some aspects of this Bible and disappointed about others. But, I probably will end up getting one and reading it.

    -Alan

  6. 6-25-2007

    Alan,

    As a member of the team that helped the International Bible Society develop The Books of The Bible, I was very interested to read your post of June 22 entitled “More Bibles” and the responses to it. Allow me to share some thoughts of my own.

    First, you are by no means alone in your desire to read the Bible without interference from the traditional chapter and verse divisions. During the four years that we were working on The Books of The Bible, we heard calls from many different quarters for believers to beware of the habits of reading that chapters and verses encourage. Rather than seeing the Bible as a volume of short inspiring daily readings, like Chicken Soup for the Soul, or as a compendium of well-phrased uplifting sentiments, like Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, we need to see the Bible as a collection of literary compositions that are to be read and understood in their entirety before their parts are considered individually. We even heard several people wonder aloud, as you did, why a Bible couldn’t be found that simply left out the chapter and verse numberings. We therefore hope and expect that The Books of The Bible will help both new and returning readers engage the Scriptures with greater understanding and enjoyment.

    While you and those who responded to your posting seemed to welcome a Bible without chapters and verses, you expressed concerns about the books being placed in a different order. Our goal in putting the books in a new order was once again to promote more meaningful reading. Does encountering Paul’s letters in order of length, as in the customary arrangement, really help us understand them? Will we not appreciate them much more when we read them in the order in which he likely wrote them? (Scholars differ on the exact date of a few letters, but there is wide agreement about the order in general.) To cite another example, the first several minor prophets seem to have been placed in their current sequence based on catch phrases: an expression at the end of one book attracts a similar one at the start of another. (For example, “The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem,” Joel 3:16, connects with “The LORD roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem,“ Amos 1:2.) But this arrangement results in a wild seesawing between centuries as we move through the first several minor prophets. Once again, will it not be more profitable to read Amos, Hosea, Micah and Isaiah together, given that they all spoke to a common situation in the eighth century B.C.? (The book of Isaiah goes on to address later situations as well.)

    It is important to appreciate that for the bulk of the Bible’s history (that is, its first 1500 years), the book order was fluid, not fixed. Roger Beckwith notes that in the case of the Old Testament, “This stability of order is a relatively modern phenomenon, and owes a good deal to the invention of printing. It was preceded by an era of fluidity, both among the Jews (the chief guardians of the Hebrew Bible) and among Christians (the chief guardians of the Greek).“ (The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and Its Background in Early Judaism [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985], p. 181.) In the case of the New Testament, Bruce Metzger observes similarly that while its books were typically gathered into five groups, in the order gospels, Acts, Pauline epistles, general epistles, Revelation, “Prior to the invention of printing . . . there were many other sequences, not only of the five main groups of books, but also of the several books within each group.“ (The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance [New York: Oxford University Press, 1987], p. 295.) Book order varies in the tradition based on whether the goals of a given presentation are historical, literary or liturgical. Beckwith cites 79 different attested orders for the Old Testament books; Metzger notes nine different sequences for the gospels, and seventeen different ones for Paul’s letters.

    As we prepared The Books of The Bible, therefore, we felt that the tradition itself provided ample precedents for putting the biblical books in various sequences. We ordered and grouped the books in a way that we hoped would help readers understand them better. But our goal is not to establish a new order to displace the customary one. We would be very pleased if the idea of fluidity in book order became established once again. Seeing the books as moveable would help believers to recognize the Bible as a collection of originally independent literary compositions, and this would only be good for understanding and interpretation.

    Finally, there was a question about the book and section introductions that are included in The Books of The Bible. Those who have never read the Bible before are one of the main intended audiences for this new edition. We included these introductions because research shows that the Bible is no longer the familiar book it once was in our culture. New readers have difficulty orienting themselves when they pick up a Bible, and these introductions are designed to help them find their way. Beyond this, we hope that the introductions will also be of value to returning readers who may not be used to reading the Bible a book at a time. And finally, to encounter the biblical books “individually wrapped,” with an introduction at the beginning and the translators’ notes at the end, should once again reinforce the understanding that the Bible is a collection of originally independent literary compositions.

    Since several of you said you might want to get a copy of The Books of The Bible, you may be interested to know that during the month of July they will be available at 20% off the regular price of $8.99 for an individual copy or $7.99 each in cases of 12. (This is a “preordering discount,” since the actual release date is August 1st.) To get a discounted copy you can call (800) 524-1588 or visit IBSdirect.com any time after July 1st.

    I hope this is helpful. Thanks again for your interest.

    Chris Smith

  7. 6-25-2007

    Chris,

    Thank you for the extended explanation and the “heads-up” on the price break in July. I hope to order a copy during July. I’m looking forward to reading Scripture without chapter and verse divisions.

    -Alan

  8. 6-26-2007

    David:

    Please don’t confuse what Zondervan does with what IBS does. IBS liscenced the NIV to Zondervon, but they have no control over what Zondervan does with it after that. IBS doesn’t sell Bibles to stores; only to ministries, churches and individuals and not at inflated prices but rather at very good ones (see their direct site; $1.89 for some types). They are a not-for-profit international organization who may sell at a loss, and in one country I know of, virtually pay to get the Bible out in the language of one people group there. One of the reasons they exist is to get Bibles — cheaply — to those places where Bibles are scarce. For this they have a number of branches in other countries.