Heidegger's Bible Handbook: New Testament in General: Ancient Chapter Divisions

6. The division of chapters is explained, both the ancient, and that not a little varying, and having passed into disuse today.



Moreover, there are two sorts of chapters: the one ancient and disused, but the other more recent and used to the present day. And indeed, the ancient chapters are far shorter than the more recent. For, in Suidas,[1] for example, the Gospel of Saint Matthew is said to have sixty-eight τίτλους/titles/ headings and three hundred and fifty-five κεφάλαια/chapters; the Gospel of Mark, forty-eight τίτλους/titles/headings and two hundred and thirty-six κεφάλαια/chapters; etc. Cæsarius also, the brother of Nazianzen,[2] says in his quæstionibus: Τέσσαρα ἡμῖν ὑπάρχει Εὐαγγέλια κεφαλαίων χιλίων ἑκατὸν ἑξήκοντα δύο, we have four Gospels, which are made up of one thousand, hundred and sixty-two chapters. Yet others have it otherwise. And to some Greeks and to a good many Latins no distinction appears to have been established between sections or titles/headings and chapters. For Œcumenius, having only a distinction of chapters, attributed, for example, to the Acts of the Apostles forty chapters, to the Epistle to the Romans twenty chapters, to the first to the Corinthians nine chapters, etc. Hilary[3] also, following another order, divided the Gospel of Saint Matthew into thirty-three chapters. Also, in some older codices ninety-four chapters are attributed to Saint Matthew. But the most elegant codex of our Bibliotheca Carolina, and eight hundred years older, divides Saint Matthew into seventy-two chapters, Saint Mark into forty-six chapters, Revelation into thirty chapters, etc. But the Easterners also vary. For, thus the Arab Herpenianus attributed one hundred and one chapters to Saint Matthew, but the Syriac only seventy-six. Hence it is evident that, although the original sacred writers did not themselves divide their books into parts, but wrote in a continuous series, in the process of time sections were established, and they varied not a little, such that some, especially the Greeks, distinguished sections or titles/headings from chapters, but others considered sections and chapters promiscuously, and distinguished the same book into more or fewer chapters, as it seemed more advantageous to these or those teachers of the Church. Thus in dividing the books of profane Authors sometimes the greatest dissension, even among the most learned men, has erupted, which concerning the Dialogue of Cicero, which is entitled Brutus, Jerome formerly pointed out, and more recently Crojus, in Observationibus, page 58, concerning the book of Aristotle περὶ ἑρμηνείας, Concerning Interpretation, both before and after the times of Psellos.[4]

[1] Suidas was the compiler of the Suda, an encyclopedia containing more than thirty thousand entries concerning the ancient Mediterranean world. It was probably composed in tenth-century Byzantium.


[2] Cæsarius of Nazianzus (c. 331-368) was a physician and politician. He is best known for his relationship to his brother, Gregory of Nazianzus (330-389), Archbishop of Constantinople, and a doctor of the Church, known as the Trinitarian Theologian. Cæsarius is canonized as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church.


[3] Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers (died 368), was, among the Latin Fathers, one of the chief defenders of the Nicean theology against Arianism.


[4] Michael Psellos (eleventh century) was a Byzantine monk, philosopher, and historian, deeply involved in the court politics of his time. He produced a reorganized paraphrase of Aristotle, which was part of a Byzantine tradition of handling Aristotelian texts spanning from Temistius (fourth century) to Sophonias (fourteenth century).

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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