Heidegger's Bible Handbook: New Testament in General: New Verse Divisions

Updated: Mar 19

9. The new division of verses in use today has Robertus Stephanus as author.



That new division of verses is the same as what the printed Codices commonly show today. It has Robertus Stephanus as author. Concerning whom his most learned Son, Henricus Stephanus,[1]in his Præfatione in Concordantia Novi Testamenti, thus speaks: The last benefit, which he (Robertus Stephanus, my father) bestowed upon literature, or rather upon the readers of it, whoever judge not to be less than others appear not to be of poor judgment. That, of which I make honorific mention, is that benefit, which, since the books of the New Testament were already divided into Tmemata/sections, which are commonly called chapters, he divided, or rather subdivided, each of these Tmemata into Tmematia: which, by an appellation approved more by others than by himself, they were called verses. For, it was more pleasing to him to call them by that Greek term, Tmematia, or by the Latin, which answers to it, sectiunculas, smaller sections. For he saw that that ancient appellation of the line-divisions in an oration (inscribed in Cicero) was restricted to another use. But, that I might be content with these few things concerning the name, and speak at greater length concerning the matter itself; I will take my beginning from two things, of which you will be in some doubt which to admire more. The first is that he, while traveling from Paris to Lyon, accomplished this of which it is here treated, the Division of each chapter, indeed a great part of it while riding horseback: the second, almost all were saying that he, thinking of this some time before, was not thinking clearly: as if he were about to put time and labor in a matter that was going to be altogether useless, and so was not only going to obtain no praise, but was also going to come into derision. But, behold, against their condemning opinion of my father’s purpose, that invention no sooner came into the light than it met with the approval of all, and came into such authority, that other editions of the New Testament, whether in Greek, Latin, French, German, or another vernacular tongue, that did not follow that invention, were dismissed from service, as it were. Hitherto Henricus Stephanus, publishing the true origin of today’s division of verses.


[1]Henri Estienne, or Henricus Stephanus (c. 1530-1598), was the eldest son of Robert Estienne, who had printed several famous editions of the Greek New Testament. Henri continued in the family printing business, editing, collating, and preparing many classical works for the press. His most famous work is his Thesaurus Linguæ Graecæ, which was a standard work in Greek lexicography until the nineteenth 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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