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

Updated: Mar 5

7. And the more recent chapter divisions, in use today, which is shown to have arisen in the middle ages.



The more recent chapters, in use to this day, are the same in almost all the Eastern and Western Codices that are extant today. For thus Saint Matthew has twenty-eight chapters, Saint Mark sixteen, etc. Nevertheless, concerning the antiquity of these chapters, and concerning their true origin, it has been anxiously sought by the learned. The question is not easily able to be settled. There are those that make Arlotto the author of this division, an Etruscan by nation, General of the order of the Minorites, who flourished under the Emperor Adolphus in the year 1290.[1] But Genebrard[2] in his Chronologia, page 644, Sixtus Senensis[3] in his Bibliotheca Sacra, book 4, Serarius[4] in his Prolegomenis Bibliorum, chapter 26, question 10, page 182, and others, make the author Hugo Cardinalis, a Burgundian by nation, a Dominican by profession, who lived in the thirteenth century.[5] Bale,[6] in Centuria 3, page 275, ascribes that numeric division used today to Stephen Langton;[7] others to other authors. But, that it is far more ancient, and that its origin is not due to the Scholastics, as most hitherto have supposed, is not able to be doubted, both because Theophylact, who flourished in the eleventh century, exhibits to us the same number of chapters in the Gospels as we have today; as it is evident from the Index added to the individual Gospels: and because the Most Learned Crojus, Observationibus, page 55, testifies that he has a Latin codex of all the books of Holy Scripture, of the highest quality, and written before eight hundred or more years, in which the series of the books is cut and divided by the same distinction of chapters as we make use of today. But, whether, as Crojus maintains in the same place, the division of chapters received today was already in use in the age of Jerome and Augustine, you have good reason to doubt; and the reason appear weak and unsteady to me, with which he busies himself to prove it. Neither is the argument, of which others make use, sufficiently firm, sought from the Ethicis of Basil the Great, in which the same chapters that are in use today are recorded. For, that was done by the diligent labor of those coming after, who, with the numbers omitted in the Greek edition of the Ancients, introduced into the Latin version the new and common numbers for easier searching. Therefore, we conclude that this division is neither new, nor very ancient, but introduced in the middle ages.

[1] Arlotto of Prato was an Italian Franciscan, and eventually became the Minister General of his order. He compiled an early concordance of the Latin Vulgate.


[2] Gilbert Genebrard (1535-1597) was a French Benedictine scholar, specializing in Oriental studies. He served the Roman Church as a professor of Hebrew at the Collège Royal, and later as Archbishop of Aix. He is especially noteworthy for his commentary on the Psalms and his translation of rabbinic works into Latin.


[3] Sixtus of Siena (1520-1569) converted from Judaism to Roman Catholicism. He was one of the great Dominican scholars of his age, excelling in particular in Biblical scholarship.


[4] Nicholas Serarius (1555-1610) was a Jesuit scholar. He served as Professor of Theology at the University of Mentz. He wrote commentaries on many Biblical books.


[5] Hugh of St. Cher, also known as Hugo Cardinalis because he was the first Dominican to achieve the office of cardinal (c. 1200-1263), was a French Dominican Biblical scholar. His exegetical works, covering the entire canon, have been gathered into eight substantial volumes.


[6] John Bale (1495-1563) was Bishop of Ossory, a historian and a controversialist. He published an extensive list of British authors down to his own time, preserving much rare and precious material during the dissolution of the monasteries in England.


[7] Stephen Langton (c. 1150-1228) was a Cardinal in the Roman Church and Archbishop of Canterbury. Controversy between Pope Innocent III and King John over the election of Stephen to the Archbishopric was one of the factors leading to the signing of the Magna Carta.


Dr. Dilday's Lecture: "The Canon of the New Testament"



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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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