Reading the Bible Without All Those Numbers 1

I've been gorging myself on the books of Matthew and Isaiah lately. Both are absolutely phenomenal. One of the things I've been noticing in my studies is that, especially in the Gospels, there is, in our contemporary Christianity, a tremendous lack of contextualization when we go to understand the life and the words of Jesus. We think of the four Gospels as repositories of fragmentized selections of Jesus' ministry. Rather than approaching Matthew, for example, as a historical literary narrative on the teachings and life of Jesus with consistent flow, character, and internal harmony, we approach it almost as if it were a chronologically-arranged newspaper in which each event is not readily expected to correlate with the next. Regrettably, we have learned to comprehend the Bible as a compendium of individual verses or passages. With the exception of portions of Proverbs, none of the books of the Bible were written or intended to be understood this way.

So, in short, here is my suggestion for you: start reading whole books of the Bible, totally ignore chapter and verse divisions (which are not original to the Biblical writings and were added in the 1500s), read for natural literary divisions instead, and perhaps purchase a copy of The Books of the Bible edition to assist you in reading a book of the Bible more objectively.

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  1. dougbaker Mon Aug 18, 10:13:00 PM EDT


    This is an intriguing series of posts about "organic" church, and I especially like your questions about what is the "central formative principle" in our gatherings.

    Please do me a favor; go to my blog, my email is in my personal info, email me and lets set a time when I can buy you a cup of coffee and chat. I think we are working along similar lines. . .

  2. Jonathan Tue Aug 19, 03:30:00 PM EDT

    I've found that reading through a book while maintaining the chapter divisions (or, to put it easier, reading books by chapter) is about as effective. Just an observation for those who are lighter readers. There is the possibility of having to scan over already read material to refresh the context, but still...

  3. Anonymous Thu Aug 21, 03:12:00 PM EDT

    Thanks for the link! I've actually been wanting a Bible without numbers and without headings for many years (probably 20 at least). I'm so psyched about this. Now I just need to scape together my pennies to buy one (though I'll probably start with one of the sample books they provide).

  4. Dave Gregg Thu Aug 21, 08:05:00 PM EDT

    Maggie, "The Books of the Bible" edition is $8.99. And I believe that a hardback is due late 2009--which makes them ideal for rebinding in leather! This has become my favorite edition of the Bible, and the TNIV is one of my two favorite translations, along with the NLT, so that's good for me.

    p.s. Do you prefer Maggie or Mudsy?


  5. Anonymous Fri Aug 22, 12:56:00 AM EDT


    Strangely, I had discovered your blog through a google search for 'Bible without numbers' only several days after this post was written.

    I thank you for the link. The 'Books of the Bible' edition seems to be a promising prospect; however, I've been searching (on and off for the past two years) for a King James Version of the Sriptures without these distracting 'line breaks'. For I often find myself manually deleting these numbers in a text file and subsequently printing it out in order to read the Bible in a leisurely manner; without intimidation and, especially, without distraction. I've always wanted to read the Scriptures in the manner that, I believe, it was designed to be read.

    If you ever hear any word on a numberless KJV of the Bible, please reply. I will bookmark this page.