Sunday, October 26, 2008

Blame It On Stephanus

Well, maybe not. But Scot McKnight writes about one of those "unintended consequences" kind of stories when it comes to following God & reading the Bible.
In 1551 a certain Stephanus divided the New Testament up into numbered verses. We are thankful (with some groans). Thankful, because now it is much easier to refer to specific parts of the Bible. It is easier to say "John 1:14" than to say "That line in the Bible where it says 'The Word became flesh.'" Numbering verses is one thing, but when publishers provide a Bible where the only divisions are chapters & verses, as if each verse were a new paragraph, reading the Bible as a story is much more difficult. Take your favorite novel or book, photocopy a page, cut out each sentence, number each sentence, and then paste back onto a page with each number beginning at the left margin, and you'll see the problem. It's much harder to read a book that way. One has to wonder what got into the head of publishers who started doing this. It's a colossal mistake.
So I decided to try it, using Puddleglum's speech from C.S. Lewis' The Silver Chair:
  1. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things - trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself.
  2. Suppose we have.
  3. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones.
  4. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom is the only world.
  5. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one.
  6. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it.
  7. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right.
  8. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow.
  9. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world.
  10. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it.
  11. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia...
Hmm... he's got a point.
Even more importantly, we need to observe what versification did to how we read the Bible. Dividing the Bible up into verses turns the Bible into morsels and leads us to read the Bible as a collection of divine morsels, sanctified morsels of truth...

It is important to know the blessings and to rely on God's promises. Please don't misunderstand my point. But the blessings & promises of God in the Bible emerge from a real life's story that also knows we live in a broken world and some days are tough. The stories of real lives in the Bible know that we are surrounded by hurting people for whom Psalm 22:1 echoes their normal day.
Intrigued? So am I. I'm in the middle of reading this book, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, and would love to hear from others who've read it and/or are reading it.

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