The first step to understanding the Will of God, as it applies to your life, is by examining (reading) the Word of God as it exists in the modern Bible. Prior to presenting the textual elements of examination – context, structure, emphasis, and correlation – a caveat must be put forward to avoid any chance of misunderstanding the point of this instruction.
In the original Greek New Testament, the concepts of “chapter and verse” did not exist. Individual Books were meant to be read in their entirety, as were groupings of specific Books written by the same author (such as the Gospel of Luke and Acts).
Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was the first to divide the Bible into chapters in 1,227 AD. In 1,555 AD, the Bible was further divided into verses by Robert Stephens when he printed the Latin Vulgate.
Since this time, almost every Bible has been printed in the “chapter and verse” format. For the most part, it’s been helpful; one can now directly navigate to a specific passage of Scripture. However, this format can lead to problems as well.
The first problem arises when readers discover “truths” in the Bible, based on the numbering of verses, that don’t really exist. Consider the following Scripture:
From that time many of His disciples went
back and walked with Him no more.
~ John 6:66 ~
Is Satan a very real adversary, intent on turning believers away from Christ? Yes. Is there any correlation between the disciples turning their back on Christ, and the “6:66” numbering of this verse in the Gospel of John? No.
The second problem arises when numbered verses create independent messages that were never meant to be read independently. Consider this Scripture from Colossians 2:21: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” It appears Paul is giving the reader a lesson in self-deprivation, but that would be the opposite of the intended meaning.
If the quotation marks don’t give it away – authors don’t quote themselves – a review of the text immediately preceding and following Colossians 2:21 gives us the truth:
(v20) Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules:
(v21) “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?
(v22) These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.
(v23) Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
This isn’t simply an issue of a thought being taken out of context; this is a problem with the numbering format itself. A quick review of the bolded verse numbers reveals that Colossians 2:21 isn’t an independent sentence – it follows a colon – and obviously is meant to be a part of the verse preceding it.
When read as the author intended, it’s clear that Paul isn’t giving support for this concept, but a negative critique of it.
This caveat in no way suggests there are any errors in the Bible; this is a system of organization created by humans that in no way impacts the content of the Word of God. It’s human nature to organize and categorize content, and at times our best intentions lead to unforeseen outcomes.
The sole purpose of offering this caveat is to advise you to pay close attention to the details when immersed in God’s Word. I pray that the Holy Spirit guides you in your studies, and brings you to a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Have a blessed day.
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